Actor Dan Haggerty--best-known for his portrayal of television's adventurous Grizzly Adams--is about to take on a new role as restaurateur. Haggerty's Bistro, a quaint but small gourmet eatery in Studio City, is scheduled to open Monday.
To some, it may seem strange that Haggerty, 48, has chosen such a path. However, given his background, the restaurant is a natural extension of his creativity.
Haggerty said he started cooking after he got married at 17. "I had to do it to survive," he quipped. But his cooking career took a more serious turn in 1975 when he was living in the south of France and working on the film "The Christmas Tree," which starred William Holden.
Haggerty's popular TV show, "The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams," started airing that same year and ran until 1978.
It was in 1975 that Haggerty befriended local chefs--and started taking cooking lessons at the Cordon Bleu School. There, he said, he learned to make exquisite sauces, elegant souffles and elaborate ice sculptures, besides picking up a variety of cooking skills, such as deboning turkeys and chickens.
For years, Haggerty has been putting his cooking talents to practical use at home in Studio City. He and his second wife of eight years, Samantha, regularly share the task of making dinner for their three children and the numerous guests they enjoy entertaining.
Among his favorite specialties are angel hair spaghetti with garlic and tomatoes, and pork crown roast stuffed with apples, raisins, almonds and corn bread. Haggerty is also fond of preparing turkey his way--stuffed with pheasant breasts.
However, the menu at his bistro will not feature such fare. Rather, it will offer hearty soups, including French onion and cream of broccoli, such entrees as chicken breast with Dijon sauce and artichokes stuffed with seafood salad, and even Haggerty's famous "Log Sandwich"--sirloin steak sliced very thin, provolone cheese, green peppers, onions, tomatoes and Italian spices served in a fresh Italian roll.
Haggerty said the goal of his restaurant is to create a pleasant atmosphere where people can enjoy good, home-style cooking. In keeping with this concept, he has recruited his wife, his brother Jim and his oldest daughter Tracey (from a previous marriage) to run the day-to-day operations of the bistro.
Located just a few blocks east of Colfax Avenue on Ventura Boulevard, Haggerty's Bistro used to be the home of a hot-dog stand. Four months ago, Haggerty began designing and remodeling it. An experienced carpenter, he carved an interior swinging door and built the stone vanity that supports a brass sink in the single, elegant lavatory. Brass railings, Italian Verdi marble, lace curtains and stained glass windows transformed the restaurant.
And Haggerty is not finished. Final touches will include etched glass panels separating the counter from the cooking area and hanging copper pots and pans. If business goes well, his next step will be to expand the restaurant by adding a New Orleans-type gaslight patio on the roof.
Haggerty chose the location because it is close to home. "I live right up the street, so the days I do come to work at the restaurant I won't be late," he said with a laugh. He figures the heavy street traffic should add to his business. Besides, he isn't new to the boulevard. Back in the '60s, he owned a leather shop on Ventura called "Cornucopia," which turned out to be quite lucrative.
Because of other commitments, Haggerty predicts that he will not have much time to spend working at the restaurant. His primary focus remains his acting career.
The feature film "Soldiers Fortune," which co-stars Gil Gerard and Haggerty, is scheduled for release soon. Haggerty also recently finished co-writing "Mark of the Bear," a movie-of-the-week that revives his Grizzly Adams role and in which he will star. There is also talk of creating a cartoon series around the same character.
But if his restaurant takes off the way his Cajun Barbecue Sauce has (the product he introduced three years ago is sold locally in a variety of supermarkets and goes nationwide this year), Haggerty will be more than satisfied.
"If the food is good and the people are happy, that's all I care about," Haggerty said. "The idea is to make people feel good so they'll come back."
Haggerty's Bistro, 11558 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, will open Monday. Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Menu items range from $3.50 to $7.50. Information: (818) 763-3981 .