by Sophie Gayot
I have had the pleasure of meeting French chef Bruno Lopez many times throughout his career. I’ve tasted his dishes when he was working at different The Ritz-Carlton hotels, at the Regent Beverly Wilshire (now a Four Seasons), and the Hotel Bel-Air. I was most impressed with his peach gazpacho with truffle oil, which he made when he was at the restaurant of the Raffles L’Ermitage hotel (now part of the Viceroy Hotel Group). I was sorry when he stopped serving the public when he became a private chef at the French Consulate Residence in 2009.
Last Friday, I got to congratulate him on his skills yet again, but the setting was quite different. Lopez received the esnigns from French Consul General David Martinon making him an officer of the Ordre National du Mérite Agricole, in recognition for his work in promoting French cuisine in the USA.
Many chefs were on hand for the honor, so I took the time to “grill” them to get the latest LA restaurant news for my readers. Here are the scoops I got from the people from left to right in the above photo:
Carlos Lopes, the former general manager of Hotel Bel Air, is now a managing partner of Unique Hotels & Resorts. The company specializes in buying and managing small and independent hotels throughout the USA.
Donato Poto, the general manager/partner at Providence, was still very happy at being recognized as one of GAYOT’s Top 40 US Restaurants for the fifth year in a row. He also liked to hear that Providence is one of our 2011 Top 10 LA Chef’s Table Restaurants, Top 10 LA Power Lunch Restaurants, Top 10 LA Food Rating Restaurants, and Top 10 LA Special Occasion Restaurants.
Hans Röckenwagner (3 Square Café + Bakery, Rockenwagner Bakeries in Mar Vista and Santa Monica) has opened a Rockenwagner Souffle Bakery at The Market at Santa Monica Place. Exclusively at this location is a counter offering fresh, made-to-order soufflés.
Alain Giraud is getting closer to opening Maison Giraud in Pacific Palisades. A large part of the restaurant will be outdoors.
Sylvain Rivet works with Bruno Lopez when he needs help in the kitchen of the Consulate. He also has his catering business. You can reach him at 805-813-0721.
Michel Blanchet is booming with his smoked fish business, Michel Cordon Bleu, of which we recently wrote, “The best smoked fish you’ll ever taste may be made right here in Los Angeles.”
And, ironically, we saved the sweet(est) for the end: Hasty Torres, known as Madame Chocolat. Her Beverly Hills store is a pure chocoholic dream. Hasty is the wife of Mr. Chocolat Jacques Torres, the former pastry chef at the original location of Le Cirque. The man who gave its “lettres de noblesse” to crème brûlée. Jacques had changed his arrival date to LA, where he is currently filming an episode of Top Chef, to be at the event, but got stuck at LAX. He did eventually make it there, but missed the photo. Sorry, Jacques.
The last—but not the least—scoop came from Nicolas Dubort, the Food & Beverage Manager at Hotel Bel-Air, who wasn’t in the picture. The much-anticipated opening date is set for October 14, 2011. It can NOT be changed, as the hotel is already taking reservations. The atmosphere there is frantic, as you can imagine, so they can be ready on time. Contrary to what got reported by people misinterpreting my blog post of August 12, 2010, Spago Beverly Hills is not closing to relocate to the hotel. The Hotel Bel-Air will be the location of a new restaurant by master chef Wolfgang Puck (GAYOT.com’s 2010 Best Restaurateur). Although there are restaurants named Spago open at other hotels (such as at the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea) this one will simply be called Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air.