Behind the Scenes with Huell Howser, Part I -French Garden and more

Observations from Ryan Morris, Huell’s assistant
Huell’s best ideas were serendipitous. When Huell wasn’t scouring newspapers and magazines, he was leafing through letters and emails from viewers, not just looking for show ideas but for hidden gems. A hidden gem could only come from uncharted territory, preferably out of left field, but it couldn’t feel esoteric. In his later years, Huell avoided difficult shoots that might encroach on his weekends by the pool in Palm Springs.

The turnaround time between concepts, filming, editing and airing was about one month. It’s as though ideas have an expiration date, so story files sitting on his desk too long would be abandoned like stale meat. The intake of footage was swift. For a half-hour program, he would try to use on or two 32-minute Beta tapes and he wouldn’t dare waste one. After all, those tapes run for about $15 each and “that costs me a Bloody Mary at Musso’s!” he once said.
Imagine files and tapes everywhere. Tapes would pile up into blue towers around my desk. He wanted everything quick and the assignments were rapid-fire. You always had to be on your toes with Huell, so much so that I eventually ditched my chair and ordered one of those standing desks.

The morning after a premiere date, he would phone those he interviewed and announce, “You’re a star!” This seemed to be the payoff for Huell. He was always delighted by the reactions of non-celebs getting their time on TV. Benoit Lesure, the waiter and owner atThe French Garden, was always beside himself when Huell called, and Huell called often.
The French Garden on East 7th Street near the Greyhound Bus Station was one of Huell’s favorite eating spots in L.A., and the subject of a previous episode. (He also frequented Musso & Frank, Philippe’s French Dip, and the Police Academy’s Cafe in Elysian Park.) Huell loved taking guests to the The French Garden and always made a special presentation out of the dingy alleyway that opened up into a lively bistro full of downtowners on lunch hour. You might notice, he didn’t touch the bread. Huell was always sampling food on camera, but I’d rarely see him eat outside of special occasions. And he considered food in the office, even snacks, to be unprofessional.
*********************************************The French Garden Closes***********************************
5.0 star rating


This is not Paris, France the few snobbish critics (probably jealous chefs that have no business.  This was an L.A. institution discovered for me by Huell Howser, my favorite Angeleno, via Tennessee may he R.I.P.
I will truly miss Benoit, the owner, his smile with the biggest whitest teeth, the warm quaint atmosphere, the kind waiters always attentive and the wonderful food, starting with the freshest baguette’s in L.A.
Many days Benoit would act as the matre di, the busboy, waiter, and even cook.  His special touch was on everything.  My favorite was the Salmon with the Dijon sauce…and his mashed potatoes were divine!  The cute bar inside where I ate once on a very stormy winter day.  He thanked me for coming to support his restaurant that day.  What a nice man, great restaurant!  I TRUYLY MISS THIS PLACE, WITH TEARS IN MY EYES!!
BENOIT….PLEASE RE-OPEN SOMEWHERE IN L.A…..we will have one of the biggest parties with the ‘FRENCH GARDEN FAMILY”.
It was not like Huell to just sit in a restaurant. Whenever we’d go to restaurants, he was always making the rounds, starting conversations with complete strangers whether they knew who he was or not…
to be continued…