This is The Feast 14, in which we highlight the most anticipated projects of the new season. Here now, Sherry Yard discusses her role in reopening the restaurant at Hotel Bel Air.
Exec. Chef Pastry Chef Sherry Yard has been in the kitchen with Wolfgang Puck at Spago for a few decades, and behind the scenes at the Oscars for 18 years. Yard is also involved in the multi-million dollar expansion and reopening of the restaurant at Hotel Bel Air—which debuts on the same weekend the LA Food & Wine festival hits the city. Here's her plan of attack.
Were you a little nervous to redesign such an iconic hotel?
I think of it more as an honor. Since moving out to LA [from New York] I’ve celebrated a couple of birthdays there. It’s such a quaint oasis.
How did you help change the face of fine dining at the Bel Air?
We’ve always been about going to the farmers' market—and this restaurant is especially 'in-season.' The hero on the plate will be fruit. It won’t be chocolate cake with strawberries but strawberries. We are still working out the details. It’s not so much a secret as it is under construction. Sally Camacho from Top Chef Just Desserts will be heading up the crew over there. Kathy Ballard from the Beverly Hills Hotel will be moving into her spot at WP24.
You were one of the first breakout women pastry chefs to be recognized. Do you think the gender gap is closing up?
In LA. I remember being in New York and there was a piece in The Times that said ‘Go West Young Woman’ because that was really where it was happening as compared with the East Coast. Quite often in New York, I’ve had friends that have had the 2.2 kids and away they go. Here people have their children and the children are on their hips. Look at Suzanne Goin with the four kids. She just keeps rockin’ it out. We still have Nancy Silverton, Mary Sue Milliken, Suzanne Tracht. It's a staying game out here.
Tell us more about the fall Food & Wine event. How will you be involved?
I’m hosting Decadence: LA's Sweetest After Party at 10 p.m. How it started was during Meals on Wheels we always wanted to extend the night. Folks would normally pack it up by 9 p.m. After Wolfgang’s pizza, there was no room on the plate for dessert at 6 p.m. So we created a dessert lounge as an after party. All of my favorite pastry chefs will be up on the roof with me [this time]—from Claudia Flemming (Gramercy Tavern), Elizabeth Falkner (Citizen Cake), Mindy Segal (Hot Chocolate), Zack Young (Top Chef Just Desserts), Dahlia Narvaez (Mozza), Bill Corbett (Absinthe), and Gina DePalma (Babbo).
What’s next after the events this fall? Time for a break?
I’ve gotta get ready for The Academy Awards rock-n-roll! I definitely have to do something new every year, but I never know what I’m going to do until I see all the movies. There’s a lot of inspiration and things just come to me. It’s been 18 years but it’s new every year. [The Feast]