Last week EATER released its Young Guns 2013 list, the future movers and shakers that make up our food world, but who are making quite a dent now. I nominated four of the awardees, very proud of all the winners, but especially of the ones I thought deserved some recognition: Jessica Largey from Manresa in Los Gatos California, Jason Wang from Xian Famous and Biang! in NYC, Ryan Lachaine from Underbelly in Houston and our own Mike Brown (Travailist and current Pig Ate My Pizza maven in Robbinsdale). Peek at the site, read about the chefs, managers, bakers, et al and make plans to check out their work as you travel around the US.
Thomas Keller, Sebastien Rouxiel and I did a Q&A following a reception and book signing in their honor last Tuesday evening at La Belle Vie. The Bouchon Bakery book is superb (duh). Without a doubt this restaurant is the finest in the upper Midwest. I was in awe of how beautifully the entire LBV team, from top to bottom created a beautiful experience for all their guests. At one point Keller leaned over to me as we were getting mic-ed and whispered a series of platitudes about the room: the vibe, the gracious service, and finesse of the place, and as he walked through the kitchen shaking hands with the whole brigade he kept glancing at the food as it moved across the pass and quietly told me how psyched he was for dinner after the event.
It doesn’t get any better for Tim Mckee, Mike DeCamp, Bill Summerville, Diane Yang, and Johnny Michaels and all their teams. Why is that important? Because Food & Wine Magazine, the Beard Foundation and every other group that keeps spreading the word and awarding accolades to the food community in Minnesota always looks to see who is doing the heavy lifting in service, beverage, ambience, and most importantly what’s on the plate. As a nationally regarded restaurant, LBV has done as much for jump-starting careers (McKee has mentored Beard nominated, Beard winning, F&W 10 Best winning chefs for more than a decade, including recent 10 Best New Chef winners Erik Anderson and Jamie Malone) and attracting attention to our community than any other restaurant in the last decade. Everyone wants to see ‘the new hot things’ in life, it bores editors and eaters alike to see yet another ‘best’ designation for the same restaurant but sometimes you just need to remember that best is best and LBV is simply the best.
Moving further afield, I just returned from a weekend in Aspen at the Food & Wine Magazine Aspen Classic and thought I would share some random thoughts. First off, I got to test drive a Lamborghini race car and its everything its cracked up to be. Check out the Esperienza and tell me you don’t want to have this on your bucket list.
The Wines of Spain party at Casa Jose Andres was a blast. I got a preview of Allen Salkin’s new book From Scratch, a book all about the Food Network and it looks to be as fun and revealing as we have all come to expect from Salkin, formerly of the The New York Times. The book has been in the works for years and Allen told me he has never worked harder on any project in his life. You can get caught up on news and notes and hangover observations at eater.com and braiser.com but what you won't see there is how beautifully and elegantly the new group of Food & Wine 10 Best New Chefs handled themselves. This might be the most influential class top to bottom in the 25 years of the award. As Thomas Keller told Chris Shepherd on Monday night, “You’re the next generation, don’t f*** it up!” I think this group understands more than any other the impact that food has on our world, their responsibilities and the changes they can make in our culture and to our planet. The biggest happy edible surprise for me was Cogley’s elegant chicken offering on Friday in the tasting tent, Blais’s lobster roll, Jamie’s abalone, Chris’s goat, Cosmo’s poached pork loin . . . check it all out on my Instagram feed @chefaz.
The best 20-minute chats of the weekend were getting the download from Tom Colicchio on the farm bill. Tom has been in Washington every weekend for months working with congress, fighting the good fight and had a lot of opinions on Collin Peterson. He is the U.S. Representative for Minnesota's 7th congressional district, serving since 1991, and the ranking member of the House Committee on Agriculture. He is a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and is the dean of the Minnesota congressional delegation. The district, Minnesota's largest and most rural district, includes most of the western area of the state. It includes Moorhead, Fergus Falls, Bemidji, Detroit Lakes, Thief River Falls, Willmar, Marshall, and Alexandria. It's Peterson's insistence on passing the most current version of Farm Bill that rankles so many, it’s a broken bill and if it dies we might be better off than if it passes.
I asked Jacques Pepin what he would do if he was cooking off against an Iron Chef in the Aspen F&W Classic Cookoff. Pepin is 12-0 in that competition. He told me to make a soufflé, and if I did I would win. He was right. Hugh Acheson and I shared a private gondola ride to the top of Ajax on Friday night and his next few projects sound amazing . . . and he really is that charming smart and funny, and he stood all day and cooked as sous chef for the chef who runs one of his restaurants in the Cochon 555 . . . that’s the kind of guy he is.
And finally, I want you all to go to the James Beard website and buy tickets right now for the foundation’s annual Chefs and Champagne event in the Hamptons this July 20 at Wolffer Estate. The collection of chefs is amazing, from Doug and Bryan from Big Gay Ice Cream to Masaharu Morimoto, from George Mendes to Alex Guarnaschelli, Floyd Cardoz to Dan Kluge, and 20 more. They are all listed on the site, the night will be one to remember for a long time. Go make your plans right now.