BEYOND THE ORANGE PERIMETER | Sip, Eat & Meet Italy Culinary Explorations with HauteOC Traveler Bruno Serato, a True American Dreamer by Terence Loose
Any traveler who has been to Italy knows that their culinary adventures in that country are among their most memorable. Why? Because, without a doubt, the Italians are some of the most passionate when it comes to cuisine. And there is no finer example of this culinary passion than world renowned chef and restaurateur Bruno Serato, owner of the Anaheim White House, a restaurant and catering service that has delighted the palates of celebrities, U.S. Presidents, world leaders and culinary aficionados since its opening in 1987.
But while Serato was born with a true love and gift for cooking, he was far from guaranteed the lofty culinary position he holds today. His is the classic story of a man of humble beginnings following his dream – and working his butt off – to accomplish the American Dream. After World War II, Serato’s family worked as shepherds and were known for donating milk and cheese to the less fortunate in their war-ravaged country, despite their own modest means. In fact, their situation became so desperate that they were forced to move to France for many years, taking jobs as potato and beet pickers to get by. When Serato was 11 years old, however, the family was able to return to their beloved Italy, settling in the city synonymous with passion: Romeo and Juliet’s hometown of Verona.It was there that the family opened a small motel with a restaurant called the Bar Cristallo. And it was there that Serato got his introduction to restaurant life: he played the part of chef, waiter, bartender and maitre d’ – often all at once.
But that was fine with Serato, who thrived on the energy of delighting customers with culinary magic. It was obvious immediately that cooking was his calling in life and, like most extremely successful individuals, he was lucky to find it early. His love of food was coupled with a drive to succeed like no other. “I came to America in 1980, at age 25, with $200 dollars in my pocket and unable to speak a word of English,” he says. “I came directly to California to visit my sister and have been here ever since. There is a real sense of possibility out here, of living the ‘American Dream.’”
Serato’s American Dream started in the most humble of places: the dishwashing station. But, he says with his infectious enthusiasm, it was at the famous La Vie en Rose in La Brea, so he gladly accepted the position. Serato’s passion and talent were quickly recognized and he was promoted steadily. Within five years he went from scraping dishes to general manager. Oh, he also learned English along the way.
By 1987, Serato was ready to embrace his American Dream fully and he bought the White House Restaurant in Anaheim, housed in a historically significant mansion built in 1909, from leading area restaurateur Jim Stovall. Not a man to follow others, Serato redesigned the menu to reflect his own Italian and French roots, redesigning the menu to represent contemporary Northern Italian cuisine, but with a French flair. Instead of the heavier red sauces, Serato created new ones that celebrated the lighter flavors of herbs and olive oil – a move that would help spearhead a culinary trend now known as “California cuisine.” He also established an unparalleled wine list that boasts varietals from around the world.
Finally, knowing that good food and wine alone does not make for a complete culinary adventure, Serato designed elaborate, yet historically appropriate settings within the restaurant and garden areas of the White House property to create spaces that could accommodate intimate dinner parties or cocktail receptions for more than 450 guests. In addition, he created a catering division that had the ability to accommodate small and large parties of any theme in locations as far away as Bora Bora.
Today, the dream is complete, so much so that Serato is able to follow his family tradition of not only creating wonderful dishes, but also of philanthropy. Upon visiting the Boys & Girls Clubs of Anaheim with his mother, Caterina, five years ago, Serato saw a small child eating potato chips for dinner. He couldn’t look the other way. So now, each day, Serato’s White House cooks 20 pounds of pasta to serve to homeless or unstably housed Orange County children, of which there are an estimated 22,000. To date he’s provided 245,000 meals and has been featured nationally in People Magazine and on “CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.”
Not bad for a poor immigrant with a simple passion for cooking. “Well I was very poor growing up, and I haven’t forgotten where I come from,” says Serato in typical humble fashion. Fortunately for the rest of us, where he comes from is a gourmet’s delight.
On Saturday, March 26, 2011, 6:00pm to 10:00pm, Serato will combine his passions for creating culinary delights and helping others once again when he graces the House of Balsamic’s Rossinian Nights Black Tie Gala with his signature Italian cuisine, prepared by Serato’s colleague and one of the world’s finest and highly acclaimed chefs, Maurice Brazier (a former chef for the King of Morocco and the Shah, Brazier is also the west coast’s only Three Star Michelin Chef, and the recipient of France’s top honor, the Chevalier du Merit National). With a live performance of Rossini’s Eighteenth Century Arias by the L.A Opera Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program, the evening not only promises to transport guests to Italy for a night of opera, fine dining and stimulating conversation and entertainment, but also helps a good cause – the evening will benefit the Orange County Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®.
A HAUTEOC EVENT PRODUCTION | Video Directed by Nicolas Wendl, Photography by Frederic Tiberghien, Executive Produced by Kathy Marino
House of Balsamic’s Rossinian Night Black Tie Gala
Saturday, March 26, 2011, 6:00pm to 10:00pm
Tickets are $150 per person, available through www.BeyondtheOrange.com This includes performance, dinner and entertainment.
The House of Balsamic Academy is located at 5 Mason, Irvine, California 92618.
For further information, visit www.houseofbalsamic.com. HAUTEOC TRAVELER is a proud sponsor of Rossinian Night.
Film by Director Nicolas Wendl, Photography by Frederic Tiberghien, Associate Produced by Terence Loose, Produced by Kathy Marino