Fame Bites: Back of House - Suzanne Goin
January 28th, 2011
05:30 PM ET
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Fame Bites goes inside the belly of the entertainment beast. We're dishing out where the celebrities are eating, what they're eating and who they're eating with.

A celebrity in her own right, Suzanne Goin has her hands full this weekend. The James Beard Award-winning Los Angeles chef is feeding 1200 celebrities at Sunday’s Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Her menu includes:

Fresh baked herbed crostini with Parmesan, chopped thyme and parsley
Blood oranges with dates, arugula and Parmesan
Beluga lentils with carrots, pine nuts and feta
Slow-roasted king salmon with cucumbers, yogurt and a ginger-mint chutney
Slow-roased lamb with a chickpea purée, black olives and a feta salsa verde.

Forget the beef, there’s no fowl in sight: Goin made some interesting menu choices for a crowd that has been famously known for its food peccadilloes. We caught up with her at Lucques, one of three restaurants she co-owns in Los Angeles.

So how did you come up with the menu?
"I always worked very seasonally and with local farmers, so that was the first thing. What's in season at the time? But there's also a lot of particular requirements, things need to be easily eaten and I also wanted each dish to kind of pop and stand alone, but also work well together.

So I kind of worked by coming up with the first thing. I knew I wanted to do something with blood oranges, so that's kind of what led to the salad thing. Once I did that, I wanted to have something else that was vegetarian, but a little heartier. So I'm doing beluga lentils that are marinated with carrots and leeks and feta and pine nuts. And then I want to do two proteins, so fish and meat. So the whole thing, hopefully all works together."

How are you handling the vegetarians?
"The vegetarians will do the lentils, the blood oranges with a little chickpea salad, the olives and the salsa verde."

You haven’t had any specific dietary preferences or allergies brought to your attention?
"Not that I've heard of yet. We'll see. I'm sure we will."

Have you ever had any near disasters in catering a big event like this?
"We catered a wedding, a huge wedding in Montecito. It was actually one of the first big catering [events] that we did and our truck broke down on the 101.

We had to have all the cooks and servers turn around and come back. We were all calling each other. I don't know what we would have done before cell phones. Everybody came and took however much they could out of the truck and drove it up there. And then we had to call a rental company to get the rest and come meet us at the site. And we pulled it off, but that was crazy stressful."

In a town where people are really finicky eaters how do you keep them coming back to your table?
"You know, I think L.A. gets a bad rap for the finicky eater thing. I think there are a lot of finicky eaters, but I think there are also people who are really into food. I think the interest in cooking has really gone up. We've been open here for 12 years and I've seen the change. We keep people coming back because we cater to those people who love food and care about food. And there are a lot of them here."

What keeps you invigorated as a chef?
"I really, really love what I do and I'm really passionate about it and I cannot imagine doing anything else. I think with cooking you're always learning something new and there's always something new to try. And, maybe just like with a language where as you get better and better, it becomes more fun. It's sort of like that. The more you play around the more you become fluent, the more fun it is to try other things or to play around with something differently."

So in terms of playing around, what would you say your favorite ingredient of the moment would be?
"That's funny, I'm kind of always changing. I'm really into kale, I know that sounds crazy. But I'm kind of a kale freak, so I'm always just finding different ways to highlight it, slow cook or long cook it, sauté it, chop it up, put it in a pasta or use it as a stuffing - and that's just a personal thing. I love to eat it. So, that's my thing of the moment."

You started cooking at a young age. What’s your earliest food memory?
"We're in Palm Springs and I was a little kid. I remember kind of running around and I went up to the table and my dad said here, taste this. And I was like, 'what is this?' and he said 'just taste it' and I put it in my mouth. 'Oh that's good!" It was a snail - it was escargot with garlic. And I remember even then, just being like, 'oh, I like snails.'  It didn't gross me out, it kind of was like, 'oh, that's good.' So that's kind of my earliest, maybe eating memory."

What are you teaching your children to cook?
"They're pretty little. They're not even four yet but I actually let them use a knife. Other parents come over and they're horrified at my kids when they're cutting stuff up.  I think it's so great that they're interested in it and it's something that we can do together. They make scrambled eggs and pancakes. I'm teaching them how to prep, clean vegetables, chop things up and seasoning.

My daughter will make her own little yogurt lemon sauce when she's eating chicken. I'm trying to teach her how you season your food because that's such a key part of cooking. I think people forget about that. They think it's all technique and tricks. But if you can't season, if you can't taste something and tell, oh that needs salt or lemon, you can't be a very good cook. So I'm trying to get them in to that."

What are you going to do Sunday after it’s all over?
"Sleep. It seems like every time we get through one thing, there's some other, which also keeps it interesting, it's what keeps us going. We have some exciting Oscar parties that we're doing."

Jennifer Wolfe is the Supervising Producer of the CNN Entertainment Unit.

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soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. MTMKnox

    Wonder if Maaaattt Daaaamon will be there....

    January 28, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  2. Jdizzle McHammerpants

    At the Film Actors Guild?

    January 28, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
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