Vern Lanegrasse Interview
(The Hollywood Chef)

His name is Vern Lanegrasse, but you may know him as The Hollywood Chef.

Mr. Lanegrasse hosts his own national radio talk show, "Cooking with The Hollywood Chef and a syndicated TV show called, what else, "The Hollywood Chef."

Cooking has been good to Vern Lanegrasse as he's traveled the world as a spokesman and lecturer.

His cooking classes in the Los Angeles area, at Long Beach City College and at Loyola Marymount have always been sold out.

He is a member and past Vice-President of the Southern California Wine Writers Association.

Vice Commander for the Los Angeles Chapter of the Brotherhood of the Knights of the Vine. He belongs to twelve French Wine Brotherhoods. He is Past President of the California Restaurant Writers Association.

In 1989, Mr. Lanegrasse received the prestigious Chevalier du Merite Agricole Award, presented by Jean-Louis Rysto, France's Deputy Consul general in Los Angeles.

Q. Mr. Lanegrasse, are you the only chef in Hollywood who is referred to as "The Hollywood Chef?" Is that a licensed trademark for you?
A. Yes, Hollywood Chef is a licensed trademark. I am the one and only. The Hollywood Chef is a radio and TV show as well as a syndicated column.

Q. What qualities or talents must a person have to truly be considered a good chef?
A. If you are planning a career to be a chef in your own restaurant or in someone else's kitchen, be prepared to work hard. You have to love your work. You must be inventive and keep up with the trends. And, surround yourself with the best on line and back up crew possible.

Q. Because your family is so involved in the bakery business, did cooking and baking come naturally to you? Was it effortless on your part? With that background, did you have an advantage?
A. Yes. It was a plus for the Lanegrasse family being in the bakery business. My father was an excellent French chef. He began cooking under the tutelage of a cousin at an early age. My mother only knew how to fry, bake, or boil when she married. My father taught her to cook his way. Growing up, I thought everyone ate as we did. I didn't know how lucky we were until I was older.

Q. Did you attend one of those culinary institutes? Did you ever apprentice or study under another chef somewhere before you became recognized as a chef?
A. I never took a lesson in my life. I have worked briefly with many famous chefs. I'm a quick learner. I have taken special classes in Chinese Cuisine. In fact, I went to the International Cooking School in Shanghai. I also took classes in Hong Kong.

Q. You were quite successful early on with your singing career. Why did you not pursue that any further?
A. I wanted to be an opera and concert tenor. Due to the lack of funds, I turned to acting and musical comedies. I was a saloon singer on Bourbon Street for several years. Then came TV and I wanted to learn the new medium.

Q. You were an executive for a time with NBC. What time was that and what were your job duties?
A. I was at NBC in the 50's when TV was fun, and interesting as well as entertaining. I started as a page and worked up the ladder. I was supervisor over the page and tour staff as well as the ticket distribution.

Q. Being from New Orleans, did that give you any type of advantage in the world of cooking? Were you exposed to more foods and more ways to prepare foods than say someone in Des Moines, Iowa for example?
A. Being from New Orleans was a definite plus. I was surrounded by good chefs all my life. My family entertained a lot. My father was good with appetizers. My mother was a great cake baker, as well as cookies and pies. She made our own fruit cake for years. I haye the recipe. You can be raised anywhere. If you travel a lot, and are willing to try different foods, you will develop a palate. I usually can taste a dish and know the ingredients.

Q. What do you like about your job? What's the best thing about being the Hollywood Chef?
A. I love people. I travel a lot doing demonstrations and food endorsements. Locally (in Hollywood, California), I am very well known. Besides developing recipes for food companies, I appear on local TV and radio shows frequently. I review restaurants on radio and write a weekly column about my food and wine and travel experiences.

Q. These days, does Vern Lanegrasse work in the kitchen of a major restaurant as a chef? What do you do with yourself?
A. I have never worked full time in a restaurant. I have been a guest chef all over this country in restaurants and private clubs. I enjoy lecturing and giving demonstrations. I never get tired of traveling. To be in a kitchen full time in a restaurant would be too confining for me. I cook a complete meal every day of my life. I also do a lot of baking. This gives me things to write and talk about. I hardly ever cook the same thing more than three times.

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