Friday, April 2, 2010

31 Hours of Star Chefs Rising Star-Los Angeles/San Diego

John Sedlar and Thomas Keller in the kitchen at Rivera, Downtown LA

Two culinary giants relaxing at the March 18 Honorees dinner at Rivera

On Wednesday, March 17th I was invited to the Star Chefs Honorees dinner at Rivera, along with my culinary wing man, Brian. We were looking forward to this event for about a month and in our anticipation leading up to this day we arrived at Rivera an hour early.

The dinner hosted by John Sedlar included co-hosts, David Myers(Sona), David Lefevre(Water Grill), Neal Fraser(Grace), Elizabeth Belkind(Cake Monkey), and Vincenzo Marianella(Copa D'Oro).

A few drinks at the new Ritz-Carlton remedied our premature arrival two begin what would be a 31 hour party with the Stars and Rising Stars of the LA and San Diego culinary scenes.

For the entirety of these event the liquor did flow,and so we decided to kick off the official Honorees dinner at Rivera with a couple a pair of cold Stellas. The lovely ladies serving the complimentary brews caused quite a stir when they arrived though, more dressed up to be ring girls than for a Star Chefs soiree. No problem, they had these little numbers on hand and were ready to go. They were actually quite knowledgable about the the three beers they were serving, Stella Artois and a couple others. I tried to sneak some of the delicious food to them towards the end of the night, stealthily dodging their grumpy boss.Hey, naughty girls need abalone too!

Another sponsor of the Star Chefs awards was Highland Park. I probably put down a bottle between the Honorees dinner and the Gala Event the next night. Highland Park 18 is a single malt scotch produced in the Orkney Islands. It's a Highlands scotch exhibiting peat, spices, and sweet notes.

Dinner is served. Just like Thomas Keller(French Laundry,Per Se,Bouchon), I really enjoyed John Sedlar's abalone ceviche.

The abalone ceviche was made with mezcal, tangerine, Fresno chiles, cilantro, and Rivera's famous cucumber caviar. I love that a luxurious ceviche at Rivera has Fresno,CA in the mix. To clear up another discussion I had with Brian, red jalapenos aren't Fresno chiles, they're two different chiles. Gah!

Unlike many restaurants around town, Rivera knows ceviche. Ceviche is a balancing act of citrus, seafood, and textures. This was outstanding.

Rivera's tortillas florales were the base of a milk fed piglet taco with a pomegranate salsa. Al pastor has traded in the Durangos for pair of Versace Crocs. This was a grand tribute to the traditional street version of a sweet pork taco.

Elizabeth Belkind encountered a rather loosened version of myself hours later when I demanded that she pair one of her desserts with the beer I had in my hand. Her choice of dessert and beer pairing was expert. We had a great conversation earlier in the night and would close out the party together the following evening after the Gala event at the Umami Burger after-party. I was surprised to learn she is from Mexico City and speaks fluent spanish. Elizabeth is the pastry chef and partner behind Cake Monkey.

Water Grill's David Lefevre prepared hamachi sashimi and tempura with yuzu, radish, fennel, and ginger. After briefly talking with David I think he's my kinda guy...but...don't hold that against him. Had several helpings of this fantastic yellowtail dish.

Neal Fraser was serving salmon. This sexy New Zealand salmon with wild greens and horseradish gremolata was oily in the best of ways. It was rich, inviting, and it was driving the Stella girls wild. I love hearing women talk about food with desire and passion.

It was akin to having these great chefs cater my own booze cruise. At the Gala Event on Thursday night, Neal turned John Sedlar and I to a nice pinot blanc from the Alcace. He planned to do multiple refills throughout the evening, I thought this a great idea, so I did the same. Neal is a good hang, and boy if I could tell you all the restaurant gossip Brian and I heard over these 31 hours. stays in the vault.

The honorees dinner came to a close when all the Rising Chefs were recognized. The 2010 Rising Stars:Chefs Vinny Dotolo & Jon Shook-Animal (Los Angeles),Rory Herrmann- Bouchon Bistro (Los Angeles), Walter Manzke-Church + State (Los Angeles), Diana Stavaridis-BLD (Los Angeles),Ken Takayama-Melisse (Los Angeles), Kuniko Yagi-Sona (Los Angeles), Zachary Pollack & Stephan Samson-Pizzeria Ortica (Costa Mesa),and Michael Voltaggio-The Dining Room at the Langham (Pasadena);Pastry Chefs Jordan Kahn-XIV (Los Angeles), and Adrian Vasquez-Providence (Los Angeles);Mixologists Eric Alperin-The Varnish (Los Angeles), and Julian Cox-Rivera (Los Angeles); Sommeliers Christopher Miller-Spago (Los Angeles), and Jesse Rodriguez-Addison (San Diego);Sustainability Award Ray Garcia-Fig (Los Angeles);Community Chef Roy Choi-Kogi (Los Angeles);Restaurant Concept Adam Fleischman-Umami Burger (Los Angeles); Restaurateurs Zoe Nathan & Josh Loeb-Huckleberry & Rustic Canyon(Los Angeles). The Vip Host chef for the Gala Dinner at the Fairmont in Santa Monica was Jason Prendergast-Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows.

The honorees dinner was a blast and all were having a good time. The drinking continued and the schmoozing began to soften as several chefs including Thomas Keller headed over to Animal for more bites and slugs.

Brian and I spoke with Roy Choi of Kogi, who was admittedly out of place at this shindig, and....he had Chego on the mind. He invited us to come down to the opening of his first brick and mortar, Chego,located in Palms, which we got a chance to visit this past Thursday night.

Thursday, March 18
Well, I was beat. I had been partying for four days in Tijuana, taking a blowtorch to the candle at both ends, and arrived in LA only hours before the Honorees dinner. But, after a long rest and very little convincing, I found myself at the Gala and Awards Ceremony the next night at the Santa Monica Fairmont. John Sedlar and I took a tour of the Rising Stars best eats, starting on the dessert end. Hey, a couple of Latinos don't mind having a postre before dinner.

We also ran into Kristina, a bartender at Rivera who recently won a competition for her mixology skills, and our seal of approval with this bangin' dress.

Speaking of mixology. I grabbed a cocktail from award recipient Eric Alperin as we inched towards the food.His Highlander cocktail of Highland Park single malt and a bit of flavoring was a fine aperitif.

The pinot blanc from the Alsace as a 2007 Rolly Gassman. It was chosen to pair with the salad at the BLD table, but I paired this wine with my entire evening instead. Great stuff.

John and I had a great conversation with Neal Fraser and many other friends of John's in the industry, but, it was time to do our work.....and eat all the food. Here are some highlights from our degustation.

From Rising Star Ray Garcia, bacon wrapped bacon with sylvetta(wild arugala), brandywine(heirloom tomato), tomatoes, and cocktail avocados. This was a hit with all my friends at this public event.

Jordan Kahn's macabre looking edible cube resembled a scene from one of my cousin's elaborate Halloween parties. It was served on a tile, which Jordan said was cheaper than disposable plates. The cube is deceptively hard to penetrate, but once you do, a bloom of complex fruit flavors and textures excites the palate.

Rory Herrmann(second from left), and Thmoas Keller(second from right) were having a
day at the beach. Thomas Keller has the smile and casual walk of someone who has struggled for his accomplishments and truly knows how to enjoy success. His presence dominated these festivities.

Rory made crispy sweetbreads with fava beans, morale mushrooms,and perigourdine sauce. I've heard mixed reviews about Bouchon, but this plate has me thinking I need to go there soon. I ran into Jo of MyLastBite and rushed her over to Rory Herrmann's station. They announced that the lone sweetbreads plate on the table was the last one, to widening eyes and coiled hands. I'm slightly embarrassed to say that I snagged it as another woman was reaching for the plate, but's Jo. Gotta watch out for my peeps.

Diana Staviris, BLD's Rising Star

Diana plated a roasted beet salad with fresh goat cheese. It's funny how a salad is always a curveball at these events. I thought, "aha, trying to make me think you clever with this salad!" Well, it was rather clever, and an excellent version of a tried and true combination of flavors.

Michael Voltaggio had a long line as a testament to his television fame.

The young chef cooked wagyu beef short ribs for 2 days using sous vide and plated with a cream of dehydrated broccoli with a crisped broccoli floret and a Fiscalini cheddar strip of pasta. We loved the dehydrated broccoli in this dish, and the short rib was a supple delight.

While John had to work during the awards presentation I took advantage of the short lines, all the chef fans were wildly snapping shots. Damn, Jo even took a dive in the garden trying to get a picture of Thomas Keller. Walter Manzke was on stage but his crew was still cranking out his roasted bone marrow on a toast. If you've never had bone marrow you don't know what you're missing. It is sinfully fatty and buttery.

But my biggest surprise of the night was the Jamaican jerk pork belly with scotch bonnet pepper jelly from 9-10's Jason Knibb. Who is this guy and why haven't I been to his restaurant? It was my favorite plate of the Gala and Awards Ceremony. The flavor of the usually aggressive scotch bonnet pepper featured the essence of the pepper rather than heat. A thin edible wrapper around the chicken provided an opulence that was so satisfying.

After the Rising Stars had been awarded, which called for some more Highland Park. Julian Cox also gave me a shot of mezcal, without any further mixology. Gracias.

There was finally time to round up other friends I hadn't spoken to and see who has moving on to the after party.

Friday, March 19th....the wee hours

The Hollywood branch of Umami burger was the scene for the finale of this gastronomic trilogy.The Industry Only after party.

Here the true hardcore partiers of the industry kept it going. Mantzke, Lefevre, Cox, Stavaridis, and more sampled lamb burgers, more Highland Park, and Stella Artois.

I ended up sitting down with Elizabeth Belkind ,her fiancé , and Brian talking about Mexico City bakeries and street food. I think a trip is in the works!

I was fun to be a little on the inside, get the scoops, and party like a Top Chef for a couple of days. Not a bad fling for a guy accustomed to dining while standing up next to a gutter, trying not to step on the guy urinating himself in his sleep.

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Food GPS said...

Were rolling with Star Chefs, or with Highland Park 18? Either way, that looks like a pretty wild 31 hours.

streetgourmetla said...

Yeah Josh, well at least you were there for part of it. Hey man, I was just goin where the day took me!