Scenes From Chefs’ Holidays 2016 At The Ahwahnee
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CA — Last week, I had the great pleasure of returning for the fourth year in a row to help host the incomparable 31st Annual Chefs’ Holidays event at The Ahwahnee in Yosemite.
Besides the stellar chefs, the welcoming staff, and the outstanding food, there was one other unforgettable highlight: snow.
Yes, after four years of drought, and a January a year ago where it was so dry and warm that I hiked in a T-shirt, it was a joy to see Yosemite dusted in powdery, fluffy white, looking every bit its picture-postcard self.
Chefs’ Holidays takes place every January through early February. It is comprised of eight sessions, with each one spotlighting three renowned chefs, each of whom does a cooking demo. There is a wine reception to meet all the chefs. Each session ends with a gala dinner prepared by the headliner chef or all three participating chefs.
Session One kicked off this year’s festivities with Ken Frank of La Toque in Napa, teaching how to cook the perfect steak. One great tip if you’re cooking a thick steak — let it rest upright after cooking rather than leaving it to pool in its own juices before you cut into it.
Next, Sarah and Evan Rich of the ever popular Rich Table in San Francisco, demonstrated how they serve lasagna at their restaurant. It’s made individually, rather than in one giant pan. Home-made lasagna sheets are first blanched, before assembled with braised chicken and pumpkin greens, then finished cooking. The final touch — a pumpkin salsa verde spooned over the top.
Chef David Bazirgan of Dirty Habit in San Francisco showed off his Armenian heritage with green pea and chickpea falafels.
Finally, Frank took the reins for the five-course, wine-paired gala dinner served in the grand dining room.
The dinner, attended by more than 160 people, featured prime beef striploin, cooked just as Frank showed in his demo.
Session Two began with Chef Mark Liberman of AQ in San Francisco creating one of the most delicious Brussels sprouts dishes I’ve ever eaten. With flash-fried crunchy leaves, beer foam, and pickled onions, it converted more than one previous Brussels sprouts hater in the audience.
The charismatic Ryan Scott of Market & Rye in San Francisco, and “Top Chef” fame, had everyone laughing, as he recounted how he lost on the show because he tried to bring too much San Francisco finesse and preciousness to a challenge that was all about macho tailgate food.
Scott’s tip of the day: When you invite people over for dinner, don’t tell them ahead of time exactly what you’re serving. That way, if you mess up, and have to modify a recipe, they’ll never know. Genius, huh?
Look for two more restaurants from him, as well as a new cookbook, in the months to come.
Jesse Cool of Flea Street Cafe in Menlo Park demonstrated an old-fashioned chocolate buttermilk cake that had everyone wanting seconds.
Liberman created the gala dinner, which featured axis deer, a spotted deer with exceptionally mild, tender and sweet meat; as well as carrot dish that had even the carnivores at the event, raving about the veg.
Want to get in on the fun and deliciousness? Chefs’ Holidays continues through Feb. 4.
Wow, what a great event! All that talent, all that food. I’m envious. 🙂 And it’s at Yosemite? Such a beautiful setting. Wonderful pictures, BTW. Thanks so much for this.
Yosemite looks so picturesque, what a treat! And eating all the good food while enjoying the environment must has been so heavenly. 🙂
Hamachi with pine meringue sounds way fun. Glad you had a grand time! 🙂
My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed the second session. The questions you asked the chefs as they cooked added a lot to the experience. The food was great and the fact that we had a light dusting of fresh snow on the trees the last morning was the frosting on the cake.
Karen: So glad to hear you had such a marvelous time. Hope to see you next year at another Chefs’ Holidays!
Such beautiful photos of Yosemite! And the food looks fantastic too! Sounds and looks like a great event series.
Absolutely loved the first session! We’re heading to Dirty Habit tomorrow evening and have plans to visit Rich Table and La Toque as well. Your questions and the conversations with the chefs make it a one of a kind opportunity plus the snow made it magical. Great food, great wine, hiking and snowshoeing, can’t ask for more!
Ellen: So glad you had such a great time. That’s so fun that you’re planning on visiting all three of the restaurants featured in that session. You’ll have to tell us which one you like best. Hope to see you in Yosemite again for Chefs’ Holidays next year!