Chefs and Champagne 2014

by Elana Berk and Evan Leventhal
Mark VonHolden/Invision for James Beard Foundation/AP Images
August 2014

School’s out! (At least for a few more weeks) and the pool is open—thank god for summer. Time for tomatoes, cucumbers and melons. For Chef Bryce Shuman of Betony, these ingredients encapsulate the season. Betony’s frontman, resident beverage pro, and general manager, Eamon Rockey, also loves these pure flavors of June, July, and August. He used them to mix bright and sunny tequila and rum cocktails that paired swimmingly with Shuman’s fare at this year’s Chefs and Champagne event, an annual tasting put on by the James Beard Foundation.

At this summer night’s occasion, held at the Wölffer Estate in Sagaponick, New York (aka The Hamptons), over 35 of the industry's most distinguished chefs presented dishes to several hundred culinary enthusiasts who gathered to celebrate the evening’s honoree, three-time JBF award winner Chef Bobby Flay and to toast Samantha Whitlam, the 2014 winner of the Christian Wölffer Scholarship. A nearly four page tasting menu featured dishes from Shuman and other culinary heroes, including previous StarChefs.com Rising Star Award winners, such as Jeff McInnis (2008) of Root & Bone, Jesse Schenker (2011) of The Gander, PJ Calapa (2013) of Ai Fiori, Franklin Becker (2006) of The Little Beet, and Jamie Bissonnette (2009) of Toro, as well as current (Bissonnette) and past JBF award winners: Alex Guarnaschelli and Ken Oringer.

Chef Florian Wehrli serves a guest at the James Beard Foundation's Chefs & Champagne event at the Wolffer Estate

Chef Florian Wehrli serves a guest at the James Beard Foundation's Chefs & Champagne event at the Wolffer Estate

Atmosphere at the James Beard Foundation's Chefs & Champagne event at the Wolffer Estate

Atmosphere at the James Beard Foundation's Chefs & Champagne event at the Wolffer Estate

2013 Christian Wolffer Scholarship winner, Jhonel Faelnar, JBF Scholarship winner Christina Cassel, 2014 My China Scholarship winner, Alexis Sicklick, Honoree Chef Bobby Flay, 2014 Christian Wolffer Scholarship winner, Samantha Whitlam

2013 Christian Wolffer Scholarship winner, Jhonel Faelnar, JBF Scholarship winner Christina Cassel, 2014 My China Scholarship winner, Alexis Sicklick, Honoree Chef Bobby Flay, 2014 Christian Wolffer Scholarship winner, Samantha Whitlam

President of the James Beard Foundation Susan Ungaro, speaks at the James Beard Foundation's Chefs & Champagne event at the Wolffer Estate

President of the James Beard Foundation Susan Ungaro, speaks at the James Beard Foundation's Chefs & Champagne event at the Wolffer Estate

President of the James Beard Foundation Susan Ungaro, honoree Chef Bobby Flay pose with the 2014 Chef's and Champagne Chefs at the James Beard Foundation's Chefs & Champagne event at the Wolffer Estate

President of the James Beard Foundation Susan Ungaro, honoree Chef Bobby Flay pose with the 2014 Chef's and Champagne Chefs at the James Beard Foundation's Chefs & Champagne event at the Wolffer Estate

The midsummer mood was effervescent, helped along by seemingly bottomless bottles of Tattinger Champagne. “I love to pair food and wine” said Bissonnette, who acknowledged drinking his share (and then some) of Champagne and sparkling wine. “And I’m into thinking about acidity of both food and beverage, so Ken [Oringer] and I enjoyed discussing possible dishes and choosing something fun: barbecued oysters with kobayaki and seaweed butter.” Bissonnette, who will be presenting at the 9th Annual International Chefs Congress in October, has always loved being a part of the JBF events. “They’re fun and bring great people and chefs together.” Rockey echoes those sentiments. “It’s important to us to be involved with the James Beard Foundation, an organization that has always contributed so much to its community, promoting education and understanding of America's culinary heritage”.

The proceeds from this well-loved event go to supporting the educational mission of the James Beard Foundation. To date, the Foundation has given over $5 million dollars in scholarship awards to 1670 recipients. “I love the James Beard Foundation, and have always wanted to be a part of Chefs and Champagne. It’s such a great event!” said McInnis, who recently moved to New York City from south Florida to open Root & Bone with Janine Booth. “James Beard is an important organization that gives to young culinary folks and that support partly drives our industry’s growth.” Without a doubt, this night of cocktails, cuisine, and conversation was a delight for more than just the palate.