As Executive Chef at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills for about eight years now, the Brit — who’s also cooked in France, Spain, Singapore and Mexico — knows exactly what Hollywood’s biggest names will (and won’t) eat. Chef Ashley James has catered the BAFTA Tea Party, crafting 3,000 tea sandwiches and 2,500 cakes for the likes of Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Ben Affleck, and cooked for everyone from Clooney to Spielberg at this year’s exclusive AFI luncheon, hosted by Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills. Now, on the eve of the 85th Academy Awards, Chef Ashley shares the stars’ most requested recipes with all of us.
Starting with the Emmys in September and culminating with the Oscars in February — with the Golden Globes, SAG Awards and Grammys thrown in for good measure in between the two — the kitchen at Culina is abuzz with room service orders for stars who are getting red-carpet-ready upstairs. (In fact, during January’s Golden Globes, 60 of the nominees were staying at the hotel!)
On the day of any awards show, Chef Ashley says the room-service orders follow a familiar pattern. “It’s all about the Three Ss — 95% of our orders are sashimi, smoothies and salads.” A particular favourite is the Hollywood Antioxiant Smoothie, sure to make skin glow and gowns zip up with ease. For stars craving a little more protein for a long night of interviews, Chef Ashley created the Spicy Vegan Quesadilas, inspired by the classic flavours of huevos rancheros. (It’s also gluten-free to satisfy the strictest of diets.) “Healthy eating is something we deal with on an ongoing basis here in Los Angeles,” he says. “But there’s definitely a spike in interest on awards day.”
After midnight, it’s a different story as the celebs return to celebrate — or commiserate — with calorie- and carb-filled treats. This is when, as Chef Ashley puts it, the nice eating turns to naughty: “These people spent a lot of time taking care of themselves, but you have to be naughty sometimes! We do notice we sell an awful lot of fish and chips and burgers around 2:30 a.m.” And there’s no diet-busting dish more decadent than his JC Burger with Special Sauce, a juicy, ground short-rib patty smothered in cheeses and fried onions and topped with tangy homemade sauce.
By the next morning, as the red carpet is rolled up and the golden glow fades, it’s as though the indulgences never happened at all. “Oh, four hours later the same folks will be calling for the antioxidant juice,” he says with a laugh. “We even had somebody order pure ginger juice with lemon!”
So we had to ask: Does Chef Ashley know whether a tray’s going up to a De Niro, Day-Lewis, Chastain or Hathaway? “Though we treat everyone as an A-lister here, yes, we do know who’s getting what,” he says with a wink. But their secrets are safe with him. – Beth Hitchcock
Watch Chef Ashley cook in this special Golden Globes segment.