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.
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!
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?
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.