Transforming downtown Los Angeles’ Cathedral of St. Vibiana, which was built in 1876, and the rectory, built in 1933, into a modern event space and performing arts venue has taken more than a decade. Now fully retrofitted, air-conditioned and modernized, with custom sound and digitally controlled lighting systems, the main hall at Vibiana and its adjacent courtyard has been the site of art openings, fashion shows, wine tastings, weddings, high-profile fundraisers and Emmy awards after-parties. Fox/FX welcomed 1,000 guests for its starstudded soirée in September 2015; Mindy Weiss and Revelry Design handled the brilliant design details.
The artfully reconfigured rectory is now Redbird, a haute dining spot under the direction of chef Neal Fraser. The restaurant has an open-air dining room, several private dining spaces and a camera-ready kitchen with cutting- edge appliances sponsored by Jenn-Air.
“It’s such an amazing piece of architecture, with so many details,” says Amy Knoll Fraser, managing partner of Vibiana (the facilities’ event company) and Redbird. The historic building was ceded to the city after it was damaged in the Northridge earthquake; in 2002, the Catholic Church inaugurated a new modern cathedral nearby. St. Vibiana’s has been desacralized (its religious status officially removed). However, the ornate marble altar remains as a dramatic and picturesque reminder of the building’s earlier purpose.
What was once the sacristy, where the priests readied for Mass, is now the purposebuilt kitchen: one side is Redbird’s, the other serves Vibiana and both utilize the large prep area and refrigerated cellar. “The setup is a luxury for events because there’s no schlepping and our systems are consistent, helping with service, efficiency and cost,” Amy says. Event menus reflect LA’s multicultural populace, with inspiration coming from the cuisines of Korea, Armenia, China, India, Mexico and more. Ingredients are sourced locally as much as possible. “From pulled pork sliders to foie gras, we execute and plate everything to order,” says Amy of the ambitious presentation and food service program. “My goal is to make the main hall feel like a fine dining restaurant. What appeals to event planners is the space is so versatile; it’s a blank canvas and they can come in and do anything.” With over 100 events taking place in 2015, planners are clearing saying “amen” to that.