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NEW YORK Since its inception in 1985, the annual Citymeals-on-Wheels Chef's Tribute benefit has always drawn crowds with dozens of the country's top toques assembled to create a bounty of dishes in honor of the late James Beard and the hunger relief organization he founded. Fittingly, it was this huge pool of culinary talent that the nonprofit used to commemorate the 25th year of the fund-raiser on Monday night, when names like Jonathan Waxman, Larry Forgione, and Wolfgang Puck and the dishes they had previously crafted were the basis of the event.
Dotted around Rockefeller Center's rink and its surrounding plaza, more than 40 of the event's alumni chefs gathered to recreate fare from as far back as 1985's tribute to American cooking and as recent as the last year's street food-inspired plates, for 900 gourmands.
With cooks to represent more than two decades of thematic dishes, the offerings this year were perhaps the most varied in the event's history. Alongside Jean-Georges Vongerichten's American barbecue-style lamb chops and Todd English's farm-focused toasted wild ramp corn muffin, Melissa Kelly of Primo in Rockland, Maine, relived the country fair concept of 2001 with pork belly and pickled vegetables and Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, recalled the “Tutto Italia” theme of 2006 with a potato and Parmigiano Reggiano cappuccino.
To complement the diverse cuisine, the Rockwell Group kept the design simple, choosing to add only silver-toned signage and chandeliers composed of dangling silver spoons.
The event raised approximately $681,825 for the organization.