Hot Doggedy Dog
How different is New Orleans from Los Angeles. The French Quarter with its genteel courtyards, people walking, a sense of its own history, and LA with its billboards, traffic and technology.
Outside my 12th floor window, a wonderful hotel for the young and hip, outside there were moving images of giant actors from 'Orange is the New Black' film stars and the edgy vibe of business that is running the show.
I woke with that raspy phlegmy thing you get when a chest infection is about to take hold.
The ironing board was still up from last night. One black dress, two undergarments, and a pair of fancy black and diamond sandals. I skipped breakfast and met the crew downstairs.
A huge lobby with loungers both in and outside where three piece sofas were dotted around to spread out on until your valeted car arrived. The Marriott stands central. The crew were round the corner in a hotel that was much less salubrious than mine but fancy and neat nevertheless.
We have been treated royally by our sponsors. It occurred to me as I went down in the spacious elevator that the old git and I could never afford to stay in the places they were putting us up in. Gratitude hit me as the doors opened on the lobby.
The runners arrived to walk Olly and I round the corner. Colton, with his hipster beard. He chewed on sunflower seeds and, like a parrot, spat out the husks into an empty water bottle. Kevin, with his hat on backwards, was amenable and VERY polite it was very un-English. A delicious boy who entered the film industry because of Wes Anderson's THE LIFE AQUATIC. We acted out scenes. And then there was tiny Kim. She had confessed to me over our Mexican meal that she suffered social anxiety. We worked on her and cuddled and kissed her, by the end of our LA run she was smiling and talkative. She was super efficient and quiet.
We all loaded up into the SUV's and set off for the Hollywood hills.
YAMASHIRO is a restaurant set in the hills. It overlooks LA. The Hollywood sign stands behind it. It has cushioned seats in the open air and a monumental Buddha who smiles over the whole pile. Apart from ignoring Orlando's chigger bites and my bronchitic cough all was well. We were about to shoot a link and sip on incendiary cocktails. Olly had the presence of mind to take a virgin drink, me unthinkingly, downed heavy duty Mai Tai's
Olly and I completed our last link. Me seeing double from three Mai Tais, and Olly as fresh as a daisy on ginger ale. I don't know why I didn't ask for an alcohol free drink. I think my swelling glands were enjoying the anasthetic.
The heat was high in the hills, the smog was hanging over the horizon and we were off to our second location.
Orlando was dropped off at a clinic for his chigger bites and we drove on to PINKS. A hot-dog stand. The queue was long and it was only 10.00a.m. Hot dogs chilli style, hot dogs Marlon Brando style. The walls, in the restaurant at the back of the open windowed roadside caff, were crammed with photographs. The rich and famous having their pictures taken with a posed hot dog in the air, in the hand, in the mouth. Everybody from Betty White to Jeni Barnett and Olly smith. We couldn't see where our photo would go but we trusted we would be hung somewhere.
Gloria Pink, gave me a beaded clutch purse with PINK in pink beads, t-shirts, visors and table mats, all with a huge hot dog PINKS logo on everything. Gloria knows how to play the publicity game.We took take after take, on the side of the road, me stuffing the end of a hot dog in my mouth. Whilst Olly jumped in the car leaving his Marlon Brando with me. My hot chilli dog landed in my stomach with a thud. After five takes I had eaten the equivalent of three Great Danes. My stomach was rebelling and I could feel those puppies fighting whilst I slid into traveL-cough mode.
Filming on the side of a road at a hot dog stand attracted the attention of the locals, who all wanted to know what and where we would be showing the film. Just one mention of the food channel and they melted with admiration. The Americans love their food and their food programmes - lucky for us.
The crew needed to eat, even if I had done nothing but stuff my face, so we sat down for complimentary lunch. I had sugar filled coleslaw, chips and cola. The standard American Diet. Yes I know its sad but sometimes it just hits the spot.
The crew split and we drove downtown to MAUDS, owned by 'Ozzy' Curtis Stone. Back in the day on GFL Curtis had been a regular contributor when he worked at Quo Vadis in Soho.
10 years later here he was the toast of Beverly Hills. Curtis had not wanted to go to America, but he arrived, made a TV series that was a smash. Curtis had not wanted to settle in Hollywood, but he had. He hadn't wanted to get married but here he was as cool and gorgeous as ever with a wife, two kids and a 24 table restaurant named after Maud his Australian Granny.
MAUDS - 24 tables, two sittings, 48 covers, 12 courses on one tasting menu. We arrived in June when the avocado was the star of the show. Each month a new star ingredient was chosen. July, chillies, August, Passion Fruit.
After tasting beef with sauteed avocado, sweet corn and powdered bone marrow, Curtis and I hugged and we both shed a tear, for different reasons. Me because it was years since I had left GFL which was such a lovely time of my life, and him because nostalgia hit him. Marcus Pierre White, Quo Vadis and the innocence of youth. I represented everything he'd left behind. When a grown man cries is there anything more touching.
Slap bang in the middle of Beverly Hills with a reputation to die for the boy done good. Maud must be proud of her lovely grandson.
We drove off to The Central Market, met up with Olly and then it was drive-bys in the open topped Mini with Olly driving. I've been taken off driving duty because my speeding record in the UK is less than satisfactory. So in-the-car-out-the-car-round-the-block round-the-corner-in-the-car-out-the car - and its a wrap.
Saturday night in LA. Everybody was going out to eat in a bar, I had arranged to meet one of B's school friends and his dad. I felt wretched but couldn't miss the opportunity. They finally arrived at 10.00p.m. having been held up on the Freeway for 2 hours. That's Hollywood for ya.
It was 10.00, too late for most restaurants, so Aj took to his telephone to find somewhere - 10.00 too late for food!!!! - we decided to drive to COLES, a bar with a French Sandwich and, to my amazement, the rest of the crew were there. We joined them at the long table.
The crew then disappeared and I sat with two Englishmen talking about life in East Sussex, LA, politics and the future. Felt so strange to be talking UK in the US.
Aj drove us back to the hotel. Made it to the twelfth floor, tomorrow was our one and only day off. I was being collected by a friend who lived on the coast. I fell into bed feeling ghastly. Woke at 2.30 but Britain wasn't around for a chat so I put on 'Om', sprayed my pillow with Lavender and slid into bed, groggy, painful head and chest and wondering whether to call a doctor.
The rest of the team were out carousing whilst I was in bed holding my brains is as the pain shot to the top of my head.
As Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson stared into my 12th floor window I fell asleep dreaming of long dangling hot-dogs......
Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes