Behind the Scenes, J. Paul Getty Museum

Great Literature Inspires Culinary Creations for “Selected Shorts”

Tickets to this weekend’s spoken-word event include a food-and-wine pairing designed with literary flourish by Getty chef Mayet Cristobal

Pea tendrils with scallop / Getty Restaurant

Spring on a plate: Pea tendrils over scallop pays humorous homage to Lydia Davis’s story “Letter to a Frozen Peas Manufacturer”

Once a year, the Getty has the exciting privilege of playing host to a live performance of the long-running and much-loved radio series Selected Shorts. The broadcast, which reaches over 300,000 public radio listeners each week, invites stars from Broadway stages and Hollywood screens to bring compelling pieces of short fiction to life.

Like each iteration of Selected Shorts, the readings taking place at the Getty Center this weekend have a unifying theme linking the literary tales together, and this year’s is none other than food. For the program “Drama at Dinner,” Robert Sean Leonard hosts three performances on March 22nd and 23rd featuring award-winning actors such as Catherine O’Hara, Christina Pickles, Michael Imperioi, Christopher Lloyd, and more. A handful of tickets are still available.

Because our audiences will be subjected to tantalizing descriptions of delectable feasts and whimsical confections—with every savory detail read with gusto by our esteemed cast—we knew we couldn’t leave them hungry! We teamed up with Mayet Cristobal, chef at the Getty Restaurant, to create a series of delicious parings inspired by the readings. Each ticket includes a small-bite culinary creation and a glass of wine.

I asked Mayet about how she devised the menu, translating creative words into creative food.

How did you go about designing a menu based on short stories?

The stories I read had plenty of food-related scenes in them that were quite inspiring. I tried not be too literal in interpretating foods from the stories; instead I focused on one or two ingredients to create a dish that’s playful and fitting to the occasion. I also found illustrations of food from two stories on this year’s program, “The Year of Spaghetti” and “The Mad Hatter Tea Party,” that helped me visually represent each dish.

What was your favorite story to brainstorm around?

“The Year of Spaghetti” by Haruki Murakami definitely got my attention. I was inspired to prepare spaghetti in many different ways. I even played with the idea of making a spaghetti dish without the spaghetti. I eventually decided to lean toward Asian influence because of the illustration that appeared with the story in The New Yorker in 2005 of long noodles on chopsticks.

I also wanted to do a dish inspired by Madame Bovary, one of my favorite books of all time. The wedding feast in the novel is so descriptive the reader can almost taste the confections.

Creating pairings for art or literature has to be somewhat unusual for a chef. What’s different about cooking in an arts institution from cooking in a regular restaurant?

It’s a treat to be a chef in a beautiful museum like the Getty. There is so much inspiration around us. It’s a lot of fun to be able to write and execute changing menus inspired by the exhibitions at the museum—which we do all year round. Not many chefs in L.A. have the same opportunity.

Narrative can play a big role in how we experience food. How do stories about where food comes from affect our enjoyment of it?

Stories of where our food comes from can impart soul to a dish, and inspiration to diners and cooks.

What’s your all-time happiest comfort food?

Some good stinky cheese with some fresh bread and fine wine.

For Selected Shorts, actors bring a human connection to the written word. How can food help people connect?

Think about the best meals you’ve had in your life: they’re always with family and friends. Food is best when shared with people you care about.


Selected Shorts Tasting Menu

Food and drink are included in the ticket price.

March 22, 2014 | 3:00 p.m.

“The Year of Spaghetti” by Haruki Murakami, performed by Michael Imperioli

Spaghetti noodles, shrimp, cucumber, edamame, carrots, sesamesoy vinaigrette, crispy garlic

’12 Morro Bay Sauvignon Blanc, California

March 22, 2014 | 7:00 p.m.

“A Mad Tea-Party” by Lewis Carroll, performed by Christopher Lloyd

Wild Mushroom Tart
Parmesan reggiano, prosciutto chips, carrot, frilly greens, herb dressing

’12 Canyon Road Pinot Noir, California

March 23, 2014 | 3:00 p.m.

“Letter to a Frozen Peas Manufacturer,” by Lydia Davis, performed by Robert Sean Leonard

Consider the Peas
Seared scallop, pea puree, pea tendrils, green garlic, fried peas

’12 Canyon Road Chardonnay, California

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