Overall consensus for last night's inaugural Chefs & Champagne event is that it didn't pack the wallop it deserved. The James Beard Foundation's annual Hampton's fete was brought west to honor and highlight LA's best chefs, and they were all there: Richard, Manzke, Myers, LeFevre, Cimarusti, Citrin, Greenspan, etc. Thing is, the JBF decided to honor Tom Colicchio, an East Coast transplant who's still considered an outsider no matter how loudly he yells "Go Lakers!" at the end of a speech. A solid but odd choice. The event still shuffled along and could have a bright future should it decide to come back. As is always the case, it's difficult to hit every table---one big gabfest, the crowd teeming with industry insiders (owners, writers, editors, publicists)---but here, some highlights and lowlights from the menu, rumor mill and more.
1) Ruffled Feathers: Local chefs were honored to be included in the event, respect Tom Colicchio as chef and restaurateur, but a general "WTF, why Colicchio" attitude wafted in the air like the scent of searing pork belly from the Spago table.
2) Three words: Suckling pig sliders. One of the best things we tasted all night. Handed a couple while standing in the Bastide garden as staffers poured delightful Champagne and pretended that everything's A-OK at the restaurant. We later heard otherwise.
3) Food trends: Lots of spring, seasonal. Fava beans, morels, pork belly and fish/shellfish in the raw. Highlights: Cimarusti's house-cured Tasmanian sea trout, Lentz's raw blue prawns with peanut sambal, and no matter what anyone says, Craft's braised rabbit tortellini totally hit it.
4) Lowlights: Dolce's vegetable timbale (bland) and Simon LA's cold fish tacos (fishy fish, pasty unheated corn torntillas), running out of Champagne glasses. Wished we had more time to hit the desserts.
5) David Myers' table: wouldn't give up any new info about the planned Italian spot for the original (now empty) Boule location. "It's all Steve [Samson]," the former Valentino chef who's been working with Myers at Sona. The two will travel to Italy this summer for inspiration and "it can all change any time."
6) Hungry Cat table: David Lentz said the fourth and wildly popular June crabfest is totally sold out (more than 400 on the books). Also confirmed: He and wife Suzanne Goin are expecting another child, which seems to be a pattern (open new restaurant/have babies) for the couple.
7) Calling all chefs: At the end of the night, each chef was called to the stage like supporting actors at a play. 98% of the names were mispronounced.
8) Spotted after partying: Colicchio and Sang Yoon joined at the hip at Comme Ca. Colicchio, quick-changed from a more formal button down shirt/jacket ensemble for a hipster hat and T-shirt, is not afraid to take his own ketchup to FO. Also, we always love seeing the Big C around these things, but he's got to start giving up Top Chef secrets or else. We don't know what. Just else.