Food & Wine’s kick-off last night was a blast: Tickets sold out. Scott Pampuch from the Corner Table had a bizarre and amazing cake frosted with a bright pink ganache made with beets. Michelle Gayer from the Salty Tart celebrated her inclusion on the Beard Awards’ long list with cookies shaped like mustaches, baked so that stick handles stuck down on one side. She was frosting them with your choice of frosting (Brown? White? Curled 19th century evil-doer style?) and taking Polaroid pictures of anyone who wanted their picture taken with their own mustache cookie—fun.
Of course, the big story of the night was everyone’s shock and grief about the loss of Heidi’s, Blackbird, and all the businesses that were lost to the fire that afternoon. We all swapped stories of kitchen fires big and small. I was cooking on a line once when the hood started on fire. There was only a small passage from the cooking line to the rest of the restaurant, and I bolted down that alley just as my chef bolted in with the fire extinguisher, spraying it upward. Other chefs shared stories of cooking rags catching fire, water spilling into deep-fryers, and similar calamities. There but by the grace of God go so many of us. Blessings to everyone impacted by the fire, and watch this space for news of coming benefits.
But of course, the show also goes on. Some of the fun gossip I heard last night vis-à-vis this weekend’s big Food & Wine Show: A pair of national TV scouts will be scouting the Local Chef Challenge for new talent. The Young-And-Hungry Battle (former champion Jon Radle versus La Belle Vie kitchen stalwart YC—known as Young Chef, and also Michael DeCamp), has had those two young chefs taunting each other by text message for months. Scott Pampuch dropped in on Jack Riebel and asked the bartender if the chef was in. The bartender said: “Yes, who shall I tell him is here?” And Pampuch said: “The Competition! He’ll know who!” And when Riebel emerged from the kitchen he found Pampuch studying his menus.
And finally, I hear that the cake competition is going to feature a Silence of the Lambs cake, replete with edible brains and a nice Chianti. Seriously. I’ll try to post updates on the battles in the comments from the show floor, or through my Twitter account, deardara. Saturday is sold out, but there are still some tickets available for Sunday (buy at the door), when the final rounds of the Local Chef Challenge will take place. So come on down if you can! Till then: Just try to picture a Silence of the Lambs cake. Will it star a fuzzy, Easter-style lamb? Anthony Hopkins? Both? That’s entertainment!