Breaking bread. It’s a gesture of friendship that spans generations, cultures and miles. Food is a common denominator connecting humans through the ages. Sharing food can be a gesture of love, compassion, kindness or charity.
I’ve been featuring chefs and sharing their recipes in our Cuisine (formerly Bon Vivant) column for almost 10 years, and the one theme that repeats over and over again is family. Almost without exception, every chef I interviewed cited a family connection that led to his or her chosen career: sweet memories of working in the family garden or learning to make cupcakes at their grandmother’s side. Some came from a long line of accomplished home cooks, while others were pioneers, learning to cook by necessity.
Commonality of the food experience, however, doesn’t mean we all speak the same culinary language. A delicacy in one part of the world may be considered taboo someplace else. Savoring the taste of even well-known foods can be challenging when the presentation is unexpected.
One of my most memorable dining experiences was also, for just a minute or two, one my most uncomfortable dining experiences.
It was late 2004. My husband, Kevin, and I were at Les Ambassadeurs, the fine-dining establishment at the legendary Hôtel de Crillon* in Paris. We were in the midst of savoring a decadent multicourse luncheon prepared by Chef Jean-François Piège. In his mid-30s at the time, Piège was already building a world-class reputation. His mentor, renowned chef Alain Ducasse, described him as a chef who “embodies French savoir-faire and the French art of living.”
The attentive staff had just cleared our table between courses when we noticed a muted flurry of activity. Piège and his colleagues were approaching our table holding what, through the haze of time, I recall as an ornate box. (It may have been simple, but we were so out of our element in that moment, the memory is like a dream sequence.) They placed the box on the table and opened it with a flourish. We gazed at the contents: at first glance, a nondescript spongy mass. It took a beat or two for us to realize we were looking at a very expensive, very large truffle, slices of which we’d enjoy with our next course.
How to react? We were baffled. We’re adept at faking our way through the swirls and sips involved in a restaurant wine tasting, but this was a whole different situation. Do we sniff? Do we touch? Do we reverently bow our approval? Truth is, we muddled our way through the entire series of reactions hoping we hit the right tone. Chef Piège, who spoke little English at the time (although far better than my elementary French), and his staff seemed satisfied. We breathed a sigh of relief. The rest of our meal was perfect.
I look back now at my columns from the past decade and realize each one — each chef — triggers a fond memory. Chef James Overbaugh at The Peninsula Beverly Hills, a native New Englander, surprised me when he recalled his earliest culinary inspiration: watching his Yankee grandfather cook Chinese food in an old and battered metal wok.
Then there’s Chef Michael Fiorelli at mar’sel, the signature eatery at Terranea Resort and Spa in Ranchos Palos Verdes, Calif., an accomplished chef and aspiring writer who satisfies both interests via his passion for cookbooks.
And I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Chef Fabrice Guisset, who joined us for a pre-dinner cocktail then returned to the kitchen to prepare the perfect seaside dinner celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary at Las Ventanas al Paraíso in Los Cabos, Mexico.
Speaking of seaside repasts, I must include Chef Greg Lamm in this retrospective. In the spring of 2007, at about the same time the television show Iron Chef America was reaching the height of its popularity, Kevin and I were enjoying an alfresco dinner while watching a spectacular sunset off the coast of Maui. The meal and the setting — The Westin Maui Resort’s beachfront Tropica Restaurant — were perfect. Maybe it was the wine. Maybe I was just feeling silly. More likely it’s because at the time I really wanted to be a judge on the Iron Chef panel.
In my best Iron Chef judge voice, I began critiquing each dish — all positive comments, but still assuming Kevin was my only audience within earshot. Camping it up, fork in hand, I noticed someone out of the corner of my eye. Chef Lamm was standing right behind me. Happily, I learned he’s not only an accomplished chef. He also has a genuine sense of humor.
* Closed for renovations, Hôtel de Crillon will reopen in 2015.
Imagine waking up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee, a light breeze dancing on your face, and views so beautiful you begin to think it is a simulation. The United Kingdom is teeming with unique accommodations that will please your eyes. Check out these stays with stunning views on your next U.K. adventure.
The biggest names in the Middle East sporting community will gather for the Sports Industry Awards as the event returns for its eighth edition. SPIA recognizes the achievements of individuals, organizations, facilities and campaigns that contributed to the development of sport in the region.
AdventureWomen, the travel company specializing in adventure tours for women, announced a partnership with African Wildlife Foundation. The organization supports the conservation of Africa’s wildlife through education, community development and sustainability projects. As part of the partnership, the two organizations will host a women’s safari to Zimbabwe in May 2022.
Carillon Miami Wellness Resort, where innovative wellness and balanced indulgence come together in one extraordinary beachfront setting, recently partnered with First Responders Children’s Foundation, a non-profit organization providing financial support to children and families of first responders. This partnership formed the Carillon Cares: Summer of Heroes offers, including a donation to the foundation for each stay booked, which supports giving back to those who fought on the front lines during the pandemic.
Although much changed in the past year, Cancún still has the joie de vivre we need right now after months of cabin fever — even with safety measures in place. In fact, the first half of 2021 may be a good time to rediscover Mexico’s home-grown Caribbean resort town in a slower, more relaxed mode that contrasts its rollicking “spring break” reputation of old. One place to take in Cancún at its best is JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa, a mile up from the convergence of night clubs, chain restaurants, souvenir emporiums and shopping malls along Avenida Kukulkan.
June marks Pride Month, largely credited to bisexual activist Brenda Howard who organized Gay Pride Week and the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade in 1970, one year after the Stonewall Riots. The parade eventually become the New York City Pride March, leading to Pride Month and similar parades and marches around the world.
The Sports Industry Awards returned with a bang last night as 200 guests packed the W Hotel Great Ball Room for the gala ceremony.
Haven Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa, an all-suite, adults-only, all-inclusive oceanfront resort, announces a new experience suited for epicurean travelers: The Chef’s Table. At Haven’s fine-dining restaurant Olios Mediterranean, The Chef’s Table offers the best seats in the house, right in front of the chef’s working station and open, top-of-the-line kitchen. And the actual table is beautiful in its own right: made from reclaimed wood and complemented by a turquoise glass chandelier.