Gratitude is a way of moving ourselves forward in life. It’s a way of being in the now, and in getting the joy out of the present moment. It also helps us to connect and to serve our fellow man, for it’s often someone that we are grateful for having in our lives. Recognizing that gratefulness helps us to reflect on how we can give back to society and how we can serve mankind.
I often like to read while en route to Manhattan on the Metro North train. On a cold day recently I boarded the train, got out my book and started to read. I was totally captivated by what I was reading and I did not glance up from my book for awhile. But when I did glance up and out the train window, the first thing I saw was a huge billboard with one simple word—”Grattitude”. I felt a rush of energy pulse through my body and I began to list all the things that I was grateful for at that moment. That was the first time I saw that billboard and I love passing that billboard now. It’s a reminder to me to stop and reflect for at least a few moments every day and to feel grateful for the things and the people in my life. The billboard was put up by New York City artist Peter Tunney and he has several positive life-affirming messages posted throughout the city. I’m grateful for Peter Tunney.
Because I love to cook, Larry and I eat at home most of the time. However, we do go out to dinner for special occasions. Last Saturday was such an evening. We enjoyed an early Valentine’s Day dinner at the Michelin-starred restaurant, Oceana . The dinner party was graciously hosted by Lynne Ryan of Chefs To Dine For. Lynne has a passion for bringing together like-minded people who enjoy a sophisticated dining experience. And this one was a Valentine’s dinner to remember—a magical night.
The evening started off with drinks and hors d’oeuvres in the bar—and Chef Ben Pollinger even came out of the kitchen to mingle with our group. At one of Lynne’s dinner parties, you not only get to meet fascinating food lovers, you also get to meet the executive chef. Chef Pollinger could not have been more warm and welcoming of the Valentine revelers. Chef Pollinger took our group—wine glasses in hand—on a behind-the-scenes look at his culinary wonderland, a VIP tour of the kitchen.
Watching the staff prepare and plate such wonderful seafood made me (and the rest of the group, I’m sure) eager to get to the meat of the evening—a beautiful three-course dinner paired with great wines. We all made our way to the private dining room with great anticipation of the delights that lay ahead. Upon settling into our seats, Lynne welcomed the guests and officially introduced Chef Ben Pollinger, who made everyone feel welcome. Lynne offered a toast, as the wine started flowing and the first course was set before us. From the first bite of the Meyer lemon risotto with crispy New Orleans shrimp and broccoli rabe, the reason Michelin honored Oceana with a coveted star was obvious. It was truly divine, as was the rest of the meal—steamed George’s Bank sole with baby artichoke barigoule and fingerling potatoes, followed by a decadent baked chocolate mousse with spiced pears and vanilla ice cream.
During the course of an evening filled with divine foods and fine wines, lively conversation led to budding new friendships. If you’re starting to feel left out, don’t. There’s another dinner coming up on March 4, 2012. In fact, the next event is sure to be another night to remember, but with a totally different twist—a beefsteak at Beacon. If you are not familiar with a beefsteak dinner, then you will definitely want to read about it on Garlandia, Larry Garland’s blog. After you read about the beefsteak, I’m sure you will want to jump right over to the Chefs To Dine For website and make a reservation to attend the Beacon dinner party.
The Bocuse d’Or World Cuisine contest, the brainchild of Chef Paul Bocuse first took place in 1987 in Lyon, France. Chef Bucose is one of the most respected chefs in the world and his contest is the pinnacle of culinary competitions. The contest is held in Lyon, France every two years. The next one is scheduled for January 29-30, 2013.
But this year—last weekend to be exact—four chefs converged in Hyde Park, NY at the Culinary Institute of America to compete. The winner will go on to the competition in Lyon, France, and will face chefs from twenty-three other countries. The rules for the competition this past weekend are exactly like the rules in France. Each contestant, along with his commis (assistant), has five and one half hours to create two elaborate platter dishes, one seafood and one meat, along with three original garnishes.The competition was held at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. It was a spectacle of culinary excellence, complete with the heavy bass beat of house music, huge television screens hanging in the air (so the audience could see the details of the chef’s progress), the crowd cheering and ringing their Bocuse d’Or cowbells, and waving balloons and Bocuse d’Or tea towels in the air.
The excitement was palpable as the chefs took knives in hand and proceeded to create culinary masterpieces from their kitchen cubicles while some of the most prestigious celebrity chefs mingled with the audience. It was not uncommon to turn around and engage in a conversation with the likes of Daniel Boloud (Daniel, DB Bistro Moderne, Café Boloud/NYC), Thomas Keller (Per Sé /NYC, The French Laundry/Yountville, CA), Barbara Lynch (No. 9 Park/Boston, MA), Grant Achatz (Alinea/Chicago, IL), and fellow Alabamian Chris Hastings (Hot and Hot Fish Club/Birmingham, AL).
The excitement heightened as the contestants started plating their creations and the wait staff brought the plates to the judges for tasting and judging. Saturday’s festivities celebrated the commis. The four of them competed for gold, silver, and bronze prizes. This competition was a warm up for Sunday’s main event.
It was a taste of this grand competition for the four rookies. Rachel Weiss, who is graduating from the French Culinary Institute this week and is an extern at Gramercy Tavern took home the gold for the commis competition with her interpretation of the Paul Bocuse classic dish Poulet Au Vinaigre.
Sunday was the day for the four chefs to compete for the honor of going to Lyon, France. And also the day of the super large crowds. On Saturday during the commis competition I was allowed on the floor of the competition, mingling among the contestants and the chef judges and quietly making my photos. On Sunday, only press was allowed on the floor to take photos. Where was my press pass? But I did my best to find the right angles to capture the excitement of the day in photos (from a distance).
At the awards ceremony, I grabbed a seat on the floor in front of the winner’s circle. The excitement mounted as the fourth place winner was announced: Danny Cerqueda, Executive Sous Chef of The Carolina Country Club in Raleigh North Carolina. William Bradley, Chef Instructor at the Le Cordon Bleu in Cambridge, Massachusetts, took the bronze metal. Jeffrey Lizotte, Chef de Cuisine at ON20 in Hartford, Connecticut went home with the silver prize. And the grand prize winner of the Bocuse d’Or USA 2012 was Richard Rosendale, executive chef of The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.
In the twenty-five year history of Paul Bocuse’s competition, an American has yet to win. Will 2013 be the year that Richard Rosendale shows the world that an American can take home the gold from Lyon, France? Tune in next January 29-30 to find out. Or better yet, hop on a plane and experience the thrill of the live competition. It’s bound to offer as much excitement as anyone will be able to stand.
Many thanks go out to KictchenAid who made it possible for me to attend this event.