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Hotel Bel-Air Chef Departs; Past Chef Returns to Consult


After eight months, executive chef Philippe Reininger has left the Hotel Bel-Air for the Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia. Bel-Air general manager Carlos Lopes has asked George Mahaffey, who was the executive chef from 1982 to 1992, to return as consulting chef. Mahaffey will keep on the menu favorite dishes such as the tortilla soup and add some seasonal specials to the menu, along with game and fresh fish flown in from overseas.

* Bel-Air Hotel, 701 Stone Canyon Road, Los Angeles. (310) 472-1211.

Baking the Goods: Restaurateur-chef Tim Goodell, his wife, Liza Goodell, and their executive pastry chef, Shelly Register, opened Village Bakery this week in Costa Mesa. It sells all the breads served in the Goodells' restaurants along with pastries, cookies and specialty sandwiches created just for the bakery. (It's not a sit-down cafe but a place where you can grab an espresso and pastry at the bar or pick up baked goods to go.) Register, who has been with Goodell since she graduated from cooking school five years ago, has established her own following. "She deserves this," Liza says fondly.

* Village Bakery, 2937 Bristol St., Costa Mesa. (714) 751-2220.

The Sicilian Valentino: Ciccio Sultano, named by the food guide Gambero Rosso as one of Italy's top new chefs, will prepare modern Sicilian cuisine through Oct. 9 as part of Valentino's 30th anniversary celebration. 5:30 p.m. The five-course tasting menu is $68; a la carte specials can also be ordered.

* Valentino, 3115 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica. (310) 829-4313.

Hans' New Hire: Colby Garrelts, who most recently worked as sous chef at Tru in Chicago, is the new chef de cuisine at Rockenwagner. "We've been here for 17 years," says chef-owner Hans Rockenwagner. "We need to shake things up every once in a while to keep it fun and fresh." One change beginning this week: a new four-course seasonal tasting menu Monday though Thursday.

The choice of courses changes nightly. However, here's a peek at one of this week's menus. It begins with a smoked salmon and apple salad in truffle lemon vinaigrette, followed by white gazpacho accompanied by a small Black Forest ham panini. Next come two tiny sauteed halibut cheeks and purslane dressed with brown butter and capers. The final course is a modest serving of Colorado lamb with braised lentils and caramelized cauliflower in a Sherry jus. Tasting menus are $32; if you have room, you can add a cheese and dessert course for an extra $10.

* Rockenwagner, Edgemar Complex, 2435 Main St., Santa Monica, (310) 399-6504.

Small Bites: Sunset Room executive chef Andrew Pastore (formerly of Michael's and Granita) has taken on the additional responsibility of executive chef at Pig n' Whistle.

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