Seven 5-star chefs teamed up to provide a mouth-watering assortment of appetizers, dishes, entrées, and desserts in a seven-course meal. Each course was accompanied by an excellent pairing of a notable wine, beer, or in three cases by a memorable cocktail custom-made for the occasion by Manny Hinojosa who, for years, has been our favorite Mixologist. The annual Beard House Celebrity Chef Tour event began in 2004 as a way of raising funds in support of the culinary educational program sponsored by New York’s famous James Beard House. This year, during the months of September and October, more than 20 great dinners were scheduled at restaurants located throughout the country in Louisiana, Colorado, New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, Florida, Delaware, Wyoming, New Jersey, Georgia, and (of course) California. I was surprised to learn that dinners were also held in Italy, South Africa, Puerto Rico, and England.
At each of the tour stops a number of top local chefs combine their talents and skills to create a 5-star multiple course dinner that is described as “a work of artistry and craftsmanship.” Each course is paired with a premium wine, beer, or cocktail. Guests not only enjoy a truly memorable meal but, following a Beard House tradition, they have an opportunity to engage in conversation with the participating chefs. The James Beard Foundation is on a mission to encourage and preserve our country’s culinary heritage. James Beard, who died in 1985, was a mentor to a generation of chefs. The Beard Foundation honors the man’s spirit and continues his work through a number of educational programs, culinary competitions, industry awards, scholarships to culinary schools, and sponsoring the historic Greenwich Village’s James Beard House as a culinary demonstration venue for visiting chefs.
People are typically unaware of it, but the Celebrity Tour is only one of a number of public service and community outreach events that the food industry supports. For example, a marvelous nonprofit called Share Our Strengths, has the compelling tagline “No Kid Hungry.” The foundation’s complete absence of overhead and administrative costs distinguishes it from many other nonprofit organizations. Every dollar taken in is used to combat childhood hunger.
For example, each year Share Our Strengths sponsors a series of fundraisers including food and wine tasting events, dinners, and brunches in 50 cities across the country. Since 1988, the events have raised more than $70 million, supporting 450 groups working to end hunger and poverty. The list of celebrity chefs at our Bridges James Beard Foundation’s Celebrity Chef Tour event included Andrew Wilson from Dry Creek Kitchen, Arik Markus from True Food Kitchen, Matthew Accarrino from SPOR, Dan Murray from Pedalers Fork, Stephanie Yu, Chef Curtis McDonald, and the hometown chef, Kevin Gin from Bridges.
Except for Bridges, of course, I never heard of any of the restaurants represented by the seven chefs whose masterpieces we sampled, but based upon the dishes they brought to our table, I could become a fan of every one of them.