In 1962 my surf band had a hit record (remember "Wipeout", "Surfbeat" and the
early Sonny & Cher Records?). I began spending more and more time in Hollywood
doing television shows, making records and appearing in various movies. I was
getting involved in the 'biz'. Often I was treated to a meal by some industry
type and eventually I landed at the Brown Derby. I was somewhat awed by the
quality of the place and it's clientele. I noticed two meals that my host's
ordered, corned beef hash with poached eggs and a dark green pile of finely
diced ingredients known as the Cobb Salad. I learned that these were house
specialties and after trying each, they became favorites of mine.
Since that time I have ordered many Cobb Salads at different eateries but none
could compare with the one served at the Brown Derby. About 15 years ago an
elderly friend passed on. I was going through her collection of 1,400 cookbooks
and came upon one from the Brown Derby published in 1949. At last I had the
recipe. I share it with you here but remind you of a few things which are not
mentioned. The greens and other ingredients should be chopped finely into pieces
that are about 1/4 inch or just a little bigger. I know it takes time. This is
one of the first features you will notice in inferior Cobbs that you might be
served. It always impressed me as a meal that was complete, rich in tastes and
so finely chopped that one probably didn't have to chew a bite. Kind of like an
exquisite animal feed. The next thing I find missing in knock-off Cobbs is one
or more ingredients. Each one listed here adds to the overall effect. Do a
little planning and don't skip anything. Mmmm. Just thinking about it makes my
It's a bit of work to get it all together but if you are willing to prepare it
for your guests, they will never forget you. I know I won't, that is if you
happen to include me on your guest list!...now for a little background
..One night in 1925, Herbert K. Somborn was chatting with Abe Frank, the
manager of the Los Angeles Ambassador Hotel, and Sid Grauman, of Chinese Theater
fame, and as idle chatter goes remarked, "You could open a restaurant in an
alley and call it anything or you could even build it in the shape of a hat and
if the food and service were good the patrons would come flocking."
To achieve the standards set for this little Derby, Somborn, the husband of the
celebrated cinema star, Gloria Swanson, selected a young friend who had been
raised in the restaurant business. This was Robert H. Cobb, who was the
combination food checker, steward, buyer, cashier, and occasional cook when the
first Derby opened.
During its first four years the original Little Hat Derby had added only two
items to its menu-a salad and a cake. The salad was almost an accident. Bob
Cobb, growing weary of the steady hot-dog-hamburger diet, found an avocado in
the icebox. He chopped it up, along with some lettuce, celery, and tomatoes,
plus a strip of bacon and some salad dressing, and had that for his dinner.
Several days later he tried it again, adding other ingredients which he had
purchased on his way to work: breast of chicken, chives, hard-boiled egg,
watercress, and a wedge of Roquefort cheese for the dressing. And that's how the
Cobb Salad was born.
Cobb Salad, Serves 4-6
1/2 head of iceberg lettuce
1/2 bunch watercress
1 small bunch chicory
1/2 head romaine
2 medium-sized tomatoes, peeled
2 breasts of boiled roasting chicken
6 strips crisp bacon
3 hard-cooked eggs
2 tbs. chopped chives
1/2 cup fine grated imported Roquefort cheese
1 cup Brown Derby Old-fashioned French Dressing
Cut finely lettuce, watercress, chicory, and romaine and arrange in salad bowl.
Cut tomatoes in half, remove seeds, dice finely, and arrange in a strip across
the salad. Dice breasts of chicken and arrange over top of chopped greens. Chop
bacon finely and sprinkle over the salad. Cut avocado in small pieces and
arrange around the edge of the salad. Decorate the salad by sprinkling over the
top the chopped eggs, chopped chives, and grated cheese. Just before serving mix
the salad thoroughly with French Dressing.
Brown Derby Old-Fashioned French Dressing, 1 1/2 qts.
This is the French Dressing which became so popular among the stars. The cup of
water is optional, depending upon the degree of oiliness desired in this
1 cup water
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 1/2 tbs. salt
1 tbs. ground black pepper
1 tbs. Worcestershire Sauce
1 tbs. English mustard
1 bead garlic, chopped
1 cup olive oil
3 cups salad oil
Blend together all ingredients except oils. Then add olive and salad oils and
mix well again. Chill. Shake before serving.
Elton loved this when I ordered it for him the first time he came to LA.