Brown Derby Cobb Salad

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

mouth water.


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! 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

1 avocado

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.