Traditional recipes

New York’s Atera will host Fundraising Event Benefitting Bocuse d’Or USA

New York’s Atera will host Fundraising Event Benefitting Bocuse d’Or USA

The Michelin-starred restaurant will host a one-night-only, 15-course menu

Atera in New York's TriBeCa neighborhood.

Atera, a Michelin-starred restaurant in New York’s TriBeCa neighborhood, is hosting a fundraising dinner on Sunday, August 11, that will benefit The Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation, according to a release.

In honor of Bocuse d’Or participating in the US for 15 years, guests can try a one-night-only menu of 15 courses from Chef Matthew Lightner. Lightner has worked at some of the most prestigious institutions in the world like Noma in Copenhagen and L’Auberge in California, and has also received nominations in 2010 and 2011 for Rising Star Chef by the James Beard Foundation.

The dinner starts at 7:30 p.m. and is a pricy $300 per person, and the tasting menu will aim to bring out the best of summer ingredients. Some of the items you can expect to see on the menu include beer foam macarons and sea urchin and carrots.

Non-profit Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation has been in existence since 2008, and is led by chefs Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, and Jerome Bocuse. It aims to train and support young American chefs who represent the United States in the Bocuse d’Or competition, which is held in France every two years.

Kevin Sbraga

AGE: 31
HOMETOWN: Willingboro, NJ – currently resides in Willingboro, NJ
PROFESSION: Executive Chef, Rat’s Restaurant at the Grounds for Sculpture
CULINARY EDUCATION: BS, Culinary Arts from Johnson and Wales in Miami, FL

A self-proclaimed “beast in the kitchen” with unrivaled knife skills, Kevin is currently the Executive Chef at Rat’s at the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ, which is managed by Stephen Starr. After earning his BS of Culinary Arts from Johnson and Wales in Miami, Kevin went on to become the Chef de Cuisine at The Grill at Philadelphia’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel and was included in the 2007 list of “Top 10 Chefs” by Philadelphia Style magazine. In 2008, Kevin served as the Culinary Director of Garces Restaurant Group and was named winner of Best Meat Presentation at Bocuse d’Or USA. This African American, Italian chef declares he’s the “Barack Obama of the cooking game” and wants to prove that “he can.”

Padma Lakshmi

Padma Lakshmi

Padma Lakshmi is an Emmy-nominated food expert, television host, producer and The New York Times best-selling author.

She is the creator, host, and executive producer of the critically acclaimed Hulu series Taste the Nation, which received a 2021 Gotham Award for Breakthrough Series. The series has just been greenlit for a second season.

Lakshmi also serves as host and executive producer of Bravo’s two-time Emmy-winning series Top Chef, which has been nominated for 32 Emmys, including her two-time nomination for Outstanding Host for A Reality-Competition Program. Its new season will be premiering in spring 2021.

Lakshmi is co-founder of the Endometriosis Foundation of America (EFA) and an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Artist Ambassador for immigrants' rights and women's rights. Lakshmi was also appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Born in India, she grew up in the United States, graduating from Clark University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre Arts and American Literature. Known as India’s first supermodel, she began her career as a fashion model and actress working in Europe and the United States.

Laskhmi established herself as a food expert early in her career hosting Padma’s Passport, where she cooked diverse cuisine from around the world and Planet Food, a documentary series, both on the Food Network domestically and worldwide on the Discovery Channel. She also co-hosted Rai Television's Domenica In, Italy’s highest-rated variety show.

She’s a prolific author, writing the best-selling Easy Exotic, which won the “Best First Book” award at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. Lakshmi followed this with the publication of her second cookbook, Tangy, Tart, Hot & Sweet and her memoir The New York Times best-selling Love, Loss and What We Ate. She later published The Encyclopedia of Spices & Herbs. In August of 2021 she will publish her first children’s book Tomatoes for Neela.

In addition to her food writing, Lakshmi has also contributed to Vogue, Gourmet, both British and American Harper's Bazaar, as well as penning a syndicated column on fashion and food for The New York Times.

Lakshmi created a fine jewerly line The Padma Collection, which sold at Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. She also designed a home décor line under the same name featuring tabletop dishware, stemware and hand-blown glass décor pieces, was sold nationwide in Bloomingdale’s. In addition, Lakshmi created Padma’s Easy Exotic, a collection of culinary products ranging from frozen organic foods, fine teas, natural spice blends and home goods. In 2018, Lakshmi collaborated with MAC Cosmetics for a worldwide capsule collection called MAC Padma which quickly sold out in both India and the United States.

After unknowingly suffering from endometrisis for decades, in 2009 she co-founded the Endometriosis Foundation of America (EFA) alongside Advanced Gynecological Surgeon Tamer Seckin, MD. The EFA launched the first interdisciplinary research facility in the country for Gynepathology, as a joint project between Harvard Medical School and MIT and Lakshmi gave the keynote address at the Center’s opening in December 2009.

Her efforts were recognized on the floor of the New York State Senate, where she succeeded in passing a bill related to teen health initiatives. The organization’s ENPOWR program has currently educated over 32,000 students about endometriosis in high schools across the state of New York.

Lakshmi is a visiting scholar at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and has received the 2018 Karma Award from Variety, as well as the 2016 NECO Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

Bocuse d’Or USA at The Culinary Vegetable Institute – In Good Hands

Competitiveness is a basic human trait that has been around for as long as history has been recorded and likely well before that too. At its basest level, competition can bring out the worst in human nature, but at its most elevated levels, it can elicit marvelous achievements and be just plain fun. It shouldn’t be a surprise then that something as inherently human as cooking should become subject to competition. In fact, cooking (and eating) competitions have become standard television fare, some of it base and some interesting and worthwhile. No cooking competition that I’m aware of, however, approaches the Bocuse d’Or, which takes place biannually in Lyon France, in grandeur, skill, pressure, prestige and excitement. It has become an international competition that is to cooking what the Olympics are to athletics. Countries around the world and especially in Europe take this competition very seriously. It has only been within the past ten years, however, that the United States has begun in earnest to harness and apply the resources necessary to compete at this level. The closest this country has been to a Top three finish and a place on the podium has been 6 th place. With people like Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud and Jerome Bocuse, the son of Paul Bocuse himself, behind the American efforts, it has become a matter of culinary pride and respect for the United States to find a place at the podium. We have come a long way with very respectable efforts, but the easy fruit has been reached. To take that last large leap to get to the top requires a lot more work and the need for ever-increasing resources. (See here for a compilation of my reports on previous Bocuse d’Or competitions in the US and in Lyon)

Bocuse d’Or USA Candidate Philip Tessier

For the past three competitions in Lyon, the American candidates have been chosen via a competition in the United States set up to mimic the one in Lyon. These competitions, while entertaining and instructive, devoured much in the way of financial resources, energy and time, all of which, the prestigious group that comprises the Chefs Council and the members of the Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation, felt would ultimately be better applied to actually developing the candidate. As a result this year’s candidate, Philip Tessier, was chosen not through a Bocuse d’Or like cooking competition, but by an application, the same application that would in the past, place people in the American competition.

In order to raise the money necessary to be competitive and have a chance for the podium, the Bocuse d’Or Foundation relies on industry sponsors and American chefs to donate money, products and time for the effort. Happy offshoots of this endeavor are benefit dinners featuring high profile American chefs at high profile restaurants and venues. I had the great fortune of having recently been invited to attend the first one featuring Candidate Philip Tessier. It was held at a location that I had been hoping to get to visit for some time – The Culinary Vegetable Institute at The Chef’s Garden in Huron, Ohio. The Chef’s Garden, owned and operated by the Jones Family with Farmer Lee Jones as the family’s most visible and well known representative, has become the leader in growing top quality bespoke vegetables, herbs, edible flowers and micro-greens for many of the country’s top restaurants as well as for discerning home consumption. It is a veritable Garden of Eden in what I would have mistakenly thought a very unlikely location.

The Culinary Vegetable Institute, an offshoot of The Chef’s Garden is uniquely situated to host an event like this benefit for the Bocuse d’Or USA. It has its own building designed with a state of the art open kitchen and a large dining room amongst other amenities with a mission to educate and inspire advances in the culinary arts. They commonly hold events with guest chefs and promote an exchange of ideas between chefs, farmers and interested diners. In addition to the space, they also have the most wonderful ingredients ready to be pulled, plucked, cut or picked right out of the ground or off the plant. This luxury became well evident throughout the amazing meal that followed.

It was an all-star culinary cast that came out to tiny Huron on the banks of Lake Erie to cook for this worthy cause. Led by former Bocuse d’OR USA candidate and the current coach of the Bocuse d’Or USA team, Chef Gavin Kaysen of Café Boulud in NYC, the evenings culinary team also consisted of the current candidate Philip Tessier, the Executive Sous Chef of The French Laundry in Yountville, California Eli Kaimeh of The French Laundry’s NYC sister, Per Se current James Beard nominees for Best Chef – Great Lakes, Curtis Duffy of Grace in Chicago and Jonathan Sawyer of The Greenhouse Tavern in nearby Cleveland former Bocuse d’Or USA competitor Jennifer Petrusky, formerly of Yusho in Chicago and now working front of the house at Quince in San Francisco while developing a new project for the Napa Valley: Michael Rotondo of Parallel 47 in San Francisco and Thomas Raquel, the pastry chef of Acadia in Chicago. Chef Jamie Simpson, the in-house Chef-Liaison of The Culinary Vegetable Institute, put the team together. A strong supporting cast of chefs and cooks from the CVI as well as their own restaurants further assisted this team.

Chef Tessier inspects his newly arrived supplies

Earlier in the day, it appeared that the evening might be derailed even before it started. The three chefs coming from the west coast all came in on the same flight the evening prior. While they made it, their luggage, including much of the food that they planned to serve did not. Fortunately, it did arrive late the morning of, none the worse for wear – disaster averted.

Yuzu curd, cucumber and cucumber flowers – Simpson

The evening began with the dapper crowd milling about, sipping wine and eating canapés from Jamie Simpson and Jonathan Sawyer. Simpson offered a deliciously bright yuzu curd augmented with sliced baby cucumbers and cucumber flowers.

Chef Sawyer serving his ciccioli to guest Edsel Little

Chef Sawyer served three canapes, all well integrated works of multiple textures and deep flavors. Ciccioli were crisps made from pasta that were stuffed with spiced cultured cream, lardo and caviar.

Crusti di Polenta – Sawyer

He also prepared crusti di polenta to emulate the crispy bits from a pot of polenta. The polenta had been flattened, crisped and smeared with five year old anchovy sauce, two year old beef fat and Côte Rôtie vinegar before they were topped with micro-greens from The Chefs Garden and some house-cured bottarga.

Sawyer’s final canapé was one that he called Gold Cold Duck. This was a gel of compressed whole duck stew with foie gras and gold leaf. It was rich and elegant as befitted the evening.

Chef Curtis Duffy of Grace plating his dish

Salsify Cooked and Raw/ Trout Roe/ Black Lime/ Apples Compressed in Riesling/ Mountain Mint/ Oxalis – Duffy

The formal part of the meal started with a dish from Chef Curtis Duffy of the two Michelin starred Chicago restaurant, Grace. Duffy’s dish, nearly vegan, utilized the wealth of material to be had at the farm supplemented with a few select items. This delicious dish was well-balanced, beautiful and complex.

Jennifer Petrusky explaining her dish

Iberico Ham & Garlic Consommé/ Black Garlic/ Iberico Ham Chips – Petrusky

Jennifer Petrusky created a dish that she wantded to be emblamatic of spring and she achieved it with a light and flavorful Spanish- tinged garlic consommé adorned with Iberico ham chips and black garlic.

Chef Liaison Jamie Simpson and his Go-Pro.

Potato/ Sea Urchin/ Nasturtium/ Barley/ Crême Fraîche – Simpson

The very talented resident chef, Jamie Simpson, originally from Charleston, S.C., donned a Go-Pro camera on his forehead to film the eevent, and created a spectacularly beautiful dish that combined Santa Barbara se urchin with sweet potato and crême fraiche in a creamy base with barley, nasturtium and other delights.

Chef Eli Kaimeh smiles for the camera

Sauternes Poached Foie Gras – Kaimeh

During the weekend I discovered that chef Eli Kaimeh of Per Se and I went to the same high school in Brooklyn, albeit not at the same time. I had graduated a few years prior to his arrival (and likely his birth). He has, despite that, achieved great success in the culinary world as Chef de Cuisine of a Michelin Three Star restaurant. The skill needed for that was apparent in his marvelous Sauterne Poached Foie Gras.

Bacon Wrapped Monkfish/ Pommes Maxim’s/ Petite Pois a la Francaise/ Red Wine Braised Escargots – Tessier

The chef that most in the audience were most curious about was the candidate – Philip Tessier. He was the one, who until recently, was essentially known only to the cognescenti of the world of The French Laundry. What the patrons discovered was a thoughtful, charming and very talented cook, who maintained his cool and his smile throughout the day (even when his supplies had not yet arrived) and the evening. His dish, monkfish wrapped in bacon, served with Pommes Maxim’s, petite pois a la Francaise and red wine braised escargots demonstrated a well-versed familiarity with classic French cooking along with a strong aesthetic and a finely tempered palate. This was a dish both beautiful and delicious that seemed geared from the outset to impress the actual judges of the Bocuse d’Or.

Massachusetts native, chef Michael Rotondo

Grimaud Farm Guinea Hen/ Tempura Turnip/ Reduction of Nettles/ Jalapeño – Rotondo

Michael Rotondo, also a former contestant to represent the USA at the Bocuse d’Or (2008), spent the better part of his career so far working in Chicago at Charlie Trotter’s befoe heading out to San Francisco in January of 2013 to become Chef de Cuisine at Parallel 37, formerly the Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton. His dish centered on Grimaud Farms Guinea Hen, which was served with a tempura fried Chef’s Garden turnip, a reduction of nettles and a bit of jalapeño. Once again, the dish was both beautifully presented and delicious. One of the most enjoyable aspects of a dinner like this was watching the interplay of all of the cooks in the kitchen.. They were all in their element and worked cohesively together as if they had been a long-standing team.

Bocuse d’Or USA Head Coach Gavin Kaysen

Lamb Mosaic/ Fine Herb Pesto/ Niçcoise Olives/ Red Pearl Onion/ Confit Pepper/ Natural Jus – Kaysen

Fittingly, the final savory course of the dinner fell to chef Gavin Kaysen, the Executive Chef of Cafe Boulud in NYC, 2007 Bocuse d’Or USA Candidate in Lyon and the Head Coach of Bocuse d’Or USA. His dish featured a gorgeous mosaic of lamb with classic French accompaniments presented artfully and packing tons of exquisitely delicious flavor. It was a true show-stopper.

Chef Thomas Raquel demonstrating the value of a top notch pastry chef.

Matcha Custard/ Puffed Wild Rice/ Toasted Rice Sorbet/ Hojicha Branches/ Lychee Snow – Raquel

Luckily, though, the dinner continued. There may be some who bemoan the state of the art of contemporary restaurant pastry creativity, but those people must not have had the good fortune of having sampled the work of Thomas Raquel of Acadia in Chicago, amongst others. Raquel combined dazzling artistry and a superb balance of outstanding flavors in both his formal dessert and his mignardes. The former revealed a strong Asian influence using a delicious Matcha custard along with puffed wild rice, toasted rice sorbet and other Asian flavors. This was a finesse dish that no matter how full I might be, would tempt me. Isn’t that what dessert should be?

Throughout the evening the attendees enjoyed fine wines donated and paired by Master Sommelier, Joseph Spellman of Justin Vineyards and Winery in Paso Robles, California. These wines were abetted by some additional wines from the prodigious personal cellar of Bocuse d’Or USA supporter, Ray Harris. All proceeds from the event went to further the cause of the Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation.

His mignarde was equally lovely. This was the golden egg to symbolize what the Bocuse d’Or USA is striving for. The object is not solely to win or do well in a competition, but to state beyond a shadow of a doubt that the United States has arrived on the world culinary stage. With creativity and delicious dishes like those evidenced on this night, that should be a foregone conclusion, yet the reputation of the United States in world gastronomic circles is not yet as strong as it could be or should be. It takes a lot of skill and a lot of preparation to do well in the Bocuse d’Or. It was clearly evident to me on this evening that this year’s Candidate, Philip Tessier has the skill and the personality to compete and with his position under Thomas Keller at The French Laundry, should have the appropriate preparation under his belt. It would appear to me that given these necessities, the Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation is in good hands with Chef Philip Tessier. Of course there is yet another ingredient that any winner must have to succeed and that is luck. Without the prerequisites of skill, personality and preparation, there is no chance.. but no matter how well those criteria apply, luck remains important. To this end, I wish Chef Tessier all the luck in the world to help him achieve his and the Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation’s goals for success in Lyon in 2015.

For these and many more photos from this glorious event please click here.

A Return To Atera

One of the problems for me with writing about restaurants is that it is difficult to return to places that I’ve been and enjoyed when it seems that there is always something new and exciting that I have not yet experienced nor written about. Nevertheless, I do go back to old favorites when I can, but I do not necessarily write about them unless there is something compelling about the experience that will add to the discussion of the restaurant and the chef. Such was the case with Atera, Chef Matthew Lightner’s modern fine dining restaurant located in lower Manhattan. My first meal, had shortly after the restaurant opened, was excellent. I wrote at the time,

Chef Lightner’s influences, Andoni Luis Aduriz and Rene Redzepi, are readily apparent in his work. He learned a lot from them and is not afraid to use what he learned, but that doesn’t mean that he is simply copying them. Lightner is not quite as “technoemotional” as Aduriz nor as regionally identified as Redzepi. Rather, his work is a continuation of a school of cooking that goes back to at least Michel Bras. Lightner has been a very astute pupil and has incorporated what he has learned into his style, a style that I expect will continue to evolve the longer he is in NYC.

During that first meal, Chef Lightner’s influences from Andoni Luis Aduriz and Rene Redzepi were clear and they were welcome as there wasn’t anyone else at the time in NYC doing anything quite like it. With this meal, however, Lightner’s influences, while present, were less obvious and his food more distinctively his as he built upon some themes and earlier approaches. That first meal was exciting because it was fresh for NYC and very, very good. This one, however, was even more exciting, because it showed that the voice of a top young chef has grown more clear, refined and personal as well as being even more delicious. Pair that with some of the finest service around, an intimate setting conducive to conviviality (each time we made friends with our neighbors at the u-shaped dining bar overlooking the open kitchen) and a great beverage program and one has a recipe for one of the very best restaurants in the country, let alone NYC.

Chef Matthew Lightner with Chef de Cuisine Jaime Young

My son and I had an early reservation. I was to meet him there and I arrived early for the reservation, prior to the restaurant’s opening. Waiting in the foyer outside the restaurant, I was able to overhear Chef Lightner’s briefing to his crew. It happened to be the day that the restaurant had been re-upped with two Michelin stars. Not to rest on their laurels, as with all great restaurants, Lightner paid attention to the details and focused on them in his presentation. I smiled at the thought of what was to come.

Bar detail in The Lounge at Aterea

The pow-wow soon broke up and I was greeted and escorted to The Lounge at Atera, a basement bar, for a cocktail while I waited for my son. The downstairs space is intimate and cozy, though perhaps a bit cramped and dark for those with a touch of claustrophobia. It is also a fine way to sample some of the food of Atera as they have a bar menu.

Summer Comfort/ Bourbon, Peach, Egg White. Rose Water

The weather was unusually hot and summery for early October, so I had a Summer Comfort, which by my good fortune was still on the menu. It was refreshing, frothy and very, very tasty. The head bartender is Benjamin Foote. The cocktail hit the spot just in time as my son arrived and we headed back upstairs to the dining room.

Captain Matthew Abbick Pours Champagne

We were seated in the exact same spot that I had been seated the first time I had been to Atera, that is, in the middle of the u-shaped dining counter facing the open kitchen – perfect! It got even better, though. Remember, how I wrote that it is easy to make friends while dining at the Atera counter? Well, it just so happened that one of the fellow diners I had become friendly with at that first meal, a fellow food-blogger by the name of Matt Abick, had been so enthralled with the restaurant that he now works therein the FOH as a Captain. Matt was our Captain and could not have provided better or more knowledgable and fun service. Witty, erudite and extremely personable, Matt did a tremendous job and not just with us as we were able to observe his interactions with the other diners too. Matt’s lead was followed by the rest of the service staff too as the service achieved just the right balance of formality and enthusiasm. I have only had equally good service at a handful of restaurants in the United States. Oh, and Matt started us out with a nice bit of bubbly from Playez-Jacquemart, a non-vntage blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.

Beer Foam Macaron/ Creme Fraiche, Caviar

As with most top high end tasting menus today, our meal commenced with a number of small snacks. The first, beer foam macarons with creme fresh and caviar set the tone for the rest of the evening. Sweet, salty, crunchy, light and utterly delicious, it was a wonderful beginning.

The second snack was another stunner. Beets had been lightly pickled and coated in bees wax. The beeswax added texture and a bit of a honey flavor. This was fun and delicious.

Geoduck and air baguette was reminiscent of the Jamon Iberico with Air Baguette at Tickets, minibar and Bazaar, but the exchange of the jamon for the geoduck made a huge difference, making this an original take on a classic of the Modernist idiom.¹ Another similarity with the Spanish classic was that the bite was delicious.

Amaranth Toast/ Ramp Tartar Sauce, Smoked Trout Roe

Amaranth Toast with Ramp Tartar Sauce and Trout Roe was another well conceived and executed nibble. The delivery of the bites was particularly fun as they came on a bed of spongy moss, which provided its own set of tactile pleasures.

This dinner was almost completely different from my first. One exception was the continued presence of Lightner’s take on a lobster roll. This had changed slightly from when I first had it, but its essential nature was the same. The light sweetness of the meringue “bun” worked to enhance the lobster’s natural sweetness. For anyone who has followed this blog, it should be apparent that the balance I least prefer in my savory courses is gratuitous sweetness. I don’t mind sweet, so long as it is in balance and has a real purpose. This dish was sweet, but it didn’t go too far. Lightner did a fine job of keeping that element in check even while highlighting the lobster’s sweet essence.

Beef Tendon/ Uni Fish Sauce

The snacks had all so far been superior, but the next one took it up yet another notch in the cleverness department. Beef tendons had been slow cooked on the bone for twenty-four hours until they fell off. They were then cleaned, dehydrated and flash fried before they were served with an uni-fish sauce to create a crisp, delicious, unique and fun snack a la shrimp toast.

Pickled Quail Eggs/ Pig’s Blood Wafers

The next snack came in two parts. The first was a pickled quail egg and the second were wafers made from pig’s blood sandwiching a center of chicken liver paté and huckleberries. Nice.

Cabot Chees/ Sourdough Toast, Marinated Onions

The next snack was a bit of a surprise in that it had the distinct feel, look and taste of comfort food as opposed to the high concept, technique driven cuisine that had preceded it. That is not to say that it wasn’t great or didn’t belong on the menu. It was truly delicious and showed another facet of Lightner’s cooking. It was perhaps the simplest dish on the entire menu or at least it appeared that way. Onions had been marinated in sherry vinegar with cayenne, salt, pepper and olive oil and then layered on top of the sourdough toast. Cabot Cloth-Bound Cheddar was then melted on top. Ultimately, it was elegant comfort food that my son said that he “could eat all day.”

Lightner has a penchant for trompe l’oiel like pieces. He enjoys playing with his ingredients to create things that look like and represent one thing, but come from something actually quite different. This snack, which included the “bone” was completely edible. Obviously, the “bone” was not actually bone. Stepping in to mimic the bone was heart of palm. The bone marrow was actually bone marrow. The dish reminded me of his previous razor clam dish without being as derivative.

One of the more intriguing snacks was the swordfish belly. This had been cured and had a chewy texture that was not as fatty as tuna belly. With noticeable, but not unpleasant saltiness, the bite had a nice flavor that would benefit from additional familiarity. This was, in essence, the exact opposite to the cheese/onion/toast dish. Where that was immediately approachable comfort food, this was unusual and challenging as we had to search our taste memories for descriptions, characterizations and context. Both dishes were quite successful for what they were, while the contrast in approaches increased their individual and collective appeal. This was the last of the little bites as we moved on to the next phase if our meal.

The snacks were fun, intriguing, creative and delicious, but it was here that Lightner started to get truly serious. Much of hat we had experienced had been the product of his playing. That is not to belittle the bites. That is just to say that they were clever and fun. With this next phase, those elements weren’t forgotten, but the results were more about emphasizing the serious nature of top flight combinations of flavors and intricate, finely tuned technique. Starting with the caviar and black walnuts, a dish that visually reminded me of a bowl of lentils, Lightner explored the elements of saltiness and bitterness without letting either get out of hand. The nuttiness on the finish left this as a dish that will haunt.

With the next course, Lightner served the first of a number of true “wows.” While it turned out that all of the orbs were Jupiter grapes, it was not readily apparent before eating them that at least some of them might not have been olives too as visually the grapes looked quite similar to olives. Instead the olives were present as a tapenade under the grapes as well as with olive oil. An unintuitive combination to me, the dish was sublime with a perfect sweet/savory balance. It was one of the very best dishes that I have had all year.

The next dish was served by Chef Lightner himself and was another “Wow!” Though he called it “a simple salad of artichokes” it was anything but simple. Using parts of the artichoke often discarded, Lightner transformed them into something truly special abetted by a touch of vinaigrette.

Pinot Grigio, Le Vigne de Zamó, Colli Orientali del Friuli, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy 2012

With the artichoke course out of the way, we started the main phase of the meal and a progression of wine pairings chosen by Sommelier extraordinaire Scott Cameron. His first choice, designed to accompany our next dish, was a Pinot Grigio. actually made as a light rosato. It was creamy, soft and a beautiful match with the next dish.

Blue Fin Tuna/ Tomato Preserves

I must admit, I had some trouble with this dish, but I did eat and enjoy it. It was indeed rather delicious, but then bluefin tuna, when well handled, usually is. I no longer order bluefin and generally prefer to avoid it, given its shaky status as a species. As such, I will not address this dish further.

One dish that I will address further was Lightner’s sensational white on white on white construction of garlic, razor clams and almonds. A brilliantly conceived and executed dish, the presentation was marvelous². This was truly food as art. It was delicious and subtle with slight variations in texture. This was another of my favorite dishes of the year.

Cahyakumangoku, Tentaka Shuzu, Tentaka Kuni “Hawk in the Heavens” Junmai, Tonchigi-Ken, Japan

It was extremely well paired with a beautiful, crisp junmai sake. It was clean and light on the palate, but with an earthy savoriness.

I do love sea urchin. It is not often that I don’t like it when it is in good hands, but on the same token it is not easy to make an uni dish that stands out beyond others. Lightner did. He paired Santa Barbara uni with a variety of flower petals (calendula, sunflower and nasturtium) along with carrots prepared several ways (blanched carrot purée, roasted carrot miso and soy combined with heavily reduced carrots). The result was sensational. The textures were smooth and creamy, while the flavors were sweet with a touch of sour. It was truly a fabulous combination that was synergistically enhanced by the pairing.

Toasted Barley, Meantime Brewing Co., London Porter, Greenwich-London, England, UK

Cameron used a beer for this pairing. Mean Time, a British porter from Greenwich (thus the name), was light for a porter with a maritime sea foam quality and, of course, bitterness from the hops. The bitterness played nicely off the sweetness of the uni, while the foaminess of the beer worked to cut through the creamy smoothness of the dish.

Black Cod Sashimi/ Crispy Skin

Sometimes a dish will bring entirely unexpected taste associations. Black Cod Sashimi with Crispy Skin was such a dish. It tasted like a Montreal style bagel with cream cheese and lox. When I told the waiter about my surprising association, he went and found out that the dish was actually made with strained buttermilk. I wasn’t totally crazy after all.

Diver Scallop/ Fermented Cabbage Leaf

It has been an exceptional year for scallop dishes. Another to add to the list was this one from Chef Lightner. The live scallop was gently cooked over the coals. The scallop and the roe sac were served with fermented cabbage and hazelnut butter.

Grüner Veltliner, Weingut Eider, Mauterner Federspiel, Wagram, Austria, 2009

Grüner Veltliner is a versatile food wine. Its minerality works well with a wide range of foods and it worked quite well with this dish.

Dried Beets/ Brown Butter, Blackberry

It has also been a great year for beet dishes and Chef Lightner delivered here too with another sensational dish. Dried beets were matched with gorgeous blackberries and a brown butter consommé. Another “Wow!” dish, this combined fantastic textures with an intensely savory and buttery sweetness. Not to be dismissed was the dish’s visual appeal. The bleeding of color from the beets into the consommé was beautiful beyond what I was able to capture in the photo above.

Apple, Chateau de Hautville, Sidre “Tendre” Doux Charchigné, Bas-Normandie, France 2012

Once again, the pairing of beverage with food was synergistic and outstanding. This time, the liquid vehicle was a French cider from Normandy made by the former Chef-Sommelier of L’Arpege, Eric Bordelet. The cider was earthy, intense, complex, just slightly sweet and absolutely delicious.

Hattan & Shinsenbon, Kamoizumi Shuzo, Shusen “Three Dots” Junmai Saijo, Hiroshima-Ken, Japan

Sake is such a food friendly beverage. Somewhat neutral, it has plenty of flavor without being overly assertive. Once again, it provided a stellar match for the dish it was paired with.

Peeky Toe Crab Raviolo/ Toasted Grain Dashi

That dish was in itself another knock-out. Peekytoe crab raviolo in a toasted grain dashi was so full of finesse as well as flavor. The raviolo skin was made from yuba with the crab set in a lobster sabayon as the stuffing. The flavor was pure crab highlighted by the depth and umami of the dashi – terrific!

“Honey Orchid” Phoenix Oolong Tea, Wu Dong Shan, China

The beverage pairings were not entirely alcohol laden. The next pairing was actually a tea, I believe the first time that I have ever had a hot tea paired with a savory dish in a western tradition restaurant. The tea was delicate, earthy and floral.

Matsutake Mushroom/ Pine Nut

Of course the dish was Asian inspired. Centered around products associated with pine trees, in particular Matsutaki mushrooms and pine nuts, this dish also brought in foie gras and blueberry to complete the balance. It was wonderful and the tea made a lovely complement to the dish.

House Made Bread and Butter

Bread service is not taken lightly at Atera, which is as it should be if bread is to be served at all during an extended tasting menu. We were not wonting for calories or in need of filler. It is serve as its own course and deservedly so. Thankfully, this is one of the experiences from my previous meal that was kept intact including the Harbison butter. Boulangére Sheena Otto does a great job both with this bread as well as the pork fat bread that comes later.

Mirroring the crab raviolo from a bit earlier, the next dish brought together more seafood in a bouillon. This time the seafood was sepia and the bouillon was roasted chicken. The overall effects of the two dishes were quite different, though. The raviolo was all about the sea, while this one used the cuttlefish as a pasta like vehicle to carry the deep, rich flavor of the chicken broth. In essence, the dish was an enhanced chicken noodle soup, but what a chicken noodle soup!

Godello/Dona Blanco/Torrontés/Loureira, Domino de Bibei, “Lapola” Blanco, Ribeira Sacra, Quiroga-Bibei, Galicia, Spain, 2010

A Ribeira Sacra from Galicia was useful to add clean minerality to the dish. These are delicious, food friendly wines that work just as well with seafood and more earthy dishes.

Riesling, Boundary Breaks, Clone 110, Semi-Dry, Finger Lakes, New York, United States, 2011

Speaking of food friendly wines, perhaps Riesling is the most food friendly of wine varietals. Using clones from Germany, the next wine was made in the Finger Lakes of New York State. Slightly off dry, it had excellent balancing acidity and fine floral notes, both of which were useful in pairing the next dish.

The bacon fat roll was served along with the wine just before the next dish. With the bacon fat baked inside and permeating the bread, butter wasn’t really necessary, but it was sooo good.

Grilled Halibut/ Chamomile

Deliciousness does not have to hit one over the head. Often, deliciousness is more subtle and seeps in more slowly, leaving the diner with a wry smile and an intensifying sense of pleasure. Nova Scotia halibut had been brined then grilled and topped with roasted garlic and rose petals. Off to the side of the plate was a sauce made from the roasted bones of the fish reduced and emulsified with a chamomile oil. The Riesling was ideal.

Roasted Squab/ Berries, Black Garlic, Fennel Fronds

Yet more bread preceded this dish, a seeded multigrain roll. The timing of this bread was no accident as it led into the avian nature of the dish. Chef Lightner often takes inspiration from the visual arts² and this was apparent with his squab plating, which was inspired by an illustration done by the late artist Charlie Harper. In lesser hands this kind of approach can be contrived and fall short, but not so in Lightner’s. The plate consisted of the beautifully roasted breast of Four Story Hill Farm squab with a ragú of its offal in a concentrated tomato and garlic sauce, currant tomatoes, pickled elderberries, black garlic and fennel fronds. The dish was as delicious as it was beautiful.

Swmillon, Kalin Cellars, Wente Vineyard, Livermore Valley, Alameda County, California, United States, 2000

The wine pairing was no slouch, either. I would intuitively have put a rich red, perhaps a Burgundy up against the squab, but Scott Cameron went with the 2000 Semillon from Livermore Valley from Kalin Cellars. That is why he is the sommelier and I’m not.

Sommelier Scott Cameron pouring Lagrein, J. hofstatter, Steinroffler, Sudtirol-Alto Adige, Italy, 2008

Cameron’s expertise was apparent throughout the meal and it continued with a wine grape that I had never tasted before. Made from the Lagrein varietal, a relation to Syrah and Pinot Noir, was a nice 13% alcohol and different enough to be interesting as well as delicious.

Lamb Rack/ Pepper Condiment

We still had two more savory courses to go, but this was the last of the meat based courses. A nice slice of lamb taken from the rack along with a generous portion of its unctuously warm fat was served with a pepper condiment and New Zealand spinach. Fat can be wonderful or it can be off-putting. The way this was served and at the temperature it was served, the effect was most definitely the former. The flavor was rich and shouting delicious at a very high volume. It was yet another standout.

Had I already mentioned that it has been a great year for beet courses? Of course I did, much earlier in my description of this epic meal. Chef Lightner had already served a course based around a dried beet. It was magnificent. Ordinarily, I would balk at a fine dining restaurant repeating an ingredient, but not in this case. Though the beet in this dish had also been dried, the treatment and the net effect was quite different, though even more delicious. The beets had been cooked in a pressure cooker until soft, then dehydrated and cooked in a garlic-thyme butter and served with a Bordelaise sauce. The effect was of a venison like beet meat, that was intensely savory and delicious, another “Wow!” This was similar conceptually to the incredible beet dish that my son and I had at L’Arpege earlier in the year, though they were indeed distinct and wonderful dishes.

We started to segue into dessert, but that had been preceded by a formal service of tea, a green tea from China for my son and a Rooibos tea from South Africa for me. The service was handled with finesse and respect for technique. The teas were marvelous.

The teas were not actually meant to accompany the first dessert, though. For that, Scott Cameron concocted a special cocktail in front of us that they called an Arolla Stone Spritz. It consisted of a bubbly gamay, Pine Liqueur, pine sap and lemon oleo saccharin.

Cheesecake/ Lemon Sherbert

It was a marvelous cocktail that went very, very well with the Japanese style cheesecake that was our intro into sweets. Made from Harbison cheese from Vermont’s Jasper Hill Farm, it was light and delicious accompanied by lemon sherbert. A bonus of this delightful course was that the cheesecake itself was served in a way that it resembled an actual slice of cheese.

The next dessert (all of the desserts were the product of Chef Lightner’s fertile imagination and compositional skills) was yet another Wow! moment of the meal. Looking a bit like a whoopie pie made by a gardener, it was indeed called a “Garden Pie.” Consisting of sable, herbs, blueberry and whipped cream it was a fantastically well balanced and brilliantly delicious dessert. It did not have a specific pairing nor did it need one.

Moscato, Chinati Vergano, “Iuli” Asti, Piemonte, Italy 2012

The next dessert did have a pairing and it was a marvelous one, combining a dessert wine and amaro into one beverage. Most chinatos that I’m familiar with are made with Barolo wine. This one, however, though it was from Asti, was made with wine made from Moscato grapes that were fermented dry. This was then combined with spirits that had been seeped in a variety of aromatics. The end result was delightful, making a fabulous digestif to work alongside a dessert.

Strawberries/ Saltine Meringue

The dessert accompanying the Iuli was one inspired by Chef Lightner’s childhood. in Joplin, Missouri. His grandmother would crumble up saltines and mix them with milk along with something else like some strawberries. Here, Chef Lightner took that inspiration and made it into something very, very special. The crackers were actually buttermilk meringues and the ice cream was flavored as saltines. A bit of strawberry put the combo over the top.

Cracked Egg Ice Cream/ Egg Yolk Jam

The next dish was the only one all night that I thought was more clever than truly delicious. It was indeed quite clever, though as it was another visual joke. Cracked egg (goat milk) ice cream with egg yolk jam and a sugar shell was a great concept that in other situations may have made a greater impression. Here, however, it had many tough acts to follow. It was the one dish that had a decidedly sweet flavor profile (yes, I know it was a dessert, but I still prefer the sweetness to be not quite so totally dominant) and relatively narrow flavors. Had the sweetness not been as significant as I found it, the subtle nuances of the dish might have spoken to me more. Nevertheless, the fantastical construction still allowed the dish to be quite enjoyable.

Pedro Ximénez, Bodega Toro Albalá, “Don PX” Gran Reserva, Montilla-Moriles, Spain, 1985

Our final wine pairing of the evening involved a wine well known (and appreciated by) to me, the Don PX Gran Reserva from Bodega Toro Albalá. It is a beautifully balanced, brooding and delicious Pedro Ximenez dessert wine from Spain that spent twenty five years oxidizing in oak before release.

The PX was paired with the penultimate dessert of the evening, a very lovely toasted Walnut Sundae with celery root. Between the nuts and the celeriac, the savory elements in the dish brought back to my playing field. This was another superb dessert with enough sweetness to qualify for the descriptor, but enough savoriness to make it palatable, complex and delicious.

Bourbon Cask Ice Cream Sandwich

Our final dessert was an ice cream sandwich made with ice cream for which the milk had been steeped in spent Tuthilltown Spirits Baby Bourbon barrels. This was a tasty, light and fun dessert.

The mignardises were another holdover from my earlier visit.

The eating was done, but with such a fabulous meal, it wasn’t quite time to call the evening to a close.

I spied some lovely beverages in a cabinet directly behind us, so I chose a glass of Whistle Pig ten year old Rye to bring this phase of the evening to a close. It was a fine choice to culminate a totally outstanding evening. The food, beverages, atmosphere and service were all top tier. When I first visited Atera I was excited to see a return to developing new fine dining restaurants in New York City. I saw that with that first excellent meal that Chef Matt Lightner and his new restaurant had great potential. With this meal, I came to fully realize that the potential shown in that original meal had now come to be realized. Atera has become a mature restaurant that is now truly one of the finest restaurants in the country at a level only a handful of other restaurants are at. It combines all of the wonderful things that make contemporary fine dining a worthwhile experience worth the not inconsiderable tariffs they demand. Atera is delicious, creative, luxurious, relaxed, fun, easygoing, intimate, educational, whimsical and outgoing. It has an open kitchen that is interactive enough without being a sideshow. Most of the engagement is left to the very capable front of the house staff, but when the Chef or the cooks interact, it is heartfelt and meaningful. This was one of the very best meals that I had the pleasure of experiencing all year and Atera has become one of my favorite restaurants anywhere. I look forward to my next visit.

For these and more photos, please see my Flick’r Photoset.

¹The dish lacked jamón, but it didn’t lack pork as it contained a layer of pork fat draped over the geoduck. The baguette contained a light smoked potato purée.

²See The Spanish Hipster’s recent post on Atera with some background on the inspiration for the construction of this dish.

Southern Smoke Foundation

Chef Chris Shepherd's (of Houston’s James Beard award-winning Underbelly Hospitality) Southern Smoke Foundation operates a year-round Emergency Relief Fund to help people in the industry pay for everything from rent to essential medications. To date, Southern Smoke has donated more than $1.6 million to individuals in crisis and organizations that represent the needs of the restaurant industry.

The fund supports the entire food chain—from farmers to bartenders to servers to cooks to brewers to wine makers and everyone in between. Southern Smoke is currently accepting both donations and applications from restaurant owners and service industry workers who are dealing with closed businesses or significant declines in revenue due to the coronavirus.

Is there any life left in the cupcake bakery model?

As soon as Carrie Bradshaw and her fashionable friends stopped by Magnolia Bakery in 2000, what was once considered kids’ party fodder was catapulted into a full-blown food craze.

The screen has been fond of the cupcake ever since. From Kristen Wiig’s aspirational cake business in the hit move Bridesmaids to magnolia bakery runs in fashion magazine blockbuster The Devil Wears Prada to the titular characters fledgling cupcake business in New York based sitcom 2 Broke Girls.

And, as America turned to comfort food during the recession, husband and wife team Jason and Mia Bauer’s Crumbs bakery, first opened in Manhattan in 2003, expanded rapidly, listing on NASDAQ in 2011. But success was relatively short lived. It lost $10.3m in 2012, and then a further $18.2m the following year, with many describing its public offering as premature. The firm was forced to delist this year due to a rapid fall in profits.

Crumbs offer is based entirely on high-calorie, super-sized cupcakes, retailing from $3.50. The lack of diversity in its offer comes first in many analyses of the chain’s demise. Steve Abrams, CEO of rival store Magnolia Bakery described Crumbs as “a one trick pony” in a Wall Street Times blog. “Is there enough room for a one-product company?” he asks.

This is first on the list for Lemonis in his attempt to turn the company around, he said. “I like the brand, I like the concept, but in no universe in the long run does a … cupcake retailer make it,” he said. “You have to add different lines of revenue.”

According to NPD group, In the 12-month period ended in April, cake servings at restaurants declined one percent, compared with an 8 percent rise in the corresponding period of 2011, when the cupcake trend was going strong.

Food trends have moved on and it is certainly difficult to imagine Carrie Bradshaw’s equivalents tucking into cupcakes 14 years down the line – they are far more likely to be eating cronuts – or to be caught hanging round a Brooklyn street food market. But is this really the end of the cupcake?

It’s an absolute no from Abrams. “Can it be a craze if it has lasted 14 years? This is not going to kill the cupcake.”

New York has always been a city of great food, but as one new guide explains, that doesn't mean it has to be expensive

From buy one get one free meals to cocktail happy hours, kids go free to $1 oysters, $2 beers and beyond, restaurants in every major city are doing everything they can to get customers through their doors.

New York is no exception. Nestled among among the Big Apple’s Michelin stars, there are a wealth of ways the city’s ever-growing number of foodies, tourists and special occasion diners can eat well, for less.

For Christopher Heywood, vice president of global communications for NYC & Company, the city’s official marketing, tourism and partnership organisation, good value eating goes beyond just great cut-price deals.

“We offer a variety of cost effective meals, particularly through our vibrant street food culture,” he says. “There are plenty of ‘cheap eats’ options!”

Like other major cities, New York street food has become about much more than its iconic pretzel carts. With lower overheads, vendors can offer great food at lower prices across the city.

According to Monica DiNatale, whose new book 365 Guide New York City is dedicated to bringing together the best cut-price food and drink deals across New York, there has never been a bigger appetite for deals.

“As time goes on and the economy goes up and down, people still want to go out and eat.”

There are deals across the sector, from Happy Hour cocktails at the upmarket Trump Tower Bar to a downtown dive bar with $2 beers.

“It’s all interesting to me,” says DiNatale. “It’s New York, a $2 beer is always interesting.”

And, says DiNatale, a self-described food fanatic and deals expert, this doesn’t mean that quality should suffer.

“It’s rare to get really bad food here,” she says. “The places that don’t do well don’t survive.”

DiNatale’s selection process for her book is testament to the competitiveness of the New York dining scene. Only established bars and restaurants with long-standing deals make it in, and each one is tried, tested and nominated by her.


Producer and Co-Host Andy Harris is going solo in the host chair this morning. Now a preview of today’s highly caloric (but virtually guilt-free) show

Foie gras, a fine-dining delicacy, has been missed in California restaurants since 2012. A Federal judicial ruling now permits foie gras produced outside of California to be served in restaurants again. We’ll have a tantalizing update with Chef Kris Morningstar of Terrine in Los Angeles…On Monday, Jan. 12th he served a special multi-course “Welcome Back” foie gras menu starting with a foie gras terrine.

The first West Coast outpost of New York’s beloved burger, hot dog and frozen custard stand, Shake Shack, launched in Las Vegas at the end of last year. Shake Shack has a passionate, cult following in the East mirroring the affection Californians have for In -N-Out Burger. It’s located on The Strip in a highly visible spot adjacent to The Park at the foot of New York-New York Hotel & Casino. Mark Rosati, Shake Shack’s Culinary Director, is with us serving up all the juicy details.

Chef Philip Tessier and his young Commis, Skylar Stover, of Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry in Yountville, CA are going for the gold in 2015. The pair is the newest Bocuse d’Or USA Team, representing the nation at the World Cooking Contest in Lyon, France on January 27 th and 28 th . Often described as the “Culinary Olympics,” the Bocuse d’Or (staged every other year) is among the most demanding international cooking competitions, pitting chefs from twenty-four countries against one another in an intense five and a half hour, two-part cooking challenge in front of thousands of cheering fans. Team USA joins us on the road to Lyon.

Chef Neal Fraser (bld and Fritzi Dog) and his wife and business partner, Amy Knoll Fraser, have had their eye on Downtown Los Angeles since before they closed Grace in the Fairfax District in 2009. Their first move was to become one of the official caterers for Vibiana, the home of L.A.’s former historic Catholic Cathedral (Cathedral of Saint Vibiana) dating back to 1876 and now a busy special events space. Eventually they moved their catering kitchen to the site and became the official solo caterers for the facility. Redbird (a partnership with restaurateur Bill Chait) is their new, eagerly anticipated “New American” fine-dining space located on one floor of the former Rectory building (built in the late 1930s.) Amy Knoll Fraser is our guest.

First-time cookbook authors and cookware experts Logan Levant (ex- Buttercake Bakery) and Hilary Hattenbach have penned The Kitchen Decoded – Tools, Tricks, and Recipes for Great Food. The handy new book unravels the mystery of home kitchen equipment and saves the home cook countless hours. The Kitchen Decoded takes the mystery and intimidation out of gadgets and shows how proper cookware can actually streamline the cooking process. Co-author Logan Levant is our helpful guide.

Members of Chef Michael Puglisi’s immediate family in Sicily are well-known Old World artisan butchers. Very soon Chef Puglisi will be using those skills at his own Electric City Butcher Shop which is a major component of Santa Ana’s much –anticipated (and talked about) 4 th Street Market food emporium. Puglisi was previously the sous chef of Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Beverly Hills. On Friday, January 16 th Chef Puglisi is hosting an elaborate, multi-course pop-up dinner at Playground 2.0, an intimate 17-seat exhibition culinary theater in Santa Ana steps away from the soon-to-be 4 th Street Market.

All of this and lots more absolutely incredible deliciousness on Saturday’s show!

Toronto Arts & Culture:

Toronto has museums involving everything from shoes to sugar and ceramic art to textiles and television. Here are some facts on the city's dynamic arts and culture scene:

There are 125 museums and public archives in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Nine of these are Toronto City museums.

There are over 50 ballet and dance companies, six opera companies and two symphony orchestras.

200 pieces of public art and monuments add to Toronto's landscape in addition to the over 2,000 moveable works of fine art on display in public buildings such as City Hall and the civic centres.

Michael Cimarusti

After graduating with honors in 1991 from the Culinary Institute of America, Michael Cimarusti got his start in the Big Apple working with celebrated chef Larry Forigone at An American Place. Cimarusti moved to Bucks County, Pennsylvania where he was appointed chef de cuisine at The Forager House Restaurant, but soon migrated back to Manhattan. After a three-year run at Le Cirque where he worked with Paul Bocuse, Gerard Boyer, and Roger Vergé, Cimarusti moved to France to expand his culinary education at La Marée and Arpege. Back in New York, he became opening chef for Le Cirque’s new venture, Osteria Del Circo. Cimarusti went on to become chef de cuisine at the original Spago in Hollywood and went on to run the show as executive chef of Water Grill. He is currently Owner and Chef of Providence Restaurant in Los Angeles.

Curtis Stone

Curtis Stone

Curtis Stone ( is an internationally known chef, TV host, entrepreneur and New York Times bestselling author. His philosophy to cook as Mother Nature intended inspires Curtis to keep his recipes simple, using local, seasonal and organic ingredients and allowing the food to speak for itself. Curtis is recognized around the globe for his ability to help home cooks find confidence in the kitchen with delicious, doable recipes and easy cooking techniques.

Born in Melbourne, Australia, Curtis first found his passion for food whilst watching his grandmother make her legendary fudge and his mother roast her perfect pork crackling. He quickly learnt to appreciate the beauty of creating -- and eating -- homemade food and cherished the way it brought people together. That early lesson would ultimately become Curtis' ethos and the foundation of his culinary career.

After finishing culinary school, he took a job cooking at the Savoy Hotel in Melbourne before heading to London, where he honed his skills under legendary three-star Michelin genius, Marco Pierre White, at Café Royal, Mirabelle. and the highly revered Quo Vadis.

Curtis opened a multi-functional culinary headquarters in Beverly Hills in January 2014, featuring a test kitchen and his dream, little restaurant, Maude (

While living in London, Curtis appeared in several UK cooking shows before catching the eye of television producers in Australia. At the age of 27, he became the star of a new cooking series called Surfing the Menu. It was an international hit that led to his first American show, TLC’s Take Home Chef in 2006 -- the same year the blondhaired, blue-eyed young gun was named one of People magazine's Sexiest Men Alive. Curtis broke into US primetime network television with appearances on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice, America's Next Great Restaurant and The Biggest Loser. In 2012, Curtis co-hosted Bravo’s Around the World in 80 Plates and reprised his role as host of the network's popular culinary competition Top Chef Masters, which returned for a fifth season in 2013. In addition to this, Curtis is host of the new edition of the Top Chef franchise, Top Chef Duels, scheduled to air this summer. As a frequent guest since ABC’s The Chew's launch in September 2011, Curtis officially joined the ensemble cast as a regular guest co-host in November 2013.

As the author of five cookbooks, Curtis has shared his culinary know-how with readers around the globe. Surfing the Menu and Surfing the Menu Again (ABC Books 2004, 2005), penned with his friend and fellow Aussie chef Ben O’Donoghue, were followed by Cooking with Curtis (Pavilion 2005), a solo effort that celebrated seasonal fare and brought his chef's expertise down-to-earth for the home cook. Setting out to prove that good food doesn't need to be fussy, Curtis then released Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone: Recipes to Put You in My Favorite Mood (Clarkson Potter 2009).

Curtis launched his fifth cookbook, a New York Times best-seller: What's For Dinner?: Recipes for a Busy Life in April 2013 (Ballantine). His sixth cookbook is set for release in April 2015. Curtis also contributes to a variety of food and lifestyle magazines. He is a food columnist for the wildly popular O Magazine, contributing on a bimonthly basis. His debut column was published in the October 2013 issue.

Curtis developed Kitchen Solutions, a line of sleek and functional cookware, in 2007 after spending thousands of hours with home cooks in their own kitchens. The goal is to bring confidence to the kitchen with tools that help make cooking inspired and effortless. The first chef to debut an eponymous product line at Williams-Sonoma, Curtis has expanded the range to include close to 250 items, which in addition to Williams-Sonoma are available at HSN, Bloomingdales, Dillard's, Chef's Catalog, Belk and fine specialty retailers throughout the US, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Singapore and Belgium.

Curtis' restaurant Maude ( is the culmination of all his life and career experiences captured into an intimate setting. Curtis always dreamed of opening his own restaurant so when the perfect space in Beverly Hills became available, he jumped at the chance to make it his own. Curtis' passion project Maude, named after his grandmother, offers a market driven, prix-fixe monthly menu designed to create an intimate chef's table experience for the entire dining room, where every seat is within a comfortable distance to the open kitchen. Each month a single ingredient inspires a menu of nine tasting plates, and this celebrated ingredient is creatively woven, to varying degrees, through each course.

Curtis has fostered long-term relationships with charities around the world, including Feeding America in the US and Cottage by the Sea and Make-A-Wish in Australia. He currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife, actress Lindsay Price, two-year-old son, Hudson, and golden retriever Sully. In his spare time he enjoys hiking, gardening, surfing -- and cooking. For Curtis, cooking always brings fun. "There really is no better gift than a home-cooked meal and enjoying a good laugh around the table."

Gail Simmons

Gail Simmons

Gail Simmons is a trained culinary expert, food writer, and dynamic television personality. Since the show’s inception in 2006, she has lent her extensive expertise as permanent judge on Bravo’s Emmy-winning series Top Chef, currently in its 18th season. She is also the host of the upcoming series Top Chef Amateurs, giving talented home cooks the opportunity of a lifetime to test their skills in the illustrious Top Chef kitchen. A familiar face in the Top Chef franchise, she served as head critic on Top Chef Masters, hosted Top Chef Just Desserts and was a judge on Universal Kids’ Top Chef Jr. Gail hosts Iron Chef Canada and was co-host of The Feed on FYI.

Her first cookbook, Bringing It Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating, was released by Grand Central Publishing in October 2017. Nominated for an IACP award for Best General Cookbook, it features accessible recipes and smart techniques inspired by Gail’s world travels. Gail’s first book, a memoir titled Talking With My Mouth Full, was published by Hyperion in February 2012.

From 2004 to 2019 Gail was Special Projects Director at Food & Wine magazine. During her tenure she wrote a monthly column, helped create the video series #FWCooks and worked closely with the country’s top culinary talent on events and chef-related initiatives, including overseeing the annual F&W Classic in Aspen, America’s premier culinary event. Prior to working at Food & Wine, Gail was the special events manager for Chef Daniel Boulud’s restaurant empire.

Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Gail moved to New York City in 1999 to attend culinary school at what is now the Institute of Culinary Education. She then trained in the kitchens of legendary Le Cirque 2000 and groundbreaking Vong restaurants and worked as the assistant to Vogue's esteemed food critic, Jeffrey Steingarten.

In 2014, Gail and her business partner Samantha Hanks, founded Bumble Pie Productions, an original content company dedicated to discovering and promoting new female voices in the food and lifestyle space. Their first series, Star Plates—a collaboration with Drew Barrymore’s Flower Films and Authentic Entertainment—premiered in Fall 2016 on the Food Network.

In addition, Gail is a weekly contributor to The Dish On Oz and makes frequent appearances on NBC’s TODAY, ABC’s Good Morning America, and the Rachael Ray Show, among others. She has been featured in publications such as People, New York Magazine, Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, GQ, Entertainment Weekly, US Weekly, Los Angeles Times, and was named the #1 Reality TV Judge in America by the New York Post.

In February 2013, Gail was appointed Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Babson College, a mentoring role where she works with student entrepreneurs, helping them develop food-related social enterprises. In April 2016, she received the Award of Excellence by Spoons Across America, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating children about the benefits of healthy eating. She is an active board member and supporter of City Harvest, Hot Bread Kitchen, Common Threads, and the Institute of Culinary Education.

Gail currently lives in New York City with her husband, Jeremy and their children, Dahlia and Kole.

Francis Lam

Francis Lam

Francis Lam returns to the Critics’ Table for the fifth season of Top Chef Masters. He is Editor-at-Large at Clarkson Potter, and previously, was Features Editor at Gilt Taste, which was awarded six IACP awards and four James Beard award nominations in its first two years. His own writing has been nominated for a James Beard award and three IACP awards, winning one, but he knows all this talk of awards is a little tacky. In past lives, he was a senior writer at, a contributing editor at Gourmet magazine (RIP), and his work has appeared in the 2006-2012 editions of Best Food Writing. He believes that, in professional football, that would count as a dynasty in ancient China, not so much. Lam resides in New York City.

James Oseland

James Oseland

James Oseland is thrilled to be returning for his fifth season of Top Chef Masters. He is the editor-in-chief of Saveur, America’s most critically-acclaimed food magazine. Under his editorship, the magazine has won more than more than 40 awards, including numerous James Beard journalism awards, and three from the American Society of Magazine Editors. His 2006 book, Cradle of Flavor, a memoir with recipes about his time living in Southeast Asia, was named one of the best books of that year by Time Asia, The New York Times, and Good Morning America and went on to win awards from the James Beard Foundation and the International Association of Culinary Professionals. He is the also the editor of Saveur’s cookbooks, including Saveur: The New Comfort Food, published in 2011, and The Way We Cook. He is on the board of the directors of the American Society of Magazine Editors and is the editor of the forthcoming Lonely Planet writing anthology A Fork In the Road. He is writing Jimmy Neurosis, a memoir of his punk rock youth in the 1970s, for Ecco Press, a Harper Collins imprint. Additionally, he has lectured at the Asia Society, Slow Food Nation, and the Culinary Institute of America’s Worlds of Flavor conference. He was previously an editor at Vogue, Organic Style, Sassy, the Village Voice, and Mademoiselle, and holds degrees in photography and film studies from the San Francisco Art Institute. Born in Mountain View, California, in 1963, James has lived in India and Indonesia and now lives in New York City with his husband, Daniel. His favorite foods are char kuey teow (Malaysian stir-fried rice noodles with shrimp and chile paste) and milk chocolate bars. Though he is very picky about the food he eats, he will consume anything and usually enjoy it very much.

Lesley Suter

Lesley Suter

Joining the Critics’ Table for Top Chef Masters Season 5, Lesley Suter oversees all dining and food coverage for Los Angeles magazine. In May 2012, Suter took home a James Beard Award, the first ever awarded for food coverage in a general-interest publication. She has lent her culinary know-how to national publications including Saveur and Conde Nast Traveler and has appeared on a number of television and radio programs, including a recurring guest spot on KCRW’s Good Food. She began her career as an Associate Editor at the music magazine Filter and later served as Editor-In-Chief of the alternative weekly newspaper L.A. Alternative. Suter’s food coverage has garnered national recognition in the form of several National Magazine and James Beard Award nominations. She currently resides in the hilly Los Angeles neighborhood of Glassell Park, where she shares a home with her husband Michael, two troublesome felines, and a backyard fruit and vegetable garden—which, if it weren’t for her neighbor, she’d likely have killed by now.

Ruth Reichl

Ruth Reichl

Ruth Reichl, author of Delicious!, a novel that will be released by Random House in the fall, returns as a critic for Season 5 of Top Chef Masters. She was Editor in Chief of Gourmet magazine from 1999 to 2009. Before that, she was the restaurant critic of both The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, where she was also named food editor. As chef and co-owner of The Swallow Restaurant from 1974 to 1977, she played a part in the culinary revolution that took place in Berkeley, California.

Ms. Reichl began writing about food in 1972, when she published Mmmmm: A Feastiary. Since then, she has authored the best-selling memoirs Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples, Garlic and Sapphires, and For You Mom, Finally, which have been translated into 20 languages, and The Gourmet Cookbook. She is also the executive producer of Garlic and Sapphires, a Fox 2000 film based on her memoirs to be directed by Paul Feig, and host of Gourmet’s Adventures with Ruth, a 10-episode public television series which began airing in October 2009.

Ms. Reichl has been honored with six James Beard Awards. She holds a B.A. and an M.A. in the History of Art from the University of Michigan and lives in New York City with her husband, Michael Singer, a television news producer.

Bryan Voltaggio

Bryan Voltaggio

Current Residency: Frederick, MD
Occupation: Executive Chef/Partner of VOLT, Family Meal, STRFSH, Voltaggio Bros. Steak House, ESTUARY

Two-time runner up Bryan Voltaggio is the only chef who has competed on Top Chef (Season Six: Las Vegas) and Top Chef Masters (Season 5). He is back for Season 17 All Stars LA to prove that he has what it takes to bring home the title. A Maryland native and James Beard Foundation Award finalist, Bryan is the executive chef and owner of VOLT, Family Meal, and has three additional restaurants with his brother Michael including Estuary, Voltaggio Brothers Steak House and STRFSH. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Bryan was a cook at Aureole where he met his mentor chef Charlie Palmer. He later was a stagier at Pic, a three-star Michelin restaurant in Valence, France, before reuniting as executive chef at Charlie Palmer Steak in Washington, D.C. After working for Charlie Palmer for almost 10 years, he set out on his own opening Volt in 2008, followed by Family Meal in 2012. His latest project, Estuary, opened in March of 2019 and is the third restaurant he opened with his brother Michael. He has also released two cookbooks Home: Recipes to Cook with Family and Friends and VOLT.Ink, the latter which he co-authored with his brother Michael. As a father and chef, Bryan is a passionate philanthropist and has helped raise over one million dollars working with Chefs Cycle and No Kid Hungry to end childhood hunger. He lives with his wife Jennifer and three children in his hometown of Frederick, MD.

David Burke

David Burke

Blurring the lines between chef, artist, entrepreneur and inventor, David Burke is one of the leading pioneers in American cooking today. His fascination with ingredients and the art of the meal has fueled a thirty-year career marked by creativity, critical acclaim and the introduction of revolutionary products and cooking techniques. His passion for food and for the restaurant industry shows no signs of slowing down.

Burke graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and soon thereafter traveled to France where he completed several stages with notable chefs such as Pierre Troisgros, Georges Blanc and Gaston Lenôtre. Burke's mastery of French culinary technique was confirmed when, at age 26, he won France's coveted Meilleurs Ouvriers de France Diplome d'Honneur for unparalleled skill and creativity with his native cuisine. Burke returned to the U.S. as a sous chef for Waldy Malouf at La Cremaillere and then for Charlie Palmer at The River Café, where he ascended to executive chef and earned three stars from The New York Times.

In 1992, Burke opened the Park Avenue Café with Smith & Wollensky CEO Alan Stillman, and then, in 1996, he became vice president of culinary development for the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group. Burke has been honored with Japan's Nippon Award of Excellence, the Robert Mondavi Award of Excellence and the CIA's August Escoffier Award. Nation's Restaurant News named Burke one of the 50 Top R&D Culinarians and Time Out New York honored him as the "Best Culinary Prankster" in 2003. In May 2009, Burke was inducted into the Who's Who of Food & Beverage in America by the James Beard Foundation. In that same month, he also won the distinctive Menu Masters award from Nation's Restaurant News, naming him one of the nation"s most celebrated culinary innovators.

In February 2012, Burke was honored by the culinary school at Johnson & Wales University with the Distinguished Visiting Chef Award, which is given to the world's most influential and celebrated chefs. In November 2012, he was named Restaurateur of the Year by the New Jersey Restaurant Association. In the same month, he was honored with a Concierge Choice Award, celebrating the best in New York City hospitality, winning the best chef award. In 2013, Burke was nominated to "Best Chefs America," a new benchmark in American cooking whereby chefs name the peers who are the most inspiring and impressive in the business. In 2013, the David Burke Group was recognized by Restaurant Hospitality magazine as having one of the "Coolest Multiconcept Companies in the Land." The article highlights restaurant corporations with an enviable business concept that others can't wait to replicate. In addition, it cites the numerous incarnations of Chef Burke's creative vision, from David Burke Townhouse to David Burke Fishtail, from Burke in the Box to David Burke's Primehouse.

Chef Burke's vast talents have been showcased recently on television, including season two of Top Chef Masters, a guest spot on the Every Day with Rachael Ray show and as a mentor to Breckenridge Bourbon distiller Bryan Nolt on Bloomberg's small-business television series The Mentor. In 2013, he returned to season five of Top Chef Masters.

Burke's visibility as a celebrity chef has also led to consultant positions with hotels, cruise lines and food experts. Most recently, he was invited to join the Holland America Line Culinary Council alongside renowned international chefs Jonnie Boer, Marcus Samuelsson, Jacques Torres, Charlie Trotter and Elizabeth Falkner. In this capacity, Burke will consult on the cruise line's culinary initiatives, including the Culinary Arts Center enrichment program, and provide signature recipes which will be featured on all 15 ships. In 2003, Burke teamed up with Donatella Arpaia to open davidburke & donatella (now known as David Burke Townhouse, of which he has sole ownership). In 2005 came David Burke at Bloomingdale's, a dual-concept restaurant offering both a full service Burke Bar Café on one side and a Burke in the Box eat-in concept on the other.

In 2006 Burke opened up David Burke’s Primehouse in The James Hotel Chicago. His restaurant collection continued to grow that same year when he purchased culinary career began under founders Markus and Hubert Peter. His next ventures included David Burke Prime at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut and David Burke Fishtail in Manhattan, both of which opened in 2008. In February 2011, he opened David Burke Kitchen at The James Hotel New York in SoHo, bringing his signature whimsical style to downtown Manhattan.

In 2013, Burke made great strides in expanding his restaurant empire and enhancing his partnerships with other reputable companies. In the summer of 2013, he opened Burke's Bacon Bar in the James Hotel Chicago, a high-end sandwich and "to-go" concept featuring artisan and top-notch bacons from around the country. BBB features Burke's signature "Handwiches" -- palm-sized sandwiches packed with creative combinations of fresh ingredients -- as well as salads and sweets, all featuring bacon, in some form, as an ingredient. In 2014, Burke will bring his SoHo concept, David Burke Kitchen, which features modern takes on farmhouse cuisine, to the ski resort town of Aspen, Colorado.

During his tenure at The River Café, Burke began experimenting with interesting ingredients and cooking techniques. His first culinary innovations, including Pastrami Salmon (now available through Acme Smoked Fist), flavored oils and tuna tartare, revolutionized gastronomic technique. During his 12-year period at the Park Avenue Café, Burke created GourmetPops, ready-to-serve cheesecake lollipops. His Can o' Cake concept, where cake is mixed, baked and eaten from a portable tin, is used throughout his restaurants. Most recently, he teamed with 12NtM to create two non-alcoholic sparkling beverages, available in gourmet retailers such as Whole Foods and at his New York locations. Additionally, Burke is actively involved with culinology, an approach to food that blends the culinary arts and food technology. To that end, he is the chief culinary advisor to the Skinny Eats line of flavor-enhancing produtts.

In 2011, Burke received the ultimate honor presented to inventors: a United States patent. It was awarded to him for the unique process by which he uses pink Himalayan salt to dry-age his steaks. Burke lines the walls of his dry-aging room with brickes of the alt, which imparts a subtle flavor to the beef and renders it incredibly tender. Burke's steaks can be dry-aged for anywhere from 28 to 55, 75, or even as long as 100 days using this process.

Burke's first cookbook, Cooking with David Burke, and his second, David Burke's New American Classics launched in April 2006. He is currently working on his third book, due out in 2015.

New York’s Atera will host Fundraising Event Benefitting Bocuse d’Or USA - Recipes

I&rsquom writing this nearly 15 months after we closed our dining room, and I&rsquom so excited to share that we will be reopening Eleven Madison Park on June 10th.

The pandemic brought our industry to its knees. With our closure, we laid off most of our team, and truly didn&rsquot know if there was going to be an Eleven Madison Park.

We kept a small team employed, and with their remarkable effort, in collaboration with the nonprofit Rethink Food, we prepared close to a million meals for New Yorkers experiencing food insecurity. Through this work, I experienced the magic of food in a whole new way, and I also saw a different side of our city &ndash and today I love New York more than ever.

What began as an effort to keep our team employed while feeding people in need has become some of the most fulfilling work of my career. It is a chapter in my life that&rsquos been deeply moving, and for which I am very grateful.

It was clear to me that this work must become a cornerstone of our restaurant.

Therefore, we&rsquove evolved our business model. When we reopen Eleven Madison Park on June 10th, every dinner you purchase will allow us to provide five meals to food-insecure New Yorkers. This food is being delivered by Eleven Madison Truck, which is operated by our staff in partnership with Rethink Food. We&rsquove created a circular ecosystem where our guests, our team, and our suppliers all participate.

In the midst of last year, when we began to imagine what EMP would be like after the pandemic &ndash when we started to think about food in creative ways again &ndash we realized that not only has the world changed, but that we have changed as well. We have always operated with sensitivity to the impact we have on our surroundings, but it was becoming ever clearer that the current food system is simply not sustainable, in so many ways.

We use food to express ourselves as richly and authentically as our craft allows &ndash and our creativity has always been tied to a specific moment in time. In this way, the restaurant is a personal expression in dialogue with our guests.

It was clear that after everything we all experienced this past year, we couldn&rsquot open the same restaurant.

With that in mind, I&rsquom excited to share that we&rsquove made the decision to serve a plant-based menu in which we do not use any animal products &mdash every dish is made from vegetables, both from the earth and the sea, as well as fruits, legumes, fungi, grains, and so much more.

We&rsquove been working tirelessly to immerse ourselves in this cuisine. It&rsquos been an incredible journey, a time of so much learning. We are continuing to work with local farms that we have deep connections to, and with ingredients known to us, but we have found new ways to prepare them and to bring them to life.

I find myself most moved and inspired by dishes that center impeccably-prepared vegetables, and have naturally gravitated towards a more plant-based diet. This decision was inspired by the challenge to get to know our ingredients more deeply, and to push ourselves creatively. It wasn&rsquot clear from the onset where we would end up. We promised ourselves that we would only change direction if the experience would be as memorable as before.

We asked ourselves: What are the most delicious aspects of our dishes, and how could we achieve the same level of flavor and texture without meat?

It&rsquos crucial to us that no matter the ingredients, the dish must live up to some of my favorites of the past. It&rsquos a tremendous challenge to create something as satisfying as the lavender honey glazed duck, or the butter poached lobster, recipes that we perfected.

I&rsquom not going to lie, at times I&rsquom up in the middle of the night, thinking about the risk we&rsquore taking abandoning dishes that once defined us.

But then I return to the kitchen and see what we&rsquove created. We are obsessed with making the most flavorful vegetable broths and stocks. Our days are consumed by developing fully plant-based milks, butters and creams. We are exploring fermentation, and understand that time is one of the most precious ingredients. What at first felt limiting began to feel freeing, and we are only scratching the surface.

All this has given us the confidence to reinvent what fine dining can be. It makes us believe that this is a risk worth taking.

It is time to redefine luxury as an experience that serves a higher purpose and maintains a genuine connection to the community. A restaurant experience is about more than what&rsquos on the plate. We are thrilled to share the incredible possibilities of plant-based cuisine while deepening our connection to our homes: both our city and our planet.

I believe that the most exciting time in restaurants is to come. The essence of EMP is stronger than it ever has been. We can&rsquot wait to have you come and experience this new chapter of the restaurant. We look forward to sharing this journey with you.

Watch the video: Why become a Bocuse dOr candidate? Instagram version (January 2022).