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Miami Chef Sean Brasel Cooks at New York’s James Beard House

Miami Chef Sean Brasel Cooks at New York’s James Beard House

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Wednesday night, chef Sean Brasel of Meat Market restaurant, located in Miami, paid a visit to the historic James Beard House in Manhattan's West Village and treated diners to a six-course meal showcasing Certified Angus Beef®. Diners came from across the country, with people visiting from San Francisco, Miami, and New York, to sample Brasel's well executed menu, an inspired take on surf and turf.

The best dish of the night was easily the third course, a tender cut of prime beef marinated in aji panca, a Peruvian red pepper. It was served with a buttery white yucca sauce and a shiso mixed pepper salad whose tangy bite contrasted nicely with the richness of the meat. The hors d'oeuvres, too, were memorable, especially the refreshing conch ceviche.

Cooking at the James Beard House is a major milestone for many chefs, and Sean Brasel was certainly thrilled to be there that night.

Here's what was on the menu.

Hors d'oeuvres

· Prime Certified Angus Beef® tartare with white truffles on Parmesan crostini

· House smoked salmon on sweet potato cakes with mamey crema

· Salt cod croquettes with beef carpaccio and chipotle aioli

· Conch ceviche spoons with aji amarillo miso sauce

To drink: "Honey Bunny" Champagne Cocktail

First Course

· King crab and hearts of palm-stuffed Prime Certified Angus Beef® teras major carpaccio with local microgreen salad and truffle

To drink: La Chapelle Gordonne Cötes de Provence Rosé 2012

Second Course

· Sous vide pork belly with abalone, garlic-butter confit, arugula, and micro-tomatoes

To drink: Rocca Delle Macie Sasyr 2009

Third Course

· Aji panca-marinated Prime Aged Certified Angus Beef® deckle with minted Key West shrimp, shiso mixed pepper salad, and black garlic and white yucca sauces

To drink: Girard Petite Sirah 2010

Fourth Course

· Certified Angus Beef® short rib-lobster risotto with Florida Keys stone crab slaw and pickled red onions

To drink: Ysios Rioja Reserva 2006

Fifth Course

· Macadamia-dark chocolate cube with macadamia brittle, gold leaf- berry gel, and salted caramel ice cream

To drink: W. & J. Graham’s 20-year old Tawny Porto NV

Will Budiaman is the Recipe editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @WillBudiaman.

These 15 Chefs Are Advocating for Change

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Photo: Ken Goodman Photography

On June 16, fifteen chefs from across the country came together at Glynwood in Cold Spring, New York for the eighteenth JBF Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change. As with our previous Boot Camp classes, our latest group hails from restaurants and food businesses from coast to coast, all eager to learn effective advocacy skills and explore their potential power as vehicles for change in their communities. Learn more about our newest cohort of chef-advocates below.

Liz Alpern
The Gefilteria, Queer Soup Night, Brooklyn, NY

Liz Alpern is co-founder of The Gefilteria and co-author of The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods. She is also the creator of national fundraising party, Queer Soup Night. Alpern holds an MBA from CUNY Baruch College and is a faculty member at the International Culinary Center. She regularly consults with national food justice organization, Fair Food Network, and has been featured on the Cherry Bombe 100, the Forbes&rsquo 30 Under 30, and the Forward 50.

Nettie Colon
Red Hen Gastrolab, Minneapolis

Born in New York City and raised in Puerto Rico, Annette "Nettie" Colón spent her formative years learning traditional cooking methods of the island with her grandmother. Colon moved to Minneapolis in 2000, and was the chef de cuisine at Lucia&rsquos until her departure in October 2010 when she decided to found Red Hen Gastrolab. Colon divides her time between the Lynhall, Red Hen Gastrolab, and the Break Room Minneapolis at the Historic Machine Shop. She spends summers doing Farm Dinners in River Falls, WI, teaching at the Mill City Farmers Market as a Market Chef and holding court as the Camp Chef for Chef Camp Minnesota. She is also a board member of the Northern Clay Center.

Caitlin Corcoran
Ça Va, Kansas City, MO

Caitlin Corcoran has dedicated much of her career to coffee, agave, and Champagne. She became general manager of Ça Va, Kansas City&rsquos first Champagne bar, in 2014, eventually becoming managing partner. She is proud to practice radical intersectional inclusive hospitality, which coincides with her work supporting MOCSA (Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault), her role as a board member for Women in Hospitality United, and her op-ed for the James Beard Foundation. Corcoran is 2018 Beard Foundation Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership fellow.

Cassidee Dabney
Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN

Spending summers in the family garden, Cassidee Dabney anchored her palate with the fresh flavors of seasonal ingredients. A graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, Dabney&rsquos résumé includes stints in Germany, Boston, Atlanta, Hawaii, Arkansas, and Wyoming. Dabney came to Blackberry Farm in 2010 as a sous chef. In 2015, Dabney was named the executive chef of the Barn, a nationally recognized restaurant holds James Beard Awards for Outstanding Wine Program and Outstanding Service.

William Dissen
The Market Place Restaurant, Haymaker Restaurant, and Billy D's Fried Chicken, Asheville, NC

Spending time on his grandparents&rsquo farm was a major influence on William Dissen&rsquos style of cooking, as well as his beliefs in sustainable agriculture and local cuisine. A graduate of the CIA in Hyde Park, New York, Dissen&rsquos work includes stints at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, and Magnolia&rsquos Restaurant and Cypress in Charleston, South Carolina. At his restaurants across North Carolina, Dissen works with local farms, artisan producers, and sustainable fishermen to produce acclaimed food for his guests.

Roshni Gurnani
Chef Rosh, Houston

Roshni Gurnani has been featured in the Boston Globe, was named one of the top five Indian chefs in America by India Currents magazine, and has appeared in Hell&rsquos Kitchen, Cutthroat Kitchen, Beat Bobby Flay, and Chopped (where she was crowned champion). In 2018 Gurnani was invited to cook at the James Beard House, where she created a seven-course vegetarian meal reflecting her Sindhi heritage. When she isn&rsquot traveling the world, Gurnani is a culinary professor at the Art Institute of America.

Ann Kim
Vestalia Hospitality, Minneapolis

A Korean immigrant, Ann Kim credits her culinary palate to helping her mother and grandmother make traditional staples such as fermented bean paste and kimchi. Her college years at New York&rsquos Columbia University laid the foundation for her dream of bringing great pizza to Minnesota, and her years as a freelance actor fostered her value of creativity. Kim is the culinary mind behind Pizzeria Lola, Hello Pizza and Young Joni she was a semifinalist for the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Midwest in 2017, a nominee in 2018, and won the category at the Awards in 2019.

Mike Lata
FIG and The Ordinary, Charleston, SC

Mike Lata worked in kitchens in Boston, New Orleans, Atlanta, and France before landing in Charleston. His outspoken commitment to support local farmers and fishermen has cemented his position as a champion for Charleston&rsquos culinary renaissance. In 2009, Lata received the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast, and in 2018, FIG received the Beard Award for Outstanding Wine Program. Lata has been featured on Food Network&rsquos Iron Chef America, Bravo&rsquos Top Chef, PBS&rsquos Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking, and more.

Joshua Lewin
Juliet + Company, Somerville, MA

In early 2016, after years of producing short-term dining experiences, Joshua Lewin opened Juliet with his partner Katrina Jazayeri. Prior to Juliet, Lewin cooked at some of the best restaurants around Boston, as well as farther afield (Momofuku Noodle Bar, Charlie Trotter's), before working as executive chef at Beacon Hill Bistro. In 2018 Lewin and his company debuted a magazine, of Juliet, and opened their second restaurant, Peregrine, in 2019. Lewin&rsquos writing has appeared in Chefs Feed, Cognoscenti, and more.

Brother Luck
Four by Brother Luck, Colorado Springs, CO

After attending the Art Institute of Phoenix, Brother Luck cooked in kitchens in Japan, Hong Kong, Chicago, New York City, and finally Colorado Springs. In 2016, Brother was awarded scholarships from the Gohan Society and the Joyce Chen and Helen Chen Foundation to expand his culinary knowledge in Japan and China. Since those trips, Luck has opened Four by Brother Luck and Lucky Dumpling. Luck also has appeared on Chopped, Beat Bobby Flay, and on seasons 15 and 16 of Bravo&rsquos Top Chef.

Sean Mendes
Gillie&rsquos Seafood, Charleston, SC

With a father from Portugal and a mother from South Carolina, soulful, authentic, interesting and unique culinary experiences were a regular part of Sean Mendes&rsquos life growing up. In 2012 Mendes opened the popular food truck Gillie&rsquos Seafood in Charleston. A year and a half later, he opened a full-fledged restaurant under the same name. In 2016, Mendes decided to venture into the gourmet burger world, opening Blues Burger&mdashand it has been a go-to for &ldquotop-shelf&rdquo burgers ever since.

Clayton Rollison
Lucky Rooster Kitchen + Barn, Hilton Head Island, SC

Hilton Head native Clayton Rollison is a graduate of the CIA in Hyde Park. Rollison continued his cooking education in kitchens around the country, honing skills at top restaurants including Gramercy Tavern. When the time was right a few years later, Rollison returned to Hilton Head, and in December 2013, opened for his American bistro with Southern soul, Lucky Rooster. Surrounded by island scenery, fine seafood, and regional specialties, Rollison developed a menu of refined comfort foods and adventurous eats.

Mavis-Jay Sanders
The Brownsville Community Culinary Center, Brooklyn, NY

Born into a large Southern family, Mavis-Jay Sanders began mastering Southern cooking before she could even see over the counter. Sanders holds degrees from the Culinary Institute of America and Georgia Southern, and after culinary school worked at Blue Hill Stone Barns and Untitled in New York. She then joined Pico House to create incredible food and make it accessible to everyone. Sanders believes natural ingredients shouldn&rsquot be a luxury and all people have a right to life-sustaining food.

Elle Scott
SheChef Inc., Roslindale, MA

Elle Simone Scott is a highly sought-after freelance food stylist and culinary producer, mostly recently contributing her unique abilities to America&rsquos Test Kitchen as the resident food stylist and on-air talent&mdashthe first African-American woman in that position. As the founder and CEO of SheChef Inc., a professional networking organization for women chefs of color and allies, Scott shares her passion by mentoring, teaching resource building, providing business consultation/development, and most importantly, working to further food social justice.

Saralyn Smith Collingwood
Convivium Urban Farmstead, Dubuque, IA

Saralyn Smith-Collingwood is the kitchen manager at Convivium Urban Farmstead, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to create community around food. Prior to working at Convivium, Smith-Collingwood was the opening pastry chef at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center and the head pastry chef at the University of Iowa. At Convivium, Smith-Collingwood heads the restaurant kitchen as well as all catering operations, and teaches a variety of cooking classes targeted at the most food insecure residents of Dubuque.

Maggie Borden is content manager at the James Beard Foundation. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.

Amar Santana cooks up James Beard fundraiser

The culinary highlight of South Coast Plaza’s year-long 50th anniversary celebration was a multi-course dinner and fundraiser at Vaca, one of the retail center’s most successful restaurants. Executive chef and owner Amar Santana and business partner Ahmed Labbate hosted the Friends of James Beard Benefit Dinner on Aug. 10.

The $30,000 raised supports Beard scholarships for college-age students seeking culinary careers. Santana, a guest chef in 2013 at New York’s James Beard House and Season 13 runner-up on Bravo’s “Top Chef,” said he’s proud to cook for a cause that’s close to his heart. “The money is helping kids like me,” said Santana, who emigrated from the Dominican Republic as a teenager.

In high school, Santana excelled in Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) and earned a full ride to the Culinary Institute of America. He’s now one of Southern California’s most sought-after chefs. Santana has hosted a James Beard dinner twice – a career milestone which many chefs are never asked to do once. “He’s a real talent,” said Diane Harris Brown, scholarships director for the Beard Foundation.

The evening started al fresco with sparkling wine and tapas followed by a family-style dinner that included decadent specialties from Vaca’s Spanish-influenced menu. “It tastes like home. The food is perfect,” said Andrés Olcina of the Spanish winery Bodegas Torres, which donated wine for the dinner.

This was the third James Beard benefit held in Orange County at South Coast Plaza restaurants in the last four years. “It speaks to the commitment of South Coast Plaza’s fine dining chefs to support meaningful culinary programs, such as those offered by the Beard Foundation,” said Debra Gunn Downing, the retail center’s executive director of marketing.

Colicchio takes outstanding James Beard chef award

New York (CNN) -- There are some very happy chefs and restaurateurs, cookbook authors, food journalists and other outstanding names in food and drink.

They are the latest winners of the James Beard Foundation Awards, which are often referred to as the Oscars of the food world. The ceremony was held at New York's Lincoln Center on Monday night.

The awards were established in 1990 by the nonprofit that bears the name of one of America's founding food writers and cooks.

Although the journalism, media and cookbook categories call for self-nomination (and an entry fee), anyone can suggest a chef or restaurant via the foundation's Web site,, during an open call in the fall.

Though there is no cash reward, a win -- or even a nomination -- can substantially increase the buzz for business, according to foundation President Susan Ungaro.

Below are this year's winners:

Chef & Restaurant Awards

Best New Restaurant
Marea in New York (chef-owner Michael White)

Outstanding Chef Award
Tom Colicchio of Craft in New York

Outstanding Pastry Chef Award
Nicole Plue of Redd in Yountville, California

Outstanding Restaurant Award
Daniel in New York (chef-owner Daniel Boulud)

Outstanding Restaurateur Award
Keith McNally of Balthazar, Lucky Strike, Minetta Tavern, Morandi, Pastis, Pravda and Schiller's Liquor Bar

Outstanding Service Award
Alinea in Chicago, Illinois (chef-owner Grant Achatz)

Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional Award
John Shafer and Doug Shafer of Shafer Vineyards in Napa, California

Outstanding Wine Service Award
Jean Georges in New York (wine director Bernard Sun)

Rising Star Chef of the Year Award
Timothy Hollingsworth of the French Laundry in Yountville, California

Great Lakes
Koren Grieveson of Avec in Chicago, Illinois

Jeff Michaud of Osteria in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Alexander Roberts of Restaurant Alma in Minneapolis, Minnesota

New York City
Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park

Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier of Arrows in Ogunquit, Maine

Jason Wilson of Crush in Seattle, Washington

David Kinch of Manresa in Los Gatos, California

Michael Schwartz of Michael's Genuine Food & Drink in Miami, Florida

Sean Brock of McCrady's in Charleston, South Carolina

Claude Le Tohic of Joel Robuchon at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada

American Cooking
"Real Cajun" by Donald Link

Baking and Dessert
"Baking" by James Peterson

"Been Doon So Long" by Randall Grahm

Cooking from a Professional Point of View
"The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts" by the French Culinary Institute with Judith Choate

General Cooking
"Ad Hoc at Home" by Thomas Keller

Healthy Focus
"Love Soup" by Anna Thomas

"The Country Cooking of Ireland" by Colman Andrews

"Seven Fires," photographer Santiago Soto Monllor

Reference and Scholarship
"Encyclopedia of Pasta" by Oretta Zanini de Vita

Single Subject
"Pasta Sfoglia" by Ron and Colleen Suhanosky

Writing and Literature
"Save the Deli" by David Sax

Cookbook of the Year
"The Country Cooking of Ireland" by Colman Andrews

Cookbook Hall of Fame
"A Book of Middle Eastern Food" by Claudia Roden

Broadcast Media Awards

Audio Webcast or Radio Show
"The Kojo Nnamdi Show," host: Kojo Nnamdi

Television Show, In Studio or Fixed Location
"French Food at Home with Laura Calder," host: Laura Calder

Television Show, On Location
"Chefs A' Field: King of Alaska," host: Rick Moonen

TV Food Personality
Andrew Zimmern, "Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern"

Television Special
"Food Trip with Todd English," host: Todd English

Television Segment
"ABC News Nightline," host: John Berman

Video Webcast
"The Greenmarket: One Farmer's Story,"

Journalism Awards
Craig Claiborne

Distinguished Restaurant Reviews
Jonathan Gold, LA Weekly

Food Blog, Ed Levine

Food-Related Columns
Rachel Wharton, Edible Brooklyn

Magazine Feature Writing About Restaurants and/or Chefs
Anya von Bremzen, Saveur, "Soul of a City"

Magazine Feature Writing with Recipes
Francine Maroukian, Jon Reiner and staff of Esquire, Esquire, "How Men Eat"

Magazine Feature Writing without Recipes
Barry Estabrook, Gourmet, "The Price of Tomatoes"

M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award
Francine Prose, Saveur, "Faith and Bacon"

Multimedia Food Feature
Kevin Pang,, "The Cheeseburger Show"

Newspaper Feature Writing About Restaurants and/or Chefs
Jared Jacang Maher, Westword, "A Hunger to Help"

Newspaper Feature Writing
Cliff Doerksen, Chicago Reader, "The Real American Pie"

Newspaper Food Section
The Washington Post, Joe Yonan

Reporting on Health, Environment, or Nutrition
Rowan Jacobsen, EatingWell, "Or Not to Bee"

Website Focusing on Food, Beverage, Restaurants, or Nutrition, Jane Goldman

Writing on Spirits, Wine, or Beer
Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, Minnesota Monthly, "Chardonnay Uncorked"

Who's Who of Food & Beverage in America:
Leah Chase (chef/owner, Dooky Chase Restaurant, New Orleans, Louisiana) Jessica B. Harris (author and historian, California) Paul C.P. McIlhenny (president/CEO, McIlhenny Company, Avery Island, Louisiana) David Rockwell (founder/CEO, Rockwell Group, New York) L. Timothy Ryan (president, Culinary Institute of America, New York) Susan Spicer (chef/owner, Bayona, New Orleans, Louisiana)

America's Classics
Al's French Frys (owners: Bill Bissonette and Lee Bissonette, South Burlington, Vermont) the Bright Star (owners: Jimmy Koikos and Nicky Koikos, Bessemer, Alabama) Calumet Fisheries (owners: the Kotlick and Toll gamilies, Chicago, Illinois) Gustavus Inn (owners: JoAnn and David Lesh, Gustavus, Alaska) Mary & Tito's Cafe (owners: Mary Gonzales and Antoinette Knight, Albuquerque, New Mexico)

Design and Graphics Awards

Outstanding Restaurant Design
Andre Kikoski Architect, the Wright (New York)

Outstanding Restaurant Graphics
Pandiscio Co., the Standard Grill, NYC

James Beard Awards 2019 announced: NYC no longer the culinary capital

In 1969, as the Stonewall riots erupted just blocks from the Greenwich Village brownstone he shared with his longtime partner, James Beard kept quiet. There was an uprising in the streets, but the Dean of American Cookery, whose sexuality was an open secret in the New York publishing world, did not join them.

“At 66, with his neighborhood, and the world, changed literally overnight, James was terrified of coming out, of shaking off the fiction of perpetual bachelorhood,” John Birdsall writes in his new biography “The Man Who Ate Too Much: The Life of James Beard” (W.W. Norton & Company), out Oct. 6. “Queer men and women of James’ generation in the village had everything to lose and weren’t convinced they had anything to gain.”

The famed gourmand lived a double life of sorts, posing as a sort of sexless uncle to educate Americans about food and pleasure in his dozens of cookbooks, all the while concealing his own desires, Birdsall writes.

With his fourth book, 1949’s “The Fireside Cook Book: A Complete Guide to Fine Cooking for Beginner and Expert,” Beard jettisoned his flamboyance and honed his signature persona of an eccentric epicurean professor, which appealed to post-war Americans and their strict gender norms. “It was no time to be anything but a sexless bachelor with a crisp, professional voice,” Birdsall writes.

Beard was born in Portland, Ore., in 1903. His mother, Elizabeth, was 42 at the time, a fiercely independent boardinghouse owner who had married Beard’s father, John, for the sole purpose of having a child. Beard’s upbringing was short on love and connection, but rich in food.

Beard briefly entertained a life in the theater in London and New York before turning to catering. Oregon Historical Society

When he was 3 and a half, he was stricken with malaria in the middle of a summer heat wave. Every afternoon for nearly two weeks, the Beard family’s Chinese-born cook Jue Let patiently spoon-fed him a soothing, cool chicken broth while cradling his head. It was “the first act of tenderness James would remember, and the one that would stay with him for the rest of his life,” Birdsall writes.

Beard started Reed College in 1920 and initially thrived at the iconoclastic school, studying theater and opera. But before the end of his freshman year, he was promptly and quietly expelled after being caught in a sexual act with a male professor.

The incident was scarring and “dictated the way he expressed his queerness for the next 60-plus years, until his death in 1985,” Birdsall writes. Beard returned to live in his mother’s house, depressed and aimless, for nearly two years. Elizabeth was somewhat sympathetic to her son’s indiscretion she herself was queer and had fallen in love with a female friend in her youth, Birdsall writes.

While the Stonewall riots erupted in 1969, Beard lived blocks away but kept his private life quiet. Getty Images

At age 20, Beard sailed to London, where he could stay with an uncle while he tried to pursue a career in theater. But his big audition for the Royal Academy of Music went horribly and he was rejected from the program. Dejected, he headed to the Ritz for a drink. A writer by the name of Helen Dircks noticed the lost American boy at the bar and invited him to join her. She soon brought him into her bohemian social circle in Soho, which included many queer men. She also taught him to order a proper martini and took him to chic restaurants where they ate souffles flambeed tableside and topped with brandied cherries. “Under Helen’s wing, James came to adore London,” Birdsall writes. “In James’s eye, Soho was nothing short of magical.”

After six months in London, Beard spent a few weeks in Paris, where he tasted caviar with blinis for the first time, enjoyed beautiful eclairs and had a short-lived affair with a prizefighter he met on the street. His time abroad “unlocked for him a whole world of sensuality,” Birdsall says.

Arriving at New York’s Chelsea Piers in September 1923, Beard was eager to find his place in the city, but it took more than a decade to truly happen. In 1938, he met and moved in with James Barlow Cullum Jr., a gay divorcé who came from iron and steel money and had a large apartment on Washington Place.

By then, Beard had gained a reputation as being “fabulous” at organizing get-togethers — “friends would ask him to manage the cocktails and edible tidbits at their dos” — and Cullum was looking to have parties — lots of them.

“For affluent gay men in New York City” at the time, “private cocktail gatherings — apartment parties — were their primary points of contact. Some men hosted nearly every evening at 5: drop-in gatherings with drinks and hors d’oeuvres, where consequential men like Cullum could mingle with handsome young newcomers,” Birdsall writes.

In 1939, Beard launched a catering business called Hors d’Oeuvre, Inc. with Bill Rhode, a handsome cookbook author from an aristocratic Berlin family. Rhode wasn’t gay, but he knew how to use his charms to get business. At that point “the food at most cocktail parties relied on cheap, starchy fillers and bland spreads,” Birdsall writes. “Hors d’Oeuvre, Inc. would bring an epicurean sensibility to parties, a worldly inventiveness equal to the cooking at New York’s finest hotels.”

Beard was generous with his fame and promoted Julia Child’s new cookbook at the time — but he was also jealous of her success. The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images

The following year, Beard met Hub Olsen, an editor at Barrows and Company, looking to publish service-y books on the cheap. “Hors D’Oeuvre and Canapes, with a Key to the Cocktail Party,” was published in October 1940, the first of dozens of Beard cookbooks.

In 1946, James made his TV debut with a regular cooking segment on NBC’s “Radio City Matinee.” With it, Birdsall says, he “really picked up an identity.” While the gourmet food movement had been happening in the US for more than a decade, thanks, in part, to food writer MFK Fisher, Beard democratized it. He didn’t just tell well-off people to buy good food and wine, but rather, he had a message that “however much money you have, you really can eat better, if you look at food in a different way,” Birdsall says.

James was terrified of coming out, of shaking off the fiction of perpetual bachelorhood.

- biographer John Birdsall

In 1959, “The James Beard Cookbook,” a comprehensive tome that took four years to write, was released. In an unconventional move for the time, it featured Beard’s picture on the cover. By then, Beard was 55 years old, rotund, with a double chin and eyes that “nearly disappear[ed] into skin folds and smile creases,” Birdsall writes. “Seen by a nation that scrambled to buy the latest fad diet book, James’ obvious love of eating was an argument for pleasure. It was an irresistible cover.”

One of the main tenets of the book was “buy good food, and buy often,” which challenged Americans’ obsession with convenience. The book was a huge success, selling more than 150,000 paperback copies in its first year.

Beard was generous with his fame. In 1961, he met Julia Child and he went on to help promote her book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” introducing Child to people in his orbit. “They were both in their way oddballs,” Birdsall writes. But while they became good friends, Beard was also envious of Child’s success. She went on to have a lucrative television career, something that eluded Beard, who would always struggle with financing his lavish lifestyle. And Child never had to hide a part of herself the way he did.

Beard settled in this West 12th Street residence, which later became the James Beard House. Helayne Seidman (2)

Though Beard’s personality never translated that well on TV, he was a natural in the classroom, launching a cooking school in 1955 that would go on for decades. In 1972, he published another seminal work, “James Beard’s American Cookery.” At a time when good food meant European fare, Beard “argued that a distinct American cuisine existed.” The book contained regional recipes, like one for a Texas lemon cake from a gay friend of Beard’s who had moved from the country to New York City.

As such, it was also “a kind of secret record of 20th century gay migration to cities from across the country” that was both celebratory and had an underlying sadness, Birdsall writes. Throughout his life, Beard struggled with depression and loneliness, even after he found a longtime partner in Italian architect Gino Cofacci in 1956. The two lived together in Greenwich Village for decades, but they had a complex, open relationship, often jetsetting about for extended stretches on their own.

In 1985, after decades of health issues and hospitalizations, Beard passed away at 81 from cardiac arrest. As he was taken away in the ambulance, he turned to his longtime house steward, Clay, and said, “I know I’m not ever coming back, nobody would believe it if they knew.” (He left his money to Reed College, which had made amends in 1976 by giving Beard an honorary degree.)

The year after his death, a former student launched a foundation in his honor, purchasing his West 12th Street residence and turning it into the James Beard House, a center for culinary programming and education. Since 1990, the foundation has also given out the annual James Beard Award to chefs and restaurants.

While Beard had quite an ego, it’s not clear what he would have made of being enshrined in such a way, Birdsall argues.

“At the end of his life,” he says, “he really just wanted to disappear.”

But nothing could suppress Beard’s lasting legacy on how we eat now.

“If you live in the United States and believe in local food, rely on farmers’ markets and produce stands to supply flavor and seasonal delight to your cooking if you take for granted access to milk, butter and cheese produced in human-scale lots, bakers who employ patience and their hands, and American wines expressive of soil and tradition, you owe a debt to James Beard,” Birdsall concludes.

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James Beard Finalists Announced: Miami Snubbed

Jose Mendin, Giorgio Rapicavoli Are Only Miamians to Receive James Beard Nods

Miami's James Beard Semifinalists Cook Together at Bazi

Kilgore is also a semifinalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year, presented to a chef age 30 or younger "who displays an impressive talent and who is likely to make a significant impact on the industry in years to come. Kilgore is up against more than two dozen other young hopefuls around the country.

A number of Miami chefs are in the running for Best Chef: South. Jose Mendin (Pubbelly), Giorgio Rapicavoli (Eating House), Michael Pirolo (Macchialina), and Deme Lomas (Niu Kitchen) have been named semifinalists, along with 16 other chefs in the region, which includes Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Puerto Rico.

This is Mendin's fifth year as a semifinalist and Rapicavoli's second year on the list. Lomas and Mendin were nominated for Food & Wine's People&rsquos Best New Chef for the Gulf Coast award in spring 2015. During Pirolo's tenure at New York City's Gilt, the restaurant earned two Michelin stars.

Antonio Bachour is nominated for Outstanding Pastry Chef for his dazzling creations at the St. Regis Bal Harbour. The award pays tribute to "a chef or baker who prepares desserts, pastries, or breads in a restaurant and who serves as a national standard bearer of excellence."

Two restaurateurs with Miami connections are semifinalists in the Outstanding Restaurateur category, which is awarded to a restaurateur "who sets high national standards in restaurant operations and entrepreneurship: Michael Mina (Bourbon Steak, Michael Mina 74, and Stripsteak) and Stephen Starr (the Continental, Le Zoo, Makoto, and Steak 954).

This is the first hurdle for Miami's semifinalists. The list of semifinalists is sent to an independent panel of more than 600 judges from across the nation &mdash comprising regional restaurant critics, food and wine editors, culinary educators, and past Beard winners &mdash for a vote.

The list gets whittled down Tuesday, March 15, when the Beard Foundation will announce the finalists during a news conference in San Francisco.

Winners will be revealed at the James Beard Awards Gala at Lyric Opera of Chicago Monday, May 2.

A complete list of 2016 Beard semifinalists can be found at

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Medfield Chef Featured at New York's James Beard House

A chef from Medfield was recently welcomed to prepare a special meal at the James Beard House in New York.

Brendan Pelley, Executive Chef of Zebra's Bistro and Wine Bar in Medfield, was invited to cook at the culinary landmark the week of April 8.

While there, Pelley and his team prepared a five-course spring seafood and white wine celebration menu, which featured seasonal dishes paired with wine selections from Beverage Director Phil Marshall.

The James Beard House is located in New York City's Greenwich Village. With the invitation to cook there, Pelley joins the ranks of other famous chefs featured at the venue, including Daniel Boulud, Emeril Lagasse and Charlie Trotter.

Pelley, though, was one of the first chefs to have his dinner broadcast through the JBF Kitchen Cam, a live-stream video that reveals the sights and sounds of the Beard House kitchen. A camera stream from Pelley's event can be viewed through the attached player or can be viewed here.

Ridgefield chef, restaurant owner to cook at James Beard House

Executive Chef at The Village Tavern in Ridgefield, Conn. Luis López (left) and Tavern owner Bruno di Fabio (right) have both been invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York City on June 8, 2018.

Contributed by Melissa Avanzato / Bruno di Fabio Show More Show Less

2 of 27 Luis Lopez, previously the owner of Chef Luis in New Canaan, Conn. Justin Papp / Hearst Connecticut Media Show More Show Less

4 of 27 In this Jan. 29, 2014, photo, Bruno DiFabio takes a Margherita pizza, prepared in the Napoletana style, from the 900-degree wood-burning oven at ReNapoli Pizzeria & Chicago Italian Beef in Old Greenwich, Conn. DiFabio owner of 10 artisan pizzerias around the country, has been named as a new judge on Food Network’s competitive cooking series, 𠇌hopped.” AP Photo/Greenwich Time, Bob Luckey AP Show More Show Less

5 of 27 The Village Tavern on Main Street in Ridgefield, Conn. Contributed photo / Hearst Connecticut Media Show More Show Less

7 of 27 A mural at The Village Tavern in Ridgefield, Conn., pays homage to Brunetti's Market, which was open at the location of the tavern in the 1970s. Contributed photo / Hearst Connecticut Media Show More Show Less

8 of 27 The Village Tavern in Ridgefield serves elevated comfort food that ranges from simple to sophisticated. CTPost Show More Show Less

10 of 27 The Village Tavern on Main Street in Ridgefield, Conn. Contributed photo / Hearst Connecticut Media Show More Show Less

David Burke - David Burke Prime Steakhouse

Chef David Burke (far left) has been featured on Iron Chef America.

David Burke Prime Steakhouse:
Foxwoods Resort Casino, 350 Trolley Line Blvd, Mashantucket, CT

Todd English - Tuscany

Chef Todd English is the host of PBS's "Food Trip with Todd English."

1 Mohegan Sun Blvd, Uncasville, CT

Larry Busacca/Getty Images for New York magazi Show More Show Less

Bobby Flay - Bobby Flay's Bar Americain, Bobby's Burger Palace

Chef Bobby Flay has starred in many television shows like "Boy Meets Grill," "Throwdown! with Bobby Flay" and "Iron Chef."

Bobby Flay's Americain:
1 Mohegan Sun Blvd, Uncasville, CT 06382
Bobby's Burger Palace:
1 Mohegan Sun Blvd, Uncasville, CT 06382

Guy Fieri - Guy Fieri's Foxwoods Kitchen & Bar
Guy Fieri is a TV personality and restaurateur. He first gained fame when he won the Next Food Network Star.

Guy Fieri's Foxwoods Kitchen & Bar
350 Trolley Line Blvd, Ledyard, CT 06338

Bill Taibe - The Whelk, Jesup Hall, Kawa Ni

Chef Bill Taibe is a contributor to "Food & Wine" Magazine.

575 Riverside Ave, Westport, CT 06880

90 Post Rd E, Westport, CT 06880

19 Bridge Square, Westport, CT 06880

Buddy Valastro - Carlo's Bakery at Mohegan Sun

Carlo’s Bakery's New Jersey location is the setting of the hit TLC series "Cake Boss."

Carlo's Bakery:
Mohegan Sun, 1 Mohegan Sun Blvd, Uncasville, CT

Tyler Anderson - Millwright’s Restaurant & Tavern in Simsbury, High George at The Blake Hotel in New Haven, Porron & Pina in Hartford, Square Peg Pizzeria in Glastonbury.

Chef Tyler Anderson was on Season 15 of Top Chef. He has also appeared on Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay.

Porrón & Piña:
1 Haynes St, Hartford, CT 06103

Brian Lewis - The Cottage

Chef Brian Lewis was a 2018 James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef in the northeast.

The Cottage:
256 Post Rd E, Westport, CT

256 Post Road East, Westport, CT (opening April 19)

Bun Lai - Miya's

Chef Bun Lai's Miya's is the first sustainable sushi restaurant in the world. He is a a recipient of the White House Champion of Change for Sustainable Seafood Award.

68 Howe St, New Haven, CT 06511

Angela Baldanza - Baldanza Natural Market Cafe

In 2016, Angela Baldanza won Food Network's Cooks vs. Cons.

Baldanza Natural Market Cafe:
17 Elm St, New Canaan, CT 06840

When Luis López came to the United States from Guatemala in 1985, cooking at an exclusive event wasn't even a thought in his mind. In fact, becoming a chef wasn't yet part of his life's plan. But 33 years later, López &mdash alongside restaurateur counterpart Bruno DiFabio &mdash will take to the kitchen of one of the most prestigious dining establishments in the country.

On June 8, López, the Executive Chef at The Village Tavern in Ridgefield, Connecticut, will join Tavern owner and six-time world pizza champion DiFabio for a five course meal tasting and wine pairing at New York City's James Beard House, the former residence of the famed cookbook author and teacher. And, with only 200 of these dinners hosted each year by the facility and its adjoining James Beard Foundation, all by invitation only, López is fully aware of the magnitude of the event.

"This would probably be the best thing that's ever happened to me as a chef," said López on receiving the invitation to cook for JBH. "I'm very grateful and very thankful to God and to the DiFabio family to be here and express myself in the way of cooking."

According to DiFabio, receiving such recognition signifies a high level of achievement.

"I've won cooking competitions around the world, but James Beard is synonymous with being the top of the top, and it's invitation only, so for that to happen was pretty impressive."

Open for just two years, The Village Tavern has featured López's "New American"-style cooking for half that time. Shortly after López debuted a new menu at the eatery, DiFabio recalls an unassuming guest dropping by for what turned out to be a fateful encounter, one that secured their spot at the James Beard House.

"A gentleman came in right after chef introduced a new menu at The Village Tavern. I don't even remember his name, but he was completely blown away," said DiFabio. "He came in by himself, paid his bill quietly and he left his credentials. And we were stunned. It was pretty amazing."

With an infusion of flavors inspired by locales far flung and next door, it's easy to see how López's cooking earned him a place in the kitchen of the James Beard House: in short, it aims to please. Describing his cuisine as a "mutt," López said it is ultimately indicative of the melting pot that is American culture.

"I call my cooking 'mutt' cooking because I use Italian, French influences with fresh produce. the main goal is to please the American palate," he explained. "That's what I try to do. Because that's where I live &mdash the best country in the world."

López says his drive for creating tasty dishes wasn't always prevalent. Growing up in a poor neighborhood in Guatemala, cooking was more about function that it was about flavor.

"Back where I come from, you had to learn how to cook. You didn't have anybody cooking for you if you grew up in a poor neighborhood, which was the case for me," he said. "I think when I came to this country and I was exposed to beautiful food and incredible people, that's when I developed my passion for that."

Now set to make his debut at the James Beard House, López's passion has developed into a purpose, one, he says, that motivates him every day to be the best chef he can be.

"For me, cooking was always a way of living for me and my family," he offered. "That's probably why I'm very good at it, because there's a reason behind it. There's a reason behind my passion. And that reason is my family."

For DiFabio, who also owns Ridgefield's Romolo Gastro-Pizza, his arrival to the James Beard House poses a mix of emotions excitement over the recognition of his hard work, accompanied by the gravity of such a prestigious honor.

"We have a pretty good reputation and it's definitely chef-driven and chef-forward, so I'm not surprised," he said. "I am however, nervous. It's going to be a nerve-wracking day. We're going to be cooking for so many dignitaries I'm sure in the wine and the food business that attend and embrace the foundation."

What will the duo prepare for their distinguished guests? The five course meal will take diners on a tour of López's signature cooking style, serving up everything from hors d'oeuvres of tuna tartare and braised pork, to dinner ensembles of Spanish octopus and 'sopa de mariscos' (seafood soup).

López and DiFabio won't just be cooking for the who's who of the culinary world, however. The event offers first-come-first-served reservations for both members and non-members of the James Beard Foundation, with prices for the event ranging from $135 to $175 per person, respectively, for the 80-person affair.

Despite the nerves, the excitement and the preparation, DiFabio is ready to take up his position in the kitchen alongside his executive chef because he knows the significance of the moment far surpasses any of the emotions he's felt thus far.

"Not a lot of chefs can say that they've been invited to cook at James Beard," he said. "It's such an honor."

Chicago grabs James Beard 'food Oscars' ceremony from New York

The James Beard Foundation Awards, considered the Oscars of the American restaurant scene, is moving its 25th anniversary ceremony to Chicago in 2015. It will be held at the Civic Opera House May 4 and would be the first time the ceremony is hosted outside New York since the awards' inception in 1990. Mayor Rahm Emanuel made the announcement Tuesday morning at Pritzker Pavilion.

"People . come from all over the country, all over the world to the city of Chicago to enjoy what you do with the canvas of a beautiful meal," Emanuel said to the group of chefs joining him on Pritzker's stage. "We've reached a milestone, through your years of work, in putting Chicago on the world stage as a culinary capital and a culinary destination."

The Beard Awards are a major get for the city, allowing Chicago restaurants to showcase for the country's top chefs, restaurateurs and food journalists that attend the event. It's the closest the food world has to a star-studded Hollywood gala: This year's Beard Awards at New York's Lincoln Center drew 1,700 people, and included presenters Martha Stewart, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson from hip-hop group The Roots.

(This reporter is a voting member of the James Beard Foundation.)

"The incredible passion and enthusiasm of Mayor Rahm Emanuel in wanting to host our foundation in Chicago was ultimately irresistible," said Susan Ungaro, the president of the James Beard Foundation.

Ungaro said the foundation was first approached by Choose Chicago CEO Don Welsh, the city's tourism and conventions salesman-in-chief. Conversations heated up three to four months ago among Choose Chicago, the mayor's office and the Illinois Restaurant Association. Ungaro said the agreement was made official about two weeks ago.

"When the mayor put his goal of 55 million visitors, we looked at all the segments that come to Chicago the convention-goers, the weekend trip from Indianapolis and the one common denominator was food," Welsh said. "The mayor saw (The Beard Awards') overarching benefits to the city, and was very clear to Sam Toia (president of the Illinois Restaurant Association) and myself to 'go and get it.'"

While the ceremony will be held here next year, locations for 2016 and beyond are unknown.

A James Beard Award is a distinction that places local restaurants on the national map. Previous Chicago winners for outstanding chef, tantamount to being named national chef of the year, include Rick Bayless, Charlie Trotter, Grant Achatz and Paul Kahan.

"All restaurants (in Chicago) will benefit. They'll get to mingle and mix with the culinary elite of America," said Alinea chef Grant Achatz, who won the Beard's outstanding chef award in 2008. "More broadly, there's always been that second city mentality. The more acclaim our city can get not just a single restaurant, but the validity we can get as a group of restaurants that will really empower Chicago's chefs and restaurateurs."

A handful of Chicago names were winners at this year's awards. Dave Beran of Next was named best chef in the Great Lakes region, and Jimmy Bannos Jr. of The Purple Pig was a co-winner for rising star chef, awarded to cooks under 30. Lawton Stanley Architects won outstanding restaurant design (75 seats and under) for their work on the West Loop restaurant Grace. In the journalism and book awards, Jacquy Pfeiffer of The French Pastry School (with co-author Martha Rose Shulman) won the baking and dessert book award for "The Art of French Pastry."

James Beard was perhaps America's first food celebrity, a cookbook author and educator who made haute cuisine accessible to the masses. In 1946 he hosted an NBC show called "I Love to Eat," widely regarded as the first home cooking show on television. Beard would form a cooking school in 1955 and continued writing recipe books credited with 27 during his lifetime until his death in 1985 at age 81. The James Beard Foundation, a nonprofit, was founded in New York in 1986.

Ungaro would not elaborate whether the city offered any financial incentives that ultimately lured the awards from New York, only that the city of Chicago made "a compelling offer in terms of sponsorships and marketing."

Welsh said the event will be funded entirely through corporate sponsorship, and that "not one dollar of public money will be used for this event." HMS Host and Mariano's have signed on as the first two sponsors.

Despite the awards gala relocating to Chicago (Ungaro said no decision has been made about host cities beyond 2015), the foundation's journalism, broadcast and book awards will remain in New York next year. Ungaro said it was easier for attendees of that ceremony to travel 60 percent of those who attend the journalism, broadcast and book awards reside in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut. For the chefs gala, two-thirds of attendees come from outside the New York tri-state area.

Jacques Pepin

Jacques Pépin is world renowned as the host of his acclaimed and popular cooking programs on public television, and as a prolific author, respected instructor, and gifted artist. Recently, Pépin was awarded the highest honor by the French Government and holds the title of CHEVALIER DE L'ORDRE NATIONAL DE LA LEGION D'HONNEUR. Pépin is the host of many popular public television programs, including his latest series Jacques Pépin: More Fast Food My Way, premiering in October, 2008. Featuring recipes for fast, healthy meals, this will be the twelfth series hosted by Pépin and produced by KQED Public Media in San Francisco. His memoir, The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen, was published by Houghton Mifflin in 2003 and in paperback in May, 2004. Pépin’s most recent book, published by Stewart Tabori & Chang in April 2007, is a visual biography, Chez Jacques: Traditions and Rituals of a Cook. He is also a proud grandfather of his daughter Claudine’s first child, Shorey.

Pépin was born in Bourg-en-Bresse, near Lyon. His first exposure to cooking was as a child in his parents' restaurant, Le Pelican. At age thirteen, he began his formal apprenticeship at the distinguished Grand Hotel de L’Europe in his hometown. He subsequently worked in Paris, training under Lucien Diat at the Plaza Athénée. From 1956 to 1958, Pépin was the personal chef to three French heads of state, including Charles de Gaulle.

Moving to the United States in 1959, Pépin worked first at New York's historic Le Pavillon restaurant, then served for ten years as director of research and new development for the Howard Johnson Company, a position that taught him about mass production, marketing, food chemistry, and American food tastes. He studied at Columbia University during this period, ultimately earning an M.A. degree in 18th-century French literature in 1972. In 1997, on the 50th anniversary of the creation of the School of General Studies at Columbia, Pépin was honored with four other distinguished alumni of the School, each representing a different decade in its history.

Pépin shared the spotlight with Julia Child in an earlier PBS-TV series that still is shown occasionally on public television stations. This twenty-two show series, Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, was the winner of The James Beard Foundation’s Award for Best National Cooking Show—2001, and the duo received a 2001 Daytime Emmy Award from The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. There is a companion cookbook to the series he did with Child and also to two earlier public television series he co-hosted with his daughter, Jacques Pépin’s Kitchen: Encore with Claudine (1998) and Jacques Pépin’s Kitchen: Cooking with Claudine (1998).

A former columnist for The New York Times, Pépin writes a quarterly column for Food & Wine. He also participates regularly in that magazine’s prestigious Food & Wine Classic in Aspen and at other culinary festivals and fund-raising events worldwide. In addition, he is a popular guest on such commercial TV programs as The Late Show with David Letterman, The Today Show, and Good Morning America.

Pépin is the recipient of three of the French government’s highest honors: he is a Chevalier de L’Ordre National de la Legion d’ Honneur, Chevalier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (1997) and a Chevalier de L’Ordre du Mérite Agricole (1992). The Dean of Special Programs at The French Culinary Institute (New York), he also is an adjunct faculty member at Boston University. He is a founder of The American Institute of Wine and Food, a member of the International Association of Cooking Professionals, and is on the board of trustees of James Beard Foundation. He and his wife, Gloria, live in Madison, Connecticut.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thu Jun 25, 2009

Evictee (NBC's "I'm A Celebrity… Get Me out of Here!")
Congratulations to Lou Diamond Phillips, the crowned King of the Jungle! Torrie Wilson & John Salley were the final celebrities to be eliminated. Each celebrity contestant was handpicked for their mental and physical toughness. Capsule bios are below, with full biographies available on NBC Media Village.

Owner/Executive Chef of Centrico & Paladar – Food Network Personality - The son of celebrated Mexican cooking authority Zarela Martinez, Aarón’s passion, commitment and skills have placed him among the country’s leading contemporary Latin Chefs. Aarón began his career with the Food Network as co-host of Melting Pot, where he introduced a national audience to his technique and creativity with contemporary interpretations of classic Latino cuisine. Today Aarón appears on multiple Food Network shows including Chopped, Best Thing I Ever Ate, Iron Chef, Next Iron Chef, Throwdown w/ Bobby Flay, Food Detectives and more. Aarón is the owner and executive chef of Paladar and Centrico restaurants, both located in New York City. He also was a co-developer of the eatery Mixx, a part of the Borgata Hotel and Spa in Atlantic City. In February 2001, Aarón teamed up with Eamon Furlong to open Paladar, a pan-Latin inspiration on the Lower East Side. Funky but chic, Paladar incorporates the vibrant energy of the neighborhood with the relaxed intimacy and warmth of a Cuban Paladar. In its first year, Paladar won Time Out New York’s 2001 Award for Best New Lower East Side Restaurant and Best Latin American Restaurant in their 2002 Eating and Drinking Guide. In 2004, Aarón opened up Centrico with renowned restaurateur Drew Nieporent of the Myriad Restaurant Group (Nobu, Tribeca Grill, etc.). With the new restaurant, Aarón goes back to his roots to cook the Mexican food of his childhood with a fresh interpretation. In 2005 Aarón was named one of People and People En Espanol’s (the country’s #1 Latin Magazine) 50 Most Beautiful People. The same year he was also nominated as the “Rising Star Chef of the Year” by the James Beard Foundation. In addition to being a world-class chef and Food Network personality, Aarón is also a consultant, spokesperson and author. His first book, La Comida del Barrio, including recipes and photographs by Emmanuel Bastien, was published in May 2003. Aarón makes international appearances conducting cooking demos and speaking, where her shares his knowledge and passion for cooking and Latin cuisine/culture with thousands of admirers throughout the year.

Bridlewood Winery
Our Bridlewood Estate Winery, on a hillside in the heart of Santa Barbara County wine country, is a place apart, completely dedicated to the pleasures of wine - and serious about Syrah. The Mission Style Winery, Tasting Room, and Visitor Center echo the traditions of California's past with long, cool verandas surrounding a stone courtyard graced by the sound of fountains splashing in the sun. In the Tasting Room Bridlewood offers a broad range of carefully crafted wines that demonstrate the creative commitment of our winemaker, David Hopkins, as he follows the flavor of great grapes from vineyard to vineyard throughout the Central Coast. If you are serious about Syrah, or if you simply seek the best of everything in the wine country lifestyle, Bridlewood welcomes you.

Chef Heather Gardea VP F B/Executive Chef Coco's and Carrow's Restaurants
It all began back in 1948, with one little restaurant along Pacific Coast Highway in Orange County, California. Today, there are over 110 Coco's Bakery Restaurants in the Western United States including California, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado. We believe we can attribute our success to some very basic but important principles that we've never veered from. First, when you define yourself as being in the "Family Dining Category" as we have, then you'd better make sure you provide families with not just exceptional food, but exceptional value. Second, you have to remember that customers are more than just folks who come in for a meal. They're our special guests, and should be treated as such. And so our team members understand that since our guests make our business what it is, that they should always be made to feel at home. Third, we decided a long time ago to be more than just a restaurant. We are a bakery, too, just like it says in our name: "Coco's Bakery Restaurant." So in addition to creating many signature entrée items, we pride ourselves on delivering the tastiest, most mouth-watering freshly baked pies, cakes, muffins, cookies, biscuits and more. Being a bakery allows us to provide things other restaurants in our category simply can't, and it's become an important trademark of Coco's. From the magic of our holiday pies, right down to our baskets of freshly baked bread, we believe our bakery makes us special. Our current menu embraces today's emerging food trends with creative and diverse offerings as well as traditional favorites, and in the near future we'll be introducing many new innovative selections as well. For breakfast, lunch or at dinnertime, there are always many exceptional choices at Coco's. (Some restaurants even feature an Espresso Bar with a fine selection of Espresso, Cappuccino and Cafe Latte.) For more than 55 years, Coco's has had the privilege of serving guests. We look forward to serving you for the next 55 years and beyond, continuing to grow our reputation as that "Warm and cozy little place with the nice people and those amazing pies

STEPHEN BALDWIN is the youngest of the acting Baldwin brothers and his multi-faceted talents extend to include films, television, books, radio and more. His diverse film credits span more than 60 films and include key roles in everything from “The Usual Suspects” to “Bio-Dome.” Among his television credits include “The Young Riders,” “Fear Factor” and the seventh season of NBC’s hit “The Celebrity Apprentice,” where he placed fifth. He has his own production company that develops projects for both television and film and he also serves as the co-host of a nationally syndicated radio show “Xtreme Radio with Stephen Baldwin and Kevin McCullough.” It is his current role as director, co-producer and founder of the Global Breakthrough Ministry that is bringing out his passion for reaching today’s youth with a positive faith–based message. He will be playing for the charity, Love 146.

PATTI BLAGOJEVICH, the wife of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and daughter of a Chicago alderman, is a licensed real estate broker and appraiser who owns her own real estate company. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in economics. She and her husband have two daughters, ages 12 and 6. She will be playing for Children’s Cancer Center.

LOU DIAMOND PHILLIPS is a versatile talent who has had success in feature films, television and theater as an actor, director, writer and producer. He first gained widespread attention starring as Richie Valens in “La Bamba” and solidified his reputation in “Stand and Deliver,” for which he received a Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe nomination and a Best Supporting Actor Independent Spirit Award. His vast resume of features includes roles in such films as “Courage Under Fire,” “Supernova,” “Hollywood Homicide,” “Young Guns I and II,” “The Big Hit,” “Brokedown Palace” and “El Cortez.” On stage, Phillips has appeared in numerous productions and earned a Tony nomination for Best Actor for his performance as the King of Siam in the Broadway production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “The King and I.” He can next be seen on the Sci-Fi series “Stargate: Universe” and continues to appear on “Numb3ers.” He will be playing for the charity, Art Has Heart.

JANICE DICKINSON is a successful model who has graced the covers of every major fashion magazine from Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar and Cosmopolitan to the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and Playboy. She has also walked the runways in Milan, Paris, and New York, wearing the clothes of Versace, Armani, Calvin Klein and many others. Through “The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency,” the Oxygen Network's most-watched docudrama, she has also fulfilled a lifelong dream to open her own agency representing ethnically diverse, cutting-edge talent while demonstrating her ability to balance life as a businesswoman, mentor, and mother. She will be playing for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation.

FRANCES CALLIER and ANGELA V. SHELTON are better known as the comedy duo Frangela. Real-life best friends, they each have an array of television and film credits. Together they have appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” where they were dubbed as “America’s funniest people,” and were featured in the hit film “He’s Just Not That Into You.” Callier has appeared in “My Name Is Earl,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and is also a fan favorite as Hanna Montana’s bodyguard Roxie, on Disney’s “Hannah Montana.” Shelton has hosted the regional Emmy Award-winning PBS series, “The Cheap Show” and has television credits that include “Grounded for Life,” “Significant Others” and “Mr. Show.” They are regular pop cultural pundits on NBC’s “Today” show and “Dateline NBC,” “The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet,” “Showbiz Today” and on “Headline News,” “Red Eye,” “The Big Story” and “The Big Debate.” They are also regular contributors to NPR’s “Day to Day” and “Off Ramp.” Together, the duo host their own Los Angeles radio show, “The Week According to Frangela” and fill in for the nationally syndicated radio talk show “Stephanie Miller.” They have co-authored a book called “Frangela’s Friendship Handbook.“ Callier will be playing for Feeding America while Shelton’s charity is Covenant House of California.

SANJAYA MALAKAR took the world by storm and gained national attention during the sixth season of “American Idol” when “Sanjaya” became one of the most recognizable “Idol” contestants in the history of the show. Earlier this year, Malakar released the autobiography, “Dancing to the Music in My Head: Memoirs of the People’s Idol,” which details his experience with the show. His debut EP, also titled “Dancing to the Music in My Head,” was released the same day as his book. He will be playing for the Shriner’s Hospital for Children.

HEIDI PRATT (formerly Montag) is on her fifth season of MTV’s popular reality show “The Hills.” In addition to her career in television, Pratt is a musician, fashion designer, aspiring actress and president of her own music label, Heidi Montag Records. Last year, she debuted her fashion line, Heidiwood, and plans to release another line later this year. She recently married her manager and “The Hills” co-star, Spencer Pratt, who will be joining her in the jungle. She will be playing for the charity, Feed the Children.

SPENCER PRATT is best known to audiences for his performance on the popular reality series “The Hills.” Recently married to his co-star Heidi Mongtag, who also will be participating in the show, he has used his celebrity and talents to further develop his career as an entrepreneur. In addition to his executive role on “The Princes of Malibu,” Pratt is an accomplished music producer and president of Innovator Management, a management company with clients that include his wife and MMA superstar Kevin Casey. He will be playing for the American Red Cross.

JOHN SALLEY is a 15-year NBA veteran and was the first NBA player to win four championships with three different teams that included the Detroit Pistons, the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers. He has been featured in numerous feature films and television shows, including a seven-year stint as host of the Emmy Award-nominated “The Best Damn Sports Show Period.” He has had his own radio morning show, “The John Salley Block Party” which aired in Los Angeles and he also runs his own production company, Black Folk Entertainment, that has numerous television and film projects currently on the slate. Along with his brother Jerry, they head the Salley Foundation, which is involved with several important causes including raising awareness to the AIDS pandemic by working in conjunction with VH1 and the Global Fund, Operation Smile and PETA. He will be playing for Cedars Sinai Medical Center.

TORRIE WILSON started her career as a fitness competitor, model and actress before she was scouted and hired by World Championship Wrestling (WCW). Wilson made her WWE debut in June 2001 and over a career in the ring that spanned nine years, became one of the most popular “Divas” -- competing in numerous WWE Raw and SmackDown matches. She has graced the cover of Playboy twice and was included in FHM ‘s � Sexiest Women in the World” list. Wilson has branched outside the ring with her official clothing line “Officially Jaded” and retail store “Jaded,” which she started along with former WWE wrestler Nick Mitchell. She will be playing for the Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust.