|Bouley, Humm, Portale, Richard and Colicchio; photo by Ken Goodman|
Gown-bedecked women and tuxedoed men (and a lone sari) milled around the reception room of the 25th anniversary of the James Beard Foundation in the Four Seasons Restaurant, accepting drinks or little amuse-bouches (including, notably, a wonderfully garlicky lamb tartare) from attentive waiters. Silent bidding had begun on the bevy of prizes offered that night – a stay in Monte Carlo, Dansk cookware, dinner for two at Per Se – and it was easy to spot fabled names like Colicchio in his chef whites out with crowds and Stewart making an impeccable appearance in the kitchens, which themselves were remarkably calm as chefs busily prepared the fare.
And what a meal it was. To celebrate 25 years of outstanding chefs, The James Beard Foundation had its share of them, from David Bouley with a mushroom flan to Alfred Portale with a superb charcuterie plate to Daniel Humm with a stuffed filet of beef. The aforementioned Tom Colicchio made monkfish while Michel Richard finished with a crème brûlée napoleon. And, all the while, amidst flowing wine and schmoozing guests table hopping, “celebrity auctioneer” Billy Harris was dispensing once-in-a-lifetime events in a live auction. Think cooking classes by Robert Curry in Napa or a personal tour of Singapore’s food stalls with Farina Kingsley. There was also foraging with the Noma staff in Denmark, and getting exclusive access to the James Beard House for a dinner by Humm.
The proceeds of these prizes – which ended up bringing in over $400,000 – go to the foundation, and its mission to “celebrate, nurture and preserve” America’s culinary diversity and heritage. And, after seeing (and tasting) the offerings from the night’s chefs, it’s not doing too shabby.