Small plates, kale and pot pies on Oscar menu: Previewing the Governors Ball

Wolfgang Puck, Matt Bencivenga return as pastry chef Sherry Yard bakes for the last year

Like everything else about the 85th Academy Awards, this year’s media preview of the Governors Ball was also moved up a few weeks. Acad governor Jeffrey Kurland, in his fourth year as chair of the ball, introduced the “sneak preview” to media at the Ray Dolby Ballroom on Tuesday. Event producer Cheryl Cecchetto of Sequoia Productions said the layout will once again encourage socializing and “ease of flow.”For the second year, the seated formal dinner of years past has been replaced with Wolfgang Puck and chef Matt Bencivenga’s menu of elaborate small plates and bite-sized passed hors d’oeuvres. Seating will once again be unassigned, although organizers will divide the ballroom into quadrants for each of the studios and nominated films.

The most significant feature of the decor will be an 18,000 LED light chandelier hovering above the fete and an 18-foot high Oscar centerpiece. The chandelier’s rings will change color as the evening progresses. According to Cecchetto, the rich color palette of the night will mix chartreuse, aubergine and champagne. 423 pieces of custom-made lounge-style furniture will be fabricated for the event from high-backed banquettes covered in crushed velvet to throw pillows.

Wolfgang Puck Catering’s 50-dish menu is a combination of comfort foods (mini Kobe beef cheese burgers), industry faves (spicy tuna tartare cone) and decadent dishes (chestnut tortellini with white truffles). “Members of the Academy love chicken pot pie,” says Puck who has kept the most-requested dish on the menu along with vegan options (kale salad) and the traditional Oscar-shaped flatbread with smoked salmon and crème fraiche. Spago’s dessert maven Sherry Yard will have 150 kinds of dessert on hand. (It’s a bittersweet event for Yard who will move on to opening her own bakery in Culver City after Awards Season). Gold-dusted, chocolate Oscars will return, edible sugar chandeliers and mini Baked Alaska pops are a few of Yard’s fanciful creations.

Another change-up in the menu: bubbly will come from Champagne Thienot, a small family-owned house that produces 35,000 cases annually. 1,500 bottle of Thienot will be available to toast Oscar winners who can accept congrats while their statuettes are engraved on-site, in a corner of the Ray Dolby ballroom. Other production credits include floral designs by Mark’s Garden (for the 20th year) and wines from Napa’s Sterling Vineyards (for the 7th year). In an effort towards environmental responsibility, the Academy promises to recycle materials used at the event, compost floral arrangements and donate unused, prepared food to L.A. Specialty Chefs to End Hunger. The 1500-guest Governors Ball is February 24, immediately following the kudocast.