25 Years Ago Backstage at the Ahmanson

April 29, 1992, hours after the Rodney King acquittal verdict was read out, the cast and crew readied ourselves for our 8 p.m. performance of Phantom of the Opera at the Music Center’s Ahmanson Theatre in downtown LA.

Quick Hannibal pose in the “Wigwam” with Christopher Aponte, former ABT dancer.

Quick Hannibal pose in the “Wigwam” with Christopher Aponte, former ABT dancer.

Curtain up, the chandelier rose and the sold out performance went as planned through the spectacular opening number of Act II: “Masquerade”, just after 9 p.m. After the full cast costume change, one of the singers and a few dressers went outside for some fresh air and could smell smoke-a lot of smoke wafting from a bit further east: we were soon to learn that The Parker Center Police Headquarters, a few blocks away, was ablaze as rioters attacked and firebombed it and other buildings in downtown Los Angeles.

This of course was 1992, before mobile phone access to instant news, so the audience had no idea what was developing-but we certainly did. Backstage became a hub of controlled nerves as the stage managers desperately tried to get any vital updates while we continued our show.

Sliding on the pointe shoes in the quick change corner backstage right for warm up.

Sliding on the pointe shoes in the quick change corner backstage right for warm up.

By 10:37 p.m. at curtain call, from what I can remember, stage manager Barbara Mae Phillips came onstage and spoke to the audience in a calm voice explaining that while they were enjoying the performance, that due to the escalating violence in Los Angeles, the governor had declared a state of emergency and most of the freeway ramps were closed, including the Santa Monica Freeway (Interstate 10) and Harbor Freeway (Interstate 110). The only safe and remaining freeway out of downtown was the Ventura Freeway north (US Route 101). She insisted, “lock your car doors, don’t stop for anyone and get home safe”.

Cast, crew and audience escaped downtown and the theatre was dark for several days.  When the curfew lifted and we slowly returned to a sense of normalcy, we were reminded of what had just happened to our City of Angels as teams of National Guard units patrolled backstage halls and front of house of our theatre home; The Ahmanson.

Under the exit sign backstage after the show with National Guards-on our return to the theatre.

Under the exit sign backstage after the show with National Guards-on our return to the theatre.

Seven Spices for Health

Join in a workshop Dr. Eleni Tsiompanou, one of the eight medical doctors featured and wrote the foreword in my new cookbook Spice Health Heroes, is offering on November 12th. Learn how to use spices in your everyday life to make so-so dishes sing with flavor while supporting your health and wellbeing.

To get all the details on this event go to Health Being.

Vanilla Table Cookbook Signing & Demonstration

Join Surfas in welcoming Chef Natasha MacAller to our Test Kitchen.  Chef Natasha’s book, Vanilla Table, will convince chefs and cooks alike that vanilla is anything but plain. With over 100 dishes including starters, mains, brunch, desserts and more, you will never think of vanilla the same way again! Chef Natasha’s book also includes collaborations with several international chefs (including Jonathan Waxman, Jim Dodge, Alan Wong, Duff Goldman, Yotam Ottolenghi, Sherry Yard, Nancy Silverton, and Gina DePalma).  

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Vanilla Table Cookbook Signing and Demonstration with Chef Natasha MacAller
Test Kitchen, Surfas Culinary District Culver City

SATURDAY, JUNE 25, 2016
1 - 3 p.m.
Free Demonstration and Book Signing

You will not want to miss Chef Natasha demonstrating: 

Chicken Stroganoff with Chantrelles and Vanilla
Smoked Trout Johnnycake Stacks
Banana Polenta Upside Down Cake

Vanilla Table is a complete course in how to use the world’s most delicious and adaptable spice – from savory appetizers and delicious entrees to indulgent desserts and decadent drinks. 

Recipes and samples will be provided. Reservations will not be taken for this event so please arrive early as seating is limited. Book signing will commence after the demonstration.

 

Savour by Peter Gordon

Available to purchase on Amazon

Available to purchase on Amazon

Arriving after production meeting at @quartouk with #jacquismall and the team for my new book, the group of us taxied it over to The Providores and Tapas Bar soon joined by friends family and fans of Peter Gordon and the beautiful, creative and flavourful tastes from his book Savour #PGsavour published by Jacqui Small. Great catch ups with friends and owners #Peter G,#Michael McGrath and #Peter B and the lovely wait staff and Providores outstanding kitchen crew, helmed by @Pauljmelville. @RachelCooper kept Peter gliding through the crowds while I met the gracious and talented Chef Cyrus Todiwala of Namaste his award winning restaurant in Hackney, and #Kyleenewton owner creator of @newtonandpott @broadwaymarket that makes the most beautiful jams, chutneys and fermented veg as well as a few cocktails! Another Kiwi does good in London! Cheers! A very lovely and gracious #nigellalawson @nigellalawson in attendance said her hellos to all around. A wonderful welcome back to London!

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Dishing on 1,000 Cookbooks

    Time for afternoon tea, settle in enjoy a lovely cuppa and come peruse some of my favorite cookbooks!
     1,000 COOKBOOKS, a new website founded by Matthew Cockerill and Jon Croft has launched and I am happy to say I was invited to contribute and thrilled to participate. Never realized how challenging having to choose JUST ten cookbooks could be! 
    Matthew and Jon are building a list of the top 1,000 cookbooks and have asked a selected panel of leading chefs for their picks. Their aim is to create a collection of the very best food and recipe content to meet the needs of anyone from the most avant-garde foodie to the novice beginner in the kitchen. See my dedicated page and picks here.  What fun! Enjoy! 

Whirlwind Wonderful Chicago Stop on the Vanilla Table Tour


Quick stop at Floriole Café and Bakery

Flanked by my great friend and pastry colleague Malika Ameen– my official morning tour guide we sampled delicious treats both sweet and savoury created by owner Sandra Holl!

Prepping pavlovas, sauces, creams and caramelized garlic in the kitchens of Mindy Segal’s Hot Chocolate, surrounded by a gracious, crazy fun kitchen crew they made room for me to work amongst the doughs, desserts and pounds of freshly roasted and ground cocoa beans. Thank you!

Off to WGN-TV for a quick cooking demo, lovely host Dina enjoyed the scent of Chicken Stroganoff with Mushrooms and Vanilla wafting across the studio as she read the day’s news.

After cleaning up, I got a personal tour of the TV studio b Rick Nosek of the original Bozo's Circus Show that aired on WGN-TV for many decades. I learned there was a 15 month waiting list to attend a live taping of the beloved show seen by millions of children before it went off the air.


Returning borrowed dishes, plates and props from the multi-level kitchens of Park Hyatt Chicago generously loaned by Chef Daniel Hoefler, sous Chef Patrick Lebeau and coordinated by concierge Andrea Leavitt – I repacked, refreshed then on to Read It and Eat. Anticipating a good turnout (sorry, bit of ballet humor!) we got set up with help from Jason, Esther and Joey. With scent of garlic, vanilla and ricotta custard cups and sips of Proseco, we finished with The Anna Pavlova drizzled with pickled rose petal and raspberry sauce, layered with cream. The gorgeous scent of all things vanilla wafted though the stacks of books of beautiful bookshop and sparkling kitchen. Looking forward to returning next year and create a pop up vanilla feast @Read it and Eat!

LA Eater - Where should I eat right now?

Sausal is one of the 31 Hottest Restaurants in LA Right Now, November 2015

More often than not, tipsters, readers, friends, and family of Eater have one question: Where should I eat right now? Restaurant obsessives want to know what's new, what's hot, which favorite chef just launched a sophomore effort. And while the Eater 38 is a crucial resource covering old standbys and neighborhood essentials across the city, it is not a chronicle of the 'it' places of the moment.

Thus, we offer the Eater LA Heatmap, which will change continually to always highlight where the crowds are flocking to at the moment. Sausal is included in this months installment at number 28. (article by Matthew Kang)

Sausal Continues to Flourish

Latest Best of LA – CBS Local
CHECK OUT NEW RESTAURANT SAUSAL
October 2015

The South Bay has been getting a taste of “Nuevo Rancho,” as chef and partner Anne Conness recently introduced Sausal to Downtown El Segundo. A perfect marriage of comfort food and bold traditional Mexican fare, Sausal embraces the unique makeup of Southern California. Named after the farmstead that once encompassed the area, the food draws heavily on smoke, slow roasting, and wood-fire techniques used by the rancheros who used to inhabit it. Scratch cocktails highlighting market-driven ingredients, prepared with housemade syrups and infusions, pair perfectly with Beef & Goat Birria, Pork Pozole over Hominy Grits, or one of many other menu items. To top off dinner with a sweet treat, diners can enjoy a Spanish Sticky Date Cake or Rancho Grilled Stone Fruit, Figs, and Grapes with bay leaf sabayon and “piggy” cookies. Starting today Sausal will be introducing lunch hours and a new lunch menu.


Stone Fruit at Sausal     Photo by: Ryan Tanaka

Stone Fruit at Sausal     Photo by: Ryan Tanaka

ZAGAT
SAUSAL IS ONE OF LA'S 12 TASTIEST WOOD-FIRED DISHES
By Lesley Balla
September 2015

Where there's smoke, there's probably a wood-fired grill in one of the top local restaurants. First everyone wanted a wood-burning oven for pizzas and other specialties, and now more and more chefs are stoking the flame of an open hearth in their kitchens. When done properly, cooking over direct fire brings out the best flavor in everything from vegetables to shellfish, seafood, huge chops and more.

Even desserts get a little smoke and fire at Anne Conness' new El Segundo grillhouse. Here peaches and apples are grilled until just a little charred and super sweet, and served with bay leaf sabayon and piggy cookies.

Have a listen …

… a couple of interviews coming your way.

1490 WKNY The Kingston Station – 
Mornings with Warren Lawrence
THURSDAY, AUGUST 27, 2015 at 6:45 a.m. (PT)

Warren Lawrence will interview Chef Natasha MacAller live on air– Tune in for the live stream at 1490WKNY

Talk Radio 790 KABC
Food and Wine with Chef Jamie Gwen
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 6 at Noon (PT)

Chef Jamie Gwen interviews Natasha MacAller – Tune in at 790 KABC or have a listen on your radio. Please Note: The show may experience last minute schedule shifts, check Jamie’s site for confirmation.

Radio interview - cooking with vanilla

Gloria Minott* presents Chef Natasha MacAller where they chat about everything Vanilla. 

A Live radio interview from Monday, August 17, 2015, WPFW 89.3 FM Washington, DC - approx 9 mins.
 

*Gloria Minott is a Journalist, Radio Personality, Parent, Foreign Places & Foods, Lover of Arts, Culture, and Justice.

Sausal to Bring Nuevo Rancho Cuisine to El Segundo

 
 

By Crystal Coser • May 13, 2015

The South Bay is booming.

The South Bay has been consistently stepping up its culinary game, what with Manhattan and Hermosa Beach's exploding restaurant scene with heavy hitters such as Love & SaltSteak & Whisky, and upcoming Arthur J dominating the beach cities. Neighboring El Segundo is ready to get in the game, with a major build out going on at 219 Main St in the old Indian Summer spot, reports Toddrickallen.

The upcoming eatery will be called Sausal, and, according to chef/owner Anne Conness and managing partner Sorin Costache, will feature "Nuevo Rancho" cuisine, a sort of homage to the Mexican and Spanish flavors of the California rancho days. An ABC notice reveals the upcoming South Bay restaurant will definitely have booze.

Sausal
219 Main St
El Segundo, CA  90245