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Chefs Get Cooking to Help One of Their Own

July 29, 2001|PATT DIROLL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Too many cooks spoil the broth? Not this time. They didn't spoil the Maine Lobster Ravioli with Ginger Lemon Sauce or the Black Bass with Sweet Clams, Corn and Garlic Puree either.

In a kitchen performance pulled off with Swiss-watch precision, 24 star chefs--count 'em, 24--created a seven-course dinner in Westwood's Regency Club kitchen to benefit a fellow chef.

The dinner and a silent and live auction titled "Chefs Helping Chefs" was organized by Chef Jean-Francois Meteigner of L.A.'s La Cachette, who mustered his Southern California colleagues on three weeks' notice to come to the aid of one of their own. The renowned chef Jean-Louis Palladin has cancer and his insurance does not cover all of his enormous medical expenses.

Palladin was only 22 when he opened his first restaurant in Gascony, which earned him two Michelin stars by the time he was 28, the youngest chef ever to achieve that in France.

He was 33 when he arrived in the United States in 1979 to open the posh Jean-Louis Restaurant in the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. He presided there for 18 years until 1997 when he decided to move to the Napa Restaurant in the Rio Suites Hotel in Las Vegas.

A heavy smoker, Palladin was diagnosed with lung cancer last December and is undergoing treatment at the National Institutes of Health in Washington. There has been an outpouring of concern among chefs across the country, resulting in fund-raising events in New York, Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and the next in Las Vegas on Sept. 7 to help defray the cost of his care. Nationally, the effort has raised more than $500,000.

"Everything has been donated tonight," noted Mario Martinoli, host of KABC-AM's "The Restaurant Show."

To pull off the meal that began with lavish hors d'oeuvres and ended with an array of petit fours and truffles, the chefs came in waves starting around 3 p.m., with their dishes partially prepared, said Regency Club major-domo Gerard Fossali.

"Chefs are generous by nature," Martinoli said. "Those of us in the food business know we're asked to do wonderful things that, for the most part, go unheralded. But, now it's time to circle the wagons. I don't want anyone across the country saying L.A. didn't step up to the plate. We need to take care of this. Medical bills are tough!"

And step up they did, with more than $42,000 raised. Among items auctioned: Palladin's signature set of MAC knives in a box autographed by the participating chefs, which brought $3,000.

Barbara Fairchild, editor in chief of Bon Appetit magazine, said that it was with mixed emotions that the group gathered, describing Palladin as a chef's chef and great innovator.

Event organizer Meteigner, who recently joined the competitive cooking show "Iron Chef USA," said he hopes to establish Chefs Helping Chefs as a nonprofit organization in L.A.

In introducing Meteigner, Martinoli recounted his first attempted encounter with Meteigner, then the chef at L'Orangerie. "As I knocked on the back door of the kitchen, I heard yelling and screaming inside. The next thing I knew, a sous chef came flying out the door, followed by a 20-pound king salmon sailing through the air, and then came a butcher knife. I knew this guy was very talented, but I didn't think it was quite the right time to meet him.

"We finally met a few years later and have been good friends ever since. He's the one who made this event happen."

"I'm thrilled," said a weary but happy Meteigner at the end of the evening. "I never saw so many chefs come together like this. Jean-Louis has been a good friend and a mentor with a down-to-earth style both in and out of the kitchen."

Along with Meteigner, the participants included Michel Blanchet of Michel Blanchet Cordon Bleu; Jean-Pierre Bosc of Mimosa/Cafe des Artistes; Josiah Citrin of Melisse; Camille Crochet of Moustache Cafe; Jean-Pierre Giron of Brasserie des Artistes; Lee Hefter of Spago Beverly Hills; Akira Hirose of Maison Akira; Patrick Jamon of the Regency Club; Josie LeBalch of Josie Restaurant; Ludovic Lefebvre of L'Orangerie; Raphael Lunetta of JiRaffe; Joe Miller of Joe's; Christian Monchatre of the Jonathan Club; Mark Peel of Campanile; Christian Rassinoux and Rob Wilson of the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel; Peter Roelant of the Four Oaks; Pierre Sauvaget of Bel-Air Bay Club; Claude Segal of Claude Segal Catering; Yvan Valentin of Sweet Temptations; and Donald Wressell of the Four Seasons Beverly Hills.

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