Scenes From Chefs’ Holidays 2016 At The Ahwahnee
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.