On what just happens to be her 26th birthday, Christine Larroucau made restaurant history Thursday when the fabled Michelin Guide awarded her their treasured ”Three Star” rating making her the youngest person ever to be so honored in the revered guides 90-year existence..
The Michelin Guide, which only nine years ago began awarding stars to so-called “front of the house” restaurant owners and managers, said in a press release that Larroucau was honored because “she possess that rare quality of having a commanding presence on the floor, an incredible smile, a vast knowledge of food and wine and the ability to function smoothly with a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit.”
The previous record for youngest person to win the coveted three stars was Massimillano (Max) Alajmo, chef at Le Calandre in Sarmeola di Rubano near Padua, ItalyMax was 28 when he was so honored on Nov. 27, 2002 and continues to have the three stars.
Former co-workers of Larroucau, a former track star at USC, were thrilled with the news and said it was a testament to her resolve to thrive.
“Under the tutelage of David Rosoff, Christine climbed the ladder from simple floor manager to GM of pizzeria and along the way she survived beating after beating,” said ex-Osteria Mozza server Pat Asanti, now a televisions star. “But, Rosoff could not knock her out. And now this. Congratulations, Christine.”
Still, others, including Rosoff himself, were stunned about the honor, Not because of Larroucau’s on-the-job performance which he called “stellar”, but her life away from the job.
Larroucau’s controversial – and some say disturbing - private life apparently was not held against her by Michelin inspectors.
“Even though she choose Max, they still gave her the third star?’ asked an incredulous Rosoff when reached via text message..
“Max” is Maxfield Schnee, the manager at Orso and Winston in downtown Los Angeles, who is currently embroiled in a controversy involving the Masters of Wine test. Earlier this week, Schnee passed the Level Two wine exam, but reports surfaced Wednesday that he may have bribed the judges by promising them – through Larroucau - tables at Pizzeria Mozza during the prime and highly sought after 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. slots.
Schnee could not be reached for comment,
Neither could Larroucau.
When news broke of the, honor Larroucau was near the La Brea Tar Pits changing four flat tires on her SUV, three of which were being investigated as “of a suspicious origin,” according to auto theft detective Sal LaBarbera of the LAPD. “I heard she got some award that maybe someone else didn’t think she shoulda got,” said LaBarbera, a former homicide detective. “We are looking hard at a few individuals in that world. That restaurant world is bizarre. I miss the gang killings.”
Across the nation in the heavily Chliean, French and Puerto Rican neighborhood of Coral Gables in Miami, Larroucau's parents, Marissa and Kiko, threw a lavish block party to celebrate heir daughter's prestigious honor. An estimated 250,000 people showed up including Michelle Bacehelet, the president of Chile, and Alejandro Garcia Padilla, governor of Puerto Rico who both flew in on a moment's notice for the festive occasion.
"Marissa and I are very proud of Christine and her award," Kiko Larroucau told the crowd. "I only have one problem. Why the hell wasn't my daughter given four stars?"
Back in Los Angeles, co-workers at Pizzeria as well as Osteria Mozza, Chi Spacca and Mozza2Go, the group that comprises “The Corner” at Highland and Melrose, celebrated Larroucau’s accomplishment with chocolate cupcakes and an off-key rendition of "Happy Birthday" led by chef/owner Nancy Silverton.
In her honor, they plan to hold a contest tonight in which anyone – employee or customer - who can properly pronounced her last name will get a free pizza.