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Why This Food Event Had a Chicken Chandelier

Play with Fire, an all-day outdoor cooking event, used large-scale sculptures as chefs' stations.

By Michele Laufik August 22, 2018, 7:16 AM EDT

Jess Shadbolt and Clare de Boer of King Restaurant prepared pane alla griglia (grilled bread) with fresh zucchini, ricotta, and basil on Perry’s “Pyramid Planca.”

Photo: Evan Sung

Most food events follow a standard format with chefs serving up samples behind tablecloth-covered stations, but only one offered up a Medieval-looking chicken chandelier.

At Play with Fire, the brainchild of James Beard award-winning chef Zak Pelaccio, chefs and bartenders embraced rustic methods with open fire and whole animal cooking techniques on Pelaccio’s Fish & Game Farm in Hudson, New York, located about two hours north of New York City.

The 170-acre property, which provides produce, poultry, and honey for its namesake restaurant in downtown Hudson, was dotted with tents, fire pits, smokers, and grills, along with dining tables.

This was the second iteration of the outdoor cooking event; the inaugural Play with Fire event was held in 2014. “I wanted to create a one-of-a-kind experience for not only the guests but all participating chefs and artisans,” said Pelaccio.

With that in mind, for this year’s gathering, held on August 11, Hudson Valley sculptor Kris Perry created and fabricated cast-iron and steel grilling apparatuses, in consultation with Pelaccio, which the chefs incorporated into their cooking. The sculptures included a large cauldron filled with a spicy broth, a grilling trident that held cauliflower, and the aforementioned chandelier decorated with chickens.

“At its most base level, Play with Fire is about connection,” said Pelaccio, who partnered with restaurant platform Resy to host the event. “Both the food and the sculptures reflect a desire to bring people together, which is an undervalued commonality between art and food.”

The lineup of chefs included Jess Shadbolt and Clare de Boer of King Restaurant, Nick Curtola, Ignacio Mattos, Victoria Blamey, Seamus Mullen, Negro Piattoni, and Sam Mason of Oddfellows, along with Elad Zvi and his crew from Broken Shaker and beverage director Yana Volfson of Cosme and ATLA. Each tent also boasted full bars featuring specialty cocktails sponsored by Ketel One.

With Play with Fire, Pelaccio, who moved to Hudson in 2011, is able to showcase the region, while reinventing the concept of a traditional food event. “The people of the Hudson Valley—the farmers, the artists, among others—are a big reason why I settled here, and bringing those I value and respect together in this idyllic space produced a truly unique experience that we hope to replicate next year.“

Proceeds from the event are donated to the Heirloom Foundation, which offers support for employees in the hospitality industry.

Check out Play with Fire's food and cooking sculptures

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