Co-founder David Bernahl on Putting Together Los Angeles Food & Wine 2012
August 2, 2012
The Coastal Luxury Management team normally directs its portfolio of blockbuster projects—including Restaurant 1833, Pebble Beach Food & Wine and Lexus promotional events—from the swank offices above its newly enhanced Cannery Row Brewing Company (hallelujah—a new door to the patio!).
But for the last few weeks the group has been “staying” in Los Angeles, occupying an array of apartments overlooking the downtown skyline.
Staying gets some quotes because they don’t stay still for too long. As I describe as part of last week’s column, “Seconds Please: Coastal Luxury Management schemes and dreams up Los Angeles Food & Wine 2.0,” hustle isn’t hard to find with this group.
Amid the the controlled chaos, CLM founding partner David Bernahl II found a minute to reflect on the second coming of Los Angeles Food & Wine, which runs Aug. 8-12.
On the difference between producing LAFW 1.0 and 2.0: As far as the event itself, not that much has changed: We’re bringing over-the-top chefs and wineries together, thematically or organically, to create ridiculous parties. Sure, the chefs, music and wineries change, but the best change of all: It’s not a year one event. I’ve told you what a first-ever is like: Like riding a bull, blindfolded, on a sailboat, in a hurricane, with oil on the deck—and you’re drunk.
Now we’ve had a chance to see what was in our head. It came out. The baby was born. Now we can say, ‘Maybe she looks better in pink or purple’—improve on the product. Make it better and more enjoyable.
On the biggest challenge facing the CLM team: You could have a presidential ad campaign budget and not reach everyone in the L.A. market. It’s one of most complicated, spread-out media markets, so you can focus and have a very amazing, strategic marketing plan in place—from social media, a presence in all the right restaurants and clubs, and all the right charitable components—and still, like last year, have people ask, ‘What is this? Food and wine? Sounds like every event.’
Right now, the response is 'Oh, it's coming up!'—it’s like we’re starting to feel the same thing we felt in Monterey County, where people know what you're doing. And when you hear it from San Gabriel to Santa Monica to downtown, that's awesome. We planted our seed in the right soil, now we have to care for it.
Biggest lesson from year one’s “Where celebrity meets celebrity chef” marketing campaign, which didn’t materialize as grandly as envisioned: Scheduling celebrities and guaranteeing attendance is tricky. But A-list celebrity stuff is starting to come together in nice little pieces. They get to know you have a charitable commitment.
I can’t say anything yet, but we have had a pretty amazing celebrity visit us at the house. But rather than make celebrity-meets-celebrity-chef the whole thing—last year we wanted to see Mary J. Blige and Robert Downey, and when it ended up not working out, we were kind of bummed—instead of leading with that, we know some of them will be there, awesome, but we can grow and enjoy the fruits as more are drawn by increasingly successful events.
On the four different hubs of activity: downtown, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and Hollywood: The homebase is in downtown. Three huge marquee events at night—Thursday, Friday, Saturday—and the cooking demos, panels and tastings, there are so many amazing culinary and cultural things to hook into, it’s like the whole Pebble Beach Food & Wine experience downtown.
But no other city that enjoys so much diverse enjoyment. You can wake up and go grunge in Venice, be chic chic in Beverly Hills, go hiking or surfing in Santa Monica, be hipster in Hollywood, do business downtown. That's not like Manhattan, Chicago—that’s unlike anywhere else. That's L.A.
So to really call ourselves L.A. Food & Wine, we had to make unique communities come to life. In the future we’ll have even larger events all over the place. Now Santa Monica has a developed lineup. Beverly Hills has a lineup of programming. Someone who comes in for the event can decide how to plan weekend: Stay in one place or get it all.
On developing the identity of each spot: It’s slightly an art form. But you start with restaurants that are leaders within each community on a culinary level: Wolfgang Puck in Beverly Hills, and Thomas Keller's Bouchon, for instance. It’s a place that serves copious amounts of caviar. So there’s no better place for (Friday's $195) “I Heart Champagne and Caviar” than Beverly Hills. For (Friday’s $150) “Summer at the Shore,” we want to demonstrate the fabric of Santa Monica, the connection to ocean and farm-to-table…Master chef Graham Elliot is building his own beach for his station at the Fairmont, with sea urchins and all sorts of stuff, even ordering in sand.
On the T.V. personality presence: Andrew Zimmern (of Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods”) selected his favorite chef from China to cook at (Saturday’s street food) Asian Night Market at L.A. Live downtown. For $75 ticket, which includes almost 30 chefs, that's crazy, the stuff people go bonkers for.
At (Thursday’s $195) Festa Italiana Giada De Laurentiis (of Food Network program “Giada at Home”) is actually putting food out to taste. That’s huge. Everybody sees her cooking demos and all these things, but it’s incredibly rare to actually get a dish from her.
Then there’s one of my favorite food and wine events in history, (Saturday’s $250) Lexus Live on the Plaza with Wolfgang Puck and Friends, with Third Eye Blind playing on the full stage in front of Staples Center and a lineup of chefs putting things on plate that reminds me there's other festivals that focus on a little food, or a little music, but nothing pairing the rock star chefs with wineries and entertainment like this.
On the local representatives making the trip south: Excited about John Cox, and the reason is two-fold: One, he’s the new exec chef at [Sierra Mar at] Post Ranch Inn, an extremely talented guy who, now that he has the big title and one of the best restaurant locations on the planet, is ready to really do some incredible things. Two, he’ll be at (Friday’s $500) Delicacy Dinner at the Montage Beverly Hills, which is going to be insane.
It’s also great to see what is happening with Restaurant 1833, and present (1833 Chef) Levi Mezick on that scale and stage.
It’s great for all of our guys who are so talented that we can do a major city and really have meaningful threads that tie back to Monterey.
On the after-after-after parties: It's a culture in the entertainment capital of the world. We are people who like to be out late, and people in the industry like to be out late. We burn candles on both ends—and the middle—and so do chefs and sommeliers and hosts who want to have really cool late night functions. It’s so fun to get together at the final final (Sunday party) for the trade people, with killer product, just all getting together after spending so much time pulling off one of the most dynamic deals ever produced.