Usage Of The Word "Dotard" Expected To Reach All Time High In U.S. This Weekend

An estimated 18 million Americans are expected to utter  the word "dotard" this weekend,  a term most of them have never spoke before learning this week that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, aka "Li'l Rocket Man", used it to describe President Don Trump.

According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary a dotard is "a person in his or her dotage." Dotage is defined as ."a state or period of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise and alertness."

Li'l, apparently reacting to Don saying he would or could "totally destroy North Korea, was interpreted to have said  "I am now thinking hard about what response he could have expected when he allowed such eccentric words to trip off his tongue. I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.",. 

A lengthy put down indeed,  but it was the single word "dotard" that grabbed the headlines and seemed to almost to endear itself to a public that is eager to learn more refined disses.. 

The previous highest usage of dotard,  which meant "imbecile" when it was first used in the 14th century, was on May 1, 2003, when then-President George W. Bush, referring to the war in Iraq,  said "mission accomplished" on the USS Abraham Lincoln. aircraft carrier.  The "dotard" count that day was a mere 475,000, a paltry sum compared to the numbers expected both Saturday and Sunday. 

Here are some sentences with the word, most of them from the website www.wordsinasentnce.com 

"But, in the histories of the wars with his vassals he is often little more than a tyrannical dotard, who is made to submit to gross insult."

"When the dotard entered the political arena, very few people voted for the man due to his old age and lack of coherent explanations."

"Patience was needed by the young cashier as the 80-year old dotard was not comprehending what she was saying and seemed utterly confused about where he was."

"As the dotard slowly walked with a cane, he struggled with figuring out where the senior citizen center was located even though he had been there dozens of times."

After reading that last two examples, one is inclined to feel sorry - or even fondness - for a dotard.

Though many languages, including Swahili, German, Mandarin, Finnish and Portuguese, have no equivalent word, some do.. The French word for dotard is "radoteur".  The Spanish word for dotard is "viejo chocho" which also translates to "old pussy".

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Beauty Product Storm "Vanessa" Expect To Reach Category 5 Level By Wednesday Night

When the beauty product tropical storm “Vanessa” first appeared on Doppler Storm Search radar three weeks ago, experts predicted the typical fallout; overcrowded shelves, a slight wait for hot water, some minor, but not aggressive discussion about who gets to use the bathroom when.

But, yesterday the National Guest Watch upgraded Vanessa to a Category Five beauty product storm that could overload the guest bathroom at Nancy Silverton’s Windsor Square home, causing, not only severe to drastic overcrowding, but also fallen products, bitter arguments among the guests about who can shower first, and even a complete breakdown of the home’s hot water system.

“The last Cat 5 beauty product storm I know about was the 1956 wedding of Grace Kelly to Princess Rainer in Monte Carlo,” said Paul Mitchell, who company’s stock has soared over 100% this week. “That was a disaster. Audrey Hepburn couldn’t find her Ten Voss and Acqua Di Parma shampoos and Oribe conditioner and, in desperation, grabbed some Head ‘n Shoulders. Audrey reverted to Eliza Doolittle ( pre-Professor Higgins ) and talked shit all night to Sophia Loren, the suspected culprit.”

Silverton’s Van Ness household is already experiencing “moderate to serious” shelf hoarding in the guest bathroom by early arrival, the South African Yolande van Heerden. 

But, the full brunt of Vanessa is forecast to hit Windsor Square as early as Wednesday evening when it is expected to reach a Category 5 with the arrival of Ruth Reichl, Lissa Doumani and Hiro Sone, all in town for the weekend wedding of Silverton’s only known daughter, Vanessa,  to an unusually tall soccer player.

Doumani and Sone have already indicated they plan to place their adhesive-backed tooth brushes on the vanity mirror of the guest bathroom, a tactic that has annoyed others in the past.

“I don’t want to look at the mirror and see their goddamn tooth brushes hanging from it,” said Reichl in a phone interview as she crossed the border at Tijuana early Wednesday after a brief stay in the Baja wine country.

In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti offered his full support.  “Whatever we as a city can do for Nancy Silverton’s house, we will do,” the mayor said from the steps of City Hall. “This will be a tense weekend. That much we know for sure."  

However, across the country in Washington D. C. there was a completely different attitude.

Caught on a “hot Mic’ after leaving a senate intelligence briefing, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)) expressed shock and disgust about the concern for a Cat 5 beauty product storm

“This is fuckin’ absurd, “ McConnell told  a colleague. “You got a Lebanese, a  South African, a Japanese, and a Greenwich Village hippy coming to stay at a home where an Armenian lives. That spells ‘dirty bomb’ to me. The last thing I’m concerned is space for beauty products. We need to at the very least limit everyone to three and a half ounces of liquid.”

An aide of McConnell, speaking on the condition of anonymity. said that he expects a Delta squad to be in place no later than 0500 hours Thursday morning at the Go Get Em Tiger on Larchmont.

“We want Special Forces nearby,” the aide said. “It’s gonna get ugly.”

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Tow Truck Drivers; The Unsung First Responders Of Los Angeles

It’s midnight on Saturday, it’s Tuesday rush hour, it’s Sunday morning and, at long last, you see him on the horizon. Your knight in an imposing, lights-flashing, get-out-of-my-way chariot. The crowd parts. It’s the tow truck driver is coming to the rescue.  

The tow truck driver in modern-day Los Angeles is the equivalent of a knight in several tons of amour, the LAPD showing up when the drunk fool just rear-ended you, the Fire Department coming to get your cat off the hot tin roof.  But, tow truck drivers don’t get the respect they should. It's not a revered position in our car-crazed society.

But, the Tow truck driver, especially in our city, is one of the noble professions. They are – with cops, firemen and emergency service worker- our city's first responders.

Yet, they are just about taken for granted. They usually don’t get tipped. Well, maybe some of you do, but it’s not a given. The server who walks a plate of braised short ribs with polenta 25 feet from the kitchen to your table and asks if you like your red wine “light and fruity” or “something more full-bodied” gets at least 20 per cent on top of your check. Table for four, good place, that server likely to get 60 bucks. The tow truck driver who drags your broken  down Dodge or  Toyota across four lanes of the Harbor Freeway at 5:40 p.m.?  That dude is lucky to get a five spot.  

Some weeks back. on a Saturday, my girlfriend’s car got stuck in emergency brake mode.  The plastic brake handle had broken off and the car - a Porsche  - would not move. I was parked halfway in the crowded, back parking lot of her restaurant and half in the alley. I was blocking in  to-go customers and two delivery drivers.  Attempts to move the car by myself and the valets were fruitless. I called Triple A, explained the situation, but was told - on this busy night -  they were at least 90 minutes away. 

Next, I called (the supposedly vaunted ) Porsche Roadside Assistance.  The dispatcher was about to hang up after telling me to call  back on Monday, when she casually tossed out a tip;  "Maybe call Melrose Towing."  

I did and 15 minutes later, Louie arrived.

Within sixty seconds, Louie had fixed the problem.  With a screwdriver, he managed to release the brake, thus freeing the car. What a relief. I asked where he’s was from. Compton, but had moved to Culver City. I tell him I want to do a story about him. He’s says “Okay”, but then, just like that, Louie was gone, off to rescue someone else.

Three days later, the same thing happened with the emergency brake. I’m not sure how it did, but, I knew what to do. I called Louie. He had given me his cell phone the first time he rescued me. It was a Tuesday night and he was home watching his baby, but he walked me through what to do. I felt like a master mechanic from Stuttgart when the brake released.

I repeated that I wanted to do an article about him.   ‘Okay”.

During the next week, I called him four times and texted four.   He was too busy to talk. He said he would get back. I called again and again. Too busy. Probably if I had a broken car he would have not been too busy. The reporter in me was a little annoyed with him, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought that Louie not being eager for recognition was cool

All this to say, next time you see a tow truck driver, even when you;re not in need of one, show 'em some respect.

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A Mom, A Son, A Public Defender, A Deputy D.A., Mark Twain and Barney Fife

About three weeks ago, while on vacation,  I received the following text; ‘My name is Lavedia Williams   Guys from Nickerson Gardens told me to contact you   I have a story”

I text back that I’d get with her when I return to L.A.  I did.  This is her story.

On July 18, 2017, her son, Devaughn James, 23, on parole since February after serving time for a residential burglary in Cerritos, is stopped near the Nickerson Gardens housing project in Watts for driving a car – his girlfriend’s - with expired tags.

(I guess it should be noted up top that James, who grew up in Pomona before coming to live in Watts with his mother at age 16, was not a member of the Bounty Hunters, the notorious Blood gang that rules the projects.)

“The sheriffs pulled us over at 113th and Bellhaven for expired tags,” says Lawren Huff, 24, James’ girlfriend of three years.  “It was my car and he had a valid license.”

During the stop, the deputy, a guy named Rothwick (who I didn’t reach), is, according to Huff, “very polite”.  

“He asked Devaughn if he was on parole and when Devaughn said ‘yes’, he asked ‘what for?’,” says Huff.

“A residential burglary,” James replies.

“Was it a bullshit charge or legit?” deputy Rothwick asks.

“No, it was legit. I did the crime,” answers James, who did the time, too, 17 months, much of it at a fire camp near Santa Clarita.

Rothwick - or his partner in the cruiser  - run the address James gave them as his current residence. Their in-car computer shows a gun is registered to that address which is his mother’s home located a few blocks away on 113th and Wadsworth Avenue.

They place James in the patrol car and drive to the address. They knock. Lavedia Williams answers the door. Deputy Rothwick explains the situation.

She invites him into her spotless four-bedroom home. She shows him the gun in her bedroom, which has a lock on the door. He calls in a sergeant. They video the scene. They take the gun and take her son to the sheriff’s station.

They explain to the mom they will get a hold of James’ parole officer and then he will be released.

But, they can’t reach his parole officer. Instead, he is charged as a felon with access to and in possession of a firearm.   He is sent to the county jail facility known as Wayside, near Magic Mountain.

And Devaughn James is facing seven years in prison for that gun.

By the time I get to Williams’ house. In late August. she’s a nervous wreck.

“This could ruin my son’s life,” she says, “I was honest with the sheriffs. I shoulda lied and or just not let them in the house.  But, I told them the truth. It was my gun. My mom gave it to me so many years ago. It’s an heirloom.  An old .32 revolver. It wasn’t even loaded. I only have two bullets and I keep them nearby, but not in the gun.”

Bam! And just like that. I have the lede for this story. This woman has twice the fire power of Barney Fife. I’ll get to that later.

Williams tells me about herself. She’s a former rabble-rouser from Nickerson Gardens who is tight with several guys I've known for decades.  I mean she knows Loaf, Kartoon, Big Hank, Big Donnie. She’s impressed I know all these guys. It vastly helps my credibility and her comfort level.  On the other hand, her knowing them lets me know I’m not dealing with Mary Poppins.

And just like that, she admits to being “in the life” back in the day. She fought. She dealt. She used. She represented. But, that was then. This is now. She’s been clean for 15 years. Now she’s a protective mother.

I take more notes. And vow to keep in touch. She gives me the next court date. I say I’ll try and make it. But, when that court date rolls around, I’m outta pocket.  

Nothing happens in court that day anyway and the case is postponed until Sept. 15.  This past Friday.

A week ago, I talk to Williams. She is more worried than ever. He son was at Wayside when a race riot breaks out. Two inmates are seriously injured. It’s an unsettling experience for James – 5’ 8’, 145 -  and probably more so for her. She says her son told her he was “surrounded by 30 Hispanics.” at one point.  This is not fire camp in Santa Clarita. Wayside don’t play.

Lavedia says again she hopes I can make it to court.  

So, Friday, I come to Compton Court. 10th Floor. High security. I have lot of memories here. Most of them bad.

But, I’m not thinking of the bad times here: my namesake, Michael Jr., being sentenced to a long prison term; me in the lockup downstairs twice; the many tearful testimonies of kin of the killed.

Instead, I am gratefully thinking of one glorious memory here, a moment as liberating as I’ve ever known. It was about 30 years ago and I’m facing several years for a bar room brawl that spiraled out of control. I didn’t start it, but I ended it. I had thirty times the firepower of Barney Fife and all of it loaded.

I’m hoping, praying I get a year, maybe two, when the lawyer my dad hired, one brilliant attorney named Paul Geregos, (father of Mark) tells me the deputy district attorney and the judge have agreed to cut me a ton of slack. Time served and a month at Men’s Central.

I’m deep into this grateful thought – partly thinking with dread about where I would have ended up if I got the years - when an attractive young woman asks me “Are you Mike? Mike the writer?’  It’s Devaughn James’ girlfriend, Lawren. We talk. She details that traffic stop. Then Lavedia shows up. And then Devaughn’s sister. Then Lavedia’s boyfriend, Anthony.

Lavedia is thinking the worst case. I try to calm her.

“You ever hear that line by Mark Twain about worries?” I ask.

No.

“Some of my biggest worries never happened,” I tell her, paraphrasing one of the great quotes.

She repeats it.  

Then James’ public defender, A. J. Bayne, exits another courtroom and speaks to the family. He seems surprised that a reporter is there. I explained I’m a former Times staffer, and Watts – and South Central -  was my beat and though I’m no longer on staff, I write an occasional op-ed for them. And I have this website.

“I know this isn’t a big front-page story,” I explain. “A triple murder or something. But, it’s a front-page story to this family.”

He seems to get that  Bayne is clearly a busy public defender.  He points to yet another courtroom and says he’s on a trial in there, too.  Maybe we can talk later. Before he rushes off,  he gives me a little on this case.

“This is not a strong case,” he says as he shuffles some papers, “I think if we go to trial, we will win.”

However, he says “the 459 (Burglary) conviction will taint him with some jurors, but at worst they would be a hung jury.”

He adds the value of the family being at the courtroom.  “It’s very important the family shows up,” Bayne says. “Plus, they have credibility. I believe the mother. And another good thing for Devaughn is the D.A..  She’s reasonable.”

We wait outside. Lavedia asks me to repeat that Mark Twain quote.

Then deputy district attorney. Linda Davis arrives. She’s seen it all. About 10 years in Compton Court. Countless cases based in or near Nickerson Gardens.

Presiding in the court room, Dept. F, is Judge H. Clay Jacke II.  Beside the court reporter, the Deputy D. A. , the P.D., it’s just the family on one side of the courtroom seats and me on the other. I’m closer to the attorneys and try to listen in one their whispers.

P.D. Bayne is showing deputy D.A. Davis a video his investigator took that shows the lock on Lavedia’s bedroom door. They speak too softly to eavesdrop. But, there are some nods.  

Then about four, five minutes later, A. J. Bayne walks over Lavedia and says, not too softly. “He’ll be home for dinner tonight.”

She briefly convulses in joy. The girlfriend drops some tears. The sister does, too. Anthony smiles. I think back 30 something  years.

Devaughn comes out and pleads, as agreed,  “no contest”, a version of guilty, but usually associated with a good deal. He is sentenced to four years in prison, but suspended.  Suspended means if you stay clean, don’t violate parole or probation, you don’t go to prison. The gun will be destroyed.

The family is thrilled, though Lavedia hopes to get it completely wiped off his record one day. The public defender is proud he got the guy a deal. Even the deputy D.A. is satisfied. She says that family showing up was important. And she got a gun destroyed.

The only person who was a little disappointed in the outcome was my crusty old editor Morty Goldstein, Jr., a curmudgeonly, nearly-fictional character.

He had hoped, after hearing about the two bullets laying near the gun, not even in the chambers, to use the following lede.

In the “Andy Griffith Show” of 1960s television. bumbling deputy sheriff Barney Fife was issued an unloaded Colt .38 caliber revolver.  Sheriff Andy Taylor allowed him a single bullet that was to be kept in his uniform’s pocket and- only in an emergency – loaded into the gun.

Lavedia Williams of Watts had double the fire power of Barney Fife. Lavedia had unloaded “heirloom”  .32. caliber revolver – a gift from her mother – stashed in the night stand of her usually-locked bedroom with two bullets laying nearby.

That old gun and those two bullets could cost her son seven years in prison.

But, even ‘ol Morty Goldstein is happy we don’t have to go with that lede.

“When that public defender,,, What's his name? A. J. Foyt?”

“A. J. Bayne.”

“Yeah. When A. J. tells the mom ‘He’ll be home for dinner tonight’, man, even I got a little misty.”

Coming from Morty Goldstein, Jr., that’s saying a lot.   So Devaughn James, stay outta trouble.

Lavedia

Lavedia Willaims at home.

WOP Shock; Francis Sebastian Wins the "Worker of the Party" Award at Alex's Lemonade Bash

Francis Sebastian, the Pizzeria Mozza assistant manager best known for knowing the future, shocked the workers of the world when he was selected Worker of the Party (WOP) for the exclusive Alex’s Lemonade Pre-Auction Bash at Nancy Silverton’s home in Los Angeles, California.

Sebastian, the first Filipino to win the award, was said to be speechless when he learned he had won. Sources, however, said that was not because he was overcome with emotion, but rather had consumed 27 cans of Santa Monica Brewery IPA during the party and was basically comatose.

But, those at the party, said the beers were deserved.  Francis worked tirelessly early in the set-up of the event, single-handedly carrying heavy tables, being the good soldier and doing whatever anyone told him to do, even Kate Green.

It was the actions of Green, in fact, that, though perhaps inadvertently, helped secure Sebastian’s win.  When an Armenian man, given the important task of checking the sound system, could not get the stereo system to even go on, Green order him to “Try harder!”.  He did, pulling out a tangle of wires, tracing the stereo to the power source.  No power.

“Try harder, goddamnit,” Green demanded. “We need music. It’s a fuckin’ party, not a funeral.”

The Armenian claimed the system was old and probably had simply burned itself out. “Kate, the power just won’t come on.”

Francis walked by.

“Francis, see if you can get the music going,” Kate said. “Clearly Middle Easterners know nothing about electronics.  Let’s bring in the Asian.”

Francis walked over, pushed a button and the stereo came on. “You were probably pushing the “standby” button.”

Kate stared at the Armenian man, but didn’t say a word. He walked away. Suddenly, there was music. The party was on.  

"Francis was great at the party," said Nancy Silverton. "Too bad he couldn't be that way at the Pizzeria."

News that a native son had won the WOP rocked the Philippines in both good and bad ways. In Manila’s historic center known as Intramuros, celebrations over news of Sebastian’s win quickly turned violent with cars sent ablaze, shop windows smashed and several lumpia carts vandalized.

Back in Los Angeles, there was mixed feelings.

“Are we talking about the same Francis Sebastian?” asked a stunned Chile Rico, who was Sebastian’s boss for over one year. “When he worked for me, and I use the term lightly, he was primarily talking about himself in unrealistically glowing terms.”

Others weren’t surprised.

“I don’t understand why everyone is stunned that Francis won the WOP at Nancy’s,” said noted anthropologist Kenneth “Duke” Feldmeier. “He told me he would win three years ago.”

(For his victory, Francis wins a burrito from Burrito La Palma.)

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Italia 2107 GOYA Shocker; 12-Year-Old Girl Beats out Ruth Reichl For Guest Of Year Award, Protests Filed

When it was officially announced  that Ruth Reichl would be coming to Panicale for “Italia 2017”  oddsmakers from Las Vegas to Monte Carlo took a collective shot of whiskey knowing their bonanza for the year was ruined.  The oddsmakers knew that betting against Reichl to win the coveted GOYA, (Guest of the Year) award would be akin to placing a wager against Secretariat in the ’73 Belmont. It just would not happen. 

“Ruth could stumble in, cigarette smoke trailing, ashes dropping on the 14th-Century carpet, gulp off a can of Moretti, belch, crush the can and toss it on his bed and Krikorian would still vote her the GOYA,” said Pierre Su-Sway, pit boss at the Grand Casino de Monte Carlo who was referring to Michael Krikorian, who, along with co-trip organizer Nancy Silverton, is an influential GOYA voter.. .

But, a funny thing happened on the way to the voting forum. A low turnout. While Ruth was her radiant self, her supporters were so confident she would run away with the GOYA that they didn’t bother to go to the polls.

The stunning result was Francesca Anne Krikorian, a 12-year-old Los Angeles girl with no Italy experience at all, swooped in like Seabiscuit in the War Admiral match race and captured the 2017 GOYA.

Francesca, showing up late in the trip with her father, Greg, and 16-year-old brother, Max, came on strong quickly with a striking series of bizarre quotes that caught Panicale regulars  off guard and enamored her to them.

For examples. When asked about Bob Dylan, Francesca asked “Is that the guy who jumps?”

Lead with a “Van who?” by her father - to answer who was singing “Brown-Eyed Girl” - she replied “Van Dyke”.

Her description of the taste of butter?  “Buttery”

Going on and on about one of her favorite people on Earth, an internet sensation , she said “I can’t think of her name right now.”

But, what garnered Francesca enough votes to eek out a GOYA victory over Reichl was her infectious joy, her smile, her laughter - even after repeated waterboardings by her brother Max - her curiosity and above all, her imagination. When Krikorian pretended to get a call requesting his "Delta Force" services to guard the cast of  Pretty Little Liars, (Francesca’s favorite show) she went along for the ride with a zeal that was invigorating.

So here’s to Francesca Anne Krikorian, the Italia 2017’s  Guest of the Year, For this, she is entitled to one free pizza, either at Mozza in Hancock Park. or Il Pellicano in Umbria.. 

As for Ruth Reichl, she said :"There’s always next year." 

Coming in third place was chef Elizabeth Falkner who scored strongly in the beginning of the Silverton/Krikorian Odyssey, getting high marks for revealing the first chapter of her book (a "hard R"), cooking superbly  and being an all around pleasant person. But, Falkner stumbled badly and lost several points when she texted Nancy several times during a Silverton/Krikorian lunch at the 3 Michelin-starred Piazza Duomo in Alba. 

"Why is she texting you so much? Tell her .we having lunch at Piazza Duomo," Krikorian told Silverton.

"She can't figure out how to turn on the oven."

Francesca Krikorian stayed away from the oven. 

It should be noted that nearly perennial second place finisher Susan Swan did not compete this season.

In the category of most pasta consumed, Georgie Harris dominated. Several attempts to get Georgie to comment were unsuccessful as her mouth was full of cacio y pepe.

NOTE - At press time, it was revealed that Francesca is Michael Krikorian's niece. Supporters of Reichl, led by a six-year old known as Linksy, filed a formal protest. 

Past GOYA Winners " 

2016 - Dario Cecchini

2015 - Leon Gold  

2014 - (TIE) Hourie Sahakian and Tiffany Fox

2013 - Liz "Go Go" Hong

2012 - Cast of "The Wire"

2011 - .The Berrettos (aka Oliver and his buddies) 

2010 - (TIE) Duke Feldmeier and Patsi Asanti

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To score GOYA points, it is always a good tactic to pour Nancy good red wine while she is in the roustabout in the pool. . 

My GPS - A Map and Giulio Falcone

Three weeks ago I was driving in Italy with Nancy Silverton and Ruth Reichl. The next day we were having lunch in Modena at Osteria Francescana, one of the world’s greatest restaurants.

We had left Umbria a day early so we wouldn’t have to worry about an l..A.-style autostrada calamity and were headed to a tiny hamlet outside of Bologna to meet friends for lunch. On her website, Ruth would later wonder how we could have found it without GPS.

Now, Ruth Reichl is one of my favorite people in all the Milky Way. A quarter of  the time on The Corner if someone says they say my girlfriend today, I don't know if they mean Nancy or Ruth.  But, that line not being able to find the restaurant without GPS annoyed me.  I coulda found that place with my own GPS; a map and - if needed - the ancient practice of pulling over and asking a human being “Excuse me. Do you know where this place is?”  You might have to ask five or six people, but eventually you’ll get there. It’s a wonderful part of the adventure of travel.

So, this drive.  We get off the autostrada south of Bologna at an exit called Sasso Marconi and Ruth turns on her phone GPS Lady. As every turn approaches, Lady says “In 300 meters, turn right.” Followed by an “In 200 meters, turn right.” Then a “In 100 meters, turn right.”  Hey, Lady, I get it!

At one roundabout, we go around three times, Lady has to “redirect”. I felt like Chevy Chase going around the Arc d Triomphe for hours in European Vacation. .    

We make it to this trattoria – It's was so- so – then - with Lady - go to our hotel in the town of Zola Predosa, which we enjoy saying and which becomes our three person secret code for “Extraordinary”.  

The next day, I drive to Modena – sans Lady. You can’t park in Central Modena, so I find a spot about two miles away and we walk in and are - thankfully - seated in the cool, small wine cellar. . Osteria Francescana. is very Zola Predosa. Like most people there, Ruth is taking many cell phone photos.   

We leave and start our walk back through central Modena which is now 104 degrees. It’s wordless walk. More like a forced march.  Ruth even goes to a market for a water. We finally get to the car and I drive off. A few blocks later, Ruth says “My phone. I don’t have my phone. I must have left it at the restaurant.”  

I offer to go run back to the restaurant. Nancy says she will call first. They look thoroughly. Nancy calls the phone for them to hear the ringer. It is not there. Maybe you left at the market? She is nearly certain she didn’t.

Now, twisted me, I kinda relish situations like this, Nancy is sick of me saying “I’ll gather my Delta Force squad and accomplish the mission.” Yeah, I can be like a kid. It’s fun.  

I go into Special Force mode and dash to the market where Ruth purchased the water. I tell the man “My wife may have left her phone here 20 minute ago.” He’s suspicious.  “What did she buy?” “Water.” What kind? Knowing Ruth’s distaste for bubbly beverages – except very high-end Champagne – I say “Naturale.” He smiles and hands me her phone.

I thank him profusely and, of course. ask “Where you from?’ Adullah is from Bangladesh. Dhaka?, I ask, naming the capital city.   He nods proudly.

I run to the car and say “Mission Accomplished.” For a moment, I’m a hero.  

Ten minutes later, I tell Ruth I want something for finding the phone. Anything, she says. “I don’t ever want to hear that GPS Lady again.”  It’s a deal, she laughs.

A week later, Nancy and I are south of Rome. Fueled by bad intel provided by Nancy, I make a hotel reservation in a neighborhood she thought she liked. Wrong. It is in such a faraway neighborhood that, as in Ruth’s sentiments “how would we find it without GPS.”  

Behind schedule, I reluctantly tell Nancy to “Go ahead, Turn on GPS Lady.”

AT that moment, I have been defeated. I given up, at last. The end of a brilliant career. I have willingly succumbed to modern technology.

Lady starts telling me what to do. Through a warren of streets and alleys, Lady says turn left, turn right, turn left, turn right, turn right so many times in such quick succession I feel like I’m being directed around the Nürburgring's Nordschleife race circuit in Germany.   Even Lady seems to grow weary of the number of turns. 

But, to my chagrin, Lady get us there.

Then, four days ago, through a small Umbrian town, we are driving Lady-less as I attempt a comeback. This drive is going to be a challenge, yet I feel that old exciting sense of adventure. We stop at a food market to get some ham and cheese. I take in my Michelin map. As Nancy gets the food, I ask the cashier the best way to get to Tavernelle, a little city not far from we stay.

The cashier starts to point out a route of tiny lines on the map. A male customer offers his route suggestion. With their guidance, I know I will make it. My GPS. We pay and so does this guy. In the parking lot, I get that heartwarming, the-world’s-all-right bonus that asking a stranger something can provide. The guy communicates he will lead us toward Tavernelle.  

He drives about 15 kilometers and pulls over. Me, too. He points to a blue sign, with an arrow, that reads “Tavernelle.”  I take his photo and “grazie” him a million times. He asks my Facebook name, And Nancy and I go on our way. 

Once home, I see I have a friend request from one Giulio Falcone.  

My redemption.

More importantly, my point is that they are countless Giulio Falcones around the world and in America, in particular. They don't make the news - like that cowardly, brown-smeared shorts driver in Charlottesville -and I guess that's a good thing. We wouldn't want it to come to the point where there was a story that said "man helps a man." because that goes on all the time, you just don't hear about it.   

But, I’d bet my bottom dollar if an African American couple – without a cell phone - got lost in, say, Wheeling, West Virginia, or an Armenian American couple got lost in St. Louis, Missouri or a Bangladeshi American couple got lost in Birmingham, Alabama, or a Heinz 57 white couple got lost in Watts and they stopped at the local market and pointed to a map, they’d get pointed in the right direction.

They might even find their own Giulio Falcone and he’ll lead them to their own Tavernelle.

GiulioFalcone

They Say "Don't Ever Meet Your Heroes" ( Unless She's Nancy); 13 Young Cooks On Working With Silverton

"The youngest, aged twelve, could not conceal her disappointment, and turned away. feeling as so many of us have felt when we discover that our idols are very ordinary men and women," - Lousia May Alcott, from "Jo's Boys", 1885

They say don’t ever meet your heroes. You just might be crushed. My sister Jeanine, who has been in love with James Bond ever since we saw “Dr. No” at the Vermont Drive-In 55 years ago, always said she never wanted to meet Sean Connery for fear of a let down.

This past week,  presiding the (belated) celebration for the 10th Anniversary of Mozza, that notion was knocked down when I spoke to 13 cooks at the Mozza Corner about what it was like to meet - work with - Nancy Silverton.

I had three questions. What were you doing 10 years ago? When did you first hear of Nancy? What’s it like to work with her?

The first was Anna Nguyen, Osteria’s so called Garde Manger ( French for ‘Keeper of the food”) who is also known as Anna Abdul Jabbar because she is 7-feet-2 inches tall and sky hooks smoked mozzarella balls.   

“Nearly. 10 years ago, I was working through a bunch of recipes from Pastries from La Brea Bakery. I worked at this bakery in Colorado where I had a lot of creative freedom, so I loved to try Nancy’s recipes.

"I would be in the kitchen exclaiming things like, "Only Nancy would think of this!" Like combining lemon zest with cranberries. Nancy always takes it beyond the obvious, to absolutely delicious. I was bound and determined to find her address, so I could write her a letter, asking how in the world she came up with a Fennel Ricotta Muffin, one of the best things I'd ever eaten.”

A few years later Anna’s husband was asked to write a little blurb describing her.  He wrote "She loves drinking beer on a patio, and is obsessed with perfectly laminated croissants, and Nancy Silverton."

Years later, Anna applied for work in pastry, but Liz “Go Go” Hong, the executive chef, hired her for the MozzarellaBar   

“I was so excited that I would get to be right by Nancy. I figured even if I got fired after a week, at least it would be a week working with Nancy.”

Anna then reveals the theme of this story.

“They always say don't meet your heroes. That the disappointment could hurt so bad. That it's just better to hold them on a pedestal. I'm so glad I met mine.

“Nancy has taught me about flavor, balance, layers, and how to make gorgeous dishes. She’s taught us that good is never good enough. It has to be great. She has showed us the value in working on a dish for weeks, trying 16 variations, going back and forth with different flavors until it's perfect. She's taught us how to be demanding, and insistent, while being kind, and genuinely caring for the people who work for you.”

##

Yes, that’s a hard – and classy -  opening act to top. So, we move on to the jazzy, dirty opposite. It’s time to for chi Spacca’s Cameron ‘Miles” Tollehaug.

“Ten years ago I was picking up dog shit for a living. And cat crap. And bird shit. I really was.” say Cameron, the tall – and wackiest - Spacca line cook. He was working for veterinarian in Berkeley.  

Later, Cameron was doing an internship at Oliveto in Oakland when he heard word of Nancy Silverton and Mozza. “Nancy taught me how to look at salads. She taught me even if a dish is good, we can make it better by looking at all aspects of it. Like maybe we could use a different cutting technique. Or how one particular herb might make a good dish great.”

##

Ten years ago, Marisa “2 Kitchens” Takenake was a junior at UC Riverside and living with four other students. Somehow, she became “the girl that cooked and baked for everybody.”

So she bought cookbooks. One of the first was by Julia Child. “Funny enough,” she says, “Nancy’s face was on the inside cover.”

Roughly six years later, she was working at the Water Grill downtown and began looking to work with a big time L.A. female chef. There were three she considered; Suzanne Tracht, Suzanne Goin and Nancy Silverton.

“I got a stage at Osteria Mozza and my first night in I worked right next to Nancy and Celeste. The rest, they all seem to say, is history.”

“To work with Nancy means that I have something to strive for. A constant reminder that a female chef with personality and femininity can still be a tough bitch in the kitchen and a successful one. She is the personification that hard work pays off and that there is a way to blend both passions of savory and pastry into one career.”

##

Some start cooking at the Water Grill, some a little lower on the restaurant hierarchy. Ten years ago, Adonayy Fernandez, chef at Pizzeria, was a shift manager at Wienerschnitzel.

Three years ago, he landed a job at what would become his “second home”, Pizzeria Mozza.
“Everyone was so welcoming, but I was anxious to meet the chef who had brought this all together,” Adonayy says. “I was really nervous the first time I saw her.”

That would soon change.

“The first time I actually met her she gave me a warm smile, and she gave me an explanation about how our salads represented Mozza and that I had to do my best to make sure we kept the standard that our guests expected.”

Nancy encouraged him.  After a year and half, he was promoted to sous chef for Pizzeria Mozza.

“I was so happy because I going to get to work so close to Nancy,” he says. “Only a few people have the privilege to treat Chef Nancy on a close basis. Her story has been an inspiration to me, to never lose confidence on yourself and always achieve your goals. I want to thank Chef Nancy for the opportunity of being part of this family.”

##
Ten years ago, Francis Chua, 28, was in a culinary school in Manila. The Philippines.  Five years ago, he started working at Pizzeria Mozza in Singapore.

“I went to work at Mozza because I thought it was a Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich place," Francis says. "Now I know it’s a Nancy Silverton place.”

Francis was enamored with the simplicity of Mozza’s food.  “Nancy Focus is in the simplicity and the food products,” he says. “And as a baker, too. I admire her dough at the pizzeria.”

He doesn’t go on to use superlatives, as the only accurate way to describe the dough at the pizzeria is to call it “the dough at the pizzeria.”

##

Telling his own story in the kitchen of Mozza2Go is Luis Cendejas who – it should be noted - is 21 years old.

“Ten years ago, when I was 10,” Luis begins.   (Right then, I say to myself “This guy was never much at math’). “I was in grammar school in Highland Park.”

For some reason, I guess because he – like many people – calls me “Chapo”, he brags, “I have never been in jail.” (I think of the Chris Rock routine where he says “Fool, you ain’t supposed to be in jail, so don’t go bragging about it.”)

But, Luis tells of a high school science teacher who learned of his interest in cooking and extolled the wonders of Nancy Silverton. “I started as a polisher and now I’m a line cook,” he says with understandable pride. 

Like all, he raves about Nancy. But, his raves are not about the tweaking of a recipe or the wonders of the pizza dough. It’s something down to earth, somethingjust plain right.

“Every day, when she sees us, she doesn’t just walk right by, She says “Hi” to everyone and asks how we are doing. That don’t sound like a whole lot, but believe me, to someone like me, it really does mean a whole lot .”

 ##

Benjamin Giron, 28,  first heard about Nancy and Mozza right about the time Mozza was opening. He was working at BLT and chef Laurent Tourondel was raving  about Nancy.

“The thing I love about Mozza,” Ben says, “is I am always learning because Nancy is always learning.”

##

Ten years ago, Herbert “Herby” Yuen, sous at Pizzeria, was a junior in high school. 

“Coming from the east coast, I had actually never heard of Nancy Silverton until I staged at the Mozza Bar,” he says. “Nancy has taught me so much regarding the balance of food, flavor profiles, and plating techniques. Not only is Nancy an influence in the development of my palate, but she also assists me in becoming a better leader.”

##

Ten years ago, Kirby Shaw was 13, in 8th grade and full of dreams to hit the Gibson homerun that would lead the Dodgers to a World Series Championship.  He is not on the Dodger lineup, but rather finding glory on the line at Osteria Mozza.

“I first heard about Nancy from my Aunt Kelly who was kinda obsessed with her,” says Kirby, who had his high school graduation lunch at Mozza. .

“Nancy is the first chef, along with really the whole Mozza family, that has made me feel I can truly be myself and enjoy my job.

(Editor’s note – It should be noted that at any other restaurant, I Kirby was really “himself”, he would like be committed to a mental facility.)

“I have never worked for any person/ company longer than I have now for Mozza and I credit it to the atmosphere Nancy has created.” 

As for Aunty Kelly?  You bet your bottom raviolo she brags about her nephew. And his boss.

##

“When Mozza was just opening, I was a junior in high school in Houston, Texas with Christine Larraucou!,” says Kirsten Mayall, line cook at Osteria Mozza. “I had a passion and aptitude for cooking, but no intention of pursuing it professionally.”

After college, Kirsten found her "professional" jobs to be uninspiring, and so she “followed a rabbit hole that led me back to cooking.”

At her first restaurant kitchen, in New York, she heard about Nancy Silverton.

“One of my coworkers in that kitchen was a former line cook at Osteria Mozza, and he waxed poetic about Nancy - the only chef he knew that still worked the line in her restaurant after so many years, and who did so wearing Marni.”

Listening to that friend's advice to work at Mozza upon moving to LA was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

“Working under (and side-by-side with) Nancy Silverton has made me a stronger, more creative cook. I have learned that perfection in this craft is never too lofty a goal; that working on an idea for weeks on end is a worthwhile exercise in persistence, not a sign of ineptitude; and that creative work is like a puzzle, requiring ingenuity and playful curiosity to find the solution.”

"Above all, Nancy has been a role model in leadership for me. She demonstrates every day how to lead: by showing kindness and genuine interest to every individual on her team. I remind myself daily to follow in her (very cool, probably Marni) footsteps.

“I could go on for hours about how important Nancy has been in my life.

##

Ten years ago, Arthur Grigoryan was 11 years old. (When she hears that, Anna says “The should be the lede of your story.”

Arthur realized in high school he wanted to be a cook. “Being from LA, I was really interested to know who the legends were in the game from this city and the first names that I came across on the internet were Wolfgang Puck and Nancy Silverton.”

After spending some time studying and working in France, he came home and landed his first paying gig at Osteria.

“Working for Nancy over the past year at both Pizzeria and Osteria has been an incredible experience,” says Arthur. “ One thing I admire about Nancy is her high attention to detail about the food being perfect. If one thing does not seem right, she will always stop and teach us so that we don't make the same mistakes again.

“Working at Mozza has been great not only because I get to stand two feet from a living legend every day, but also because I get to work with a group of humble, talented, individuals who I know will reach great heights someday.”

##

Ten years ago, Jess Ziman was at Crossroads High School, one of the toughest in Los Angeles.

When she was 17 she had a meal that. Thought she didn’t know it for years later, would change her life.

“I went to Osteria Mozza and sat at the Mozzarella Bar,” Jess, says. “Nancy was in full view. I never said a word to her, but just stared. It was a bit awkward. I didn’t even know I wanted to be a cook.

Then though a series of what she calls “a combination of serendipity and unfortunate events” she found herself looking for a job as a cook. 

But she imposed one strict rule. She would only work at the Mozza Corner.  She got the gig.

"The environment at Mozza is so different than any other place I have worked and it all come from the top. There is this wonderful sense of community that Nancy has created”.

“She, somehow without being critical, she honesty tell you about a dish that is not just right. But, she wants you to keep coming back to that dish to make it just right. She’s willing to get on your level, but in a cool way.”

.##

Few have worked with Nancy longer than Raul Ramirez, 38, the morning prep sous chef. He been with her 17 years ( even longer than me.) Raul worked with Nancy at Campanile starting around 2000.

There’s been a lot of raves about Nancy Silverton in this story, but the ending belongs to Raul.

“All the time she comes in asking me how I’m doing. I don’t have any complaints about Nancy. She’s a nice person.”

hero

Liverbest; Nancy Silverton and Chi Spacca's Ryan DeNicola Take A Humble Food To New Heights

For decades, maybe even for a century,. liverwurst has been the laughing stock of the gourmet world, a mashed-up concoction that even it's punch line cousin - Chopped liver -  seemed to distance itself from. 

But, this week that all changed when one of the humblest of foods found itself on the menu of Nancy Silverton's chi Spacca accompanied by, get this,  yet another hackneyed food item that will soon be heading for bright lights; the potato pancake.

This reporter - recently embedded with an elite Mozza unit on the heralded Corner of Highland and Melrose - got a rare inside glimpse at the making of a dish. This is the often harrowing tale of how the potato pancake and a disc of liverwurst ended up together on the menu of one of America's greatest restaurants.

It's three hours before service at chi Spacca, the smallest and most muscular of the Mozza restaurants on the Corner.  Chef Ryan DeNicola is looking down at three golden brown potato pancakes with line cook Tyler Vidal.   They taste all three and deem them fine.

But, now, Ryan explains to Tyler the single most important lesson to be learned on the Corner; Nancy Silverton will not be satisfied with this effort. She will send them back to the ateiier. Nancy is never satisfied with a first effort. Or a sixth. There is improvement to be found with more work.. Even when it is outstanding, it has to get better.

And sure enough, Ryan and Tyler take the three, five-inch diameter pancakes over to Osteria Mozza where Silverton is getting ready for a night behind the Mozzarella Bar. She tastes them. They're all good. But, with Nancy,. good don't cut it. 

Now, back to the liverwurst.  

When asked if she helped Ryan with the liverwurst, Nancy Silverton replied, "Oh, pleeease. What do you think?"

The spark for transforming liverwurst into liverbest occurred in Philly at MIchael Solomanov's Rooster Soup Co.. Nancy and James Beard award-winning pastry chef Dahlia Narvaez ordered the fried Lebanon baloney sandwich. Nancy asked how they managed to get baloney from Lebanon.  "Lebanon. Pennsylvania" she was told. Makes sense, There's no baloney in real Lebanon.

It was like a fried baloney sandwich, but thicker. and it gives  Nancy the spark that liverwurst might be worth revisiting. Shape it into a thick medallion and fry it. Worth a shot. After all, this is the woman who took the humble grilled cheese sandwich halfway to heaven.

Back on the corner, Ryan got on it with enthusiasm.  He got his version of liverwurst to a point where anyone familiar with that stuff in a tube would not recognize it.  It's pork liver, pork fat, pork meat. salt, onion. black pepper, cardamon, ginger,, oregano and mace.  (It should be noted that this "mace" is one the so-called "winter spices", not  the mace used by the LAPD.). 

Then this hockey puck is fried. 

Two days later after the first - failed - potato pancake tryout, , Nancy is beaming. She has figured it out with the help of consultant Jess "Don't Call Me Jesse" - Eleven, the only employee on the Corner to admit to have made a potato pancake.  In addition to using a classic chrome box grater ( think cheese) a mandolin was brought in to obtain large potato pieces for creaminess. Onions, white and green, brought color and more flavor. Then, the traditional Jewish favorite got what it needed. bacon. Ecco! 

The result?  Behold chi Spacca's "Fried DeNicola" liverbest  over "Nancy's 2 Grater"  Potato Pancake with bacon. "It's gonna be at all the Jewish delis," says Nancy. .   

No one's laughing at liverwurst anymore.. 

pp lb