Some of Los Angeles’ most famous Hollywood haunts have gone silent, but the brains of Fanny’s restaurant at the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures are working to make sure visitors still feel the traces of those distant times.
The museum is about to unveil its vast restaurant, bar and prepared meal counter when the complex opens on September 30. And while Fanny’s will be decidedly modern, it also promises to return to an era of thoughtful service and preparation from the era of restaurants like Brown Derby and Chasen’s, an era when sitting in the right place and being noticed was an art form.
“Much has been seen on this subject and how you [got] seen and the dynamics of the restaurant, ”said the managing partner Bill Chait, who, in addition to Fanny’s, has helped create some of LA’s current culinary heavyweights – République, Bestia, Otium, and Tartine among them.
“Some of the things that were famous at the Brown Derby were the pits, and you would see the pits, like here, are really low,” Chait said. “If Tyrone Power was sitting at a booth, everyone would walk by and know it was him and knew he was there. It was a time when stars were an integral part of the food scene – big, big stars – and were part of [building Fanny’s] was to capture this in a proper way.
Chait, along with managing partner Carl Schuster of Wolfgang Puck Catering, who will handle the museum’s private event pricing, has spent years thinking about how they might capture some of the glamor of an Old Hollywood restaurant: How could they resurrect a bygone era known for its full fleet of servers, especially as the country faces a massive shortage of restaurant workers? How could visitors feel truly taken care of at a tourist attraction that its creators hope will attract 1.5 million visitors per year? How could Fanny’s feel like a destination restaurant that just happens to be attached to a museum, as opposed to a museum restaurant serving take out bites for moviegoers heading to the next movie screening or exhibition?
Chait and Schuster settled into an all-day restaurant serving pastries, espresso drinks and world-inspired toast, salads and sandwiches from morning to late afternoon, switching to a more formal vibe on the morning. evening – with hospitality at the center of the day.
“What I see as telling about old Hollywood is the service,” Chait said. “When you brought in stars, you had to serve them. The idea that someone looked up and no one approached is unheard of. So what we do is even if you go out of the quick service, we will have hosts who will take you to a table, they will place you, they will take the number you have and they will associate it with your table, so now we know section 32 is in the dining room over there.
Guests will enter through the museum lobby on Wilshire Boulevard or through the patio just off Fairfax Avenue. If they’re coming from the patio, they’ll be immediately greeted by a long display case filled with prepared items and freshly baked baked goods – Fanny’s offerings all day – and can sit at one of the communal tables in the room. area or on the patio. If they enter through the hall, they will immediately see the bar, the welcome stand and the main dining room, where guests will be taken to a table and will enjoy service even if they only munch on a morning bun.
This dining room – a sea of dark red leather, velvet, and mohair booths and chairs – will be the real show, especially in the evening.
During dinner service, Chait imagines sommeliers pouring wine, waiters maneuvering their platters, staff members cutting up meat or mixing a zabaione dessert at the table, and captains in jackets – a role that is quickly disappearing in the catering service – looking after guests while guiding and supervising the rest of the wait staff. Although they have already held a number of important positions, members of the management team are still looking to fill the estimated 150 service jobs. It is, in a sense, a bit like launching a movie or a play.
“It’s a production that starts every night and starts the next night,” Chait said.
The museum’s architects, Renzo Piano and Osvaldo Maiozzi, envisioned a sort of fishbowl effect where visitors in the lobby could feel some of the action as well. A glass wall will allow anyone to view the theater from the dining room – including the low-back booths from Commune Design, which showcase diners. An alcove next to the main dining room will accommodate a few guests at the base of the museum’s striking gold cylinder in a corner of what was once a May Co department store, drawing even more attention to the restaurant and its guests. .
On the second-floor terrace above the bar, a private 16-seat dining room offers stunning views of most of the restaurant, the lobby, walkways, and escalators leading to the museum’s third floor. On the opening night, this corridor on the terrace should present an art exhibition dedicated to vaudeville star Fanny Brice, the restaurant’s namesake and the grandmother of donor Wendy Stark (as well as the inspiration for the 1968 film “Funny Girl”). The plans also include the exhibition of storyboards and costume design sketches by Barbra Streisand.
Fanny’s hired Raphael Francois, of West Hollywood’s Tesse, as executive chef and Julian Cox, formerly of the Arts District’s Bestia, to run the bar – both having previously worked with Chait. Pastry chef and other roles have yet to be announced.
Although the partners declined to discuss menu details, Chait said dinner will shift towards American cuisine, while daytime meals will be more globally influenced. The restaurant’s chefs and bartenders, Chait added, could try dishes and drinks inspired by the cinema or themed events related to the museum’s exhibits and screenings, as could the dining menu. (Wolfgang Puck Catering will feature new items in addition to a number of the celebrity chef’s signature dishes, many of which come from his quarter-century of Oscar catering, including smoked salmon pizzas, mini burgers and cones of ahi tuna.)
Reflecting some of the current trends in Los Angeles, Fanny’s will offer a wide selection of natural wines and the cocktail program will include a mix of classic and original cocktails, some of which draw inspiration from the city’s history of diverse bars, more classic Brown Derby to tiki establishments such as Tonga Hut and Trader Vic’s.
Performing that mix of Old Hollywood and new, and doing it well, said Chait, is a challenge, but he and Schuster will benefit from the academy’s collections.
“The academy has more content than anything in the world,” he said. “It is the center of all fantasies. You can imagine when you have that as a partner it’s kind of endless.