Le Petit Chef

Photo by Jeanne RiceTable for two at Foscari's, Anaheim Hills. In the chair facing the kitchen, Michael Lee Gogin, a.k.a. “Little Big Man.” Actor/musician/renaissance man. Star of films such as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Under the Rainbow, and Runaway Train. TV credits include Coach and Roseanne. Sang alongside Pavarotti in Turandot. Lives in Placentia. Connoisseur, raconteur, wizard in the kitchen. Height: four-foot-three. Weight: 95 pounds.

Next to Gogin, yours truly. Height: five-foot-eight. Weight: nearing Sydney Greenstreet territory. Gogin orders risotto with chicken, mushrooms and spinach in a four-cheese sauce. This bulbous bon vivant takes the grilled salmon on a bed of penne pasta and curried cream. The waitress brings bread, house red and a plate of carpaccio (thinly sliced raw beef topped with shaved Parmesan and lemon-herb dressing). The carpaccio melts on our tongues. Conversation ensues.

OC Weekly: Tell me about this cooking show you're trying to sell.Michael Gogin: It's called Small Fries. I'll interview the guests, and we'll make something together, in their home probably. The “small fries” refers to me, but I'll also have other little people on. We'll make smaller portions than most of these other food shows. And there will be a musical performance in each episode. You're taller than I anticipated. Is there some technical definition for “little person”?

Anyone four-foot-10 or less is considered a little person or short in stature. There are almost 200-something different types of dwarfs. There's a name for my type of dwarfism; I just don't know it. The name's longer than my height. Actually, the word “dwarf” I detest.

How's your risotto?

Really fantastic. It's simple. Mild and very creamy. Your salmon?

Quite good. I notice it tastes even better when I break the salmon up and mix it in with the sauce and pasta. This place was an excellent recommendation.

I like Foscari's because it's traditional. You go to San Francisco, where I'm from, and you'll find restaurants like this on every corner. There's a lot of class that goes beyond the murals of gondoliers. A certain elegance. And each dish has a distinctive taste. Also, the kitchen is right out in the open, so it's not like they're hiding anything.

Any other restaurants you'd recommend?

Thai Specialty in Brea. It's very clean, family-oriented. I can go in there any time and have a meal the way I want it. I love hot dishes, and they have this hot calamari—I mean, you sweat. But it's so tasty you just want to have another bite. It has ginger and all kinds of other goodies. If you have a diabetic problem, forget it. You cannot eat the amount of sugar they put in that dish.

What wine are you drinking these days?

You know Fess Parker? The guy who used to be Daniel Boone on TV? He has a terrific Meritage. Un-friggin'-believable! But you think he sells it for $7 or $8 at the winery? You're gonna pay $30 for that bottle of wine. I also like Francis Ford Coppola's wines. I have one at home I really like, his 1999 claret.

I know you're an accomplished cook. Any specialties?

I love cooking fish dishes—all kinds. I can fry a fish or bake it, and it always turns out great. Most people cook fish to death, but it's no secret: 25 minutes in the oven. Take it out. It's done. And I can do anything when it comes to sauces.

What's your kitchen like?

Because I'm a proportionate little person, I haven't changed anything. I have a problem with my reach, so I move pots and pans down lower. I don't usually have to stand on anything. If I'm cooking and I have to lean over, I may have to use a stool. I've decided the next house I get, I'll reconstruct the kitchen with a hydraulic stove and cabinet system that lowers itself when I walk in. I think that'd be fair.

Foscari Italian Cuisine, 5645 E. La Palma, Anaheim Hills, (714) 779-1777. Open Mon.-Fri., 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. N 5-9:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 5-9:30 p.m. Full bar. Lunch for two, $58, food only. All major credit cards accepted.

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