More than 200 of his friends, admirers and former employees gathered Sunday afternoon in the main auditorium of Charles Theatre to pay tribute to Morris Martick, the inimitable restaurateur who died on Dec. 15 at age 88. Attendees, some of whom had traveled from as far away as Texas and California, took their turn at the microphone with prepared comments, which were occasionally poignant but more often ribald and occasionally profane.
Welcoming the crowd, Alex Martick, the chef's surviving brother, said, “If Morris were alive today, Morris wouldn't be here. He'd be home eating delicious sandwiches and watching the damn football game.” Martick said he hoped to hear what it was about his brother's personality “that attracted the kind of feeling that people had for Morris.”
They spoke of cooking and yelling, of Martick’s fish stocks and his stock phrases. “You're incompetent,” was a specialty, as was “you're fired.” But those who stuck it out knew there were other layers beneath the onion-y exterior.
“He was the meanest, sweetest man I ever worked for,” said Ruth Galer. “If it wasn't for my time with him, I wouldn't have pursued a career in cooking.”
Susan "Sooz" Laugen, who emceed the proceedings, recalled how Martick handled the irate customer on whom she had decanted an entire cup of hot coffee. “You should get servers with experience,” the customer bellowed at Martick, who had been dragged out from his kitchen to listen. “She is experienced,” Martick told him. “She's spilled coffee on hundreds of people.”
Jimmy Rouse, who helped to organize the gathering, told of how he came to work at Martick's. Rouse said he was in the Mount Royal Tavern when a freshly unemployed Martick’s employee walked in and announced he had just thrown a bottle of wine at his boss. Rouse recalled thinking, “There must be an open position at Martick's.”
Rouse worked at Martick's from that day in 1974 until 1981, when he left to open Louie's Bookstore Cafe.
As the tributes continued, the La Fountaine Bleue caterers were setting up a progressive luncheon across the street at the Metro Gallery. The menu was to begin with the beloved “Parisian Pate with Saltine Crackers and Pickle,” and included sweet potato soup, salad vert with garlic bread, fruits de mer and, for dessert, a peach “clafoutis”.
The menu was designed and prepared by food-service consultant Paul Bartlett, one of the Martick’s alumni who appear to have learned not only about vinaigrettes from Martick but also about the joys of a vinegary spirit. When a reporter told Bartlett he was only confirming the menu selection but was unable to stay for the luncheon, Bartlett responded, “That's not how it should be done.”
Which is almost how Morris Martick would have put it.
Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times