On June 25th, to commemorate the first anniversary of Michael Jackson’s passing, Akasha Restaurant featured several of the pop-star’s favorite dishes for one night only. As a big fan of Jackson’s music (and an even bigger fan of Akasha Richmond’s cooking), Peter and I cancelled other plans and headed to Culver City to celebrate “MJ’s Greatest Bites” with the pop star’s former chef.
From the restaurant invite on FaceBook:
Mani Niall, the founder of Mani’s Bakery & now Executive Chef for Just Desserts in San Francisco, joins Akasha Richmond in the AKASHA restaurant kitchen to cook up some of Michael Jackson’s favorite dishes.
Michael Jackson discovered Akasha and Mani at the Golden Temple restaurant in Los Angeles while recording THRILLER and became a daily customer. Michael hired Mani as his first private chef for the Victory Tour and Akasha followed suit, touring the world on the Bad and History Tours and working for Michael from coast to coast. Cooking and traveling for the King of Pop shaped and inspired both Mani’s and Akasha’s culinary palette.
MJ’S GREATEST HITS WILL PLAY ALL NIGHT LONG
AKASHA: “Cooking for Michael was one of the greatest times of my life, and since Mani and I wanted to be together on the anniversary of his passing, we felt there was no better way to remember him than to cook up some of his favorite dishes.”
MANI: “I can truly say that working with Akasha was the first inspirational experience I had in the kitchen-and then Michael? He believed in me, treated me with respect and was really a fun person. When I went to work for him I was a cook and by the time I finished I was a chef.”
Like so many, Michael Jackson’s music was a huge part of my childhood. When I lived at the Masonic Home for Children (more info below), the Shriners (who were benefactors) would invite us every year to attend the Grammy Awards when they were held at the Shrine Auditorium. We would arrive in our old, beat-up UGLY brown and white bus, passing the stretch limos until we were dropped off around back. Our seats were way up high in the nose-bleed section, but we didn’t care… we were at the Grammy Awards! Music was such a huge part of my life personally (at seven I began writing songs on piano), and I would secretly act like I wasn’t with the group of “home kids”. That bubble always popped when we boarded the ugly bus back to reality of course.
For a few years after I left the home (at 18), I would grab a couple of friends and SNEAK into the Grammys! From all my previous visits to the Shrine, I knew exactly which back doors would lead up to the top balcony.
In 1984, while waiting in the alley to see which doors looked most promising, a white Rolls-Royce with tinted windows drove slowly passed us. The passenger window on my side was down, and as the car briefly stopped I got a glimpse of the King of Pop himself! Of course I was stunned, and I ran up to the window asking for a photo (his date was Brooke Shields!). Michael was very polite and said “please no photos”, but as he pulled away, I snapped a photo of his white glove waving at us, just before the car drove off towards the entrance. I have that photo somewhere in my archives, but haven’t been able to find it just yet. I did, however, find a photo of my friends and I posing proudly after we successfully navigated our way through the back corridors of the grand Shrine. Oh, to be that daring again!!
MJ’s Greatest Bites at Akasha Restaurant:
No room for dessert because we had to have two of our favorite Akasha bites:
Akasha brought out these awesome chicken wings she was testing in the kitchen!
9543 Culver Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
Dinner shared with: Jeffrey & Rina