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Food & Wine anointed the next generation of culinary talent at its Best New Chefs party on April 1 at Powerhouse in the American Museum of Natural History. Editor in chief Dana Cowin had named the chefs earlier in the day in an of-the-moment way: through selfies with the honorees that she posted to Twitter.
Social media also influenced the event design. “We had an extremely long and cold winter, and all I could think about was a color palette that was fresh and bright with a splash of funk,” said Food & Wine senior brand marketing manager Shanette Vega, who planned the event. “Social media has popularized street art on a global scale and that was a huge inspiration for me. Walking the streets of New York and seeing beautiful murals … painted on walls of unoccupied office spaces made me want to do something less formal and more irreverent this year.”
That included a graffiti-inspired graphics in hot pink, bright yellow, and turquoise on a black and white background. The venue, which changes every year, supported Vega's vision.
“[Its] architectural features provide the perfect canvas to do unexpected design elements,” she said, such as a custom typography treatment layered over the main staircase in place of a traditional red carpet and a black and white, L-shaped press wall that stretched to the ceiling.
Another eye-catching element was a 60-foot portrait installation along a long hallway leading into the main event space that featured previous Best New Chef winners. Cowin told BizBash it was one of her favorite parts of the design.
“Every year we think about how to make it fresh,” Cowin said. “I love celebrating the talent that is Best New Chefs. I love the idea that it's the launch of our relationship.”
The 12 honorees, while dressed in white chefs coats, were not there to cook. Instead, there were stations from six featured chefs: Best New Chef alumni Tom Colicchio, Paul Liebrandt, Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi, Alex Stupak, and Jamie Bissonnette, as well as Top Chef season 11 winner Nicholas Elmi. Additional catering came from Melissa Perotti for Catering by Restaurant Associates.
About 500 people ate and drank their way through the event, which had wine pairings from sponsor Sonoma County Vintners at each station as well as a four-sided bar that included offerings from sponsor Stella Artois. Singer Giovanni James and DJ Kiss entertained the crowd.
This year's honorees included just two hometown chefs: Joe Ogrodnek and Walker Stern of Dover in Brooklyn. The geographically broad list included three from Texas, the most of any state, and two from California.