Sunday, November 22, 2009

James Beard Foundation

The James Beard Foundation was born in 1986, when Peter Kump bought the late James Beard's Greenwich Village brownstone at 167 West 12th Street, now the host site of guest chef dinners and classes to benefit the Foundation. It has since been a non-profit organization seeking to promote American culinary arts in wine and cooking, service, hospitality, writing and scholarship. Emerging in the same period as The Food Network, the Foundation has been enormously successful, with the exception of the embezzlement scandal of 2004 and 2005, which shook the reputation of the JBF. It has since taken steps to improve it's management and the scope of it's promotional purposes. The Park Kitchen team took to the streets of Manhattan to give New Yorkers an impression of what we do here in Portland. We set out to pair a five-course Oregon-focused meal complemented by crafted cocktails and wines. Our cocktails were prepared using House Spirits, and our wines were provided by Soter Vineyards. Many of us who labor in the craft of food and drink in the Pacific Northwest share the sentiment stated on House Spirits home page, "We are in good company."

The greatest challenge of an event like this, executed in another city, is that you are not using your familiar equipment, or the full resources of your staff and purveyors. At the Beard House, you also have no access to the facility until the day of the event. In order to execute a quality five-course meal, you need more than one day's worth of cooking, even if you are shipping finished products from your own restaurant to New York. In other words, planning is everything!

You are also serving eighty portions of each course all at once, so timing is crucial. Dinner started at seven o'clock. We served four hundred plates over the course of a three hour meal, which means cooking and plating a dish, mixing and pouring a cocktail every two minutes for three hours straight! The team that pulled it off tonight consisted of Shane Feirstein, our bartender at Park Kitchen, Scott Dolich, the owner of Park Kitchen, myself, Ethan Snyder, a Park Kitchen alumnus, currently sous-chef at Locanda Verde in New York, and Reed, our assistant bartender from Savoy in New York. Cheers!