Girls gotta eat. That’s the theme for today’s #BennettBrunch, one in a series of meals that Ellen Bennett—former cook and founder of the chef’s-gear company Hedley & Bennett—has been hosting for three years. The premise is simple: Invite a bunch of mostly strangers over; ask them to bring ingredients or a semiready dish; and let them loose in a kitchen to see what happens. With eight of Los Angeles’s finest women in food on the guest list and Ellen’s bright home as the setting, the end result is predictably epic.
For Ellen, feeding people is only half the equation. Comfort is key, and she and her husband, Casey Caplowe, cofounder and chief creative officer of Good magazine, designed their Echo Park home in Los Angeles from the ground up to feel both spacious and inviting. “Casey is into wide, open supermodern spaces, while I’m crazy for bold colors,” says Ellen. The couple met in the middle with a thoughtful mix of warm woods and white cabinetry punctuated with hits of sunny yellow, orange, and aqua. Wall-to-wall glass sliding doors at the back of the first floor let in tons of light and provide easy access to a tiered backyard that includes a deck, garden, bocce court, and spaces for their pet pig, Oliver, and pet chicken, Olive Oil.
As guests arrive, each ties on one of Ellen’s apron designs, and the group gathers around the kitchen island to start cooking. “It’s about creating community with food as the backdrop,” says Ellen. “By the end, you’ve accidentally elbowed your neighbor three times prepping a dish. And, you never know, maybe that random person will become a friend for life.”
Bricia Lopez, co-owner of Guelaguetza in L.A., sauces huevos rancheros, a fixture on her restaurant’s menu.
"Your people and tribe are out there," says Ellen. "Throw a brunch with friends of friends, makers, and other doers to find them."
Ellen’s yellow Bertazzoni professional range is the kitchen’s workhorse and design star.
Other accents play off the range's punchy hue.
Unfussy, fresh dishes dominate the meal, including chef Ashley Abodeely’s tomato-cucumber salad with basil flower, charred corn, and shallots.
Sitting on the Room & Board living room sofa, Natasha Phan (on the left), cofounder of the 14 Grand Hospitality restaurant group in Las Vegas, and Helen Johannesen (on the right), who provided the vino from her shop Helen’s Wines, get the party started.
"Our living room is a color explosion with a mix of new pieces and flea market finds," says Ellen, "We spent too much on our rug, but we wanted something playful to ground the space."
The home’s open layout is perfect for casual gatherings. Ellen sets up the spread, buffet-style, on the dining room table so guests can serve themselves and mill around with their plates.
When you have a garden outside your door, fresh flowers make for an easy table centerpiece.
Dark plates make colorful food photo-ready.
Everyone contributes to the meal: Sophie Hug (on the left), butcher at Gwen restaurant, brought cured cuts of meat, and Heather Sperling of Botanica restaurant and market (on the right) toted freshly baked cookies.