Lydia Shire, who recently resigned from her post as executive chef at L.A.'s Four Seasons Hotel, has signed on as a consultant for the Beverly Restaurant and Market, scheduled to open in early November in Beverly Hills.
The Beverly is owned by Bruce Saiber and Bill Chait, also the proprietors of the Angel City Grill and several other local restaurants, and Shire notes that she is working closely in developing menus for the new establishment with Saiber and with Beverly head chef Patrick Magee (who formerly worked under John Makin at the Remington on Post Oak Park in Houston and cooked privately for Malcolm Forbes and David Murdock). Shire's consulting work for Saiber and Chait is temporary; her ultimate plan remains to open her own restaurant in Los Angeles, and she reports that she is close to signing a deal in that regard.
WATERGATE COMES TO USC: One of the country's most celebrated restaurants, Jean-Louis at Watergate, will be re-created on the USC campus Monday through Friday as part of the Culinary Classics program. Each semester, USC Dining Services chooses a different restaurant somewhere in the country. They then send a team of their own chefs and personnel to consult with the chef, owner and maitre d' of the chosen restaurant before returning to duplicate the restaurant on campus. The Jean-Louis meal, which includes dishes like corn soup with belon oysters and lobster quenelles, cured duck breast and broiled tuna and caviar sandwich, costs $24.95 per person. Reservations for the dinner will be taken at the Commons Garden Court, (213) 743-6193, as well as the Edmondson Faculty Center on the Health Sciences campus (Thursday and Friday only) at (213) 224-7864.
A SOUR NOTE: Can anybody out there tell me how and why the practice of adding a slice of lemon to the water glass in restaurants got started? Lemonade is a wonderful drink. So is plain, cool water. And it is my opinion that a glass should contain one or the other and not some feeble compromise between the two. All a single slice of lemon does to the water, anyway, is to make it oily and bitter--to rob it of its earthy freshness. (And if the water isn't fresh to begin with, it should be thrown down the drain, not made staler yet with citric acid.) A container of water with a slice of lemon in it has one purpose on a table: as a fingerbowl. And we do all know enough not to drink out of our fingerbowls, don't we?
PYRAMID SCHEME: It sounded too good to be true: New York-based Cookie monster David Liederman (as in the worldwide David's Cookies chain) was going to buy Le Pyramid in the south-central French city of Vienne, an establishment that was once considered to be practically the Lourdes (or at least the Chartres) of French gastronomy.
Le Pyramid, in case you've forgotten, was the home of the legendary Fernand Point, the great pre-contemporary chef who taught young tads with names like Troisgros and Outhier how to cook. It then became, after Point's death in the '50s, a veritable shrine to his memory, presided over by his formidable widow. But Mme. Point herself died last year, and the future of the restaurant--one of the oldest three-star places in France--was in doubt.
Enter Liederman who, of course, is known not just for cookies but for having helped pioneer "new American" cuisine at his now-defunct Manhattan Marketplace and as the current proprietor of Chez Louis, an old-style French bistro conceived as an homage to the venerable L'Ami Louis in Paris. What a combo, eh?
Alas, the project turned out to be not good enough to be true. Liederman and his wife recently returned from an extended tour of France, he told me when I asked him about Le Pyramid not long ago, and what he saw there made him lose interest in the place. "Business is just terrible in France," he explained. "We were in a number of restaurants where we were literally the only customers. Even the Japanese have stopped spending all their money in restaurants in France. Le Pyramid just wouldn't make sense right now."
Not everyone agrees. The restaurant has just been bought by a real estate and financial investment group called La Fonciere des Champs Elysees, who plan to build a four-star 20-room hotel at the back of the garden. They will enlarge and redecorate the dining room, but keep the present chefs. The transformation will take place this winter, with Le Pyramid closing from Nov. 1 until April 1.