The Debauchery of the Kitchen
an opinionated editorial by Mariah Milano
When I was 18 and getting started in modeling & I was sincerely full of myself (yes, even more than I am now!) so I stepped it up a notch and moved from Chatsworth to a cute little pad in Beverly Hills just south of Wilshire off of Charleville. I was suddenly in an entirely new scene and was now living in the place I and all other Valley dwellers detested more than anywhere and I loved every minute of it!
I found this cigar bar / coffee shop / supper club owned by George Hamilton called, of course, “Hamilton’s”. They didn’t serve full meals and had a kitchen smaller than one found in a Winnebago but Edwin the cook pumped out some amazing stuff like duck breast salads as well as a Croque Monsieur that was fantastic. It was the first time in my life that I started enjoying a wide variety of foods like escargot and oysters. I was a regular fixture there and saw a few change of ownerships from George to Jim Belushi and Chuck Norris and then back to the original owner who owned the entire building and the cryptic cave-like hidden rooms, Dennis Overstreet. The wine cellar was fantastic and when you walked through it you would see names like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin and Tony Curtis and Don Henley on the lockers. It was the premier wine store in Beverly Hills for decades.
I was so new to being in “the biz” that rarely would anyone recognize me which was cool and I hob-knobbed with some seriously famous people. I met Robert Deniro there as well as Martin Scorsese and Frank Sinatra Jr and Larry King. Gary Coleman gave me a few foot massages and I saw Tracy Lords making out like a freak with some guy in a window booth. I rolled my eyes at dickhead cheese ball Jean Claude van Damme and talked baseball with David Wells. Steve Irwin the Crocodile Hunter was there one night having a beer and as nice as you would imagine him to be. Diane Lane and Mark Wahlberg stopped in late one night for a drink and the list goes on. Remember, I was 18 at the time so I didn’t really know who many of the famous people were until years later. Although I wasn’t legally old enough to drink there I was, in the thick of a cool crowd of people and enjoying my life for the first time.
As seemingly interesting as these people were it was a different crowd that I found the most entertaining and most interesting by far. Around midnight the wait and kitchen staff from the surrounding restaurants would start wondering in to drink and talk tips and discuss which celebrity was the most generous or the cheapest that night. I noticed that they always ordered great wines and interesting drinks and strange beers. So I would sit among the cooks and waiters from the Peninsula and Mr. Chow and Spago and Cafe Roma and the Beverly Wilshire and my favorite, Crustacean as well as others and listen to them talk wine and food and menus over games of liars poker.
Since they got in late and the bar closed at 1:30 due to the stupid laws of LA, they made up for lost time and the party was always good. When the bar closed very few of them left, and instead everyone migrated upstairs or downstairs to the private rooms for the after party and that’s when the party really got started!
Let me stop a second and explain something. I never even considered this was the type of people that worked in kitchens. I thought they were all “Chefs” and went to culinary schools and were nerds. I had no clue what I was in for!
In the years I frequented this awesome place before it was sold, I became an extended part of the restaurant worker crowd. They all eventually found out what I was doing for a living and accepted me as part of the family. Plus I was sort of a novelty and being never afraid to get naked or seduce a pussy-virgin in front of a crowd I was a hit! I saw lines of cocaine being snorted off the naked belly of a waitress and on more than one occasion a hostess from Spago was dancing naked on the tables by way of a dare from David the Sommelier from Crustacean!
We partied and smoked weed and there was always some cocaine and loud laughter as well as body shots given as well as received. We had mushrooms that were brought by this southern guy from Mississippi who had just attended a Grateful Dead cover show in San Francisco and spent the entire night playing tripped out hide and seek in the maze of rooms in the basement and wine cellar.
To this day, all these years later I have never partied harder or had more fun with any group of people than I did with the Beverly Hills restaurant workers. In 2009 I heard about Anthony Bourdain’s book “Kitchen Confidential” and of course I bought it and read it in one sitting on a flight from LA to Barcelona and laughed and smiled throughout because so much of it was such a wonderful reminder of those years for me. I never knew the debauchery of the kitchen, and I think it is a wonderful underworld that needs to remain underworld. It is special and private and I was lucky enough to be an outsider included in it for a few years. If the word got out too much it would be infiltrated and eventually ruined with untalented idiots who just want to partake in the lifestyle.
The place finally closed in 2001 so Mr. Overstreet could retire and sail around the coast on his boat and I am sure that there is a new hang out that has taken its place but looking back on it those were some of the best times of my life, and in a million years I would have never dreamed I would say that and it would be because of a group of people that worked in restaurants.
If any of you crazy fuckers read this I wish you well and hope that the party carries on! I have since cut all of that out of my life, other than some booze here n there. But I sure had a good time back then!