Food Network Host Tregaye Fraser Gifts “Cinderella Chefs” With Cooking Skills, Self-Esteem, and CULINARY ARTISTRY

Left: Three “Cinderella Chefs” with their copies of CULINARY ARTISTRY; Right, top: Chef Tregaye Fraser; Right, bottom: Chef Tregaye’s Instagram photo of the gifts given to the 15 participants, which include CULINARY ARTISTRY

“The Saving Our Daughters Foundation recently launched their inaugural Saving Our Cinderellas, a three-week cooking program geared toward teaching young girls how to cook delicious and healthy meals to prevent future health risks and reduce the consumption of fast food.  The foundation teamed with Atlanta Chef Tregaye Fraser to debut the course at the prestigious Ron Clark Academy.  A small, hand-picked class of girls, ranging from fifth grade to eighth grade, brimmed with glee and curiosity as they were introduced to nontraditional foods, such as radishes, arugula and ginger.”
RollingOut.com (June 21, 2017)

Chef Tregaye Fraser, who won Season 12 of “Food Network Star” and co-hosts “Kitchen Sink,” is not one to let moss grow under her proverbial chefs’ clogs.

Last week, she convened her Junior Chef Summer Camp for 15 Atlanta-based girls (grades 5th-8th) from Ron Clark Academy who were chosen to participate through Saving Our Daughters’ Cinderella program that deters bullying and promotes the development of self-esteem through the arts.   

“I’ve wanted to do a junior chef program for a while now,” said Chef Tregaye told RollingOut.com. “I think it’s so important for young girls to learn how to cook. I want them to be able to create and cook amazing food so they can pass that along to their families.”

We were delighted to learn that each “Cinderella Chef” received a knife kit, a thermometer, and a copy of our book CULINARY ARTISTRY.

On their first day, the girls learned knife skills and plating, and prepared a citrus fruit salad with goat cheese and pomegranate gastrique which allowed them to hone their dressing technique.

While this program is launching in Atlanta, Saving Our Daughters has plans to expand the program across the country. “This is our pilot program at the Ron Clark Academy but our vision is to have this [cooking] program in all of our Saving Our Cinderellas Programs nationwide,” Saving Our Daughters’ Bianca Ash told RollingOut.com. “We have such a passionate relationship with the Ron Clark Academy so it only made sense to have it here but we’re definitely taking this program to our girls in New York, L.A. and Chicago.”

We’re happy to cheer on Chef Tregaye’s efforts here in New York City, and beyond.

Chef Tregaye Fraser‘s Cinderella Chefs summer camp was also reported inNStyleAtlanta:

(For other coverage, see FreddyO.com and RollingOut.com.)

Chef Tregaye Fraser is at cheftregayes.com.

Saving Our Daughters is at savingourdaughters.com.

10 Finalists for €100,000 2017 Basque Culinary World Prize Include 4 U.S. Teams

“We have tried to ensure that the profiles of the candidates meet different criteria and represent the social aspect, the environment, research and health.  Two of the candidates are working in refugee camps or with refugees, reflecting the current situation we live in.”
–Xavier Medina, UNESCO Chair on Food, Culture and Development of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC)

“In my opinion, everything has been of very high quality, seeking excellence in terms of flavor, nutrition and sustainability.”
Elena Arzak, President of the Prize Committee for the 2017 Basque Culinary World Prize

Ten finalists for the 2017 Basque Culinary World Prize — which recognizes a chef who has helped to improve society through gastronomy — were announced on Tuesday, June 13th, at the Palacio Miramar.  Narrowed from a field of 110 nominations, the 10 finalists represent the United States, Spain, Brazil, Turkey, Colombia, Greece, Australia, Italy, and Mexico.

The finalists from the United States — with bios provided by the Prize organizers — include:

José Andrés (pictured in top left corner):  Time magazine cites José Andrés as one of the most influential men on the planet. For Andrés, it’s not enough to have a vast chain of successful restaurants or to be a media figure – it’s about generating lasting change in multiple aspects of the food industry. Based in Washington, the Spanish chef has entered politics to promote immigration and labour reforms, as well as ‘a smarter approach to food policy.’ He also uses his profile to raise funds for projects which use cooking as a driver of social change. A Citizenship Ambassador for the Obama Administration and an ambassador for the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves launched by Hillary Clinton, he also runs his own initiatives including World Central Kitchen, plus education and training programmes in countries such as Haití.

Dan Giusti (bottom row, third from left):  After leaving René Redzepi’s kitchens (with whom he ran Noma), Dan Giusti recently set up Brigaid, an initiative that helps schools rethink the design and functionality of their kitchens. The know-how of talented chefs is brought into school kitchens to generate real, substantial changes. They work to serve ‘real food’ and to rebuild basic yet forgotten practices like taking our time over the food served at our tables.

Anthony Myint (top row, second from left):  Rather than contributing to the problem of climate change, food should be part of the solution.’ So say chef Anthony Myint and writer Karen Leibowitz, who have unflinchingly presented a conscious approach to food by sharing information and tools that create a positive impact on the environment. But, it wasn’t enough just to talk about it. Myint and Leibowitz also founded ZeroFoodprint, an organisation which works with restaurateurs to try to completely eliminate their carbon footprint. As owners of restaurants including The Perennial, they set up The Perennial Farming Initiative to provide funding for programs in ‘progressive agriculture’ and to encourage changes in the industry, from farm to fork.

Daniel Patterson and Roy Choi (bottom row, second from left):  Daniel Patterson’s extensive experience in fine dining merges with Roy Choi’s expertise in street-food to create Locol, a joint restaurant chain project in the USA committed to changing the fast-food concept. Far from being some fantasy around healthy eating, Locol is a very real project that benefits all involved. The initiative supports a “fast-food revolution” and changes the stigmatized link between race, food and poverty to show that we can eat better for less.

Bios of the other global finalists can be found here.

The winner will be announced July 18th in Mexico.  The Basque Culinary World Prize will receive €100,000 for a project chosen by the winner, expressing the transformative power of cuisine, awarded by Spain’s Basque Culinary Center (BCC).

Read more about the Basque Culinary World Prize at basqueculinaryworldprize.com.

Read our 2016 articles “Chefs Around the Globe Who Are Transforming Society Recognized by New Basque Culinary World Prize” (May 26, 2016) and “Winner of the Inaugural 2016 Basque Culinary World Prize:  Venezuela’s Maria Fernanda di Giacobbe” (July 11, 2016).

Chef Bill Telepan Is Making Delicious Things Happen — For Everyone From Kids To Theater District Diners

For one day only (April 15th), the Upper West Side Shake Shack offered a mushroom burger with proceeds benefiting Wellness in the Schools. Chef Bill Telepan poses with his creation.

“I was doing ‘recess duty’ at my daughter’s school and stopped in the cafeteria. The kids weren’t touching the salad bar—the lettuce was brown—so I went to the school and volunteered to create a salad-bar day with fresh greens, homemade dressings, raw vegetables. It was such a big, rousing success that I decided to get involved in a bigger way.”
Chef Bill Telepan, as quoted in Food & Wine, on how he got involved with Wellness in the Schools

Bill Telepan is one of the most likable chefs you’re ever likely to meet.

Even if you’ve never tasted his food, you’re bound to have heard his name — especially that of the eponymous restaurant he ran for the past decade on the Upper West Side.  Whenever there’s a chef-related benefit, he always seems to have a hand in it, whether Citymeals-on-Wheels’ annual Chefs’ Tribute at Rockefeller Center or one benefiting the not-for-profit Wellness in the Schools (WITS), which is near and dear to his heart as WITS’ Executive Chef for most of the past decade.

It’s hard to keep up on all the rest, detailed in this bio on WITS’ website:

…Through his work with WITS, Bill has led lobbying initiatives from Capitol Hill to NYC’s City Hall and was a participant in the 2015 James Beard Foundation’s Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change. He has spoken at the James Beard Foundation’s Food Conference, the Sustainable Cities Conference at The New School, and Food Tank’s Washington DC Summit….In 2009, Bill was selected by First Lady Michelle Obama to join the Chefs Move! to Schools task force and participate in the organization’s conferences. He was also named a Food Revolution Hero by chef-food activist Jamie Oliver, a FEED50 2016 Hero by Lauren Bush Lauren, and a community hero by TD Bank’s “Rooted In NYC” campaign.

A year ago, Telepan closed Telepan, another case of costs rising faster than revenues until proving unsustainable.  As of October, he’s been running the kitchen at Midtown West’s Oceana.

We were overdue to pay a visit.  And the other week, we finally had our chance.

The great news is that we now have a new go-to restaurant when we’re looking for a spot near the Theater District, or asked by others to recommend one.  Telepan is a gifted chef who knows how to cook, and he’s clearly bringing a watchful eye and keen palate to oversee every dish coming out of his kitchen.

That can be tough in a restaurant of this size, let alone one packed with newly-minted graduates celebrating with their families after ceremonies at nearby Radio City Music Hall, bankers and business executives ordering massive seafood towers and big red wines, and the occasional authors on deadline getting out of the house to clear their heads.  There’s something on Oceana’s menu for everyone.

In our case, it was a perfectly executed Baby Romaine Salad, Caesar style, with or without house-cured anchovies.  (As its name suggests, seafood is the specialty of the house, so if you order your salad “with,” you’re in good hands.)

The kitchen also has a way with pasta, and we’d happily reorder our Asparagus & Egg Pasta served with lemon ricotta, basil, and mint, or the housemade Potato Gnocchi with Parmesan.

The surprising highlight for us were the improbably delicious Pea Pancakes, served with spring vegetables, mushrooms, and pea puree — not to mention the sweet gesture of the cookie plate that arrived at our table having casually mentioned having met an interim deadline that allowed us to take a much-needed dinner break.

Our out-of-town friends are already starting their summer visits to Manhattan, with accompanying requests for restaurant recommendations — especially pre-theater.  As we typically direct them to our website, we wanted to make sure Oceana was front and center.  And for those wishing to support some of the most important initiatives to ensure our country’s kids eat better and stay healthier, look no further:  Bill Telepan is making all kinds of delicious things happen.

Oceana is at 120 West 49th Street [near Sixth Avenue] in Manhattan.  212.759.5941.   oceanarestaurant.com

Wellness In The Schools (WITS) is a national non-profit that inspires healthy eating, environmental awareness, and fitness as a way of life for kids in public schools.  wellnessintheschools.org

Will Guidara and Anthony Rudolf’s Welcome Conference Sells Out Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall in NYC

Top: EMP chef Daniel Humm; Karen Page, The Point’s Cameron Karger, Relais & Chateaux’s Brenda Homick, and the Inn at Little Washington’s Patrick O’Connell; Lettuce Entertain You’s Rich Melman and Karen Page; Karen Page, Will Guidara, and Andrew Dornenburg; and Blackberry Farm’s Mary Celeste Beall

“When you love something, the aura of joy surrounds you.”
Rich Melman, beloved Chicago restaurateur at the 2017 Welcome Conference

Eleven Madison Park’s Will Guidara and Journee’s Anthony Rudolf love the restaurant business.

Together, Guidara and Rudolf co-created The Welcome Conference in 2014. With a mission of bringing together the front of the house side of the industry to share best practices and inspire one another, it has since become a not-to-be-missed event for hospitality professionals throughout the U.S., and increasingly beyond.

We’ve attended every single one.  The first was perhaps a couple hundred people in the basement of the Cooper Union downtown.  Yesterday’s fourth annual conference brought together a sold-out crowd of 850 at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, who included chef Michael Anthony, publicist and radio host Shari Bayer, chef Franklin Becker, Ottawa restaurateur Steve Beckta, Agern’s Katie Bell, Maple’s Katina Pappas Dermatas, food writer Meryl Evans, Untitled’s (and, soon, Gramercy Tavern’s) Arjav Ezekiel, restaurateur Georgette Farkas, author Andrew Friedman, Relais & Chateaux’s Brenda Homick, Eleven Madison Park chef Daniel Humm, The Point’s Cameron Karger, chef James Kent, Blue Hill’s Grace Nguyen, restaurateur Drew Nieporent, the Inn at Little Washington’s Patrick O’Connell, writer Paula Prentiss, Karen’s fellow Dame Lynne Ryan, chef Hillary Sterling, etiquette-and-BBQ expert Amy Mills Tunnecliffe and her son Guy Tunnecliffe, and Del Posto’s Marta Variara. 

Our thanks to yesterday’s speakers — who included Soul Cycle’s Melanie Whelan, Union Square Cafe’s Sam Lipp, Dr. John Medina, Frank Guidara, Blackberry Farm’s Mary Celeste Beall, Antoine’s Charles Carter, Husk’s Sean Brock, Waffle House’s Mel, Mojo, and Sharifa; hostage negotiator Gary Noesner, Drive Change’s Jordyn Lexton, Momofuku’s David Chang, and Lettuce Entertain You’s Richard Melman  for sharing their ideas and insights.

And our heartfelt congratulations to Will and Anthony on organizing (with the help of Aaron Ginsberg and the amazing Sandra Di Capua) a day filled with positive energy, wisdom, and inspiration galore!

Top row: Co-founder Will Guidara, and conference guests; 2nd row: Karen Page with author Andrew Friedman; Andrew Dornenburg with conference guests; The Point’s Cameron Karger, Karen Page, and Ottawa’s Steve Beckta; 3rd row: Waffle House made waffles onsite, enjoyed by restaurateur Drew Nieporent with guests from Open Table; 4th row: Andrew Dornenburg with Agern’s Katie Bell; guest curator Brian Canlis with co-founder Anthony Rudolf; Karen Page with three waitresses from the Charleston Waffle House; and Andrew Dornenburg with Shari Bayer, who won a trip for 2 to Blackberry Farm in her lunchbox

The Welcome Conference was held Monday, June 5, 2017, at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall in New York City.  Ticket sales are announced a few months in advance, so visit its website in early 2018 to discover the on-sale date for the fifth annual conference to be held in June 2018: thewelcomeconference.com.

A Farewell to Chef Brad Farmerie’s Game-Changing NoLIta Restaurant PUBLIC

Top right and middle left: Chef Brad Farmerie of PUBLIC; Middle right: pasta with Carrot Bolognese; Bottom left: PUBLIC’s dining room; Bottom right: The Impossible Burger at PUBLIC

“Back in 2003, when PUBLIC opened in NoLIta, it was something of a game changer. The menu tipped its hat to the Antipodes, even offering grilled kangaroo with coriander falafel, and its industrial-vintage design, incorporating elements like antique mailboxes, card catalogs and office doors with glass panels, was not then as typical as it is today.”
—Florence Fabricant, The New York Times

We were big fans of Brad Farmerie‘s Michelin-starred restaurant PUBLIC since our first fateful visit more than a decade ago. In Brad, we discovered a chef who cooked with a unique combination of influences from his global travels from London to the Land Down Under, and who had a rare talent for making exotic ingredients come alive in a way that felt, strangely, both new and familiar.

Our last toast at PUBLIC

So when we learned that PUBLIC would be closing after 14 years on June 3rd, we hoped to be able to be there for a last hurrah dinner.  However, we discovered only belatedly that the last seating open to the public would be June 2nd, as the restaurant hosted a private wedding on its closing night.

So, we wanted to raise a toast to our last meal at the restaurant, which occurred late the night of February 16th, when we ordered a wonderful carrot Bolognese pasta topped with pesto, and tasted its impossibly delicious version of the [meatless] Impossible Burger.  Along with sister restaurant Saxon + Parole, PUBLIC was one of just a half-dozen in the country to offer The Impossible Burger, which is 100 percent plant-based with the look, smell, texture, and taste of beef.

Our heartfelt thanks to Brad and the entire team at PUBLIC for welcoming us so warmly, and for creating such delicious memories for us, over the years. While PUBLIC may be gone, it will never be forgotten.  Hope to see you soon at one of your other wonderful restaurants!

Brad Farmerie‘s  restaurant Saxon + Parole is at 316 Bowery in New York City, and is one of the few restaurants in the city serving the meatless Impossible Burger (for which reservations are required, as quantities are limited).  S+P’s version features a mushroom puree, roasted oyster mushrooms, sherry onions, and truffle cream ($18).  212.254.0350.  saxonandparole.com

Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg To Speak at 2017 Enneagram Global Summit

“Now, after lurking on the fringes of mysticism and pop psychology for more than 20 years, the Enneagram is turning mainstream and respectable….The CIA now uses the Enneagram to help agents understand the behavior of individual world leaders. The U.S. Postal Service recently turned to the Enneagram to help employees resolve conflicts. Clergy from the Vatican signed up for an Enneagram seminar.”
Newsweek (September 11, 1994)

We are both honored to be among the 40+ leading experts — including A.H. Almaas (Hameed Ali), Cynthia BourgeaultCaroline W. CaseyJessica Dibb, Katie Hendricks, Robert Holden, Russ Hudson, Dr. Claudio NaranjoHelen Palmer, Cheryl Richardson, Fr. Richard Rohr, and Dr. Dan Siegel — who will be featured as part of the upcoming 2017 Enneagram Global Summit taking place June 5-9, 2017.

On the day of the 2017 Enneagram Global Summit dedicated to “Innovative Applications of the Enneagram,” we speak with host Jessica Dibb — creator of the Summit and director and founder of the Inspiration Community & Consciousness School — about “Understanding the Enneagram Through Wine and Food.”  

Creativity has been defined as the power to connect the seemingly unconnected, an idea we explore further in our forthcoming book KITCHEN CREATIVITY (Little, Brown; Fall 2017).  While the Enneagram is primarily applied to people, its underlying archetypes can also be applied to inanimate objects — even wine and food. We discovered we could extend our understanding of gastronomy by applying to it the framework of the Enneagram. In turn, we’ve enhanced our understanding of the Enneagram through its creative application in the realm of food and wine. Join us — plus an expected audience of 20,000+ — and see if you might be inspired to explore your own creative connections.

Registration for this online event is free, and more information — including a complete schedule of speakers — is available here.

For the uninitiated, the Enneagram is a widespread personality typing system that has been taught by as varied a set of groups as the CIA, the Jesuits, and Stanford Business School.  It illuminates nine different personality types, which are typically referred to simply by the numbers 1 through 9 — although there are often different names associated with each type.  Karen, a Type 1, is a Perfectionist, and driven by high ideals.  Andrew, a Type 9, is a Peacemaker, and motivated to keep the peace.

We first discovered the Enneagram just a few years after we were married in 1990.  Karen had been introduced to the Myers-Briggs personality typing system through two different classes she took in the late 1980s at Harvard Business School, and we both found it eye-opening to know each other’s MBTI types.  After Karen stumbled across Don Riso‘s books on the Enneagram while looking for books on Myers-Briggs and we learned our Enneagram types, it was even more explosively powerful and brought each of us to a radical new understanding of the other.  It also sprang open the door to deep compassion, which is vital in any marriage.  We credit the Enneagram as being one of the most important tools we’ve discovered to more easily resolve the inevitable conflicts that arise in any relationship, and as an invaluable method for understanding on a deeper level those we interview on a regular basis for our books (including other authors, chefs, mixologists, restaurant critics, restaurateurs, and sommeliers).

Russ Hudson, Andrew Dornenburg, Karen Page, Don Riso, and Brian Taylor

We’re grateful to have met the leading authors in the field of the Enneagram — Don Riso and his co-author and Enneagram Institute co-founder Russ Hudson, who collaborated on the landmark Enneagram books Discovering Your Personality Type, Personality Types, Understanding the Enneagram and The Wisdom of the Enneagram — so soon after they began their professional collaboration.  Karen had the pleasure and privilege of going through their intensive Enneagram training in 1994.  Later the same year, she joined them at the inaugural International Enneagram Conference at Stanford University, and thereafter — at Don’s request (and in his and Russ’s absence) — she co-keynoted with Don’s attorney and partner Brian Taylor the Pacific Coast Law Conference at the University of Washington with a presentation on the Enneagram.  We’re even more grateful to have been able to count Don (who passed away at age 66 in 2012) and Brian and Russ as beloved friends over the years.

“I believe [the Enneagram is] truly the most profound tool I’ve ever come across in my 50+ years as a doctor, therapist, professor, lecturer, teacher and author to help people find, build, and sustain amazing, loving, intimate and fulfilling relationships.”
David Daniels, MD, clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Stanford Medical School

The Enneagram field sadly lost another advocate just this week in Dr. David Daniels, whom Karen had the pleasure of meeting at the 1994 International Enneagram Conference at Stanford.  In fact, David — a professor at Stanford, and frequent collaborator with Enneagram author Helen Palmer — was the catalyst behind bringing the groundbreaking conference to Stanford.  He will be sorely missed by the greater Enneagram community.

“…This year’s Enneagram Global Summit is rapidly approaching. It will have probably the greatest collection of Enneagram teachers ever assembled, AND it is free. I would also add that our recently departed and much beloved friend, David Daniels, was recorded for this conference, and it is one of the last chances to experience his wisdom and compassion. So I hope you can make some time to join us for this gathering of souls!”
Russ Hudson, President of The Enneagram Institute

The 2017 Enneagram Global Summit is a free online event that will be held June 5-9, 2017.

The 40+ featured speakers will include A.H. Almaas (Hameed Ali), Cynthia Bourgeault, Caroline W. Casey, Beatrice Chestnut, Flemming Christensen, Tom Condon, Dr. David Daniels, Jessica Dibb, Andrew Dornenburg, Deborah Threadgill Egerton, Katherine Chernick Fauvre, James Flaherty, Anne Geary, Michael Gelb, Belinda Gore, Rachel Hamilton, Katie Hendricks, Hollie Holden, Robert Holden, Russ Hudson, Andrea Isaacs, Dr. Jack Killen, Ginger Lapid-Bogda, PhD, John Luckovich, Sandra Maitri, Dr. Claudio Naranjo, Michael Naylor, Dr. Delbar Niroushak, Beth O’Hara, Susan Olesek, Dr. Deborah Ooten, Uranio Paes, Karen Page, Helen Palmer, Cheryl Richardson, Lynda Roberts, Father Richard Rohr, Ben Saltzman, Terry Saracino, Gayle Scott, Alex Senegal, Dr. Dan Siegel, Mario Sikora, and Jerome Wagner.

For more information or to register, click here.

Celebrating May Birthdays Galore (Including James Beard’s and Karen’s!) — and More

Top left: 2017 JBF Outstanding Pastry Chef Ghaya Oliveira, Karen Page, and Daniel Boulud; Top right: JBF Chair Emily Luchetti with emcee Jesse Tyler Ferguson; and Chef Todd English with Karen Page; Bottom left: Jon Shook & Vinny Ditolo with Karen Page; Missy Robbins with Andrew Dornenburg; Gabrielle and Greg Denton and their chefs from Ox in Portland, OR; Bottom right: Farmer Lee Jones and Andrew Dornenburg

“I would just like to say, as blessed as we are, I think life’s a circle. We have given a lot, and we give it right back out, and it comes back to us. I hope all of you experience that, because I think that’s the richness of our industry.”
Deann Bayless, in accepting with husband and co-owner Rick Bayless Topolobampo’s 2017 Outstanding Restaurant Award at the James Beard Foundation Awards

The course of a year has its own ebbs and flows (and especially during those years when we have a new book out and we’re swamped with book-tour-related activities).  However, the two busiest weeks of our year over most of the past decade have been in 1) November, the week before Thanksgiving, which coincides with the release of Beaujolais Nouveau and a not-to-be-missed party hosted by Georges Duboeuf celebrating its arrival in New York City — plus Citymeals’ Annual Power Lunch for Women, on whose Steering Committee Karen has the pleasure of serving, and especially 2) MAY, the week of the James Beard Foundation Awards, which features many parties and less-formal get-togethers of industry colleagues and friends, and which happens to coincide with Karen’s and her best friend’s own birthday week and private celebrations.

Our May 2017 was particularly busy because not only did we make the trip to Chicago for the 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards, but Karen’s bi-annual meeting of Northwestern’s Council of 100 coincided, necessitating our being in Chicago for an entire week.

This weekend is the first chance we’ve had to catch our breath during the whirl of the past two weeks….

Top left: Topolobampo wine director Jill Gubesch and Andrew Dornenburg; Top right: Karen Page, 2017 Outstanding Chef Michael Solomonov, and Kathleen Squires, producer of a documentary on James Beard airing on PBS this month; Bottom Left: Karen Page with Lori Nischan and 2017 JBF “Who’s Who” inductee Michel Nischan; Bottom right: Karen Page, Topolobampo Chef Andres Padilla, and JBF President Susan Ungaro; NAHA chef Carrie Nahabedian and Karen Page; and Rick Bayless dancing behind the bar at the JBF after-party at Lena Brava

We’ve already nominated our all-time favorite host Jesse Tyler Ferguson — star of TV’s “Modern Family” and Broadway’s “Fully Committed” — to become the James Beard Awards’ Bob Hope / Billy Crystal and to return to host the Awards year after year.  We had a great time catching up with restaurant industry friends and colleagues, and celebrating their nominations and wins.

One of the two restaurant highlights of our trip was our annual tradition of lunch at Topolobampo the day after the Awards — which was made all the more special this year by the restaurant’s 2017 Outstanding Restaurant win.  After being so touched by how touched Rick and Deann Bayless were to win this award during sister restaurant Frontera Grill‘s 30th anniversary weekend (as evidenced by their moving acceptance speeches and Rick’s dancing the night away at the after-party at Lena Brava!), it was very special to be able to congratulate them one-on-one the very next day.  We also love running into out-of-town colleagues there who are inevitably as amazed by chef-owner Rick Bayless and Chef de Cuisine Andres Padilla‘s dishes as we were when we first tasted them decades before.

Dom Perignon chef de cave Richard Geoffroy led a tasting of a number of vintages (including the 2006, the 2005 Rose, and the 2000 P2) for JBF Outstanding Wine Service winner Belinda Chang, Karen Page, and Andrew Dornenburg

Thanks to  James Beard Award winner for Outstanding Wine Service Belinda Chang, we were able to join her and Richard Geoffroy, chef de cave of Dom Perignon who had just flown into Chicago from France a few hours beforehand, to taste through a number of  his Champagnes at Chicago’s Waldorf-Astoria.  From wine glasses (versus Champagne flutes), we sipped (but tried not to swirl, lest we bruise any precious bubbles) the 2006 Vintage, the 2000 P2, and (from Burgundy glasses) a very rare Rosé [which the house first created in 1959] from the great vintage of 2005.  All Dom P Champagnes are made from blends of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

The 2006 Dom Perignon Vintage boasts Dom P’s characteristic minerality in spades, but displaying a somewhat fruitier side of its personality compared to other vintages.  The 2000 P2 (“second plentitude”) Champagne is the result of allowing the 2000 Vintage to mature over 16 years.  Expect the unexpected:  the faintest hints of salt and the sea, along with notes of chalky minerality and an elegant, creamy mousse.  Belinda and the two of us were told we were the first Americans to taste the 2005 Dom Perignon Rosé Champagne.  We count ourselves as fortunate to be among the few who will get to taste the last, given its extreme rarity — not to mention its great deliciousness — so if you, too, are lucky enough to come across some, we hope you won’t miss the experience.

Top left: Tortelli Verde; Bottom left: Caccio Whey Pepe; Right: 2017 James Beard Award winner Sarah Gruenberg of Chicago’s Monteverde

The second of the two restaurant highlights of our trip was dinner at Monteverde, whose kitchen is headed by Chef Sarah Grueneberg, who surprised some of us by taking home the medal for the 2017 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Midwest on her very first nomination.  However, after our first-ever dinner at Monteverde, we were no longer surprised:  It was one of the best Italian dinners we’ve had in recent memory.  Our appetizers, pastas, and desserts were all perfectly cooked, reflecting extraordinary attention to technique.  One dish — Grueneberg’s Tortelli Verde ($17), comprising sweet winter spinach, Parmesan cheese, roasted white miso, Piedmontese hazelnuts, ramps, and lemon — spurred wild enthusiasm reminiscent of a level we’d last experienced for Mario Batali‘s perfect, creative pastas upon the opening of Babbo many years previously.  The Caccio Whey Pepe ($14) — Mancini bucatini, Pecorino Romano, Ricotta Whey, and a four-peppercorn blend — proved just as delicious for breakfast in our hotel room the next morning.  And the minute we’d spied the rhubarb crostata ($10) on display, we knew we had to order it — and its rustic yet flaky texture more than lived up to its visual promise.  With Grueneberg’s charming fiancé managing partner Jaime Canete (to whom she gave a lovely shout-out during her JBF acceptance speech the night before) overseeing the dining room, the packed house last Tuesday night was assured of warm service as well as an extraordinary dinner.

Left: JBF Award winner Belinda Chang and Andrew Dornenburg; Right: Karen Page, Maria Sinskey of Robert Sinskey Vineyards (RSV), and Belinda Chang

Completely by chance, we bumped into Belinda again the next day while she was tasting with multitalented Maria Sinskey (a one-time Food & Wine Top 10 chef!) of Napa’s Robert Sinskey Vineyards at the Chicago restaurant Bad Hunter.  Before we’d even managed to order lunch, we were delighted to be sent over wines to sample from among the multiple bottles and magnums open on their table.  Our favorites included the 2007 Robert Sinskey Vineyards Los Carneros Pinot Blanc, the 1999 Robert Sinskey Vineyards Los Carneros Pinot Noir, and the 1992 Robert Sinskey Vineyards Stags Leap District Claret (a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc).

C100 members Karen Page, Elisa All, Erica Kane, and Diane Knoepke at Terra & Vine

In 1993, Karen was appointed by Northwestern University’s then-President Arnold Weber as a founding member of the Council of 100 — comprising 100 of the University’s most distinguished alumnae who return to Chicago twice a year to advise undergraduate women and recent alumnae on their career planning.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet current students and younger alumnae, and to catch up on Northwestern’s many developments on campus — not to mention with fellow C100 members, who include a dizzying array of bestselling authors, college deans, Shakespeare Festival organizers, globetrotting TV writer-producers, and triathlon-competing Supreme Court lawyers.  With partner Erica Kane, Karen co-hosted Friday night’s dinner at Evanston’s new Alpana Singh restaurant Terra & Vine for 17 C100 members and their guests that capped off the Spring 2017 conference.

The May 7th Opening Night Party for “Ernest Shackleton Loves Me” starring Val Vigoda and Wade McCollum

One of our dearest friends of the past two decades, two-time Jonathan Larson Award winner Val Vigoda just opened her wonderful new musical “Ernest Shackleton Loves Me” at the Second Stage Theatre on May 7th.  After dinner with friends at Steve Olsen‘s West Bank Cafe, one of our favorite Theater District restaurants right around the corner, we caught the 7 pm performance.  Thereafter, we were happy to join other guests including Matthew Broderick (whose awesome performance we’d just enjoyed in Wallace Shawn‘s “Evening at the Talk House”), Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue (who were seated just a few seats away from us — close enough so Marlo could explain her connection to writer Joe DiPietro, with whom she worked on her 2016 off-Broadway show “Clever Little Lies”) at the opening night party at The Palm.  Congratulations to Val and her co-star Wade McCollum, director Lisa Peterson, and DiPietro — not to mention our producer friend Aaron Morrill, whom we were delighted to discover on the first night of previews (via our Playbill!) was involved with the show, too — and to the entire team on their inventive and inspiring show that’s been earning praise from The New York Times (in a huge review with wonderful photos!), NJ.com, and more.

Andrew surprised Karen with her birthday lunch (and the always-wonderful company of our dear friend actress Susan Dey!) at Le Bernardin, where Chef Eric Ripert, 2017 JBF Outstanding Wine, Spirits or Beer Professional nominee Aldo Sohm (also of Aldo Sohm Wine Bar), and Directeur de Salle Ben Chekroun ensured that the food, wine, and service were as world-class as one would expect of a restaurant that had just been named the 17th best in the world at the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards in Melbourne.

Andrew Dornenburg, Karen Page, Chef Michael Anthony, Rikki Klieman, and Bill Bratton

As Karen’s dear friend Rikki Klieman, legal analyst of “CBS This Morning,” share the same birthday week (May 13th), we enjoy an annual tradition of having dinner with Rikki and her husband former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton — in recent years, at Gramercy Tavern, where 2015 James Beard Outstanding Chef Mike Anthony, Chef de Cuisine Howard Kalachnikoff, and Pastry Chef Miro Uskokovic‘s cuisine gives us no reason to dream of considering anywhere else.  Our joint dinner on Wednesday night was no exception.

Celebrating the birthday of Rikki Klieman (center, bottom) at Union Square Cafe

Shaking things up, Karen also helped to surprise Rikki on Friday at a birthday lunch in her honor at Union Square Cafe 2.0, our first visit since the restaurant received its three-star rave from Pete Wells in The New York Times.  Husbands were allowed for dessert, so Andrew and Bill were also able to taste gifted pastry sous chef Christine Lisa‘s magnificent (cajeta + chocolate + fudge) layer cake, whose flavor we’ll not soon forget.  Special thanks to USC Director of Operations Sam Lipp for personally and so graciously presenting it to our table!

Karen Page, Baroness Sheri de Borchgrave, Julie Besonen, and Andrew Dornenburg

Capping off our Friday night with our wine world “frolleagues” (professional colleagues with whom we have traveled abroad, prompting an evolution into friendship) Baroness Sheri de Borchgrave and Julie Besonen — by tasting our way through several sparkling and still wines together, both before and during dinner — was the “cajeta icing on the chocolate-fudge layer cake” of our week.

And we’re likely going to have our heads down for the next few weeks meeting some key deadlines related to our next book KITCHEN CREATIVITY (Little, Brown; October 2017), so you’re more likely to find additional updates via Twitter and Instagram and Facebook versus here in the interim!

“Ernest Shackleton Loves Me,” co-starring Val Vigoda and Wade McCollum, is playing at Second Stage Theater (305 West 43rd Street) through June 11th.  ernestshackletonlovesme.com

Gramercy Tavern is at 42 East 20th Street in Manhattan.  gramercytavern.com

For a complete list of winners of 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards, visit jamesbeard.org/awards.

Le Bernardin is at 155 West 51st Street in Manhattan.  le-bernardin.com

Union Square Cafe is at 101 East 19th Street in Manhattan.  unionsquarecafe.com

If you’re going to see “Ernest Shackleton Loves Me” or another show nearby in the Theater District, we definitely recommend West Bank Cafe around the corner at 407 West 42nd Street for pre- or post-theater dining: westbankcafe.com