“The dinner hour is a sacred, happy time when everyone should be together and relaxed.” So said master chef Julia Child, who loved nothing more than combining good food and friends around a table.
At its core, a successful dinner party requires only two elements: excellent food and people who enjoy being together. A third element would surely help: dishes prepared by Bruin chefs. Here, four Los Angeles–area gastronomic masters create dishes for the ultimate Bruin dinner party — and generously share their recipes so you can host your own.
We start, as all great dinner parties should, with a tantalizing cocktail. Enter John Stanley M.B.A. ’09, owner of Stanley’s Wet Goods in Culver City. “Dinner parties are the time to put more thought into a cocktail, to craft it as a prelude for what’s to come. It’s the warm-up act for the main event,” he says. “And sometimes, as we all know, the warm-up act can steal the show.”
Stanley’s Y-ume Cocktail, created exclusively for UCLA Magazine, leans heavily into spirits from Japan, with a sake-based foundation of a plum liqueur and a Bermutto (vermouth). “Each of these drinks showcases stunningly elegant and delicate profiles — the plum liqueur with a focused and pure-fruited tone, and the Bermutto with layered, herbaceous notes,” he says. But the cocktail also gets an L.A. twist — from locally sourced gin infused with wild-harvested native sagebrush and bay laurel, which Stanley says “provide some oomph to the drink.”
THE MAIN DISH
Bryant Ng ’00, the chef and partner behind the Southeast Asian brasserie Cassia in Santa Monica, crafts dishes he calls a “cross-pollination of Chinese, Singaporean and Vietnamese cuisines.” His grilled lamb dish was inspired by the gyro plate he had from a Halal Guys cart in New York back in 2004 and never forgot. It’s the Cassia entree he most often takes home for his own dinner.
“The lamb breast is rubbed with Red Boat anchovy salt and some spices like cumin and Sichuan peppercorns for that numbing spicy heat,” he says. “It’s cooked over a bed of onions until the lamb falls apart. We serve it with jasmine rice mixed with Sichuan chile oil, the onions from the cooking of the lamb, our version of the Halal Guys’ ‘white’ sauce and Cassia’s sambal for some extra heat. We add cilantro for a fresh herb contrast to the rich dish and serve it with a wedge of lemon for acidity to help balance the richness.”
A molecular, cellular and developmental biology graduate who worked briefly in the biotech industry, Ng finds himself calling upon his UCLA science education in the kitchen. “A recipe is almost like a lab class,” he says. “When I create a dish, it sort of free-flows. But when I need to train other people to make it, that’s where what I learned in lab class helps.”
For our side dishes, we turned to David Kuo ’01, chef/owner of the Little Fatty Taiwanese soul food restaurant in the Mar Vista section of L.A. A first-generation Angeleno, Kuo, who also helms Fatty Mart and Accomplice Bar, grew up loving his mother’s and grandmother’s home-style Taiwanese cooking. After graduating from UCLA in political science, he worked in property management but felt frustrated working in an office job. So he left to attend Le Cordon Bleu. He then trained with Wolfgang Puck and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, among other culinary lights, and in 2014 he opened a rotisserie restaurant, Status Kuo. Two years later, he reconceived it into Little Fatty, now the flagship of his three establishments.
For our Bruin dinner party, Kuo whipped up two of his favorites: garlic noodles, and Brussels sprouts with Chinese sausage and pickled goji berries. He chose these specifically because he knew they “would pair well with a spiced lamb dish.” Sweet and sour Brussels sprouts “help cool the heat of the spices, and the sour will cut through the richness” of the lamb; the garlic noodles “are addictive with the garlic, parmesan and oyster sauce. These two dishes are going to be great with Bryant’s lamb.”
When it comes to dessert, legendary L.A. culinary giant Evan Kleiman ’71, M.A. ’80 is the perfect choice: Among her many talents, she’s a pie expert. A native Angeleno who’s been dubbed the “fairy godmother” of the L.A. food scene, Kleiman studied Italian literature and film at UCLA, which broadened her understanding of the marriage between food and culture. In 1984, she opened Angeli Caffe, focused on rustic Italian cuisine. Today, Kleiman is best known as the amicable host of KCRW radio’s Good Food, where she’s conducted more than 6,000 interviews since 1998 and runs the show’s annual pie fest and contest, held on the UCLA campus. (This year’s event, on Royce Quad, attracted 10,000 pie lovers.) Here, Kleiman shares a seasonal favorite, peach galette. “I love this because it’s a bit faster to put together than a double-crust pie, but making it in a pie pan gives it more structure than if it were made on a sheet pan,” she says. “And who doesn’t love that luscious flavor of summer peaches, combined with a buttery crust?”
Before you make the galette, of course you first need to make the dough. Find Evan’s recipe here (Or, if you must, cheat and buy prepared crust. We won’t judge.)
Read more from UCLA Magazine’s Fall 2023 issue.
Read More: A Dinner Fit For A Bruin