Braedon Flynn from The Artist Report visited us at roomforty for the afternoon to interview the man in charge, Steve Fortunato. In this interview, Steve shares his entrepreneurial journey and how roomforty came to be what it is today. Enjoy the video!
Photo Cred: Melissa Ryan
Antonio Diaz from Life & Thyme sat down with Steve to talk about how roomforty first emerged into the world of catering and how they became the first ‘Restaurant Without Walls’.
(excerpt from Life & Thyme)
“Just keep pushing, guys!” Chef Libry called out to his kitchen brigade as they worked like an assembly line plating hundreds of dishes. On the plate is garganelli, chicken pate, house made ricotta, and crispy pork belly. Servers waited patiently outside of the kitchen with large wooden blocks to deliver the finished plates to the hundred or so guests sitting inside The Fig House, a venue space in Los Angeles.
I should be networking with the guests attending roomforty’s popup dinner with winemaker Paix Sur Terre, but you’re more likely to find me inside the kitchen observing and chatting with the cooks at most dinners. I’m intrigued by the whole process as I’ve never seen a catering company place so much attention to detail on presentation and flavor.
roomforty is no ordinary catering company. Their philosophy and flawless execution is more like a fine dining restaurant with extreme care for the food and a knack for hospitality. Although roomforty can be hired to cater events, they often host their own pop-up dinners with select winemakers at their beautiful space, The Fig House—designed by Emily Henderson.
I sat down with owner Steve Fortunato—who previously worked at Patina Group—to learn about about his personal journey and hear the story of how roomforty came to be.
What a fun a delicious way to get into the holiday spirit!
Here are a few photos from the day all beautifully taken by Brittany Wood.
The set up.
An amazing display of wreath possibilities by moon canyon.
Grilled Cheese with brioche and brie + smoked tomato bisque, perfect for these chilly days coming our way.
Butterscotch Pudding with thyme panna cotta and sweet potato brittle.
Sweet Potato Tartlettes with house made marshmallow and cranberry crumble.
Deviled Eggs with chipotle “caviar” house cured bacon, and homemade pickle.
A special thanks to all involved for having us, and to Brittany Wood for taking all of the wonderful photos.
Wishing you all a great beginning to the holiday season from roomforty!
This was a fun wedding coordinated by our friends La Fete Weddings in Montecito. Amanda and Christian wanted a Spanish flare to their menu, while keeping the menu modern, market driven, and whimsical. We’re often approached with a desired “theme” for a wedding. Under the leadership of La Fete, with the help of great, trusting clients, a staggering setting, and a well thought out menu–the thematic cohesion of this wedding was fantastic.
Tacos and margaritas. As good is gets. Cilantro Margaritas, with taco coronets, filled with braised short rib, avocado mousse, and jalapeño chimichurri.
Our plating planks always get people excited. Dramatic, efficient, memorable, and a great way to serve a lot of dishes without feeling like you’re at a hotel ballroom.
A huge thanks to Mi Belle Photographers for the amazing photos. They did an amazing job capturing the magic of this day. A huge thanks to La Fete for letting us be part, and of course and huge thanks to Amanda and Christian. Happy Marriage!
We love working with our friends from BashPlease. Especially when they bring us amazing clients like James and Tomasina who have a passion for food, and a commitment to providing their guests with a meal to remember for their wedding feast.
We don’t automatically serve bread at weddings–for lots of reasons, but when we do, we go for it. James and Tomasina wanted the roomforty breadboards at the ready when guests were seated–which include all house made breads and lavash, pickled vegetables and fruit, house made ricotta and local honey.
For their hors d’oeuvres–they opted for whimsical and accessible–our version of chicken and waffles, waygu beef corn dogs, duck sausage on bao buns, salmon tartare, and our take on bruschetta. As a former chef, James has a passion for great market products–so we made sure that our “farm to form” approach had loads of market produce — from organic beets, to nante carrots, to seasonal cherries pickled for the breadboards, to baby candied crab apples for dessert–California farm produce was a big part of their menu.
All these beautiful photos were shot by Christian Cruz for Max and Friends. Thanks to our amazing clients James and Tomasina for letting us be part of such an amazing celebration. Thanks to our partners in crime BashPlease, pharmacie and Christian Cruz of Max and Friends for being such incredible colleagues to work with. And thanks to Northern California for just being unassumingly awesome. The full menu is below.
We were so excited to work with our friend Beth Helmstetter for this awesome destination wedding for an incredible couple. Stephanie and Scott are SUPER passionate about food–and knowing that is the one element of a wedding that nurtures the guests, really wanted to make the wedding meal memorable. We were happy to oblige.
Santa Barbara’s stunning Villa Sevillano delivered a staggering backdrop.
Cheese is always a festive part of the cocktail hour. And the key to a great cheese display–is having someone there to serve it. That service component ensures the presentation stays beautiful, and adds a festive and interactive component to the display.
We love getting a little whimsical with our menus. We call the dish below: “cedar planked salmon” but it’s our version of an arctic char crudo. We make blood orange pearls look like salmon roe, and serve the dish on little individual cedar planks. Starting meals this way add a little more impact than starting with a green salad.
Fresh pasta–the stuff summer mid courses are made of. The full menu is listed below.
It’s not often our brides and grooms grab us and say: “hey we want a picture with our caterer!” (there’s a few other photos they need to take) Loved working with this amazing couple and wishing them a beautiful marriage! A huge thanks to Beth Helmstetter for including us in this special day, and to Tec Petaja for the awesome photos.
Stephanie and Scott also leaned on us for wine pairings. We thought this menu was perfect for the wines of Lone Madrone, made by our friend Neil Collins. The wines pairings are listed below.
Our friend Joy Cho of Oh Joy recently released a line with Land of Nod, and the product line release party, aptly labeled “joy for nod” was a festive gathering at the Fig House. They called on us to come up with our version of children’s finger foods, that the grown ups would still enjoy–and we had a blast doing it!
So much about this event was fun. The nod tour bus, the always elegant floral work of yasmine floral design, the crafts for the kids–we loved it.
Libry had a blast coming up with our approach to the right menu items. What would kids party be without PB+J. We just did a bit of twist. House made peanut butter and jelly, pain du mie for the bread, garnished with colored sugar crystals, and for a little extra fun…lolli popped + building blocked!
For the mini corn dogs–we used waygu beef (American style kobe), and garnished with violet mustard and house made curry ketchup.
A couple of signature comfort items were added–the philly cheese steak sliders, crab lollipops and our mac and cheese with brioche bread crumbs. We don’t know too many friends that still buy campbells tomato soup–but back in the day, a little campbells tomato soup and wonder bread grilled cheese made everything better. Our version, smoked tomato bisque, and brioche and brie grilled cheese coins.
We called this one: “worms and dirt”. Using a little molecular gastronomy, Libry made house made cherry gummi worms and it was scary how much they looked like earthworms. The “dirt” was graham soil. Potted in mini terra cotta, the kids loved it. Is that face priceless or what!
The signature s’mores with campfire smoke might be what you’re looking at. Or, you might be looking at the schnazzy aprons donned by our servers. They’re made by that awesome girl hula-hooping in the picture below, Ellen Bennett. Hedley Bennett aprons have taken over the world of hospitality–with literally the top chefs in the world wearing her aprons. We’d be hula-hooping too. Well play madame. Well played indeed.
By now, most roomforty friends have heard of Emily Henderson, but if you haven’t–she designed the Fig House, and she’s awesome. And Charlie her little boy ate 48 PB+J lollipops that day, which is why he’s such a chunk. (that’s a joke).
All in all, a super fun family event. A huge thanks to Joy and to Land of Nod for letting us serve this event. All you parents out there–go to Land of Nod and buy all of Joy’s line, and then call us after it’s set up and we’ll cater your “I just got awesome furniture for my kid” party.
Our clients are typically from Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. But the guests of our clients are from all over the country. As a caterer, we need to appeal to the sophisticated palates of our urban clients, while making sure the guests of our clients have an access point to the food. This leaves us with the goal of creating dishes that are both amazing and accessible.
We’ve been at work creating some dishes that fit that criteria quite well. Dishes, that are at once recognizable in their title, but unexpected in their interpretation. For us, coming up with menu items that everyone would have had eaten at one point was a key factor, while making sure we present those items in a way that you’ve never experienced.
What’s on the menu?
Chicken and Biscuits, Philly Cheese Steak, Pot Roast and Nachos.
We take 2 chicken breasts, attach them to one another, thick side to thin side, vacuum seal them, then cook them in the sous vide machine. This allows us to get the thickness of a steak, but with chicken. The chicken and biscuit are plated side by side, over the creamed watercress, topped with a drop of local honey, and the mornay sauce, and finished with market vegetables.
Using a touch of molecular gastronomy, we create a cheese “croquette” that once broken by the fork, releases the creamy cheese. We address the onion flavors of a philly cheese steak by creating a french onion soup “puree” for the base of the dish. Replacing green bell peppers, with heirloom cherry pepper confit, and the crispy french roll with our cylinder crouton, the dish incorporates all of the flavor profiles of the philly cheese steak. The presentation is refined enough to make sure that you can enjoy all the flavors of a cheese steak while keeping your shirt stain free.
Pot roast is all about slow cooking to achieve that tender, ‘pull apart’ perfection. We slow braise the beef over 24 hours, to get that hearty, tender beef texture. As opposed to serving with the standard “potato puree” we create a puree using the flavors of vichyssoise, or potato leek soup, which gives the potato flavor a little more complexity. We add baby market vegetables, earl grey bordelaise, and a touch of gremolata for a touch of acid to soften the fullness of the flavor profile. All in your mouth, mom’s pot roast, but maybe a little better (we wont’ tell her).
Last but not least:
We serve nachos as an interactive roving “station” during cocktail hours. Servers rove the party with 10′ rain gutters, filled with our take on nachos. The products and preparation of the components (slow braise, confit, house made liquid cheese, etc.) and the presentation (when’s the last time you ate out of a gutter?) make for an interpretation of nachos that we’re pretty sure you will make for a memory. But nachos? Come on, who doesn’t love nachos at a party.
Well, folks, The Fig House has opened and its in full swing: currently being rented out for parties, weddings, birthdays, premieres and any occasion where one wants to have a good time in a beautiful space. To celebrate we threw quite the party for family/friends and some press … just a ‘hey guys, here’s what we’ve been doing the past 8 months’. It was pretty satisfying to finally show all my friends (including Brian) the final result of all of our hard work… also to prove that I wasn’t having an affair because I was gone so much.
We are working on the proper design posts with lots of before and after shots, resources, paint colors, etc, but this post is just to show off the party and say ‘thank you’ to everyone who made it out and contributed.
As you know Danielle Krysa, from The Jealous Curator curated the art and it was pretty darn stunning. That huge painting by Zoe Pawlak is amazing, the portrait by Stephanie Vovas and the weird and controversial (and intensely awesome) string sculptural pieces by Nike Schroeder killed it. Just killed it. I was so excited by how they all looked in the space at night. Sidenote: 1/2 the art sold that night and many more pieces have replaced those … it’s very exciting.
This is Mr. Steve Fortunato himself with his pretty adorable family adorning that pretty amazing green sectional sofa. Gosh, what I wouldn’t do for something like that in my new living room – the family and the house.
RoomForty catered the food and it was OBVIOUSLY delicious based on that photo above. I would like to slide one of those sliders in my mouth right now. That night was like a wedding to me where I was so busy talking that I think I tasted the food, but would like another shot at it.
By the way it wasn’t that bright in there, there was just a flash on the camera – don’t worry. RoomForty also had this huge fromaggerie station, which is a station that I would like to be at more often.
Steve gave a big thank you speech to all the people who had worked really hard on the project – which were A LOT. These included the amazing General Contractor Ken from KD Constuction (my favorite contractor in the world and not to mention such a great person in general), the stained glass artist (who with my art direction created some pretty incredible doors that even the new Ace Hotel Downtown LA hired to help with theirs afterwards), and of course the design team – us.
Speaking of which … these two ladies (above) saved my life/sanity in this project. Dean Fisher and Ginny Macdonald are two VERY good designers and such incredible collaborators. Every single meeting was fun and we were always on the same page artistically; you have no idea how rare that can be. The chemistry was just so right. I’m lucky enough that Ginny is actually working full-time for me now, and Dean is back in Chicago doing a lot of design work with her company South Social and Home, and working with Home Polish (hire her, she’s AWESOME).
Ha!!!! This is us cheersing to the success of The Fig House. I was 37 weeks pregnant obviously, but that doesn’t stop me from celebrating. (That dress, by the way is another non-maternity dress from TopShop that is just REALLY elastic-y … its holding on for dear life, but so much better than most maternity dresses … here’s a link to similar dress).
Michael, Mr. Flashdance himself, spun the music. Do people even say ‘spun’ anymore? I think i’m old.
He was the DJ, you get it. And he’s awesome because he makes people dance and laugh and lose control, as you can see …
It rained so we had to have a tent out front but that doesn’t stop you from seeing the intensely beautiful stained glass that Judson Studios did.
All in all it felt like a wedding. Something that we had planned for months – not necessarily the party but the unveiling of the project. Except I wasn’t drunk. Strangely it was still such an exhilarating high and I had sooo much fun.
The exterior is getting all landscaped now, ready for all the summer weddings they have booked. Its all just very exciting, indeed.
All in all an incredible project and a pretty dope space. Cheers to Steve Fortunato, Room Forty, PharmacieLA, Our Labor of Love, Woodnote Photography, Flashdance, Sharkpig. All of you are pretty much the best and I want to smother you out of love.
If those photos weren’t enough and you want to watch a video about the night, you are in luck … Thanks, Sharkpig for once again being weird and generally awesome.
Earlier this year, we were honored to work alongside some talented vendors on a photo shoot for an event venue in Temecula’s wine-country. Even though we can’t announce the specifics of the venue just yet, we wanted to whet your palate with some of the lovely details from this Italian-inspired shoot. To view more images, check out the Style Me Pretty feature.
Photography: Ashley Kelemen
Floral Design: Sweet Emilia Jane
Furniture Rental & Set Styling: Pow Wow
Hair and Makeup: 10.11 Makeup
Cake Design: Stevi Auble
Bridal Gowns: Kirstie Kelly
Grooms Attire: H&M
Photo Assistant: Captured by Aimee
Model (Bride): Christina Riddell
Model (Groom): Ian Riggs