Chef’s Night Out, the traditional kickoff to the 2009 James Beard Award festivities and post-party to the JBA Media Awards went down last night at Midtown’s At Vermillion. The turnout was a who’s who of food industry notables like John Besh, Alfred Portale, Salman Rushdie, the usual. And as to be expected, Top Chef alums, Food Network stars, and even some folks from “Slumdog” could be found in the midst of all the hoopla. As a sign of the times, the space was smaller and more crowded than last year's opulent Edison Ballroom, but hey, we're just happy they threw the party at all.
1) Roll Call: Daniel Boulud, Alfred Portale, John Besh, Franklin Becker, Steven Hall, Mr. Cutlets, Pichet Ong, Nicole Plue, Jeremy Fox, Ryan Skeen, Drew Nieporent, Andrew Carmellini, Salman Rushdie (one of At Vermilion’s investors) plus model, Dell’Anima’s Joe Campanale, Anne Burrell, Craig Hopson. Top Chef contingent: Leah, Ariane, Harold Dieterle.
2) A DJ spun Bollywood-infused tunes mixed with hip-hop. Play count on M.I.A’s “Paper Planes” (from ‘Slumdog’): 5.
3) Yes, channeling an '08 Ozersky, Corby Kummer and James Oliver Curry, media award winners, proudly wore their JB medallion around their necks for the duration of the night.
4) The people who threw this party really wanted to drive home the whole Mumbai theme by cranking the heat up to what felt like 120 degrees, creating an atmosphere that was a cross between cocktail party and mosh pit. Luckily food and drink stations were set up both inside and outside on the perimeter balcony, which offered some relief from the heat.
5) Cocktails ranged from a potato-chip crusted Gibson martini to a Jack and Ginger laced with Habenero and lime. These experiments yielded mixed results.
6) Let’s not even discuss the mess inside the women’s bathroom.
7) The food: Most of the nibbles were canapés made with plantain chips and topped with some kind of braised meat. Other offerings included saag paneer and various meat kabobs. Given this restaurant is inevitably struggling and could stand to win over the food industry attendees, it's unfortunate the restaurant didn't put its best foot forward in the food dept. Desserts included Garam Masala hot chocolate shots.
· All James Beard Awards Coverage [~E~]