Hyde Park, New York really is as beautiful as they say it is. Even with the trees stripped bare against those bald, russet hills in winter, the Hudson River Valley is breathtaking.
To Greystone I’ve been twice, but never to The Culinary Institute of America (CIA). So, when I was asked to photograph the Bocuse d’Or USA competition there in late January, I didn’t think twice.
But I couldn’t go all the way to Hyde Park without enjoying the city too. So, I bookended the Bocuse with meals up and down the Manhattan grid. And boy, did I have a good time.
And then to Chicago I went, to catch up with some friends, at tables old and new.
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A year comes full circle.
Last January, I walked into the Paul Bocuse Hall in Lyon, a lucky spectator, to watch James Kent, his coach, Gavin Kaysen, and his commis, Tom Allan, compete on behalf of the United States for the Bocuse d’Or. A starry host of America’s finest chefs traveled to France to cheer them on.
This January, I entered the recreation center at the CIA as the official photographer for the Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation, happy to find that same group of toques reassembled, ready to select a new candidate to represent our country in 2013 (the Bocuse d’Or competition is held every other year).
To increase awareness of the Bocuse d’Or among young cooks, this year, a Commis Competition (open to cooks ages 23 to 27) was added to the competition weekend. Unlike the Bocuse d’Or competition held on the second day, where competitors would be required to cook and present both a fish and meat plate, the competitors in this first annual “mini Bocuse” only had to cook and plate their version of one, predetermined dish for the judges. This year, the hall filled with the whetting smell of vinegar, as the four Commis competitors reduced the sauces for their version of poulet au vinaigre (chicken with vinegar sauce). Rose Weiss, a culinary extern at Gramercy Tavern and student at the International Culinary Center in New York City, took first place, winning a three-month paid apprenticeship at a Michelin three-starred restaurant of her choice in France.
On the second day, whole cod and whole chickens were given to the four chefs competing for this year’s Bocuse d’Or USA title. After five and a half hours of cooking, Richard Rosendale’s versions were judged the best. So, he, a veteran of the culinary competition circuit and the executive chef of the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, will go to the Bocuse d’Or competition next January with his commis, Corey Siegel, and coach, Gavin Kaysen, with the hope of becoming the first American to make it to the podium in Lyon.
You will find most of the photos I took at the competition in a gallery on my website.
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The first night of the competition weekend, at a dinner hosted at the CIA’s student-run Escoffier Restaurant for the Bocuse d’Or culinary council and competitors, I snuck away from the table between courses to watch the students in the kitchen through a stunning, brick arch window in the lounge. During one of these mid-meal breaks, Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, and Jerome Bocuse went into the kitchen to thank the students for their work. The look on those students’ faces when the chefs walked in was priceless.
Beyond having the honor and privilege of photographing the Bocuse d’Or USA competition, what I valued most about my weekend at the CIA was being reminded of youthful aspiration. There are few sights more endearing than the young with their heroes. The campus swarmed with bright-eyed hopefuls, lining up to get their books signed, to have their photos taken, and the chance to thank those who paved the way for them.
The weekend ended with a gala under the beautiful, vaulted canopy of Farquharson Hall. A few of the culinary council members cooked, including George Mendes, who made bacalao with smoked chickpeas and sofrito, and Shaun Hergatt, who made a delicious barlotto (barley risotto) with truffles.
At the far end of the hall, there was an unforgettable parade of pastries by the talented Francisco Migoya: boozy babas (my favorite), jars of marshmallow knots in cocktail flavors (gin and grapefruit!), canelés, a half dozen different macarons (chestnut! goat cheese!), éclairs, opera cakes on sticks, a phalanx of chocolate bon bons, just to name a few.
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New York is the city that never sleeps, and I am its happy attendant, eager to eat its every hour.
I went to Dominique Ansel’s new bakery in SoHo for kouign amann and canelé (formerly the pastry chef at Daniel). But it was his éclair and dark caramel tart that impressed me when I got there. I highly recommend them.
Macarons beckoned me to the new Ladurée on the Upper East Side, where they were celebrating the company’s sesquicentennial with a new line of “Incroyables.” They aren’t so incroyable if you ask me. These macarons are piped with marshmallow fluff, rendering the centers sticky and chewy, everything a macaron shouldn’t be. But the regular macarons I sampled were pretty incroyable, even if my favorite flavor, the réglisse, remains in exile.
Speaking of macarons, I spent an afternoon in the kitchen at The Modern with pastry chef Marc Aumont, making curiously green ones. We piped the meringue cookies with a dark chocolate-pistachio ganache infused with lemongrass. They were awesome. Sufficiently pumped with sugar, I sprinted home, showered, changed, and sprinted back for dinner in the dining room with friends. At the end, chef Aumont presented us with a mountain of the macarons we made earlier. That was a fun day.
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Gramercy Tavern was packed on a Monday night. We were glad to see chef Michael Anthony back in good health, after having open-heart surgery late last year. Have you had his smoked trout? You should have his smoked trout.
On the Upper West Side, I went to John Fraser’s Dovetail.
Down in the East Village, I went to Torrisi Italian Specialties.
At Eataly, I dropped a small ransom; my first and second visits.
I stopped in at le Bernardin for a snack, just to see the new interior. My, what an improvement.
On the corner of 28th and Broadway, I took a hardhat tour of Daniel Humm’s upcoming restaurant in the NoMad Hotel. We went downstairs into the kitchen, lined with shiny subway tile, and upstairs to some of the finished rooms designed by Jacques Garcia, rich with textures and colors, claw foot tubs, and velvet screens. I want those wood floors in my house, that crown molding on my ceiling. It’s a Parisian throwback, and it’s going to be a looker.
I had breakfast at Maialino, lunch at Boulud Sud, and a late-night glass of wine with friends at Master Sommelier Laura Maniec’s new wine bar, Corkbuzz (not in that order, and not all on the same day).
And, I had an epic, five-hour lunch at Eleven Madison Park with my friends the Wizard of Roz and Mr. RBI, which left me scrambling uptown at six o’clock for a home-cooked dinner. I arrived at my friend Alessio’s place just in time to watch him slice into a terrine of foie gras and dump two trays of sea urchin into a pot of pasta. His wife Lucille popped open a bottle of something older than I, and our friend Jessica arrived with a chocolate soufflé cake topped with liquored cherries. I tell you, those concert musicians know how to eat. Miraculously, I found room for two plates of pasta and more.
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Lunch at Jean Georges, dinner at Charlie Trotter’s kitchen table, with a nap in first class in between: That was a good day.
The city of my college years extends a familiar welcome that no other can. It’s my home away from home. So, after a week of averaging three hours of sleep a night in New York, I relished the opportunity to sleep in and sleep often; to catch up in Chicago.
In between naps, I went downtown for tortas at xoco and noodles at The Slurping Turtle. In the West Loop I got a peek inside Curtis Duffy’s upcoming Grace.
I am fascinated by hipsters. So, I went to Logan Square on hipster safari, where I found hipsters and highchairs at Lula Café, and hipsters in plaid – a whole bar full of them – at Longman & Eagle, five deep, tickling each other with their mustaches. And just up Kedzie Avenue, I ate at Matthias Merges’s yusho, perched high at his bar. Beware the dismount, it’s a far ways down. But, truly I tell you, it was one of the most rewarding meals I’ve had in a long time.
I wrapped the trip up at The Purple Pig, an unusually quiet dinner on Super Bowl Sunday. Afterward, I went night shooting in Lincoln Park, just the moon, the crackling, crisp air, and me. I do miss those Chicago winters.
When I write about the following restaurants, you’ll find the links here:
Longman & Eagle
Purple Pig, The
Slurping Turtle, The
Photos: Bocuse d’Or Culinary Council members at judges’ table: Barbara Lynch, William Bradley, Alan Wong, Roland Passot, and Scott Boswell, Hyde Park, New York; the Bocuse d’Or Culinary Council and Board of Members at the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, New York; Richard Rosendale, winner of the 2012 Bocuse d’Or USA competition, The Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, New York; The Modern pastry kitchen, New York, New York; Torrisi Italian Specialties, New York, New York; Lincoln Park at midnight, Chicago, Illinois.
* A special thanks to: Monica Bhambhani, Lucas Watkins, Chris Hultman, Alessio Bax and Lucille Chung, John Balz and Erica Simmons, Gavin Kaysen, Curtis Duffy, Matthias Merges, Michael Muser, Gabe Ulla, Matt Duckor, The Wizard of Roz and Mr. RBI, George Mendes, James Kent, Mike Castillo and Teresa Aguilera, Shawn Gawle, Mark Welker, Graham Elliot Bowles, and Marc Aumont.