Food Stylist to the Stars, Keeper of L.A.'s Secret Gems"L.A. is not just a rich man’s city. There's a lot to do that doesn’t cost anything."
When she needs to whip up some fake caviar, Bonnie Belknap knows just the ethnic market to shop at for papaya with perfectly sized seeds to replicate the fishy delicacy. And that's what Belknap, food stylist to the stars, loves about Los Angeles — it has everything.
Belknap's career first hit full sail when she was recruited to create the buffet scenes on the long-running hit TV show "The Love Boat." "They would send me a script and I would tell them what food would be authentic for whatever port they were in," she recalls. She also chose the on-camera menu for child stars Danny Pintauro and Alyssa Milano on the hit '80s TV series "Who's the Boss?" Today she works with celebrity chefs visiting Los Angeles to appear on Bravo and does food demonstrations on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."
"I love the ethnic markets and eateries of L.A. and I've discovered these places because sometimes I'm called upon to do, say, a movie set in Transylvania." While working on the set of "Friends," for example, Belknap discovered her favorite sushi restaurant. "They'd bring in these platters of sushi on tape night from this place called Chiba," she explains. "It's in a strip mall deep in the San Fernando Valley — kinda scary, but when you walk inside, it's packed. I love this place."
Belknap resides in Burbank — just over the hill from Hollywood in the San Fernando Valley — where Warner Bros. Studios and Disney are headquartered. "People put down the valley, but I love coming home — the mountains are around me, and it's quieter," she says.
Bucking another misperception, Belknap reveals that L.A "is not just a rich man's city." She adds, "There's a lot to do that doesn't cost anything. Museums have free admission days, restaurants offer great happy hours, and there are street fairs going on all over the place." Of the latter, one of her favorites is the Pico Festival in Santa Monica. "From Centinela to Main, the streets are blocked off and restaurants and shops are there with free samples and merchandise."
One of her favorite L.A. freebies happens on Thursday evenings during the summer: the Santa Monica Pier's Twilight Dance Series, which offers free performances from world-renowned musicians. "You're around people who have the same kind of interests and positive energy," Belknaps says of the ocean-side scene. After a concert, she and her friends walk five minutes down the beach to Casa Del Mar, a stately seaside hotel. "We do the pier and then we go for a late-night bite," she reveals. "It's a beautiful place to have a drink and look out over the water."
Belknap's affinity for good food and comfort is also driving her latest altruistic ambition. "I am working on a charity food truck that takes healthy food to homeless people the shelters and missions can't reach," she says. "That's my dream."
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