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And a recipe for Champagne Jello Shots

Story from The Cocktail Party: Eat, Drink, Play Recover

As I grew older and my dreams of winning an Oscar dissipated, I replace them with the desire to caterer to the stars in Hollywood someday. New York has been very good to me, but Los Angeles, as it was when I was a young girl watching the Oscars, was the prize I had my eye on.

A few years ago (after almost 10 years in the business), Hollywood finally did come calling.  We were asked to cater an extremely VIP dinner during the Oscars week and the dream and the reality became, well, one of the hardest days of my entire career.  It went a little something like this.

4:00AM  Woken and told that our Chef had a fever and probably the flu and would not be able to leave his bed, let alone cook for the A-list of A-listers we were set to serve that evening.

7:00AM I put on my sneakers and apron and join our assistant chef in kitchen triage.  I have never worked with John before so have no idea if he can boil an egg, let alone dinner for Hollywood's A-list.

7:01AM Realized Chef John is a rockstar and I'm lucky to be in the same kitchen as him

11:30AM Get a call that two of our waiters have cancelled and scramble to find replacements.

12:30PM  Peel boiled beets without gloves (won't do that again).

2:00PM Run out to get mixers for the bar, get pulled over by the LAPD for making a U-turn...tears topped with "I'm from New York" get me out of ticket.

4:00PM Chef John and team leave for the party; I agree to stay behind and wait for the ice cream to set. Tonight's flavor (toasted marshmallow) is a special recipe passed on by Chef Pascal Tingaud (Executive Chef for Dom Perignon) that was to be paired with the 1983 Vintage Dom we were pouring that evening at dessert. Dessert is the most important part of the meal.

7:00PM  Apply heels and dress and check the ice cream.  It's a soupy glob that does not resemble ice cream in ANY way.

7:30PM Panic and wake up sleeping Chef Matt ( the one with the fever and flu) and ask what I should do. I'm sent to the SLS Hotel and assured they can help us with their fancy new ice cream makers.

8:15PM  Arrive ar the back door of the SLS Hotel in heels, carrying the cooler (you would have thought there was an organ in there) and yelling, "I need {hotel manager} Gustavo!" kinda like Shirley MacLaine yelling at the nurse in Terms of Endearment that it was time for her daughter's shot.

8:15-8:30PM  I complete twenty-six Hail Marys and grab a smoke with the dishwashers, contemplating early retirment and how unglamourous and superstressful it is to serve the superfamous.

9:00PM  Arrive at the party, running down Melrose Place with my heart, I mean, ice cream in a cooler, and hand it off to Sean, our head captain.

9:15PM  Ice cream is served....finally...crisis averted, party is moving along nicely.

At around 11 p.m., once I finally delared that we would in fact work in this town again, I stepped outside the kitchen to steal a peek at the room of forty-plus all time A-list celebs sitting at a table beautiful enough to be in a movie, laughing, clinking glasses, and having a great time.

in walked jack

Broken, exhausted, tired, feet bleeding, hand stained with beets, and realizing I had been awake for twenty hours, I hear a familar voice say, "I gotta use the john."

Sure enough, I turn around and it's in Nicholson.

Here we are in a small hallway between the kitchen and the bathroom...just me and Jack. I grin from ear to ear (it's JACK!!!) and he stops (for a second) and smiles and says, "You look like a really happy girl." And then he walked away.

And I guess I was, because I had dreamt to make it to Hollywood someday and I did, albeit not in the way I had planned. But Jack's acknowledging my happiness for a job well done, observing my sense of fulfillment from doing what I love even on the toughest of days, was as good as him handing me that gold statue.

So, thanks for that special moment, Jack. Even though you were just headed to "use the john", you gave me a sparkle of that Hollywood magic I've always dreamt of......and now, if I may, I'd like to thank the Academy.

Champagne Jello Shots recipe

Makes 20 shots


2 cups raspberry soda or raspberry seltzer

3 packets unflavored gelatin

1½ cups champagne

½ cup Chambord or raspberry vodka, for stronger shot

Optional Garnish: Sanding sugar


  1. Bring soda to boil. Remove from heat and sprinkle gelatin over hot liquid. Let sit until dissolved, about 2 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
  2. Stir in champagne and vodka. Pour mixture into chosen mold or pan and place in the refrigerator. Let chill for at least 3 to 4 hours.
  3. When set, dip the mold into hot water for 5 seconds. Run a sharp paring knife around the edge of the jello to loosen and then flip out onto a wax-paper lined surface. Cut jello into desired shapes and sprinkle with sanding sugar if using.
  4. Keep chilled in refrigerator until ready to serve
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