Chef Peter Kelly Celebrates his Crew at the James Beard House
Chef Peter Kelly working with his crew at the James Beard House, February 28
Here’s the moment that was the most telling at the James Beard House last Thursday, and it was not when I realized that the man whose Beard on Bread informed my youth had mirrored his bedroom ceiling and fully mirror-lined his bathroom. (Unexpectedly looking into my own eyes while seated, I realized how much I liked the old perv.) No, at the end of the evening, which included a stellar meal, there were only five gift bags to present to the lineup of the Xaviars restaurant crew, which included Chef Peter X. Kelly, Chef George DiMarsico (Xaviars at Piermont), Chef Eric Diokno (X2O), Chef James Kelly (Restaurant X and Bully Boy Bar) and Chef Philippe Scouarnec (Freelance Café & Wine Bar). Chef Peter Kelly, seeing that that Pastry Chef Milton Sinchi (of Restaurant X and Bully Boy Bar) would not receive one of the five souvenir bags, very quietly passed his bag over to him before anyone noticed.
Chef David DiBari of The Cookery celebrating at the James Beard House
There was a lot of love in the room for Chef Kelly, most notably from the Cookery’s Chef David DiBari. We literally bumped into each other in the crush of the cocktail hour, and were blown out the back door like pâté à choux through a pastry bag. As we stood in the chill, looking in at the throng from the backyard, DiBari told me a story about when he was very young and cooking at Eastchester Fish Market. DiBari’s mother had encouraged him to ask Chef Kelly for professional advice. “I was nobody,” he recalls. “I didn’t know the man. I was just some kid whose mother told him to call. And Peter sat me down in his restaurant for a solid hour and gave me advice. And, later, he found a job for me and called me when I was on the line. He said, ‘Dave, this is the one for you,’ and that was Zuppa.”
It was a well to which DiBari would return when he opened the Cookery. “I was worried about the risk, and Peter said, ‘Do it. I know the location. I know the restaurant [whose business DiBari would be buying]. It’s a good move.’” DiBari, who has cooked at the James Beard House twice, was not—like me—poking for louche remnants in bathrooms, cupboards, and upper floors. “I’m here for Peter,” he said simply (though there are rumors that he had a late Manhattan night after the dinner).
Chef James Kelly at the Beard House
But last week’s James Beard House dinner was not only about Chef Kelly or even his kitchen crew. Ned Kelly, the director of service for the entire Xaviars Restaurant Group (and head of his own flowers/home/events company, Ned Kelly & Company) manned the floor with his usual warmth and grace. And it was not an easy event. The JBH space was tight and difficult, plus, there was one challenging diner present who felt the need to unburden himself with criticisms of X2O. In my opinion, it was in bad taste to air these opinions at this event, but rather than telling this guy to stuff it, Ned Kelly graciously listened to the complaints. I found myself really admiring the teamwork between the Kelly brothers, and wondering whether I and my four brothers and sisters could work together so well. According to Ned, “When you’re working with Peter, you’re left on your own to use your talents to deliver the vision, but of course there’s always an eye over your shoulder.”
I’ll admit that I’m cynical and suspicious of all-powerful, award-granting bodies. I’m still scarred that Dances with Wolves won the Best Picture Oscar over Goodfellas in 1991. But there are times when we need the recognition of entities like the JBF, and I’m charmed that Chef Kelly chose his moment to deflect his spotlight onto his crew.
TONIGHT! Spring Food & Wine Event at 808 Bistro
March 7, 7pm
$110 per person (tax and gratuity included)
Look for a five-course pairing orchestrated between wine specialist Anthony Lamonaca and Chef/Owner Salvatore Cucullo.
Wine and Asian Tapas Party at Haiku Asian Bistro, White Plains
March 9, 7pm
$25 per person
Ex-Zuppa Wine Director Randall Restiano, back from a yearlong stint at London’s Bocca di Lupo, is now taking on a challenge: matching wines to Pan-Asian cuisine. This event will introduce Restiano’s mostly organic and biodynamic wine list to diners more accustomed to sakes and beer with their sushi, noodles, and dumplings. We took a look at Restiano’s list, and love that it’s arranged by taste profile.
Fat Tuesday at PLATES
$45 per person, plus tax and gratuity
From the site: “Mardi Gras may mean Fat Tuesday in French, but it means get your Louisiana on at PLATES! You know we talkin’ po’ boys, and gumbo, blackened and BBQ. The full menu is here and the action is hot—ragin’ Cajun style, with hurricanes and Abita beer at the bar.” For reservations: firstname.lastname@example.org or (914) 834-1244.
Killer Onion Kulcha at Mughal Palace
Who doesn’t love these onion-filled Indian breads, which are usually crisped against the walls of a tandoor oven before being drenched with ghee and showered with fresh cilantro? Here, at Valhalla’s consistently highly rated Indian, the fluffy wedges of herbal onion kulchas are perfect for digging into spice-haunted rogan josh and vindaloo. Mmm, and even better with a giant Taj Mahal to cool the heat.
Ruth Bourdain’s birthday!
The fictional mash-up of former Gourmet Editor-in-Chief Ruth Reichl and Anthony Bourdain was born on March 2010, with Reichle’s first Tweet. She/he/it is now a bona-fide Twitter phenomenon with nearly 27,000 followers (including me) who tune in for the identity’s dirty, foulmouthed (yet poetic) 140 characters. Both Ruth Reichle and Anthony Bourdain are fans, yet no one knows who originates the messages, though smart money says it’s the delightfully wicked Regina Schrambling.