Launching the world premiere of a meaningful new play is always a cause for celebration at the Fountain Theatre. Saturday night, September 16th, was a thrilling night of jubilation as we opened the beautiful, funny and powerful new play Runaway Home by Jeremy J. Kamps. This timely new work about the community of New Orleans surviving together after Hurricane Katrina runs to November 5th.
After the soaring opening night performance, the enthralled audience gathered upstairs in our cafe for a catered reception with the cast and creative team. Food from New Orleans was served, with wine and beer flowing. A truly magical evening highlighting an unforgettable theatrical experience.
If you’ve visited our Fountain Caféin the last three months, you’ve already noticed the number of changes occurring. With its cheese and delicious snicker doodles topped with black Himalayan salt, its savory pastries, improved wines, finer coffee, its warm and inviting atmosphere, the Café is becoming the place to visit before and after shows here at the Fountain Theatre. Your Fountain Theatre experience is not complete without a drink on our rooftop patio, deep in discussion over the play you just saw.
We cannot talk about the Café’s stunning transformation without hailing our new breakout chef, Baltazar Gaytan. Originally from Salinas, California, Baltzar studied at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Academy in Pasadena and is wowing crowds with his inventive baked goods and dedication to the Café.
The Fountain cafe busy and buzzing.
While Baltzar’s skills speak for themselves, we sat down for a little Q&A to learn more about the Fountain’s chef and mastermind of the Café, as well as his goals for the future.
Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up and study cooking?
I grew up in a family of six with a single mother in Salinas, CA. We weren’t the most financially stable family, but it taught me to be resourceful and creative with my limited ingredients. A few years after high school, I decided to take a leap and decided to refine and expand my culinary knowledge at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Academy in Pasadena, CA.
Was there one person or one event in your life that turned you on to cooking?
During my gap years, my mother became more ill due to a genetic kidney disorder that my family carries. Unfortunately, this brought on a great deal of dietary restrictions, limiting her to an incredibly bland diet. After doing more research, I began to understand what grains and proteins she could have, giving me the ability to make her flavorful dishes despite her restrictions. While she was stubborn about this at first, she began to look forward to see what I’ve created for her. The joy that I gave to my mother when she eat was the point when I decided that I had a talent and it should be shared with others to enjoy.
What is it about cooking that fuels your passion?
I love the magic that I get to make. I mean, look at some of the plates that chefs are doing. They are works of art. We have an open mind to where we almost never say no. If no answer is provided, we seek that knowledge in the hopes of having a culinary breakthrough. The one who discovers the perfect potion. Chefs can play mad scientist, we just try and try until we figure out the perfect potion.
The outdoor balcony of the Fountain cafe.
Had you been to the Fountain Theatre before becoming the new chef?
I have once back in January to see Bakersfield Mist. I was visiting my childhood best friend Marisela Hughes (Fountain’s Box Office Manager). I enjoyed the theatre and its intimate, classic theatre ambiance.
How did you become the new chef at the Fountain?
By faith actually, when I decided to move down to Hollywood, the Fountain has been looking for a chef to take over after Bakersfield Mist. Marisela was helping me look for a job and this one seemed to be the perfect match. The universe will tell us when to make a move. And if we don’t make them our selves, well, sometimes the universe will force us to make that change. It’s a growing opportunity and effect that is designed to happen.
What kind of changes are you making to the new cafe? How is it now different?
When I walked into the café for the first time as Chef, I saw this vision of comfort, warmth with a little bohemian/Mediterranean chic, lanterns and a garden. Patrons can have a nice romantic dinner underneath the open sky with a glamorous view of the skyline of downtown LA. So here I am, providing quality product made by myself. I’m now providing as many in-home goods as I can possibly produce. Part of this is introducing a cheese course, our first introduction to savory goods. From there we work our way up based on demand and profit. I’d like to turn the Café into a bistro with warm foods and table-side service, being open on days that there isn’t a show going on. Great Performing Art should be accompanied by great food. I’m seeing brunches and dinner parties before the show happening in the future.
What are you hoping to achieve with the new Fountain cafe?
Success! I want to introduce myself as an artist and introduce the beauty in culinary arts. How ones own imagination can go beyond just the eyes, but into taste the stimulate memories and sensors—just like in the theatre.
Fountain folk enjoy the cafe on a warm summer night.
What words would you choose to describe the new Fountain café?
Welcoming, peaceful, fun, adorable, hidden oasis, no sense of time and space. These are a few words of which I’ve already heard people say about the New Café
How do you see a Fountain patron’s dining experience in the cafe complementing their experience of seeing a play here?
Well you’d start off with getting a great parking space. Not just that but you’re going to save yourself time. From transporting from place to place and, lets be real, finding parking in LA on a Saturday evening isn’t the most pleasant of task. But once you get here you’ll feel like you’re just at home. In an intimate setting just like our theatre, only a select few will be joining you in a journey that is unique, artistic and creative. No two menus will be alike. The Fountain Café will be the most exclusive dinning destination in Hollywood.
What can we look forward to in the cafe? Any new items or ideas you can share for what’s coming?
We’ve already implemented new items to the café such as gourmet cheese plates and freshly baked beer bread, complete with bacon marmalade and freshly whipped honey butter. We use fresh herbs from the herb garden that I began to grow on the porch, in many of the items now being served. I make a classic from a classic (i.e. PB&J Cookie) I’m letting you enter my mind of culinary imagination, where there is no walls. Brunch and dinner before the show are all on the horizon for the Fountain Café.
This past weekend was the biggest event of the summer for the Fountain: Forever Flamenco at the Ford. Since I’ve been working here at the Fountain, this event was something we were all working towards, and I found myself growing more curious and excited to see what all of the fuss was about. As a newcomer, Forever Flamenco sounded like an amazing opportunity to showcase a beautiful and unique art form to the communities of Los Angeles. In the weeks leading up to the big night, everyone in the office kept telling me about the fervor and passion of the flamenco community, and that I had to just wait to see it for myself. No amount of preparation, however, could have prepared me for the experience.
On the day of the show, I came to the venue early with the rest of the Fountain family in order to put out the VIP gift bags (I had spent the weeks leading up to the show working very hard to make sure the bags were all ready and had what they needed, so I was very proud of them), and set up a merchandise table up front. By the time it got to be about two hours before curtain, I started to notice a sizable crowd gathered outside, ready and waiting with picnic baskets. Once the gates opened, people came streaming in, chatting excitedly and eyeing our merchandise and flamenco fans as they passed our merchandise table. And once the gates had opened, the people just kept streaming in. There were people laughing and eating together, and greeting others in what felt like a true community.
Many of the people who approached our table were loyal, longtime flamenco fans who loved and appreciated the Fountain’s commitment to producing flamenco. Others were drawn to our beautiful fans, where they shared that this was their first flamenco show. It was amazing to see and be able to meet all of the different people that were in attendance at this big event, and to get to feel the pure excitement in the air.
Barbara Goodhill, Victoria Montecillo and Marisela Hughes at the merchandise table.
The show itself was truly something to see. With the extent of my knowledge about flamenco being pretty much the dancing lady emoji and the sounds of fervent stomping and complex guitar riffs coming from the rehearsal room of the Fountain that week, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I certainly could not have anticipated the raw passion and artistic skill that I saw in each of those performers. What I found to be most striking about watching these flamenco musicians and dancers was that each one of them seemed so happy to be there. They were all doing what they loved most, with a group of artists that understood that passion.
On top of that, I could feel the excitement and joy in the crowd around me throughout the show. During each number, the audience would interject with enthusiastic applause, clapping, and excited cheers. Families around me grabbed each other’s shoulders and clasped each other’s hands as they shouted encouragements to the musicians and the dancers as they did what they do best, and I truly felt like I was experiencing a new community full of joy, passion, and celebration. It was a truly unique and amazing experience.
I am so grateful to everyone at the Fountain, as well as the fantastic team of flamenco artists, for introducing me to the beautiful community of flamenco. I certainly hope I’m able to witness something like this again in my life.
Victoria Montecillo is the Fountain Theatre’s 2016 Summer Arts Intern. We thank the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles County Arts Commission for their support.