SALUTING ARRIVAL OF A CHEF FOR ALL SEASONS
A new chef is coming to L.A., to set up shop and stay. Just what the town needs, right? Well, yes, maybe.
We’ve got lots of fine craftsmen in our kitchens already, of course, and even a few real artists, but most of them--most of the American and/or American-style ones, anyway--have one significant thing in common: They are Californians, if not in birth then at least in training and in culinary philosophy. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that: We all know how very influential our state has been in the remarkable recent development of American cuisine, and what good chefs we have turned out.
But so many of the men and women now serving up the food we eat have worked and learned at one or more of the same small group of restaurants: Chez Panisee, Michael’s, Spago, Trumps, the Regency Club/Max au Triangle/Seventh Street Bistro axis, Ma Maison, the City Cafe/Restaurant, and a few others. And what that turns out to mean is that there are certain similarities between these chefs. There’s a good side to this: It means we’ve got a real culinary style of our own. On the other hand, an infusion of fresh blood now and again is important, too, just to liven things up a bit.
Enter the aforementioned new chef, Lydia Shire, now executive chef at Seasons restaurant in the Bostonian Hotel in Boston. Shire might not be one of the most famous young chefs in America today, but she’s one of the best--and she’s not the least bit Californian. She is Boston-born and bred, and her orientation is thus partly towards New England, and towards the products of the East Coast, but she is also fascinated by Moroccan cooking, Chinese and Japanese food, and by just about anything else she finds that has the kinds of strong, bright, fresh flavors she so obviously loves. Thus, instead of working yet another variation on lamb-sausage pizza or grilled tuna with herb vinaigrette, she creates dishes like calf’s brain flan with crisp-fried capers and sherry vinaigrette (an invention with which she recently left the most famous restaurateurs and gourmets of Barcelona stunned with pleasure, as recounted in this section in May).
What she’ll be cooking in L.A., of course, hasn’t yet been decided. But where she’ll be cooking has: the new Four Seasons Hotel, to open on Burton Way in Beverly Hills in March of next year. Shire arrives here in September to start setting up the menu, contacting purveyors, and so on--and we’re lucky to be getting her.
MAX PACKS: Joachim Splichal, the extremely talented chef of Max Au Triangle in Beverly Hills, left the restaurant suddenly last week. Splichal says he has no immediate plans to open a new restaurant.
LIBERTY PARTY: Wherever you are Thursday at 10:57 p.m. EDT, you might try to remember that at exactly that moment, President Reagan will be flipping the switch to illuminate for the first time the newly refurbished Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. If you’re out in a restaurant at the appointed hour, the National Restaurant Assn. hopes that you’ll raise a glass to the Old Girl precisely then. Just what should be in that glass, of course, is a matter of individual preference. But some obvious choices would be a Manhattan, an American Beauty (brandy, dry vermouth and orange juice) or, of course, a Liberty (applejack and white rum with sugar syrup). You could also try French Champagne, in honor of the monument’s origins, or even--if you’re the contrary type--a Moscow Mule: Both it and the S. of L., after all, involve a copper mug. Me, I think I’ll try a glass of Alsatian wine, in reference to Alsace-born Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, who designed the statue in the first place. With any luck, I’ll be able to find a place that has a good torch singer working in the background.