Alex Hitz Brings His Beverly Hills Kitchen to The Gardens
The Gardens is eager to welcome renowned chef and author Alex Hitz to the Red Diamond Lecture Series, a part of Antiques at The Gardens. Hitz will speak about his book, My Beverly Hills Kitchen: Classic Southern Cooking with a French Twist.” Alex will take part in an exclusive luncheon following the lecture. To purchase tickets to the lecture and the luncheon, visit www.bbgardens.org/antiques.
A son of the South, 43-year-old chef Alex Hitz now calls Los Angeles home. Raised in a self-described artistic home, his stepfather was a world-famous Symphonic and Choral conductor. As a child, he regularly broke bread with the likes of Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copeland, Leontyne Price, Coretta Scott King, and Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter. After college, he studied at what was then the most famous culinary school in the world, Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Now stateside, he has combined those French methods with the traditional Southern cooking on which he was raised and created a unique line, The Beverly Hills Kitchen, available exclusively through the Home Shopping Network and at his website, thebeverlyhillskitchen.com. The book and the line are creations born of Hitz regularly entertaining famous celebrities, heads of state, corporate titans and society page notables.
In a telephone conversation, Alex shared his inspiration, concepts to entertain and what to expect from his October cookbook release, “My Beverly Hills Kitchen: Classic Southern Cooking with a French Twist.”
Blake Ells for Birmingham Botanical Gardens: Who inspires you?
Alex Hitz: My number one food hero is Julia Child. Julia Child is revolutionary because she changed America. I still never get tired of reading her books. But there are a lot of other people today. I think Daniel and Jean-Georges are amazing. James Beard. M.F.K. Fisher. I’ve also gotten a lot of inspiration from my friends along the way.
I’m a big fan of Frank Stitt. I absolutely can’t wait to meet him when I arrive in Birmingham. I love his books. Stitt is probably a little more Southern than I am. I can’t overstate that he’s a genius. Julia, I knew. Frank, I look forward to knowing.
When I attended Le Cordon Bleu, the first thing you learn is to scramble eggs. And it’s totally different. They’re cooked in a tall sauce pan instead of a skillet. It’s almost custard. They steam into this curdled pile of deliciousness.
What I did when I came here was use a mix of French techniques and Southern traditions. What’s better than that?
BBG: When you say that, as a pedestrian Southerner, I immediately think Cajun.
AH: Not at all. And I know why you say that, but it’s different. Cajun cooking uses a bunch of seasonings that I don’t. For my food, a lot of inspiration is found in Charleston and New Orleans – plantation cuisine, I call it. I combine that with the same standards the French kitchen uses.
BBG: What’s your best dish?
AH: Well, I think they’re ALL my best dish (laughs). To properly answer, I’d have to ask the occasion. But my heirloom tomato pie is pretty dang good.
BBG: I don’t have a big budget or a lot of time, but I’m hosting 10 people on Saturday. What is the best way to maximize my budget and serve to impress?
AH: We’re going to assume you have no help.
BBG: Just me.
AH: What time of year is it?
BBG: We’re in the South. Let’s say I’m entertaining people on a Fall Saturday and we’re watching college football.
AH: How about a chicken pot pie, a salad and some brownies to be passed around?
BBG: What makes a great chicken pot pie?
AH: Several things: white wine, tarragon, heavy cream and, last but not least, the richest, savory biscuit crust. My chicken pot pie is a small bit of trouble, but worth every effort. And it can be done as much as six months ahead of time and popped into the freezer for when you’re ready.
BBG: And what should I pair with it?
AH: A full body white or medium body red. Or a simple California chardonnay would be great in the Fall. A burgundy. Some people love to say pinot noir. I say burgundy.
BBG: What is your favorite place to dine in Birmingham?
AH: It’s going to be one of the Stitt places, but I haven’t been to Birmingham since 1985, and I don’t believe those restaurants were there. I can not wait to see what he’s up to.
BBG: What can we expect from the Beverly Hills Kitchen line?
AH: What it is – is an inspirational lifestyle brand centered around food and wine. It’s luxury, gourmet frozen food that you could never tell was in a freezer.
BBG: What can we expect from the book coming in October?
AH: It’s going to be the bible of a new way of life. There is a proliferation of food now, but no one seems to be able to tell you what to do with it when it’s cooked. Luxury is enjoying every minute of your life – what better way to do it than with good food and good wine? There’s nothing you do as often.
“My Beverly Hills Kitchen: Classic Southern Cooking with a French Twist” offers a European sensibility to America, in that it’s all about the way of life – the art of life – and appreciating every single minute.