The James Beard House in New York City occupies an historic, sacred place in the culinary world. It is considered a great honor for a chef to be invited to prepare a multicourse meal at the Greenwich Village townhouse where Beard, the late champion of American cuisine, perfected his recipes. Culinary legends who have cooked at the House include Daniel Boulud, Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck, Jacques Pépin, and Marcus Samuelsson.
“There’s a different feeling being at James Beard House when you know that it was the place where James did all his cooking demonstrations, wrote his cookbooks, where he lived,” said Philippe Chin, Bon Appétit campus executive chef at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Philippe is practically a House regular, having cooked at there 12 times since 1991. “It’s a special feeling for a chef to be in the home of the ‘grandfather of American cookery.’”
During a catering workshop for Bon Appétit East Coast chefs held at Roger Williams University in Bristol, RI, last year, Philippe hatched an idea for a very special dinner showcasing the chefs’ regional specialties, as well as what some of the best campus food looks like. He reached out to his contacts at the James Beard Foundation, which oversees the House, and they quickly agreed. Joining Philippe were Jonathan Cambra, executive chef at Roger Williams (making his seventh appearance cooking at the House); Brian Dagnall, director of culinary operations at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA; Ty Paup, director of culinary operations at Brown University in Providence, RI; Christopher Smith, campus executive chef at University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia; and Michael Cleary, the former executive chef and now general manager at St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD.
The chefs worked alongside Bon Appétit Director of Specialty Culinary Programs Jim Dodge (another House veteran) to create a cohesive menu featuring produce from Bon Appétit’s regional Farm to Fork vendors. Many clients from the chefs’ campuses and other Bon Appétit locations in the Northeast region were invited and made the journey to New York City to experience this milestone event, titled “Back to School.”
The culinary journey began as guests filtered into the courtyard through the famous kitchen and enjoyed three incredible hors d’oeuvres prepared by Jon (see menu at botttom). Next, James Beard Foundation Director of Programming Izabela Wojcik gave the guests a taste of the House’s storied history and expressed her appreciation for Bon Appétit’s standard setting for the food service industry. (Bon Appétit CEO Fedele Bauccio was honored with one of the inaugural James Beard Leadership Awards in 2011.)
Each dish for the seated dinner was executed meticulously, and the guests were blown away by the bold, unique flavors each chef brought to the table. After the dinner, Izabela brought out the chefs to share the process and decisions behind each dish, and to answer questions. They talked at length about their zeal for using locally grown, fresh ingredients in new ways. Their passion and creativity were the perfect ending to an incredible night.
“What a wonderful evening we had at the James Beard House — we appreciated being included,” wrote Randy S. Stevens, Head of School at St. Timothy’s School in Stevenson, MD.
Submitted by Victoria McGrath, Marketing Manager
James Beard House