Toasting JBF’s 2015 Chefs and Champagne

By Evan Leventhal


Evan Leventhal
The 2015 Chefs & Champagne Fundraiser, honoring Chef Carla Hall at Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack, NY
The 2015 Chefs & Champagne Fundraiser, honoring Chef Carla Hall at Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack, NY

What do Chefs Tony Maws (Craigie on Main, Kirkland Tap & Trotter), Titti Qvarnström (Bloom in the Park) and Jamie Leeds (Hank's Oyster Bar) have in common? Passion for cooking aside, on the surface, not all that much. Their homes, more than hundreds of miles apart (Qvarnström lives in Sweden) are as distant from one another as their cooking styles. Yet each chef shared the excitement to log the miles necessary to cook at the James Beard Foundation's 25th Annual Chefs & Champagne this summer in Sagaponack , New York.

Hosted again by the Wölffer Estate Vineyard, the Chefs & Champagne fundraiser drew 600-plus hungry revelers, who cut their beach time short to don festive threads, sip bottomless glasses of Taittinger Champagne and Wölffer wines, and sample dishes from more than 40 toques. Unlike Maws, Qvarnström and Leeds, most chefs hailed from restaurants in New York City and Long Island's East End. George Mendes (Aldea, Lupulo), JJ Johnson (The Cecil), Daniel Eddy (Rebelle) and Patti Jackson (Delaware and Hudson) were among some of the chefs whose tables drew the greatest attention.

This summer, James Beard saluted Daytime Emmy Award-winning Chef and Cookbook Author, Carla Hall, while also raising money to support its mission to celebrate, nurture, and honor American cuisine. Maws, a 2011 James Beard Award Winner (Best Chef, Northeast), has always seen JBF as an aspirational barometer. Four years after winning the award, he's thrilled about the camaraderie within the community of chefs and to have made the trip, “I’m so psyched to participate in Chefs & Champagne,” said Maws, who served Grilled Fossil Farms Wild Boar Chorizo with Green Chile Romesco and Freekeh Tabouleh. “Sausage on a wood-fired grill in the summertime seems hard to beat—make it right, marry with great flavors, give it to the people and watch them smile.”

Early in his career, Chef Brad Farmerie (Public, Saxon and Parole, The Thomas, etc.) remembers keeping up with the American culinary scene from London by following the chefs who cooked at the Beard House, what was served, and who took home medals at the awards every year. “After I moved back to America to open PUBLIC with AvroKO in 2003, we were all amazed and thankful that our efforts were highlighted by winning ‘Best Restaurant Design’ and ‘Best Restaurant Graphics’ at The James Beard Awards. It was the first time one group won both categories. It was incredible to be judged by a group of industry luminaries and to come out on top.”

Participating at Chefs & Champagne is considered yet another honor. For his outdoor summer dish, Farmerie composed a plate of Olive Oil-poached Salmon, Lemon-Horseradish Yogurt, and Grilled Leeks with a flourish Black River Caviar to pair with the Champagne. I'll admit coming back for seconds. Alright, fine. It was thirds.

So perhaps it's little wonder that Titti traveled 4,000 miles from Sweden to present her dish: Allerum Prast Quiche with Elderberry, Pickled Green Strawberries, Kavring Crumble, and East End Pea Shoots. And perhaps she shares more in common with Maws than meets the eye:passion and a driving spirit to discover what some of the top chef talent in America is preparing. For the Hamptons' summer crowd, it ain't all that complicated, either—a great cause, amazing food and ample Champagne.


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