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Celebrity Dish

Keeping Food on the Stars' Tables

June 23, 2002|MICHAEL T. JARVIS

IF THE LAKERS WANT TO KEEP KOBE BRYANT FROM INGESTING TAINTED FOOD, they might want to consider hiring Lulu Powers, personal chef to the stars. "They should have a chef on the road with them," Powers says. "That's not a strange thing." She should know. Her company, Lulu Powers Food to Flowers, caters to a virtual Who's Who of Hollywood as well as plenty of less-famous gourmets. A character on an episode of the "The X-Files" was even named "Lulu" in tribute to Powers, who catered for the show and its creator, Chris Carter.

Powers began her culinary career at the age of 11 in her mother's catering business. Nantucket author and chef Sarah Leah Chase recommended Powers at age 14 for a job as a private chef. She studied English and theater at Marymount Manhattan College, honed her acting chops in commercials and moved to Los Angeles in 1994. "I thought I'd move to L.A., create a TV show and that would be it," she says with a grin. But a friend in Pacific Palisades asked her to help with a birthday party, and one rave review led to another.

"Sigourney Weaver's people asked if I'd come over and cook. I made swordfish with mango salsa, wasabi mashed potatoes and asparagus. She was doing 'Alien Resurrection' and working out three hours a day. Her driver would pick up her food twice a day."

After a write-up in Vogue magazine, Powers was hired as a personal chef to photographer Herb Ritts. When Powers married photographer Stephen Danelian a few years ago, Ritts shot the couple's reception with a throwaway camera to accompany George Christy's full-page story in the Hollywood Reporter.

Catering celebrity parties is also a big business for Powers, who has thrown a record-release shindig for Stevie Nicks, a New Year's bash for Leonardo DiCaprio and a baby shower this spring for Debi Mazar hosted by Madonna. Confidentiality agreements keep her from dishing any meaty gossip, but Powers does offer a few crumbs: "My favorite clients are Will and Jada [Pinkett] Smith," she says. "I cook for them on Sundays. Rupert Everett is a really nice guy. He called after my dog was hit by a car. After that, he couldn't do wrong in my eyes." Her most interesting request so far has been a vegan (non-meat, non-dairy) party for Joaquin Phoenix a couple of nights before the 2001 Oscars.

Reducing portions for dieting celebrities can be a diplomatic challenge, Powers says. "If a person is doing a film and needs to slim down, I recommend they cut out all dairy and fats and go with smaller portions of vegetables and protein. Or, eat as many green vegetables as you want and portion your protein, whether it's fish, chicken or meat." On the other hand, Powers is known for her caramel fudge brownies, definitely off-limits for some clients. Her alternative is baked apples with golden raisins and cinnamon. "You have to be creative," she says. "I never follow recipes."

As for recent trends in menu choices, Powers notes a return to comfort foods such as "macaroni and cheese in little bowls as hors d'oeuvres, or even mini grilled cheese sandwiches instead of truffles vinaigrette over asparagus with caviar. People want to live simpler lives. They like good old food." That category would includes Powers' own favorite meal. "I love hot dogs from the Hebrew National stand at Costco."

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