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This ‘Beard’ grows on us!

NEWS It’s top-nosh: Elyse Glickman attends the Taste America: Los Angeles dinner supporting the James Beard Foundation
Filed by Elyse Glickman/November 23, 2018/11.43

Andrew Herrold

The Taste of Chicago was a granddaddy of American food festivals, launching in 1980 as one-stop shopping for those anxious to taste the best of the city, from the beloved Chicago-style pizza to top-tier restaurants falling in the “splurge” price range. Just as most rock bands trace their creative roots to Elvis or the Beatles, festival planners could do the same for the venerable original in the decades that followed.
   Perhaps, then, it’s interesting that tourism office ChooseChicago was a main sponsor for the Taste America luxury fundraiser series of dinners supporting the James Beard Foundation, whose multi-fold mission is one of celebrating, nurturing, and recognizing chefs and other culinary leaders responsible for making America’s food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable.
   The Taste America: Los Angeles dinner, staged at the SLS Hotel on October 12, was anything but stuffy given the city’s diverse culinary character and full-on embrace of food festival events throughout the year. It was easy to fill up at the pre-dinner reception—a mini-food fest covering several innovative chefs behind the most-buzzed about ethnic, brasserie, and fine dining establishments, including Wes Avila (Guerrilla Tacos), Pawan Mahendro (Badmaash), Raphael François (Tesse), Mei Lin (Nightshade), and Curtis Stone, one of Australia’s most recognized celebrity chefs and the evening’s MC. Some patrons got to sip Gloria Ferrer champagne while tasting five fine caviars from Petrossian Caviar. Everybody had a chance to try exceptional cocktails with El Tesoro Tequila and Woodford Reserve Bourbon.
   The actual dinner itself was a rollicking good time, reminding all impeccably dressed attendees that at its heart, food is familial and fun. Granted, my colleague, Derek Poirier, and I had the advantage of being assigned a table with James Beard award winner–foundation trustee Mary Sue Milliken (co-creator of the groundbreaking upscale Border Grill Restaurants with fellow chef Susan Fenniger) and Stone, who is clearly as adept in the front of the house as he is in the kitchen, and wonderfully approachable and witty to boot.
   Between documentary film clips of the James Beard Foundation’s community endeavours and a luxe auction, guests enjoyed a fresh, vibrant three-course journey narrated by the chefs (Andrew Carmellini, the Dutch, NYC; Ludo Lefebvre, Trois Mec, LA; and Holly Jivin of the Bazaar by José Andrés, Beverly Hills, Calif.). The dessert coda, meanwhile, was fitting with on-trend sweets by Salt & Straw ice-cream, Margarita Manzke (République), Lincoln Carson (Bon Temps), and Mitzi Reyes (SLS Hotel, Los Angeles).—Elyse Glickman, US West Coast Editor

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