Forget about Oscars and Grammys and Emmys. Although the Michelin awards won't be announced until next month, speculation is rampant on whom the winners and losers will be in this year's most powerful guidebook awards. The big question: Will Guy Savoy in Paris be left waiting in the wings again this year, or will he finally be elevated to three-star status?
Others are betting on two-star chef Marc Veyrat (Restaurant Auberge de l'Eridan) in Annecy near Lyon as a likelier three-star contender. Long shots include Christian Constant (Les Ambassadeurs at Hotel de Crillon) and Ghislaine Arabian (Restaurant Ledoyen), both in Paris. But some three-star watchers note that although Arabian is terrific, she just gained her second star last year and a chef has never been elevated to three stars the next year. Roger Verge's Le Moulin de Mougins was demoted two years ago, and chances are his showcase restaurant near Cannes will remain at two-star status. As one critic bluntly put it, "That man is history. He can write cookbooks about vegetables now."
Drai's vs. Morton's: If you believe producer-turned-restaurateur Victor Drai, Hollywood royalty now holds court at his hip French bistro, Drai's, on Monday night. "We are sold out Monday nights," says Drai. "Everybody from Morton's is starting to come here."
"As far as I'm concerned nothing has changed," replies Pam Morton of Morton's. "I'm still seeing all my customers here, and they've been coming in for a very long time."
Now that Monday night has become such a hit, Drai has decided to open for dinner on Sunday, too. Just don't try to request a particular table. "I made a new policy," says Drai. "No one can ask for a special table because it's too crazy here. If I'm packed, there's nothing I can do."
Of course, Drai's new rule doesn't apply to Mickey Rourke, Quincy Jones, Kevin Costner, Paramount Pictures chief Sherry Lansing, ICM agent Ed Limato, producer Freddie Fields and the other regulars.
"The guys who come here three times a week, I give them what they want. I'm not stupid," says Drai. "But the regulars never ask for anything. The (expletives) are the ones who come once a month."
Star Search: L'Orangerie's Gerard and Virginie Ferry are on the lookout for a chef now that Jean-Claude Parachini has left the deluxe French restaurant on La Cienega, where he had been in charge of the kitchen since 1991. Jean-Christophe Michel, formerly sous chef at Tour d'Argent in Paris, was flown in from France to try out for the job. "It didn't work out," says Virginie Ferry. "And the weather was bad. It rained like crazy. . . . It's not always easy to bring people over from France." And so the search continues.
Openings: Fusion will open in the Pacific Design Center in July. Consulting chef Bruce Marder's eclectic menu will feature borscht, piroshki, pappardelle (wide noodles) in rabbit sauce and lamb casserole. . . . Il Giardino has opened at Olympic and LaPeer in Beverly Hills. Owner Antonio Infante, who was a partner at the former Il Giardino on Third ("I came in at the end," he explains), is serving some of the same dishes the Northern Italian restaurant was famous for--risotto with wild mushrooms and pounded veal Milanese.
For Art's Sake: Hugo's, the tiny gourmet grocery and hip West Hollywood restaurant that claims to have pioneered the use of sun-dried tomatoes in Los Angeles, is celebrating its 15th anniversary. Stop in for a meal (everything on the menu is under $10) and get a free black-and-white lithograph by co-owner/artist Terry Kaplan. "My father is considered one of the top charcoal artists in the country," says Kaplan's son Tom, who now runs Hugo's.