By Madeline Janis. Originally published in the Los Angeles Times. September 21, 2011.
Earlier this summer, the L.A. City Council ended the fierce competition for the multimillion-dollar food concessions business at Los Angeles International Airport, awarding contracts to three food service companies that will bring a variety of new local restaurants to the airport.
Dozens of companies large and small vied for the contracts, spending thousands of dollars on lobbyists over a three-year period. Celebrity chefs from some of the hottest restaurants in the U.S. competed against one another to impress city officials and win the chance to open concessions at LAX. Here's how this newspaper described it: "The list of proposed restaurants is a microcosm of the local dining scene, from big names such as [Nancy] Silverton, who co-owns Hollywood's Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza with celebrity chef Mario Batali, to small businesses such as the Westside's Buttercake Bakery, which specializes in buttercream-smeared cupcakes."
There was nothing surprising about the feeding frenzy for these potentially lucrative contracts — unless you remember the dire warnings of former Mayor Richard Riordan, the L.A. Chamber of Commerce, the Central City Assn. and many other business organizations, which opposed requiring airport contractors to pay a living wage.