Los Angeles chef Evan Funke knows his way around the Oscars.
Not only is his father, Alex, a three-time Academy Award winning visual effects director (“I’ve been to a couple of Oscars as a guest of my dad’s,” Evan says), but he’s also helped create the dishes for the annual Governors Ball several times alongside culinary celeb Wolfgang Puck.
And now this year, Funke, whose Italian eateries Felix in Venice and Hollywood’s Mother Wolf are celebrity and industry hot spots, will make his debut designing the menu for the Vanity Fair viewing dinner and after-party, which returns this year to the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills after the 2021 hiatus due to the pandemic.
Variety caught up with Funke as he put the finishing touches on the top-secret menu to talk pasta, Bill Murray and the dangers of red sauce.
How do you begin coming up with a menu for one of Hollywood’s biggest parties of the year?
I want everyone to have pasta and one pasta that I really wanted to highlight is something that was passed on to me during my very first trip when I moved to Italy — Alessandra Spisni’s lasagna Bolognese. She taught me how to make her lasagna Bolognese, which is a very classic dish. But it’s one that, much like any other dish in Italy, no matter where you are regionally, is authentic to a specific family. It really all depends on whose grandmother you’re talking to. These specifics exist not just within each city, but really house to house. So this recipe for ragu Bolognese is extremely important to me; the lasagna building is extremely important to me. That’s one of those things that we’re going to be serving at the dinner.
How concerned are you about using red sauce because that could be a catastrophe on Oscar night?
That is something that we’ve taken into deep consideration because everyone is in, like, Louis Vuitton or Versace. There can’t be any drips. Everything has been designed to be extremely user-friendly to these very specific circumstances. Hopefully there will be no dry cleaner bills at the end of it.
This is Hollywood, so what happens when someone shows up and they’re like, “It has to be gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, soy-based…”
We will absolutely be prepared for all of those dietary restrictions that exist. I’m not unfamiliar with those constraints and very familiar and very comfortable adjusting without losing the authentic nature of the dishes. But I do hope they’ll suspend those restrictions for a moment, maybe I can tantalize them with some deliciousness.
What time will you start cooking on Oscar day?
We’ll start about three days out. Italian food is very much about key ingredients and pristine ingredients prepared in the moment. Obviously that becomes a challenge for something this large so you really need to start preparing a few days out. There are things that need to be made that day and we’ll just have to have a 24-hour day. We’ll probably get started around 3 a.m. on Sunday and probably end at 3 a.m. on Monday.
Who are you hoping to see eating your food?
I think one actor that I haven’t cooked for that I would actually love to is Bill Murray. I don’t get star struck very often, but I think Bill Murray would be pretty cool.
Who should play you in a movie about your life?
Are we going for looks here or charisma?
Whatever you want. It’s your movie so you get to pick who is playing Evan Funke.
Maybe Lady Gaga? She could do anything and you’re all about Italian food.
[Laughs] She probably can. I watched “House of Gucci” on a plane from New York to L.A. recently. It’s a great story, but Italian accents are really difficult. I thought Jared Leto was so over the top and so wonderful. It really made me laugh because he was really just taking it to the level of the accent.