|Fly on the Wall: Behind the Scenes at 2010 Los Angeles-San Diego Rising Stars Honorees Dinner
St. Patrick’s Day in LA might have seen a few green-clad revelers imbibing their way to cultural epiphany, but the day’s most power-packed celebrating wasn’t in any local beer-haunt. It was happening at John Sedlar’s Rivera, where a far different but no less festive group convened for the Los Angeles-San Diego Rising Stars Honorees Dinner. Not that this group didn’t do its fair share of serious reveling—there was plenty of Highland Park Scotch whisky on hand to toast the winners and mentors of this year’s LA-San Diego Rising Stars.
The mood was light and giddy, anchored by Rivera’s bold design and serene ambiance. Besides Host Chef Sedlar, who provided the night’s first two courses, pressing flowers into his hand-made tortillas from his open kitchen, the honorees dinner was co-hosted by past Los Angeles Rising Stars David Myers, Neal Fraser, David LeFevre, Elizabeth Belkind, and Vincenzo Marianella.
The crowd was a mosaic of culinary professionals, mentors, and protégés rubbing elbows with industry regulars. At one point in the night’s festivities, Chefs Trey Foshee and John Sedlar were seen chatting up a storm in a corner of the restaurant. And while he may not have made a presentation of his entrance, when Thomas Keller arrived, there was a noticeably reverent hush in the crowd. José Andrés’ arrival also drew quite a bit of friendly attention, but Andrés quickly ensconced himself in a group of friends to avoid the glare of the spotlight.
Big shots like Keller and Andrés certainly made the night feel magical, but the camaraderie among those in attendance really gave the night its warmth and cheer. And Martin Daraz, Highland Park’s Single Malt Scotch Whisky Ambassador, brought that mood to the fore with a witty toast in honor of the Rising Stars.
The open kitchen was a hot stop for guests. Neal Fraser kept a circulator bath behind his station, prepping the fish for his New Zealand King Salmon (which many said was the best salmon they’d ever eaten) virtually à la minute. Guests stopping by Elizabeth Belkind’s treats display were in awe of the mouthwatering assortment—Belkind’s upscale take on nostalgic childhood treats like Pop Pies (her version of Pop Tarts) and Inside-Out S’Mores. And as one guest said of her chocolate cake “It was seriously the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my life.”
Not all of the night’s magical moments happened inside, or in the presence of top-rate whisky. One of the night’s most touching moments happened outside, where Rising Star winner Kuniko Yagi was surprised by the arrival of her parents from Japan—her boss, David Myers, had secretly arranged for their surprise arrival.
And Rising Stars Community Award Winner Roy Choi showed up in a green t-shirt and a green cap, maybe the night’s most enthusiastic tribute to St. Paddy.