Three hundred of Los Angeles' most devoted food and wine lovers gathered under a massive tent above parking lot W at L.A. Live on Wednesday night. They were there for the French Masters Dinner, the first of multiple events in the second annual All Star Chef Classic, a four-day culinary extravaganza organized by Alice in Events, LLC's Lucy Lean and Krissy Lefebvre.
The evening began with oysters, wine and Stella Artois beer and cider. People mingled under blue, pink and purple spotlights alongside a display for a new Mercedes-Benz G series and a pop-up shop for cookbooks and event paraphernalia.
Aaron Sanchez of The Food Network was spotted chatting with Melisse's Josiah Citrin, wd~50's Wylie Dufresne and Jenn Louis, chef at Lincoln PDX in Portland, Ore.
Around 7 p.m., guests were ushered into Restaurant Stadium, a large tent outfitted with multiple kitchen stations in the center, surrounded by three tiers of communal tables and seating. With a sports stadium-style screen in the middle and blue spotlights, it was kind of like March Madness, "Iron Chef" and "The Taste" all under one makeshift roof.
In the kitchen: Ludo Lefebvre (Petit Trois, Trois Mec), Dominique Crenn (Atelier Crenn in San Francisco), Inaka Aizpitarte (Le Chateaubriand, Le Dauphin in Paris), Sven Chartier (Saturne in Paris) and David Toutain (Restaurant David Toutain in Paris).
While the chefs worked on their respective dishes for the $275 five-course dinner, host Billy Harris, who could arguably be the best spokesperson for extra-strength hair gel in the entire universe, weaved throughout the kitchen interviewing the chefs about their dishes.
Before Crenn's first course of raw scallop, pear and black sesame seeds in a cucumber dashi (paired with 2012 Chablis, 1Er Cru, Montmains, William Fevre) came out, a roast-turned-tribute of Crenn — provided by Lefebvre, Aizpitarte, Nancy Silverton, Michael Cimarusti, Toutain and Chartier — played on the big screen. A little dinner theater, mixed with fine dining.
"She's like Ludo in a woman's body," said Cimarusti on-screen. And later, when Crenn — who is from Brittany, which elicited a few regional jokes from Ludo — was asked about her dish, after describing it a bit, she smiled and summed it all up: "It's just a dish; I don't know."
Aizpitarte prepared the second course, a beef tartare smoked with thyme and rosemary, served with red currants, pickled shallots, watercress and sea lettuce chips (paired with 2012 Chablis, 1Er Cru, Vacoupins "Dom. Long-Depaquit," Albert Bichot); followed by Chartier's third course of King salmon dressed with beef juice, burnt onion marmalade and sunchoke chips (paired with 2013 Beaujolais, Brouilly, Chatea Du Corcelles).
Crowd favorite Lefebvre prepared the fourth course, an olive oil and roasted garlic marinated lamb belly, which he cooked in a pound of butter, accompanied by an avocado mousse, crispy buckwheat tabouli and mint tea gelee (paired with 2009 Beaune, 1Er Cru, "Beaune du Chateau Rouge," Bouchard Pere & Fils). Lefebvre wowed the audience with a tip on how to baste with a rosemary stick.
In the second row, a group of four women, who earlier in the evening attempted to take a selfie with the kitchen in the background at least seven times, laughed loudly at Lefebvre referring to his pound of butter as just a "little."
For dessert: small rounds of chocolate cake with praline and hazelnut, marjoram ice cream and small chewy balls of chocolate ganache from Toutain (paired with 2013 Banylus "Rimage," La Tour Vielle).
Just as guests started to head back to the welcome tent for another round of Stella, Lefebvre surprised everyone by giving each diner a copy of the 10th anniversary edition of his book "Crave." One of the four women in the selfie group was simply beside herself.
The All Star Chef Classic continues with an American Masters Dinner, a Cuisine for the Cure event benefiting City of Hope, a British Masters Dinner, cooking class for kids and a Grill and Chill event. More information can be found at www.allstarchefclassic.com/.