The culinary team at the Getty Center in Los Angeles frequently creates menus inspired by great works of art, but it’s not often that they are asked to showcase a menu to please a living legend. As part of a surprise 90th birthday celebration for world-renowned architect Frank Gehry (known for the iconic titanium Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles), they were honored to be tasked with creating a menu worthy of the occasion.
“We were given the impression that he was a ‘meat and potatoes’ kind of guy, but of course we wanted to elevate that concept while capturing incredible flavors of seasonal ingredients to create a menu that was both celebratory and refined,” said Fernando Cayanan, director of operations (recently promoted from chef/manager of the Getty Villa), of the menu-planning process.
Just as an architect constructs a building with exact precision, Fernando and Catering Chef Gino Pineda made sure each ingredient was prepared to bring out its peak flavor and texture, like a salad Little Gem lettuces lightly grilled and paired with late-harvest citrus, candied Marcona almonds, chamomile tea-smoked feta, and watermelon radishes dressed in an herbaceous green goddess dressing. For the entrée course, the chefs slowly braised Wagyu beef cheeks in Barolo wine to create a rich braising liquid that was reduced to a finishing jus. The richness of the beef was complemented by bright flavors of heirloom carrot purée, crispy Vidalia onions, and fresh English peas, while roasted new potatoes provided textural contrast.
Knowing dessert would be the grand finale of the meal, Executive Pastry Chef Joanne Ponvanit took time to get to know the great architect, researching his life, work, and style. Her dessert paid homage to Gehry’s geometric patterns with a honey lemon shortbread crust and crispy honeycombed meringue, while Meyer lemon custard, honey blueberry sauce, and honey chantilly crème provided colorful accents on the plate.
“It was truly a special experience getting to know Gehry’s body of work, and an honor to feel that inspiration come through in the dessert to close out a fantastic meal,” said Joanne.