EAT YOUR WORDS at The Standard Hollywood
Dig In and Open Up…
Reviewed by Dawn Garcia | Photographs by Clarence Alford
8300 W Sunset Blvd | Los Angeles, CA 90069
I am a firm believer that food is the one thing that can pause war, bring people together, calm chaos, feed your soul, invoke your passions, awaken your sensuality, encourage you to embark on adventure, allow you to be in tune with nature, and above all give heed to every one of your senses. Couple that experience with a writer and their food memory, and well, you begin an entirely new form of dialogue. Alas the introduction to EAT YOUR WORDS: A series of stories told by those who, well, have a lot to say.
Our evening begins with the Host, Greg Walloch who takes on the brave task of leading us all down a road. The road that – while no one is sure where it leads – will inevitably take you places you did not expect to go.
Greg begins by simply asking the audience one mind-bending question: If you were on death row, what would your last meal be?
The hands raise, the answers trickle in. We’ve got an order for foie gras (clearly someone after my own heart – and a disgruntled Californian), pizza, a vegetarian weighs in and says she would ask for some incredible fresh produce, and I think to myself, how about foie wrapped in bacon AND a ton of fresh produce and we just call it even! After we’ve contemplated our final meal and the unsolved mystery of how it is we ended up on death row in the first place (and people actually have their felonies thought out), Greg introduces us to Sam Pancake.
It must be said that Sam Pancake is one of the hardest working writers and actors in Hollywood and while I could give you the laundry list of celebrities he’s friends with, works with, and writes for, (and it is rather impressive), I won’t. Because his talent and merit speaks for itself. And then you give him a mic. Suddenly none of that matters because Sam is just a guy with a cool last name who isn’t afraid to tell you all the details of growing up, how a surname named after a favorite breakfast griddle cake can make life all the more interesting, and then begins the story of Blue Hill with the Kennedy’s (that name drop just got a little heavy!). From gutting your own kill to gamey wild turkeys, Sam has a story. He continues. He talks about soda cakes – for those that don’t know, it’s cake. With soda. And people are serious about their soda cakes (and yes, you should try at least one). All in all Sam finds a way to use his remarkable quick wit and honesty to give you insight and all the while, give you a reason to laugh out loud and crave things “back woods” you had no idea you’d actually consider.
Greg then comes back on stage, thanks Sam, and then shares one of his own stories. He comes up to the microphone and shares a story about the Cracker Barrel which has a sign listing every inappropriate disclaimer known to man. “There must be a problem if you have to actually post this sign!” and in that moment, you pause because no matter how you try, the ignorance running amuck in this country is like verbal cancer. It’s toxic and all too common. But I digress. He then introduces Shauna McGarry.
Shauna begins in her soft, dainty, demure voice telling the story of getting this amazing apartment. The condescending landlady Lupé with her “cinnamon hair and a smile that’s like concrete on a cracked sidewalk” choosing to rent the place to her because Shauna wasn’t too hot and sex crazed and wouldn’t have men in and out of her place. The haunting tale of a girl desperate to be touched, kissed, and eventually “sexed up” eats into as you listen to the desperation eking out of her. It’s oddly familiar. Perhaps not the exact story but that aching to be loved, to be wanted, to be desired; Feelings every man and woman in existence long to feel – even if they’re unaware or unable to admit it. She sweetly goes on and exposes the core of her self doubt and insecurity and the all-too-often happenstance of giving in to the notion of what we think someone else wants. And as you listen, you cave. You feel her aching. She prepares for her big date – thee night. She cooks and discusses the moment of emotional pivot when she realizes it’s finally going to happen as she slips into her best Doris Day mindset. You find yourself wanting to shout out – “She HAS to get laid!” – and internally, think, “so do I!” It’s a poignant look at the psycho babble we go through, the internal dialogue of wanting, and the vacancy of falling into the trap of expectation. The line that stood out most was when describing her desperation to be kissed. She said the desperation was like a “blue Tiffany’s box of teardrops and baby teeth”. The literary visual is enough to make you falter.
Chefs Sergio Lujan Perera and Jacob Takehiro Kear
Chefs Sergio and Jacob are really the culmination of everything that is right in the culinary world. Mexican, Spanish, Japanese, and American, the two embody this principle that food must tell a story, honor cultures while exploring the integrity and possibility of flavor and ingredients utilizing both science and nature. As a lover of food and it’s ability to bring us together and inform us of our humanity, hearing these two men talk about their endeavor, The Amalur Project, I felt inspired. “Eat Your Words” is about exploring our associations to food, a memory triggered, history reinvented, the moments that occur. The Amalur Project is that concept amplified. When you listen to Sergio Perera talk about cooking, it is with a clear and deeply felt passion. His Spanish roots allowed for color and experimentation but it wasn’t until he moved to Japan that he became acutely aware of the purpose of food and it’s structure. Jacob Kear speaks about food and cooking with an infinite respect for its composition and elegance and through his upbringing in Japan also has a profound passion for what he does. The fusion of their styles and love for what they do was exemplified as they stood before a group of press and lovers of both food and words and spoke. Words trickled from them like juice of a freshly cut lychee – precise, slowly, and with intention. Greg asked them about the nature of the Project and the concept to which they reply that it is simply to bring Chefs together, explore cuisine, and host small dinner parties without the pretense of ego. It is about the food. The art of cooking. The beauty of sharing that together. In the midst of their stories, they invited us to ask them questions. I raised my hand and asked,
“Every Chef has a smell that triggers something passionate. The scent that reminds you of why you do what you do. What is that for each of you?”
Without pause, Jacob says “Dashi” without missing a beat. Dashi is a traditional Japanese stock that forms the base for miso soup, clear broth, noodle broth that is simple in appearance and exquisite in complexity of flavor. It is comforting and has been translated. Dashi reminds Jacob of his family in Japan.
Sergio chimes in and describes the smell of sugar crystallized on a churro falling to the hot griddle or oven and the scent of that sugar burning once dripped. It reminds him of youth and time spent with his grandfather.
Both answers tell a lot about each man. Nostalgia, youth, culture, a sense of wonder, and a hearty dose of curiosity. Learn more about the Project at the end of this article.
Next up Greg introduces Comedian Rajiv Satyal.
Rajiv steps in with this confident readiness and you know it’s gonna be good. His food memory takes us into the world of an interview with an infamous TV personality in India, lust, distance, culture, love, marriage, and its impending demise. Rajiv tells his story of how while in India he was interviewed by this beautiful woman. After flirting and stumbling through the interview, she agrees to go out with him. The way Rajiv tells the story is boldly idealistic but still has the beats and know-how to get you from one point to the next in a way that keeps you intrigued. The beats: A hot girl that likes him. A long distance relationship. Falling in love. Wanting to get married. Wondering if the feelings are mutual. Red flags. Keeping a sense of humor while the pestering sense of reality falls down on him with an unapologetic pulp. He gets you to laugh and wonder and of course, sit uncomfortably knowing the story isn’t going to end well. A man talking about love and wanting to take the relationship to the next level was not something an audience often gets to witness. This was candid and vulnerable and comedic. The moral of the story: Long distance rarely works, don’t date the host, and don’t ignore the signs.
Lastly, writer Andy Behrman comes up and shares his story about the death of his father only two weeks before. While the story isn’t one to make you laugh, the fact that any forum seemed so open and accepting he decided to work through his loss in front of others speaks volumes. Andy, a known writer and mental health advocate visibly invited us into the final days of his father’s life and the uncertain terms of his death while the continual influx of Jewish cuisine seemed ever present. The fact that he felt comfortable sharing something so personal says quite a bit about the environment Greg Walloch has created with EAT YOUR WORDS. It was an honor to witness and while the final story of the evening was Greg’s tale of embarking on the insights of becoming a freegan only eating food thrown into the trash, he and everyone who performed tonight took you somewhere you weren’t prepared to go. As Greg told of his brief (focus on the word BRIEF) freegan “adventure”, his first fancy “paid-for” meal of oysters after his stint as a freegan resulting in him contracting a life threatening bacterial food-borne illness, well, let’s just say you weren’t at a loss for “a little bit of everything”. EAT YOUR WORDS is important. It is crucial to the literary and artistic landscape. It adds an intellectual polarity to our experiences centered around food and how easily translatable that is to relationships, politics, and society in general. There are 2 remaining performance in the Cactus Lounge and the Standard Hotel in WeHo.
The Performances are on 11/7 and 12/5 at 8pm.
8300 W Sunset Blvd | Los Angeles, CA 90069
The Amalur Project | The Concept
Ama lur: A word originating from the Basque country of northern Spain meaning mother earth or from the earth.
We are a culinary think tank creating dining concepts and collaborations that define and preserve gastronomy, agriculture and science. Our cooking is a collision of ideas, cultures, techniques and gestures. We think hard about the origins of our ingredients and foster deep relationships with our producers and artisans while also working with them to produce advanced, sustainable and ecological products. There is everything to be learned from the people who raise, catch and grow the food we prepare.
With respect to tradition, we move forward with technology, ideas and discoveries of new ingredients by bringing together cooks, artists, architects, designers, farmers and scientists and work with each other to perfect the dining experiences we provide, and to nourish our bodies with memorable meals and memorable environments.
Amalurproject private dinner series
10 courses $90,12 seats,
Beer, wine and cocktails available