Scenes From GourmetFest 2015 in Carmel

Lobster with Champagne sabayon, pickled seaweed and beach rose hips puree by Francis Wolf of Le Hatley Restaurant at Manor Hovey, as presented at GourmetFest.

Lobster with Champagne sabayon, pickled seaweed and beach rose hips puree by Francis Wolf of Le Hatley Restaurant at Manor Hovey, as presented at GourmetFest.

 

Tranquil Carmel-by-the-Sea was abuzz over the weekend, as some of the most extraordinary chefs in the world descended upon this little hamlet for the second annual CarmelFest.

They included Oliver Roellinger of Breton, who unceremoniously gave back his three Michelin stars at his Maisons de Bricort, because he said he could not physically cook at that demanding level any more; and the legendary Michel Bras, whose Restaurant Bras in Laguiole has famously held three Michelin stars since 1999.

The intimate affair spanned three days and included cooking demos, exclusive wine tastings and gala dinners at LaPlaya Carmel, L’Auberge Carmel and a new private events space downtown.

The incomparable Chef Michel Bras (left) is assisted in plating a dish for the "Taste of France'' lunch.

The incomparable Chef Michel Bras (left) is assisted in plating a dish for the “Taste of France” lunch.

Bras with Chef Olivier Roellinger (right).

Bras with Chef Olivier Roellinger (right).

I was fortunate to be invited as a guest. You can tell how special this event was if even Chef David Kinch of Manresa in Los Gatos and Chef Guillaume Bienaimie of Zola in Palo Alto were lured away from their restaurants just to be guests at the “Taste of France” lunch that Bras cooked with Roellinger.

Stuffed endive with truffles by Bras. I'm usually not a big fan of cooked endive (I prefer it raw). But this was exquisite. A Frenchman seated near me, who feels the way about cooked endive, whole-heartedly agreed.

Stuffed endive with truffles by Bras. I’m usually not a big fan of cooked endive (I prefer it raw). But this was exquisite. A Frenchman seated near me, who feels the way about cooked endive, whole-heartedly agreed.

Fish in a delicate cardamom curry sauce with apricots and orange. From Roellinger.

Fish in a delicate cardamom curry sauce with apricots and orange. From Roellinger.

White chocolate mousse with candied fennel and lemon by Valrhona Chef Derek Poirier.

White chocolate mousse with candied fennel and lemon by Valrhona Chef Derek Poirier.

The next night, it was on to the “Relais & Chateaux Grand Chef Dinner,” which featured specialties by eight chefs:

The event space, all aglow for the evening.

The event space, all aglow for the evening.

A peek into the kitchen from the dining room.

A peek into the kitchen from the dining room.

Cogley's tuna, hamachi and preserved seaweed in an abalone shell.

Cogley’s tuna, hamachi and preserved seaweed in an abalone shell.

 

Cartwright's Dungeness crab and Maine lobster bisque with crab and fennel fritter.

Cartwright’s Dungeness crab and Maine lobster bisque with crab and fennel fritter.

 

Munoz's "Warm Ceviche.''

Munoz’s “Warm Ceviche.”

Bedford's prosciutto-wrapped quail with peas, vegetable ash and lemon morel cream.

Bedford’s prosciutto-wrapped quail with peas, vegetable ash and lemon morel cream.

Feolde's tiny rice-like pasta in carbonara.

Feolde’s tiny rice-like pasta in carbonara.

Chen's Wagyu short ribs with Swiss chard, onion and pistachio.

Chen’s Wagyu short ribs with Swiss chard, onion and pistachio.

Miller's chocolate mousse with Georgia olive oil, strawberries and pink peppercorn.

Miller’s chocolate mousse with Georgia olive oil, strawberries and pink peppercorn.

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