Tuesday morning, September 21st, Napa Valley Grille in Westwood Village promoted upcoming DineLA, a two-week event featuring over 300 restaurants, beginning October 3. The launch party and cook-off starred local politicians and chefs, including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Councilman Paul Koretz, Mark Peel (Campanile, Tar Pit), David LeFevre (Water Grill), and Benjamin Ford (Ford's Filling Station). Judges included Villaraigosa; Tom Mullen, chairman of American Express; Mark Liberman of LA Inc.; David Meyers of Comme Ca; and Michael McCarty of Michael's in Santa Monica.
The crowd was composed mainly of chefs and restaurant owners (with their PR people standing close by). Although it was a food event at core, the scene was more like a Lindsay Lohan sighting: Paparazzi toppling over one other to capture shots of the mayor, or maybe they were trying to get Susan Feniger (we're not sure. She was standing underneath him during the photo-op). One photographer yelled: "If you're taking pictures with your iPhone in front, can you get out of the way, now?"
Villaraigosa, who sipped Champagne and chowed on blue cheese-stuffed game hen, prepared by cook-off winner Mark Peel, as well as Santa Barbara prawns with risotto, and pork roast, did not stay for the actual judging. "I'm so late," he yelled while fleeing the restaurant, with a group of photogs trailing close behind.
DineLA's "Quickfire Challenge" series is open to the public and will take place throughout the next two weeks. The second cook-off will be held at Petrossian, Thursday, September 23 at 6 p.m.
For more pictures, turn the page.