By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
If You Can't Stand the Heat . . .
Ex-Valley super-chef Todd Hall has found a more captive audience for his captivating cuisine.
It seems Hall, the notorious bad boy of good food, landed in the San Diego County Jail in March for forging checks. Hall is at San Diego County's five-star Descanso Detention Facility, where he'll be staying until July.
Prior to Descanso, Hall had slung hash at several of Arizona's finest restaurants -- the Hyatt Regency at Gainey Ranch, 8700 in Scottsdale and Sedona's L'Auberge de Sedona and Los Abrigados. He was named a Rising Star of American Cuisine by the James Beard Foundation and was named one of the best hotel chefs in America by Julia Child.
On the side, though, he tended to run afoul of the law. On May 17, Hall approached Sergeant Ian McIntosh, one of Descanso's watch commanders, asking if he could help in the kitchen. Hall recited his credentials, McIntosh drooled and Hall was given permission to join the inmate cooks at the mess hall.
Then McIntosh hopped on the Internet and pulled down a July 1996 New Timesprofile of Hall ("Epi-Cured," Michael Kiefer) that documented his past troubles and triumphs. Soon, copies of the story had circulated among the 60 deputies and staff members of the jail.
Hall arrived at the kitchen the next morning at 4. By mid-morning, McIntosh said, Hall was giving cooking lessons.
"A group of inmates were standing around watching him separate eggs," McIntosh says. "You could tell the guy was good."
Typically, fewer than half of the deputies and staff members eat lunch in the jail's mess hall, McIntosh says. Most bring sack lunches or eat at nearby restaurants.
At noon, though, the mess hall had filled with all but a few deputies.
"Everyone was excited," he says. "I mean this in the best possible way, but, you know, the food here tends to be kind of institutional."
Instead, the deputies were treated with "incredibly moist" turkey and "stuffing that was just out of this world," McIntosh says. "Somehow he had made really basic boring stuff into this great meal."
Deputies loaded their plates with seconds of stuffing. The captain of the facility marched into the kitchen and praised Hall's work. Deputies raved that it was the best lunch ever at Descanso.
On Friday, McIntosh was describing Hall as an "incredible resource," both for the deputies' palates and for the continuing education of his fellow inmates. He planned to keep Hall cooking until his release in July.
That was good news for Hall. Descanso is the poshest of San Diego County's seven jails. It is a camplike compound nestled in alpine forests 40 miles east of the city. Inmates rarely cause trouble at Descanso because, if they do, they know they'll be transferred to rougher facilities in the city.
But all of Hall's good behavior could have been putting him in jeopardy. When Ron Reina, director of public affairs for the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, heard last Friday about Hall's performance at Descanso, he said he planned to contact the food service manager for the entire San Diego jail system.
"Oh boy, when she hears about this guy, she'll come through the phone wanting to work with him," Reina says. ". . . He may not be up in the mountains for long."
By Monday, though, the excitement about Hall's food had turned to disgust with his personality. Over the weekend, Hall started to become imperious with the kitchen's civilian staff, McIntosh says. He also was using up too much of the kitchen's resources for each meal, McIntosh says.
On Sunday, Hall was removed from kitchen duty.
"Oh, man, it was good food," McIntosh says. "But the fact is: He's a prisoner and it is not his kitchen. I guess he's used to treating people like that. Maybe he forgot where he was."
Schmidt Hits the Fan
If Todd Hall does wind up in a Maricopa County jail, perhaps he'll serve food to an even more outrageous wanna-be celebrity, public relations agent David Hans Schmidt.
Schmidt, Shill for the Shameless, is in the lockup again, this time for five counts of aggravated harassment, three counts of violating probation and one count of interfering with judicial proceedings, jail officials report. He's been there since May 18, when he was arrested at his Biltmore area residence. The charges stem from domestic troubles.
The Mouthpiece for the Immodest has had such classy clients as knee-whacker and hubcap hurler Tonya Harding; Bill Clinton paramours Paula Jonesand Gennifer Flowers; Hugh Grant's trick, Divine Brown; and, most recently, frisky teenager Leslie Shorb, who showered with the boys at an Oregon high school.
Schmidt actually appeared with Shorb on Bryant Gumbel's CBS chat fest The Early Show a week before he was hauled back to the pokey. (He was introduced as Shorb's attorney, misinformation -- or disinformation -- the Tutor to the Tawdry did nothing to correct.)
Most of Schmidt's labors involve trying to get his clients big paydays for appearing in girlie magazines. As soon as Ms. Shorb's of age, the Flash sees a Penthouseshower scene layout for her; Shorb was stripped of her valedictorian status after she stripped in the boys' locker.