Tommy Lasorda was the Dodgers manager for 20 years, which is an undeniably high-profile job, but, temper aside, he wouldn't have been so famous and adored if it weren't for his love of food.
The commercial above is for Hungry-Man, the frozen meals that specifically marketed themselves as big and filling, filmed 20 years before Lasorda's SlimFast campaign began. Lasorda maybe seemed like someone who would actually buy the product; Dodger Steve Garvey took so many spokesman gigs (see below) it famously caused tension in the locker room.
Lasorda never (that I can find) claimed to be a good cook, except for one greens and beans recipe of his mother's - it's the only one he ever trotted out. His food credentials lay almost entirely with his appetite, which wasn't just famous locally. St. Louis restaurateurs loved when he was in town, no matter which team won.
Tommy Lasorda's enthusiasm for food is renowned. Once Steve Garvey, the former Dodgers' first baseman, had a uniform made with the name ''Lasorda'' replaced with ''Lasagna.'' Another time some of his players, trying to embarrass him into dieting, had T-shirts printed with ''Do Not Feed the Manager'' in English, Spanish, French, Italian and Japanese. — New York Times, 1988.
So, being a rich man who loved food, in 1987 Lasorda opened Tommy Lasorda’s Ribs and Pasta in Marina del Rey, South Pasadena, and Lakewood. As the LA Times wrote of the opening party, "Lasorda’s reputation as one of America’s insatiable eaters makes him a natural for the part of restaurant owner."
Anthony Bourdain wrote a chapter in "Kitchen Confidential" about people outside the food industry who open restaurants because they cook something well or throw good parties and think it will translate to commercial success.
The most dangerous species of owner, however-a true menace to himself and others-is the one who gets into the business for love. Love for the song stylings of George Gershwin (always wanted a place where they could present the cabaret music they adore), love for the regional cuisine of rural Mexico (and it'll be authentic, too! No frozen margaritas!), love of eighteenthcentury French antiques (I need a restaurant so people can see them, see what good taste I have!), love for that great Bogie film they have all that memorabilia from. — "Kitchen Confidential"
Lasorda loved ribs and pasta. He did not love the rats that infested the SoPas location and peed on the plates stacked in the kitchen. Those were just two of the 73 health code violations the restaurant faced by the end of 1988. By early 1990 this and the Marina del Rey outposts were closed, and the Lakewood one had a different menu. That closed pretty soon after.
Lasorda was a great champion of restaurants, including Paul's Kitchen, which seemingly never got a media mention without Lasorda's name attached to it. Actually most mentions were profiles of Lasorda that took place at the restaurant. And it still exists. Let that be a lesson to all of us who occasionally think about making some money off our best recipe.
Some Steve Garvey emphemera: