If you’re a foodie, your definition of “celebrity sighting” in Los Angeles has little to do with movie stars. Instead, this annual event at L.A. Live, located across from Staples Center, is like the ultimate red-carpet event for gourmands—complete with plenty to eat.
First launched in 2014, the four-day event (March 9-12) showcases a lineup of 46 highly accomplished chefs—including such global entities as Alain Ducasse and Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Significantly, it also features mega-watt chefs who make California their home base, like Ludo Lefebvre of L.A.’s Trois Mec and gourmet fried-chicken truck Ludobird, and Charles Phan, owner of San Francisco’s The Slanted Door restaurant and a leader in modern Vietnamese cuisine in America.
Even the chefs themselves can get a little dazzled by the lineup.
“There's a great camaraderie at this event,” says another acclaimed California chef, David Lefevre, creator of Manhattan Beach Post and Fishing With Dynamite, who is now a regular participant at the All-Star Chef Classic. “The event does an awesome job of bringing together chefs from around the world, and we're all there because of the energy and love of the craft.”
For the most exclusive experience, you can book a spot at one of the Masters Dinners, all held in Restaurant Stadium, which is outfitted with stadium seating, lights, cameras, and LED screens, so you can catch all the mincing and deglazing in vivid detail. At these evening events, you’ll watch teams of chefs work together to create a themed dinner—and then you get to eat it at your seat.
Dinners in 2016 include the French Masters Dinner, with Ducasse and Lefebvre; the Noche de Masters Dinner, with José Andrés, the celebrity chef behind L.A.’s The Bazaar, and Food Network’s Aarón Sánchez; an East West Masters Dinner with Sang Yoon and Niki Nakayama; and the American Masters Dinner, with a dream team of Johnny Iuzzini, Naomi Pomeroy, Sean Brock, Jamie Bissonnette, and Wylie Dufresne.
And while these Masters Dinners can sell out within a few weeks of the event, you won't be shut out of the weekend if you plan to come last minute. You can pretty reliably get a ticket, for instance, for one of the Strolling Events in the booth-based Chefs’ Tasting Arena—like the evening Grill & Chill event, or the Global Grand Tasting, where your ticket gets you 20 tastings (from 20 different chefs), combined with adult beverages and some cooking demos.
There’s even a Kids Cooking Class, where 200 junior chefs (ages 4 to 13) can go into Restaurant Stadium themselves and get hands-on instruction from one of the resident stars. This year it’s helmed by Sherry Yard, Wolfgang Puck’s former executive pastry chef, who is set to reopen L.A.’s iconic Helms Bakery.
Lefevre says that the chefs enjoy the feedback they get from meeting all of the attendees. “The diners are eager to try something new and they ask a lot of great questions about the food,” he says.
That dynamic, adds Lefevre, benefits everybody: “Chefs really bring their A-game to this event. It's even a little competitive, but in a good way. We like to push each other to do better every year!”