Feast like a Star

Enjoy Golden Age cuisine from Hollywood’s iconic eateries reimagined by local culinary specialist Wayne Smith.

VIP Luncheon Menu

Chef/Instructor Wayne Smith, CEC CCE

Assistant Technical Professor of Culinary Arts

Chef Wayne Smith has been instructing students since the Culinary Arts program began at Western Colorado Community College, a division of Colorado Mesa University, in 1998.  He helped research and select the iconic dishes from restaurants famous during the Golden Age of Hollywood. For the Hooray for Hollywood VIP Luncheon, Chef will create a special PuPu Platter appetizer to replicate some of The Formosa Café’s extensive Chinese menu items.  He will follow that course with a reimagined version of The Brown Derby’s famous Cobb Salad.

Smith teaches Culinary Program Fundamentals, Introduction to Foods, Center of the Plate, International Cuisine, Advanced Garde Manger and Hors D’Oeuvre and Fundamentals of Healthy Cooking.

His courses offer students a hands-on opportunity to apply their leaning to the production of a wide variety of foods as well the science of cooking.  His goal is to motivate students to be deeply curious about cooking to the point they forget they are earning a grade.

With other faculty members in the program, he has coached student teams in culinary competitions, where they have earned success on regional and national levels.

Chef Wayne’s culinary interests are varied and include international cuisines, fermented foods, and culinary medicine. Currently, he is studying the sciences to gain a better understanding of how food “works.”

The Inspiration

Perino’s Los Angeles, CA – If only the walls could talk!

Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA  28403

It’s hard to know what’s a movie plot line or real fact when examining the now defunct,  but infamous Perino’s Restaurant.  Either way, the eatery has an intriguing history that easily could flesh out a good flick.

In many ways, Perino’s is an immigrant success story, the realization of the American Dream.  Alessandro Bruno Perino  was only 19 years old when he arrived from Italy in the Port of New York in February 1917. Perino worked hard and saved his money before migrating to Los Angeles.  With the hard-earned $2,000 cash he had saved, Perino opened a restaurant in 1932,   only to suffer a disastrous fire in 1934.   He regrouped, reopened and never looked back.

Focusing on high-end Italian and French cuisine, Perino was ahead of his time, insisting on fresh, high quality food at a pricey $1.25 per dish. He bought produce from a local farmer.  He changed the menu daily, but the service reportedly  was constant and superb, per the owner’s credo  that good service should be “never seen.”  Hollywood was thriving and ready for more sophisticated fare.  Over the years  Perino’s regulars included Ronald Colman, Dolores del Rio, May West and Ezio Pina.   Bette Davis reserved her own exclusive booth, while Sinatra sometimes performed in the lounge.   Cole Porter composed tunes on the back of menu’s, it is said.

Fast forward to 1950,  when Perino moved his bistro to a large, defunct supermarket building on Wilshire, where  it continued until 1986. With the aid of an architect, Perino transformed the site into a New Orleans style  establishment, complete  with mansard roofline, wrought iron porte-cochere, pink stucco exterior, peach-toned linens, and banquettes upholstered in salmon- hued velvet.  Lots of mirrored walls and chandelier sconces completed the French Quarter-style. (Sounds a lot  like Brennan’s, right?)   Unfortunately, another fire in 1954 severely damaged the establishment, so the next refurbishment morphed into a French Continental style.

Part of the restaurant’s intrigue was its notoriety as a hangout for the Mob through the ‘40s and ‘50s.  Bugsy Siegel and Johnny Stompanato openly frequented the place.  In fact, a summit  called there  by Los Angeles gangster Jack Dragna and Anthony “Big Tuna” Accardo was raided by the cops, adding to the Perino notoriety.   It should be noted, however, that during those decades, Richard Nixon, the Ronald Reagans also frequently  dined there.  Super stars Grant, Monroe, Hitchcock, Taylor and DiMaggio dropped in as well.

After Bruno Perino sold the restaurant in 1969, Perino’s began to slip in popularity.  Several successful movies filmed scenes there: Sunset Boulevard, American Gigolo, Mommie Dearest, Scarface and Chaplin.   It also was a popular venue for television filming for Melrose Place, Hart to Hart, Falcon Crest, Columbo and Dallas.

Sadly, Perino’s closed in 1986 and was demolished in 2005.  The apartment house that was built on the site displays memorabilia from the restaurant in its lobby.

One of the great stories about the cuisine is the tradition that Perino’s on special occasions served pressed duck, using an antique press loaned by Joan Crawford and her fourth husband Alfred Steele.

As an homage to that tradition,  WCI Executive Chef Michael Deremer has created an entrée of Pan Seared Duck Breast with Cherry Demi Glace, served with Whipped Celeriac Potatoes and  Fried Leeks for the VIP Luncheon.   It will be paired with a local wine chosen by Pat Kennedy and Jenne Baldwin-Eaton.

Brown Derby –  “Meet me at the Derby”

Brown Derby
3427 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA  28403

Reservations:Hollywood Brown Derby

If Hollywood handed out Oscars to restaurants, the Brown Derby would win the “Most Inventive, Humorous Eatery” hands down.

If the archives are correct, its origins would make a great comedy.  Whether real or apocryphal, the story goes that while lamenting the dearth of fine dining in the ‘20s,  the sharp-tongued playwright and raconteur Wilson Mizner reportedly quipped to Herbert Somborn (Gloria Swanson’s second husband),  “If you know anything about food, you can sell it out of a hat.”

Illustrating his point, they did indeed open the Little Hat restaurant on Wilshire Blvd. in 1926 with theatre owner and showman Sid Grauman.   Mizner insisted that the place was big enough to accommodate the “swelled heads” of its clientele, which included the likes of Rudolph Valentino, Mary Pickford and Will Rogers.

A decade later the Brown Derby, as it was renamed,  moved down the block into its famously quirky hat-shaped building, an example of Programmatic architecture, some of which still exists in L. A.

A big neon sign “Eat in the hat” beckoned stars like Harlow, Chaplin and Barrymore. Jack L. Warner bankrolled the move to the neighboring property  which Somborn owned.  Wilson Mizner sat up shop daily in booth 50.   A  legendary establishment was born and  dominated the Hollywood social scene for half a century.  The Brown Derby was where many a studio titan reigned: contracts were signed, careers launched and hearts broken there.

While unique,  the Derby concept was not original. It was preceded, and perhaps inspired by a  similar eatery,  a favorite gathering spot for vaudevillians in the 1920s  in Malverne, New York.

The Brown Derby’s location across the street from the glamorous Cocoanut Grove night club in the Ambassador Hotel guaranteed success.  With its popularity among early stars who liked to pop over to grab a bite after their clubbing,  Somborn realized he needed help.   Anybody who was anybody in movies dined there to see and be seen.  And the general public came to gawk at them.

Sondborn met Robert Cobb, who had been flipping burgers at a stand on Wilshire near LaBrea, when the two were competing for the attention of the same young lady over at the Ambassador Hotel.  The 26-year old transplanted Montana cowboy’s knowledge of restaurants impressed Somborn, so he hired him to manage the Derby.   Cobb paid his dues as headwaiter, dishwasher, purchasing agent, assistant chef, bookkeeper, bouncer and banker. When Somborn died in 1936, left the restaurant to Cobb.

Cobb had a knack for innovation, buying produce and other products from stars who had farms and ranches. emblazoned swizzle sticks, match books with the hat logo to be handy souvenirs. Cobb kept the celebrity mystique alive by lining the walls with framed whimsical,  black and white caricatures of Hollywood’s biggest and brightest stars for several generations.   The practice was great advertising for the Derby, and sort of a calling card for his patrons.

Perhaps his greatest strength, Cobb understood that personal service kept his famous clientele happy.  He learned the favorite dishes of the stars and prepared them in exacting detail.   He  hastily invented the signature Cobb Salad for theatre owner Sid Grauman,  and the Grapefruit Cake for Louella Parsons,  who was dieting but wanted dessert. The Brown Derby cocktail of whiskey, grapefruit and honey was a popular signature creation.

The Brown Derby  continued to thrive over the years, opening in three more locations as new generations of stars arrived.  It was THE place to see and be seen.  The dueling  gossip columnists Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons faced off at separate booths,  sparring with ever-ready publicists eager to get their clients a mention.  Movie execs negotiated contracts; promoters pitched ideas;  aspiring actors preened for attention, and they all enjoyed the food and beverages while they did their business.

Colorful stories are too numerous  to recount here, but a few lend themselves to the notion that on many days,  life at the Brown Derby played out like a mad-cap movie.   A few are worth recalling:

  • Marlena was refused service by Cobb because she arrived in scandalous trousers!
  • John Gilbert and a critic had a fist fight over an unfavorable review.
  • Clark Gable proposed to Carol Lombard there.
  • Several movies immortalized the Derby with scenes, and a star-struck Lucille Ball pursued William Holden and Eve Arden in a tv episode of I Love Lucy.

Though prominent for decades, the Derby had begun to fade by the time Cobb died in 1970. The business was sold in 1975,  and despite a comeback attempt, all locations were eventually closed. Regrettably, the original Wilshire Brown Derby  building was demolished in 1980; the Hollywood location, in 1995.  The other two restaurants have changed hands several times and operate under different names.

Fortunately for movie and architecture buffs,  a restaurant group bought the Brown Derby franchise and replicated the original Wilshire Blvd restaurant at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, FL  and other Disney theme parks in Anaheim, CA and Tokyo, Japan.  Diners today can savor a contemporary menu, but a few of Cobb’s iconic dishes are still served.

Edesia: A Palisade Culinary, Wine & Spirits Adventure would like to tip its hat to the Brown Derby and historical importance by including its most famous dishes on the menu for the Hooray for Hollywood VIP Luncheon.

Chef  Instructor Wayne Smith, Western Colorado Community College’s Culinary Arts Department, has reimagined the famous Cobb Salad with Butter Lettuce, Romaine and Watercress topped with Fra’ Mani Turkey Galantine, Nueske’s Cherry Wood Smoked Bacon, Hook’s Tiltson Point Blue Cheese, Ripe Pear, Black Pepper Walnuts and Custard Egg, Served with Citrus Vinaigrette.

Executive Chef Michael Deremer, Wine Country Inn, and his pastry chef and recreated the intriguing Grapefruit Cake,  a Vanilla Sponge Cake soaked in Grapefruit Syrup with Grapefruit Cheesecake and Grapefruit Jam.   Kennedy and Baldwin-Eaton have paired the Derby original with a citrus-forward honey wine from The Meadery of the Rockies.

We think Mr. Grauman and Ms. Parsons would approve.

The Formosa Café – The Golden Age of Hollywood

The Formosa Café
7156 Santa Monica Blvd. West
Hollywood, CA 90046

(323) 850-1009

Oh, the tales this late-night watering hole could tell about the Golden Age of Hollywood.

A favorite after hours haunt, the Formosa regularly saw the likes of Bogie, Sinatra and Ava,   John Wayne,  James  Dean and Elvis grabbing a bite, nursing drinks and even dancing.   Formosa Café  lore has it that one morning the staff arrived to find The Duke himself scrambling eggs in the kitchen, after passing out in his booth the night before.

Thanks to much archival research and pain-staking a renovation. patrons now can enjoy lunch or dinner in an authentically recreated Formosa where their favorite Old Hollywood stars tipped many a glass.

The famous Yee Mee Loo bar alone brings to life the historic contributions of Chinese Americans in the film industry, thanks to Arthur Dong, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker and author of the book Hollywood Chinese.   Dong generously opened his private collection of lobby cards, photos and headshots to help recreate the showcase of Chinese American talent and milestones in the Golden Age.

To celebrate the ever-popular Chinese Cuisine that is the Formosa’s specialty, Chef  and Culinary Instructor Wayne Smith,  Western Colorado Community College, has created a special PuPu Platter of 5-Spice Pork Ribs, Crab Rangoons, Korean Fried Chicken Wings with Gochujang, Salad Spring Rolls and Cashew Long Bean.  The platter will be a passed appetizer  for our Hooray for Hollywood VIP Luncheon.   The varied items on the platter will be paired with a local rose wine selected by wine consultant Pat Kennedy and viticulturist and oenologist  Jenne Baldwin-Eaton.