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SMALL BITES THE MAN WHO FED HUNGRY TIGER'S SUCCESS MOVES ON.

Byline: - Larry Lipson

Wally Hollenstein's most important day in the restaurant business was Jan. 1, 1962.

That's when the owners of the beleaguered Hungry Tiger restaurant in Sherman Oaks asked him to take over its management after going through three managers, firing a drunken chef and finding very little money in the cash register following a busy New Year's Eve.

Hollenstein, 70, owner of the Calabasas Inn for 34 years and a longtime West Hills resident, is retiring at the end of this year, having sold the Inn and its surrounding property to a local developer.

A lanky, amiable man with boyish looks, Hollenstein came to Los Angeles in 1957 from Florida. He worked as a waiter at the Pump Room in Studio City, the Brown Derby in Hollywood, Dino's Lodge on the Sunset Strip and the Encore on La Cienega Boulevard prior to his Hungry Tiger opportunity.

And what a job he did there.

Within a few months it was a rip-roaring success and the thankful owners, executives and pilots of the Flying Tigers freight airline, were ready to open more Hungry Tigers.

And, of course, give Hollenstein a piece of the action.

He attributes two major factors to the Hungry Tiger turnaround.

First, he installed an oyster bar, stocked by the Tiger airline, along with the kitchen's live lobsters. And second, he hired a couple of French chefs, Rene Robin and Marcel Frantz, to take over the Tiger kitchen.

Robin went on to open Le Petit Moulin in Santa Monica, and Frantz co-founded Aux Delices in Sherman Oaks. Robin left first, later Frantz.

Hollenstein promoted his skillful sous chef David May to take charge of the Tiger kitchen.

Seven more Hungry Tigers were successfully opened under Hollenstein's direction until 1972, when he resigned as president, cashed in his stock and bought the Calabasas Inn.

Meanwhile, May, who opened and still runs the Cafe Cordiale in Sherman Oaks, stayed on, and the Hungry Tiger chain grew to 40 locations before it was sold.

Hollenstein and his family operated the Calabasas Inn as a public restaurant until 1989, when he turned it strictly into a private catering facility.

Monte Montana rode up on his horse and lassoed his bride there, and Dennis Weaver's daughter was married at the Inn.

Now Hollenstein is ready to devote all his time to his family, one member of which -- his first great-grandson -- was born Aug. 15, 2006.

That's exactly 34 years after he opened the Calabasas Inn on Aug. 15, 1972.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 29, 2006
Words:417
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