High End Promo Dee Shultz & Erin Copper : Page 8

He shows both sides of his culinary personality at his restaurants in Washing-ton, D.C., L.A. and Las Vegas. As director of catering and conference services at the hip SLS Hotel outside Beverly Hills, home to several of Andrés’ dining rooms, Sum-mer Stearns is an ambassador for the chef’s exciting fare. “Chef José’s cuisine is an experience from start to finish,” she says, suggesting it requires trust and a will-ingness for adventure. Andrés says people frequently ask him how he knows when to keep an event menu relatively conservative and when to push the envelope. “It really comes back to what you want your guests to experience,” he says. “There are ways to keep things comfortable for a group, but you can always surprise and delight with unique touches and special dishes.” Splichal may enjoy slipping in his surprises at dessert, but Andrés prefers to experiment with cocktails and hors d’oeu-vres. “I always encourage hosts to have a little fun,” insists the chef, who is known for reconstituting olives into a surreal tex-tural experience through a high-tech process called spherification and revolu-tionizing old-fashioned sliders with foie gras or sea urchin. But as a student of clas-sic European technique, even Andrés’ con-servative menus are likely to be memorable. With a portfolio of high-profile restaurants in Philadelphia, New York, Atlantic City and Florida, special events of all kinds carry the signature of prolific restaurateur Stephen Starr, from buttoned-up corporate confabs to backyard gradua-tion parties. Morgan Bedore, vice president of sales and creative develop-ment for Starr Restaurants, never has a problem assembling a world-class team of chefs, sommeliers and mixologists, thanks to the resources of more than two-dozen Starr venues that include trendsetters such as Morimoto and Buddakan. Bedore reports that most inquiries are from people familiar with the restau-rants and are seeking out unique menus. “For the most part, our clients are adven-turous food people, but if a client wants meat and potatoes, we’ll come up with a very elegant way of serving meat and pota-toes.” For instance, traditional beef tender-loin might be paired with an unusual potato dish or an unfamiliar grain to change things up. “We might serve it with a great sauce tableside — providing that extra layer of service — or present it on a more unusual plate to help it stand out visually,” explains Bedore of the many ways a simple dish can be elevated into something unforgettable, even for cautious hosts. Wolfgang Puck, who built a career on innovation, nonetheless respects the preferences of less adventurous guests. “If you really don’t want truffles on your pas-ta, that’s okay — simple flavors are still delicious when you use the finest quality ingredients,” says the high-flying chef/restaurateur. Now in his sixties, Puck continues to expand his dining empire, recently reinventing the dining room at L.A.’s celebrity-favored Hotel Bel-Air. If Wolfgang Puck Catering can handle the Academy Awards, it can certainly handle your son’s bar mitzvah or that all-impor-tant reception for your boss. 8 T HE H IGH E ND

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