LOS ANGELES - Now that the award season has replaced the holiday season in Hollywood, buzz is building about best pictures, winning performances, designer gowns and, oh yes, "What's for dinner?"
For your consideration: herb-crusted mozzarella and grilled eggplant salad, braised beef short ribs with artichoke sweet pepper ragout and sauteed sea bass with truffle endive fritto.
Dishing it for the A-listers attending Hollywood's award banquets each year is no cakewalk. Meals must be distinct, elegant and appropriate for Tinseltown's calorie-conscious ways. But they also must be easy to eat, with multiple cameras in the room capturing diners' every bite.
That's why Suki Sugiura, executive chef at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, starts planning the Golden Globes menu six months in advance.
He must simultaneously satisfy the appetites of Jennifer Aniston, Steven Spielberg, Mickey Rourke and nearly 1,300 other Hollywood heavyweights attending the Globes ceremony - all while preparing an array of finger foods and other munchies for a half-dozen after-parties also held at the hotel on Jan. 17.
Sugiura and his kitchen crew of more than 100 are prepared to work from 6 a.m. to well past midnight that day, ensuring every bite is just right.
"It's the busiest day of the year," he says.
A veteran of four Golden Globes' dinners, he started dreaming up menu concepts last summer. He presented various appetizers and entrees to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which puts on the Globes, and moved forward with their favourites.
This year's menu centres on the bounty of California agriculture, Sugiura says. From the mozzarella-and-eggplant salad to the chocolate-glazed, mandarin-filled dessert, every ingredient comes from the Golden State.
"This is a message from California," he says. "We're taking advantage of the fact that some of the finest ingredients in the U.S. are right here in California."
Also keeping with a California-cooking approach, Sugiura says he sticks to "a theme of cooking light."
"There's not so much butter. And cream - forget it."
Instead, fresh herbs and local olive oil add flavour to the appetizer salad and the beef and sea bass entree (that comes from Central and Southern California). Even the edible envelope atop the dessert (which reads "The Golden Globe goes to") is from a local chocolatier, says executive pastry chef Frania Mendivil.
Much of the work for the starring meal has already been done, Sugiura says. As for the after-parties? Those menus are top secret.
"Everybody competes with each other for which is the best party, but it all comes from one kitchen," he says.
The Screen Actors Guild has already set the menu for its Jan. 23 dinner-party awards show. Planning began months ago, and it was decided that the 1,050 actors in attendance would nibble on an antipasto plate of roasted winter vegetables with couscous, king salmon topped with a ginger-mint chutney, chopped chicken with endive and bacon and lamb with a French feta salsa.
Menu planning is well under way for the Academy Awards Governors Ball, which isn't until March 7.
Sugiura says it's exciting to develop a menu for such a glamorous function as the Globes. And even though movie stars are notoriously picky about their food, he says he rarely gets any special requests: "I know what their tastes are because I've been doing this many, many years."
The complete Golden Globes menu:
- Garden herb-crusted California mozzarella with grilled eggplant on vine-ripened tomato and arugula radish salad;
- Mediterranean herb-braised California beef short rib with artichoke sweet pepper ragout, along with sauteed filet of Pacific sea bass with truffle endive fritto and aged balsamic extra-virgin olive oil;
- White chocolate envelope filled with mousseline of lime and citrus cake alongside a chocolate dome sponge cake with Cointreau and mandarin orange centre topped with chocolate glaze and gold leaf, garnished with raspberries.