Dining on the Diamond: The James Beard Foundation Celebrity Chef Tour
They say that celebrity chefs are the new rock stars. So for a fanatical foodie like me, I would have to say that the James Beard Foundation: Celebrity Chef Tour Dinner was the Woodstock of meals. This multi-course extravaganza was a one-night-only culinary experience and the meal of the year!
Note: I will attempt to limit my baseball cliches here, but no guarantees
The impressive dinner was a well-coordinated symphony that started with a bang and set the tone for an incredible evening. It crescendoed in a show-stopping dessert from Pastry Chefs Mindy Segal and Patrick Wellman. Of course, big props are needed for the Poli brothers for envisioning this dinner and putting it all together.
To kick things off, you enter through the depths of the Nashville Sounds stadium, just like a professional, only as a professional foodie versus a professional ballplayer. Walking through the tunnel you are greeted by a refreshing Boulevard beer. The beer quickly needs to be enjoyed because it’s game time. As you are entering the dugout, Matthew Poli, beverage director from The Catbird Seat, hands you a sparkling wine and another and another.
Mix and mingle and take in the sights as you stroll around the infield. Brian Lea led off the evening beautifully with a trio of elegant appetizers: Oysters + Hibiscus Mignonette, Beef Tartare, Asian Pear, and Black Sesame Crisp & Foie Gras + Apple Tart.
Time to grab your seat at one of the four tables stretched from 3rd base to 2nd base. To highlight the baseball-themed evening, was a party favor consisting of cracker jacks, set of chef baseball cards, bubble gum, dinner menu scorecard and a beautiful handmade salt cellar.
All the dishes were served family style. This made for a great way to get to know your neighbors. My neighbors were very friendly and accommodating of my “Wait, I have to get a picture first” mentality. The only regret here is that I missed a photo of the dish from Greg Vernick. Luckily a gracious fellow foodie did get one and let me share that with you.
If this assembly of chefs was a baseball team, it would have to have been the 1927 Yankees “Murderers’ Row”.
Amazing talented chef’s from Philadelphia to Portland to right here in Nashville, knocked it out of the park. Nashville being the booming food mecca that it is, was well represented locally with Host Chef Ryan Poli, beverage director Matthew Poli and Pastry Chef Patrick Wellman from The Catbird Seat, Brian Lea from Le Sel, Tony Galvin from Nicky’s Coal Fired, and Julia Sullivan from Henrietta Red. Having such high caliber Chefs in our backyard can sometimes be taken for granted.
Any of the extraordinary visiting chefs would warrant a food trip alone, just to dine at their establishments. There was Andrew Brochu from Roister in Chicago, Gregory Gourdet from Departure Restaurant + Lounge in both Portland, OR and Denver, JBF Award Winner Jeff Michaud from Osteria in Philadelphia, JBF Award Winner Kevin Nathan from Peacemaker and Sidney Street Cafe in St. Louis, JBF Award Winner Greg Vernick from Vernick Food & Drink also in Philadelphia, and JBF Award Winner Mindy Segal from Mindy's Hot Chocolate in Chicago.
Not to be missed or forgotten were the beverage pairings from Matthew Poli. Each course paired excellently and provided a second way to look at and taste each course.
What a meal and what an experience. Congrats to everyone that put this together and all that contributed. The food and the talent backdropped by the Nashville city skyline on the Nashville Sounds field was something that I will remember for a long time. It’s my hope and wish that this is an annual event. I will be the first one lined up to get tickets next year.