Segal to San Diego! Splichal to New York? Puck to Monte Carlo!? Three of our town's (and thus our country's) best French chefs--one of whom is even a real Frenchman--are on the move. Sort of. And maybe.
Claude Segal, late of Ma Maison and Bistango and most recently a hands-on consultant at Wave in Santa Monica, has left that last establishment (though he will retain some consulting duties for a time) and is off to San Diego--but only for about three weeks. He's heading south to help his father-in-law, Taco Bell franchisee G. K. Marechal, open a new French restaurant there called Biarritz. When he gets back to Los Angeles, Segal will start work on a restaurant of his own, name thus far undecided. "The food will be sort of a cross between that of the French Riviera and the California Riviera," he says. Probable location is the former La Terrazza on the Sunset Strip, and estimated opening date is early November.
Joachim Splichal, who left the exquisite but apparently jinxed Max au Triangle in Beverly Hills in late June, is helping to set up a new restaurant next door to his old stamping ground, the Seventh Street Bistro, downtown on 7th Street near Figueroa. This place doesn't have a name yet, either, though it is being referred to as "The Firehouse"--that having been the former identity of the building where it will be situated. It's too early to be specific about the menu, Splichal says, but the place will be inexpensive and casual, and will feature "food which is more solid than my own food--food like you ate in the '40s and '50s as a teen-ager, that your mother made--but still with a French flavor." ( Mignons de Spam aux haricots en boite? )
The restaurant is being developed by Linda Griego, and the chef will be longtime Splichal associate Lynn Wright. Sous-chef Octavio Becerra, a Splichal protege who walked in off the street to become a valued member of the kitchen team at Max, has been sent to Europe for several months to hone his skills at Arzak in San Sebastian, Jacques Maximin's Chantecler in Nice and other such places. "The Firehouse" will open in February or March. But what was that I said earlier about New York? Oh, yes. Splichal is also in the running for a big job in the Big Apple. No details yet, but our candidate says, "There's a definite possibility that I'll get the job."
When we spoke to Splichal just after he had left Max, he was discouraged with the Los Angeles restaurant scene (though he now says, "I want to keep a foot in L.A. no matter what"), and told us that he might move back to France to open a restaurant. He now says that, though the possibility remains, he was perhaps being a bit hasty at the time. Wolfgang Puck is being anything but hasty, though. Having successfully resisted New York for years, he is now apparently seriously considering opening something even further east--all the way over in Monte Carlo. One of Puck's friends, the seriously moneyed Dodi Fayed--whose other ventures include joints like Harrods in London and the Ritz in Paris--approached him not long ago and asked him if he'd like to set up a Spago-like operation there. Maybe, Puck replied. ("Everything is possible" is one of his favorite sayings.) His first step will be to send over Phillipe Pique, a veteran Spago waiter who happens to have an apartment next door to Monte Carlo in Roquebrune, to have a look around. "Finding a location will be the most difficult thing," Puck says, "because Monte Carlo is so small." If the deal goes through, Pique will stay there to supervise the operation. And ex-Spago (and ex-Maxwell's Plum) chefs Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton might end up running the kitchens, adds Puck, if they're still available by that time.
DINING AS THEATER: The Terrace Restaurant at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City is offering a unique package deal: a three-course meal, including tax, tip and parking, plus an orchestra seat at the Shubert Theatre across the street to see "Cats"--all for $49 per person. And for $99 each, they'll throw in a room for the night. . . . Perino's, on Wilshire, goes about it somewhat differently: For $85 per person, you get a prix - fixe dinner, a limo to the theater of your choice (within reason, I would guess; no quick jaunts to Broadway), and an after-theater drink back at the restaurant. You've got to buy your own tickets, though. On the other hand, you don't have to see "Cats." . . . And if your tastes are more, well, cinematic, a new outfit called Cuisine & Cinema Select will make suggestions for "individually tailored dining and movie alternatives" and can make arrangements for the purchase of tickets, reserving of limos, and even the magical appearance of flowers at the proper time and place. Call (818) 795-7520.