Special Training Grounds for Future Restaurateurs
Tony Di Lembo's linkup with Barbra Streisand happened as the result of a conversation he overheard at a party in Los Angeles about her interest in hiring a personal chef. "I was her biggest fan so I thought if I applied, at the very least I'd get to see where she lived."
Di Lembo's family was in the restaurant business in Pittsburgh where he got a degree in business at The University of Pittsburgh and then attended The Culinary Institute of America in New York. He then spent two years apprenticing in Europe in a variety of French and Italian restaurants.
Hired by Streisand after an audition dinner at her home, Di Lembo was soon whirling through the Irvine Ranch Market, stocking up to meet the demands of the constant entertaining in Streisand's Beverly Hills and Malibu homes.
He was Streisand's personal chef for two years. "Every day was lunch for 8 and dinner for 10 or something like that. It was in many ways a cook's dream, exciting diner parties, lots of celebrities, but my goal had always been to own my own restaurant," he says, "and so I had to make the big decision eventually to leave."
With partners, he opened INDIGO restaurant on 3rd Street in Los Angeles, and subsequently the adjacent Breadworks bakery, (Indigo, opened in 1988, spawned a demand for the breads Di Lembo created there, leading to the opening of the Breadworks Bakery in 1990 and its numerous coffee shops). In 1997 he opened the renowned Tahiti restaurant which he ran successfully for many years. Di Lembo still acknowledges the influence his mid-'80s stint with Streisand has had on his style. "I learned an enormous amount about nutrition from her. She was the busiest person I ever met, but she was so into food she always had time to buzz the kitchen, often to draw my attention to something she had read in a book, a health book or a cookbook."
Though Streisand hadn't frequently gone out to public restaurants, she made a point to visit all of Di Lembo's restaurants over the years. "She was really an inspiration to me and showed me just how far talent and hard work could take you".