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DineLA Chef Roundtable – Of Puck, Preparation and Produce

June 18, 2010

(Click for a larger picture.)

Mark Peel of Campanile, The Point and The Tar Pit.
Josiah Citrin of Melisse.
Susan Feniger of Street, Ciudad and Border Grill.
Joachim Splichal of the Patina Group.
Karen Hatfield of Hatfield’s.
Wolfgang Puck.

To listen to any of these chefs would be a pleasure. To hear all six of them speak at the same event? That’s a privilege.


This post was originally going to recap the roundtable and the conversations that took place there – I even took mental notes on specific things each chef mentioned that I wanted to address. However, as you’re probably familiar with my typical lag period, you shouldn’t be surprised that, by the time I got around to actually writing this post, the fine people at DineLA had already posted a video of the entire event online. (Oops.)

Well, since the job of recapper is no longer necessary (*whew!*), I’m going quickly cover the parts I enjoyed most about this whole roundtable.

– I’ve always loved listening to successful people tell the story about their life. There’s something so intriguing about hearing about them before they made it big, whatever trials or tribulations they may have gone through, and seeing where they are now. Wolfgang Puck is no exception – he could have been on that stage by himself, speaking for the entire hour and I would have been perfectly happy.

My favorite Wolfgang story of the night was the one about how he got started in the restaurant business. (Start at 14:10 in the video. Watch it – I’m not gonna recap it for you!) Imagining little 14-year old Wolfgang being told he was good for nothing and then seeing him in person on stage now, governing his empire…It’s surreal to hear him tell his story (and probably even more surreal for him to live it).

– As an accountant, I have a rather practical view on life. Thus, I appreciated the concrete advice Joachim gave when asked about starting a new restaurant (at 27:43 in the video). While the chefs prior (Susan, in particular) spoke of passion for their craft, Joachim asked them to think and prepare and…well, basically be a businessman. I may not know much about running a restaurant but I’ve seen this much from my accounting gigs over the years – you can’t run a business on passion alone.

– I found it interesting that, throughout the roundtable, the chefs repeatedly touched upon the abundance of fresh produce in Los Angeles and the appreciation for food. It was especially interesting because, about 2 years prior, I attended a similar event moderated by Jonathan Gold on the topic of California cuisine and remember taking away one thing from that event: California cuisine is the abundance of produce matched with our variety of ethnic influences. At the time, I almost thought that was almost a cop-out answer – “Yes, I know we have great produce but…what else??”, says the girl who has only lived in California and has been surrounded by fresh produce her entire life – but to hear the same talking points two years later made me re-evaluate my original reaction and how I may take California’s strongest assets for granted.

Anyway, as you can tell, the roundtable was a great experience. I had the opportunity to listen to some of my favorite chefs in person and the stories of their lives. Plus, after it was all over, I gorged myself on Starry Kitchen‘s tofu balls and got to take a picture with Susan Feniger! (Woot woot!)

(Picture taken by Julian of Jewelz, What Are We Doing Today?)

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