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My Experience At The James Beard House...

The James Beard Foundation is a New York-based national professional non-profit organization named in honor of James Beard. The Beard Foundation promotes the culinary arts by honoring chefs, wine professionals, journalists and cookbook authors at annual award ceremonies and provides scholarships and educational opportunities to cooking hopefuls.

The James Beard House is an invitation only restaurant that allows up and coming Chefs from around the world to showcase their cuisine amongst a setting of foodies, writers and peers. So, imagine my excitement when the call came in.

In a young cooks career, there are several notable things that you set your sights on because the people you look up to - your mentors, your peers have told you that these are the things that matter most. "James Beard" is a name that has been tossed around by nearly everyone I have worked for in the last 10 years. Therefore, when that invitation came there was no containing my or my team's (Lautrec Restaurant) excitement.

So, I guess the story begins back in December when the phone rang and the invitation was extended. A few weeks later the date was set and then the mental part of the preparation began. The menu slowly formed itself with some of the best dishes we have prepared over the past year in Lautrec. Then the wine tastings began in order to select the most perfect pairings.

Six months seems like a long time to prepare for a dinner of 80 but the time flew by and before we knew it the time had come to prep, pack and load up the 15 passenger van for New York City. My team and I packed the 5 extra-large coolers to the brim and settled in for a 7 hour drive North. Of course, when we finally arrived in New York City the first thing all of us wanted to do was eat and eat we did! Then an early bedtime followed by a 7 am wake up call and off to the James Beard House we went.

We hit the ground running by 8 am and began prep as soon as we stepped foot in the kitchen. Being in that kitchen, cooking where notables such as Jean George, Thomas Keller, Alice Waters and so many others have cooked was unbelievable and humbling. Getting to see the corn wallpaper that my former mentor Patrick O’Connell picked out in the hallway was a reminder of the honor that it was to be a part of something so special.

We prepped for most of the morning and then took a break for lunch and a quick hike up to the Empire State Building. We prepped vigorously through the evening and began plating the Hors d'Oeuvres for a 7 pm reception. Each and every guest made their way through the small kitchen to greet the staff and catch a glimpse of what was in store for their evening. Everything started out relatively slow but once it got started, it got started. Chilled Heirloom Tomato Soup was pre plated and after that it was a blur, we did what we know how to do and cooked, cooked very well. Lautrec Signature Papardelle with Confit Farm Egg, Chilean Sea Bass with Caviar and Lobster Sausage, Elysian Fields Lamb with Summer Veg, a cheese course and then the slow down once again with the final course, Strawberry-Rhubarb Consomme. Everyone did an amazing job with the event going better than I ever could have expected. The teamwork was amazing!

The clean up then began but was short lived because it was time for the question and answer portion of the evening. Now for those of you that know me, public speaking is not my favorite thing to do, honestly I would rather cook for a million people then have to stand up in front of a group of people and speak, but it had to be done. Questions were answered, relationships were made and Holly Smith (Director of Wine & Spirits at Nemacolin) and I received our certificates for being a part of such an incredible organization and evening. We all left the house that evening feeling proud and accomplished but more importantly blessed for being honored in a way that we will all remember for a very long time. Definitely a trip and experience of a lifetime.

Click Here to view the Event.

Chef Kristin Butterworth
Chef de Cuisine, Lautrec
Nemacolin Woodlands Resort


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