Yesterday was the James Beard award ceremony – the culinary world’s Oscars where they bestow honors like best new chef, best chef by various regions (Zingerman’s Roadhouse’s chef won for Midwest!), best restaurant, and a handful of food media awards.
I signed up to volunteer and was assigned to chef Jose Andres, who is a BIG DEAL out of Washington, DC., and who, consequently, won Oustanding Chef last night. So I was rather nervous going into it, still feeling like a hack where real chefs are concerned.
However, Chef Andres only stopped by his tasting table for a minute yesterday, and his sample plates were being handled by a team of 4 of his staff who came with him. Plus, while his sample was delicious, it wasn’t so complex: a thin piece of aged iberico ham (particular spanish pig that is fed on acorn and hazelnuts) wrapped around a pile of caviar. So I stamped about 1000 pieces of parchment paper with a little decal that said “Jose’s taco,” and then I helped put the pre-sliced ham onto the parchment. His staff would be scooping the caviar, so that was that.
Perhaps I was most helpful in one moment: prior to the awards there was a VIP tasting event with passed samples. There were a couple of waiters assigned to come to our table and pick up samples and take them to the VIP area, but as our table was also next to the main entrance to the venue, a lot of the general public kept walking by and swiping the samples while the chefs were plating them. (The tasting for the general public was following the ceremony.) I could tell they were frustrated by this, so I recruited another culinary student and we basically blocked the table from people approaching it. Pamela = culinary bouncer.
Until Bobby Flay came along. He ended up mobbed the second he came in the door, which, again, was right in front of our table, so I ended up standing two feet away from him for about a half hour. I could see that he was also eyeing our samples, so when he made a move to come to the table I promptly moved out of his way. I wasn’t about to be all “no sir. Sorry. these are for the VIP reception.” Bobby Flay can have all the ham tacos he wants.
Pictures of culinary school goodies tomorrow, I promise.