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This story first appeared in the Nov. 29 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
By now, it’s clear the old ways of catering are gone. An increasingly savvy entertainment industry clientele is demanding not just restaurant-quality food (nothing can be premade off-site) but restaurant-level creativity. The grand dames of the scene, such as Good Gracious! and Along Came Mary, still are on A-list speed dials across town — as is Wolfgang Puck‘s juggernaut operation — but these dozen names are landing the big gigs.
What do they have in common? A commitment to the era’s on-trend sensibilities: vegan- and gluten-sensitive offerings, seasonal menus, less stiff service and experiences customized beyond merely the food. Case in point: “People no longer want the white coats,” says Patina director of catering Melissa Darpino. “So we now have a wardrobe department to outfit our servers to the style of the event.” Only in L.A.
Long before Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook burst onto the restaurant scene with nose-to-tail phenom Animal and seafood-centric Son of a Gun (they’ve since partnered with Ludo LeFebvre on Trois Mec), they built a serious catering following and are happy to re-create dishes from their hotspots.
KEY CLIENTS: Drew Barrymore, Aziz Ansari, Jimmy Kimmel, Jessica Alba
IN-DEMAND DISH: Potato fritter with caviar and sour cream. 310-948-9947
The old-school family-owned Valley restaurant — it opened in 1956 in Sherman Oaks — is a favorite for its classic Mexican offerings. “We used to just cater occasionally,” says second-generation proprietor Christy Vega, “but now it’s become a major part of our business.”
KEY CLIENTS: Kris Jenner, Justin Timberlake, Slash, George Lopez
IN-DEMAND DISH: Chicken mole. 818-990-0668
Arguably the breakout catering company of the decade, this operation run by Tara Maxey and Matt Poley (the latter formerly of Angelini Osteria and La Terza) is known for its artisanal-minded style.
KEY CLIENTS: John Lasseter, Sue Naegle, Eric Garcetti, Sofia Coppola
IN-DEMAND DISHES: Lasagna cupcakes that Oprah Winfrey (at an OWN launch party) cooed “will change your life”; turducken (for the holidays). 855-456-6652
The Hungry Cat
Chef David Lentz, known for broadening the traditional East Coast seafood shack with Japanese and French flavors, goes mobile with a portable raw bar faced with unclaimed wood and piled high with shrimp, clams, oysters, crab and shrimp.
KEY CLIENTS: Larry David, Gwyneth Paltrow, Amy Poehler, Ben Affleck
IN-DEMAND DISHES: Small versions of its lobster rolls; deep-fried turkey (for the holidays). “And we have an eggnog recipe from David’s dad,” says director of operations Tim Staehling. 323-462-2155
The restaurant group behind standbys Boa and Sushi Roku and newbies RivaBella and Chi Lin has developed a robust catering arm as well, lending out its top chefs — including Gino Angelini and Tyson Wong Ophaso, an Iron Chef alum — for the right price.
KEY CLIENTS: Bryan Lourd, Christina Aguilera, Kate Beckinsale, Dr. Dre
IN-DEMAND DISHES: Petit filet mignon and lobster tail. 310-271-6000
“We’re near the studios,” says Jimmy Shaw, owner of the popular Mexican restaurants with locations at the Farmers Market, in Hollywood and Studio City, “so we’re always getting orders to go into the creative rooms.”
KEY CLIENTS: Charlize Theron, Guillermo del Toro, Gale Anne Hurd, Ryan Seacrest
IN-DEMAND DISHES: “Bilingua” tacos filled with both pork and beef tongue; rum Amaretto horchata (for the holidays). Virginia@loteriagrill.com
Chef Suzanne Goin (wife of The Hungry Cat’s Lentz) and business partner Caroline Styne are known for a distinct brand of Cal-inflected Mediterranean cuisine at their restaurants Lucques, A.O.C. and Tavern. Goin’s sister Jessica runs the road show.
KEY CLIENTS: Reese Witherspoon, James L. Brooks, Nancy Meyers, Ridley Scott
IN-DEMAND DISH: Bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with Parmesan. 323-246-0978
Chef-owner Josiah Citrin‘s two-Michelin-starred Santa Monica restaurant has an off-site component that will send sliders to a bar mitzvah or beef bearnaise — flash-fried and placed on an Asian spoon — to a cocktail party.
KEY CLIENTS: Sumner Redstone, Sony exec Gary Martin, producer Martin Shafer
IN-DEMAND DISHES: Chicken stuffed with truffles; lobster Bolognese. 310-395-0881
Joachim Splichal — whose group handles LACMA’s Art+Film Gala, along with the Emmy Awards’ Governors Ball — takes a holistic approach to events in private homes. “The house speaks to us,” says director of catering Darpino.
KEY CLIENTS: J.J. Abrams, Judd Apatow, Norman Lear, Bud Yorkin
IN-DEMAND DISHES: A macaron tower; rosemary wild rice stuffing (for the holidays). 866-972-8462
With its hotel experience, the hospitality outfit behind Mediterranean mecca Cleo, Katsuya and Jose Andres‘ The Bazaar is at ease handling events of scale like The Weinstein Co.’s Golden Globes party.
KEY CLIENTS: Seth MacFarlane, Jamie Foxx, Fergie, Mario Lopez
IN-DEMAND DISHES: American sturgeon caviar cones; pumpkin bread pudding (for the holidays). 323-525-2400
The Little Door
Third Street’s beloved romantic patio hideaway, run by brothers Frederic and Nicolas Meschin, turns out its French-Moroccan cuisine for Cirque du Soleil events and wrap parties for the likes of The Artist and The Tourist.
KEY CLIENTS: Harvey Weinstein, Olivia Wilde, Baz Luhrmann, Rachel Zoe
IN-DEMAND DISHES: Tagines; Buche de Noel (for the holidays). 323-951-1210
Neal Fraser, the recent Top Chef Masters contestant whose BLD is a popular power breakfast spot, soon will open Redbird downtown with his wife and business partner, Amy Knoll. Fraser especially loves the flavors of fall: “We’re going to have game birds from Scotland!”
KEY CLIENTS: The Simpsons executive producer Matt Selman, Connie Britton, Phil Rosenthal, ABC comedy development director Cort Cass
IN-DEMAND DISHES: Wild boar with spaetzle; John Dory with wild mushrooms. 213-626-1507
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