Last week, something special happened in the Darling Media family: we all sat down together over a sumptuous feast and toasted the year. In a media company, it can feel as though no project is done, but we are already onto the next: an issue releases, we celebrate and then are already thick in the midst of the next one.
Yet, the sentiment to “slow down and take time” is more than just an idea to us, so it was with that we reached out to find a place to house a small Darling holiday celebration—and the team from CUT Beverly Hills, Wolfgang Puck’s first steak house, responded with outstanding generosity. They prepared an incredible dining experience, curated a meal for our entire staff, catered to our every need and essentially gifted us a holiday party as though we were old friends.
For such a prestigious culinary location to welcome the Darling family meant the world to us, and we were able to close out 2017 in a way beyond our hopes due to the kindness and hospitality of the team there—but what really stood apart, even above their munificence, was the caliber of food and service.
We should not be surprised, because this restaurant is powered by women.
We’re seeing a shift in an industry that has predominately been about men. From the sommelier, to the host, to the manager, to the head chef, overwhelmingly both media and experience have told us that “men know food and men know business.” Yet at CUT, you see and hear a different story: a narration on the trust and inclusivity of Puck’s brand and business sense. The leadership here are all women. Women work together in harmony to keep CUT ahead of the pack here in California, balancing flavor, ambience and creativity in a well-designed dance.
It shouldn’t surprise us that strong, talented and creative women get together every day and run a restaurant—Darling is always finding where women are telling stories in all walks of life—and this past week we found another compelling example in our “backyard” of Beverly Hills. It’s always fun to get dressed up and go out on the town, especially in such an iconic area, which is why we chose to celebrate the completion of a very pivotal Darling Media year here.
Ellen Farentino, the General Manager, began her career managing the openings of multiple restaurants in New York before moving to Los Angeles ten years ago. Since then, she spent eight years at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, and then, after a year of coordinating events for WP, took over management of CUT just one year ago.
Hilary Henderson, Head Chef, went both in and out of culinary school over on the East Coast before really settling in. Once she completed training, she ended up in Washington DC where she worked up the kitchen at Wolfgang Puck’s The Source. She moved over to CUT seven years ago as a sous chef and took over as Head Chef in 2016.
The relationship between these two women is vibrant, electric even; but even though you can see the evidence of their drive, they have a relaxed method of communication that radiates an enjoyment of one another laced with a heavy amount of respect.
“It’s kind of ridiculous. I have never worked with someone else where we tell each other that we love one another every single day. When Ellen walked in the door the first time, it was just magic,” laughed Chef Hilary in a conversation with me.
Ellen added, “It was love at first sight. When you’re at the top of the field, you’re by nature in competition with others who are setting the standard. We are competitive but respectful, and we understand our boundaries.”
The two of them have a clear vision of what 2018 has in store for CUT, and Ellen unapologetically invokes the hallowed name of James Beard, stating, “I want to see Chef Hilary recognized for the chef that she is, our wine service and selection to be recognized … we come from a legacy of this restaurant that has been seen in the past and I want James Beard to acknowledge that we are still upholding the same standards.”
Both media and experience have told us that ‘men know food and men know business.’ Yet at CUT, you see and hear a different story…
These women are not just “working together,” they’re playing their strengths to highlight, support and undergird the original vision of the house with fresh perspective and collaboration. As Chef Hilary commented to me, “I would like to see us as a platform for other women to see us working together, and succeeding, and know that if we can do it, they can do it.”
As the Darling team began to arrive, we quickly learned that though CUT stakes its reputation on incredible cuts of meat, there is much more to their repertoire than steak. During cocktail hour, as we sipped on a “Cancun Christmas” Tequila cocktail, we tasted delicious appetizers, a vegetarian empanadita with Tuscan black kale and fresh mozzarella.
And for the pescatarians (and above) there was a delicious tuna tartare on togarashi toast and a scallop ceviche, the perfect bite sizes. With two vegetarians on our team, there’s always some nervousness surrounding going out to eat at a place famous for their animal fare; but we were all in the best of hands. For those of us drinking wine that evening, both the white—a 2016 Yves Martin Sancerre Loire— and the red—a 2016 Bodega La Flor Malbec Mendoza—pared perfectly to the food.
Once we transitioned into the beautiful, cream-colored private dining room, with flowers on each table designed just for the evening by Square Root Designs, we began the three course meal. (We should warn you that the following menu might incite serious hunger pangs.)
As we sat down, we were served a market salad, featuring roasted pumpkin, duck prosciutto, burrata, persimmons and pomegranate, a true winter’s feast. Entrees were a selection between grilled Atlantic salmon or a petit filet (which was aged for 28 days), with sides of a celery root and leek gratin, kabocha squash and Brussel sprouts with sesame aioli. Even though we were filled to the brim, finishing with a dark chocolate pudding cake (accompanied with fresh vanilla ice cream and raspberry coulis) was a perfect ending to a decadent evening.
We highly recommend, should the occasion take you, to visit this incredible restaurant but also to remember, no matter how busy you are, to stop and take time in the upcoming year to celebrate moments with those that you live and work with. Whether it’s a quick takeout donut box brought to work and a five-minute break or a fancy night out, let’s make 2018 the year where we stop to honor one another more often.
And Happy New Year’s Eve Eve from the Darling family to you!
CUT Beverly Hills is located at 9500 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90212.
Images via Cassidy Boatright