It was dark outside when we woke up, but I’m used to that. I’m definitely an early bird and I love the mornings, but today I awoke with the feelings of someone who had stayed up late last night. To tell you the truth, one thought and one thought only occupied my head: I don’t want to get out of bed! Nevertheless, I got up, packed my bag, and jumped in the car, excited for the day ahead of me. I couldn’t wait to see the stadium and the stars, to eat, and to write. This would be spectacular.
But today, we were not tailgating at the Rose Bowl or the Coliseum. This was a different kind of stadium… what I might call a “food stadium”. The first annual All Star Chefs Classic was hosted on Sunday, March 23, from noon to 2:30 at the new “Restaurant Stadium” at LA Live, and both local chefs and nation-wide foodies came to cook at an event not to be challenged.
A bar lit up the center of the large room, and around it sat tables surrounded by ten food booths. At each station, one fantastic chef or another would whip up an amazing sample, and you would be able to try it without a wait. The decor was classy and prestigious, and it made me nervous even to be in this foodie’s paradise. At the same time, however, it was almost laid-back and an awesome DJ kept us all on our toes. Everyone was trying to balance a plate, a cup, and a camera, and yet I didn’t feel that it was touristy at all. You were close to the chefs, but there weren’t too many people and we never had to wait more than two minutes for anything. Oh, here I go. I won’t be able to find anything wrong with an event featuring spectacular food AND Han Solo’s grandson.
First up, Chef David LeFevre. If you’ve followed my blog site before, you’ll recognize him as the genius behind the restaurant I spent my eleventh birthday at: MB Post. (http://www.southbayfood.com/?p=1795). At his booth, creamy mashed potatoes were complimented by grilled asparagus, speck, mushrooms, and a delicious potato puree on top. It was adorned by crispy leeks, and I wouldn’t have changed anything about it. The flavors melded together perfectly but were still distinct in the best ways, and each thought back to it made my mouth water for more. Overall, it was an astounding first dish and I was extremely happy with Chef LeFevre’s creation.
Then, we slid over next door to Chef Vinny Dotolo’s station, where beef tendon with kolrabi salad was being presented. The beef tendon had a really nice texture, and it was soft but chewy. A perfect amount of what seemed to be a peanut sauce was drizzled over the top, and it was subtle but noticeable and definitely sweet. Overall, it might not have been my favorite dish of the night, but it was extremely impressive nonetheless.
Next, we walked to Chef Wylie Dufresne’s booth, which revealed a creative new idea: edamame gazpacho. I loved the textures with the milky gazpacho and the crunchy chunks to top it off. It tasted fresh and you could tell that a lot of effort was put into the making of it.
Chef Alex Seidel’s dish blew me away. It was lamb sweetbread confit (otherwise known as lamb organs :)) but it was fantastic! The lamb had a beautiful texture and a great flavor, and it was overall very impressive. I’m so glad I got the chance to meet him, because this was the spectacular outcome of the work of a man who knows what he’s doing. The dish had an amazing “mushroom marmalade” and the mushrooms paired outstandingly with the creamy sheep’s milk ricotta. Also, Chef Seidel let us try his cheese, which was aged for two years in his home of Denver. Overall, Chef Seidel came and left us all awaiting the next time he can come to LA to cook us some more of his delicious food.
Let’s travel over to Chef David Myers’ dish: tuna with sesame tofu and a kumquat fava bean salad. Chef Myers prepared this cool dish for us in the booth right next to Chef David LeFevre’s. Although I didn’t enjoy the tofu very much, that’s probably just because I’ve been a carnivore since birth. The kumquat fava bean salad was strongly flavored and very citrusy, but in the best way because it was a great match with the tuna. I’m glad that Chef Myers included it. The tuna was the bomb; pink, silky, and impeccably prepared. I can’t say I’ve ever had such perfected, melt-in-your-mouth tuna, and I only have one thing to say to that… yum.
And guess who I met next? One of the friendliest chefs ever, good in the kitchen, and he has a famous history. Chef Ben Ford, son of Harrison Ford and father of Indiana Jones’ grandson, happens to be madly talented, as I figured out as I practically inhaled my serving of sea bass crudo. The fish itself was smooth and tasty and it disintegrated in my mouth with a lingering taste of lime. The chilies on top added a nice spicy kick at the end and the avocado, which was also enriched by citrus, I think, was fantastic paired with the sea bass. It just overall showed a great knowledge of food and I’m really glad Chef Ford made it. I also got to see his son, an adorable little blond boy that seemed to be all smiles. (The Force is strong with that one.)
A legend held up the next station with a focused expression and hardworking hands. I could tell that Chef Josiah Citrin took his job seriously, and it definitely paid off. The wild monkfish cheek reminded me a bit of scallops, and monkfish might be known as the “poor man’s lobster”, but this was anything but insufficient. I hadn’t tried very much monkfish before this event, but I really enjoyed it and I look forward to trying it again soon. Though I didn’t know exactly how it was supposed to be cooked, I thought that it tasted great. The fish wasn’t too tough but it wouldn’t fall apart, with a great texture, and the herbs, like fennel, paired nicely with the monkfish. I was very happy with what I tried from Chef Josiah Citrin’s booth and I hope to eat more of his food soon!
My mother’s dentist, local foodie Dr. Gary Warburton, had suggested this event to us in the first place, and all throughout it, we had stopped around to talk to him and his wife Terry. What was really cool was that he knew a lot of the chefs, so I met a lot of them and I was so thankful that Dr. Warburton included us. Thank you!
I also met Chef Ludo Lefebvre, the famous chef who stars in TV show “Ludo Bites”. And although his persona on TV is definitely intimidating, he was really patient and friendly in person and I am very grateful for him for letting me waste his time.
Dr. Warburton, Chef David LeFevre, and a few others were having a conversation as we walked up. Chef LeFevre raved about the event, its great kitchens, its reserved parking, and just its atmosphere in general. It was nice to know that not only did the guests love the event, but the chefs enjoyed it as well.
After a quick break, my dad and I returned back to our food
sampling. Next up was Chef Graham Elliot’s twist on a classic Cesear salad, otherwise known as his “deconstructed Cesear salad”. It was a lettuce wedge with a fantastic crunch and doused in crumbled parmesan cheese. On the side came a crispy toasted bread slice with a white dollop of soft spread on top, which was almost buttery, and I’m not sure exactly what it was but it was addictive. It was a fresh spin on a classic dish, I really enjoyed it, and I was very glad to try it. Nice job, Chef Elliot!
Two words could be used to describe this next station, and that’s all you need to know that it was a positive review: PORK. BELLY. The cardamom brined meat had a great texture and really stood out for its creativity with spices and flavors. A creamy coconut asparagus veloute topped it off and the flavors matched each other very well. I enjoyed this dish, and I thought that it was a great way to prepare pork belly.
Lastly, Chef Nancy Silverton’s booth stood next door with a black sign sporting kale salad. Being a meat-lover, I thought I would be disappointed to end on this, but boy was I wrong! The kale salad was served with ricotta salata, pine nuts, and an anchovy on top, and although I was not a fan of the anchovy, the nuts and cheese went well together and the kale was perfection. In all, it was a great way to end the event and the salad definitely left you craving more.
In all, this amazing culinary event was a great way to spend my Sunday, and not only was the food delicious, but the chefs were friendly, welcoming, and, above all, inspiring. I have been slow to post recently because I’ve been very busy and I had been putting other activities before this (mainly soccer). This spectacular day reminded me how important it is to continue my blog and put in that extra effort, and I am so glad that I got to experience such an extraordinary event.
Thank you especially to Gary Warburton for encouraging me, showing us around, and keeping us laughing all day. Also, thank you so much to the chefs that I met: Ben Ford, Josiah Citrin, David LeFevre, Nancy Silverton, Wylie Dufresne, Alex Seidel, Graham Elliot, and Jennifer Jasinski. They were all so inspiring, kind, and, of course, spectacularly talented!
And, last of all, thank you Dad for a memorable opportunity and an experience I will never forget.