Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Last Bite

Poached Monkfish, Jardiniere de Legumes, Vadouvan

I've often wondered what it would be like to go back and relive a single night of the early days of LudoBites. Much in the same way that my college friends and I have wished we could spend one more Saturday afternoon squeezed thigh to thigh watching "Gilmore Girls" on the knobby, high-backed monstrosity we affectionately dubbed "heinous couch," I feel a deep sense of nostalgia for that period of time circa 2009 when I wiggled my way into the Los Angeles dining community via a very pink blog and a Nikon Coolpix digital camera.

While I started this site in April 2008 to memorialize my dining exploits from the perspective of someone with a newly discovered passion for food, my experiences at LudoBites 2.0 at Breadbar in the summer of 2009 were the true beginning of the "Diana Takes a Bite" story.

It was the moment when something clicked for me -- not just in terms of how I would subsequently approach dining (with an open mind and palate), but also in terms of my personal trajectory within the industry and eventual career as a food & beverage and hospitality publicist, a profession I've now held for nearly five years.

It was during that summer that the Los Angeles dining community invited me to join them at the table, an open-armed welcome that I hadn't before experienced in the four years that I'd been living, half-heartedly, in a city that still felt foreign from my Newport Beach hometown. I certainly never felt embraced when I was dabbling in the entertainment industry as an assistant fetching oatmeal and scheduling pitch meetings, and felt even less so when I made an ill-advised detour into the realm of advertising sales.

As a doe-eyed 25-year-old who had, just three years prior, selected The Cheesecake Factory at The Grove for her birthday dinner, I had no qualifications to be at that communal table other than my desire to be there. I was accepted because, like my fellow bloggers, I was excited about what was happening in the restaurant scene, and because I showed a willingness to push myself outside my comfort zone to expand my horizons.

LudoBites brought us together in a tangible way over the course of those early runs at Breadbar, Royal/T and Gram & Papa's. Los Angeles was ours for the tasting, and I followed my more intrepid contemporaries to the San Gabriel Valley for dumplings and dim sum, to Thai Town for curries and noodles that scorched my tongue, to Boyle Heights' Breed Street for birria tacos and huarache con pollo, and to Church & State for fried pig's ears and escargot in the, then, decidedly less polished Arts District. 
Squid Pad Thai

Every new culinary experience whetted my appetite for more, and ultimately led to my "Aha!" moment that I had to find a way to turn this side hobby into a viable vocation. I wasn't content for "Diana Takes a Bite" (or "D Takes a B," according to some) to be my alter ego; I wanted her to be a fully actualized person. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic and horrifically cliché, it truly was a dream come true when I was hired at a boutique food & beverage PR firm.

Five years later, I still credit my path to a career I love so much that I consider hanging out at a client's bar taking photos of cocktails for work a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon to those early days of self-discovery at LudoBites. So, when I was asked to attend a taping of the premiere episode of season five of "Mind of a Chef" with Chef Ludo Lefebvre to pay tribute to that time that was such a watershed moment for him (and us), I accepted the invitation. I viewed it as an incredible opportunity to join my friends and former blogger contemporaries (who have all similarly evolved personally & professionally), and share with him just how profound an impact LudoBites had on our community.

Yet, gathered around the center island in Chef Ludo and Krissy Lefebvre's kitchen yesterday for the shoot, which was set up to be a recreation of LudoBites, I realized just how acutely I have changed since 2009. Beyond the natural maturation that comes with age, my story has veered in a completely different direction since the nights when I would rush home from a meal to upload out-of-focus photos and craft an often embarrassingly cheeky blog post.

While I've been tempted to go back and delete those entries that shed far too much light on my naivety and lack of understanding and context for that which I was whimsically critiquing, they are part of my journey and the eventual person that I would become. Have become.

Since assuming my profession as a publicist, I've awkwardly straddled the line as it relates to my identity as a former blogger. This site is where it all began, and even as I've grown busier at work and become further devoted to and proud of the role I play within the industry's ecosystem, I've attempted to keep it alive…even when months have gone by between posts, many of which I wasn't even particularly inspired to write.

Crème Fraîche Panna Cotta with Caramel and Caviar

As fun as it was to remember and reminisce over squid pad thai noodles, and crème fraîche panna cotta with caramel sauce and caviar on Saturday, over the course of the filming I had the distinct feeling that this portion of my journey has come to a conclusive end. This site will always be part of my identity, and its name will live on via my social media handles, but it feels like the appropriate time to end the story of the girl with the very pink blog and announce this as my final post on "Diana Takes a Bite."

I'll likely end up starting an equally janky Tumblr page to catalogue recipes in the future, but in this current moment, I'm happy to be exactly the person I've become: Diana Hossfeld, a food & beverage and hospitality publicist.