When throwing its annual Best New Chefs event, Food & Wine magazine usually opts for a new or recently opened location. But this year's Mad Men-inspired theme drove organizers to select a classic New York institution: the Four Seasons Restaurant. About 500 guests filled the space Tuesday night, lining up for small plates from six alumni chefs, including Andrew Carmellini of Locanda Verde, Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park, Gabriel Kreuther of the Modern, and Dan Silverman of the Standard Grill.
“Stylistically, we were inspired by the glamour of the period—a time of cocktails and men in pinstriped vests, women with gorgeous tailored dresses, and an era when going to a party meant dressing up and having a ball,” said senior promotions manager Sonia Zala, who planned the event with Francesca Abbracciamento of Francesca Events while Shanette Vega White, the magazine's promotions manager, was on maternity leave. “This year’s event is our salute to that modernist glamour, to the advertising and media world that we inhabit, as well as Madison Avenue, which embodied so much of that mood. [The] modernist interior married beautifully with the design we envisioned in producing the event.”
Buffet stations were spread throughout the entire space, which kept the party circulating. Some dishes, such as Corton chef Paul Liebrant's foie gras chantilly, and Humm's smoked sturgeon sabayon with chives reflected the high-end nature of the Four Seasons. Other plates, while presented in a refined manner, had more humble roots, like Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio's crispy chicken thigh with ”Buffalo sauce,” celery puree, and nitro blue cheese; Kruether's beer-braised pork belly with turnip choucroute and ginger jus; and Carmellini's lamb meatball sliders with caprino and cucumber. The restaurant provided passed hors d'ouevres including toast rounds filled with quail eggs and caviar, spring rolls, and salmon-topped blinis. Sponsor Beringer provided six wines.
Zala said decor was purposely kept simple to let the space shine, but with a hip edge. Tansey Design Associates created fluffy feather centerpieces and orbs that adorned bars and hung above the pool. L&M Sound & Light uplit the restaurant's beaded brass curtains in pink, creating a striking effect as the thin strands rippled. As the evening went on, the lighting shifted colors, and the music changed from 1960s soul to pop and hip-hop.
At about 8 p.m., just before editor in chief Dana Cowin and vice president and publisher Christina Grdovic announced the new crop of Best New Chefs (including Missy Robbins of A Voce), a group of Vegas-style showgirls decked out in top hats and feather tails entered the pool room, summoning the crowd's attention. As they danced on the edge of the pool, Frank Sinatra's “New York, New York” morphed into Jay-Z's “Empire State of Mind,” once again blending the old with the new.