Bizbash.com spoke with Chef Wayne Elias
prior to the Sunday’s EJAF
fund-raiser, asking what it’s like to cook for the Oscar
extravaganza. . . .
You prepare a massive feast for this event. How do you manage?
Plan ahead. We get the menus in place in December. I work with the Italian chef Renato Piccolotto, from the Cipriani hotel in Venice, Italy. He designs the menu; I execute it with him and my staff of 28 chefs and cooks. I need six to eight weeks of getting the logistics ready, so that [the week before the event] Im ready to execute everything.
What are some of those logistics?
This year were going to have 630 guests for a sit-down, four-course meal and a passed hors doeuvres reception. In the past weve done a party after dinner where weve had only 30 minutes to set up buffet stations for 1,000 people who were already waiting at the door. This year we are not doing an after-party; its just a dinner.
Two days prior to the event is when we start food preparation in our main kitchen. We transport things from our home-based kitchen to the location kitchen. I have to work with the rental company to make sure the kitchen theyre designing for me on location has all the necessary equipment.
This is the third consecutive year that you will be catering the event.
Its always intimidating. I know the routine, so theres a comfort level that comes with being able to say, OK, I know I need to do this, this, and this. But theres always the nervousness, the high profile, the pressure. I want everything to be perfect. I want to make sure that everything Im getting is quality. And sometimes, as they say in the business, whatever can go wrong will go wrong. So you have to be prepared for last-minute obstacles.
Tell us about this years menu.
Were doing a Tuscany-theme menu, and our first course is a Caesar salad with green asparagus tips; we have some candid tomato, we have some goat cheese from Tuscany, and were doing a vinaigrette with ligurian black olives, which come from around the Venice area. Our second course is a risotto with seasonal vegetables, which will have some carrots, white and green asparagus, artichokes, and tomatoes. For the third course, the guests have a choice of a filet of sole, which is going to be grilled with a caper and tomato sauce and served with mashed potatoes with diced raw green apple in it, or filet mignon with a red port and Madeira wine sauce with a lettuce timbale as a vegetable. And then for dessert, we have a creamy bitter chocolate mousse with a saffron sauce.
How do you keep the menu fresh every year?
We try not to repeat items at all. I live in Los Angeles and I cater a lot of events in the industry; Im abreast of whats happening in the food world, so I try to think of whats new, where the trends are going. I actually make believe its my own party and ask myself what I would want to be served, because as much as you want to serve foods that are different and creative, you have to think of what people can relate with also. People are dressed in gowns and tuxedos, so it has to be simple and drip-free, where you can hold a champagne glass or a martini glass and be able to take one or two bites of an appetizer. I get my inspiration from what Ive seen throughout the year and whats happening in the market at the moment.