Category Archives: Hollywood

New Fountain cafe chef Baltazar: “Great art should be accompanied by great food”

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Chef Baltazar Gaytan

If you’ve visited our Fountain Café in the last three months, you’ve already noticed the number of changes occurring. With its cheese and delicious snicker doodles topped with black Himalayan salt, its savory pastries, improved wines, finer coffee, its warm and inviting atmosphere, the Café is becoming the place to visit before and after shows here at the Fountain Theatre. Your Fountain Theatre experience is not complete without a drink on our rooftop patio, deep in discussion over the play you just saw.

We cannot talk about the Café’s stunning transformation without hailing our new breakout chef, Baltazar Gaytan. Originally from Salinas, California, Baltzar studied at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Academy in Pasadena and is wowing crowds with his inventive baked goods and dedication to the Café.

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The Fountain cafe busy and buzzing. 

While Baltzar’s skills speak for themselves, we sat down for a little Q&A to learn more about the Fountain’s chef and mastermind of the Café, as well as his goals for the future.

Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up and study cooking?

I grew up in a family of six with a single mother in Salinas, CA. We weren’t the most financially stable family, but it taught me to be resourceful and creative with my limited ingredients. A few years after high school, I decided to take a leap and decided to refine and expand my culinary knowledge at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Academy in Pasadena, CA.

Was there one person or one event in your life that turned you on to cooking? 

During my gap years, my mother became more ill due to a genetic kidney disorder that my family carries. Unfortunately, this brought on a great deal of dietary restrictions, limiting her to an incredibly bland diet. After doing more research, I began to understand what grains and proteins she could have, giving me the ability to make her flavorful dishes despite her restrictions. While she was stubborn about this at first, she began to look forward to see what I’ve created for her. The joy that I gave to my mother when she eat was the point when I decided that I had a talent and it should be shared with others to enjoy.

What is it about cooking that fuels your passion?

I love the magic that I get to make. I mean, look at some of the plates that chefs are doing. They are works of art. We have an open mind to where we almost never say no. If no answer is provided, we seek that knowledge in the hopes of having a culinary breakthrough. The one who discovers the perfect potion. Chefs can play mad scientist, we just try and try until we figure out the perfect potion.

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The outdoor balcony of the Fountain cafe. 

Had you been to the Fountain Theatre before becoming the new chef?

I have once back in January to see Bakersfield Mist. I was visiting my childhood best friend Marisela Hughes (Fountain’s Box Office Manager). I enjoyed the theatre and its intimate, classic theatre ambiance.

How did you become the new chef at the Fountain?

By faith actually, when I decided to move down to Hollywood, the Fountain has been looking for a chef to take over after Bakersfield Mist. Marisela was helping me look for a job and this one seemed to be the perfect match. The universe will tell us when to make a move. And if we don’t make them our selves, well, sometimes the universe will force us to make that change. It’s a growing opportunity and effect that is designed to happen. 

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Chef Baltazar

What kind of changes are you making to the new cafe? How is it now different?

When I walked into the café for the first time as Chef, I saw this vision of comfort, warmth with a little bohemian/Mediterranean chic, lanterns and a garden. Patrons can have a nice romantic dinner underneath the open sky with a glamorous view of the skyline of downtown LA. So here I am, providing quality product made by myself. I’m now providing as many in-home goods as I can possibly produce. Part of this is introducing a cheese course, our first introduction to savory goods. From there we work our way up based on demand and profit. I’d like to turn the Café into a bistro with warm foods and table-side service, being open on days that there isn’t a show going on. Great Performing Art should be accompanied by great food. I’m seeing brunches and dinner parties before the show happening in the future.

What are you hoping to achieve with the new Fountain cafe?

Success! I want to introduce myself as an artist and introduce the beauty in culinary arts. How ones own imagination can go beyond just the eyes, but into taste the stimulate memories and sensors—just like in the theatre.

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Fountain folk enjoy the cafe on a warm summer night. 

What words would you choose to describe the new Fountain café?

Welcoming, peaceful, fun, adorable, hidden oasis, no sense of time and space. These are a few words of which I’ve already heard people say about the New Café

How do you see a Fountain patron’s dining experience in the cafe complementing their experience of seeing a play here?

Well you’d start off with getting a great parking space. Not just that but you’re going to save yourself time. From transporting from place to place and, lets be real, finding parking in LA on a Saturday evening isn’t the most pleasant of task. But once you get here you’ll feel like you’re just at home. In an intimate setting just like our theatre, only a select few will be joining you in a journey that is unique, artistic and creative. No two menus will be alike. The Fountain Café will be the most exclusive dinning destination in Hollywood.

What can we look forward to in the cafe? Any new items or ideas you can share for what’s coming?

We’ve already implemented new items to the café such as gourmet cheese plates and freshly baked beer bread, complete with bacon marmalade and freshly whipped honey butter. We use fresh herbs from the herb garden that I began to grow on the porch, in many of the items now being served. I make a classic from a classic (i.e. PB&J Cookie) I’m letting you enter my mind of culinary imagination, where there is no walls. Brunch and dinner before the show are all on the horizon for the Fountain Café.

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PHOTOS: Dazzling opening night of ‘Building the Wall’ at Fountain Theatre

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An electrifying thrill filled the air Saturday night, March 18, as the Fountain Theatre opened the highly-anticipated world premiere of Building the Wall by Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Robert Schenkkan.  Even before opening, our bold National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere has earned national attention in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other outlets across the country.

The sold-out house Saturday night at the Fountain was packed with patrons, donors, board members, Fountain family and the press. Following the powerful performance, the crowd gathered upstairs in our indoor/outdoor cafe to enjoy a catered reception prepared by our new chef, Baltazar.  Playwright Robert Schenkkan and the cast were surrounded by well-wishers, congratulating them on an unforgettable evening in the theatre. By all accounts, it looks like the Fountain has another hit on its hands.  

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Fountain Theatre affirms its commitment to diversity at Hollywood gathering

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Deborah Lawlor and Stephen Sachs

Fountain friends, longtime and new, enjoyed an unforgettable afternoon Sunday at the magnificent Hollywood apartment of actress and Fountain board member Karen Kondazian. Delicious middle eastern fare from Adana was served to thirty invited special guests who marveled at Karen’s extraordinary home, the panoramic view of Hollywood,  and chatted about the achievements and future of the Fountain Theatre.

The afternoon salon was organized so distinguished friends and supporters of the Fountain could stay connected with the theatre and each other. New colleagues and associates from the Los Angeles business and arts communities were introduced to the Fountain’s inner circle. And the Fountain unveiled a new level of sponsorship, the Artistic Directors Circle, for elite donors who underwrite specific plays or programs or an entire season. 

Fountain Co-Artistic Directors Deborah Lawlor and Stephen Sachs were joined by Producing Director Simon Levy, Associate Producer James Bennett and Director of Development Barbara Goodhill.

“Diversity sits at the heart of our artistic mission,” said Sachs. “When Deborah and I founded the Fountain back in 1990, it was to offer an artistic home for theatre and dance artists, of all backgrounds, to create and develop new work that reflects the cultural diversity of our city and our nation. The Fountain Theatre sits in the center of District 13, the most ethnically and culturally diverse district in Los Angeles. 32 languages are spoken at the local high school.

“Our programing is community-driven. When we think about putting a season together, we ask ourselves which community needs to be served? Which cultural, religious or ethnic group is struggling with an issue that needs to be dramatized? Who’s voice needs to be heard?”       

The 2017-18 Fountain Theatre season includes the world premiere of Building the Wall by Robert Schenkkan, Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, the world premiere of Runaway Home by Jeremy Kamps, the world premiere of Freddie by Deborah Lawlor, the stage adaption of The Chosen by Chaim Potok, and the world premiere of Arrival and Departure by Stephen Sachs performed in Spoken English and American Sign Language.

 

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Fountain Board members Dorothy Wolpert, Karen Kondazian, Dick Motika, Jerrie Witfield, Don Zachary, and Oscar Arslanian welcomed guests Nyla Arslanian, Miles and Joni Benickes, Lorraine Evanoff, Bennard Gillison, Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser, Lucinda Cowell and Ron Michaelson, Victoria Meyers, Bonnie Nijist and Arthur Zeesman, Jacqueline Schultz, Mark Stankevich, Ron and Elaine Stein, , and Stanley Wolpert.

Stephen Sachs and Deborah Lawlor spoke to the group, reviewing the recent accomplishments of the Fountain Theatre, its fundraising goals, and outlining the upcoming 2017-18 season. They expressed the artistic heart and soul of the company and its dedication to diversity and inclusion by serving a wide variety of communities throughout Los Angeles. And they articulated the challenges and objectives moving forward, describing the Fountain as an essential treasure on the cultural landscape of Los Angeles. And declared that the Fountain’s longtime dedication to diversity was essential in these turbulent times. 

“We are an immigrant nation, ” stated Sachs. “Los Angeles is a world city, rich with the multi-colored fabric of diversity.  At this moment in history, now more than ever, it is crucial that the Fountain Theatre maintain its mission of diversity and inclusion and community focus,  where people from all backgrounds are seen on our stage and in our audiences.”

“The Fountain Theatre may be small in size, ” he concluded. “But we are large in vision, in purpose, and in our commitment to creating and producing meaningful work that has the power to change lives.”

New Video: How Robert Schenkkan’s ‘Building the Wall’ came to the Fountain Theatre and why

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What’s it like to walk the red carpet?

oscars-red-carpetHe has strolled down many red carpets in his celebrated career. At the Writers Guild Awards, the Tony Awards, the Emmy Awards, the Venice Film Festival, and the Oscars. He wrote the screenplay for Hacksaw Ridge, nominated Best Picture for this year’s Academy Awards.

The world will be watching the Oscar ceremony this Sunday, and gawk at the parade of celebrities as they strut the red carpet beforehand. What’s it like to march down that crimson pathway with all eyes and cameras tracking your every step? For playwright Robert Schenkkan, author of our upcoming world premiere Building the Wall, the carpet is not always magic. Particularly if you’re a writer.

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Robert Schenkkan at the Venice Film Festival

“The clusterfuck of a red carpet is always where the writer is reminded of his or her place in the food chain, ” admits Schenkkan. “You are absolutely the most important person in the universe, until anybody else steps on the red carpet — then you’re just chopped liver. You can see the heads snap and the cameras snap, and whoever you’re talking to, their eyes are immediately doing the Hollywood over-your-shoulder shuffle. This is something one is used to, but it’s a humbling experience, always.”

Another other-worldly aspect of Award nights are the gifting lounges, where vendors shower talent with free offerings that vary from high-end beauty products to fine wines to elegant clothing to free travel packages at exotic resort islands. For Schenkkan, the touring of gift salons is a strange ritual unto itself.

“You have to make an appointment, and then you’re assigned a guide who walks you through this bizarre bazaar of products and services, ” he explains. “These things are really kind of entertaining in their own way. There’s a whole formality to it. But again, there’s the reminder of where you are in the food chain, particularly as a writer.”

Robert remembers one incident in particular. “Many years ago when I did this, there was a resort island package. I’m a scuba diver, so I’m always interested in that. They have to artfully, discreetly explain that while they would love to gift you with this, actually they have to reserve it for somebody more important than you. It’s a little weird.”

The ups and downs of a Hollywood screenwriter. Thankfully, unlike the film industry, playwrights in the American theatre are held in much higher esteem. And few are held higher than Robert Schenkkan. Which is one of the many reasons why we are so honored to be premiering his newest play at the Fountain Theatre.

Now, Robert, on Opening Night of Building the Wall at the Fountain, don’t expect any fancy gift lounges offering you a scuba diving vacation package on an exotic island resort. But we’re happy to offer you a free snorkel.

Unless, of course, someone more important wants it.

Building the Wall opens March 18 at the Fountain Theatre.

Quotes in this post originally appeared in Written By, the magazine of the Writers Guild of America, West.