It was about a year ago that one of the nation's finest chefs passed away at too-young an age. Charlie Trotter was a Chicago icon, and his restaurant had served the food-lovers of the world for almost 25 years when he unexpectedly closed it shortly before his death. Perhaps he had a foreboding, although no one really knows. So when I received notice of a spectacular five-star dinner occurring at one of my favorite hotels, L'Ermitage Beverly Hills (9291 Burton Way, B.H. (424) 302-7594) what caught my attention was that the guest chef was Michael Rotondo, now of Parallel 37 at the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco. You see, Michael was Charlie's last Executive Chef. And the Director of Food & Beverage of l'Ermitage, Nicholas Rimedio, where the dinner is taking place on June 18th at 7 pm, had also been a stalwart of Trotter's in Chicago and Las Vegas. Then, in a last-minute addition, Charlie's pastry chef for almost a decade, Della Gossett, has come on board for this very special dinner. She will be preparing a 'Surprise Fruit and Chocolate' dessert. This is the lovely woman who has recently come to Wolfgang Puck's Spago as the new pastry chef, replacing the legendary Sherry Yard. A word about Charlie Trotter: he was a force of nature....brilliant, tough, difficult to work for and with, but his attention to detail has left an impression on all who met him. My last 'encounter' with him was at his just-opened restaurant at One and Only Pamilla in Cabo, where I happened to be there opening day and told him the food was mediocre and the service was worse. He blew up at me, but a week later he emailed me that I had been right and he had closed it to revamp the operation. Charlie was Charlie, but we all loved him and miss him.
I asked Nicholas was it as like to work for Charlie for several years, and he smiled and said one word: Intense. But then he went on, "For the inspiration for this Five Star Dinner Series, a few of Chef Trotter's most profound words came to mind. 'If it is not broken, break it!' He inspired the idea of a new kind of wine dinner that redefined a celebration of the senses. Secondly, he emphasized collaboration and innovation as a way to create experiences that could not be repeated, which is exactly what we are doing with Five Star...getting five outstanding, dedicated leaders in their field coming together for one night to celebrate cuisine, the arts, and the power of generosity as focused through charities such as FaceForward. This is the start of an ongoing dinner series here at L'Ermitage and we believe that the bar has been set high to truly create an evening that any aficionado of the arts and cuisine will not want to miss."
I get invited to lots of fancy dinners in the course of my reviewing days but this one, although looking to be special, was a little pricey at $250 per person, which includes service charge and tax. Nevertheless, I signed up for a seat (yes, I paid full price), knowing that I would be able to discuss lots of Charlie Trotter anecdotes at the event. Nicholas then told me that it was the first of a Five Star Dinner Series they would be holding. Each would highlight five visiting guests - a chef, a purveyor, a beverage partner, a maître d' and a musical artist. Neat! I love the idea that a purveyor was being featured, for they are mighty warriors of the food world who receive little acclaim for supplying the finest ingredients to our top chefs. This dinner would feature the Broken Arrow Ranch, famed for providing superior free-range meats to top toques. When I asked about the beverage partner (hoping to get Laetitia or Justin in there), Nick said that it was Champagne Roederer, and would include their 2006 Cristal. At which point I decided to use the car service app on my iPhone, Uber, knowing I would float home on a sea of bubbles. The guest maître d that night will be Deborah Alessi, founder of the charity 'Face Forward,' and she will preside over the service of the six-course menu while providing signature 'flares' to showcase the evening. And for guest musicians: Nick Gehlfuss and Brady Corcoran. I know their work and it will be incredible to hear acoustic guitar in songs specifically paired with the food itself.
Interesting, Nicholas told me that social media has taken hold, and guest will be encouraged to participate through Twitter and Instagram (@lermitagebh) using #5star#5starlermitage throughout the evening. Not me,but then I'm a little old fashioned. There will be a welcoming cocktail reception, then the six-course dinner paired with hand-selected wines, a post-dinner reception and, of course, all that live entertainment. Nicholas hinted that there would be additional surprise guests, including some chefs, but would not reveal their names, so this promises to be a very special night.
So, if you want to join me for a one-of-a-kind dining experience, go to www.eventbrite.com/five-star-dinner-series-lermitage-beveryhills-ticket-11157268691. Charlie Trotter would approve.
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