The Originals

Carl Bendix and David Corwin

“Though leaves are many, the root is one”—William Butler Yeats

They didn’t just cater an event,

They created an event.

A summer in Los Angeles has the ability to change a person’s life. A lucky few get “discovered.” Most others discover themselves and talents they nev er knew existed. When college friends Carl Bendix and David Corwin took a road trip from Ithaca, New York to Los Angeles one summer in the seventies, they happened upon a career path very different from what they had expected. Bendix envisioned a career as a landscape architect, while Corwin wanted to be a film maker. Fate, However, would lead them down a different road. Their destination: to become one of the most influential catering companies on the West Coast.

Like many LA newcomers, the two worked as waiters upon arrival, eventually landing jobs at Moveable Feast, one of the few off-premise caterers in Los Angeles at the time. After a few years of catering events, including some early film premieres, things began to click. Plans of filmmaking and landscaping were put on hold and in 1978, Bendix and Corwin started Ambrosia Catering.

From the start, Ambrosia was different. The duo’s artistic background engendered a unique sensibility, giving them an edge over other caterers. They didn’t just cater an event, they created an event; all decor, including lighting and floral, was done in house. “In the early days, there were no special event lighting companies,” Corwin says. “And all the rental companies had were track lights. So, I would go to film rental companies and get equipment from them.”

Connections in Hollywood led them into producing film premieres, for which Ambrosia would often incorporate actual film premiers, for which Ambrosia would often incorporated actual film props. In 1998, Ambrosia became the first off-premise caterer to produce—from food to décor—the Academy Awards Board of Governors Ball, which for years had been the domain of the Beverly Hilton. In 1995, they topped themselves by bringing in celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck to design the menu for the Governors Ball, a tradition that continues to this day.

While their events were high-profile, Bendix and Corwin remained down to earth—in some cases, literally. Strong proponents of the environment, they were among the first caterers to take an environment-friendly approach to events. “We wanted to integrate environmental and social awareness into the event industry,” Bendix says. To that end, they began incorporating organic produce and sustainable agricultural products into their menus, started a recycling and food donation program, and began donating a percentage of the company’s profits to environmental causes. In 1989, Bendix founded a nonprofit organization called Earth Celebrations 2000, which sponsored inner city programs.

Two years ago, Ambrosia closed out its catering division to focus on its forte—production of large events that push the envelope of design and technology. “We’ve always played,” Corwin says. “We’ve done hydroponic buffets, video menus, unusual projections.” The latter—projected images—has been of particular interest to Corwin. For the 1996 Board of Governors Ball, he designed an over head scrim, onto which photographed, images and lasers were projected, creating a canopy of kinetic color.

“Life is so much a matter of faith and destiny,” Bendix says. “You find yourself with a new request that leads you to a new adventure.” For Bendix and Corwin, the adventure, it seems, is never-ending,”