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Inside 'Food & Wine's Asian-Inspired Chef Event

By Lauren Matthews April 5, 2013, 5:33 PM EDT

Before introducing the evening’s honorees, organizers caught the attention of the crowd with a surprise performance by hip-hop violinist Damien Escobar.

Photo: Nadia Chaudhury/BizBash

Food & Wine's Best New Chefs Event
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On Tuesday evening, Food & Wine handed out its 2013 awards to recognize 11 of the country’s most notable up-and-coming chefs at Pranna, a Southeast Asian restaurant in New York’s Murray Hill neighborhood. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Best New Chefs platform, the magazine brought back some of the award series’ most high-profile winners, including Scott Conant (2004), Grant Achatz (2002), and Wylie Dufresne (2001).

Food & Wine senior brand marketing manager Shanette Vega, who oversaw the event production, said the sleek, modern design elements implemented by Congruent Creative Workshop were meant to keep the focus on the food and enhance the subtle Asian overtones already in place at the venue. Candles housed inside red hand-blown glass torchieres and stemmed clear glass votives “elevated the evening without overshadowing the culinary experience, giving the rooms a bold, seductive glow,” Vega said.

The production team utilized all 10,000 square feet of the the multilevel, multiroom restaurant, placing informative adhesive signage on the walls to help guests find their way around the space. “Overall, there were many things in place [at Pranna] that helped the production go smoother than if we had started from scratch with a raw space—for example, the lighting was dimmable and the sound was easy to set up,” Vega said. To encourage a high-energy flow, the red carpet was placed inside at the center of the party. “We created a 48-foot graphic wall that wrapped both the stage area and media wall which shared the same space with our celebrity DJ, Harley Viera Newton,” Vega said.

Around 575 guests showed up to sample the mouthwatering small plates offered by six Best New Chef alums, as well as Bravo’s Top Chef season nine winner, Paul Qui. Each chef’s station was marked with an adhesive decal of his or her name applied to the wall overhead. Five chefs set up in the downstairs area, including Michael Symon of Lola, who served yogurt cavatelli with lamb Bolognese and mint; April Bloomfield of the Spotted Pig, who served haddock fritters with curry mayo; Dan Kluger of ABC Kitchen, who offered fried chicken, braised greens, and hot-sauce butter; Paul Qui, who offered crawfish with potato, jamon, paprika, and bouillon; and—with one of the most popular dishes of the evening—Grant Achatz of Alinea, who served Wagyu short ribs with smoking cinnamon. Upstairs, Wylie Dufresne of WD-50 served popcorn soup with shrimp, and Scott Conant of Scarpetta Restaurants offered roasted rabbit with herbed spaetzle, parsnips, and mint.

Guests also took advantage of a GuppyPod photo booth, which printed custom-bordered photos taken by guests at an upstairs stationary booth, as well as guests’ Instagram shots tagged with the hashtag #BNC25. Around 8:30 p.m., before introducing the evening’s honorees, organizers caught the attention of the crowd with a performance by Emmy-winning urban violinist Damien Escobar. Then, editor in chief Dana Cowin and publisher Christina Grdovic announced this year's crop of chefs, which included Mission Chinese Food’s Danny Bowien and Empellon Cocina’s Alex Stupak.

The 2013 winners will be featured at the upcoming 31st annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Colorado, from June 14 to 16.

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