One of my most fond food memories is with my father. Because of his position in the hospitality industry, I grew up constantly mesmerized by hotels and restaurants. It became routine as a child, to make my rounds of the property, knowing exactly which staff would give me a piece of candy or cookie. My favorite place to hide was in the pastry kitchen -- of course. A magical place filled with sugar, color and delicious smells -- any child's dream. My dad came in one day as I was rolling fondant with the pastry chef; they started to discuss an upcoming dinner at the James Beard House. I must have been around eight, but my eyes lit with curiosity and my father further explained what an honor it was to be recognized by the James Beard Foundation -- that only the best of the best chefs are lauded with this achievement.
This memory stuck, as I detoured into the fashion world -- for a while, to no one's surprise, I am currently living in New York, writing about (in my opinion) the best chefs, restaurants and hotels around the world. Taste America, a recent event I attended with the James Beard Foundation, brought back this déjà vu moment. When the president of the JBF (Susan Ungaro) escorted me into the kitchen at Riverpark, my eyes lit up the same way they did when I was eight years old. The kitchen doors swung open and I was standing in front of culinary icons: Daniel Patterson, Sisha Ortúzar, Alexandra Guarnaschelli, Andrew Carmellini and Brooks Headly. This was one of those moments where you seriously need to be pinched to recognize reality. The crazy thing is, I have met a few of these chefs before, but when the whole cocktail was shaken up: Susan Ungaro, Daniel Patterson, JBF and that gorgeous setting -- I was swept away. This feature is intended to highlight the wonderful efforts of the JBF and their Taste America events -- this one named "The Artful Chef." Creating lasting culinary memories and raising awareness around the country, this 10-city tour sure did its job.
Luckily I got to chat with Daniel Patterson before I became lost for words in the kitchen. Chef/ owner of Coi restaurant in San Francisco, Daniel is not just a über talented chef but also what you could call, a culinary superhero. Balancing a family, restaurant life, book deals... and he still makes time to give back through his charity The Cooking Project. We discuss who he believes are culinary innovators and a few more of his favorite things.
EM: Being a Taste America All-Star is such an honor, how do you feel you are giving back to the community and industry with your cooking?
DP: In addition to the many ways we support our community, we have started a charity foundation called The Cooking Project.
EM: Who are a few chefs that you admire as innovators and industry leaders?
DP: Limiting myself to NYC, there are still way too many to name all of them. David Chang, Wylie Dufresne, Gabrielle Hamilton, Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, George Mendes, Carlo Mirarchi, Daniel Humm all come to mind. But there are so many others.
EM: Is there an ingredient you are currently obsessed with?
DP: We try and use ingredients at peak flavor, so I tend to fall in love with everything we're using right now, those are to me the best of what I can find.
EM: What is your favorite season for local ingredients?
DP: The one I'm in! Every season has its charms.
A portion of the proceeds from the James Beard Foundation "Artful Chef" (Taste America) was thoughtfully donated to Wellness in the Schools, an organization dedicated to promoting healthy eating, environmental awareness, and fitness as a way of life for children in public schools nationwide.