OVER THE TOP TEAM BUILDING

Hyatt chefs strut their stuff at a culinary extravaganza
By Beverly Stephen
Photos courtesy of Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort (by Russ Coover photography)

Andaz Maui chefs paddling

Some people draw straws or flip coins to decide who goes first. But the 12 chefs competing in Hyatt’s Good Taste Series at the beginning of November raced outrigger canoes cheered by onlookers on the beach in front of the Andaz Maui at Wailea. The winning team would be the first to present their dishes to a panel of five industry professionals. The chefs were psyched before they got to the stoves. And a troupe of Japanese drummers gave new meaning to the term drum roll when they heralded the announcement of the winners. Talk about team building!

The contestants, all junior chefs at Hyatt hotels throughout the United States, had already shown their mettle by wining regional competitions. Just to be pampered in a luxury hotel in one of the world’s most awesome vacation spots, be wined and dined, and be put in a position to gain the attention of the big brass made every competitor feel like a winner. But they still gave it their all reaching for the big prize of a week’s vacation for two at any Hyatt resort in North America, Canada, or the Caribbean. Second and third place winners took home commercial Vita-Mix blenders.

Iron-chef style staging and a professional emcee–Mark Walberg of Antiques Roadshow—lent drama to the event as did enthusiastic cheering by the chefs’ friends and families in the audience.

Andaz Maui friends and family cheering

Judges were Beth Weitzman, vice president of editorial for Modern Luxury: Naomi Tomky, blogger The GastroGnome; Sam Bhandarkar, director of events for American Culinary Federation, chef Sheldon Simeon of Migrant restaurant in Maui; and yours truly. Each contestant presented two dishes—one street food and one that represented either the regional culture of his hotel or his own heritage. And each was required to use two mystery ingredients which turned out to be bacon and lilikoi, the Hawaiian passion fruit.

Paying homage to his Southwest roots, Rodney Ashley of Hyatt Regency Atlanta took first place for his veal cheek and anasazi bean stuffed sopapilla with Hatch green chile and his charred wild boar tamale with New Mexico red chile. Patrick Mohn of Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa in New Mexico came in second with cochinita pibil arepa and a juniper scented elk tenderloin with blue corn gnocchi. Matthew Garelick of Grand Hyatt New York placed third for his bacon, egg and cheese pupusa and his “Ode to the New York Delicatessen” which included pastrami duck breast and smoked leg, stuffed cabbage, caraway and prune mostarda, slow roasted and pickled roots and potato knish.

Andaz Maui chef cooking

The long weekend was about more than just cooking and eating. There were educational tours of the last working pineapple plantation in Maui and a taro farm and exposure to a different culture and its ingredients. And it was an unparalleled opportunity to network with their peers and shine in front of their superiors.

“It was a very bondable weekend,” said Bradley Duboy of the Park Hyatt Washington, characterizing how well the chefs worked together. “I made 12 new friends.”

Susan Terry, vice president of Culinary Operations for the Americas and the mastermind behind the event had the lofty goal of “providing food for their souls, not just their minds.” She said, “It shows our top talent we’re invested in them and their education The contest was only four hours in total but we spent five days with them. We really got to know each other and I can guarantee that each of them feel connected to the company in a different way now. And it shows me who my next executive chefs are going to be.”

Finally, a slew of creative new dishes is going to be showing up on Hyatt menus across the country.

Andaz Maui chefs cheering on beach

FEAST YOUR EYES ON THESE FOOD FILMS

THE 8TH ANNUAL NYC FOOD FILM FEST OPENS TONIGHT WITH SPECIAL TREAT FOR OUR READERS

By Francine Cohen

FoodFilmFest Logo

Most movies about food leave you hungry. For years filmmakers have been using food and lushly shot meals to comment on society or simply as vehicle to drive home their central theme. What better tool is there than the universality of food to convey moods, uncover cultural differences and highlight relationships? Movies like Babette’s Feast, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I Am Love, Ratatouille, Sideways and Tampopo, all of which appear on the Epicurious.com (www.epicurious.com) Top Ten Best Food Films list have become classics, as have individual scenes like the orgasm at Katz’s scene from When Harry Met Sally. While not yet classics, newer films like “Chef” and The Hundred Foot Journey also turned to food as the focal theme. These are all films you’ll see, and leave with some food for thought, and a hunger for a restaurant meal or a trip to the grocery store.

The Food Film Festival, which was founded in New York City in 2007 by George Motz and Harry Hawk, and has grown to include the Chicago Food Film Festival and one in Charleston as well, takes things one step further; featuring food films that don’t leave you hungry. And why not? Because audience members are fed DURING and after the film. With food and drink from and inspired by the movie they seeing.

FoodFilmFest calling chefs in field

This year’s festival, the 8th annual, kicks off tonight, October 29th, with the theme, Cocina Peruana and features Patricia Perez’s film Finding Gaston, a documentary on the intersection of social change and cuisine in renowned Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio’s life. It will be followed by a chat with the director and Chef Miguel Aguilar of Brooklyn’s Surfish Bistro www.surfishbistro.com (and winner of the seventh season of Chopped) serving up Peruvian specialties like ceviche alongside some Pisco cocktails and the Peruvian lager, Cusquena (www.cusquena.com).

Later in the week you can check out films on oysters, sriracha and more. To do that you’ll want to get your tickets here and use our discount code just for our INSIDE F&B readers that offers 10% off all tickets purchased for the festival. USE CODE INSIDE10 when purchasing tickets at www.thefoodfilmfestival.com

FoodFilmFest guests eating

We spoke with the festival’s Executive Director, Seth Unger, to get a taste of what lies ahead for hungry moviegoers later this week.

IF&B: How did this food film festival first come about?
SU: George Motz served regional hamburgers during the premiere of his film Hamburger America in 2005. After that, he and restaurateur Harry Hawk thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool to do this for all kinds of food not just burgers?” The NYC Food Film Festival debuted in 2007.

IF&B: Why did you decide to open this year with the Peruvian film/Peruvian themed film?
SU: One of the challenges of the Food Film Fest is that the selection committee has to accept the films before we know how challenging it will be to track down the chefs and purveyors that are featured in those films. In recent years, as our festival concept is more widely understood, directors seem to have a much better understand of how the Festival works. Often, they submit films having already arranged for the featured chef to cook the dish from the film.

In 2011, we took a chance and screened a film called “Mistura: The Power of Food” by director Patricia Perez. She pulled out all the stops and brought in chefs, musicians and dancers. Patricia went above and beyond the call of duty. It was an amazing event. So after the committee selected Finding Gaston this year, and we learned it was Patricia’s film, we knew we could trust her to work with us to make it come alive for the event…and what a great way to kick things off.

IF&B: Can you expound a bit on the formula of the evening which is all inclusive film & food?
SU: Most events have 3 segments…A VIP Pre-Party, an in-theatre food-film experience and an After-Party. Tickets are all inclusive of entry, food and beverages. The driving concept is quite simple…That food tastes better when you see it on a big screen before you eat it. Our signature Taste-screenings are instantly gratifying for the guest, but very complicated to execute for the staff. We have to time food service to specific a specific frame in a film…and then do that 10 times in a row.

Also, during this culinary celebration, guests will learn about and meet the actual people who grow, harvest and cook the food. By learning their true stories of hard work and hardship, we gain a massive appreciation for who they are and what they do…and that makes it taste even better.

IF&B: What’s different this year in NYC?
SU: The 1st-ever Halloween Edition of the Food Porn Party…complete with food burlesque and a food porn costume contest….all hosted by the world’s first food porn star, Larry Cauldwell.

IF&B: In what other cities does the Food Film Festival take place?

It’s an annual event in NYC, Chicago and Charleston, SC. We’ve also done one-offs in places like Copenhagen and Connecticut. Other cities are on deck for the next few years.

IF&B: Anything else you want to share?

SU: Most guests comment that the Food Film Fest is unlike anything they’ve ever experienced, and that they remember being present for some special moment that we created years back…like the first Lowcountry oyster roast we did in Chicago, or when we brought Keizo to America to make his ramen in-theatre (which was the launching point for his ramen burger craze that ensued). The way that we make those moments is by treating the entire guest experience, from entry to exit, as one long theatre production. What a guest sees, smells, hears, tastes…is all intentional and it all helps tell the story of the event (each of which has a different theme).

The reason that the Food Film Fest is able to do what it does is the incredible group of people that it attracts to work on it. It’s a group of creative, friendly people of all ages, from many different places who all understand that the event production they are doing is its own work of art. Though most volunteer or receive just a stipend, they each place their own heart into it and by doing that affect it in a way where the outcome is always a unique merging of both planning and happenstance.

FoodFilmFest calling all chefs holding crabs

2014 FESTIVAL SCHEDULE

On Thursday, October 30th, Michelin-starred Chef Phillip Foss of Chicago’s EL Ideas (www.elideas.com) will host the VIP pre-party before the Edible Adventure #011: Just Add Sriracha, which includes French Fries + Ice Cream, a film inspired by one of Foss’ signature dishes.

Then things get turned up a notch with a screening of Sriracha, the documentary that traces the origins of everyone’s favorite condiment. This will be the hottest Edible Adventure yet, with an after party of sriracha-inspired dishes.

Be sure to come in costume on Halloween night as Chef Chris Shae cooks up a VIP pre-party feast before the The Food Porn Party: Halloween Balls. The notorious party (and crowd-favorite) returns with an array mouth-watering shorts, costume contests, food burlesque, and porchetta di testa from Chef Ian Kapitan during Hog on Hog, a film that follows the making of Kapitan’s famous dish. Larry Cauldwell, the world’s first Food Porn Star returns with his new short film, Balls!, along with an assortment of his favorite ball-shaped foods – meatballs are just the beginning.

On Saturday, November 1st, Brewmore Baltimore, a feature-length documentary that chronicles Baltimore’s rich brewing history will be celebrated with the Brewmore bash. Expect an entire evening of Charm City’s best brews paired with salty snacks and sweet treats from Baltimore, New York, and more.

Closing out the festival will be The Night Aquatic, an evening of sea-centric films that begin with a VIP pre-party hosted by Open Oyster and features all-you-can-eat oysters from Fishers Island and more. Chef Brad Farmerie (www.public-nyc.com) will be creating a dish with fresh California sea urchin alongside local oysters and crab from Alabama during the film. And at The Night Aquatic after party, enjoy wild-caught South Carolina shrimp at a huge Beaufort Stew feast.

FoodFilmFest su propialiga

*Disclosure: INSIDE F&B Editor in Chief Francine Cohen has also served as a consultant to PromPeru and the Trade Commission of Peru in New York but said affiliation had no bearing on this story.

BOTTLES OVER BROADWAY

The Imbible Still

Ever hear the one about the bartender who wanted to be an actor… In what BourbonBlog calls “a first-of-its-kind production,” Anthony Caporale, co-founder of Broadway Theatre Studio, proudly presents THE IMBIBLE: A SPIRITED HISTORY OF DRINKING as part of the 18th annual New York International Fringe Festival – FringeNYC.

The drinks are on the house as you join world-renowned mixologist and raconteur Anthony Caporale for a boozy romp through the history of spirits and cocktails as he tells the story of spirits and cocktails from 10,000 BC to present-day, accompanied by The Backwaiters acappella group, comedy sketches, costume changes, and even on-stage demonstrations of fermentation and distillation. After seeing the preview performance of The Imbible at this year’s Manhattan Cocktail Classic, The Huffington Post declared the show “an absolute must-see!”

You must see how Anthony Caporale figured out how to bartend while he’s acting. He says, “We’ve been working on a one-man show that tells the story of spirits and cocktails from about 10,000 BC to present day. I’m fairly sure no one in the beverage industry has done this before in a stage play format, and I think it will give us an entirely new way to engage consumers.”

The Imbible Sheik

He continues, “If you’ve ever seen Robert Wuhl’s Assume The Position or Colin Quinn’s Long Story Short, you’ll have some idea of what I’ll be doing, though I’ve added live demonstrations of things like fermentation and distillation, lots of comedy, and even a barbershop quartet to provide musical transitions as the story moves across the centuries. Just to really put it over the top, I’ll also be serving drinks to the audience throughout the show! The whole point of the show is to help audiences appreciate spirits for their cultural and historical significance, as opposed to viewing them primarily as intoxicants or as part of a rite of passage. In short, we’re encouraging responsible consumption and promoting the beverage industry in the most positive light.”

The Imbible will run from August 8th through the 23rd at The New York International Fringe Festival (www.fringenyc.org), North America’s largest multi-arts festival that hosts over 70,000 attendees and is the birthplace of many New York theater hits. The audience will be treated to several of Caporale’s famous craft cocktails during the performance, including a classic Old Fashioned and the cleverly named Rusty Ale. By the end of the show, they just might be singing along with the cast! Drinks are included with the price of a ticket at all performances.

Broadway Theatre Studio (www.broadwaytheatrestudio.com) was founded by Caporale and DiMattei in 2009 as a development workshop and incubator for new American plays and musicals. Hundreds of actors have attended BTS workshops since its inception, and the company has collaborated with some of the best writing talent in New York. Past projects have included renowned playwright Jack Feldstein’s new comedy The Ansonia and award-winning playwright/composer Zoe Sarnak’s original musical The Quad. Last season, BTS produced original works in both the Manhattan Repertory Theatre One-Act Play Competition and the Strawberry One-Act Festival, advancing to the finals in the latter while earning DiMattei a Best Actress nomination along the way.

The Imbible Barbershop with Bombay on table

ANATOMY OF A DRINK MENU

By Effie Panagopoulos

Photo courtesy of Avua Cachaça

Photo courtesy of Avua Cachaça

*****This story sat in the INSIDE F&B vault for four years, waiting for just the right moment to see the light of day. That day is now; and once we dusted it off and took another look at it we discovered it was just as fresh and relevant today as it was back then when it was written. Of course some things have changed; Gianfranco Verga is no longer the Beverage Director at Louis 649, and the Louis 649 TNT program is currently on hiatus as it undergoes a refresh, but despite these minor things that happened as time marches on it is interesting to see that some things never change.

Read it for yourself. And then attend a seminar at Tales (www.talesofthecocktail.com) like “The Art & Science of Cocktail Menus” (www.talesofthecocktail.com/events/art-science-cocktail-menus/) or “For Profit Consumer Education? Yes!” (www.talesofthecocktail.com/events/profit-consumer-education-yes/) and see what positive changes you can make happen in your bar, all because of a finely tuned menu…

Tuesday nights have become the new industry night, spurred by almost a year full of consecutive Tuesday Night Tastings at East Village cocktail bar, Louis 649 (www.louis649.com). Pioneered by Gianfranco Verga, Beverage Director at Louis 649, and going almost a year strong every Tuesday, the TNT’s like their eponymous song, and Good Times’ Jimmy Walker –are pretty darn dyno-mite. Every week offers the chance to try a wine or spirit you’ve never tasted; learn something new about a spirit you may always drink yet never knew anything about, or like on this chance evening, get to meet a leader in the industry and find out what makes him tick. What started as a weekly gathering of an industry-only crowd, has refreshingly become an ever-changing group of imbibing enthusiasts– a feat in and of itself.

A few Tuesdays back, I rushed over to get to my 7:00 feeding, for what I assumed would be an intimate presentation by one of New York’s preeminent poster boys for all things cocktail, Jim Meehan. But “rushing” in Greek-people-time means I got there at 7:05 (5 minutes late), and to my dismay Louis was already packed to the gills for their TNT (Tuesday Night Tastings). Well, Jim was only voted American Bartender of the Year last year, and it was only fitting that the cocktail community and common folk alike came out in droves to hear the secret workings of the mastermind behind the cocktail program at neighboring watering hole, PDT www.pdtnyc.com. You could taste the anticipation in the air as Jim, and his apprentice for the evening, Pernod Ricard’s (www.pernod-ricard.com)Jamie Gordon, were scurrying about to get the amuse-bouche drink to the thirsty, ornery crowd. Jim brushes past me and I am quickly reminded why I and the roomful of people like this guy so much. Tray of drinks in hand, he smiles a quick hello to me along with everyone in a 3 foot radius. You’d never know there was an ounce of stress in his body, as he acknowledges us with the warmth and grace of Mr. Rogers welcoming you to Read the full article here »

TALES OF THE COCKTAIL® ANNOUNCES TOP FOUR FINALISTS FOR THE 8TH ANNUAL SPIRITED AWARDS®

Tales of the Cocktail 2014 Logo with New Orleans

Coming to you from a webcam in an apartment in NYC Simon Ford and Jacob Briars initiated the inaugural broadcast of the top four finalists in each category of the 2014 Spirited Awards. As Ford notes, “Millions tune in for the Oscars, and we are going the same route for bars. There are more bartenders than actors [out there].”

And speaking of more…Briars explains, “This was the biggest and most comprehensive Tales Awards nominations pool ever.” With over 2,000 individual nominations and over 50 countries being represented with at least one nominee, the 135 judges were hard pressed to whittle it down to a list of four per category. Let’s see who we’ll be cheering on Saturday night at Tales during the Black and White themed 8th Annual Spirited Awards® show (although you know you’re all winners).

AMERICAN CATEGORIES:
American Bartender of the Year
• Jeff Bell (New York)
• Marcovaldo Dionysos (San Francisco)
• Bobby Heugel (Houston)
• Sean Kenyon (Denver)

Best American Brand Ambassador
• Brooke Arthur (House Spirits)
• Chris Patino (Pernod Ricard USA Portfolio)
• Neyah White (Suntory Japanese Whiskies)
• Angus Winchester (Tanqueray Gin)

Best American Cocktail Bar
• canon (Seattle)
• The Dead Rabbit (New York)
• Smuggler’s Cove (San Francisco)
• Williams & Graham (Denver)

Best American High Volume Cocktail Bar
• Employees Only (New York)
• Honeycut (Los Angeles)
• Polite Provisions (San Diego)
• Trick Dog (San Francisco)

Best American Restaurant Bar
• Clyde Common (Portland)
• Gramercy Tavern (New York)
• The NoMad (New York)
• nopa (San Francisco)

Best American Hotel Bar
• Clyde Common (Portland)
• The Hawthorne (Boston)
• Sable Kitchen & Bar (Chicago)
• The Spare Room (Los Angeles) Read the full article here »

GAZ GOES BALD WITH BARTENDER SUPPORT FOR CLEAN WATER

Regan’s “Just One Shift” Fundraiser – From May 12-18 – Will Builds Wells That Provide Clean Water

JustOneShiftbarbluebird

It all kicked off this year on 5/12 behind the bar at the World’s Best Bar – The Dead Rabbit (www.deadrabbitnyc.com) – where legendary finger-stirring bartender, Gaz Regan, took up a shift and donated his tips to the charity Wine to Water, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded by Doc Hendley, ex-bartender and CNN Hero from North Carolina (www.winetowater.org).

This is the second year that Regan has implored fellow bartenders to take part in the annual JustOneShift (www.justoneshift.com), a week-long push to raise funds for WineToWater, which builds wells that provide clean water to underserved regions. Today, nearly 1 billion people lack access to clean water, and every 20 seconds a child dies for this reason.

gaz regan, the bartender previously known as Gary Regan, is pleased to announce the return of Just One Shift, which plans to raise $100,000 for charity in a one-week time period by inviting bartenders worldwide to donate all or part of their tips from just one shift.

The first step to joining forces with some of the country’s finest individuals is for bartenders to sign up on the Just One Shift site which will maintain a running list of participating bars sorted by state, as well as a calendar of shifts. At the end of the given shift, the bartender will personally make the donation online. If unable to attend any of the listed shifts, anyone may make a donation online.

In 2013, its inaugural year, 327 bartenders in 34 countries participated, raising $40,000. The charity reports this amount can save 40,000 people from death due to water-borne illness for a full year. Specifically in Uganda, $40,000 can provide 10,000 people with clean water for 10 years.

gaz, who has a network of over 20,000 social media followers, says, “Bartenders can change the world and last year’s success has proved it. If we meet this year’s goal I will shave my head.”

For more information, please visit www.justoneshift.com and www.facebook.com/gaz-regan; @gazregan will also tweet; refer to the hashtag #justoneshift.

Now get out and drink. And tip.

JustOneShifttipslip

ODD JOB

By Danilo “Dacha” Bozović

Danilo Bozovic Odd Job cocktail close shot

After working behind bars, and hanging (and drinking) in others, you notice that there are liquors that sell themselves with little help required and some that just sit, waiting to be used from time to time.

In most cases, cocktails are the main agents promoting sales of any kind of drinkable ingredient- not just spirits, liqueurs, and bitters, but even juices and sodas.

Cocktails like the Moscow Mule, Cosmopolitan, Black Russian, and Harvey Wallbanger (to name a few) have increased the demand and sales of their branded main ingredients and made them staples behind most bars.  The Black Russian has done a lot for the popularity of the coffee liqueurs, in particular Kahlua. The Cosmo promoted Absolut Citron, Ocean Spray Cranberry and Cointreau. The Moscow Mule helped lead growing vodka trend in the 1950’s and also brought ginger beer to the main stage of cocktail ingredients. Likewise, the Harvey Wallbanger helped introduce Galliano, a delicious Italian liqueur with delicious herbal notes, a sweet vanilla flavor and just enough anise to play with your taste buds.

The Harvey Wallbanger, but more importantly Galliano, are the inspirations of this post about a delicious and admittedly “boozy” cocktail called “The Odd Job.”

The Odd Job is a cocktail created by my good Read the full article here »

SIMON SAYS…

Kerry Simon Says Fight MSA Event
By E.C. Gladstone

Kerry Simon benefit 2014 rock and rolling active with Bill Murray

A few days ago, Bill Murray made headlines for taking ten seconds out of his Academy Awards appearance to pay tribute to his deceased collaborator Harold Ramis. But just three nights prior, the actor spent an entire, lengthy evening February 27 clowning onstage and off as co-host of a Las Vegas fundraiser for another former collaborator, Chef Kerry Simon.

What got the relatively publicity-shy Murray involved in Simon Says Fight MSA? This was more than just a random good cause: He and Simon started their respective careers making pizzas as teenagers at a Little Caesars in Evanston, Illinois. “He was a blues guitarist, I was trying to be an actor, and we were both starving,” Murray recalled, ruminating on the joys of eating raw pizza dough. The comedian spent much of the night cracking up the audience (most of whom paid $500-1000 to attend) and gently roasting Simon, including leading everyone in a chorus of “Happy Birthday” to the chef–about four months early–and referring to him as Jerry and Barry at times.

Murray was far from the only luminary to appear at the Keep Memory Alive Event Center that evening. Chefs attending and cooking included some of the biggest in the industry: Simon’s mentor Jean-Georges Vongerichten , Daniel Boulud, Michael Mina, Charlie Palmer, and Wylie Dufresne, as well as several of the Vegas Strip’s most prominent names. On the liquid side, Francesco Lafranconi assembled a who’s-who of Vegas mixology to helm the bar, including Tony Abou-Ganim, Max Solano (Emeril’s Restaurants), David Cooper (Carnevino) and Chris Hopkins (Wynn/Encore resorts) , each of whom served original cocktails with spirits donated by SWS.”The room was full of people that have a personal, vested interest and a true love for him,” Palmer told Inside F&B afterward. “It says a lot for the kind of person Kerry is and how many lives he has affected.”

Kerry Simon benefit 2014 chef group image 2

If you’re getting the picture that this event was a bit different than the average culinary charity gala, here’s why: Simon, who owns and operates restaurants in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Chicago and the Dominican Republic, is not only raising awareness for Multiple Systems Atrophy, a degenerative neurological disorder similar to, but more severe than, Parkinson’s Disease. He was also recently diagnosed with the condition, for which there is no established treatment or cure. His diagnosis was announced in a column by Robin Leach only about ten weeks ago. “Once that happened, there was this, crazy outpouring and overwhelming show of support,” Simon business partner Elizabeth Blau tells Inside F&B. “So many people saying they wanted to do something.”

Simon, once dubbed “The Rock ‘N’ Roll Chef” by Rolling Stone for his many connections to the music world, managed to assemble a list of performers that would rival a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame event, including Vince Neil, Alice Cooper, Slash, Sammy Hagar, Todd Rundgren, and Lisa Loeb, who performed separately and together, including a closing ensemble cover of the Beatles’ “Come Together.”
Considering that they donated their own food (according to Blau), the chefs certainly weren’t skimpy with what they served. The menu included thick-cut black-jack spiced lamb chops from MacPherson, Kona kampachi tacos in taro root shells from Rick Moonen (RM Seafood), and an incredible leek vinaigrette with carrot confit and soft poached quail egg from Boulud, among many other refined bites. Balanced, of course, by a healthy offering of Simon’s own “junk food platter” recreations, one of the many ways in which the chef helped kick off the creative comfort food trend.

Kerry Simon benefit 2014 cotton candy junk food

“This wasn’t some promotional event,” Blau emphasizes, noting the event came together in less than two months’ time. “Daniel Boulud flew in that morning and out the next [just so he could participate].”

Although Simon once defeated Cat Cora in an episode of Iron Chef America, in the era of celebrity chefs he has been a relatively low-key presence considering his pedigree, including running the Plaza Hotel’s Edwardian Room, earning four New York Times stars at the Drake Hotel, and having his first Vegas restaurant, Simon Kitchen & Bar, named one of “America’s Best New Restaurants” by Esquire in 2003.

“He’s always very generous, with his time and his knowledge,” Dufresne told Inside F&B of Simon, under whom the WD-50 chef worked at Vongerichten’s Prime. “He’s like my guardian angel.”

Kerry Simon benefit 2014 Kerry in wheelchair

Nearly $525,000 was raised during the evening, co-organized by Simon business partners Elizabeth Blau and George Maloof, including funds from silent and live auctions. An after-party at Simon Restaurant & Lounge, with Murray and many of the chefs and rockers in attendance, went into the wee hours.

Donations to Simon Says Fight MSA can be made through Keep Memory Alive at www.keepmemoryalive.org.