Three courses and a corpse. Can you solve the mystery before dessert?
I’ve been enjoying what my grandfather called “the greatest meal in America” since I was five years old. My clearest early memories of dining at the Beverly Hills Prime Rib were 1) the thought that Lawry’s had been there forever, not understanding it was only twenty-some years old at the time, 2) that I hated creamed spinach, though I had never tried it, and 3) waiting endlessly for my mother to finish her coffee at the end of dinner. Nevertheless, our family trips to the Beverly Hills Prime Rib from our home in Pasadena were always special occasions my sisters and I looked forward to with excitement. Over the years, co-workers, especially, our cloakroom lady and greeter, Penny Jones, would make a fuss over us. It felt great to be in a place where so many people were always having such a good time. The meat and potatoes dinner became one I truly love…and yes, I finally had the spinach and, ever since, I’ve loved it, too.
I’ve been enjoying what my grandfather called “the greatest meal in America” since I was five years old.
Doing some math, I was more than a little shocked when I figured out that I’ve been around for three quarters of our restaurant’s eighty-year history. I’d bet I’m one of the top ten lifetime consumers of prime rib at Lawry’s, but I still have a hard time putting the fork down at the end of a meal. I always seem to want more! Sound familiar? Even so — and Grandpa Frank would likely consider it a sacrilege — every once in a while, I wonder if the meat and potatoes meal he boasted about is as special as I and so many of you think.
Considering this, you can imagine how gratified and flattered all of us at Lawry’s felt when we were asked to present our classic prime rib experience at a James Beard House Dinner in New York City last November. The dinner was one in an ongoing series that honors American food culture and invites chefs from all over the country to “perform” for James Beard Foundation members and the public.
A little background: James Beard was the famous twentieth-century chef who first championed the view that there is a distinct American cuisine and an American style of cooking. In addition to being a cook, he was a prolific cookbook writer, a teacher and TV personality. After his death in 1985, another renowned chef Julia Child and Peter Kump, a Beard student and founder of the Institute of Culinary Education, led the effort to create the James Beard Foundation and buy his Greenwich Village home to serve as its headquarters. Today, the James Beard House is North America’s only historical culinary center.
….we were asked to present our classic prime rib experience at a James Beard House Dinner in New York City last November.
My nephew, Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef Ryan Wilson, headed up the Lawry’s team that gathered in New York for the event. He was joined by three of our Prime Rib Executive Chefs, Dana Dare from Beverly Hills, Chicago’s Steve Goellner and Jeremy Kalcic, Dallas. Servers Niki Petrue and Tiffany Cody along with Director of Service and Training Laura Ratner and company president, Tiffany Stith, flew in from Los Angeles to lend a hand.
Everyone did an outstanding job under extremely challenging circumstances. Friends at the Gramercy Tavern generously let Ryan and his chefs do some important prep work there the day before. Our crew started working at 8AM the day of the dinner in the Beard House’s very cozy basement kitchen. In addition to prime rib, the multi-course meal included everything from passed hors d’oeuvres to C.C. Brown’s Hot Fudge Sundaes. The event sold out, requiring quite a few trips from the kitchen to the traditional brownstone’s fourth floor to serve the overflow crowd.
I got to attend the dinner and can report the food was delicious. Most of the diners had never been to Lawry’s, but I did see two friends of my parents and a gentleman who had been to the Beef Bowl as a player in 1962. Chef Ryan, President Tiffany and I had a chance to share our perspectives and some company history with the guests. It was a great night that made me proud of the efforts of four generations of family and co-workers that have kept Lawry’s successful for eighty years.
This May, the spotlight will be on Lawry’s The Prime Rib, Beverly Hills when we’ll be honored to host a special lunch celebrating our 80th Anniversary as part of the month-long LA Times Food Bowl. Four nationally known Los Angeles chefs will donate their time and offer their takes on popular Lawry’s dishes. Nancy Silverton will give her interpretation of some of our side dishes while Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo put a “new spin” on our Famous Spinning Salad. Sang Yoon plans to create a unique version of our C.C. Brown Hot Fudge Sundae desert.
We’ll be honored to host a special lunch in celebration of our 80th Anniversary as part of the month long LA Times Food Bowl.
After lunch, Ryan and I will join Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold and the chefs for a panel discussion about Lawry’s influence on fine dining. Details and tickets are available online. Profits go to The Midnight Mission, helping the homeless in Los Angeles.
This exciting event, with its outpouring of support from critically acclaimed chefs, along with the James Beard House dinner remind me of Lawry’s unique place in the nation’s culinary landscape. Does my grandfather’s description of our meat and potatoes meal still ring true? I’m happy to let you be the judge of that.
From the desk of Richard R. Frank