The uncomplicated delight of Le Petit Chef at the Ritz

Here in Waiting time, the number of projection-based press releases about experiential art sent to us regularly made us completely stunned by the wonders of “immersive” entertainment. At this point, most readers are familiar with the trick: several large rooms filled with infinitely rotating, skillfully crafted creative visualizations, reproduced hundreds of thousands of times for ticket-buying tables, all at prices usually higher than others. destinations for conventional arts around the city. Then the guests break their own experiences online, in an endless cycle of cheap dopamine rewards and expensive, perhaps overpriced pleasure.

In this sense, the new captivating dish of Downtown LA Ritz-Carlton, Le Petit Chef, is no different. The Dinner Series, which debuted in early December 2021, is one of many iterations of the desktop-based animated film, located in hotels around the world and on 11 different Celebrity Cruise cruise ships. In the edition in the center of Los Angeles, visitors to the 24th floor of the Ritz have lunch for five dishes while receiving a bizarre lesson in Cooking 101, led by the eponymous little Frenchman with electricity. To be clear, the hero does nothing while eating; each course is preceded by an interactive animation where the little chef seems to be talking, cooking and jumping around your plate. For example, after a segment about the origins of the modest tomato, you will eat a cake made with spicy fruit, while a soothing animation of a floating Aztec farm is projected on the table.

Photo: Courtesy of Iris & LightA shot from the “Food History” segment of Le Petit Chef.

Certainly the global popularity of Le Petit Chef is a sign of something. Hyperbolically hailed as the world’s number one eating experience, the immersive dinner stems from a 2015 YouTube viral video from Skullmapping, a Belgian animation studio run by fine artist Anton Verbeck and creative director Philip Sterks. The original video actually came from an unsuccessful client; Verbeeck and Sterckx were so passionate about the concept they came up with three minutes short anyway, which will continue to garner millions of views.

Now working with a larger business team at TableMation Studios, the Skullmapping team has successfully moved from the original, sharper pair of founders building-scale projections to the commercialized, family-friendly table phenomenon known as Le Petit Chef. Although you’ll find the little chef somewhere else to educate visitors about the impact of the Silk Road on Western cuisine, the Los Angeles experience focuses on “How to Become the World’s Greatest Chef”: essentially a table movie where guests are invited. serve real versions of the animated creations of the 3D chef.

At $ 145 per head (a price that competes with some of the best restaurants in Los Angeles), it’s much more expensive than other immersive experiences you’ll find around town. Is Le Petit Chef worth your time and money? Based on my experience, it depends on what you’re looking for, whether you enjoy driving to the nightmare of traffic and parking that’s LA Live downtown, and, of course, your personal entertainment budget.

The chances of someone like me (allergic to bait on Instagram and LA Live) leaving, feeling that my time was well spent at Le Petit Chef – even on a free media reservation – seemed unlikely at first when first time I agreed to visit and write about it. Navigating into the bowels of the JW Marriott megaplex after accidentally entering the wrong side of the valet parking, I finally reached the 24th floor of the Ritz-Carlton, which housed the already closed WP24 by Wolfgang Puck. There were still, of course, the brilliant views from the space to the center (which you can also find nearby 71 above and InterContinental’s La Boucherie).

After being greeted with a free glass of sparkling wine at the entrance of the restaurant, I sat at a table with plates lit on top with the TableMation logo. The show soon began, with the infamous little chef at the helm, as ooo and ah comes from other masses, especially from the two young children in a family of four.

A younger version of the little chef and his mother assemble the mushrooms into chicken rolls.
Photo: Courtesy of Iris & LightA younger version of the little chef and his mother assemble the mushrooms into chicken rolls.

From a purely technical artistic point of view, the animation and storyline of Le Petit Chef simply amazed me. After overcoming the exaggerated French accent of the 3D character, complex and intricate visuals and detailed subtleties overshadowed the mid-range meal, which included a storyline that included Storm and Tomato Tart (Food Story), branzo and vegetables, The Art of Plating ) And chicken roulade (“The secret ingredient is love”). In the chicken segment, accompanied by an animation reminiscent of a psychedelic drug trip, a younger version of the chef and his grandmother rides beehives after preparing food with the help of ants and other forest creatures. The spicy dishes end with fillet mignon (“Technique”) and an interactive chocolate dessert to spread with your own cake, cream, almond crab, raspberries and chocolate malt balls.

Of course, the overflowing glasses with the $ 35 wine additive probably only heightened the simple, unbridled pleasure of Le Petit Chef at night, with strong enough spills, so if I had really finished all the drinking, I definitely wouldn’t have done it I could drive home – which is worth noting for planning.

A server lights up the marshmallow fluff on Le Petit Chef's interactive dessert.
Photo: Courtesy of Iris & LightA server lights up the marshmallow fluff on Le Petit Chef’s interactive dessert.

While educational enough and age-appropriate, Le Petit Chef’s stunning visuals and clever historical and artistic allusions entertain older enough people to ignore the fact that not every dish achieves the culinary goal. In a fascinating sequence, The Art of Facing, the chef creates dishes inspired by famous artists, from well-known tortured souls like Van Gogh to newer icons like Rene Magritte and Andy Warhol. In another, Aztec warriors fought against Spanish conquistadors before the latter returned tomatoes to Europe. Although less colorless in nature, the more nuanced cultural references are reminiscent of adult-only jokes, generously added to Nickelodeon shows from the 1990s.

After a little over the expected two-hour interval, I left the Ritz-Carlton pleased, if not gastronomically amazed, with the same kind of star-eyed riot one feels after coming out of a good movie in the theater. It may be easy to make fun of Le Petit Chef’s obvious social aspects from the outside, but the unique, experimental animation of the concept and the bizarre, interactive plot – each dinner comes with a “Certificate of Completion” – left me both pleased and impressed with the combination. -dining room. Not every dinner, even for a literal food and beverage editor, has an incredible taste to be memorable, and the dish at Le Petit Chef is unequivocally that.

While I wouldn’t recommend Le Petit Chef for hardcore “food,” the power of managed (or low) expectations remains unmatched, and those with disposable income and a desire to view the series for dinners at the center will find it really, deeply amusing. , which is a form of avant-garde theater for dinner.

Le Petit Chef at the Ritz-Carlton will be open until the end of April. Reservations available through OpenTable, costs $ 145 per person plus an optional $ 35 pairing of wine. With confirmation, valet parking at the Ritz-Carlton costs $ 10 for the first two hours and $ 5 for each additional half hour.

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