Ella Marciano & Wolfgang Puck Host Private Dinner for Charity

Guess chief executive officer and vice chairman Paul Marciano’s 17-year-old daughter Ella has designed a bracelet to support Save the Children‘s humanitarian efforts in East Africa. To mark the launch of the beaded cord bracelet, which hit Guess stores and online yesterday, the American clothing line and Marie Claire invited a mix of celebrities and bloggers to their Beverly Hills boutique for an intimate dinner personally prepared by none other than Wolfgang Puck. Before the dinner, the renowned chef (pictured) gave an adorable and heartwarming speech, which you can read a snippet of after the jump.

Guests like actress Emma Roberts and blogger Julie Sarinana of Sincerely Jules looked on as Puck revealed his close connection to Save the Children’s cause: "When I was a little boy in Austria, we didn’t have very much. I remember the first time I was served corn flakes, I thought it was the most amazing tasting thing! I will never forget that memory and the way it made me feel. We should do the same for these children and provide them with food, water, and anything else they need to live a better life. They will never forget it."

Guess is donating $20 of every sale of the One Love Charity Bracelet to the charity, which will directly aid children affected by the drought in East Africa and future emergencies. Buy the bracelet here.

This Weekend’s L.A. Guide: Mario Lopez, Andrew McCarthy, & Wolfgang Puck

Look up, Angelenos… it’s not a bird or a plane, but the sun finally emerging from this bizarre cold front. This only means you have no excuse to check out the awesomeness abound this weekend.

Friday
Chocolate and Mario Lopez-lovers need to make a beeline to See’s Candies Grand Opening party at The Grove, where the candy company is opening shop. Locals may know this iconic chocolatier for producing handmade candies for more than 90 years now. Owner Charles See actually opened his first See’s Candies Shop here in L.A., using his mother Mary See’s recipes, and now everyone can get a taste of what the buzz is all about. The grand opening festivities will include complimentary candy samples and a prize wheel. You know you love those things. Best of all, Mario Lopez will be present to make all this fun for adults, too. It’s an all-day affair starting at 11am for those who truly have a sweet tooth (for the candy, people!).

Saturday
The L.A. Times Travel Show is going on all day, which means you can get a bunch of information and free shizzle at booths from all over the world. It’s kind of like visiting dozens of exotic countries under one roof. Some booths to look out for is the emerging country of Ecuador and all the fun stuff AirBerlin is doing. Rat pack actor-turned-travel-writer Andrew McCarthy is going to be present if you’re into that.

Sunday
While it’s no Comic-Con, the LA Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention is still guaranteed to wet the pants of comic book and sci-fi fans. Geek out the entire afternoon with comic book dealers and a bunch of other nerds meandering the booths while looking for dates or, more realistically, getting all the scoop of what’s new and relevant in the industry. Bonus: The Walking Dead‘s Danai "Michonne" Gurira and Laurie "Andrea" Holden will be making appearances. Oh, and Edward Furlong, if you need to see what a person looks like post-heroin abuse.

Because you’re going to avoid the general Hollywood area, shack up at Hotel Bel Air. Not only did they whip up some creative, Oscar’s themed cocktails (like The Red Carpet with Ketel One Citron, Cointreau, lemon juice, simple syrup and splash of raspberry puree) but special bar bites are part of the occasion. Wolfgang Puck is creating dishes he served at the Oscar’s after-party for the past 19 years, so you’ll get to eat up like a celebrity. Live Academy Award viewing is at the bar. 

Industry Insiders: Andy Hewitt, Music & Menu Magnate

Andy Hewitt combined his talents (and his contacts) to produce two of the hottest restaurants in West Hollywood — Il Sole and Luau. With rock ‘n roll manager Arnold Stiefel (who still manages Rod Stewart), Hewitt transformed Il Sole into an atypical, low-key Hollywood slip-in and provided a reincarnation for Luau — the legendary tiki outpost — with famed chef Makoto Tanaka (Mako, Robata-Ya). Along with his long-term partner Bill Silva, Hewitt has the exclusive contract on contemporary music for the Hollywood Bowl. Since 1991, he’s booked acts from the Rolling Stones to Luciano Pavarotti. Hewitt gave us some tutelage in merging rock ‘n roll with hospitality.

You’re balancing full plate these days. How’d you get here? I couldn’t have been anything else. My childhood friend in Coldwater Canyon was [film producer] Bill Gerber. We met on the school bus, and his father was an agent in the music business. We started going to concerts at young age, so I was touched by the music business early. Billy went to work for David Geffen and introduced me to enough agents to get me going. I was naive enough to think that that there were all kinds of promoters who were well-established and thought I’d be able to book shows in LA, and even Billy told me I’d never be successful in LA. Maybe in Tucson or Fresno. But I didn’t know any better, and I succeeded. Years ago, I met [music promoter] Ian Copeland at my nightclub in Redondo Beach and started buying shows from his agency. I got my start in that side of the business from Ian, his brother Miles, and Gary Kurfirst — who managed the B52s, Talking Heads, the Ramones. I still see Linda, Johnny’s widow, at Il Sole. I went out on my own in 1991, formed a partnership, and sublet the Hollywood Bowl. Peter Morton gave me the contract to book the joint. The Rolling Stones said Peter and I brought rock ‘n roll to Las Vegas. We were the first to bring all ages shows there for punk acts like Nine Inch Nails and Depche Mode, all because Peter allowed it to happen.

Where do you go out? I like Harry’s Bar in Venice because I love how the restaurant keeps with the city. It all ties together somehow. There’s nothing like taking a little boat over from the Cipriani Hotel, or walking next door from the Danieli. When I asked a friend where I should go on my first trip to Italy, he said I had to go to Harry’s Bar for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In New York, I like Masa. He may be the greatest chef in the world, and I miss him no longer being in LA. In LA, my favorite is Cut because it’s so perfectly simple and delicious, and I’ve always felt comfortable surrounded by Richard Meier’s extraordinary, contemporary décor. And when you watch Wolfgang Puck work the room, there’s nothing like it. He treats those visiting for the first time the same way he treats Mick Jagger. He and chef Lee Hefter have done an amazing job with a rather uncomplicated menu.

Who do you look up to? James Nederlander, my greatest mentor, had great faith in me and allowed me to blossom to whatever I am today. My great, late friend Ian Copeland showed me how you can do a great job in your business. He loved the artists that he represented and the people he worked with, and he made it all work.

What’s going on in your industry these days? We’re all paying that much more attention to our guests having a positive experience and getting great value. If we buy the highest quality of sole for Il Sole we try to do the same with Luau. I think the quality of food in almost every city in this country is at a much higher level than in the past, and you can go to cities that aren’t known for great cuisine and really get a good cappuccino or espresso and a good bowl of pasta. That didn’t happen 10 years ago. You couldn’t find good food or a decent hotel in Malibu 15 years ago. So much has happened since then.

Anything negative? I discovered tiramisu in my early 20s, and now my friend’s four-year-old orders it for dinner.

What is something that people might not know about you? How much I care about what I do on a personal level; my work with George Malouf and his family at The Palms or Peter Morton and the Hard Rock. It’s what I want to do. Getting to book the Hollywood Bowl and putting the Stones and the Police on is an honor.

What are you obsessed with? My favorite sport is Formula One, and my favorite track is Monza. My favorite cars are Ferraris and Porsches. My game is Monopoly. I’m a secret collector of many types of antiques. I live in a Spanish revival home and love to collect post-Impressionist paintings and Tiffany lamps. And yes, I love my garden, but I like to supervise gardening even more.

Any non-industry projects in the works? I don’t talk about philanthropy. I just do it.

What are you doing tonight? I’m going to have a massage and watch the stack of Netflix I’ve been trying to get to for a week and a half. I’ll probably order in from my favorite Indian restaurant, Flavor of India.

Industry Insiders: Elizabeth Blau, Restaurant Queen

Elizabeth Blau, founder and CEO of Las Vegas restaurant consulting firm Elizabeth Blau & Associates, was recruited by Steve Wynn early in her career and has helped shape the Vegas restaurant landscape. She caught up with BlackBook about having the occasional truffle, getting hooked on Wii, and where the Vegas connoisseurs dwell.

What establishments do you like in Vegas? I love Blush. I love Tryst for more of the big night club, and I love The Bank at the Bellagio. I love Bartolotta at the Wynn, I love Nobu and Cut as well.

What’s your job description? I am a restaurateur. I have four restaurant operations with my business partner, Kerry Simon — one of which is Simon at Palms Place, and another restaurant with my chef husband, Kim Canteenwalla. I’m also a restaurant consultant.

And a judge on Iron Chef, right? Yes and a judge.

How would you describe what you do among all of those pictures? I am very lucky because I have the most amazing job in the world, and I get to travel all over the world and eat. I work with amazing people, and I run concept restaurants, make restaurant partnerships, and do everything involved in restaurant deals.

Who are two industry icons or people that you admire in hospitality? There’s a gentlemen named Shep Gordon, and he is just this amazing guy. He represented lots of musician and he represented the Shaft. He’s the one that got Wolfgang and Emeril involved in the Academy Awards. I also have to say Wolfgang Puck. I just think he’s extraordinary.

What are some positive trends you’ve seen recently in your field? I think we got to an unattainable level of success, and this current economic crisis is bringing all of that back around. We started to have restaurants with $60, $70, $80 entrees, and now it’s coming back to the experience of an evening of dining and entertainment. The hoopla over a $1,000 bottle of wine has waned a bit, and now it’s more about the experience: great service, being treated extraordinarily well, and cooking great food. Food may be simpler and more approachable now — however, I don’t mind indulging in a truffle every now and again.

What’s something that people might not know about you? People may not know that I’m a mom. I have the most adorable four-year-old little boy, and he likes to get into boy things. So we are constantly out hiking and trekking around for animals at the zoo and things like that.

Does he have a love of fine dining? Has he taken that from you? He does. He likes to cook, and he has his own kitchen. He’s traveled so much that there was a time where instead of going to a hotel we rented a condo at a resort, and he said, “Mom, I don’t know if I like this place, there’s no room service.” And I thought, “Surely we’ve been traveling too much.”

What’s on your radar right now? I’m obsessed with the Wii. My parents got the Wii and the Wii Fit for the holidays. It’s exercising mixed with video game competition. Everyone in our house goes on. You’ll find yourself a champion on the Wii, and then you’ll get dethroned. It’s a good way to get some exercise and competition — plus, it’s fun.

What’s on the horizon for 2009? We are working on a new restaurant that opened at the Encore at the Wynn called Society. We just started working with the Kor Group, and they’ve got hotels opening up all over the world.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure? I love junk food candy, like Jujubes. Only the really bad stuff — not the expensive chocolates.

Industry Insiders: Megan Sheehy, Lady of the Lake

Megan Sheehy, GM of Locanda del Lago and Cafe Bellagio in Santa Monica, pours out a glass of food-shovers, female bosses, and why Wolfgang Puck is still the man.

Where do you go out? In Venice Beach, I like Gjelina because it is a local Venetian eatery with a casual, hip environment where you can eat delicious small plates and enjoy good wine while being entertained by the energetic crowd and decor. In Aspen, I love the Pine Creek Lodge because it starts out as a journey, taking a horse-drawn carriage an hour to the restaurant, then continues on to a culinary journey of very flavorful, fresh game meats that the chef prepares on order for the guests. Lastly, in New York, I enjoy sipping a glass of Champagne or having a freshly muddled mojito at the Rose Bar in the Gramercy Hotel. It maintains a top spot in my heart for its swanky atmosphere, exclusive identity, and truly New York-style posh crowd.

Who do you admire in your industry? I admire West Hooker, my boss and co-owner of Locanda del Lago and Caffe Bellagio, for his consistent dedication to keeping up with the times while maintaining a “tradition over trends” philosophy. He is constantly trying to improve, change, redesign, and polish all areas within the restaurant.

The second person I admire is Wolfgang Puck. To me, he epitomizes the idea of branding one’s business. He started as a small-town Austrian who, through dedication, hard work, and creativity, was able to become a superpower in the culinary field. He has reached people through every facet imaginable, from Spago in Beverly Hills to frozen pizza at Ralph’s to cookbooks and cookware on HSN. He is synonymous with food to the American people. That is the great art of branding oneself.

Tell us about being a woman in your industry. It seems like a relative rarity. I don’t notice a difference in treatment or acknowledgment by guests or colleagues in the hospitality industry. It is a rarity, though, so I suppose it makes me feel even more successful having been able to achieve the accomplishments I have within a predominantly male field.

Have you seen any positive trends in restaurants lately? I am excited by the trend of locally grown, organic ingredients being used by restaurants. I believe, in addition to being healthier for our bodies, it also has people slowing down to appreciate their meals rather than simple eating for maintenance sake. As people become more and more aware of what they are putting in their bodies, they also are taking the time to make choices about what they are eating and then enjoying that meal even more than if they had invested no time and just gone for a quick dollar burger at a fast food joint.

What’s something you’ve seen increase recently in the restaurant world that you don’t like? I see a decline of service standards in general. I enjoy the art of serving and appreciate when someone does it well. When I go out to dine, I am privy to when my server has impeccable timing, when she/he has the knowledge to decide when to interrupt and when not to. This decline has many causes, one I believe is simply that the general population prefers speed and efficiency over grace and hospitality, therefore causing servers to evolve into non-friendly order takers that simply shove the food out as fast as possible.

What is something that people might not know about you? I graduated with honors as an electrical engineer and only began in the restaurant industry to support my collegiate goals.

What are you doing tonight? Working. Then I will go home, fix something scrumptious to enjoy and dine with my sweetheart. Plans yesterday and tomorrow will keep me quiet and peaceful this evening.

Industry Insiders: Wolfgang Puck, Resto Wizard

Easily one of the most celebrated celebrity chefs in the world, Wolfgang Puck speaks about food with balls, juggling more restaurants than he has fingers, and still finding time to make love.

Where do you love to eat? In France, Beaumaniere. In Italy, Quattro Passi. And in Los Angeles, Matsuhisa. What is your favorite food? Food with some guts or balls, as we would say in the kitchen— no matter what origin. Where are your secret spots? Sidebar at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and Angelini Osteria for true Italian food.

How did you come to LA? I grew up in Austria where I did my apprenticeship. At 17, I went to France and worked there in some of the best restaurants, like Beaumaniere, Maxim’s, Hôtel de Paris. My first job was in Indianapolis, but my dream was always to go to California, Los Angeles, or San Francisco, and I ended up in Los Angeles in 1975 and fell in love with the city, the climate, and the excitement with everything new. I opened Spago in 1982 and Chinois on Main a year later. I think it was the beginning of a new style of cooking in America.

Who do you admire in your industry? The first one, Raymond Thuilier; a true renaissance man who had the passion and love for cooking and who inspired me and taught me many things. Foremost, that great cooking starts with great ingredients. Second, Andre Soltner, because he had the stamina and professionalism to spend every day of his life in his one restaurant, Lutece, in New York. I do not know if he has the perfect wife, but I know he had the perfect restaurant before it closed in 2004.

What is a trend you like in the dining industry these days? I like that many restaurants today have sommeliers who make up many interesting wine lists and serve wine in a professional way. Also, there is a bigger value put on professional service.

Is there anything you dislike in your industry these days? Most young chefs don’t have the patience to learn the basics so they can grow and become chefs with the right foundation.

What is something that we might not know about you? I am involved with many charities from Los Angeles to Cleveland to Las Vegas, and I also love modern art. Robert Rauschenberg and the Los Angeles artist John Baldisarri are two of my favorites.

What’s next? We will open two more restaurants in the first six months of 2009. One is called Five Sixty in Dallas. It will have a great view and Asian-inspired menu. The second one is a Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill in downtown Los Angeles next to the Staples Center at L.A. Live.

And lastly, what are you doing tonight? I will be in my three restaurants in Los Angeles: Spago, Chinois, and Cut. Have dinner with my wife at 11 p.m., then go home, and hopefully we’ll make love.

Photo: Lisa Romerein

The Top-Earning Chefs

Stephanie Izard might be bragging to all her friends that she’s some kind of a top chef, but everyone knows the real top chefs are the top-earning ones. Forbes, pathological ranker of wealth, has listed the top ten best-paid chefs. It used to be that Wolfgang Puck was the only celeb chef around (Spago is the tits), but with the rise of the Food Network and shows like Iron Chef, what you do with duck confit can get you just as noticed as the famous mouths you feed.

Rachael Ray sautéed into the top spot with some old-fashioned Oprah endorsements, a few TV shows, a book or two, and of course, an FHM spread. No restaurant needed. Mario Batali, who plops in at number 7, has had some success on TV — but his riches come from his 13 restaurants, Babbo and Lupa, among them. Renegade gourmand Anthony Bourdain makes an obvious appearance (#10), although his show No Reservations is probably more responsible than his string of Les Halles eateries. One of the faces of Top Chef, Tom Colicchio, is also listed, but not just as a judger of food. He also dishes it out at Craft, Craftsteak, and ‘whichcraft in NYC. Sushi emperor Nobuyuki Matsuhisa is fourth, the reason being the first four letters of his first name.