If Angeleno magazine’s Chefs Night Out event was any indication, Brad A. Johnson knows how to draw a crowd. Of course most people at the August 1 mega-event never would have recognized their anonymous “host,” an award winning restaurant critic and the Food & Travel Editor for Modern Luxury Media. Johnson rolls incognito, so it was fun to watch him skate by some of the city’s best chefs, including Bistro LQ chef-owner Laurent Quenioux, Josie chef-owner Josie LeBalch, Hatfield’s chef-owner Quinn Hatfield, LudoBites maverick Ludovic “Ludo” Lefebvre and Petrossian rising star Benjamin Bailly.
I were invited to stroll the The Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows courtyard, which has already hosted plenty of culinary firepower in 2010, beginning with March’s Star Chefs Tasting Gala and Awards Ceremony. On August 1, staffers strung the hotel’s famed 123-year-old Moreton Bay fig tree with globe lanterns for Chefs Night Out. The event benefited LA’s Best, “an after school education, enrichment and recreation program serving 28,000 children with the greatest needs and fewest resources at 180 elementary schools throughout the City of Los Angeles.”
Tables circled the courtyard, with each chef offering signature tastes. In most cases, the name chef was on-site instead of sending emissaries, which has certainly been the case at lower profile charity events. It would be tedious to recount every single taste. Instead, here are some of the highlights from Chefs Night Out, not all of them gastronomic.
Michael Voltaggio filled plastic “tulips” with creamy burrata and peach pebbles that had been treated with liquid nitrogen. They warned me to wait for the “peaches” to warm up and stop smoking. Otherwise the colder-than-ice dippin’ dots stick to your mouth. Voltaggio may have appeared intense on TV, but he clearly has a playful side, as evidenced by this dish, and his recent offering of Sweetbread McNuggets at Sashi.
Ludo dispensed heirloom tomato smoothies with squid ink vodka jelly and seaweed tartar as Spago pastry chef Sherry Yard relaxed in the background. Earlier in the day, she dispensed frozen push-ups at another culinary event across town, the 7th Annual Central Coast Wine and Food Celebration at Wally’s Wine & Spirits.
Wilshire chef Andrew Kirschner charred octopus, serving tender tentacles with summer beans, frisee and olive oil. The market driven restaurant down Wilshire Boulevard also delivered one of the event’s best desserts: an upside down peach cobbler with biscuit base and cinnamon ice cream.
Melisse chef-owner Josiah Citrin created what was probably the event’s best dish: loup de mer “en ecailles,” juicy squares of crisp-sknned bass tiled with crispy skin and submerged in a tomato, cucumber and basil broth.
Hatfield’s chef/co-owner Quinn Hatfield braised pork belly with barley, corn and carrots, plating the melting squares on streaks of vadouvan sauce, made with French curry spices he purchased at his favorite new culinary playground, Spice Station.
José Andrés latest culinary lieutenant at the The Bazaar, chef Joshua Wigham, prepared an unusual Japanese-inspired “linquini with clams,” dashi linguini with thin-sliced geoduck clam, yuzu black pepper broth and a garnish of borage, tiny purple flowers.
My final taste of the night provided the caffeinated push I needed to make it home after two straight hours of progressive gluttony. Nick Griffith and James Marcotte from Intelligentsia poured Honduras La Tortuga from farmer Fabio Cabellero and Kenya Karimikui from Rungerto Cooperative Society.