THE BLOG
04/29/2013 01:12 pm ET | Updated Jun 29, 2013

The Green Room and Thomas Keller

Last week was the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference in San Francisco. If you weren't there, I'm sorry. If you make your living in food, you really can't afford not to go. Much like if you make films and aren't invited to Cannes, you need a new agent.

IACP is a culinary networking group started over 30 years ago by some of the world's greatest and most famous cooking teachers. I have been a member for over 20 years, and I actually can't remember not being a member.

When I first joined IACP, I was young and a baby in my career. Now, I'm on the downhill slope. Yes, I have been measured for a box and I own a plot. I consider retirement, until another great project calls or a producer with a TV deal sweet-talks me. Even with hormonal chin hairs, I'm still a girl at heart. I go to IACP's conference every year and have missed but a few. I no longer attend for hopeful leads or potential jobs. Now it's all about connecting with the friends I've made. Friends that are growing old with me, and also new women and men who are starting their careers. We are all people who love food, love writing, love cooking, love photos and love eating. I gotta be honest, it ain't a bad posse.

The giant close of the conference is always the awards ceremony. Often referred to as the Oscars or Golden Globes of food, awards are given for Best Cookbook, Cooking Teacher, Best Food Photography, or Best Blog; we try to cover all the bases of our membership.

When I was asked to present last year with the notoriously handsome Michael Ruhlman, and again this year with my talented friend who is equally adorable, Nathan Fong, I said yes. Who wouldn't? Besides, it's a great excuse to buy a pretty new pair of shoes and justify a tax deduction. It's also a perfect opportunity to wear my real emerald ring and yes, I secretly hope that ring makes some women a tiny bit jealous...otherwise, what's the point?

Speaking of green. I have lived in Hollywood for almost 30 years and I have worked every television show taped here. I set-up and style food segments. With that said, I can emphatically state that I know green rooms.

The Green Room is where talent waits to be called to go on stage. And then the talent does their dance, presentation, joke set...whatever they are selling.

This year, as I sauntered back stage to the IACP green room to wait for my appearance, there was Rick Bayless, Alice Waters and Nell Newman, all poised to present or receive. I've met them before. And they are legends and wonderful but, blah, blah, blah....or as we say, Hollywood chatter.

Then across the crowded room, sat Thomas Keller, on the edge of a counter, balanced like an eagle, or whatever bird of prey you think is majestic... but I've seen eagles before. Incredible. Thomas Keller is the greatest chef in the world, so let's not shit around with accolades, ok?

I was having a former student and the host of The Radio Kitchen Podcast, Mike Reining,
shoot some film of green room guests and ask what IACP meant to them.

However, I was not about to waste my five minutes of Hollywood chatter with Tommy (as I like to call him) on IACP. No! I went for it with as much dignity as I could muster, considering the amount of red wine I had consumed.

I reminded Tommy that I had sold him fish when he was still at Checkers in Los Angeles. That's right; I gave great fish. This is long before his fame with The French Laundry. I wanted him to know that I wasn't a star fucker; I adored him when he was a nobody!

Tommy took a minute to take it all in. And then, with incredible consideration and thoughtfulness, asked me if when he had left Checkers, had my fish invoice been paid?

I was speechless, and then replied, yes. Does true vendor love ever disappear?

I think not.

Anyway, he went on to ask had the "food thing" worked out for me, and I said yes,
I had a great business In L.A., had written eight cookbooks and was grateful to still cook each day.

He was incredibly kind.

A few minutes later, I went on stage. People from the audience say I was hilarious, but to be honest, I can't remember a thing. I was still reliving my moment with Tommy.

Denise Vivaldo is an author, food stylist and chef. She also admits that she did indeed drink almost all of the Chiarello Family Vineyards Bambino Cabernet stocked in the green room. She's old, not dead.