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LOS ANGELES — When Jamie Tisch decided to throw a six-course murder-mystery dinner party for her husband, producer Steve Tisch, she only had to make one phone call, to her friend Liberty Woodman of Lady Liberty Catering.

Woodman, whose clients include Lisa Kudrow, Faith Hill, k.d. lang and Tracee Ellis Ross, specializes in parties with a personal touch. So personal, in fact, that she doesn’t mind having a reporter follow her through the Tisches’ enormous kitchen during the evening’s preparations.

This story first appeared in the March 18, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Just 90 minutes before the 35 guests are due to arrive, Woodman is busy searching for the cases of margarita glasses she swears she bought and is giving her four servers the lowdown on tonight’s meal as they’re shimmying into black satin French maid uniforms in the adjoining guest bedroom. “Will you wear high heels?” she asks one. “Those shoes are sort of frumpy. Thanks.”

The Tisches’ twin toddlers, Zachary and Holden, march through the bedroom, trailed by a nanny, without blinking an eye at the half-dressed women crowded inside.

In the kitchen, Woodman demonstrates how to put together the second course, an endive and roasted asparagus salad. No chafing dishes full of rubbery chicken breasts and steamed green beans here. “OK, you’re going to scoop out the cantaloupe ribbons like this,” she says, her fingers fluttering rapidly. No normal person could duplicate the motion in one try, but Woodman is already onto the next course, grilled eggplant and roasted tomatoes with pine nuts.

At 27, Woodman is a commanding yet motherly presence in the kitchen, which, on this particular night, houses a staff of 12. After breezing through UCLA, she trained at Le Cordon Bleu and interned at the Hôtel Lutetia in Paris before returning home to open her own company three years ago.

Meanwhile, in the living room, which has been cleared to fit three round tables, Steve Tisch examines the placecards, switching a few around. “I’ve known Liberty since she was a little girl,” he says, “but I wouldn’t be obliged to hire her if she wasn’t so great.” His wife, still clad in Seven jeans and flip-flops, is sampling a Bloody Mary while trying to herd the children up to bed so she can change.

There’s no request Woodman won’t accommodate at her parties. She’s sung karaoke, played matchmaker and salvaged a cake that was smashed in a fender bender en route to an event. She also never leaves home without a toaster oven in the back of her car, because even the most luxe kitchens can’t be trusted to operate properly.

“I’m a luxury,” she admits. “I do the invites and the thank-you notes and everything in between. All my clients have to worry about is what to wear and writing me a check.”

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