Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gospel Brunch

My friend Russ Olden is a chef who also has a wicked passion for music. A big and bald and intimidating man; when he gets onstage with a harmonica, he turns into an incredible noodle of dancing and bombastic passion. Every Sunday at his catering business' headquarters The Commissary, he offers up a gospel brunch which is one of those experiences in life that everyone should have at least once. In non-traditional, downhome and slightly underground-club speakeasy style, he transforms a room into a dining hall with dimmed lights and a stage where various guest performers come to jam with his Old Will band. Just like a Harlem Church on Sunday morning, there are shrieks, screams, devotionals, and lots of audience dancing in the aisles and around the room. But the food is key here. In standard buffet line style, Russ cooks up mass portions of whatever he decides to go with for the day. On my recent visit, the menu included exquisite fried catfish, chunky cornbread with honey, sweet pulled pork, biscuits and smoky sausage gravy, dirty rice, fried chicken, fruit with creme anglaise, sauteed greens, and the bartender's spicy bloody marys and sweet orange mimosas! While dining, the singing begins and by the time the room is being enveloped by the praisers singing Oh When The Saints Come Marching In...you feel like you are no longer in Rancho Mirage, CA but in a true New Orleans chapel. Going back outside into the sunlight at 1 p.m. you feel fat, happy and a little surreal.


  1. sounds like quite the experience. Would love to check it out sometime.

  2. wow... if only I didn't hate the desert so much, this sounds fun...