New York's Luma Seeks Locale on the Westside

It's all very well for Woody Allen to make fun of Los Angeles by suggesting that its residents eat "bowls of mashed yeast" (as he did in "Annie Hall")--but New York City has many more vegetarian and/or "health food" restaurants than L.A. It has so many, in fact, that it's about to share one of them with us: The proprietors of Luma in the Chelsea section of Manhattan are looking for a location in Santa Monica or Venice, where they hope to open a West Coast Luma as early as this fall. (One of the partners in the restaurant, which opened in New York about two years ago, is noted L.A.-based music business executive Jerry Moss, co-founder of A&M; Records.)

The Luma menu, according to co-owner Gino Diaferia, offers no red meat, but does include seafood (farm-raised whenever possible) and free-range poultry, in addition to a large selection of vegetable dishes. 'Somewhere between 90% and 100% of our produce is organic," adds Diaferia. 'One of our most famous dishes is a salad made with 16 varieties of wild greens." Smoking is prohibited in any section of the restaurant, and no refined sugar is used. Mashed yeast is not one of the specialties.

WAITER, THERE'S A REEBOK IN MY SOUP: The first-ever "waiter's race" in America, as far as I can tell, was held at the original Ma Maison in West Hollywood in 1975. That restaurant's proprietor, Patrick Terrail, imported the idea from France, where such contests--the waiter tries to balance a tray topped with a bottle of Evian and two half-full glasses for nearly one kilometer--had been known since the 1960s. The Ma Maison event continued through 1983, the summer before the restaurant closed. It has been widely borrowed and imitated since then--most recently last year, during French Bicentennial celebrations at Hollywood Park. "But a race like that doesn't belong on a track," says Terrail. "It's a street race."

Thus, this year, he is reviving the event, at the present-day Ma Maison, attached to the hotel of the same name on Beverly Boulevard at La Cienega. The race, now dubbed the 'Waiters and Waitresses Race 1990" and co-sponsored by American Express and Air France, will begin in front of the restaurant at 2 p.m., Sunday, July 15 (the day after Bastille Day--which Ma Maison celebrates with a dinner-dance, incidentally). The winning waiter and waitress will each receive a one-week paid vacation in Paris. Employees of all Los Angeles eating places are welcome to enter, and should contact Ma Maison for details.

A RESTAURANT WITH A DRAW: Cartoons are showing in the movie theaters again, and comic-book heroes are starring in feature films of their own--so why shouldn't our funny-paper friends get into the restaurant business as well? Thus, the company that publishes Archie Comics is soliciting, through ads in restaurant trade publications, an "established restaurateur with heavy background in franchising to develop Archie franchise restaurant concept." Burgers and malts will no doubt be featured.

ON THE FRONT BURNER: TV star Ed Asner will chair an AIDS benefit buffet at St. Moritz in Studio City on Sunday, July 15. Tickets to the event are $175 each, with the AIDS Prevention Project of the Valley Community Clinic as beneficiary. . . . The third annual Pasadena Chili Cookoff, scheduled for Saturday, July 21, at 11 a.m., at 139 N. Raymond in Old Pasadena, will feature Malaysian, diner, gourmet, chicken and escargot(!) chili, among other varieties. Tickets are $8 at the door, and proceeds benefit the St. Harriet's Children's Home. . . . And Jean-Francois Meteigner, chef at L'Orangerie on La Cienega, teaches a menu of summer dishes at Let's Get Cookin' in Westlake Village, beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday, July 28. The school has also introduced a 24-part professional cooking program. Call (818) 991-3940 for details.

NOT ALL NEWS IS BAD NEWS: Irving Pinsky of Culver City writes to tell me that he took some out-of-town guests to Menagerie in Palms recently, expecting the "wonderfully prepared and served" food he had found there on previous occasions. Unfortunately, the meal failed to meet his expectations, in ways he didn't specify. "I wrote to the restaurant the next day," he continues, "explaining what had occurred. I immediately received a phone call from Bob Blaish, the owner. He apologized for the bad meal we had and thanked me for letting him know about it. He then invited us to return . . . as his guests. Last Friday night we went there and he prepared a fabulous feast for us and served it himself. Everything was perfection. What a wonderful way to encourage your customers to return. You can be assured everyone we know will hear about this place and the grand meal we had there."

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