By Lisa Cericola Posted April 7, 2011, 9:00 AM EDT
On Tuesday night, Food & Wine magazine celebrated its latest crop of Best New Chefs at Bohemian National Hall, taking over four floors of the venue for its annual party. About 500 guests queued up for small plates by four New York-based alumni chefs: Tom Colicchio of Craft, Missy Robbins of A Voce, Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern, and Jonathan Benno of Lincoln. Rocco DiSpirito (currently restaurantless, but promoting his new book Now Eat This!) and Top Chef season seven winner Kevin Sbraga also had their own stations.
Food & Wine promotion manager Shanette Vega White, who produced the event, described the look as “neo-Renaissance-meets-modern design,” saying that the building inspired the event's decor. “The architecture and detail of this facade are quite amazing from the moment you walk in,” she said.
“Every wall in the lobby is covered in frosted white glass panels and bold blue hallways with oversize text in both Czech and English, creating an amazing visual contrast,” White said. “The red accents in [the building's] logo behind the bright yellow security desk and award-winning spiral staircase were all inspiration for this year's invitation and event signage.”
The magazine's associate design director, Seton Rossini, created vintage-inspired illustrations of cooking utensils and updated them with halftone patterns for a modern, dotted look. Her designs were turned into lighting projections and oversize decals, which dressed up stairways and walls. The rest of the event's decor, by Matthew Robbins Design, was kept simple, with sleek white lounge furniture and spring flowers dressing up bars and food stations.
In the fourth-floor grand ballroom, five chefs served small plates from glossy white stations. Colicchio made a spice roasted duck with leek and black bread pudding. Benno went with a similarly composed dish, olive-oil-poached tuna with a salad of chickpeas, celery, and mint. Anthony made an elegant hors d'oeuvre of mussels on the half shell with a crispy chip called “mussels, chips, and dip.” DiSpirito went casual, with fried chicken carnitas on wooden skewers, and Sbraga, stationed on the upper balcony, went high-end, with small cups of foie gras soup with pickled onions, rose petals, and pears. Robbins's taleggio fonduta with roasted spring onions and semolina bread, a fancified cheese dip, seemed to be the hit of the night among guests.
As in past years, organizers used surprise entertainment to capture the crowd's attention before the award ceremony. At about 8:15, several people stationed on the main floor and balcony were hit with spotlights as they started singing from the opera Carmen and transitioned into a style called “hipopera,” with a hip-hop beat and lyrics written by Food & Wine staffers. Editor in chief Dana Cowin and vice president and publisher Christina Grdovic introduced this year's crop of chefs, including local winners George Mendes of Aldea and Carlo Mirarchi of Roberta's Pizza in Brooklyn.