pb mansion

my first day

Who knew that anyone would find this so fact about my life so fascinating. Especially FF .
It was 1996 and I was getting ready to graduate from culinary school, I was chosen by my instructors to create the chocolate centerpieces for the Chef of the Year awards banquet held every year in Beverly Hills. They were quite happy with the way the centerpieces came out so I was invited to attend the event. When the event was over and I was leaving, I was in the elevator with a gentleman that said he really liked what I had done and wondered if I would like to come work for him. I honestly thought this was a pick-up line. He handed me his card and I thanked him. When I got to my car and read it I could hardly believe it. It read William Carter, Executive Chef, Playboy Mansion. Well, I was in a state of shock. I could hardly sleep that night. So the next day at school I gave the card to my instructor and he called and arranged the whole thing. I can tell you that he was probably more excited than I was.


the grotto

I was a hired as a banquet chef. A lot of very fancy charity functions are held at the PB mansion throughout the year. Several hundred people attend these events. They are usually at least $1k per person events. So they are a big deal. I usually had to pass hors doeurves after having worked in the kitchen all day long. I was always happy to do this because I got to see lots of movie stars and politicians. It was a lot of fun. None of the male chefs did this. While I was there, there was only one other woman chef. She was a pastry chef who just plated pre-made desserts. My duties regularly included marking meat (putting grill marks on so it could be baked off later) and trimming vegetables. The boxes of veggies were stacked as tall as me. Basically I would do whatever needed to be done. I never made HH's personal meals. I did see them be made. Very, very bland. Canned soups & sandwiches. Every afternoon at 3 he came into the kitchen (in black silk pj's) for cookies. He rarely made eye contact with anyone. The young male chefs worshipped him. Chef Carter knew that I was interested in starting my own catering business so he was always giving me work that aligned with that effort. He is an exacting chef and extremely particular about the quality of food he puts out. No fruit or vegetables could have even the slightest bruise. It was all top, top quality. Surprisingly the buffet tables were very simple. Always pink tablecloths with a very beautiful but simple menu. Everything is rented, all the way down to the silverware. Everyone wants a piece of the PB mansion for a souvenir. I thought menus and centerpieces would be very elaborate, but they never were. Always the very best but simple. I still try to create menus like this. He taught me that it's more important to do a few dishes very well instead of a bunch that are just so-so. That always stuck with me. He was extremely generous in sharing his knowledge. It was a fascinating experience working there. Huge, exotic birds just walk around the grounds like nothing. I would round a corner and there would be a couple of them and they always scared me. I did go in the zoo. Crazy. Also the grotto, even crazier. I saw and learned a lot. When I was ready to start my own business, I was so excited to tell potential clients where my experience was. But a lot of customers were not impressed. Quite a few said, "yuck!" So I really just excluded it from my speech/pitch. I catered for about ten years and quit before my back broke in two. I became an esthetician thinking it would be easier on my back but I was wrong about that. So there you have it, my year at the Playboy Mansion.

27 comments

  1. You make me laugh. I have loved following your blog over this past year! Always something new to learn about you. Great taste in food & decor - AND a great hidden past!!!
    xoxo MMW

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  2. What a checkered career! I love stories like that. Thanks for sharing. The personal stuff makes us human.

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  3. HH eats Chicken 'n Rice soup? That's a fun story; thanks for sharing it. I'm most impressed that you went to culinary school. That's a dream of mine and I hope to do it when I retire early. Like I said, it's a dream. steve

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  4. Thanks MMW and Kevin.

    Yes Steve, canned soup with a staff literally dying to make anything for him!

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  5. How interesting! I would have thought for sure that the tables and the meals would be over the top and extremely lavish. I would never imagine that HH eats canned soup - I wonder why?
    It sounds like a wonderful experience working with Chef Carter. Thanks for sharing - it was fun to read!

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  6. Well I feel like I know a lot more about Playboy life now!
    I am wondering if you'll be sharing any tasty recipes with us from your catering/chef days?

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  7. This was so interesting. Thanks for sharing it.

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  8. What a great story! It must have been a very interesting and fun time! Thanks for sharing more about you.

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  9. oh how i enjoyed this post!!!! xo grace

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  10. What a great story you have! And such a fun post to read! Thanks for sharing.
    Londen

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  11. What a fascinating story! Does the cost of hiring everything include having someone else to do the washing up?

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  12. Amazing story.and
    I read this story,interesting...
    They are gorgeous and definitely love to party hard - Playboy Mansion Summer Solstice

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  13. You are fascinating! I love this story - oh the stories you could tell!

    xo
    Claudia

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  14. JANET!!!!!!!!! I am loving this anecdote a Million/10!!! How fascinating. Especially the part re HH is his pjs chowing down on tinned soups and you seeing all the politicians and movie stars! Why were client's put off by your experience there? I hear so much about America being Puritanical but surely if you can cater for massive crowds at the Mansion, that's a Good Thing? Thanks for sharing this wonderful post. Your life is so interesting J. Love Me xx

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  15. Janet,
    did people say "Yuck" because they thought you'd particpated in HH's crazy lifestyle, or did they say "Yuck" because they thought you as a caterer would not have the necessary skills apres the Mansion?
    Frankly, I'd be loving it sick to say to my guests "You see the caterer? Used to work for Hef. At the Mansion"
    In Australia we LOVE this sort of dinner party anecdote- we LIVE for it!

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  16. Thank you everyone who thinks I lead a fascinating life. I truly do not. When I was at the PB mansion it was way before the popularity of the Girls Next Door. I did a lot of catering for women and a lot of women are put off by what Playboy represents.

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  17. Thank you Kat Gold for following my blog. You are my 100th follower! Yippee.

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  18. What a great experience that must have been but I would have thought having it on your resume would carry more clout here in hedonistic, celebrity-obsessed so cal.
    Gotta love a woman with an interesting past! I'll bet you could tell some stories...

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  19. What a great story Janet!! No wonder your vegan recipes always look so good.

    ~*~kelley

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  20. Janet,

    This was so much fun to read! I'm sitting hear blogging with the 2 boys that I live with going "LISTEN TO THIS!....Hef eats soup.....OUT OF A CAN!!" How can you say you DON"T have an exciting life with a story like THAT?? Can't wait to read your other hidden stories!

    Melissa

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  21. "Who knew that anyone would find this so fact about my life so fascinating.." Hellllllooooo... I think it was ME!!!:) I believe I said times have changed since you were first telling this, and people would LOVE it!!
    It was a great read! I love that Chef Carter mentored you and that you were so smart to do anything and everything- like passing the hors doeurves.
    I'm not surprised by the Heff and the canned soup story, but am surprised that he wouldn't make eye contact with anyone in the kitchen- interesting!!
    Now, tell us catering stories!! Do you still do it at all? Do you miss it?

    joan

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  22. Completely fascinating. I have watched The Girls Next Door, (yes, I have), and had seen that Hefner eats a very limited menu. It's such a big, odd business, Playboy....Thank you for the story.

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  23. Joan - I do not cater anymore. I do still love to cook and I just love planning menus. Give me an event and the best part is planning the menu. A lot of people miss that point I think. Food prep/planning is a huge part of my existence! I could talk food all day long and sometimes I do!

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  24. This is such fascinating stuff Janet - I was hooked reading it!! Cannot believe that HH liked bland food and how funny that he used to come and get cookies from the kitchen! You do make me smile... x

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  25. Utterly fascinating! I'll bet there is even more to tell...

    ~jermaine~

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  26. Janet my darling - you are endlessly fascinating. Well, it looks as though you achieved more there in year than most women do.

    : )
    xo Terri

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kindness is never out of style.

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