As Funky As It Gets

Top chef winner season 2 Ilan Hall at The Gorbals with Sophie Gayot
Top chef winner season 2 Ilan Hall at The Gorbals with Sophie Gayot

 by Sophie Gayot

 
 
I remember meeting Top Chef Season 2 winner Ilan Hall at the opening of Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale’s South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, right after his May, 2005 victory. It must have been a lucky night for me, because on top of chatting with him, I was accompanied by Curtis Stone. 

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure to discover Hall’s cuisine at The Gorbals Los Angeles that we call “eclectic.” Between the food and the décor, I’m not sure which is more eclectic, but eclectic is indeed the appropriate description. Go, but by no means should you dress up while heading to Hall’s first restaurant, as it is located in in the downtown Los Angeles’ run-down Alexandria Hotel.

 

Pierre Gagnaire in Las Vegas

Chef Pierre Gagnaire
Chef Pierre Gagnaire

by Sophie Gayot

 
The first time I met chef Pierre Gagnaire was on a cruise ship crossing from Dakar, Senegal to San Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. A “Croisière Gourmande” had been organized with chefs including Jacques Chibois. Alain Dutournier, Michel Bras, and many more. It must have been some time ago, as I think I was still under the legal drinking age!
 
At the time, I gave Pierre Gagnaire the nickname “The Salvador Dali of Gastronomy,” and it still holds true today. His renderings are creative, dramatic, somewhat crazy, unexpected, phantasmagoric, with a genius touch. But the catch is you either love it or hate it; and always at a high price, just like Dali. A 2005 menu from his eponymous restaurant in Paris I keep in my office offers a perfect illustration: a casserole of chestnuts and topinambour (Jerusalem artichoke), with a crème chocolatée de panais (carrots’ cousin) served with a gâteau de foie blond and truffle, at a staggering € 143!
 

Horsing Around With Absinthe

Horse-drawn carriages provided the transportion for the evening of absinthe tastings in downtown Los Angeles
Horse-drawn carriages provided the transportation for the evening of absinthe tastings in downtown Los Angeles

By Jeff Hoyt

 

I had heard the stories of absinthe causing delusions, but I did not believe them until now. True, I had never imbibed it in such great quantities before. Pernod, the creators of absinthe more than two centuries ago, had invited me out on the town to try the anise-flavored spirit in a number of different ways, and now that I had consumed it in such great quantity, “The Green Fairy” was playing tricks on me. But my hallucinations seemed so vivid: was I dreaming, or was it possible that I was actually riding a horse-drawn carriage through the streets of downtown Los Angeles?

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Good Luck, Amanda

Water Grill chef David LeFevre & Top Chef, Season 7, contestant Amanda Baumgarten with Sophie Gayot
Water Grill chef David LeFevre & Top Chef, Season 7, contestant Amanda Baumgarten with Sophie Gayot

by Sophie Gayot


Some restaurants install large screen televisions for special sporting events, like the World Cup or the Super Bowl. But last Wednesday at Los Angeles’ Water Grill, the TVs were tuned to the premiere of season 7 of Top Chef in Washington D.C. Among the contestants was Amanda Baumgarten, who had been working at the downtown seafood restaurant as sous-chef under executive chef David LeFevre for just ten days.


As we dined on Thai snapper, soft-shell crab and Columbia River king salmon, we cheered Amanda on as she followed Tom Colicchio’s orders, and winced when she cut herself deeply while peeling potatoes.

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Top Chef Michael Voltaggio Moves On

Top Chef, Season 6 Winner Michael Voltaggio
Top Chef, Season 6 Winner Michael Voltaggio

Volte-face from one of the Voltaggio brothers


by Alain Gayot

 

A sports recruiter standing on the sidelines can pick out a young athlete and get a feel for his potential performance and ensuing achievements. Meeting Michael Voltaggio was a bit like that. Instantly, we felt that his performance would deliver continued success in his culinary career. He is a tremendous creative asset for any kitchen, and his food is something you look forward to eating time and again even if not all the dishes are successful one hundred percent of the time.