LOS FELIZ — In many ways, Wayne Elias’ rise in the catering world is a bit of a Hollywood dream.
Crumble Catering founders Elias and his business partner, Chris Diamond, went from opening Mark’s, an intimate West Hollywood restaurant that served the gay community 15 years, to becoming food royalty as the official caterers — for 14 years — with the Elton John AIDS Foundation’s annual Oscar viewing party.
The openly gay chef, who lives in West Hollywood, has collaborated with celebrities such as Gordon Ramsay and Cat Cora and catered events for Prada Beverly Hills and “Will & Grace,” among numerous others.
In 2009, after Mark’s restaurant closed, Elias and Diamond added to their culinary pursuits and opened Rockwell: Table & Stage, a restaurant with seasonal alternating menus and live theater performances, in Los Feliz Village. Elias is the executive chef at Rockwell.
Also, Elias and Diamond just expanded Crumble Catering and put Orange County on the menu. Crumble Catering can now satisfy the appetites of food lovers outside Los Angeles.
In an interview with Q Voice News, Elias, 58, dishes about creating 1,000 meals for Elton John’s Oscar party and troubleshooting when they ran out of food as well as his signature entrees at Rockwell. Here are some excerpts.
On starting Crumble Catering:
“When I bought my first restaurant 22 years ago, we were a small, 55-seat restaurant called Mark’s Restaurant in West Hollywood,” Elias said. “Chris and I both had backgrounds in catering and said, ‘Why don’t we start doing off-premise catering?’ We did not want to use the Mark’s name 22 years ago because it was strictly a restaurant in the gay community. We did not feel that the mainstream would take us seriously as caterers. So we came up with Crumble Catering.”
On opening Mark’s:
“It was the beginning of the gay community having restaurants – not bars – but restaurants,” Elias said. “At first, I was concerned — Am I limiting myself to one certain community? What if it turns on you and decides we don’t need that type of restaurant? I would have been out of business.
“Those types of restaurants that were centered in the community are no longer needed because we can go anywhere today and do everything and behave how we want to,” Elias said. (Having Mark’s) “was inspirational in so many ways because I wanted to help so many causes for the community, so that was a great stepping stone for me to give back and support political and social causes and do my part through work to help us.”
On creating 1,000 meals for the Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards party, which takes an army of 150 servers and bartenders and a 70-member kitchen staff:
“It takes two months of logistical preparation,” Elias said. “The way that things never go wrong — and I can say this confidently after 14 years with no issues — is that I make believe every year, is the first time I’m doing it. If you think, ‘Oh 14 years, I’ve got this. I don’t need to worry,’ that’s when something bad happens. I cross those T’s and dot those I’s to make sure any little thing that could go wrong I have to avoid going wrong.
“When we serve this party, it’s a timed event,” Elias said. “I have to make sure to serve five courses to 1,000 people in 3 ½ hours. I have to have dessert served on the table before Best Movie is announced. The kitchen moves, and we don’t stop until dessert’s on the table.”
On troubleshooting when they ran out of food at the Elton’s Oscar party:
“We have a main course choice of main course between fish and meat. Last year, it was filet mignon and sea bass. We figured 65 percent will have meat, and the rest will have the fish course with some vegans,” Elias said.
“This year, everyone wanted meat, and we were short filet mignon when the waiters gave me the final count. Luckily for us, I found out three courses before we we’re serving,” he said. “Two blocks away (from the party), there’s a Pavilions, and we sent the cook to buy raw tenderloins of beef. We bought everything they had. We cut it, cleaned it, seared it and served it without any mishaps.”
On his signature catering dishes:
“We have two dishes,” Elias said. “One is a spicy tuna taco in a taro root shell with jicama slaw that stands in an avocado and white bean puree.
“The other is something we’ve been serving for 22 years. It’s a rigatoni pasta with fresh basil, sundried tomatoes, chicken, pine nuts, sage and olive oil,” he said. “It’s still a big seller, even with all the non-carb-eating L.A. people.”
On why he caters:
“I love people, entertaining and seeing everybody relaxed, because food is like love,” Elias said. “They say a best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. That works for everyone, and that’s why I enjoy catering. It’s entertaining, having people over, seeing them taste your food and seeing their expressions and how comforting it is for them. It makes it comforting for me.”