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Food Photographer Hosts Show at James Beard House

Food Photographer Hosts Show at James Beard House


Mira Zaki, a New York City–based food, travel, and documentary photographer, had her new show "Journey to Egypt: Discovering Identity Through Food," debut on Nov. 1 at the Greenhouse Gallery at the James Beard House in New York City. I met up with her to learn more about her project, her connection with food, and more.

"The work being included in the gallery is a variety of images highlighting the Egyptian food that I grew up eating and coming back to as an adult to recreate the dishes that I was comforted by throughout my youth. The series includes classic Egyptian dishes you can choose from: falafel sandwiches, or falafel with all the fixings, grape leaves, and yogurt salad," Zaki said.

Zaki has a long history with the James Beard House. She began photographing the dinners at the James Beard House itself nearly three years ago and has since expanded to photographing their major events such as Chefs and Champagne in the Hamptons, Chelsea Sunday Supper at Chelsea Market, and their annual Dinner and Gala. "It’s been such an honor to have the opportunity to be connected with such a prestigious culinary organization that is known worldwide," said Zaki. "I’ve had an incredible time meeting and photographing the chefs I’ve watched on TV my whole life such as Mario Batali and the New York famous chefs like Marcus Samuelsson, Seamus Mullen, and Daniel Boulud."

Guests of the show can expect to see classic Egyptian dishes from the point of view of the person actually making the food, as well as some completed dishes of food ready to be eaten. Zaki, being Egyptian-American, is able to tell the story of her culture and upbringing through the dishes of her homeland.

"My style of shooting has always been about the intimate details and rich colors of a meal or experience," said Zaki, noting that guests can also enjoy some of the food photographed at the official launch party on Nov. 15.

"Food has always been a major part of my life, lifestyle, and everyday interest," explained Zaki. "It made sense to transition into a food and travel photographer once I actually began shooting professionally; it was easy, my love, passion, and curiosity for the culinary world and the rich variety of food translated directly into my work effortlessly."

The opening event will take place on Nov. 15 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Greenhouse Gallery and it is free to attend.


A Deeper, Darker Look at James Beard, Food Oracle and Gay Man

Fifty years in the past, that is how the foremost American meals authority described his favourite menu for a vacation open home:

“I put out a big board of various slicing sausages — salami, Polish sausage, whatever I find in the market that looks good — and an assortment of mustards. I also like to have another board of cheeses: Swiss Gruyère, a fine Cheddar and maybe a Brie. And with the cheeses, I serve thinly sliced rye bread and crackers of some kind and a bowl of fruit.”

In different phrases: James Beard, who died in 1985 at age 81, was a grasp of the charcuterie board lengthy earlier than it turned a staple on Instagram and Pinterest — and even earlier than these platforms’ founders had been born.

Discovering seeds of the current up to now occurs once more and once more when revisiting Beard’s physique of labor, which I did this fall in anticipation of the primary new biography of him in 30 years: “The Man Who Ate Too Much,” by John Birdsall, revealed in October by W.W. Norton. For the primary time, Mr. Birdsall brings each scholarly analysis and a queer lens to Beard’s life, braiding the strands of privilege and ache, efficiency and nervousness, into a wholly new story.

“Beard is a very complicated and in some ways a messy figure,” mentioned Mr. Birdsall, a author and former chef whose work focuses on queer affect in American meals and homophobia within the culinary world. “I wanted to understand that — the personality or psychology of somebody who had a huge impact on American cultural life, yet lived with such fear of being exposed.”

Not many house cooks use Beard’s recipes in the present day, and little or no of his huge, influential physique of labor is on-line. But once I was rising up, Julia Child and James Beard had been the dual gods of our family, like an additional set of grandparents whom my food-mad dad and mom consulted and in contrast each day. It appeared completely logical to me that after we drove north of town, we handed freeway indicators for James Beard State Park. (My grownup self now is aware of that it’s James Baird State Park, named for a neighborhood tycoon who donated the land.)

Child and her e book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” had been the supply of dinner-party menus, however Beard was the sage who ruled on a regular basis meals like potpie and potato salad, bean soup and cornbread along with his 1972 masterwork, “American Cookery.”

Today, Beard’s definition of American cooking is difficult by questions on his authority, id and privilege. Nevertheless, the e book stands as a chronicle of the nation’s meals for the arc of the twentieth century.

It continues to be astonishingly recent in some ways.

“Along with the growth of organic gardening and the health foods cult, there is a renewed interest in food from the wilds,” begins the e book’s chapter on greens. Unlike “Joy of Cooking” and the “Betty Crocker Cookbook,” different kitchen bibles of the time, “American Cookery” hardly ever requires frozen greens, canned fruit, cake combine or related comfort meals.

Many of Beard’s recipe lists learn like a contemporary Brooklyn bistro menu, with gadgets like sunchokes and sliders, scallion tart and roasted figs with prosciutto. Many others replicate the comparatively broad view that he took of American cooking: ceviche, Syrian lentil soup with Swiss chard, menudo and basil pesto — a radically uncooked and shockingly flavorful sauce at the time.

The meals of the United States wasn’t then thought-about a real delicacies, like that of France, China, Japan or Italy, the place culinary traditions had been constructed over centuries. But the American melting pot had been combining substances by way of generations of immigration. And within the counterculture of the Seventies, the concept of the worldwide palate was filtering into the mainstream, sweeping Chinese cooking courses, Indian spice blends, Japanese pottery and Moroccan tagines into U.S. kitchens.

Often, these concepts arrived by way of white male gatekeepers like Beard, the New York Times meals editor Craig Claiborne and the members of the Wine and Food Society of New York, a gaggle then dominated by rich homosexual males.

All cooks who now describe their meals as “new American” owe one thing to Beard, although most know him solely because the face stamped on the culinary medals bestowed yearly by the foundation named for him. Following his demise, the group was began as a solution to protect his legacy and his Greenwich Village townhouse. After a halting begin and a 2004 embezzlement scandal that resulted in a jail time period for the group’s president, the inspiration has grown together with the facility of its awards, as eating places and cooks have grow to be ever extra essential parts of standard tradition.

But most cooks, and others who’ve recognized Beard by way of his numerous books, columns and tv appearances (which started in 1946), have had no concept of what Mr. Birdsall calls the “messy” elements of his story.

There are unhappy, messy elements: the childhood ridicule Beard suffered due to his dimension, the expulsion from school due to a single intercourse act, the nervousness he lived with as a homosexual movie star when popping out was unthinkable.

And there are troubling, messy elements: plagiarizing and taking credit score for different individuals’s recipes, accepting paid endorsements for merchandise that he didn’t at all times imagine in, and exposing himself to and fondling younger males who hoped for his skilled help.

“Delights and Prejudices,” Beard’s 1964 “memoir with recipes,” paints a nostalgic image of a virtually preindustrial childhood among the many rich class of Portland, Ore. In Beard’s telling, it was joyful, glamorous and shot by way of with glowing meals moments: wild salmon and huckleberries at the household’s home at Gearhart Beach recent abalone, white asparagus and crab legs in San Francisco eating rooms foie gras and Dungeness crab aboard the posh vessels that ran between Portland and Los Angeles.

But Mr. Birdsall’s analysis, together with in depth interviews with Beard’s contemporaries, revealed shadows that Beard by no means talked about.

Born in 1903, Beard was an solely little one raised principally by his mom, Elizabeth Beard, who was well-known for her cooking at the elegant boardinghouse she ran, the Gladstone, within the days of oyster patties, roast pheasant and charlotte russe. The one who did many of the precise kitchen work was Jue Let, a masterly cook dinner from Guangdong who labored at the Gladstone and then within the Beard household house for greater than a decade.

He fed James congee, steamed salt fish and lychees — and happy the boy’s exacting mom by flawlessly executing her formulation for rooster stock, pie crusts and dry-aged meat. She and Mr. Let instilled in Beard the culinary ethos of recent and seasonal substances, rigorously cooked, that turned Beard’s contribution to the American meals revolution of the Seventies.

In Beard’s reminiscence, “Mother” made all the foundations: solely sure strains of fruit, like Marshall strawberries, had been “allowed into the house” she “would not dream” of utilizing canned greens venison “wasn’t worth the trouble,” and so on. The willingness to be opinionated that he discovered from her helped him grow to be one of many nice meals voices of his century.

But in Mr. Birdsall’s empathetic telling, it additionally meant that Beard’s mom by no means hid her impatience with him, his childhood wants and his rising variations.

In most of Beard’s writing, “he’s still pushing the story of grand, happy boyhood holidays,” Mr. Birdsall mentioned. But at the wonderful duck dinners and mince pie feasts that Beard describes, he was often the only little one current his father, who prevented his mom’s racy pals, was usually absent, and Beard discovered to carry out for the gang, as he felt compelled to for the remainder of his life. “I soon became as precocious and nasty a child as ever inhabited Portland,” he wrote in his memoir.

There appears to have by no means been a time when Beard was comfy in his personal pores and skin.

According to Mr. Birdsall, who gained entry to a lot of Beard’s unpublished writings, he knew he was homosexual from a really younger age. The first public airing of his homosexual id was traumatic: In his freshman yr at Reed College, he was caught by his roommates in a sexual encounter with a professor, and summarily expelled — a double humiliation that he by no means completely recovered from.

Being expelled from Reed meant successfully being banished from house — albeit with a large socio-economic security internet. He sailed for Europe, found the homosexual underground in London and Paris, moved to New York and started his meals profession within the Thirties, catering events thrown by Manhattan’s homosexual and art-world elites.

Even as he turned assured and profitable, Beard at all times carried disgrace about his dimension 6 ft 3 inches tall, he usually weighed greater than 350 kilos in maturity. For the final 30 years of his life, his legs needed to be stored tightly wrapped in bandages and compression stockings due to persistent edema and varicose veins. And, in response to Mr. Birdsall’s analysis, Beard had a lifelong situation referred to as phimosis — a too-tight foreskin that makes erections extraordinarily painful — that made Beard’s emotions about intercourse and his physique much more difficult. (It is now generally handled in childhood.)

And so, although he had many pals within the meals world (and enemies, particularly these whose recipes he lifted), Beard had only a few intimate companions over the course of his life. It wasn’t till the Seventies, when he settled into fame and some wealth, that he achieved the soundness that allowed him to purchase a townhouse in Greenwich Village along with his companion, Gino Cofacci, and come into his personal as a number.

“I had never seen anything like the conviviality and the cooking and the eating that would go on there,” mentioned the chef Andrew Zimmern, who went to Beard’s legendary Christmas and Sunday open homes as a boy. “There was a whole fabulous gay food mafia living downtown.”

Mr. Zimmern’s father, a profitable promoting government, got here out as homosexual and moved to Greenwich Village along with his companion within the late Nineteen Sixties.

Mr. Zimmern mentioned he cherished the chaotic generosity: entire salmon poaching in a copper pot on the commercial range, large platters of charcuterie and cheese, piles of substances and bowls of fruit in all places, and Beard presiding over all of it: tasting, carving, slicing, roaring and going by way of a number of modifications of silk pajamas. He additionally remembers encountering tastes there for the primary time, like a braise of chicken with olives, almonds and raisins, a dish with roots in Spain and California that Beard made usually.

But primarily, he mentioned, he remembers the sensation of being free. “There were so many places that my dads were uncomfortable, on their guard, even though we went to restaurants all the time,” Mr. Zimmern mentioned.

He now credit Beard’s hospitality for his personal early culinary aspirations. “To see them eating together, shoulders relaxed and happy, meant everything to me,” he mentioned. “I saw what food can do for a person’s heart.”


Philadelphia Chefs Cook at James Beard House

The City of Brotherly Love has been getting a lot of love lately from the gourmet food world. It's not yet another Food Network special on cheesesteaks, or guest hosts "discovering" tomato pie.

Philadelphia and its surrounding neighborhoods are getting attention for upscale eateries and star chefs.

Magazines, such as "Food and Wine" are looking to the city for great restaurants. Its June beer-focused issue recommends Kitchen Cabinet on Walnut Street as a great place to drink an ale.

Many attribute the attention to a small food thinktank in the East – The James Beard Foundation. The foundation has skipped over many DC and New York-based chefs to land in Philadelphia for Mid-Atlantic recognition. This year, Chef Michael Solomonov, was awarded Best MidAtlantic Chef. Solomonov is the chef-owner of Zahav in Old City, Percy Street Barbecue on South Street, Xochitl in the Head House district, and allegedly has more projects in the making.

The James Beard House is a legendary foodie mecca in New York City. It's the original home of epicurean, food writer, friend to famous chef and cook James Beard.

"Anointed the "dean of American cookery" by the New York Times in 1954, James Beard laid the groundwork for the food revolution that has put America at the forefront of global gastronomy," according to www.jamesbeard.org.

Beyond the city taking home the big award this year, many chefs from Philadelphia have been invited to cook at the James Beard House, which is an honor bestowed to just a few hundred chefs each year.

Cooking at The Beard House, as its known, is a new set of limitations because it was the epicurean's home, which means chefs don't have the commercial kitchen they are accustomed to working in. Instead, the kitchen at The Beard House is a small kitchen with several ovens, very little cook space, and a small staff to help.

Each night, a different chef is invited to cook, and there is a strict guideline to how the evening must proceed. Chefs invited to cook there must bring all their own ingredients and wine. They are required to pay for the food to feed up to 85 people in a five course dinner with a passed appetizer reception, as well as a wine pairing for each course.

Menus at The Beard House are extravagant examples of a chef's repertoire meant to impress the members and diners, who pay at least $185 per person for an evening's dinner.

Chef Joe Cicia of Le Virtu on Passyunk Avenue cooked at The Beard House in April. Owner Francis Cratil Cretarola called it "America's unofficial culinary equivalent to St. Peter's in Rome," in her blog, and said the dinner went exceedingly well.

Manager Fred Cratil Cretarola said that since the dinner, the dining rooms have been full.

"We're turning away guests now. Reservations are booked well in advance. I don't know if that's because of the Beard dinner or Craig LaBan's 3-bell review," he said.

While many chefs flock to the Beard House because it's an honor to cook there, brings attention and business to a restaurant, and it's a career goal for many, others say it's too demanding and an over-inflated experience.

Chef and author Anthony Bourdain describes an experience helping a friend cook at The Beard House as an exhausting waste of time where the Beard House expects a chef to spend thousands of dollars on food and staff, fly it all to New York, provide the wine, spend hours in the kitchen and get very little thanks.

Bourdain recently tweeted, "Beard House = Graceland of food," on his twitter account.

Whether it's a thankless cooking experience that chefs want to do for the notch on their belt, or an honor worth having, The Bead House has taken note of Philadelphia's chefs, and that's brought notoriety to many of their establishments.


UPDATE: 3 S.A. chefs NOT cooking at James Beard House

San Antonio chefs (from left) Stephen Paprocki, Michael Grimes and Tony Hernandez have been invited to cook a five-course dinner at the James Beard House in New York City May 3, as well as two other events where they are planning a "Texas Takeover."

2 of 6 Bliss chef Tony Hernandez presents a charcuterie board the restaurant. Hernandez will be cooking with fellow chefs Stephen Paprocki and Michael Grimes at the James Beard House in New York City. Kin Man Hui /San Antonio Express-News Show More Show Less

4 of 6 Michael Grimes (center), and Elisa Trevino (right) prepare Southern Grit BLT's during a pop-up dining event. Robin Jerstad /For the Express News Show More Show Less

Chef Stephen Paprocki, chef and owner of Texas Black Gold Garlic, will be one of the featured chefs at the “Bites for Business” event on Nov. 9 by the San Antonio Chef Cooperative.

UPDATE: Through a bizarre series of event, it turns out the these three chefs are not scheduled to cook at the James Beard House.

"Simply put, they were duped," said Izabela Wojcik, director of house programming for the James Beard Foundation. In fact, Wojcik had never heard of these chefs.

To read the full story of how this happened, please visit our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com.

ORIGINAL STORY: A trio of local chefs plan to introduce Texas flavors and ingredients in a series of upcoming cooking events in New York City, including a five-course dinner at the prestigious James Beard House.

Chefs Michael Grimes (Southern Grit Flavor, Chef Cooperatives), Stephen Paprocki (Texas Black Gold Garlic, Chef Cooperatives) and Tony Hernandez (Bliss) will cook at the Beard House May 3 and will be featured at two other Big Apple restaurants May 4 and 5.

This is not the first time San Antonio chefs have been invited to cook at the James Beard House, and chefs from around the country cook there frequently for various special events throughout the year. The former home of the late Beard, a celebrated culinary advocate, has been used as a public gathering place in Greenwich Village since 1986 and now hosts about 200 chef-driven meals per year.

According to the James Beard Foundation website, chefs are chosen to cook at the house via a selection committee of food, wine and gastronomic enthusiasts who volunteer their time.

Southern Grit co-founder Elisa Treviño, Grimes&rsquo wife, said that she was contacted by representatives from the Beard House after they discovered Grimes&rsquo online &ldquoSource to Course&rdquo video series that spotlights local farmers and the foods they produce.

&ldquoThey were looking for fresh faces and chefs, so they reached out to us,&rdquo Treviño said. &ldquoThey said that they would love to have Mike be the showcase chef for an event, but once we started talking, we found an opportunity to bring more people into the mix.&rdquo

Once Grimes was notified, he was quick to ask Paprocki and Hernandez to join him. The trio is unique because none of the chefs cook full-time at their own restaurants. Grimes&rsquo Southern Grit mostly operates as a pop-up operation and works farmers markets such as The Pearl on weekends. Paprocki has a culinary background and cooks part-time, but puts most of his time into his Texas Black Gold Garlic business, and Hernandez heads the kitchen at chef Mark Bliss&rsquo restaurant in Southtown.

&ldquoOnce (Grimes) told me everything was a go, I got really nervous and threw up a little,&rdquo Paprocki said. &ldquoWe are definitely a group of guys that you wouldn&rsquot think would be doing a meal at the Beard House.&rdquo

Grimes said the Beard House was looking for chefs that could deliver a Texas-themed type of event.

The tentative five-course meal will be themed to Cinco de Mayo and will be put together with proteins and produce sourced locally in South Texas that will be transported up to New York for the meal:

Coffee-blackened shrimp with fermented tomatoes gremolata

Blow-torched oysters with braised greens with Indigo cheese

Pork with salsa negra, aloe gel, chicharrón with napales

Lengua with green mole, pickled peppers and black garlic

Mangonada panna cotta with chamoy candy

&ldquoThis is our chance to further brand San Antonio as a food-forward thinking city,&rdquo said Hernandez. &ldquoI&rsquom so excited about it, I&rsquom taking vacation to do it.&rdquo

After the dinner at the Beard House, the trio will collaborate with other New York chefs for events at two separate Manhattan restaurants. They are dubbing the trip as the &ldquoTexas Takeover.&rdquo


Gabriele shows us how he really feeds him family when the cameras aren't rolling.

Take a voyeuristic look into the couple's relationship, in and out of the kitchen.

Season 4 Photos

Food-loving sweethearts Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos are at it again, cooking up all sorts of fun adventures –– not to mention delicious Italian dishes –– on both sides of the Atlantic.

With Gabriele homesick for the Tuscan countryside, Debi takes him on a quick road trip up north to New York's Hudson Valley so they can enjoy the great outdoors.

The couple makes the most of their time on the upstate farm, playing with the animals and collecting fresh ingredients to cook with later that day.

Back home in Brooklyn, Debi and Gabriele whip up a rustic meal of pork chops and pasta carbonara to enjoy with the girls in their sunny backyard.

On another day, the couple heads to Oyster Bay on Long Island, where Gabriele's love for classic cars and Debi's passion for classic style collide.

Gabriele tears his attention away from the vintage wheels to grill up a feast for his new car-loving friends.

Debi and Gabriele also have plenty of activities lined up for Evelina and Giuliana, including a family camping trip.

It's all hands on deck as Debi and Evelina put up the tents and Gabriele and Giuliana work on dinner.

The family also finds plenty to do in New York City, and loves activities on the cheap, like biking across the Brooklyn Bridge and picking up sweets at a nearby bakeshop.

In Spanish Harlem, N.Y., they visit Hot Bread Kitchen, a unique shop that offers baked goods from all different cultures.

Debi and Gabriele learn to make bread with some of the bakers, then head home to prepare an affordable family dinner.

On their way to a restaurant in Harlem, Debi and Gabriele stroll past a neighborhood icon: the historic Apollo Theater.

At home, Debi and Gabriele create two dishes that fuse their Italian heritage with Harlem's Southern influences: a black-eyed pea and arugula salad and torta di carote.

The family's time in Italy is equally jam-packed.

In Pisa, Debi and Gabriele surprise the girls with a truffle-hunting adventure.

The Mazar-Corcos clan tags along as a well-known hunter and his truffle-sniffing dog scour the forest for the rare mushrooms.

Armed with their truffle-hunting bounty, Debi and Gabriele head to the kitchen. The dynamic duo makes fresh ravioli with a truffle butter sauce.

They also check out a local butcher shop and learn more about its meat-curing process.

For dinner that night, the couple makes mouthwatering crostini topped with lardo and Tuscan kale.

Of course, no trip to Italy would be complete without a wine cellar tour.

Gabriele and Debi sit down with the owners to sample some wine.

Then they head back home to make a romantic dinner for two.

Along with plenty of alone time, Debi and Gabriele make sure to get in some quality hours with Grandma.

No matter where they are –– in the concrete jungle of New York City or sprawling fields of Tuscany –– family will always come first.

Season 3 Photos

After an extremely busy summer juggling various projects, Debi and Gabriele seek out some rest and relaxation at their Tuscan farmhouse right outside of Florence.

Exhausted Debi just wants to lie down and relax, but Gabriele has other plans. He's invited some family and friends over for a big homemade dinner.

He immediately gets to work picking fresh peaches from their tree to serve as an appetizer with fresh goat cheese ricotta from a local farm.

He builds his own fire pit in the yard like his father and grandfather used to do.

Giulia preps the sauce for some Pasta alla Norma, red sauce with roasted eggplant, as Gabriele mans the grill.

The family wants to take a trip to Siene to see a play some friends are putting on, but "Uncle" Robert arrives in a car that couldn't possibly fit everyone.

They finally arrive and can enjoy some hat shopping at the local Panzano market.

Life doesn't get much better than spending a day with the family in beautiful Tuscany.

Debi and Gabriele head to Florence, by the Arno River, and find the spot where they kissed for the first time 11 years ago.

To celebrate the anniversary, they plan a romantic dinner at a fancy restaurant. Gabriele heads home to make sure their girls are taken care of and gets held up in traffic on his way back to Florence, missing their reservation. Debi is upset but she gets over it when Gabriele offers to cook a special meal for her at home.

Just as they are about to start the second, ever sexier, phase of their evening, their girls return home — ah, life! It's never quite what you want it to be. But for Debi and Gabriele, it's always delicious.

Debi, Gabriele and their girls have moved from Los Angeles to Brooklyn. There's tons of unpacking left to do but Debi is eager to show Gabriele her old neighborhood. Hopefully he'll love it as much as she does.

Getting out of the house turns out to be a great idea. They find a wonderful butcher shop featuring grassfed and organic meats.

. and get some ice cream from the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck.

Gabriele even discovers he can still get out in nature just like back home in Italy.

And now it's exhausted Gabriele who needs to lie down and relax.

Season 1 Photos

Queens Girl Makes Good

Debi Mazar swings a hot career and a passion for food with an even hotter husband.

Gabriele Corcos

Enter the sexy Tuscan farmer who believes that cooking is the perfect way to his express love. Sign us up!

Extra Virgin Was Born

Combine 2 parts passion, a healthy dose of family, a shot of heat and countless delicious Italian dishes &mdash step back and let it all simmer.

Taking The Time

Despite juggling family and two busy Hollywood lives, Gabriele and Debi always find time to reconnect over the range.

The Secret Sauce

A healthy dose of daily romance never hurt either.

Beauty Break

As a hot Hollywood commodity, Debi knows the secrets to perfect-looking skin &mdash and a good guacamole as well.

Ready For My Close Up

Seriously beautiful skin. Just be careful if you scrape off the mask with corn chips.

Backyard Burger Bar

Ability to grill Tuscan-inspired burgers with flat-leaf parsley and grated pecorino cheese all year long. priceless.

The Great Grill Debate

Gas is good, but Gabriele's go-to for supreme grilling is a mix of charcoal and wood.

Caution: Pitmaster at Work

Tuscan-style burgers can be tricky when trading running commentary with the spouse. Eyes forward, please.

Brick'n His Chicken

Gabriele's old-school technique for perfect grilled chicken: Cover a brick in foil and cook it al Mattone. Think spatchcocking here.

Welcome To The Chicken Ranch!

Longing for the fresh eggs from his grandmother's farm in Italy, Gabriele decides to raise chickens, even as Debi raises concerns.

Coop de Ville

Cooking Channel Staff Vote: This chicken palace is way nicer than 90% of our apartments.

Cocktail Time

Ethel studies the empty ice tray &mdash confused at how she will chill her afternoon beverage in the hot LA sun.

Chicken and Bamboo

The easy-going foul soon forget former farms and fields, in favor of well-manicured yards.

Enter Stage Left

No matter how cute Debi and Gabriele are, it seems the chickens always upstage everyone in Extra Virgin.

Kids in the Kitchen

For mom's birthday breakfast, Gabriele, Giulia and Evelina make extra special ricota pancakes.

Emerald Empress

Seriously. Does anyone else look that amazing BEFORE breakfast?

All Fired Up

Moving beyond chickens, Gabriele constructed the perfect outdoor pizza oven which takes about an hour to hit the perfect heat.

Pizza Party Perfection

Debi samples her oven-fired birthday pizza. Verdict: There is NO comparison.

Pair and Pair Alike

There is only one way to improve perfect pizza and that's with a primo Italian wine.

Funny Girl

Debi's good friend, Lily Tomlin, arrives with date to join in on the celebration.

Ring In A New Chapter

Gabriele surprises Debi with a request to renew their wedding vows at his family home in Tuscany.

Bike Built For Two

With the kids at camp, Gabriele convinces a reluctant Debi to savor an afternoon picnic via motorcycle.

Sweet Summer Snacks

Gabriele and Debi bake a tasty orange and almond biscotti for their picnic adventure.

After cooling for an hour, the citrus-scented biscotti are cut into irresistible, crunchy slices and packed up.

Heaven On Wheels

Debi and Gabriele take the show on the road, literally. They donate time and treats via food truck to the charity Midnight Mile.

Open For Business

Debi fields a flood of orders for fried risotto balls and juicy turkey meatballs.

Piled High, On The Fly

Food Truck Fan Pick: Gabriele's crunchy bruschetta with sauteed mushrooms &mdash to go.

Enter Babbo

For his daughters' summer party, Gabriele knew he would need props and costumes. Meet Babbo.

Kitchen Wizard

Gabriele's secret ingredient to this backyard soiree was magic. No Bieber required.

Lotza Mozz

The kids get in on the act by making bruschetta with Gabriele's homemade (and somewhat unwieldly) mozzarella.

Cute. with Crunch

Beautiful, bite-sized bruschette are perfect for any picky palate.

Cupcakes Are Still Hot

Gabriele's organic cupcakes are the homerun of the afternoon.

Straight Shooters

Gabriele's warnings of wild backyard boar in Tuscany convince Debi it might be time to bear arms.

Natural Born Thrillers

Gabriele and Debi aren't just impressive in the kitchen. You talkin' to them?

More Pleasant with Pheasant

After, the two prepare a traditional hunter's meal of roasted pheasant with pepper potato stew.

Nutella's Distant Cousin

Unfamiliar to many Americans, 'Castagnaccio' is a chestnut-flour cake made with nuts, raisins and rosemary.

Vowing To Return

Debi's friend Marzia helps her craft some new vows &mdash in the native tongue &mdash for her big fat Italian wedding.

Stress The Dress

Debi worries her dress won't be ready in time for their Tuscan adventure, but Gabriele saves the moment with something sweet.

Amazing Affogato

Hot, rich espresso poured over sweet vanilla ice cream &mdash what's not to love? Crisis averted.

Keeping It Bottled Up

Gabriele and Debi lean on a family recipe for homemade limoncello, used as gifts for friends all year long.

Pucker Up!

Limoncello is 37% better when you take kissing breaks between steps.

Gabriele's Other Profession

Aside from being skilled in the kitchen and a former farmer, Gabriele is a professional musician. Time for a jam session!

Touchdown in Tuscany!

Gabriele embraces his rustic roots, excited to be in the kitchen his grandfather passed down to him.

Better With Bacon

First meal in Italy? Steak Tagliata alla Fiorentina, garlic sauteed spinach, grilled potatoes and Pasta alla Gricia.

Did We Mention?

A Toast

When friend Robert arrives, he and Debi celebrate their arrival with 18-year-old doggie Dolores.

Berry Good Time

The girls pick berries on the family property. Everything tastes better in Tuscany.

Corcos Communion

Gabriele's entire family gathers around for the evening meal.

The Big Day Approaches

Debi considers spicing up her vows while Gabriele considers a glass of wine (or two).

Tiramisu For Two

Mom-in-law Annalisa shares sacred family secrets for making perfect tiramisu.

Bizarre Bachelor Bash

Gabriele fires up his bachelor party with. fresh octopus.

Well Groomed

Gab and guys get together for a fantastic meal of octopus salad and spaghetti alla putanesca. Salut!

Lady In Waiting

Soon to be joined by Gabriele, Debi enjoys the very piazza where they met a decade ago.

Just Like Mom Makes

Debi shows off the sweet skills she gleaned from her mother-in-law Annalisa.

The Verdict?

Piazza perfection. A sweet finish, as the two start planning a renewal of vows and champagne toast for ten more years.

Time For a Toast

Before their family and close friends, Debi and Gabriele renew their vows for each other, for Tuscany, and for delicious Tuscan food, of course.

Smiles All Around

And why not? After ten years, Debi and Gabriele have come a long way. They couldn't be happier to share their lives together.

Out with a Bang

When the moon hits yours eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore.

ITALIAN 101

Get our favorite ways to cook and savor the best of Italian cuisine, from pizza and pasta to sauces and sides.


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A Deeper, Darker Look at James Beard, Food Oracle and Gay Man

Fifty years ago, this is how the foremost American food authority described his favorite menu for a holiday open house:

“I put out a big board of various slicing sausages — salami, Polish sausage, whatever I find in the market that looks good — and an assortment of mustards. I also like to have another board of cheeses: Swiss Gruyère, a fine Cheddar and maybe a Brie. And with the cheeses, I serve thinly sliced rye bread and crackers of some kind and a bowl of fruit.”

In other words: James Beard, who died in 1985 at age 81, was a master of the charcuterie board long before it became a staple on Instagram and Pinterest — and even before those platforms’ founders were born.

Discovering seeds of the present in the past happens again and again when revisiting Beard’s body of work, which I did this fall in anticipation of the first new biography of him in 30 years: “The Man Who Ate Too Much,” by John Birdsall, published in October by W.W. Norton. For the first time, Mr. Birdsall brings both scholarly research and a queer lens to Beard’s life, braiding the strands of privilege and pain, performance and anxiety, into an entirely new story.

“Beard is a very complicated and in some ways a messy figure,” said Mr. Birdsall, a writer and former chef whose work focuses on queer influence in American food and homophobia in the culinary world. “I wanted to understand that — the personality or psychology of somebody who had a huge impact on American cultural life, yet lived with such fear of being exposed.”

Not many home cooks use Beard’s recipes today, and very little of his enormous, influential body of work is online. But when I was growing up, Julia Child and James Beard were the twin gods of our household, like an extra set of grandparents whom my food-mad parents consulted and compared daily. It seemed entirely logical to me that when we drove north of the city, we passed highway signs for James Beard State Park. (My adult self now knows that it’s James Baird State Park, named for a local tycoon who donated the land.)

Child and her book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” were the source of dinner-party menus, but Beard was the sage who governed everyday food like potpie and potato salad, bean soup and cornbread with his 1972 masterwork, “American Cookery.”

Today, Beard’s definition of American cooking is complicated by questions about his authority, identity and privilege. Nevertheless, the book stands as a chronicle of the nation’s food for the arc of the 20th century.

It is still astonishingly fresh in many ways.

“Along with the growth of organic gardening and the health foods cult, there is a renewed interest in food from the wilds,” begins the book’s chapter on vegetables. Unlike “Joy of Cooking” and the “Betty Crocker Cookbook,” other kitchen bibles of the time, “American Cookery” rarely calls for frozen vegetables, canned fruit, cake mix or similar convenience foods.

Many of Beard’s recipe lists read like a modern Brooklyn bistro menu, with items like sunchokes and sliders, scallion tart and roasted figs with prosciutto. Many others reflect the relatively broad view that he took of American cooking: ceviche, Syrian lentil soup with Swiss chard, menudo and basil pesto — a radically raw and shockingly flavorful sauce at the time.

The food of the United States wasn’t then considered a true cuisine, like that of France, China, Japan or Italy, where culinary traditions were built over centuries. But the American melting pot had been combining ingredients through generations of immigration. And in the counterculture of the 1970s, the idea of the global palate was filtering into the mainstream, sweeping Chinese cooking classes, Indian spice blends, Japanese pottery and Moroccan tagines into U.S. kitchens.

Often, those ideas arrived through white male gatekeepers like Beard, the New York Times food editor Craig Claiborne and the members of the Wine and Food Society of New York, a group then dominated by wealthy gay men.

All chefs who now describe their food as “new American” owe something to Beard, though most know him only as the face stamped on the culinary medals bestowed annually by the foundation named for him. Following his death, the organization was started as a way to preserve his Greenwich Village townhouse. After a halting start and a 2004 embezzlement scandal that resulted in a prison term for the group’s president, the foundation has grown along with the power of its awards, as restaurants and chefs have become ever more important elements of popular culture.

But most chefs, and others who have known Beard through his countless books, columns and television appearances (which began in 1946) have had no idea of what Mr. Birdsall calls the “messy” parts of his story.

There are sad, messy parts: the childhood ridicule Beard suffered because of his size, the expulsion from college because of a single sex act, the anxiety he lived with as a gay celebrity when coming out was unthinkable.

And there are troubling, messy parts: plagiarizing and taking credit for other people’s recipes, accepting paid endorsements for products that he did not always believe in, and exposing himself to and fondling young men who hoped for his professional support.

“Delights and Prejudices,” Beard’s 1964 “memoir with recipes,” paints a nostalgic picture of a nearly preindustrial childhood among the wealthy class of Portland, Ore. In Beard’s telling, it was happy, glamorous and shot through with glowing food moments: wild salmon and huckleberries at the family’s house at Gearhart Beach fresh abalone, white asparagus and crab legs in San Francisco dining rooms foie gras and Dungeness crab aboard the luxury vessels that ran between Portland and Los Angeles.

But Mr. Birdsall’s research, including extensive interviews with Beard’s contemporaries, revealed shadows that Beard never mentioned.

Born in 1903, Beard was an only child raised mostly by his mother, Elizabeth Beard, who was famous for her cooking at the elegant boardinghouse she ran, the Gladstone, in the days of oyster patties, roast pheasant and charlotte russe. The person who did most of actual the kitchen work was Jue Let, a masterly cook from Guangdong who worked at the Gladstone and then in the Beard family home for more than a decade.

He fed James congee, steamed salt fish and lychees — and satisfied the boy’s exacting mother by flawlessly executing her formulas for chicken stock, pie crusts and dry-aged meat. She and Mr. Let instilled in Beard the culinary ethos of fresh and seasonal ingredients, carefully cooked, that became Beard’s contribution to the American food revolution of the 1970s.

In Beard’s memory, “Mother” made all the rules: only certain strains of fruit, like Marshall strawberries, were “allowed into the house” she “would not dream” of using canned vegetables venison “wasn’t worth the trouble,” and so on. The willingness to be opinionated that he learned from her helped him become one of the great food voices of his century.

But in Mr. Birdsall’s empathetic telling, it also meant that Beard’s mother never concealed her impatience with him, his childhood needs and his growing differences.

In most of Beard’s writing, “he’s still pushing the story of grand, happy boyhood holidays,” Mr. Birdsall said. But at the glorious duck dinners and mince pie feasts that Beard describes, he was usually the sole child present his father, who avoided his mother’s racy friends, was often absent, and Beard learned to perform for the crowd, as he felt compelled to for the rest of his life. “I soon became as precocious and nasty a child as ever inhabited Portland,” he wrote in his memoir.

There seems to have never been a time when Beard was comfortable in his own skin.

According to Mr. Birdsall, who gained access to many of Beard’s unpublished writings, he knew he was gay from a very young age. The first public airing of his gay identity was traumatic: In his freshman year at Reed College, he was caught by his roommates in a sexual encounter with a professor, and summarily expelled — a double humiliation that he never entirely recovered from.

Being expelled from Reed meant effectively being banished from home — albeit with a wide socio-economic safety net. He sailed for Europe, discovered the gay underground in London and Paris, moved to New York and began his food career in the 1930s, catering parties thrown by Manhattan’s gay and art-world elites.

Even as he became confident and successful, Beard always carried shame about his size 6 feet 3 inches tall, he often weighed more than 350 pounds in adulthood. For the last 30 years of his life, his legs had to be kept tightly wrapped in bandages and compression stockings because of chronic edema and varicose veins. And, according to Mr. Birdsall’s research, Beard had a lifelong condition called phimosis — a too-tight foreskin that makes erections extremely painful — that made Beard’s feelings about sex and his body even more complicated. (It is now commonly treated in childhood.)

And so, though he had many friends in the food world (and enemies, especially those whose recipes he lifted), Beard had just a few intimate partners over the course of his life. It wasn’t until the 1970s, when he settled into fame and some wealth, that he achieved the stability that allowed him to buy a townhouse in Greenwich Village with his partner, Gino Cofacci, and come into his own as a host.

“I had never seen anything like the conviviality and the cooking and the eating that would go on there,” said the chef Andrew Zimmern, who went to Beard’s legendary Christmas and Sunday open houses as a boy. “There was a whole fabulous gay food mafia living downtown.”

Mr. Zimmern’s father, a successful advertising executive, came out as gay and moved to Greenwich Village with his partner in the late 1960s.

Mr. Zimmern said he loved the chaotic generosity: whole salmon poaching in a copper pot on the industrial stove, giant platters of charcuterie and cheese, piles of ingredients and bowls of fruit everywhere, and Beard presiding over all of it: tasting, carving, slicing, roaring and going through multiple changes of silk pajamas. He also remembers encountering tastes there for the first time, like a braise of chicken with olives, almonds and raisins, a dish with roots in Spain and California that Beard made often.

But mainly, he said, remembers the feeling of being free. “There were so many places that my dads were uncomfortable, on their guard, even though we went to restaurants all the time,” Mr. Zimmern said.

He now credits Beard’s hospitality for his own early culinary aspirations. “To see them eating together, shoulders relaxed and happy, meant everything to me,” he said. “I saw what food can do for a person’s heart.”


DINE: Parallel 38 Cooks at the James Beard House

IT’S A THURSDAY EVENING DINNER service at Parallel 38 in Charlottesville, and while hungry locals compare the menus of restaurants that surround the neighboring movie theater in the Shops at Stonefield, this dining room is filling up and orders are beginning to stream into the kitchen at a brisker pace. Amid the glint of knives and sizzle of the grill, executive chef Alfredo Malinis Jr. is in the zone.

His focus is impressive considering that in just four days, he and owner-slash-sommelier Justin Ross will travel to Manhattan to present a multi-course meal at the invitation of the James Beard Foundation, an organization that each year awards the culinary equivalent of the Oscars. For a restaurant that opened less than a year ago and is still establishing its identity in the competitive Charlottesville dining scene, the coveted invitation isn’t just an honor, it’s a major opportunity.

The restaurant’s concept celebrates the fact that the 38th parallel north of the equator passes through some of the globe’s most renowned food and wine regions, including Spain, southern Italy, Greece’s Ionian islands, Napa Valley, and yes, little ol’ Charlottesville. The menu leans toward that lucky latitude’s Mediterranean span, exhibited in small plates of olives, artisanal cheeses, charcuterie, lamb, pork, and seafood.

“Sometimes a new customer will be upset that we don’t have a burger or a Caesar salad on the menu,” says Malinis. “Look, there are plenty of places in town that make a great burger. Not everyone has to serve comfort food. Parallel 38 can be something a little different.”

But will he need to raise the bar even higher to impress dozens of jaded foodies in New York City? “We don’t want to serve a meal that’s too much of a departure from what we do here,” Malinis says. “That said, cooking at the James Beard House is a rare occasion, so we’ll tweak dishes with a luxury ingredient or two.” For instance, while roasted rock hen is a menu staple at the restaurant, it will be elevated a notch at the James Beard dinner with foie gras butter and sumac spice.

Malinis is not one of those reality-TV chef caricatures who bellows at his crew’s every slice and dice. Indeed, his calm supervision makes it possible for Parallel 38 to feature an airy kitchen that’s visible to diners through a large open window. Still, he’s every bit a perfectionist, and even with a dozen orders now in the works, when a dish of spicy caramelized scallops is passed to him to garnish, he quietly instructs a sous chef to cook a replacement scallop that isn’t quite so browned.

To hopefully avoid even such slight hitches at the James Beard House, Malinis and crew have conducted six mock runs of prepping, cooking, and plating the entire menu, fine-tuning the skills required to produce 74 flawless portions of eight separate courses. Regardless, he admits that the event sticks in his thoughts as it draws near. “We’ve prepared all we can,” he says. “But I’m not trying to fool anyone. This is a bright spotlight, and we’ve got to get it right.”

There’s no other way to say it. The kitchen inside the James Beard House, one of the most vital landmarks on the culinary map of America, is…tiny. Th ere’s good reason for this—the foundation’s physical home is the former townhouse residence of the late cookbook author himself (see sidebar), and therefore is scaled toward the tight living quarters of Manhattan’s West Village neighborhood.

It’s Monday, August 18, exactly one hour before the sold-out dinner officially begins. The kitchen is busy, though not frantic. Working elbow to elbow with Malinis are two sous chefs from Parallel 38, Paul Miller and Zac Shupe, and a couple of ringers called in for the occasion, Joel Gargano, who used to work with Malinis in Connecticut, and Gargano’s own sous chef, Carlos Quirama. Eggplant is being fried, custard whipped, meatballs portioned, and rock hens basted on the range top—the last of which is filling the space with fragrant smoke because the range vent doesn’t appear to be working. “This thing sucks,” complains one of the guys. “Actually, I guess it doesn’t.”

Two clever strategies have been employed to coax an ambitious menu from the cramped kitchen. First, some elements of tonight’s plates were prepped in Charlottesville or earlier today in this kitchen, including the ceviche marinade, herb puree, and foie gras butter, which has been loaded into pastry bags. Second, the crew is conducting much of its chopping, seasoning, and other prep work atop large baking trays that can be relocated to racks at a moment’s notice, instead of dominating precious space on the L-shaped counter.

The James Beard House provides an experienced waitstaff , and at 6:16 p.m., Malinis gives them a rundown of the menu, pausing to explain a few items, including fish rillettes. “Rillettes are typically made with pork or duck or something with a high fat content,” he says. “Bronzino doesn’t have much fat, so we mitigate that by pulsing it with an absurd amount of butter. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like butter, so that’s a good thing.”

After the meeting, Malinis eyes the clock while slicing a couple hundred pieces of cured pork belly destined for an appetizer. “We gotta start pushing,” he declares. “But make sure you guys stay hydrated.” This advice may be more commonly offered on a football field, but no one questions it—they know tonight is going to be a workout.

Guests are arriving. To reach the patio for cocktail hour, they pass through the kitchen, often forcing the chefs working in their path to temporarily shove aside. When Clay and Linda Trainum of Augusta County’s Autumn Olive Farms appear, Malinis mock-announces to his crew, “I don’t know where you guys got this pork, but it’s good.” Clay just grins as he passes, but Linda shoots back, “It’s from some old farmer who lets his pigs run around in the woods!”

Autumn Olive Farms is a major contributor to tonight’s menu, with its heritage-breed Ossabaw pork going into three dishes and Boer Bok goat meat making an appearance too. Justifiably proud, the Trainums chose to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary by making their first-ever trek to New York City to attend the dinner. Other Central Virginia ingredients that made the trip include microgreens from Planet Earth Diversified and heirloom tomatoes from Whisper Hill Farm.

Out on the patio, Ross and Parallel 38 manager Jesse Fellows are plying guests with dry white wine from Spain’s Basque Country and refreshing Persian Collinses, concocted of gin, cucumber, lime, and sekanjabin, a mint-vinegar syrup of Middle Eastern origin. The crowd is a mix of Foundation members in linen sport coats, young professionals in cocktail dresses, and hipster foodies flaunting lumberjack beards. Also making the rounds are Ross’ two partners in the restaurant, Steve Pritchard and Cara Ward. Most conversations center on food, especially when the kitchen starts issuing plate after plate of this evening’s three appetizers: crispy pork belly dressed with baharat-spiced jam lamb and goat keftedes (Greek meatballs) with puttanesca and lemon verbena and walnut hummus. It’s hard to say if there’s a favorite, but several people can be spotted clutching a fistful of naked keftedes skewers.

By 7:30 p.m., the kitchen crew is discussing logistics of entree preparation while still plating appetizer reinforcements. Malinis cracks open a Monster energy drink and declares that he consumes so much of it that the company should give him some for free. “Did you catch my sense of entitlement there?” he asks cheerfully.

“Every day, chef,” one of the crew deadpans. A few minutes later, guests are finding their tables and the house manager sticks his head into the kitchen to announce that dinner service can begin—effectively delivering 74 rush tickets all at once.

“Fire the fish,” Malinis says. The first dinner course showcases the bronzino: an artful scoop of rillettes, plus a piece of the delicate white fish poached in oil, accompanied by labneh yogurt and pita. There isn’t enough space on the counter to accommodate 74 plates, so the elements have to come together in waves. “Let’s pick it up, guys!” Malinis urges, and as the final plates of bronzino leave the kitchen 20 minutes later, fresh plates for the second course, rock shrimp ceviche, are stacked three high in their place. Malinis immediately starts spooning dollops of avocado foam onto each plate, then shows Miller and Gargano exactly how he wants the shrimp and squid to be positioned. He’s setting the pace and expects the others to match him.

Even now, there are several onlookers wedged into the kitchen, snapping photos that are likely being Instagrammed as proof of their attendance. And that’s when the deep fryer decides to…stop frying. While the house staff diagnoses the problem, Quirama barely misses a beat and transfers oil and squid tentacles to a pan on the stovetop. Just 13 minutes after the first entree course left the kitchen, the beautifully composed ceviche plates follow. Even at this speed, though, Malinis has the focus to halt a server to replace an unsatisfactory watercress on the last plate to leave the kitchen.

Upstairs in the main dining room (formerly the library), nine tightly seated tables are enjoying every intensely flavorful bite. It’s a boisterous crowd, freely discussing the menu and presentation. Full wine glasses help, with Ross pausing tableside to describe his pairing choice for each course—for instance, the underlying creaminess of the Esporao Reserva (a Portuguese white) complements the rillettes and labneh yogurt. This is second-nature for Ross, who began his restaurant experience in kitchens in Maryland and D.C., but followed his passion to become an advanced sommelier.

When the third entree course arrives, the Trainums are suddenly the stars of the show. A few urbane diners are visibly awed that the people who raised these peerless pork medallions could be sitting with them—and that this particular 300-pound specimen had been on their farm less than a week ago. Someone asks if the hog had a name. “I try not to name them,” says Linda, “but sometimes their personalities just come out and you can’t help it.” Clay proceeds to give the table a tutorial on the nutritional benefits of pork raised outdoors, and because this is the James Beard House, everyone is rapt. By the time he shows off a cell phone photo of fresh sweet corn wrapped in slices of homemade lardo, minds have officially been blown.

Back in the kitchen, the last plate of Ossabaw goes out the same as the first, with eight distinct components—pork, an eggplant crisp, cherry tomatoes, a sliced fig, whipped chèvre with harissa spice, basil, pomegranate vinaigrette with shallot, pomegranate seeds— obsessively arranged into edible art.

For the rock hen course, Miller seizes a pastry bag and starts squeezing three dollops of foie gras butter onto each plate. His haste is soon understood, as the dish’s remaining components—a smear of sumac onion soubise, herb puree, radish, spiced chickpeas, and the roasted hen—arrive on the plates just moments before he can complete his task. It’s a fragrant, exciting course that reawakens the senses of any guests who may have been growing satiated from the preceding three hours.

If this were a restaurant, now is the point at which you’d brandish a fork against a waiter who dares to present a dessert menu. But that course is part of the experience here, and worth the surreptitious loosening of belts. How do saffron ice cream, pistachio cake, chocolate olive crunch, almond florentine, and candied orange zest taste together in one mouthful? Pretty damn complex, but as Malinis himself says, it’s “a lot of salt and a lot of sweet.” So, really good.

The clinking of spoons is replaced by loud applause (and a few catcalls) when Malinis leads his crew into the dining room. They look tired but exhilarated, like they just ran a marathon— and won.


Peach State stars in the Big Apple at James Beard House

Chef Thomas McKeown probably wanted to mutter a few Gaelic cuss words as the native Irishman dealt with a leaning stove that wouldn’t deliver even heat to his thin, webbed basil wafers.

Troubles with tuiles didn’t come as a surprise, really. After all, McKeown was cooking in the Beard House. It’s an old house — 175 years old, to be exact. The kitchen is cramped, the floor sags, the ceiling is low and the pass is narrow — hardly ideal conditions for preparing a six-course dinner for 89 scrutinous patrons of gastronomy willing to pay $140 apiece.

“I’ll make it work,” McKeown said as he scraped the burning basil batter off the flattop and made another attempt, squeezing more green liquid from the squirt bottle onto the hot grill. “Improvise. Adapt. Overcome,” he said.

McKeown’s attitude was shared by every chef in the kitchen on June 7, the day of the Georgia Grown dinner at the James Beard House in New York City.

The house at 167 W. 12th St. in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village is the former residence of American cook, cookbook author, teacher and TV personality James Beard. His death in 1985 prompted his peers, supporters and students to create the James Beard Foundation, a society devoted to preserving and continuing his work as a champion of American cuisine.

His four-story townhome became the nexus for the group, and the kitchen, a performance space for chefs. Treating the culinary arts as an art form and using Beard’s kitchen as a stage “was pretty radical 33 years ago because chefs were not known,” said Izabela Wojcik, program director for the Beard House.

In her 17-year tenure at this position with the Beard Foundation, Wojcik has planned hundreds of events. Roughly 200 dinners are hosted annually at the home. The past five years have included an annual Georgia Grown dinner featuring products from the Peach State prepared by chefs who work here. Sponsors such as Coca-Cola, Big Green Egg and Springer Mountain Farms pay for the event and associated costs such as the chefs’ travel and lodging.

“Tonight’s dinner tells a story about one particular place: Georgia,” Wojcik said. Every Georgia Grown at the Beard House is a study in time of Georgia foodways, yet each is unique because the menu reflects the style of cooking of the chefs who prepare it. Diners for this typically sold-out dinner do, however, come with expectations of supping on certain Georgia classics. “There better be peaches!” Wojcik said.

There would be peaches, many peaches.

The cast and crew

A dinner at the Beard House is not a party thrown together in an instant. It takes months of planning. That began last year when six chefs were selected among applicants vying for a yearlong tenure as Georgia Grown chefs. In that capacity, they serve as culinary ambassadors for Georgia and highlight food and beverage commodities from the state at various public and private events, an opulent dinner at the Beard House among them.

This year's chef lineup included Julio Delgado of New Realm Brewing (and soon-to-open Minnie Olivia in Alpharetta), Jessica Gamble of KR SteakBar, Greg Lipman of Piastra, Thomas McKeown of the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Christian Perez of SweetWater Brewing, and Deborah VanTrece of Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours. The chefs were led by Holly Chute, executive chef for the Georgia Departments of Agriculture and Economic Development, and the face of the Georgia Grown program. Accompanying them was Savannah Sasser, executive chef of the Expat in Athens.

“I bring Savannah every year because she’s super organized,” Chute said. “It’s a flawless execution having her there. She knows the routine and what needs to be done.”

Beverage pairings would be handled by seasoned barman Jerry Slater, who opened the Expat with wife Krista last year. Besides batching up a Southern riff on a New York Sour and a gin and tonic featuring local Old Fourth Ward gin for the cocktail reception, Slater would tootle around North Georgia, tasting his way through vinos to ultimately settle on bottles from Wolf Mountain, Tiger Mountain, Habersham, Horse Creek and Frogtown wineries.

Three months prior to the big day, the group convened on a conference call to plan the menu and discuss logistics. Each chef needed to conceive of a passed hors d'oeuvre as well as a composed dish for the sit-down portion of the meal. Numerous proteins needed to be incorporated into the menu: beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, trout, quail and country ham. Also, loads of produce — from peanuts and pecans to Vidalia onions and field peas.

Consider the dishes carefully, Chute and Sasser cautioned them.

“The fryer is small,” Chute said.

“We can’t have three people doing passed hors d’oeuvres with a fryer,” Sasser added.

“This is the first time I’m going out of state to cook,” Perez piped up. “How does the food work?

“In the past, when it came to shipping food, we’ve flown it, but we’ve also hired a driver,” Chute replied. “That’s the best option because we can bring it the morning we are going to prep and it’s not juggled around.”

While the Beard House provides cooking equipment and serving ware, chefs must bring all the food and beverages. Many a visiting chef can tell stories of food lost, damaged or spoiled in transit to the Big Apple.

“The more you can get done in a VacPac or pressed and wrapped — you want to do it as far to the finishing point that you can,” Chute said. “Anything that can’t be done ahead, we’ll do there.”

Slowly but surely, ideas about Ossabaw chorizo transformed into Lipman’s passed nibble of a chorizo and Thomasville Tomme croquette. Gamble would utilize the Big Green Egg for smoked trout with pickled cucumber on a green peanut cracker. VanTrece would dish up Georgia shrimp over a hearty field pea and country ham bread pudding with a collard green and kale pistou. A combination of Southern tradition and modern cooking techniques, this would be a meal to remember.

Dress rehearsal

On May 28, the team held a preview dinner at White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails.

“Georgia Grown is headed to New York for the fifth time. We’re the only state to have a James Beard Foundation dinner,” said a proud Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black in his opening remarks.

Among invited guests were numerous sponsors, including small-business owners, like Beautiful Briny Sea founder Suzy Sheffield, whose products were among those in food-filled swag bags.

The dinner was more than a chance for the hometown to experience local culinary excellence. It was an opportunity for the chefs to practice working together and to dial in their courses. Chute, Sasser and even Lael Fredsell, food and beverage program manager for Gumbo Marketing, a close partner with the Georgia Grown program, would all be taking notes during this trial run. Were any ingredient changes necessary? Did a technique need to be changed to keep with the pace of the meal? Did portion sizes need adjusting?

“It always improves from the preview dinner,” said Fredsell, who has assisted chefs from around the country with 15 dinners at the Beard House.


Presenting the Beers

The featured beers at the 2018 James Beard House National Beer Day dinner. (Chef Adam Dulye)

While we work in the kitchen Matt, Dan and Sara from Fremont and Maine Beer Co. are at work upstairs in the dining room ready to present a 100 percent brett beer right out the gate. How does this go over with the diners?

“What is brett?” several diners ask. “What are these flavors?” they say.

Pale ale is next. “How do these hops interact with the dish?” they ask. “I never knew I liked bitter like this!” says one guest.

IPA comes next. The reigning American beer style. It fits into the menu where maybe a pinot noir would be if this was a wine pairing. The dish is bold in spice and big on flavor. The IPA rises to the dish, carbonation reacts on the palate and smiles of discovery flash around the dining room.

We finish with a blended barrel aged beer with notes of the famous Rusty Nail cocktail. Chocolate in many forms hits the table. Not too heavy, just right and the beer lingers as the chefs come up from the kitchen.

We all stand in front of the group. We give a brief introduction: Thank you to the James Beard House for having us. Thank you for being here.

The dinner, while simple in form (arrive, eat, taste, drink, pair, depart) has done so much more. You see, it’s from this small kitchen in New York City that American cuisine is defined, directed and created. To cook here is to say we have arrived! Here is our contribution to defining this cuisine. To cook here with craft beer on National Beer Day — that shouts to all we have arrived.

The dinner over, all head out for the evening, and the chefs and brewers gather for a last glass. We head back to Colorado, Washington, Maine, Illinois and Pennsylvania the next day. But for now, a brief moment to stop and recognize that in defining American cuisine, one cannot do so without independent craft beer.


Watch the video: Reel Food: Behind the Scenes at the Beard House with Michael Carrino