George Geary gave a highly entertaining and sold-out lecture based on his book, L.A.’s Legendary Restaurants: Celebrating the Famous Places Where Hollywood Ate, Drank, and Played, at Virginia Robinson Gardens on Valentine’s Day, 2018. His presentation elicited much laughter and merriment from the attendees as well as many nostalgic memories of the restaurants featured in his book.
Originally a pastry chef for the Walt Disney Company, George became a culinary instructor, giving lessons all over the country. He then started a tour company, taking people on food adventures in Europe. In 2012, he was honored with a Frommer’s Domestic and International Tour Guide Award for best culinary tours. He is also a historian and TV/Radio culinary host with 11 books to his credit, two of them on cheesecake, and a third on cheesecake coming soon!
George’s book is an absolute treasure trove of fascinating stories, excellent recipes, beautiful vintage illustrations, and original menus of these iconic restaurants. The avid epicurean will easily be able to recreate many signature dishes, with recipes having been updated by Chef Geary for today’s cook and kitchen.
George explained that he could have included many more places, but that he “wanted a movie star connection with every restaurant.” Consequently, the book is replete with glorious photographs of glamorous Hollywood actors and actresses, such as Claudette Colbert, Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable and Rock Hudson who frequented these establishments. “I love this group,” George exclaimed as so many in the audience could relate to his colorful anecdotes about the restaurants such as Chasen’s (whose famous chili was flown to Elizabeth Taylor when she was filming Cleopatra in Italy), Ma Maison and others.
“I was so excited when the publishers decided to put a photograph of the Brown Derby on the cover of my book,” George said, because people all over the country know of this restaurant. It is emblematic of old Hollywood, as a place where all the stars used to congregate and where a famous scene in the popular TV series I Love Lucy takes place.
“Tiny Naylor’s is where my parents had their first date,” George recalled, and “is now sadly a strip mall.” Many of the restaurants such as Perino’s, Romanoff’s, Ciro’s, the Cocoanut Grove and Schwab’s Pharmacy are long gone. Since so many were torn down, and some of them designed by the famous architect Paul Williams, George is very passionate about conserving buildings and places. He works with the Los Angeles Conservancy and Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Since 2002, he has raised nine million dollars for the latter through fundraisers, such as gourmet dinners catered by chefs in homes designed by Wright that are rarely open to the public.
Recently, when George dined at Musso and Frank Grill, a legendary restaurant opened in 1919, he was recognized by the restaurant staff. When he ordered a dish and asked if he could have it without a certain ingredient, he was told, “You can have whatever you want! We have your book, and we love it!”
George signed copies of his book, with 20% of the proceeds of the sales generously going to Robinson Gardens. To be on his mailing list for his tours, you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is www.georgegeary.com.
In keeping with the Valentine’s Day theme, the tables were beautifully decorated with pink tablecloths and napkins, and gorgeous blue, red and pink floral centerpieces created by our very talented and hardworking Education co-chairs Patti Reinstein, Ellen Lipson, and Kerstin Royce. Hershey’s kisses and foil wrapped chocolate hearts strewn across the table enhanced the romantic atmosphere.
Caterer Joe Monteferante served a sumptuous luncheon of red and pink beet salad, cauliflower soufflé, hibiscus salmon, flourless chocolate cake with mixed berry trifle and other delectables that were enjoyed by all.
Thank you to Kerstin, Patti, and Ellen for organizing such an amusing and wonderful event! Virginia Robinson Gardens is truly lucky to have such creative and dedicated volunteers whose efforts give pleasure to so many!
Post by Linda Meadows
Friends of Robinson Gardens Board Member
Photos by Caroline Scott and Linda Meadows