The countdown is on to the biggest night in Hollywood, and Wolfgang Puck and crew are ready, prepping 10,000 flowers and 7,000 miniature chocolate Oscars.
“What award show is the king of the castle?” asks Sequoia Productions’ event producer Cheryl Cecchetto rhetorically. She, along with Academy Ball Chairman Jeffrey Kurland, is responsible for throwing the Oscars' official post-party, the 89th Academy Awards Governors Ball, which was previewed on location Thursday.
The awards ceremony is exciting, of course, but it’s at the afterparty where the most accomplished names in entertainment get to really let loose and have fun. Which is why an incredible amount of thought, time, money and effort goes into the over-the-top, three-hour event. (If guests wish to stay beyond the official midnight end time, they’re welcome to, like Jeff Bridges did, dancing solo for 20 minutes a few years back.)
For 23 years, Wolfgang Puck has been catering the ball, “so we really know what the customers like,” he said at the official preview. “Barbra Streisand loves our chicken pot pie, I know [others] love our braised short ribs. There’s something for everyone.” Indeed, his 2017 menu includes dozens and dozens of decadent options for those who can’t eat nuts, gluten, dairy and/or meat. Food is served in 15-minute increments through midnight, says Cecchetto, adding, “I think he makes something like 6,000 Kobe beef burgers.”
Not only is there smoked salmon on matzo in the shape of Oscar, but Puck is making lobster corn dogs, gold-dusted truffled popcorn, made-to-order poke and sushi, baked potatoes with caviar and dover sole (which, he says, could be swapped with another fish if it’s available fresher; they also go to the market on Wednesday for fresh vegetables and berries, “just like a restaurant”). Puck says they’ve ordered 15 pounds of black winter truffles from Burgundy, which will be used in a vegetarian parsnip agnolotti dish. Says Puck, “I love madness. I don’t want to get bored, so every year we come up with new things.”
Even more impressive, perhaps: the take-home mini Oscars. Puck creates 7,000 edible chocolate Oscar statuettes, dusted in actual gold, as gifts for the 1,500 attendees. In past years, he made enough for each guest to have one, but, says Cecchetto, “it got very difficult the year Quincy Jones was the producer — how are you going to say no to him? He wanted like 20. So they make a lot now.”
Appropriately Francis Ford Coppola Winery is providing the vino: 2,200 bottles to be exact, while Piper-Heidsieck will serve champagne from special limited-edition, Oscar-branded magnums, as well as a couple vintages. Special Hillhaven Lodge Old Fashioned cocktails, as well as Ciroc French 75s are options, too.
The Ray Dolby Ballroom (at Hollywood and Highland) along with south balcony and large tented area will be completely transformed with a glamorous red and white palette. Cecchetto says she and Kurland came to the inspiration — a photo of a patisserie with shots of color through macarons — after hours flipping through books over wine, cheeses and pâtés. “The thought was, Let’s get really dramatic here,” she says. The tent and balcony are top-to-bottom red, while the ballroom is bright white with touches of splashes of the oh-so Hollywood color. “Everybody’s going to have a good time because it’s a very happy environment, whimsical with this cloud-like ceiling with floating star field chandeliers.”
Some 10,000 flowers, arranged and conceived by Mark Held of Mark’s Garden, enhance that sense of magic. Held says he thought of the inspiration as midcentury, 1950s and ‘60s, and took a more modern approach to the design this time around. “We’re not mixing flowers this year, basically just one type per vase. The flowers become part of the design of the container too,” he says. Along with the gold mesh “clouds,” which took hours and hours to create, the florals are an intensive process that takes 25 to 30 people to build, and another 20 to install. Says Cecchetto, “You’re pretty darn lucky to get into this room. You’ve accomplished something.”
BY THE NUMBERS:
250 Maine lobsters
60 sides of smoked salmon
10 kilos of American farm-raised caviar
6,000 Kobe beef mini sliders
325 pounds sticky rice
250 pounds parmesan reggiano
400 pounds Snake River Farms Wagyu boneless short rib
4250 pieces handmade gnoccetti
500 pounds of chocolate
1,050 handmade waffle cones
30 pounds edible gold dust
1 ton of 70% Fleur de Cao Cacao Berry
5 mallets to break apart housemate chocolate bark
38 different sweets
12,000 glasses of Piper-Heidsieck Champagne
13,000 beverage glasses
2 weeks to set up the ballroom
2,600 pounds for the sculpted ice raw bar
3 songs performed by award-winning singer-songwriter Cynthia Erivo
4 miles of cabling for sound system
3,500 people served by Wolfgang Puck on Oscar day
$1 million dollars worth of audio equipment, operated by an iPad
50 feet, distance Oscar winners, nominees and guests have to walk from the Dolby Theater
3 hours to party
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