Wednesday, April 01, 2009

KCRW's Too Good To Be True -- Yet It Was -- Pledge Premium

Angeli Caffe's Evan Kleiman also hosts KCRW's "Good Food" -- and during the radio station's most recent pledge drive, began to panic. With the phones not ringing, she suddenly offered free dinners to anyone who pledged during her show. Oops. Gourmet recounts what happened next:

The phone banks lit up. An hour later, Kleiman’s rash offer led to a record number of pledges for the station. Mission accomplished.

But how do you feed more than 400 hungry people and not go out of business? First, Kleiman came up with some rules: The meals would be served on seven consecutive Monday nights only (March 2–April 6); no bringing wine or children; and only people who made pledges were eligible. To compensate the servers who had volunteered to work for free, a mandatory tip of $7 was part of the deal. Then she drew up a classic Angeli menu to be served family-style: antipasti misti with seasonal vegetables; a chard, spinach, and mizuna sautĂ© with goat cheese and Marcona almonds; a bĂ©chamel-based lasagne (recipe below); Angeli’s sublimely lemony roast chicken; and a light salad of mixed greens. A few pastry chefs and bakers, who’d heard of Kleiman’s situation, donated desserts. George Cossette, co-owner of Silverlake Wines, offered to pinch hit as Monday-night sommelier.

“Thank you for your support—and for accepting my bribe,” Kleiman said to a group of donors who showed up recently for one of the dinners. Because of her only-those-who-pledged-get-to-eat ordinance, roughly 70 percent of diners came alone, many of them hanging around the edges of the restaurant looking shy and stiffly self-conscious. As if to acknowledge the awkwardness, Jennifer Ferro, executive producer of Good Food, kicked things off with a brief pep talk: “You guys think you’re all strangers. But you all have something in common and that’s KCRW and Good Food. So maybe you came in as strangers, but you’ll walk out as friends.” Almost as if to prove Ferro right, the noise in the room shot up immediately. By the time dessert (individual molten chocolate cakes from Susina Bakery’s Jenna Turner) was served, you’d have sworn you were eating in a room full of lifelong friends.

I'm guessing that even though things worked out, Kleiman will keep her mouth zipped during the August drive.

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