The last five years haven't been exactly swell for Michael McCarty. After he sank millions into a hotel project and got City Council approval, Santa Monica voters rejected his plans. Then McCarty, who owned the Santa Monica restaurant Michael's and two others in Washington and New York, filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code. He closed Adirondacks, his D.C. restaurant. His home was destroyed by the Malibu fires. And his restaurant suffered heavy damage in last year's earthquake.
But that's all in the past. He's found investors. The two restaurants are back in his hands and running smoothly. And construction on his house will begin any day now.
"It's really exciting. I'm back in the restaurant business again," McCarty says. "I was able to keep up a very good front through the entire time, so people never really realized how devastating this all has been for me."
Humility was not exactly McCarty's strong suit when he opened Michael's in 1979 (at the ripe old age of 25). "I want to blow your socks off," he announced to anyone who would listen. And he did.
Michael's was ultra hip, the walls were covered with good art, the California cuisine superb, the prices sky-high: $12 for a dish of ice cream, $10 for a bottle of Evian.
"I sold my sparkling water for $10 a bottle for one week in 1985. It was a typo," says McCarty, who can't help adding, "By the way, I am the guy who brought glass liter bottles of Evian into the United States many, many, many years ago."
To relaunch Michael's (which never closed) and to celebrate the restaurant's 16th anniversary, McCarty is bringing 16 of his former chefs back for a day. He's persuaded them to come and cook for his favorite projects--the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the American Center in Paris, and the Gehry-designed Disney Hall (the Los Angeles Philharmonic's planned future home). The benefit will be held at the Santa Monica restaurant April 30 from 3 to 7 p.m. Tickets are $125 per person. The roster of chefs includes Ken Frank (Fenix, West Hollywood), Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton (Campanile and La Brea Bakery, Los Angeles), Jonathan Waxman (Ark Restaurants, New York), Roy Yamaguchi (Roy's, Honolulu) and Sally Clarke (Clarke's, London).
"I'm glad now to be able to plan a food and wine dinner and get back into art instead of talking with nine sets of attorneys on a daily basis," says McCarty. "I feel like Nelson Mandela, free at last."
Lean, Mean Cuisine: In the movie "Under Siege," martial arts pro/actor Steven Seagal played the part of a cook on a battleship. He even looked like someone who enjoyed his own cooking. New York Times film critic Vincent Canby wrote that Seagal looked as if "he has licked too many cake pans."
The action star still can't stay out of the kitchen, but it was a much leaner Seagal who cooked his favorite Italian dishes a couple of weeks ago at Eclipse, the Melrose Avenue restaurant he co-owns with former Spago maitre d' Bernard Erpicum. "Steven is a great cook," Erpicum says. "And he is my most important partner. He's putting all his heart and soul into the restaurant."
Openings: The Stinking Rose, a branch of the San Francisco all-garlic restaurant, opened Monday on La Cienega in Beverly Hills. Dinner entrees, which range from $8 to $18, include spicy lamb ravioli with garlic, pork chop with garlic relish and a 40-clove garlic chicken with garlic mashed potatoes. "We go through about 200 pounds of garlic a day," says partner Vince Bigone. "We are a very garlicky restaurant." . . . Olvera, a regional Mexican restaurant, will replace Butterfield's when the longtime Sunset Strip restaurant closes at the end of the month.
Fusion Schmoozin': David Slatkin had planned to call his restaurant Fusion, a name that is coincidentally the same as the restaurant due to open in July in the Pacific Design Center. Now Slatkin's place in Hermosa Beach, which recently debuted, has been renamed South Bay Fusion. The Design Center restaurant will be called fusion at pdc. "There was some confusion about the name Fusion," Slatkin says. "We met with the owners of the other restaurant and worked out a compromise."
Palace Cook: Beverly Hills Hotel CEO Kerman Beriker has brought in longtime loyal chef Greg Waldron to head the kitchens when the the pink-and-green palace reopens in June. Waldron also worked for Beriker at the Bel-Air Hotel.
Closings: Q Bakery, which specializes in specialty breads, pastries and pizzas, will close its retail shop in Tarzana on Saturday. . . .