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Young & Expert Chefs Join Up for Private Dinner in St. Croix

Young & Expert Chefs Join Up for Private Dinner in St. Croix

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Food and wine festival meal showcases talent of budding and professional chefs

Gary Klinefelter, executive chef of The Buccaneer Hotel, prepares a meal alongside St. Croix's culinary junior team of seventh and eight graders.

The jam-packed St. Guests gathered at a private home or in a restaurant to celebrate St. Croix’s culinary offerings and enjoy an exclusive meal prepared by a notable chef. Friday night saw chef Todd Gray of Washington, D.C.’s noted Equinox Restaurant preparing a private meal alongside St. Croix’s culinary junior team — a group of seventh and eighth graders selected to cook alongside Gray and his team.

“It’s nice to see children get excited about food,” Gray said before dinner officially began. The event reinforced the St. Croix Foundation’s (the beneficiary of the funds from the food festival) dedication to education. Diners could even see the budding chefs and professionals working together in the kitchen as they walked into the dining room.

This particular Fork and Cork dinner was held at St. Croix’s impressive Estate Belvedere, a classic island home perched on top of a hill with a killer view of St. Croix. The centerpiece of the estate is a former sugar mill that now serves as the home’s foyer. The view on top of the former mill — accessible by a charming winding staircase —showcases the island’s many hills and even included a map on the wall that told viewers what neighboring islands they were looking at (St. Thomas, anyone?). After sipping on a light 2012 sauvignon blanc from Murphy Goode named “The Fume” and munching on delicious tempura wahoo with an Old Bay mayo underneath a pergola on the estate, dinner attendees headed outside to the patio to dine underneath the stars. A white tablecloth, along with chairs tied with orange ribbons and silver-colored plates were such elegant decorations that it made me feel like I was at a wedding rehearsal dinner.

Our first course was an heirloom tomato Greek salad that was so beautifully presented that it looked like it was straight out of a magazine spread. The crumbled feta dusted the fresh and crisp vegetables that included island grown cucumbers as well as green and red bell peppers sprinkled with Kalamata olives. Everything was topped off with two slices of toasted pita and served with a sherry mustard vinaigrette. This course was complemented by a dry and smooth Stonestreet 2011 “Broken Road” chardonnay.

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61. The Orgasmic Chef

Australia About Blog If you need recipes and instructions for creating great dishes, check with me. Blog by Maureen. Blog
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62. Chef Eric's Culinary Classroom

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63. The Informal Chef

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64. Ergo Chef Blog

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65. Food by Florin

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70. Chef Michaels Catering

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72. The Chef in the Hat

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73. Chef Lesego's Blog lesdachef

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74. Cowgirlchef

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75. American Personal & Private Chef Institute & Association Blog

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76. Chef Tess Bakeresse

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77. Rocking Raw Chef

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79. Chef Simonetta

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80. Nina Parker

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81. Trail Appliances | CHEF BLOG

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82. Dont Ask 4 Salt

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83. GuestChef Detroit

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84. From Steph to Chef!

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85. Chef Sarawak

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86. Chef Murph's Blog | Good Food Makes for Better Decision's.

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87. The Chef Next Door

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88. Hunting Chef | Father, outdoorsman, husband and chef.

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89. Friend That Cooks Blog | In-Home Personal Chef Service

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90. Bambino Chef| Cooking Classes| Birthday Parties| New Jersey

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91. The Official Chef Michel Nischan

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92. Chef Daniel Angerer's Blog

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93. Valentich Goods

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94. ChefXChange

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95. Best Recipe

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96. The Naptime Chef

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97. The Cutting Board by Green Chef | A Culinary Blog

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98. Virginia Willis | Secrets of the Southern Table

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99. Chef and Sommelier

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100. California Chef Services » Chef's Blog

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103. Yuppiechef Magazine

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He's one of Detroit's most important chefs. It's time you knew his name.

Chef Phil Jones stirs a tray of shawarma at the Make Food Not Waste event in Detroit's Eastern Market on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. (Photo: Mark Kurlyandchik, Detroit Free Press)

On the day I meet Phil Jones to interview him for this story, he looks like he hasn’t slept in a week or so.

Jones normally towers over others thanks to a formidable 6-foot-2-inch frame, but on this recent Monday, the bleary-eyed chef is so exhausted he shrinks into the couch at the Avalon Cafe & Biscuit Bar in Detroit’s New Center.

It’s been less than 24 hours since the most challenging day of his year, the culmination of nine months of preparation and planning. The previous day, Jones orchestrated a massive operation of volunteers and community members that served 5,000 meals in six hours. For free. From scraps.

He is more than tired. His body — arthritic from head to toe — is on fire.

“Right now, it feels like I have knives in my back,” Jones says wearily. “And this is a good day.”

But at 55 years old, having spent the better part of those years on his feet behind hot stoves, Jones isn’t about to let his physical ailments prevent him from his calling: feeding the community.

“I wasn’t put here for me,” he says through the pain, his throaty voice reminiscent of Ed Love from Destination Jazz. “I’m here to help. I was always meant to cook. You can’t choose the cross that you’re supposed to bear. I’ve always made a difference with food and always related to people through food. And I think food needs me. The system needs me. You need somebody who’s going to fight, who has the wherewithal to withstand the trauma that’s going to come your way, ‘cause it’s hard. And some folks are meant to bear that. I’m that person.”

Even if you’ve never heard his name, if you’ve eaten around the city at any point since the ‘80s, it’s likely you’ve had food prepared by chef Phil Jones.

Whether it was during his early days as a line cook at the Beverly Hills Grill or the Rattlesnake Club, or after he helped open the original Fishbones in Greektown, or during the heyday of his Silver Spoon carryout restaurant in Grosse Pointe Woods, or maybe while he had the food service contract at the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House, or when he ran a stall during the old TasteFest in New Center, or while he was executive chef at Lola’s in Harmonie Park, or, later, at COLORS across the park. Or you may have tried one of the 400 recipes he developed for the fast-casual soup chain Zoup!, which still prominently features his chicken pot pie flavor, which can be had in 17 states and three locations in Canada.

“He’s such a creative person,” says Kathryn Lynch Underwood, a planner with Detroit’s City Planning Commission as well as a founding member alongside Jones of the Detroit Food Policy Council. “He’s also someone that can take different cultures and different flavors and mash them up in a very compelling way. So certainly the joy part of food is deeply who he is, but also justice. And everything he does around food is usually through a lens of justice and equity and uplifting others and congratulating and celebrating other chefs. All chefs don’t do that.”

Chef Phil Jones is the lead chef coordinator of Make Food Not Waste, an event held in Detroit's Eastern Market on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, which provided 5,000 free meals to the public made from food that would've otherwise been thrown out. (Photo: Mark Kurlyandchik, Detroit Free Press)

Indeed, across a four-decade career cooking in and around Detroit, Jones’ influence on and importance to the local food system is difficult to overstate.

“I think Chef Phil’s impact is at the ground level and permeates through all levels of the food system in a way that a lot of food system workers could never say,” says Avalon International Breads Director of Retail Operations Bekah Galang. “He works with everyone from the composters and the farmers all the way to the top tier with James Beard. . He really focuses on the ways that we’re similar and not the ways that we’re different.”

Over the last 10 years, Jones has transitioned from a restaurant chef to what he begrudgingly calls a “community chef.” A majority of his work now is pro bono and centers on food activism, whether it be educating the public on how to minimize food waste at huge events, driving community-based food policy locally behind the scenes, or calling out the racial and social inequities of the food system to the faces of its most powerful and privileged members.

“It’s important that people recognize that passion and talent and creativity have been a part of who we have always been in Detroit,” Underwood says. “And it’s not new with the New Detroit. And I think Chef Phil is a grounding force around food and food justice.”

But Jones doesn’t want anyone to forget: Chef Phil can still cook.

Make Food, Not Waste

At 10 a.m. the day before our interview, Eastern Market’s Shed 5 is abuzz with activity as the doors open to the public. It’s only the second year of Make Food, Not Waste, but the event looks and feels like a much more well-established affair, with slick signage and a smooth-running operation.

The event was an idea that environmentalist Danielle Todd wanted to bring to the city, inspired by a similar function in New York City. In 2017, she took the idea to members of the Detroit Food Policy Council, an organization that influences city policy to ensure an equitable and sustainable local food system.

The event is entirely volunteer-run and most everything is donated by organizations like Eastern Market, Cherry Capital Foods, Hungry Harvest, Keep Growing Detroit, Marx Layne & Company and Skidmore. Some 20 of Detroit’s hottest chefs participate and make dishes out of food that would otherwise go into the waste stream. Kroger is the presenting sponsor, which helps cover some of the costs that can’t be donated.

Todd and Jones liken their roles at Make Food, Not Waste to the founding members of Public Enemy.

“I’m Flava Flav, the hype man, and she’s Chuck D, the heartbeat of the work,” Jones says. “For whatever reason, I’ve kinda become the face of it. And then I yell and give good orders.”

Ten minutes after doors open, people are starting to trickle in, but the food isn’t quite ready yet.

“Bekah!” Jones calls out to Galang, who is also a volunteer and is on the Make Food, Not Waste steering committee. “Grab a towel with some bleach. Anywhere there’s water on these tables, we need to get it up.”

Chef Phil Jones hugs one of his many admirers at the Make Food Not Waste event in Detroit's Eastern Market on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. (Photo: Mark Kurlyandchik, Detroit Free Press)

Galang met Jones in 2013, when both worked for the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) in Detroit. She ran a boot camp for people who wanted to start a collaborative food business and Jones was the executive chef at COLORS, the ROC’s restaurant that doubles as a food-service training operation for folks looking to join the industry.

“He was so well-versed in what the community was going through at that time,” Galang recalls. “And he also had an ear to the ground of things that were happening nationally and internationally. He was able to keep up with the trends and what was going on on the outside, but really his heart is just in the city.”

Close to 11 a.m., publicist David Rudolph lingers in the kitchen trying to find his client, chef Max Hardy. A woman breaking down boxes asks whether he’s a volunteer.

“I’m just a friend of Chef Phil’s,” Rudolph says.

“Everyone is a friend of Chef Phil’s!” the woman says incredulously. “He’s a social butterfly. A grouchy one.”

Jones, overhearing the exchange from the other side of the kitchen, cracks a wry, knowing smile. After a minute, he announces that he’s going to sit down. He needs to get off his feet.

“He’s done so many great things before anybody was paying attention,” Rudolph says to me as Jones limps away, using a cane for support.

“He’s an institution,” Todd echoes. “I think anyone who meets him is just taken in by his warmth and his incredible culinary skill. Going above and beyond is not enough of a phrase to describe him. He can be as tired as can be and will cook for people in the community that need support. It is the depth of his love for Detroit, for the people of Detroit, for food — you just don’t come across with other people. He’s authentic. He’s meaningful. And he’s selfless. He gives and he gives and gives.”

Later, Jones asks me a favor. More of a directive, really. If I’m going to write about him and tell his story, he says I need to include the socarrat.

“The what?” I ask over the din of the crowd now enjoying the free food.

“You know, the crusty bits of the paella,” Jones says. “I get a lot of people who see this life of mine, but they don’t see the challenges. The cane is a challenge. Depression, alcoholism — all the challenges that go along with our industry. You need to tell the whole story.”

The crusty bits

Even though Detroit is home to Jones, his early years were marked by loneliness and upheaval elsewhere. As he tells it, he was born in Cleveland but only stayed for a couple of months. He didn’t know his father at all growing up and was raised by his free-spirited mother and maternal grandmother. They were in the beauty business and the little trifecta of a family unit wound up bouncing around the East Coast for the first few years of his life.

At age 3, he moved to St. Croix after his grandmother fell in love with the Caribbean island on vacation. His mother was having some issues and stayed in the U.S. and little Phil would travel back and forth.

“We were on food stamps back then,” Jones says of his early childhood. “It was hard. At least I got 15 meals a week at school. My mom was never a great cook at all so that was some of the better food I had. And I guess that’s probably why I started cooking so early. Even if I was with my mother or grandmother, they were always working. If I wanted to eat, I had to cook.”

Jones’ first cooking job came at the ripe age of 6, while living on St. Croix. He got a little booth together and sold meat patties during one of the island’s many festivals.

“Life in St. Croix was a little different,” he says. “You grow up a little faster. My first day of kindergarten they dissected a cow, basically, and they taught us how to make rice. By the end of the week, I could make a meal.”

At 8 years old, his great-grandfather on his mother’s side fell ill, prompting a move back to his mother’s native city of Detroit. Here, his grandmother became the first black woman licensed as a manicurist in the state of Michigan and ultimately opened up a line of nail salons at Northland, Fairlane and Eastland malls.

Chef Phil Jones photographed Monday, April 17, 2006, while he was executive chef and manager of Lola's restaurant in Harmonie Park. (Photo: RICHARD LEE, Detroit Free Press)

“She was actually the first woman and first black (person) to own a business in a mall in the U.S.” Jones says proudly.

Even after settling back in Michigan, the family moved around between Detroit, Oak Park and Southfield. He was always changing schools, always the new kid. Finally, in seventh grade, Jones got into the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and found some sense of stability.

But with his mother and grandmother working, Jones was alone quite a bit.

“All that alone time probably made me a little strange,” he admits. “I’m still painfully shy. I don’t go to parties. I give them because it’s easier to control. Most of the time I want to be in some sort of service capacity because it gives me an excuse. Whether it’s DJ-ing or cooking, it’s some other reason for me to be there.”

After high school, Jones was accepted to Michigan State University. Thanks to his grades and aptitude, he entered the honors college but didn’t even declare his major before giving it all up for the cook’s life. He started washing dishes at a local restaurant and graduated to the hot line, a place he’d stay for the next few decades, albeit in other restaurants.

“The cooking kind of took over with the life and the partying,” he recalls. “I started making a living. And though I had always had been given a good education — going to private schools and that — it was never the way forward because I was raised by entrepreneurs.”

Just as his cooking career was beginning in earnest, his physical health was beginning to unravel. As a young teen, Jones had experienced back problems. Doctors told him they were just growing pains, but in his early 20s, he was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

These days, it’s everywhere, even though the doctors rescinded his rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis in recent years. It doesn’t matter, he says. Everything hurts. He’s been using the cane on and off for 15 years.

“Whatever I have, it’s in my entire body,” he says. “I have days where I just shut down. I can’t walk. I can’t move. It hurts to breathe. . From June to November, I have these flare-ups and some days I have to crawl up the steps. It’s a challenge just being. Some days I lay in bed and cry, because that’s all I can do.”

And though he’s always struggled with it, he was still able to work the long hours demanded by the restaurant industry when he was younger. After coming back from MSU, he opened the Beverly Hills Grill as a line cook, then the Rattlesnake Club, then Fishbones in Greektown, where Jones graduated to sous chef.

After a couple years at Fishbones, Jones opened a carryout restaurant in an old yogurt shop in Grosse Pointe Woods called the Silver Spoon Carryout Cafe — “a silly-ass play on an upscale carryout joint,” as Jones describes it. From there came catering gigs.

The catering led to consultations, and by the late ‘90s, Jones was brought on to do the research and development for Southfield-based Zoup!, which set off a chain of introductions and events that led to him becoming a member of the Detroit Food Policy Council in 2009, Jones’ first taste of food advocacy and justice work.

“I wasn’t even a local food kind of guy,” Jones says. “My thing was the best ingredients and high creativity. Local didn’t matter. My claim to fame back then was I could get fresh fruit from around the world in February. That’s who I was.”

Chef Phil Jones photographed on Thursday, September 1, 2011, ahead of the opening of COLORS Restaurant in Detroit's Harmonie Park. Jones was the opening executive chef of the restaurant/worker training program. (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)

But Jones’ perspective really changed when he became the executive chef at COLORS restaurant in Harmonie Park, where he connected the on-the-job trainees to some of the local farms and purveyors he’d befriended. Even the James Beard Foundation (JBF) took notice.

Mitchell Davis, chief strategy officer for JBF, says he first met Jones at a luncheon at COLORS that served as a roundtable conversation about food issues in Detroit.

“What resonated with me most then as it does now is Phil’s belief in the power of food,” Davis wrote in an email, “Not just as a material object or an economic asset or even as a source of nutrition and sustenance. No, Phil believes there’s something inherent in food and cooking and even in gastronomy that is profoundly good for us, good for people, good for communities. I have always believed (maybe hoped) that was true, but I haven’t met many people who know what I mean when I try to express it.”

In 2012, Jones’ friend and frequent collaborator Malik Yakini, executive director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, was honored with a James Beard Foundation Leadership Award. He brought Jones along and the next year Jones was invited back to participate in a discussion with the journalist Jane Black.

“We were talking and I got real uncomfortable because I’m looking out here at the James Beard Foundation and we’re talking about the food system and the only other black man that was there was the one I came with,” Jones recalls. “There were 275 other people there with the power to control the food system — celebrity chefs, food system leaders — and we’re the only two black men there. From there, my work became about how we look at diversity inside of this stuff. … My thing with that is creating access and representation for folks that would not normally get it. Now someone who lives over here in the hood is at the table.”

Despite his at-times combative stance — Jones says he’s told off a Pepsi vice president, the head of the National Dairy Council and an editor at Good Housekeeping magazine — JBF continued to call on him. In 2013, he took part in the foundation’s first-ever Chef’s Boot Camp for Policy & Change. And, more recently, the foundation has leaned hard into diversifying its ranks and those who win its awards. Jones has been a leading voice in that charge.

“Phil’s commitment to improving communities through food is symbiotic with the James Beard Foundation’s Impact Programs, which began to take shape around that lunch table at COLORS,” Davis says. “As an organization, we are committed to improving the sustainability of the food system, supporting gender equality and diversity in restaurants, and training chefs to be advocates for food policy change. We’ve built these programs with the input and inspiration from our chef community of which Phil is both a leader and an inspiration."

Michael Layne snaps a photo of chef Phil Jones at the Make Food Not Waste event in Detroit's Eastern Market on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. Layne's public relations firm, Marx Layne & Company, provided Make Food Not Waste with pro-bono PR to help spread the word about the event. (Photo: Mark Kurlyandchik, Detroit Free Press)

The work continues

With this year’s Make Food Not Waste behind him, Jones can finally focus on his next big project, a project with Kwaku Osei and Islam Kolouda called Farmacy Food, which Jones describes as a casual restaurant concept using food as medicine.

A woman in the neighborhood recently gifted Jones a 1,500-square-foot building at 16th & Ferry Park where he wants to install an educational community space/grocer that uses biometrics and data to tailor menus for health-based outcomes. But that could also go into the old Thrifty Scot Supermarket at Joy & Dexter. Much is in the air, including money, which has been a little hard to come by lately.

“The research begins and I morph again,” he says. “Someone asked me yesterday when I was going to slow down and I said I don’t know because the more work I do, the more work I see needs to be done.”

As our interview at Avalon ends, I offer Jones a ride home. He gave up his car to save money during these recent lean times. But, of course, he’s not going home. And can I instead drop him off at the Oakland Avenue Urban Farm in the North End? There’s a big community event there Saturday and Jones is cooking.

Restaurant reservations

Frog by Adam Handling

Phone: 0207 199 8370

Drive, hard work and ambition – three things every chef needs to succeed in a notoriously difficult industry. You have to put up with brutally long working hours constantly strive to be better than yesterday and soak up as much knowledge as you can. And while there are many role models that encapsulate this in the world of hospitality, few can hold a candle to Adam Handling, who has a plethora of accolades and a restaurant empire to his name. Not bad for a thirty-one-year-old especially one who only started cooking so he could escape school.

‘I had experienced a lot of different cultures because my dad was in the army, but I don’t have a story about helping my gran in the kitchen or anything like that,’ he says. ‘I wasn’t the most academic person in school, but all my family went to university so it was expected of me – particularly because it was free to go in Scotland. Eventually my mum said if I wasn’t going to sixth form then I had better get an apprenticeship at a place that’s really well respected, and it just so happened that my teacher had heard about Gleneagles accepting apprentices for the first time.’

Donning his dad’s suit, Adam had to go through four interviews before he was offered the apprenticeship. ‘I’m a cheeky little bugger and I think that’s why they gave it to me,’ he says. ‘I’m brutally honest, very stubborn and I always want to be the very best at anything I do, and I think they liked that.’

The next few years were tough with over 100 chefs working at Gleneagles, he wasn’t allowed to do anything more than prepare vegetables for the first nine months. But eventually he worked his way up to the grill and ran the section himself. By this point he’d gained the sort of expert training you can only get in kitchens like Gleneagles, and he was ready to move on. This led Adam to London and Newcastle for a short time, before he returned to Scotland to become the youngest ever head chef at Fairmont St Andrews. Soon after he was named Young Chef of the Year at the Scottish Culinary Championships, but that wasn’t enough – Adam was after a Michelin star. ‘I became pretty nasty and when I realised it wasn’t going to happen I just packed it all in to go travelling. I wasn’t sure if being a chef was for me.’

Up until this point, Adam had sacrificed his personal life to get a good grounding in his career, so he felt it was time to get out of the kitchen and see the world. ‘I know loads of people say you find yourself when you’re travelling and it sounds like bullshit, but it really did help me get some perspective on life,’ he says. ‘After a year I ran out of money, so I came home and looked for a job in London. Getting your foot in the door there is always hard, especially if you’re after a senior position like I was, because everyone would say ‘oh, you’ve not done London before, so you have to start as a junior sous’ – even though I was basically teaching the sous chef how to do things.’

However, Adam eventually landed a job as head chef at St Ermin’s Hotel in St James’ Park. ‘It was a great little place and it gave me my first chance to cook my own food,’ he explains. ‘Then when I went on MasterChef: The Professionals in 2013, the restaurant got packed and I got my name on the door – Adam Handling at Caxton. Everything was going really well until the owner sold the place and they decided to turn it into a steakhouse without consulting me, even though I had a contract in place. It ended really, really badly.’

Luckily for Adam, he had been putting plans together to open his own restaurant – The Frog E1 – whilst working at St Ermin’s. However, this sudden change meant he had to leave immediately, and he could only take five of his seventeen chefs with him. ‘It was really emotional we’d all worked so hard and put everything into the place, and then all of a sudden it was all gone. But I got jobs for the twelve chefs I couldn’t hire myself, and over the years I’ve been able to offer all of them a job. Today, fifteen of those original seventeen chef are working for me.’

The Frog E1 was when Adam really came into his own – shunning the luxurious ingredients and classical training of his past and bringing in influences of the food he experienced during his travels. ‘I worked my ass off and got five restaurant of the year awards within the first two years. It was phenomenal – the best experience of my life. Travelling helped me find myself as a person, because I was a nasty son of a bitch before that. E1, however, helped me discover the sort of food I wanted to cook. We started cutting down on salt and introducing soy instead there were way more aromatics and ingredients like kimchi in British dishes, which made it quite different.’

The restaurant was a big success, and led to Adam opening a second restaurant – Frog by Adam Handling – in Covent Garden. This is now his restaurant group’s flagship, with a menu that best represents his style of cooking and a separate bar called Eve in the basement. ‘I wanted Covent Garden to be something that got us noticed,’ he says. ‘The menu is a reflection of our personality. There are only around twelve dishes on there but we change them whenever we want. Dishes can appear and disappear from one day to the next. We wanted it to be about theatre, too – Covent Garden is theatre land, after all – so we have the pass and kitchen in full view.’

Frog by Adam Handling enjoyed the same success as The Frog E1, offering a slightly more fine-dining-focused experience (although it’s still representative of his relaxed, contemporary style). The two worked in tandem until the lease ran out at E1, which meant Adam had to find a new site. Rather than a hindrance, this gave him the opportunity to take the essence of The Frog E1 and move it into a bigger site, The Frog Hoxton – just a leap away from his Shoreditch base. He took stock of all the mistakes he’d made when opening his first restaurant (which was done incredibly fast and saw the kitchen team helping with everything from painting the walls to attaching door handles) and learnt from them.

‘I took the soul of E1 and put it in a new body with a new direction,’ says Adam. ‘Hoxton is not the same as Shoreditch people want things cheaper and quicker, so we changed the menu completely. Portions for the sharing plates were made bigger, we made sure everything was extremely affordable and learnt from everything we’d done in the past.’

Adam’s next project involved teaming up with the Cadogan Estate and Belmond. He opened Adam Handling Chelsea, a restaurant and bar, and Cadogan’s tea lounge at the Belmond Cadogan Hotel in Chelsea. He also looks after all the private dining, events and room service within the hotel. ‘It’s very different from my other restaurants – because of the history of the hotel, the dining spaces are a bit more traditional, but the food offering is very much my style,” he explains. ‘At first, I didn’t want to do it because I’d had bad experiences with hotel restaurants in the past, but they made it clear they wanted me to have a restaurant within the hotel, rather than work in a more executive role. When I heard Belmond were covering the hotel side of things, it all fell into place.’

Adam has now proved that he’s not just an incredibly ambitious and talented chef he’s a dab hand at opening and running restaurants, too. Whether it’s fine dining tasting menus, bar snacks and cocktails, zero-waste deli lunches or room service for a world-class hotel group, he has it covered. While he’s yet to get a Michelin star – something he says he’d love to get but certainly isn’t chasing – he's won a whole host of other awards that prove Adam is a chef at the top of his game. And a meal at any of his establishments is testament to that.

Food & Wine's 2004 Best New Chefs

New York, NY (April 7, 2004) – Dana Cowin, editor in chief of Food & Wine magazine, will announce Food & Wine&aposs 2004 Best New Chefs on April 7th at the Surrogate&aposs Court Building in New York City. Ted Allen, the food and wine expert from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, will be master of ceremonies. These 10 rising stars will be featured in the July 2004 issue of Food & Wine.

Dana Cowin says, "Food & Wine&aposs editors spend countless hours every year searching for the most innovative, trend-setting, talented young chefs in America𠅊nd this year&aposs list of 10 Best New Chefs proves that culinary genius can be found all across the country𠅏rom Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon. We are excited to honor these standout professionals and look forward to seeing them follow in the footsteps of other successful past Best New Chefs."

Food & Wine Magazine&aposs 2004 Best New Chefs in America

Graham Elliot Bowles The Jackson House Inn, Woodstock, VT
Scott Conant
L&aposImpero, New York, NY
Scott Dolich
Park Kitchen, Portland, OR
Rob Evans
Hugo&aposs, Portland, ME
Dominique Filoni
Savona, Gulph Mills, PA
Eric Michel Klein
Maple Drive, Los Angeles, CA
Marc Orfaly
Pigalle, Boston, MA
Melissa Perello
Charles Nob Hill, San Francisco, CA
Bradford Thompson
Mary Elaine&aposs at The Phoenician, Scottsdale, AZ
Mat Wolf
Gautreau&aposs, New Orleans, LA

Signature dishes will be prepared at the event by past New York City Best New Chefs: Wylie Dufresne of wd-50, Cornelius Gallagher of Oceana, Gabriel Kreuther of Atelier and Dan Silverman of Lever House. Other alumni include Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Rocco Dispirito and Nobu Matsuhisa. Lincoln, Ruffino and Microsoft Office will be sponsoring the event. Special thanks to Fiji Water, Samuel Adams, Champagne Mumm and Level.

The 2004 Best New Chefs will prepare their first dinner together for a sold-out crowd of people at the Food & Wine Magazine Classic at Aspen from June 18-20, 2004.

# # #
Food & Wine is the modern, stylish, talent-seeking, trend-spotting epicurean magazine. Published by American Express Publishing, the leader in luxury lifestyle magazines, Food & Wine has a circulation of nearly 1 million.


Graham Elliot Bowles, The Jackson House Inn & Restaurant (Woodstock, Vermont)
Graham Elliot Bowles prepares some of the country&aposs most creative food out of a tiny kitchen in Woodstock, Vermont, aided mainly by his wife Valerie, who&aposs also his sous-chef. Bowles, 27, was born in Seattle, studied at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island and trained at two of America&aposs best and boldest restaurants, Charlie Trotter&aposs and TRU. At the Jackson House, which he joined in June 2003, he turns out adventurous and unexpectedly delicious combinations: walnut-crusted foie gras with cinnamon ice cream, for instance, and line-caught monkfish with caraway-sauerkraut broth.

Scott Conant, L&aposImpero (New York City)
When Scott Conant was studying at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, he&aposd spend weekends at New York City&aposs San Domenico restaurant—literally. "I slept on the floor after work, I was so tired," he says. It was at San Domenico that the 33-year-old Connecticut native, whose first exposure to Italian food was his grandfathers&apos Neapolitan dishes, began preparing authentic Italian cuisine himself. After stints at New York&aposs Barolo and Chianti, Conant spent months in Italy researching regional cooking before opening L&aposImpero in Tudor City on the East Side of Manhattan in September 2002. The restaurant was an instant hit, and Conant, who credits coffee for enabling him to work notoriously long hours ("Luckily, I make a really good espresso"), estimates that the 120-seat establishment turns away 500 people a day. The customers who do get in have their choice of Conant&aposs modern Italian dishes, like buttery polenta with a fricassee of truffled mushrooms or succulent roasted baby goat with artichokes.

Scott Dolich, Park Kitchen (Portland, Oregon)
While he was a history and biology major at Duke University in North Carolina in the late 1980s, Scott Dolich took a part-time job as a butcher. After work, he would cook leftover meat scraps for friends. And word spread. "People started coming over to my house and they would pay for dinner—the place became an unofficial restaurant," says the 35-year-old Bronx native. "It dawned on me that I could do this for a living." After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Dolich worked as a kitchen porter at the Lark Creek Inn in Larkspur, California, checking in ingredients. "It was the most important thing I&aposve ever done, learning how to deal with best-quality products," he claims. At Park Kitchen, Dolich serves everything from homemade hot dogs on brioche buns to Moroccan-spiced lamb tagine. Mindful of his student days, Dolich doesn&apost throw away leftovers. "I always stew the extra lamb and serve it on homemade pappardelle for lunch the next day," he says.

Rob Evans, Hugo&aposs (Portland, Maine)
The first time Rob Evans came to cook in Maine in 1994, the Massachusetts native fell in love. "I&aposd been working on cruise ships in Hawaii," says the self-taught 40-year-old chef, "and something about the local food scene just hit me." His first serious cooking job was in Maine at Goose Cove Lodge in Deer Isle. Evans left to work at the Inn at Little Washington in Virginia and The French Laundry in Napa Valley, but a vacation brought him back to Maine and, in 2000, he and his fiancé, Nancy Pugh, reopened the Portland mainstay, Hugo&aposs. Evans is obsessed with local ingredients and he&aposs well-placed to take advantage of them: The legendary seafood purveyor Browne Trading Company is just down the street, and the farmers&apos market is a motorcycle ride away. At Hugo&aposs, he highlights ingredients from those sources in dishes like pan-fried cod cheeks with sunchoke and salt cod brandade, and duck confit salad with bell pepper-lavender vinaigrette.

Dominique Filoni, Savona (Gulph Mills, Pennsylvania)
As a chef at a St. Tropez château, Dominique Filoni cooked for all kinds of celebrities, from Elton John to Clint Eastwood. But Filoni was never as happy as he is today at his restaurant, Savona, in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Born in St. Tropez to Corsican parents, Filoni graduated from the Lycພ Hôtelier Technique in Hyères, France, then came to the United States in 1995 and landed a job as sous chef at Savona. Named executive chef and partner at Savona in 2000, he combines his classic French training with his Mediterranean background in his scallops with sea urchin froth, for instance, and his sweetbreads with tomato jus and chanterelles. In 2003 at age 33, Filoni was inducted into the Maîtres Cuisiniers de France—making him the youngest French Master Chef in the United States.

Eric Klein, Maple Drive (Los Angeles)
Eric Klein, 30, grew up in Colmar, France, in the Alsace region, where his father was a farmer and his mother was a butcher. "In spring and summer, I was a farmer, in fall I was a butcher and in the winter, I fixed tractors," he recalls. After graduating from cooking school in France and working at Alsace&aposs Michelin-starred Schillinger, Klein came to the United States in 1995 to take a job at Rཬkenwagner in Santa Monica, California. He went on to open Spago Beverly Hills with Wolfgang Puck, for whom he worked for seven years, before becoming executive chef at Maple Drive. Klein now specializes in dishes that feature ingredients that evoke his Alsatian childhood such as roasted heirloom beet salad with orange vinaigrette and venison filet mignon with juniper-infused jus. What does he do on his days off? "I love working on old cars," he says. "It comes from fixing tractors."

Bradford Thompson, Mary Elaine&aposs (Scottsdale, Arizona)
Bradford Thompson doesn&apost like to name the chain restaurant where he first started cooking. "Everyone&aposs heard of it," he says. "All I&aposll say is that I peeled a lot of potatoes." Thompson, 35, who was born in Wilmington, Delaware, and has a political science degree from New York&aposs University of Rochester, is now in much improved circumstances. After working with his culinary hero, Daniel Boulud in New York, collaborating on two cookbooks and helping Boulud open DB Bistro Moderne, he arrived at Mary Elaine&aposs in 2002. Thompson&aposs creative menu marries his hands-on traditional French training with Asian flavors in dishes like butter-poached Maine lobster with toasted curry broth.

Melissa Perello, Charles Nob Hill (San Francisco)
In 2001, when she was just 24, Melissa Perello achieved a rare feat—she was named executive chef at Charles Nob Hill, a top restaurant in one of the country&aposs most discerning food cities. Born in New Jersey, Perello enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, immediately after high school. While she was waiting to start school, an encounter at Aqua in San Francisco boosted her career. When she told the waiter she was going to the CIA, she was invited back to the kitchen there she impressed the chefs so much that they offered her an externship. When Aqua opened its sister restaurant, Charles Nob Hill, Perello followed. The young chef excels at classic French-inspired dishes such as warm asparagus with braised morels and hollandaise noisette and red wine-braised poussin with spring onion confit. "I&aposm a Virgo, so I&aposm a detail freak," she says. "The first thing I do when I get on the line is rearrange everything it drives the other cooks crazy."

Marc Orfaly, Pigalle (Boston)
When he took a high-school job as a short-order cook to pay for new drum equipment, Marc Orfaly never expected that it would inspire a career. But Orfaly learned that he loved food more than he loved music. After attending Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, he got his first major job cooking alongside Todd English at Olives in his hometown of Boston. "It was almost like being a rock star, all the attention we got," Orfaly says. Following jobs at Patina and Campanile in Los Angeles and a stint as the private chef for the Tisch family in New York City, Orfaly landed back in Boston, where he worked at multiple restaurants, including No. 9 Park, to raise money to open his own place. "I worked at a different kitchen every night—it was a great learning experience," he recalls. Now the 34-year-old chef has his own menu in place at Pigalle, putting an international spin (sometimes revealing his Armenian-Syrian heritage) on French dishes like wild bass with carrot confit and harissa couscous.

Mathias Wolf, Gautreau&aposs (New Orleans)
Mathias Wolf, 30, might not be a New Orleans native (he&aposs from Seattle), but his work as chef at Gautreau&aposs is making him a local hero. At 18, Wolf moved to Louisiana with a degree in culinary arts from South Seattle Community College. After three years at Commander&aposs Palace, he joined Gautreau&aposs in 1995. Although he returned to Seattle and worked at both a Pike Place Market produce stand and at Flying Fish restaurant, he eventually returned to New Orleans in 2001 to become executive chef at Gautreau&aposs. Wolf is able to combine his Northwestern cooking style with New Orleans&aposs influences in such dishes as saut grouper with lobster risotto and peppered Gulf shrimp with citrus gastrique.

Annual 'Black & White Affair' New Year's Eve Gala Dinner and Party Package

La Toque and The Westin Verasa Napa invite you to ring in the New Year in opulent style with our annual ‘Black & White Affair’ New Year’s Eve Gala Dinner and Party.

The evening begins at 7:30pm with a Champagne and Caviar reception, followed by a sumptuous Six Course La Toque Dinner featuring Ossetra Caviar, both White and Black Truffles, and Kagoshima Wagyu Beef! Choose the Sommelier Selected Wine Pairing or make your wine selections from La Toque’s WS Grand Award-winning wine list. After dinner, retire to the La Toque Terrace for after-dinner beverages and mignardises or join the fun for DJ dancing and the New Year’s Countdown and Toast at BANK Café and Bar.

Dinner is $350 per person and includes Valet Parking, Champagne and Caviar Reception, decadent Six-Course Dinner, an after-dinner beverage of your choice, admission to the ‘Black & White Affair’ NYE Party in BANK Café and Bar, Champagne Toast at midnight, and all service charges and sales tax.

Optional Wine Pairing with dinner is $150 per person and includes all service charges and sales tax. Please add Wine Pairing at checkout when purchasing tickets.

Traditional New Year’s Eve Dinner seating in La Toque is “festival style” at larger tables with other guests. A very limited number of private tables for the dinner are available for an extra charge. After dinner, the ‘Black & White Affair’ Party in BANK Café and Bar offers open seating. See FAQs below for details.

Where will I be seated at dinner?

It is a tradition at La Toque on New Year’s Eve to seat our dinner guests randomly, at large tables with other couples, to promote a festive atmosphere. A limited number of private tables for the La Toque Dinner are available for an extra charge. Seating at the ‘Black & White Affair’ after dinner in BANK Café and Bar is ‘first come, first served’.

Will I be able to change my seating later?

Sorry, no. Because the La Toque New Year’s Eve Dinner party is a sell-out each year, we strive to make as many seats available to all guests who wish to attend. Occasionally we have last-minute cancellations and thus have a small amount of flexibility with our seating. Please carefully note your seating and table status, whether shared or private, when purchasing your tickets.

(Private tables are offered for an additional cost and are extremely limited.)

Seating Requests: Can I sit with whom, or where I want?

Even though we do “festival style” seating for the dinner, there is a firm seating plan on the evening of the event that means that changing seats/tables during the event is not a possibility. We do understand that you may have friends or family who are also attending, and you will want to sit together. We do our very best to accomplish that, but it does require your help please ensure that you state the full names of any guests that you would like to sit with during the ticket purchase process.

(Please note that seating requests cannot be guaranteed.)

Are there ID Requirements or an age limit to enter the event?

The La Toque New Year’s Eve Dinner and Party Package is for adults only, 21 years of age or older.

What are my parking options for the event?

Valet is complimentary for those purchasing the La Toque Dinner & Party Package.

(If you are only purchasing tickets for the BANK Café & Bar ‘Black & White Affair’ Party- The Westin Hotel Garage is for hotel guest parking only. Taking a cab or Uber is advisable as street parking will be limited.)

What is the dress code for this event?

Dress to impress in your best Black and White attire. Jacket required for gentlemen.

Do you accommodate allergies and/or vegetarians or vegans?

We will happily accommodate any valid, health-threatening dietary restrictions with sufficient advance notice. (Please note that on this evening vegetarian options can be made available, but vegan options cannot.)

Do I have to bring my ticket to the event?

Printed or mobile tickets are required for the La Toque ‘Black & White Affair’ Party Package.

Is my ticket transferrable?

Tickets for the La Toque Dinner Package are not transferable without prior approval from the event organizers.

What is the refund policy?

A full refund will be given for cancellations made before 5pm PST on Monday, December 23 rd , 2019. No refunds will be issued for the La Toque Dinner Package after Monday, December 23 rd , 2019, at 5pm PST.

Are there rooms at the Westin available for the night of the party?

Yes, there is a limited number of discount rooms available to our party goers. Once you have purchased your tickets, contact [email protected] for a link to book your room. ***Please note that you must book your room under the same name as your NYE Party tickets in order to be eligible for the discounted room rate.***

Where can I contact the organizer with any questions?

Can I view the menu?

You may view a Sample Menu by clicking on ‘New Year’s Eve’ under the ‘Menus’ dropdown tab above.

Restaurant & Bakery

Buddy V's Ristorante

Cuisine: Italian-American

Location: Grand Canal Shoppes - View Property Map (Location #38)

Carlo's Bakery

Cuisine: Bakery

Location: Grand Canal Shoppes - View Property Map (Location #123)

Chef Biography

In December 2010, TLC premiered the spin-off series, Cake Boss: Next Great Baker, where Buddy challenged bakers from around the country to compete for a chance to work alongside the Valastro family at Carlo’s. Cake Boss: Next Great Baker now in its fourth season, will crown the next winner this August. December 2013, TLC launched Buddy’s Bakery Rescue (formally Bakery Boss), a series following Buddy Valastro across the country helping other family-run bakeries that are struggling to find their own sweet success with his famous blend of business skills and baking expertise.

Following the launch of his best-selling first book, Cake Boss, Stories and Recipes from Mia Famiglia (Free Press, Nov. 2010), Buddy brought the pages of stories and tips to life on stage via his highly successful Bakin’ with The Boss Tour. Buddy went on to release a how-to book, Baking with the Cake Boss: 100 of Buddy’s Best Recipes and Decorating Secrets (Free Press, Nov 1, 2011). A year later, Buddy shared his savory skills and favorite Italian recipes in his how-to book, Cooking Italian with the Cake Boss: Family Favorites as Only Buddy Can Serve Them Up (Free Press, Nov 6, 2012) and hit the road for his much-anticipated Homemade for the Holidays Tour. Last November, Buddy offered families festive tips and tricks to celebrate the holidays with his newest how-to book, Family Celebrations with the Cake Boss (Atria Books, Nov 5, 2013).

To give Cake Boss fans a real taste for what Carlo’s can offer, Buddy has built a 50,000 sq ft baking facility in Jersey City that allows him to fulfill one of his (and his father's) life long dreams - to ship his product across the country.

Expanding outside of Hoboken for the first time, Buddy and the famiglia opened three new bakeries in 2013, Carlo’s Bakery Ridgewood, Carlo’s Bakery Westfield and Carlo’s Bakery Red Bank, all in New Jersey and two bakeries in 2014, Carlo’s Bakery Morristown in New Jersey and Carlo’s Bakery Las Vegas, the company’s first West Coast location. Always thinking bigger and better, Buddy has plans for further expansion to new locations, including a future location announced in Greenwich, CT.

Buddy brought his family’s classic Italian recipes to the table, opening his first restaurant, Buddy V’s, in the Venetian Las Vegas. Old favorites and new recipes are on the menu as well as desserts you know and love from Carlo’s Bakery.

Icing Bonds this Family Together
Buddy Sr., the original Cake Boss, followed in the path of his father and grandfather, both bakers in Sicily, and bought Carlo’s Bakery from Carlo Guastaffero in 1963. He proudly ran the bakery for over twenty-five years before moving it from residential Adams Street to its current and more central location on Washington Street in Hoboken. The relocation allowed the bakery to grow its customer base and was part of Buddy Sr.’s dream to make Carlo’s a household name.

Buddy and his four older sisters were raised in Little Ferry, NJ - their formative years spent watching dough being rolled out, cakes being iced, crostata being baked and cannolis being filled. When Buddy was 11, he began working at the family bakery alongside his father. “My dad was my best friend and idol - anything to spend more time with him was important.” In the precious years they worked at the bakery together as a father and son team, his dad passed on his wealth of baking knowledge and instilled in him a cast iron business sense and a drive for success.

The Start of a New Era
As a kid, it was hard for Buddy to envision a successful career as one of America’s best bakers and cake decorators. He did not consider himself to be naturally artistic and he often struggled in art class during his school years. However, after starting his career at Carlo’s Bakery by washing pots and pans, Buddy soon realized he had inherited the family gene for baking. It was at the bakery that Buddy found his calling and knew his destiny was to help his father make the family business a household name. He didn’t realize how soon he would be called to action. When he was 17, his father passed away, forever changing Buddy’s life. Drawing on the strength of his memory and bolstered by wearing his father’s St Anthony medallion (which he still wears everyday), it was time for Buddy to step up to the role he had been primed for and become the new Cake Boss.

Sweet Dreams
Not only did Buddy lose his best friend and greatest source of encouragement, some of Carlo’s Bakery’s secret signature baking techniques were also gone - but not for long. When Buddy’s father died, the bakery struggled to create the sfogliatelle dough used to make one of their signature items, Lobster Tails. It was not until Buddy’s father came to him in a dream and told him, ‘I am here for one reason, to show you how to make Lobster Tails.’ Buddy went to work the next day, and for the first time was able to create the nearly impossible sfogliatelle dough. From that point on, Buddy knew he could do anything he put his mind to, and felt comfort in the fact that his father was looking down on him.

Finding his Calling
If his father’s vision was to be realized, Buddy needed to exercise his business savvy and create a point of difference to help Carlo’s Bakery stand out against the competition. “I wanted to be creative, and thought if I can make cakes that don’t look like normal cakes, but taste the way my dad’s cakes tasted… then I might be onto something.” With that revelation, designer cakes became the next specialty for Carlo’s Bakery. He experimented with his father’s recipes and introduced new items from Red Velvet Cake to his signature flower cupcake. He also mastered fondant icing which allowed Buddy to take cake decorating to new levels not yet seen in the industry. Catering to celebrity palettes like Oprah, his works of cake-art have included a scale model of the city of St Louis, a giant edible NASCAR racecar cake (it took 24,000 cakes to make it and weighed over 10,000 pounds) and his magnum opus – a life-size tribute to his wife and soul mate Lisa for her 30th birthday.

Being the Cake Boss
Carlo’s Bakery had always been well known for its incredible wedding cakes and over the years, Buddy’s creations were frequently featured in bridal magazines. As a result of this exposure, Buddy was invited to participate on Food Network Challenge in 2004. Recognizing a growing interest in televised baking shows, Buddy saw an opportunity to push the bakery into new territory and he jumped at the chance. A naturally outgoing “people person,” Buddy felt comfortable on TV and was never nervous in front of the camera. He also found that he had a gift for one-liners and clever sound bytes. Over the next few years, he competed in four Food Network Challenge cake competitions. After losing his first three battles, Buddy took top prize on “battle of the brides.” Along with a cash prize, Buddy was also presented with an enormous $10,000 check, which proudly hangs on the wall of his office.

Buddy’s appearances on Food Network Challenge were only the start of his foray into television. Two of the show’s cameramen approached him after one of the tapings and encouraged him to pursue his own show. They recognized his engaging on-camera presence and knew a series revolving around Buddy would fascinate audiences. Buddy knew this was his chance to make Carlo’s Bakery known worldwide. He used his connections to pitch a show featuring himself, Lisa, his four sisters and his mom, aka the “Boss Boss,” as they go about their daily frenetic routine running the shop. Executives at TLC had seen Buddy on TV before and took notice. They agreed to shoot a pilot at the bakery and filmed 120 hours of footage for the first half hour episode. TLC loved the show and immediately ordered 12 more episodes. Cake Boss became an instant hit with audiences, currently airing its sixth season.

Keeping it in the Family
Buddy has made it his mission to diversify the business’ success while staying true to the heritage of Carlo’s Bakery, a move that would have made his father proud. "I am hanging on to traditions because I want to, not because I have to. I can't turn my back on the way we did things." The family and the community were important to Buddy Sr. Every year he donated zeppoles to Saint Joseph’s Church in Jersey City and baked St. Anthony’s loaves for the St. Francis Church in Hoboken. Like his father, Buddy is a great believer in giving back, and maintains this practice today. He is also a proud honorary board member of Make-a-Wish Foundation and was named as the organization's Celebrity of the Year in 2011. A father himself to his daughter and three sons, Buddy continues to pass on Valastro family traditions.

No Limit on Success
While Cake Boss has helped make Carlo’s Bakery popular with tourists, it was well known even before the show began airing. Locals often lined up out the door under the simple “Carlo’s City Hall Bake Shop” sign in Hoboken, eager for a piece of the pie. Each week, the business averages around 60 wedding cakes, 500 birthday cakes, thousands of cannolis and more. The noises from the crowd caught the attention of local mayor, Dawn Zimmer, who said, "We feel very lucky to have Buddy and Carlo’s bakery. Hoboken was known before, but now it's even more known." Ernst & Young has also recognized Buddy for his extraordinary success and personal commitment to his businesses and community by honoring Buddy as Humanitarian of the Year.

The true origin of the charming and humble baker’s unwavering dedication comes from his father’s handed down teachings. “I found my dream job and passion when I was 11 – and I still have it. I love what I do and I am good at it, which makes me incredibly lucky and blessed.” So, how does a man who’s already achieved so much continue to find inspiration? Simple. “I can see cakes in anything. I just open my eyes.”

Jr. Iron Chef VT Swaps Out 2021 Contest for Monthly Recipe Challenge

On the afternoon of February 15 at St. Mark Catholic Church in Burlington's New North End, three Burlington School District employees were juggling laptops, video cameras — and root vegetables.

The church has provided a temporary home to the Burlington Technical Center's culinary arts program and the district's afterschool cooking activities while the high school addresses cancer-causing chemicals found on its campus. But wherever they take place, the district's cooking extracurriculars would normally involve months of recipe development and practice runs by teams preparing for the annual Jr. Iron Chef VT statewide culinary competition, now in its 14th year.

Burlington's public schools usually field several Jr. Iron Chef VT teams per age group — middle and high school — to compete among 350 young chefs from 70 schools and organizations around the state.

In a normal year, the teams meet mid-March on a Saturday at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction and cook under a time clock while upwards of 600 spectators watch. The huge hall buzzes with excitement, energy and mouthwatering aromas as the teams slice, dice, sauté and simmer their way to titles such as the Crowd Pleaser or the Lively Local.

  • Courtesy Of Deena Murphy
  • Hawa Aden (left) and Astha Magar chopping vegetables at the King Street Center

This year the hall is dark, but the nonprofit farm-to-school partnership, Vermont FEED (Food Education Every Day), that organizes the competition has launched a cooking club instead. The monthly recipe challenge aims to keep young Vermonters cooking healthy, locally inspired food.

In 2020, Vermont FEED made an 11th-hour call to cancel the March 14 competition due to rising cases of COVID-19.

"It was pretty heartbreaking for a lot of the kids," acknowledged Jr. Iron Chef VT co-coordinator Kerrie Mathes.

When it became clear last fall that there would be no large events this spring, either, Vermont FEED came up with the cooking club, which launched in December.

The goal of the club underscores the competition's original mission. "The idea is to challenge middle and high school students to really become engaged in cooking and their own health and the health of their families and school communities," Mathes explained.

She selects club recipes from past winners based on ease, seasonality of local ingredients and reasonable cost. Vermont food and cooking experts, including chef Alganesh Michael of South Burlington's A Taste of Abyssinia and Ben & Jerry's flavor guru Sarah Fidler, have contributed to a video series of cooking tips and other advice. Local businesses have donated culinary prize packages that are awarded each month via a random drawing.

About half of the 60 participants to date are cooking solo or with their families at home. In Burlington, the school district and the King Street Center are using the recipes in their afterschool programs. New members can sign up at any time through the final month of April.

On February 15, at a portable cooking station set up in a corner of the St. Mark's general purpose room, Burlington Technology Center culinary arts instructor Cheryl Niedzwiecki was prepping for a video-chat cook-along of the month's recipe: root vegetable pot pie with cheesy mashed potatoes and Parmesan croutons. The recipe was a 2017 competition winner from the Vergennes Union High School team.

Sheryl Haiduck, Burlington High School's afterschool site director, had delivered the recipe ingredients to six students and was expecting one to participate in person.

That student didn't show up, the video camera refused to connect to the laptop, and only two participants dialed in online. But the demo went on as planned with Abby Mitchell, 16, and Duncan Shaver, 12, following along attentively from their home kitchens.

  • Courtesy Of Lauren Bruneau
  • From left: Emilie, Andrew and Lily Bruneau with their root vegetable pot pie

Niedzwiecki juggled pots and spatulas with ease and offered a steady patter of advice and encouragement. She stuck a fork into a boiled potato to illustrate that "fork tender" means "it goes right through" and explained that knobby, gnarly celeriac "smells like celery, tastes a little like celery and it's grown right here in Vermont." To show the difference between a simmer and a boil, Niedzwiecki used perfect hand gestures: gently waving fingers versus hands rotating briskly around each other.

Now a sophomore, Abby competed in Jr. Iron Chef VT as a seventh grader and had joined one of the high school teams for the 2020 competition.

In a phone interview after the February cook-along, Abby said she loves to cook and really enjoys working with others to develop and perfect a recipe. "When we were done," she recalled, "it was like, Wow, together we made this."

Her team of two ninth graders and two seniors worked hard last year with "Chef N," as students call Niedzwiecki, to create a spinach salad with roasted chickpeas, beets and sweet potatoes. They were crushed when the competition was canceled.

"When they said you could [cook] virtually, I was very excited," Abby said of the cooking club option. She credits Jr. Iron Chef VT with broadening her culinary horizons. "It's kind of opened me up to local ingredients and eating plant-based."

Her family enjoyed the root vegetable pot pie she had most recently cooked with Niedzwiecki's virtual guidance. "They liked the parsnips," Abby said, sounding a little surprised. "We don't eat a lot of parsnips."

The Jr. Iron Chef VT team from the King Street Center felt the same letdown as Abby's team last year. They had developed a recipe for a traditional Nepali snack made with potato, cucumber, red cabbage, chile and puffed rice it reflected the heritage of several team members.

Three of the 2020 King Street chefs — 13-year-olds Astha Magar and Menuka Monger, and Neeha Rai, 14 — are among those currently doing the cooking club at the center with education director Deena Murphy.

Taking a break from making the pot pie on February 19, Astha reflected on last year over video chat. "It was kind of disappointing. We were hoping to do the competition, but then the COVID hit," she said. "I want to share our culture's food. Spicy tastes the best."

On pot pie day, the three teens worked smoothly together, chatting and laughing, along with Hawa Aden, 13, another King Street cooking club regular. Hawa and Astha carefully chopped a mound of carrots. Then Hawa joined Menuka at the stove, while Neeha and Astha mashed potatoes with milk, butter, scallions and sharp cheddar. Hawa savored a spoonful of potato and proclaimed, "It's 100 percent out of 100."

In addition to the pot pie, cooking club participants have so far cooked King Street Center's 2018 green curry and the Lake Champlain Waldorf School's 2018 vegetable dumplings. The March recipe — sweet potato-chickpea burgers with Caribbean slaw and Vermont maple barbecue sauce — is a 2019 winner by a middle school team from Chester's Green Mountain Union High School. (See Home on the Range for the recipe.)

Even club members cooking at home without friends or guidance from a culinary instructor seem to be getting a lot out of it.

In Essex Junction, the Bruneau siblings — Andrew, 16, Emilie, 14, and Lily, 11 — collaborate. Because they attend in-person high school and middle school only two days a week, they have more time to fit cooking into the schedule. Their mom, Lauren, heard about the club through a newsletter from Shelburne Farms, a Vermont FEED partner along with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont. "The cooking has been a real blessing," she said. "They're excited about the challenge."

  • Courtesy Of August Simakaski
  • Jr. Iron Chef VT January cooking challenge dumpling recipe, made by August Simakaski

For the dumplings, Andrew, an experienced cook who has taken some culinary classes at Essex High School, made the dough while his sisters made the filling. They were hard to stuff neatly, Lily allowed, but they were good to eat.

The siblings agreed that they weren't sure whether they'd want to do the actual competition. "It seems like it could be stressful," Andrew said. The family is fully on board with the cooking club, though.

"I like having them pick out the recipe for us," Emilie said. "It's usually something we wouldn't normally pick." Her sister added, "It's fun because you can win stuff."

Another upside of the club, Jr. Iron Chef VT co-coordinator Mathes noted, is that it's pulling in youngsters who might not participate in the competition for a variety of reasons.

Twelve-year-old August Simakaski of Peacham said he had heard about Jr. Iron Chef VT but had been too young to join a team. "I've cooked since I was old enough to help: like, 5," he said. "It's quite useful knowing how to cook."

The young cook, who is homeschooled, has liked every challenge recipe so far, though the dumplings were his favorite. "They were fun to make, and they tasted really good," August said.

He has fun taking the photos, too, and seeing how other club members' recipes turn out. August's photo of the Thai-style green curry features a neatly molded mound of rice and generous basil garnish. "I made sure to make them look really fancy," he said.

When he cooks dinner, August added, "My mom loves it. She always thinks it's better than her food because she doesn't have to cook."

The original print version of this article was headlined "Kitchen Club | Jr. Iron Chef VT swaps out 2021 contest for monthly recipe challenge"

The 30 Pinot Noirs to Drink If You Want to Be a Real Expert

From Burgundy and California to Oregon, Italy, Australia, and Germany, these are the bottles that will turn you from a fan into a pro.

Ask the world’s top sommeliers, or the wealthiest collectors of wine why they are fanatical about Pinot Noir, and you’ll get essentially the same response: It’s a grape that produces the greatest wines in the world.

The sacred home of Pinot Noir is France’s Burgundy region. Some of the most expensive red Burgundy wines in the world begin here as tiny, delicate clusters of precious berries dangling from rows of pristine, manicured vines. As Jancis Robinson MW, says, it is a grape �pable of producing divinely scented, gorgeously fruity expressions of place."

To give you an idea of its potential, a current-release of one of the most sought-after wines in the world𠅊 rare Grand Cru Red Burgundy from the Côte de Nuits, produced by Aubert de Villaine at Domaine de la Romanພ-Conti (DRC)—retails in the U.S. for around $15,000-$20,000 or more per bottle.

But don’t worry, you don’t have to buy a bottle of DRC to become an expert in Pinot Noir. What you need to do is understand the grape, and taste the classics.

First, know that it&aposs a finicky variety. While grapes like the widely popular Cabernet Sauvignon can grow almost anywhere that is warm or hot, Pinot Noir demands a cool-climate. Planted all over the world, the best Pinots are produced from vines planted in limestone-rich (calcareous) clay soils, which tend to drain easily, meaning vines have to struggle to burrow deep for water and nutrients, essentially concentrating flavors in the grapes. Most winemakers say that all they have to do is usher it from vine to bottle, and not mess anything up. If they succeed, the result can be a stunning light-to-medium bodied red𠅎legant, powerful, or finesse-driven, that will taste great young, and will develop gorgeous complexities over a decade or more in bottle.

Next, gather these 30 Pinots and drink them, while pondering their place of origin and the story behind each bottle. Good Pinot isn’t typically cheap, so you&aposve got to be willing to pony up a little more to become an expert, but it’s worth it. Oh, and, if you’ve got any DRC you’re looking to share, DM me on Twitter. Thanks in advance.


At the bottom of the city’s central hill, Croix-Rousse, is this tiny, trendy joint, surrounded by so many trompe-l’oeils, you could easily walk into the Sâone thinking you were stepping into a shopfront. The murals are part of Lyon’s urban heritage and L’Ébauche has its own, a face on the outside shutter, invisible when the restaurant is open (importantly on a Sunday evening, when most other places are closed). Chef Mélik Debadji, in his first “solo” restaurant, creates bistronomic masterpieces from fresh, local produce. Lunch (€20) could be mussels with cream of onion, pickled beetroot, dill oil and broth or a three-course evening meal – Jerusalem artichokes, snails and herb ricotta followed by rabbit ravioli with carrot, spinach with amaretto then apple confit, vanilla cream, balsamic and cider sorbet (€30).
4 rue de la Martinière, +33 4 78 58 12 58, on Facebook. Weds(dinner only)-Sun
Recommended by Mathieu Rostaing-Tayard of Café Sillon


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