The Governors Ball: The Most Exclusive After-Party In Town

Cari Lynn is an AwardsLine contributor. This article appeared in the Feb. 13 issue of AwardsLine.

After the elation (or heartbreak) of Hollywood’s most coveted awards ceremony, 1,500 guests will flock to the Ray Dolby Ballroom at the top level of the Hollywood & Highland complex to let it all hang out at the storied Governors Ball, the Academy’s official Oscar after-party.

More than 5,000 mini chocolate Oscars and 50 life-sized chocolate Oscars will decorate the room.
More than 5,000 mini chocolate Oscars and 50 life-sized chocolate Oscars will decorate the room.

No real Oscar to flaunt? Grab a Patron and Ultimate Vodka cocktail, rimmed with 10-karat gold while you nibble on Wolfgang Puck’s signature smoked-salmon Oscars, coated in dill creme fraiche and topped with caviar. Still craving gold? Pluck one of 5,000 mini chocolate Oscars, wrapped in shimmering gold foil—or snag one of 50 statuette-sized chocolate Oscars (they’re made from Cacao Barry’s 64% semisweet). Pastry chef Sherry Yard will also have 30 pounds of edible gold dust on hand to sprinkle on truffles, bon bons, and macaroons.

Academy governor Jeffrey Kurland, an Oscar-nominated costume designer whose lengthy list of feature credits includes numerous Woody Allen films, Erin Brokovich, Inception, and Ocean’s Eleven, will return for his fourth year as chair of the Governors Ball, overseeing decor, menu, and entertainment, as well as designing the staff attire.

Returning for her 24th consecutive year, event producer Cheryl Cecchetto of Sequoia Productions will handle all the details, including what she calls “the piazza,” which is an Oscar embedded into the floor, and the installation of a 120-foot chandelier—surpassing the largest chandelier listed in the Guinness Book of World Records—that will sparkle with 18,000 LEDs of alternating jewel-toned hues, reflecting the evening’s chosen colors of aubergine, chartreuse, and champagne.

“Jeffrey said he wanted a chandelier,” explains Cecchetto, “and I came back and said, ‘Here’s the biggest chandelier in the world.’ ” The chandelier theme will also be reflected in the signature dessert of the night: The Vacheron Chandelier, a bejeweled and tiered meringue filled with cream and berries.

“This year’s look goes across traditional and nontraditional lines,” Cecchetto says. “It’s more about practicality and flow. We do not have assigned seating this year, instead we are using lounge furniture and cocktail tables.” The more than 400 pieces of furnishings will be provided by Lux Lounge EFR and will be covered in velvets and silk in the theme colors; also included are a new collection of Twist cocktail tables.

The food for the ball will be a mix of "comfort and innovations," according to chef Matt Bencivenga.
The food for the ball will be a mix of “comfort and innovations,” according to chef Matt Bencivenga.

Mark Held, co-owner of Mark’s Garden, who’s returning for his 20th consecutive year, has added an ingenious floral design to the cocktail tables, fashioning a centerpiece of orchids, green anthurium, and purple kale under the tables and wrapping around the pedestals—leaving the tabletop free for Wolfgang Puck’s delicacies.

Puck, who’s created the menu for 19 consecutive years, is almost as signature to the ball as Oscar himself. Along with chef Matt Bencivenga, Puck will feature what he calls “a mix of comfort and innovations,” with returning favorites, such as mini Kobe burgers with aged cheddar, assorted pizzas, and chicken pot pie with shaved black truffles, along with a sushi and shellfish station, hot and cold small plates, and, new this year, an expanded vegan menu, including kale salad with grilled artichoke, beluga lentils with baby vegetables, vegan pizza, and farro with apple, beet, and spiced walnut. “This is the greatest party in Hollywood,” Puck says, “and people know they can get great food.” Attention will also be paid to sourcing local organic and sustainable cuisine, including wild-caught fish; hormone and antibiotic-free dairy, poultry, and meat; cage-free eggs; and California-grown produce.

Sterling Vineyards of Napa Valley will be returning for their seventh year with a 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2009 Reserve Chardonnay, both chosen at a tasting by the Academy’s board of governors.

Instead of assigned seating, guests will relax with a mix of lounge furniture and cocktail tables.
Instead of assigned seating, guests will relax with a mix of lounge furniture and cocktail tables.

New this year is Champagne Thiénot, a small, young brand with a production of only 300,000 bottles a year that is run by the brother and sister team of Garance and Stanislas Thiénot. Not only is this the first time the Academy has chosen a rare and little-known Champagne, but it is the first time Champagne Thiénot will be served in the U.S.—not bad to have your launch party at the Oscars. The Thiénot Rosé and a 2005 vintage will be served, with price points ranging from $40 to $150 a bottle.

Returning this year is Marc Friedland of Marc Friedland Couture Communications, reprising his role in designing one of the biggest focal points of the evening: The gold Oscar envelope, with the easy-open red ribbon primed for “And the Oscar goes to….” But in a new take, Friedland has also designed a digital collection of Academy-sanctioned invites for home Oscar parties. Free to download via Evite Postmark, the Oscar Collection by Mark Friedland will comprise 10 designs and will be available only for a limited time.

As Oscar night comes to an end, additional environmentally responsible initiatives will kick in, including a push to recycle and repurpose everything from plastics, metals, glass, and even the plywood used. Floral arrangements will either be donated to homes for the aging or composted leftover food will be donated to L.A. Specialty Chefs to End Hunger. “I’m Canadian, so green is a way of life,” says Cecchetto, who also smiles when asked about her record 24 years producing the ball. “It’s like my child,” she says, “although sooner or later I will have to retire.”

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