By Sarah A. Spitz
This weekend, the WestEdge Design Fair sets up shop in Barker Hangar at Santa Monica Airport. This annual event showcases every item you could possibly imagine in your dream home.
In my case, it’s a kitchen (well, I’ll need a whole new dwelling to put it in, but that’s not the issue just yet). For the first time ever, I am putting together a vision board to create my dream kitchen. And just in time, JennAir and Fisher & Paykel are showing off the latest in equipment and design at WestEdge.
Through seminars and panels, JennAir’s Master Class Series gears its Friday programs to the design trade, then pivots to consumer interests on Friday and Saturday with such topics as “Kitchen Interventions: Designing for Every Culinary Need” (Saturday) and “Designing for Resale” (Sunday).
Fisher & Paykel heads in a different direction with a Culinary Pavilion highlighting chef demos and tastings. Their star attraction is Ludo Lefebvre, a celeb chef phenom here in Los Angeles, whose home kitchen was designed by Fisher & Paykel.
Following his insanely popular “Ludo Bites” pop-ups and famed fried chicken, Ludo is now firmly ensconced in brick-and-mortar restaurants with Trois Mec (number 4 on Jonathan Gold’s 2016 list of LA’s 101 Best Restaurants), Petit Trois and Ludo Bird at Staples Center and Universal City Walk. He joins Interior Designer Ginny Capo for a conversation billed as “From Design to Dish: A Discussion Over Dinner” on opening night (tonight) from 7:30 to 8:30.
Before discussing kitchen design, I had to ask whether design played any role in the placement of his countless tattoos. “No,” he said, adding that he puts them wherever there’s room (not much! Just some space on his leg these days) and he’s going to stop since nearly every square inch of his skin has been inked. (He says he’s getting too old and worries about their effect on wrinkled skin.)
Next I wanted to know how design plays into the kitchen at his tiny restaurants, located in a nondescript West Hollywood strip mall (Trois Mec is a ticketed, chef’s tasting menu dining destination, Petit Trois is a bistro). In the restaurants, he said, “You need to be to be smart with the design and use every inch.”
He applies a different ethos to the plate. “For me the design of the food must be simple and clean. I don’t want too many things on the plate, my rule is to use the best of the best ingredients and good technique.”
His home kitchen is outfitted with Fisher & Paykel equipment. He loves the induction range because, “It’s consistent, it never breaks, the heat is even all the time, it’s a good machine, I never have a problem, it goes high or low temperature very quickly. It’s like driving a racecar, you can really control it very well. The oven is like a computer, it’s amazing.”
And that’s important because he’ll be discussing the complications of cooking lamb at WestEdge. “It’s very technical, you have to sear it, then you have to manipulate with a lot of different temperatures in the oven and for that you need strong induction.”
The WestEdge Design Fair runs tonight through Sunday at Barker Hangar. Tickets run from $20 to $95 (including an Opening Night Gala benefitting Ronald McDonald House). Find links and details here: http://www.westedgedesignfair.com
MY DINNER AT FRENCH LAUNDRY
If you’re not a billionaire, how many times in your life can you expect to dine at one of the world’s best (Relais and Chateaux) and a three-star (top honor) Michelin Guide restaurant? In my case, maybe just once, so when l landed a reservation at Thomas Keller’s famed French Laundry in Yountville (Napa Valley), I grabbed it. Cost, on this occasion, would be no object and I absolutely gave in to this indulgent extravagance.
You won’t find finer service, without a taint of snootiness. The menu consists of 9 courses of the chef’s Tasting Menu. Because I’m not a fan of oysters, lamb or sweetbreads (all on that night’s tasting menu), I opted for the Tasting of Vegetables, with one dish swapped out for the Scottish Sea Trout (I do need protein!).
From the Cream of Butternut Squash soup, the artful Garden Radish Salad, through the Charcoal Grilled Matsutake Mushrooms with a Ragout of Toasted Quinoa and Cauliflower Bechamel, the utterly remarkable Chestnut “Agnolotti” and a lovely Garden Honey Lacquered Parsnip, on to the desserts that just kept coming, my dining companion (who ordered the Tasting Menu) and I were delighted to share this extraordinary experience.
Following the meal, the service manager asked how we enjoyed the meal, which gave me the opportunity to explain the complications I experienced with the reservation process. He graciously offered a tour of the kitchens: the gorgeous new one, which will be unveiled in a photo array in a major newspaper soon, and the remarkable shipping container temporary kitchen, with a TV connecting to their sister restaurant in New York (Per Se).
At the end of the night, we each went home with a clothes pin souvenir and an elegant carryout bag filled with Finesse Magazine featuring the restaurant and its stunning produce garden across the street, tins of their peerless shortbread cookies, and half a dozen marbleized chocolate truffles. You only need one: it took almost a week to finish them off. But I still have 2 cookies left! I’m savoring them.
Food and dining are culture, and after all, YOLO, right? The French Laundry was completely worth it.
Sarah A. Spitz spent her career as a producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica and produced freelance arts reports for NPR. She has also written features and reviews for various print and online publications. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.