The folks who take credit for giving the world kiwi-decorated main courses, health food, warm duck salad and goat cheese baby pizzas put on a party Tuesday night to honor their own.
Indeed, the California Restaurant Assn.'s second Hall of Fame dinner at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, a fund-raiser for the trade organization's educational foundation, was foodie heaven.
Represented in the throng of 350 were California's most serious chefs (such as Bernard Jacoupy, who hinted that a new Bernard's restaurant may appear on the Westside), its most popular restaurants (Bob Morris, owner of Gladstone's 4 Fish and RJs), food suppliers (Roger W. Coleman, president of Rykoff-Sexton Inc.), and even valet parkers (Herb Citrin, owner of Valet Parking Service Inc.).
This year's Hall of Fame inductees were: Carl N. Karcher, chairman and CEO of Carl Karcher Enterprises (commonly known as the 500-plus Carl's Jr. restaurants); Robert Mondavi, founder of the Robert Mondavi Winery; and Maude Chasen, proprietress of Chasen's restaurant.
For an hors d'oeuvre, Chasen's provided its famous chili, prompting Chasen to remark: "The first thing people bring up is that we flew the chili into Egypt for Elizabeth Taylor when she was making a movie there ('Cleopatra') and it cost 25 times more to send it than it did for the chili."
Of her most celebrated customers, Chasen also clarified that it's Nancy Reagan whose favorite Chasen's dish is chicken pot pie, while Ronald Reagan inevitably orders Beef Belmonte, "which we serve every Tuesday night. It's what some people call boiled beef."
Not to be outdone, Karcher contributed his own finger food: Chicken Kon Tiki, chicken and pineapple on a toothpick with barbecue sauce. But to everyone who shook his hand, he offered cards containing a prayer from St. Francis of Assisi and two Carl's Jr. executive guest passes entitling the bearer to one Charbroiler BBQ Chicken Sandwich and one regular Carl's Famous Star Hamburger.
Since restaurateurs may be the most difficult audience to feed, dinner chairman Patrick Terrail, director of food and beverage for Ma Maison Sofitel and Ma Maison restaurant, took pains to see that dinner bore no resemblance to anything on the rubber chicken circuit.
"I tried to plan the menu so that it's--what's the word?--foolproof," said Terrail. "The first two appetizers are cold"--chilled Senegalese soup and bay shrimp, avocado and mushroom salad. As for the main course, the committee wanted "neutral food" such as chicken or veal, said Terrail, who nevertheless suggested filet of beef Wellington.
"But everyone told me that nobody eats beef anymore. So then I said, 'How about salmon en croute?' and everyone said, 'Maybe we should go back to the chicken.' I can see the reason why people complain about banquet food." In the end, Terrail won out with beef filets wrapped in filo dough.
Dinner began with an invocation by Karcher's son, Father Jerome Karcher, and a procession of waiters bearing Mondavi wines.
Not surprisingly, dinner talk focused critically on food presentation and taste. California Restaurant Assn. president Jim Pardini, for one, declared the soup "very good but a little too sweet for me, but it's got raisins in it and I'm from Fresno so that's good." He also praised the coffee ice cream.
After dinner, Hilton executive sous chef Joseph S. Winter took a bow, and entertainers Lainie Kazan and Tom Parks filled in for Dudley Moore, a no-show. The event raised about $25,000 for the education foundation, which provides scholarships to California food service students.