The Art of the Meal
Such hare-raising meals, however, haven't stopped Bradley or other regulars, including Sally Jessy Raphaël and Diane Sawyer, from feasting at the acclaimed eatery. But the Mobil Travel Guide five-star-rated restaurant is the cool place to hang in more ways than one. Showcasing art by the stars, Les Célébrités' walls feature the works of such would-be Picassos as Pierce Brosnan, Gene Hackman, James Dean and others. "We have a wonderful reputation for the food and the paintings, and I don't think one is more valuable than the other," says Delouvrier, 51, whose own artistry is expressed through entrées like mignon de pore with foie gras and wild mushrooms—which will set you back $36—and grilled halibut lasagne ($37). "The food has to be as unique as the paintings."
Indeed, the high standards applied to the restaurant's crème brûlée also apply to its canvas. Brosnan, whose colorful mosaic Just Four Guys was purchased by the restaurant, began his career as a London illustrator. Billy Dee Williams was trained at the National Academy of Design School of Fine Arts in New York City. And Elke Sommer, who launched the celeb-art idea at Les Célébrités in 1991 when her husband, Wolf Walther, managed the Essex House hotel, home of the restaurant, has held 40 shows of her art. "If someone likes Elvis on red velvet, so be it," says Sommer, who first approached Hollywood friends Van Johnson and Claire Trevor for cooperation. "But the art has to be good pieces by good people."
So far, the stars enjoy the attention. "It's one of the top restaurants in the city," says Williams, who has loaned three of his paintings. "I always take people with me. It's great because people come by your table and compliment your work." Sally Kirkland, who has two psychedelic felt-tip and oil paintings on display, is equally thrilled. "What better thing," she asks, "than to be next to all of these chic people eating wonderful food and admiring my art?"
For his part, Delouvrier, a native of Toulouse, France, who proudly keeps his grandmother's hearty beef stew on the menu, rarely has any time to view the art. Working 12 hours a day at the restaurant, he dutifully shares dinner duty with wife Mary, 45, a teacher, on his days off at home in Harrington Park, N.J. Someday he may get to pass the chef's toque to his children Marc, 17, and Christine, 12. "My daughter is very much into food," he says with a smile. "But I think she's more into eating it than making it."
ANNE LONGLEY and LAN N. NGUYEN in New York City and LINDA FRIEDMAN in Los Angeles