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Putting on the Ritz

Puritans and wet blankets, go to the end of the line. For the rest of us, a hotel brunch can’t have too many food stations. With 300 brunch guests, a dozen chefs and at least one ice sculpture every Sunday, Denis Depoitre, executive chef of the Ritz-Carlton, Huntington Hotel & Spa in Pasadena, oversees an extravaganza featuring the classics plus an ever-changing menu of seasonal, international and other offerings. We asked for the dish.

How would you describe your brunch aesthetic?

Elegant but casual. We’ve got people sitting by the pool. Brunch is a family affair. People should be able to come in jeans and relax.

What brunch items are the “greatest hits”?

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Most popular is the omelet station. You also need your shrimp cocktail, oysters, crab claws. And your Danishes, croissants, pastries. You absolutely cannot forget a carving station with some sort of meat. We always have many salads. For dessert, you should have creme brulee all the time. We do a large variety of miniature creme brulee here.

Are there trends in brunch dishes?

I’m not sure that brunch is a place for trends. Brunch has to be sacred, especially at the Ritz, where Sunday brunch is a tradition. You find more international cuisine. We have dim sum. And we’re thinking about a moo shu station. A year ago, we put in a tempura station.

What else besides Asian?

We do a bouillabaisse station that’s very popular. We also do a ceviche station and a miso soup station.

Are there items that have gone out of style?

Caviar fell out a couple of years ago. But people have been demanding it again lately, so maybe we’ll start a caviar station soon.

What’s your dream brunch?

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I would do more cooking in front of the customers. Maybe we could do wine pairings and you would match the music of the country to the wine, or something. You could educate and make it a different experience.

What about the menu, any dream creations?

Yes, but a good portion of customers would probably go “Ewww!” at tongue or kidney. I think it would be good to take some risks to educate. Tongue, pig feet, why not? If I got five people to try something I would consider it a success. But realistically, people don’t come to brunch to experiment.

Would you ever consider doing brunch any other day?

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No, only Sunday. If it’s a special occasion, keep it special. Don’t destroy something to be greedy. You lose the magic. It would be like a birthday every day.

The Ritz-Carlton, Huntington Hotel & Spa, 1401 S. Oak Knoll Ave., Pasadena; (626) 568-3900. Sunday brunch, $55, served 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Reservations recommended.


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