How to Feed a World of Artists


Imagine having 502 guests over for a couple of weeks. Let’s make that 502 guests from 21 different nations all around the Pacific Rim. You have 10 weeks to make arrangements.

This was the challenge Susan West faced when she was hired to oversee artist hospitality for the 1990 Los Angeles Festival, scheduled Sept. 1-16. She is a veteran of the 1984 Olympics, but she found that wasn’t necessarily a lot of help.

“This is very different,” said West in mid-July. Many of the Olympic athletes were Westernized, which meant she could serve them hamburgers--an option not appropriate for the artists attending this event. “Many (of the guests) do not eat pork or beef, so we can’t hold a luau serving roasted pig,” said West.

West and UCLA Artist Village coordinator Ken Wada researched the cuisines, etiquette and religious restrictions of the visiting groups with experts like Professor Judy Mitoma, head of the World Arts and Culture Department at UCLA and a curator for the festival. Although the artists will be introduced to some American foods, a major effort is being made to provide the type of meals each group is accustomed to eating.


With the assistance of caterers, restaurants and the UCLA cafeteria, three meals will be provided each day--two at the Artists’ Village, and a third at one or more of the 67 venue sites around Greater Los Angeles. For the most part, the cuisine of the predominant group in the Village on a particular day will be served. A weekly international barbecue, hosted by the L.A. Festival staff, will encompass many of the different cuisines.

Rice is the staple of many artists from the Pacific Rim countries, so in addition to the three daily meals there will be restaurant-sized rice cookers in the Artists’ Village hospitality suite from 9 a.m. to 1 or 2 a.m. each day. Condiments and spices for the rice will be available, as well as a selection of beverages.

The UCLA cafeteria will also provide rice and the same accompaniments. The cafeteria staff will prepare simple foods such as baked chicken to round out the meals.

Food donations from local companies will also be offered in the Artists’ Village hospitality suite. Garden of Eatin’ is supplying 42 cases of blue corn tortillas and 10 cases of blue corn tortilla chips. Zen Bakery has been freezing all its surplus bran muffins, cookies and pastries for the past couple of weeks in order to donate them to the event.


Albert’s Organics will supply grapes, Hino Ichi has offered an unlimited amount of tofu and Trader Joe’s is donating a case of peanut butter, 15 pounds of coffee, 10 cases of mineral water, 40 pounds of cheese, 40 pounds of assorted nuts and fruit and a case of basmati rice.

Restaurants and community groups will host many of the visiting groups. A dinner is planned at the Golden Dragon in Chinatown for the Chinese Kun Opera. Bali Corner will prepare traditional boxed lunches to feed the Court Performers from the Yogyakarta Palace of Java and the Children of Bali.

Speaking of the meals, Wada said, “We’d like to have them be very mixed--at restaurants, in the village where artists can mingle among each other and interact with students, as well as catered meals at the different venues.”

“But,” West said, “we’ll also introduce the guests to some American foods such as popcorn.”