Chefs and Champagne 2011

This weekend, I had the honor of participating in the James Beard Foundation's Chefs and Champagne 2011. It was held at its annual location, the Wolffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack, New York. This event is a time-honored tradition for the James Beard Foundation and I always love being a part of it.

Just the drive to the Hamptons is awe-inspiring. I love seeing all of the fields of strawberries and corn, as well as the vineyards along the highway. The people out east are also more relaxed in their dress than in the city. It's a more laid-back attitude and style.

Every year, the James Beard Foundation gives the opportunity to celebrate an individual in the world of food. Saturday's event honored the famous Emeril Lagasse for his many contributions to the food world and his dedication to educational programs that help young people partake in careers in culinary arts. Emeril is an incredible guy and chef who was among the first to bring food into people's homes through television. He also brought cooking and food in general into mainstream popularity when it was strictly an industry topic. It was a great pleasure for me to join the James Beard Foundation and my fellow chefs in honoring such an amazing man.

Another great aspect to participating in Chef and Champagne is that it gives me the opportunity to do an out-of-house community food event that's right here in New York and not across the country. The vineyard setting also adds a different element to this unique James Beard Foundation Event, since it is quite different from cooking at the Beard House. Chefs can relax a little more in this outdoor atmosphere and interact with one another in a more laid-back manner.

Events like this one reminds me that we are a community of chefs, and that the food industry is popular not because of one person but because of the community. When I attend events like this, I think about the impact that every individual has in the industry.

I had a great time, along with my wife Maya who accompanied me and helped out in my station. I also made sure to spray my fellow chefs with champagne to remind everyone to always have fun at joyous occasions such as this. The turnout was great, the food was amazing, and I enjoyed seeing all of the hats that the public wore. I can't wait for next year's event!

Check back to see my favorite dishes at the event.

Photos: Cyndi Amaya