B aronial is the word for the Playboy Mansion West. With its own private stand of redwoods on one side and the Los Angeles Country Club on the other, you can stand anywhere on the property and imagine you’re out in the forest.
A fantasy forest, a forest that never was: Leashed to this tree is a monkey, over by the koi pond are a flock of flamingos and a passel of peacocks. The mansion trades with zoos throughout the country and takes in rare species from animal shelters, so there’s a vast amount of exotic wildlife on the grounds.
This being Hugh Hefner’s home/office, there is also a vast amount of human wildlife at one time or another. Just ask executive chef Bill Bloxsom-Carter, who does not live at the mansion but is in charge of a kitchen that runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He ticks off the duties on his fingers:
“We serve the Hefners and their guests; there’s a blackboard menu in the dining room every evening. We’re contract feeders for the employees, that’s about 100 to 110 meals every 24 hours. Also we do catering for the Hefners when they eat away from the property, for instance at the Playboy Jazz Festival. We also cater for Mr. (Bill) Cosby and his party for the Jazz Festival. And we cater events.”
Every Sunday night, Bloxsom-Carter also serves a buffet dinner for the 60 to 80 guests the Hefners invite over to watch first-run movies. Whenever there’s an important boxing match on cable, Hefner invites about 150 people to watch it with him, and, of course, they have a buffet too. For the many charitable fund-raisers held at the mansion, Bloxsom-Carter’s staff can put on a spread for up to 500 people.
To handle this load, Bloxsom-Carter has a computer to keep track of inventory and continuously monitor the budget. Eight full-time cooks work under him, serving five-day shifts staggered through the week so that there’s somebody in the kitchen 24 hours a day. For charity events, three free-lance chefs may join the crew.
Bloxsom-Carter describes himself as a graduate of the University of Hard Knocks. He fell into restaurant work after getting a business degree. Since moving here from Connecticut he has worked at the Three Dolphin Inn, the Riviera Country Club and Le Gourmet--the restaurant at the Sheraton La Reina near LAX where Roy Yamaguchi was making his mark--among other restaurants.
He got this particular job in 1985 by way of a newspaper ad. “It read, ‘Major corporation seeks executive chef to serve lunches, employee feeding, large banquets,’ ” he recalls. “What appealed to me as a newlywed was the prospect of evenings and weekends off.”
He was in for some surprises working for Hefner. “I thought I was detail-oriented,” he says, “until I met him. All Mr. Hefner’s recipes were written in stone before I came. Only rarely does he eat off the blackboard menu, though he does like our rack of lamb. Usually he just calls down and asks for a dish from his recipe book.
“One recipe that wasn’t yet set in stone was the pot roast. It had some problems, but we worked on it and it’s now an excellent pot roast.
“There is also a recipe book for Kimberley (Mrs. Hefner), though she will sometimes order off the blackboard menu. There are 35 recipes in his book, 25 in hers. She likes Italian and Oriental food.
“We’ve also started a recipe book for (their son) Marston, who will be 1 year old April 9. There’s only one recipe in it yet, but it’s a great one for a muffin with cracked wheat and bananas.”
Bloxsom-Carter cooks everything from scratch. “We’re conscientious about eating clean here,” he says. “Low fat, no cream soups, everything fresh, no freezer meat. We stay away from butter and use lots of natural reductions instead. We’ll use the prawn heads from today’s luncheon prawn entree for a sauce tomorrow, just as the prawns came in a sauce from yesterday’s lobsters.”
The word he most often uses for his job is humbling : “I have to do dinners, banquets, employee feeding and everything from baby food on up. I spend 35% of my time in administration and paperwork, 35% in training and the remaining 30% cooking. I used to cook an awful lot. Now it’s my therapy.
“I like to tell people I work from 9 to 5. Actually I usually work eight to 10 hours a day, five or six days a week. Usually I also spend an hour and a half to two hours a day at home working on menus.”
Are there any unexpected meals? “Yes, there are,” he says with a sort of snorting chuckle. He takes off his toque and points to the proof: “See the silver in my hair?”
HUGH HEFNER’S POT ROAST DINNER
1 (4 to 7-pound) blade-cut chuck roast (second cut from bottom of blade, 2 1/2 inches thick)
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
1 tablespoon garlic salt
3/4 cup flour, about
1/3 cup oil
1 cup unsalted butter
5 to 6 cups cold water
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped white onions
1 cup coarsely chopped carrot
1 cup coarsely chopped celery
1/4 cup bottled gravy color (Gravy Master)
4 small, red potatoes, boiled
Trim excess fat from roast. Rub seasoned salt, 1 teaspoon white pepper and garlic salt on both sides of meat. Coat heavily with flour, about 1/4 cup.
Heat oil in heavy roasting pan over medium heat. Add roast and brown well on each side. Remove from pan and pour off fat. Scrape brown bits stuck to bottom of pan and reserve.
Melt butter in same roasting pan and stir in 1/2 cup flour to make roux. Cook and stir roux until rich brown. Add water to make generous amount of gravy. (Consistency should be thin at this time.) Add onions, celery, carrot and gravy color. Add reserved roast and scrapings. Roast, covered, in 350-degree oven 3 to 4 hours.
Remove meat from pan and keep warm. Heat gravy mixture on stove top over medium heat until medium consistency, stirring frequently. Strain into serving bowl and season to taste with sea salt and white pepper.
To serve, slice meat in 12 pieces and place 2 pieces on each serving plate with gravy. Serve with boiled potatoes. Makes 6 servings.
Recipe copyright 1987 Playboy Enterprises Inc.
KIMBERLEY HEFNER’S CHILLED TOMATO SALSA WITH ANGEL HAIR PASTA
8 firm Roma tomatoes, chopped medium
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet red pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet yellow pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
8 leaves basil
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound angel hair pasta
Crushed dried hot red pepper
Grated Romano cheese
Combine tomatoes, red and yellow peppers, onion and garlic with basil and olive oil. Season to taste with sea salt and white pepper.
Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain well. Place pasta on plate and top with vegetable sauce. Serve crushed hot red pepper and Romano cheese on side. Makes 2 servings as entree, 4 as appetizer.
Recipe copyright 1987 Playboy Enterprises Inc.