It is holiday time again and the bar is raised for family entertaining that will do justice to honoring mothers. Let’s face it- it can be intimidating to cook for a good cook. I decided to call in the expert for some entertaining encouragement and advice… drumroll….. Please welcome ALEX HITZ for a delightful interview! Lucky us. Alex has generously shared his time and talents with us and even given us the bonus of photographs that will make you swoon. Put on your entertaining seatbelt for this visual feast that is about to follow!
Here are some excerpts from our interview:
COURTNEY: Since Mothers Day is around the corner, I thought you might inspire us to bring our best to Mothers Day entertaining… I just this weekend read the May House Beautiful and have not stopped thinking about the Coconut Cake recipe you generously shared on page 62, I can hardly wait to try it! I was moved by your heartfelt reference to your “two mothers” Can you start by telling us a bit more about these two lovely ladies and how they might have inspired you?
ALEX: Thank you so much for asking! I had the very best two mothers any guy could have ever had, Caroline who gave birth to me, and Dorothy who helped her raise me. Caroline was a bright, funny, capable Atlanta native who had gone to school in Europe. She came from a family where NONE of the women ever knew how to cook—or wanted to—and completely fell in love with food when she was a student in Paris. She brought back those European influences to Dorothy, our family cook, and the two of them together became a legendary and amazing team. Dorothy was a natural cook, intuitive and sensitive. My mother’s unerring taste combined with Dorothy’s incredible ability was something magic. I can honestly say without any irony, and I realize the gravity of a comment like this because there is so much good upscale Southern food—and unfortunately it’s NOT the famous kind—that the food in our house was the very best in the South.
COURTNEY: When I was reading your cookbook, I was completely mesmerized by your kitchen. Would you mind sharing a picture of it and telling us a little about how you came up with that design and what your favorite things are about it?
ALEX: Again, thank you! My house is built on a hillside, and there was a very specific and confining building envelope that I had to adhere to. I knew the rooms I wanted and basically plugged them into the confines I had to work with when I built this house. I’d love to have MORE kitchen now, because the room itself is only 12×18 feet, but each and every square inch of that room is planned and functional within, pardon me here, an inch of its life. It helps that the ceilings are twelve feet also, and I wanted it to be attractive enough for entertaining if I have a big party. Often times, I set-up a buffet down the middle of that kitchen and people really love it. It combines kitchen, butler’s pantry, and breakfast room, and seems to work well enough as we served over 1000 people from that kitchen last year alone…!
COURTNEY: Your food presentation and table setting are so incredible that I dream about them at night. Could you give us a pointer or two on how we might entertain beautifully for Mothers Day?
ALEX: I am sorry to be glib here, and I realize that Mother’s Day IS a special Day but here’s something I think is really important: Celebrate EVERY DAY. Use your good stuff because the more you use it, the more comfortable you’ll be with it—and that has a glamour in itself. If you only keep your silver and china in a closet for someday, that someday can come and go, and still the cupboard is untouched. I know this didn’t exactly answer what you asked but it’s so important that I am OK with dodging the question!
COURTNEY: In your opinion, what makes a party a success?
ALEX: Lighting. AND Comfort Food. The Guest list sure does help, too, but honestly, if you turn the lights down and serve a Chicken Pot Pie and lots of wine, just how bad can it be?????
COURTNEY: What inspires you?
ALEX: Quality, detail, humor, and irony. These words are easy enough to say but think how many people miss out but not appreciating at least one of these things that present themselves to us each and every day in zillions of ways—if only we are paying attention.
(Readers: before you get to my next question, I want you to see that Alex knows QUITE A FEW PEOPLE…!!!)
COURTNEY: Alex, if you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
ALEX: There are so many that I wonder if you’d mind if I did guest list for a dinner where I think the conversation would be fantastic, say 8 people? I love this size because the whole table talks: Let’s say this will be a Hollywood themed evening because all of these people ended up in Los Angeles. I’d serve as a first course Connie’s Penne alla Vodka—a homage to my wonderful friend Connie Wald who was the very best Hollywood hostess who ever lived.( pictured above)
Dorothy Parker—before she got too drunk
Evelyn Waugh––have so many questions about Brideshead and CRAVE anyone who could write that plus A Handful of Dust AND The Loved One
Sidney Korschak—who was a legendary “fixer” in Hollywood and such an incrediby powerful man
Merle Oberon—because I would want to get to the bottom of her background—all the differing stories she might not even know
Ava Gardner––because she would be SO incredibly decorative, and probably she and Merle might have interesting and competitive dynamics
David O. Selznick because how could anybody have produced all GONE WITH THE WIND and so many other classics?
Elsie de Wolfe who could show ‘em all a thing or two
And me. Oh and Beyonce also. I feel certain I don’t need to explain this.
COURTNEY: Favorite quote:
ALEX: So many of these—one to start every chapter in my book but they’ve already been published by me so we’ll go to one that comes to mind is from our dinner guest above, Dorothy Parker: “Beauty is only skin deep—but ugly goes CLEAN to the bone!”
You know she’s not just talking about looks, right?
COURTNEY: oh yes… I love that!!! Alex, thank you so very much for your gracious hospitality. You are delightful and I appreciate the inspiration you have given us all, not only for Mothers Day, but to entertain and enjoy life more fully on the days in-between the holidays! You are the best, thanks!
A note to readers: Run, don’t walk… straight to Amazon.com or your nearest bookstore to get a copy of this FABULOUS cookbook for every foodie (and mother) that you know, and get one for yourself … you’ll thank Alex!
Comment here and let us know what you like best about what you have learned about Alex Hitz’s style and charm. Two lucky commenters will receive a copy of his fabulous cookbook, pictured above, courtesy of Alex Hitz! Winner will be announced on Friday May 3, COB. Extra chances to win if you tweet or post in Facebook a link to this post (make sure you tag or cc me so I know). Good luck!!!
All photos courtesy of Alex Hitz and Patrick McMullan