As many of you may know, I’m extremely superstitious. Not Rafael Nadal-level nutty in that category, but I try to never tempt fate. So to that end, I rarely leave the house on any Friday the 13th.

But this past one, just last week, January 13th, was the day before my birthday, and I was raring to get out. So when I received a lovely invitation from a friend visiting from New York for lunch at Culina in the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, I felt like I’d have bad luck if I passed on it!

Karen Salkin and Billy Alsbrooks.  Photo by Billy Alsbrooks.

Karen Salkin and Billy Alsbrooks. Photo by Billy Alsbrooks.

My pal Norah put together a fun little group for the occasion, including a very interesting guy, motivational speaker Billy Alsbrooks from San Antonio. (Being a big fan of the old school Tim-Duncan–Manu Ginobili Spurs, you know I just had to meet a resident of their city!) Billy was in Los Angeles to kick off his tour, which I had been invited to, but, just my luck, it was on my birthday, so I had to decline. That made having private time at the luncheon that much more special.

And what a pleasant guy Billy is! Earlier in his life, as a successful rapper and music producer, he worked with biggies such as Pitbull and Rick Ross. So I was surprised to discover that he is not full of himself, as I feel he would have a right to be. For the entire three hours we hung-out, he never once did the author equivalent of composers’ “…and then I wrote!” What a pleasure. [Note: That’s Billy on the right and Tiffany on the left, pointing at the birthday girl, Karen Salkin, in the big pic at the top of this page.]

I actually didn’t know any of that stuff about him until I researched him when I got home. Now there’s so much more I want to talk to him about! (But he gave me a copy of his book, Blessed and Unstoppable–signed, of course–so I hope to find-out some of the answers to my unexpressed questions in there. Happy Birthday to me!)

Photo by Norah Lawlor.

Photo by Norah Lawlor.

One more word about my time with Billy Alsbrooks before I tell you about the rest of the luncheon. Because of this e-zine, he assumed that writing is my passion, and when I told him that it is not, (it’s actually tons of work, but I do it just to entertain others,) he asked me a question that no one ever has before, which I totally appreciated! He asked what my passion is! Even I never asked myself that!

You’re not going to believe this, but I didn’t have an answer for him. So I spent my birthday week-end contemplating my potential responses. My first thought was talking, and later on I went with sports, but I realized that there must be more to it. One of my friends took me to a new place for Afternoon Tea for my birthday a few days later, and I remembered that that repast is actually one of my major passions! I’m absolutely obsessed with it!

And then it hit me—my true passion is entertaining people, especially making them laugh! That was the purpose of my former TV show, and it’s, of course, the purpose of this e-zine. I thank Billy for inspiring me to contemplate all that. (And—I didn’t even need to attend his speech the next day to realize that I’m going to pay his kind question forward, and always ask people what their passions are. I bet there’s a lot more to learn from him, too.)

Now to the rest of the luncheon, which was so much more entertaining than I had even anticipated!

I hadn’t eaten at Culina, (or indoors at just about anywhere,) in over three years, since the beginning of the pandemic. I cannot even tell you how apprehensive I was to do so that day, but the wonderful staff put me at ease as soon as I walked in. The cute and stylish young hostess told me she loved my nails right away, and said I was the first in my party to arrive. She offered me to wait in the bar, (which I should have done—I’ll tell you why in a minute,) but when she saw that it wasn’t my cup of tea, (or more likely, alcohol,) she asked if I’d like to go the table, which is what I did. She was very kind about the whole thing.

Culina's beautiful chocolate birthday cake. Photo by Karen Salkin.

Culina’s beautiful chocolate birthday cake. Photo by Karen Salkin.

Then our waiter, Omar, introduced himself and made me comfortable right away. He, and the rest of his team, did everything to make our lunch perfect.

The whole experience was very happening, from start to very late finish. We were seated at a long table in a semi-private area of the dining room, which was made cozy by a giant fireplace on a big screen at the end of it. And, as private as we were, we could also see the main restaurant action, so we were still part of the in-crowd that day.

To add to the hip atmosphere, the American Film Institute was hosting their annual awards luncheon in the hotel that day, so people were mingling with drinks in hand on the adjacent patio right next to us.  (Yes—we were having such a good time that we were still there when cocktail hour began!!!) And the entire bar area and lobby was filled with AFI attendees, (including celebs,) as well. (That’s why I should have chosen to wait in the bar when I arrived.) It was exactly what you’d want to see at an upscale Beverly Hills Hotel during awards season!

The view into the main area of Culina from Karen Salkin's vantage point. Tiffany (on the right) is the only one paying attention! Photo by Karen Salkin, (featured in the center, showing off her manicure and jewelry.)

The view into the main area of Culina from Karen Salkin’s vantage point. Tiffany (on the right) is the only one paying attention! Photo by Karen Salkin, (featured in the center, showing off her manicure and jewelry.)

And the company in my group was equally engaging; all of us had something to say to one other. There were people from New York, New Jersey, San Antonio, and even England. And, of course, this Brooklyn-born-but-LA-to-the-core chick. In addition to Billy and me, there were a few other media folks, and a couple of young filmmakers. What a fun mix! (Of course, my favorite part was talking tea with the British gent.)

The food was pretty good, but not even close to warranting the super-steep prices. The service was worth it, though. And the location helped, as well. For once, the restaurant experience was not about the food, at all. Although the bruschetta was the best ever, and the designer pizzas were nice, my dessert was pedestrian, and my pasta bolognese was a disappointment—my own version of that dish is actually much better. (I know, right? Who am I nowadays???)

Karen Salkin blowing out the candle on her first birthday cake of 2023! Photo by Norah Lawlor.

Karen Salkin blowing out the candle on her first birthday cake of 2023! Photo by Norah Lawlor.

But the icing on the cake for me was the surprise birthday candle in my actual cake. (A chocolate one, of course.) I always need all the birthday wishes I can get, and I made it a good one. So I thank Norah for doing that. And for putting the whole thing together to begin with!

Now that my b-day celebrations are finally winding-down a bit, I think I’ll hunker down one day soon and get into Billy’s book. I’ll just imagine him motivating me to do so!!!



  1. Hi Karen.

    I always read you saying you don’t look good anymore, but I think you still look great! I was a fan of your show, and you really were a hottie back then, but now you just look like a little more full and little bit more grown-up version of yourself. So stop telling us how bad you look, please.

    That event looks really fun, too. I’m glad you still have people who appreciate you even without you being on tv anymore.

    AJ Smith

  2. Your friend Billy has the whitest teeth I’ve ever seen! Can u please ask him how he does it and let us know? OMG. Thanks.

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