The fight over who will get the bid to revitalize the food scene at LAX is ongoing, as various bidders vie for the lucrative food and beverage contract, worth more than $600 million over the next decade. Read Gene Maddaus' story Food Fight at LAX for the details, and read his post, up yesterday, about Councilman Tony Cárdenas' restaurant-specific fundraising plans.
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What makes this saga interesting is not only the colossal sums of money at stake, but also the Los Angeles chefs involved. And then there's the issue of the food itself. As anyone who has spent any time in airports, particularly terrifically dysfunctional international airports (like, say, LAX) knows, airport travelers are captive diners of the worst sort. Add the inherent risk of flight delays and travel low blood sugar, subtract free food on airplanes, and what you have is more an object lesson than an issue of what's for dinner.
Just take a look at the catalog of restaurants proposed by two of the four bidders on the contract: HMS Host (no, that's neither a ship nor a Gilbert and Sullivan tune), the incumbant contract holder, the company that has run most of the food concessions since 1965, and the company that scored the lowest of the bidders; and SSP America, the company whose bid involved many high profile L.A. chefs and the one which was rated highest of the four. Those proposed by Host, which are a combination of current and future venues: Camacho's Cantina, Burger King Whopper Bar, Nate and Al's, Pinkberry, Maria's Italian Kitchen Express, Johnny Rockets, Starbucks, La Brea Bakery, Pei Wei Asian Diner, Wolfgang Puck Bistro, L.A. Food Show Grill & Bar.
Those proposed by SSP: Nick & Stef's, Sputino, Border Grill Taqueria, M Cafe, Serenata de Garibaldi, Park's BBQ, Panda, Bertha's Soul Food, Geisha House, 25 Degrees Burger, Red Mango, Market Cafe, LA MILL, Groundwork, Peet's Coffee. We should note that both Nick & Stef's and Market Cafe are Joachim Splichal restaurants, and that Spuntino is Nancy Silverton's proposed focaccia shop. Silverton's focaccia, LA MILL coffee and Park's BBQ while you wait for your Alaska Airlines flight? Traveling might actually be fun some day.
Sure, we love Wolfgang Puck's pizzas, but if this were only about the food, the choice seems pretty clear. It is not, of course, only about the food. We'll keep you posted as things move along. Until then, you might consider packing a lunch the next time you head to the airport, both in protest and as an act of culinary survival.