JAMES BEARD FOUNDATION
According to the James Beard Foundation they established their dinners and workshops based upon the premise that all performing artists deserve a great stage. They concluded that if musicians have Carnegie Hall and opera singers have the Metropolitan Opera House, a similar style of venue should also exist for chefs, winemakers, and cookbook authors. The James Beard Foundation developed the perfect culinary venue for this purpose within The James Beard House. Dinners and workshops are offered on a monthly basis as a means to promote the culinary arts. The dinners within the house have been so successful that the James Beard Foundation now makes it possible for chefs to present their art out of the house as well.Recently the James Beard Foundation gave me a great opportunity to present one of my dinners on a grand stage - SeaFair's Grand Luxe Yacht. This is my second time aboard the yacht, and, just like the old Sinatra song, it is “like a friendly home the second time you call”.
For this event the crew and I served 125 guests. Jeff Black, who coordinates the Celebrity Tour dinners, came on board and worked with our crew. We could not have asked for more spectacular weather on the West side of Manhattan in New York City’s Chelsea Piers. The crowd was simply wowed.
THE GRAND AMERICA HOTEL
Chelsea Clinton is the inspiration for one of my signature dishes: Red Curried Sweet Potato Soup. When I served the Clinton family at the White House, I created the soup for Chelsea when she became a vegetarian. I took her love for the humble sweet potato and combined it with some distinct Southeast Asian flavors. The result is a divinely aromatic soup that seems to satisfy just about every guest I serve it to. Curiously enough, the Red Curried Sweet Potato Soup does seem to bring about a recurring question of what the difference is between sweet potatoes and yams.
While the orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are often called "yams", they are in fact simply a variety of what we know as sweet potatoes and are actually a member of the morning glory family. Sweet potato flesh can range in colors from white, to yellow, to a rich reddish orange. The confusion of the yam-sweet potato mystery started when the producers of sweet potatoes wanted to differentiate between the white and orange coloring of the sweet potatoes. During this era, the orange sweet potatoes were being called "yams" after the African word nyami. They carried a strong resemblance to the true yams grown in Africa. Although true "yams" can be found in some latin markets, they are rarely seen in the US marketplace today. The size of a true yam can be as small as a few inches and as long as 7 feet.
Executive Chef Eric Finney and his Sous Chef Patrick of the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City helped me to produce a cooking demo and a beautiful intimate lunch for several guests attending a partner retreat for the international law firm, McDermott Will & Emery. We served the Red Curried Sweet Potato Soup with Grilled Shrimp for lunch. It turned out to be a beautiful way to spend the afternoon in a beautiful setting. This time of year the Grand America Hotel is quietly framed within the Salt Lake City Valley by the snow-capped Wasatch Mountain Range. Built prior to the 2002 Winter Olympic games, the stately Grand America Hotel evokes a time period when wealthy socialites traveled far and abroad to romantic and exotic destinations. The hotel truly exhibits the utmost in quality of workmanship and style, complete with Italian marble baths, French cherrywood furnishings, English wool carpets and Murano chandeliers. You can find more information on this grand dame hotel at the Grand America.
Photography by Kiyomi
OVERLAND PARK, KANSAS
Tonight marks the official start of the 2007 World Series between The Colorado Rockies and The Boston Red Sox. Thinking of the game reminds me of when I was in Overland Park, Kansas, a few weeks ago. I got the chance to take a small break after an event and watch a little baseball on TV with my sister-in-law Connie, my brother-in-law Brian, and their kids. Catching up with family and friends is one of the true gems I receive from traveling.While I was in Kansas, I worked with the Overland Park Sheraton's Sous Chef, Scott Skomal, and his team. We put together a cooking demo and lunch for 170 guests of CoBank. Currently CoBank is my most frequent supporter; they have scheduled me for 10 events this year. This event was arranged by CoBank as a way to express gratitude to several of their best clients.CoBank provides financial support to the NRECA International Program, a “technical assistance” program focusing on bringing electricity to rural areas throughout the world. It is a pleasure to do business with an organization, such as CoBank, who I know directly supports the rural community. More information about Cobank can be found here: cobank.com
THE VIEW FROMTHE KENNEDY CENTER
The mesmerizing view from the rooftop of the Kennedy Center is a sight that can easily rival just about any cityscape in this United States. While I was there with the NAIC, I had a chance to witness a spectacular sunset over the Potomac River. Watching the sunset brought back a flood of fishing and kayaking memories that happened 30 miles upstream near my home in Virginia. Rather than trying to describe the Roof Terrace view to you, the Kennedy Center provides a virtual tour of the rooftop view on their Web site. Here are the east and west views from the terrace. The folks at the NAIC were very warm and receptive to me. They kept the conversation lively and entertaining throughout the evening. I am grateful to Chef Joseph Gurner and his crew of restaurant associates and chefs; they put together a perfect meal.
GRAND LUXE YACHT
Last year Robb Report magazine listed the SeaFair's 228 ft. Grand Luxe Yacht as one of the hottest luxury products in the world. The Grand Luxe Yacht shares company with the likes of a 300 mph production sedan, the Aaerion Supersonic Business Jet, the Poseidon Undersea Resort and Sotheby's Diamond Collection. This boat is a spectacular five level ship built specifically to exhibit prestigious works of art, antiques, and jewelry from around the world. As you can imagine, this invitation-only traveling fine art fair is an amazing vessel to behold. You can see more about the Grand Luxe on expoships.com.
When I was first asked to take part in the inaugural festivities on this luxury liner, I was eager to participate. A commercial kitchen is often compared to a ship's galley, yet what I discovered is that working in this particular galley was quite different than the standard kitchen fare. You quickly have to get used to the all electric kitchen while maneuvering in tight quarters.
Both the crew and I got quite the education about the logistical challenges of serving food from the kitchen to the dining room which are located on different levels. The crew rose to the challenge of producing great food for some very discriminating guests. This is of course good news, particularly since I have the pleasure of taking more voyages with SeaFair in the coming months.