Salad Days

Brown Derby Cobb Salad

June 2, 2023
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From Hollywood’s Brown Derby restaurant and named for its owner, Robert Howard Cobb, the Cobb Salad is to Americans the original chopped salad.  If you had it at the restaurant, you know it was a mix of very finely chopped watercress, curly endive, Romaine and iceberg lettuces topped with crisp bacon, hard boiled egg, tomato, chive, chicken breast, Roquefort cheese and avocado,  served with a house-made “French” dressing that was more akin to red wine vinaigrette than the sweet orange goo labeled “French” on a salad bar. Our home-cook version is chopped less fine, but features all of the original ingredients.  We’ve just updated the dressing, however, to make it less oily.

There’s some dispute about the recipe’s genesis. Was the first Cobb salad made by Cobb himself, when he was rummaging through the restaurant’s cooler to throw together a late-night snack in 1939, or, by the restaurant’s executive chef Robert Kreis? Or, perhaps more convincingly, was it first made for Cobb by French chef Henry Condouret, an executive chef at the 1939 World’s Fair, and one of the opening-team chefs for the Brown Derby? Reader Marisa Perry, Condouret’s grandaughter, thinks this might be so: that Condouret’s inspiration for the Cobb was the classic frisée au lardon salad, with the addition of blue cheese, tomato, chicken and avocado to make the salad filling enough to be an entree.  Whatever the provenance, the Cobb is one of America’s longest-standing salad favorites, inspiring dozens of different renditions.

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  • Reply Marisa Perry July 24, 2019 at 1:34 am

    Hi! My grandfather, also a chef was one of the original team opening up the Brown Derby on Hollywood and Vine. I have tossed (pun intended) this idea around in my head many times and I have a conclusion. I think Mr. Cobb was hungry and wanted a salad. My grandfather Henry Condouret was French and one of the executive chefs of the 1939 Worlds Fair. 2nd in command of hundreds of cooks. (Have photo documentation). So he must have been the rotating chef or chef de cuisine at that time. I think Mr. Cobb said to him, make me a salad. And my grandfather took the inspiration from the French Classic Frisée au Lardon salad often served in France with the addition of blue cheese, especially where he is from. The he added tomatoes, Chicken and avocado to snazz it up and make it filling enough for an entree as opposed to a side or appetizer. I suspect, whether it was my grandfather or the chef, that they had the avocado in stock or perhaps in their mis en place and tossed it in. The reason I think it was my grandfather is the the roots of that salad is very French as is a red wine vinaigrette and he most often added hard boiled eggs to salads including his tomato salads which was amazing!

    • Reply Monica Rogers June 7, 2023 at 2:51 pm

      What a great story! Marissa, so fun and fascinating! You must have eaten well with Henry Condouret as your grandfather! 🙂 I have just updated and re-posted the recipe story to include him!

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