Every Summer the James Beard Foundation hosts a spectacular event in the Hamptons titled “Chefs and Champagne.” This tasting party showcases the culinary skill of over 30 of the countries top chefs. This star-studded soiree is held at one of the Hampton’s most picturesque outdoor venues, Wolffer Estate Vineyards in Sag Harbor. Once a potato farm, this 55-acre stretch of land is now a gorgeous vineyard equipped with horse stables, a tasting room and an outdoor patio where you can listen to live music and snack on some cheese and charcuterie with friends. Wolffer Estate’s Rose is by far my favorite wine to drink in the summer. This wine is crisp, refreshing and fruity, and has all the characteristics you want in a beverage when you are soaking in the Hampton’s sun. What could be better than an evening full of delicious food, endless wine and champagne and a tent full of people who have devoted their lives to the art of food, giving you a taste of what they can do in the kitchen.
The James Beard Foundation’s mission is “to celebrate, nurture, and honor America’s diverse culinary heritage through programs that educate and inspire.” This incredible organization had provided many scholarships to aspiring chefs and sommeliers over the years. The James Beard Foundation also hosts the “Oscars” of the Food and Beverage industry each year at Lincoln Center where top Chefs and restaurants from around the country are given the ultimate accolades in the business. This year, at Chefs and Champagne, the King of Food Network, Chef Bobby Flay was honored for his many years of success and service in the food industry.
Chef Bobby Flay is a graduate of the International Culinary Center (formerly the French Culinary Institute), and is one of the main reasons I decided to train at the ICC. I had the opportunity to speak with Bobby that evening, and we both expressed our appreciation for the ICC program. Bobby was never fond of school growing up, but he couldn’t deny that the foundation he received at the ICC will stick with him forever. There is no doubt that the program gave him the tools he needed to be successful. During the event, Bobby got up on stage and made a lovely speech defining the importance of the James Beard Foundation and James Beard himself. In his speech he proudly stated “the most important people I would like to thank are all my brothers and sisters who are serving the most incredible food tonight, everybody who is in an apron tonight, thank you from the bottom of my heart.” One of the highlights of this event and any James Beard Foundation event you will attend is you get a true sense of community when you are amongst these chefs. The culinary community is one big family, and the love and support that fills the room is undeniable.
If you are reading this blog post, chances are you have a serious interest in food and the culinary arts, so let me get to the good part and share with you a few of my favorite dishes from the Chefs and Champagne event.
I will start with my favorite dish of the evening…
Crispy Suckling Pig Presse with Farofa and Stone Fruit Mostarda by Chef Jason Hall-
This dish was not only incredibly innovative, it was downright delicious! The chef took succulent shredded pork meat and pressed it into a rectangular pan and then topped it with crispy, caramelized pig skin. Since the meat was so compact, they were able to cut it into squares like a cake! The Stone Fruit Mostarda was the perfect sweet and spicy addition to the dish. Just to give you an idea about how much I liked this dish, my sister, my best friend and I were going to share one since the portion was rather large, but I took one bite and said “sorry sistas you are on your own!”
Homemade Ricotta Crostini with Heirloom Tomatoes, Flying Pigs Farm Bacon and Ancho Chile Salt by Chef Alex Guarnaschelli-
In a tent full of complex dishes, this simple crostini was a breath of fresh air. Each ingredient in this hors d’oeuvre was top-notch quality making it hard for me to eat just one. Alex’s house made ricotta was perfectly creamy and the bread she used reminded me of the best Italian bread you get on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.
Tuna Crudo with Kizami Wasabi, Olives, and Basil by Chef Chris Jaeckle-
This was one of the first dishes I tasted and it set the bar high right off the bat. The tuna was so fresh and the flavors were so refreshing, it was the perfect food to serve on a hot summer day in July.
Za’atar- Grilled Lamb Chops with Tabbouleh and Greek Yogurt by Chef Rufino Rengifo-
These were by far the best lamb chops I have ever had in my life! The meat was so buttery and so tender that the juices dripped oh so delicately down my chin and I didn’t even care. This is a Chef I will be visiting really soon!
Chilled Corn Soup with Heirloom Tomatoes and Rye Crisp by Chef Jesse Schenker-
The way I can describe this dish is it was like eating pure silk. The corn gave the soup a sweet and summery flavor and the texture was creamy without being heavy at all, in fact it was incredibly light.
Tristar Strawberry-Valrhona Dulcey- Blond Chocolate Tarts with Marshmallow and Lemon Verbena by Stephen Colluci-
There is always room for dessert right!? These tiny tarts were rich and buttery but had a wonderful burst of freshness from the lemon verbena and the farm fresh strawberries.
Learn more about Danielle’s class: Professional Culinary Arts
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