Chefs Flock to the Cayman Cookout

Yesterday, while blissfully bathing in the warm water of the Caribbean, I watched as Anthony Bourdain, Eric Ripert, and other chefs dipped their tanned toes into the water so they could get a group photo in the soothing orange light of the sunset.

This little photo op was just the beginning of this weekend’s fifth annual Cayman Cookout, which begins today at the Ritz-Carlton in Grand Cayman. Started by Ripert in 2009, the three-day, celebrity chef-packed even showcases the finer things in life: food, wine, and the white sands of a tropical resort.

Ripert started the event for the pure fact that he loves the island, and calls it his home away from home. He is not alone in his amour of the Cayman Islands; there are over 150 restaurants on them, and many owned by top chefs including Dean Max, who has Brasserie here, Vidyadhara Shetty, the president of the Cayman Culinary Society, and of course Ripert himself who has Blue by Eric Ripert.

As this morning kicked off the festival, along with chef Jose Andres jet-packed stunt on Seven-Mile Beach, there will also be wine tastings and classes with Food & Wine’s Ray Isle, the art of pie with Spike Mendelsohn, a beach picnic courtesy of Daniel Humm, and fresh fish with Paul Bartolotta.

It might already be Friday, but it’s not too late to jump on a plane and join this tasty beach party.

Secret Plots by Chicago’s Alinea and New York’s Eleven Madison Park Now Unveiled

What are those sneaky award-winning restaurants Alinea and Eleven Madison Park (EMP) up to? According to some sleuthing done by Chicago Tribune reporter Kevin Pang, it appears the two eateries have hatched a collaborative plan.

The video shows (below) EMP employees packing up the restaurant and heading to Grand Central, which is followed by the Alinea staff boxing each other up and shipping off the crew to New York. It ends with the tag line, “21st Century Limited,” which, given them going to and arriving in Grand Central, we can only assume refers to the old Twentieth Century Limited passenger train that ran between New York to Chicago. After vague statements by both parties, we finally know what’s going on.

“Two of the country’s most-acclaimed fine-dining restaurants will trade cities and spaces for one week this fall,” said Pang in an article today.“New York’s Eleven Madison Park and Chicago’s Alinea—three Michelin-starred restaurants both—will swap chefs, kitchens and dining rooms, opening in essence pop-up restaurants in each other’s space.”

That means chef Grant Achatz’ Alinea (with him in it!) will occupy EMP in New York starting September 26 until the 30, and Daniel Humm’s team at EMP will do the same in Chicago starting October 10 until the 14. Tickets will be available soon in coming weeks via its Facebook page. Is anyone else as excited and intrigued as I am? Now comes the fight for a seat, but at $495 at EMP, it might not fill up as fast as you think.

One NYC-Focused Menu for Eleven Madison Park

Of all the tasting menus in the city, Eleven Madison Park appears to be the best deal. For $195 you get an epic meal created by award winning chef Daniel Humm, at a restaurant that took home their sixth James Beard Award, made the top 10 of the accredited San Pellegrino’s The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, garnered four stars from the New York Times, and received three stars in the Michelin Guide. This isn’t just hype: EMP deserves these accolades.

But, where once you had the option of getting a four-course meal or the tasting menu, starting Labor Day only the $195, four-hour-long meal will be available. The New York Times had the scoop on the story and writer Jeff Gordinier reported that EMP also plans to make the menu New York-focused. “Their vision, too, is all about New York. They want EMP to evolve into a restaurant not just in the city, but about it. Scores of elements of the menu and presentation—like the ceramic bowls and the raw oysters; the sea salt and the leather used in the coasters; and the apple brandy that servers will pour toward the end of the meal—will come from New York-area artisans and artists, distillers and farmers.” The last time I was at EMP, I saw a glimpse of this theme as they served a dessert menu that riffed on New York food. For example, they served a deconstructed cheesecake, sweet and savory black and white cookies, and a miniature egg cream that tasted just like a chocolate orange candy.Gordinier continues in his piece, “It’s all part of a $195-a-head menu—and a risky move to convert the Eleven Madison Park experience into an extravagant, participatory, close-to-four-hour ode to the romance and history of New York.”

Though chancy, for Humm and Will Guidara, his business partner and EMP’s general manage, the  move isn’t completely surprising; Humm has a reputation for going above and beyond. As to whether it will be successful, well, EMP does about 200 covers a night and reservations aren’t easy to come by. So, given that and the fact that it’s still a deal when you compare it to other tasting menus like the $295 one at Per Se, I think the people will still flock to their gilded doors.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Your 25th Annual James Beard Award Winners

Over two decades have passed since the James Beard Awards began handing out trophies to the best in the restaurant world, and it continues to be the Academy Awards of the food world. Last night, at the packed Avery Fisher Hall in New York City, the awards commenced with their 25th annual ceremony that honored the country’s top chefs, restaurants, food writers, journalists, servers, bartenders, and television personalities. Not surprising, New York took a big chunk of the glory, with awards going to Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern, who won Best Chef in New York, and Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar who won Rising Star Chef of the Year, beating out Dave Beran of Grant Achatz’s Next, which won the Best New Restaurant award. New York also boasts a win for the outstanding chef award, which went to Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park. He trumped the other top-notch contestants including David Chang, Paul Kahan, Nancy Silverton, and Gary Danko. Paul Grieco took the prize with Terroir for Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional. PDT won for Outstanding Bar Program, and La Grenouille achieved victory for outstanding service.

Though only a handful of people walked away with a medal, Lincoln Center filled up with the country’s hottest foodie folk. April Bloomfield of the Breslin and Spotted Pig made an appearance decked out in a snappy suit and—shocker—with makeup on. Food Republic spotted Jamie Bissonnette of Coppa in Boston sneaking a flask of Fernet, and, rumor has it a PR gal got fired after failing to recognize renowned French chef Jacques Pépin and not letting him enter the pressroom. Naturally, the nominees were there, as well as haute chefs like Ed Lee, Rick Bayless, Wolfgang Puck, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Stephanie Izard, Cathy Whims, and dozens more. Keep making us tasty treats guys, and, may you all win next year.

The List of Winners:

Outstanding Chef: Daniel Humm, Eleven Madison Park (NYC)

Outstanding Restaurant: Boulevard (San Francisco)

Rising Star Chef: Christina Tosi, Momofuku Milk Bar (NYC)

Best New Restaurant: Next (Chicago)

Best Chef: Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH):  Bruce Sherman, North Pond (Chicago)

Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic (D.C., DE, MD, NJ, PA, VA): Maricel Presilla, Cucharamama (Hoboken, NJ)

Best Chef: Midwest (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI): Tory Miller, L’Etoile (Madison, WI)

Best Chef: New York City: Michael Anthony, Gramercy Tavern

Best Chef: Northeast (CT, MA, ME, NH, NY STATE, RI, VT): Tim Cushman, O Ya (Boston)

Best Chef: Northwest (AK, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY), Matt Dillon, Sitka & Spruce (Seattle)

Best Chef: Pacific (CA, HI), Matt Molina, Osteria Mozza (Los Angeles)
Best Chef: South (AL, AR, FL, LA, MS): Chris Hastings, Hot and Hot Fish Club (Birmingham, AL)

Best Chef: Southeast (GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, WV): Tie between Hugh Acheson, Five and Ten (Athens, GA) and Linton Hopkins, Restaurant Eugene (Atlanta)

Best Chef: Southwest (AZ, CO, NM, NV, OK, TX, UT), Paul Qui, Uchiko (Austin, TX)

Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Professional, Paul Grieco, Terroir (NYC)

Outstanding Wine Program, No. 9 Park (Boston)

Outstanding Bar Program, PDT (NYC)

Outstanding Service, La Grenouille (NYC)

Outstanding Pastry Chef, Mindy Segal, Mindy’s Hot Chocolate (Chicago)

Outstanding Restaurateur, Tom Douglas, Tom Douglas Restaurants (Seattle)

For a complete list of winners, go here.

Photo of Momofuk’s Christina Tosi by Kent Miller