The first time “Los Angeles Times” food critic, Irene Virbila, reviewed my daughter, Chef Dakota Weiss, I was a wreck. It was her first major food critic review and it could make or break her career. Dakota’s magic toque had landed her a big career move as chef de cuisine for the Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey. LA foodies went gaga over her talent. Much of it had to do with the freedom she had with the restaurant’s menu– and foodies loved it.
Whew! Virbila crafted positive adjectives about LA’s new hot chef.
Hotelier, Jeff Klein, whisked Dakota away from the Ritz-Carlton as executive chef for his chi-chi celebrity hangout, Sunset Tower. Virbila visited and reviewed. It was a tepid review.
The difference was control of the menu. Klein knew what he and his clientel wanted to eat, and the menu followed suit. Virbila politely called the celebrity A-list restaurant a “chop house.”
Now executive chef at Hotel Shangri-la, Dakota’s back in control of her menu and it is pure Dakota: French inspired, California hip, family friendly with just enough magic to set it apart from my home cooking. Last October I met the restaurant’s owner, and I suggested and predicted, “Let Dakota be herself, and you will be amazed.”
So when Dakota called two weeks ago and said, even before I uttered a hello, “Mom! The “Los Angeles Times” just called!” she exclaimed between distinct shortened breaths. “I’m doomed. I didn’t even know Irene Virbila was in the restaurant. It’s gonna go bad. I’ve been on vacation. God knows what she’ll say this time. I can’t stand it.”
“You’ll be fine,” I confidently said with just a twinge of the last review filtering through my memory bank while battling head on with my proud mother prediction last fall to the guy who writes her pay check. I’m also thinking that Virbila wouldn’t waste her time on Dakota if she thought the best place for Dakota’s toque belonged in the nearest trash can.
As the review neared, Dakota’s Facebook status expressed her sense of doom. (Who ever said being an artist is wonderful?)
As fate would have it, her Pops and I were away from home on review day, and I experienced internet connection nightmares at our hotel. I marched down to the desk and calmly screamed, “I can’t get connected to the internet, and my daughter’s review is coming up in a minute, and I can get connected to the internet. DO SOMETHING!!!”
Concurrently, my cell phone chimed Dakota’s ring tone (the theme song from Gypsy). Good sign. It wasn’t a hospital emergency room. “Mom! It’s okay. She gave me a good review….” I heard her toque lift her above her office and float over the Pacific Ocean.
Her magic toque is back.