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Western Conference Finals Inspire Menu Items At Staples Center

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Wednesday, May 19, 2010, at 11:51AM
Cocktails for five Ed Fuentes

The "Straight Jacket" and the "Bynamite" are two of drinks named after the Lakers starting five's nicknames; In this case, Ron Artest and Andrew Bynum.

Hours before the Lakers took the court on Monday for Game One of the Western Conference Finals, the Laker Girls were rehearsing on the Staples Center court and PA systems were being checked.

High above in one of the arena's suites, Chef Pilar Sanchez was showing off new menu items that fans will enjoy throughout the team's series against the Phoenix Suns.

As Levy Restaurants' Executive Chef at Staples Center, Sanchez oversees the arena dining staff like Magic Johnson leading a fast break; stoic with quick responses, solid eye contact, and slight hand signals.

Chef Pilar Sanchez is overseeing the Staples Center dining staff like Magic Johnson leading a fast break; stoic with quick responses, solid eye contact, and slight hand signals as kitchen and bar staffs are prepping for the second game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns.

"No, wait... I wear Laker colors today," says Sanchez as she places two headbands -- purple and gold of course -- in her hair. With an infectious laugh, she confesses she is wearing a 50th Anniversary Laker t-shirt under her kitchen whites.

Hired in November, Sanchez is now offering NBA Playoff-inspired menus for the Lexus and San Manuel clubs, proving her allegiance as a lifelong Laker fan. Dishes like the Baby Back to Back to Back Shortribs with Heirloom “Worthy” Potato Salad are one of the dishes inspired by the the history of the team.

There are cocktails in the Chairman’s Lounge named after the current starting five roster, including "The Spanish Fly" with brandy, kahlua and Bailey’s. "The Black Mamba" is Tuaca, godiva chocolate liquor, OJ and club soda. The "D-Fish" is a mix of Fischer-Stoli blueberry, blue curacao, OJ and club soda.

The concession stands are also serving items exclusive to the playoffs, like the LA Dawg, a massive hot dog topped with pastrami, yellow mustard and purple onions, and the Laker Nachos made with blue and gold corn tortilla chips.

While Sanchez has a high-class resume -- stints as chef of Tydes at the Four Seasons in Santa Barbara and Pilar restaurant in Napa Valley and a time as host of the PBS Series “Chefs of the Napa Valley" -- she's clearly comfortable in the sports environment. "I do have my playoff pedicure," she says, offering some advice to female Laker fans. "Girls . . . a purple pedicure. That’s the way to go."

The Showtime Chef is also a Downtown resident and finds inspiration from the city. "I knew I wouldn't have patience driving, so I moved Downtown," she says. "I love it. Everything is walking distance, you have the pulse constantly beating."

Then the question for anyone who is a true Laker fan, what if both the Lakers and Celtics meet in the NBA Finals? Will there be a special dish for the opposing team?

Her eyes light up at the idea.

“As much as they are rivals, we respect Larry Bird. We traditionalists always think back to the great ones.” She pauses, then laughs. “I will have to cook up some kind of bird.”


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