If chefs are the new rock stars, then cooking at the James Beard House in New York City is like headlining at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s a pretty big deal. And who better to rock the house at the famed Big Apple dining room, then a group of chefs from the rock and roll capital of America? After all, the inspiration for the invitation to JBH was the celebrated Cleveland dining experience, Dinner in the Dark, which is described by its founders as an “open mic jam session for chefs.”
Eight talented local chefs, traveled to New York to eat their way through the city and cook the meal of their lives. I think they’re still in a food coma, and still inspired by their collective experience. Brian Okin (of Cork & Cleaver and Graffiti Social Kitchens and Dinner in the Dark), Adam Bostwick (of Cork & Cleaver and Graffiti Social Kitchens), Karen Small (of Flying Fig), Anthony Scolaro (111 Bistro), Jim Blevins (Butcher and The Brewer) Britt-Marie Culey (of Coquette Patisserie) Jeff Jarrett (of Dinner in the Dark) and Chris Kafcsak (of Deagan’s Kitchen) all joined forces last week to prepare a meal for 70 people. But it wasn’t just any meal. This one means more than most for this group.
“It’s very humbling to be given the opportunity to cook there. With the amount of names that have cooked in that kitchen to be able to cook there and walk in those footsteps is truly inspiring,” said Chef Scolaro.“After leaving I felt inspired to continue to cook great food and work harder to do it,” he said.
“Honey rock melon was the first think that came to my mind. The fruit is so good in taste, texture, and smell. I remembered them from days at the Northern Ohio Food Terminal with my family. I also wanted to showcase items that people are not familiar with in Ohio like, farm raised salmon. Most people do not even know Ohio is producing some farm raised fish,” said Chef Kafcsak.
- Cured Salmon with Honey Rock Melon, Feta Vinaigrette, and Crispy Salmon Skin
- Frybread with Chicken Sausage, Pesto, Chiles, and Parmesan
- Fried Ohio Pigs’ Tails with Sweet Corn Johnnycakes, Spicy Ohio Honey, Watermelon Rind Mostarda, and Micro-Radishes
- Ohio Squash, Zucchini, Eggplant, and Heirloom Tomato Ratatouille with Pepper Jam Gelée and Rosemary–Thyme Tuile
- Ohio Artisanal Goat Cheese Study > Fried Goat Cheese; Orange–Goat Cheese Truffle; and Goat Cheese Panna Cotta with Del Regno Ohio Honey, Garlic Scape Salsa Verde, and Accompaniments
- Cleveland Cabbage Roll with New Creation Farm Heritage Pork, Pork Liver, Beef Shoulder, Smoked Tomato Water, Basil, and Baby Heirloom Tomatoes
- Best of Cleveland Harvest Salad > Harris Road Farm Heirloom Tomato Tartare with Bacon, Salt-and-Vinegar Beluga Lentils, Roasted Ramp Aïoli, Spicy Carrot Oil, Red Ribbon Sorrel, and Pickled Cucamelon
- Pan-Seared Wild Scallops with Local Corn–Andouille Spoonbread, Stone Fruit–Green Chile Jam, and Local Zebra Tomato, Watercress, and Cucumber Summer Salata
- Braised Ohio Beef Short Rib with Sweetbread–Foie Gras Torchon, Crispy Potatoes, Dandelion Tabbouleh, and Ground Cherry Mostarda
- Cleveland Cornucopia > Corn Meringue with Sweet Pea Mousse, Pickled Cape Gooseberries, and Peach Pâté de Fruit
“Some of the best meals I had in my life were on this trip. Not just because of the great restaurants and food they offered, but because of the company of us all. We would go to restaurants and literally order one of everything on the menu,” said Dinner in the Dark Founder, Brian Okin.
“We passed the food around and ate off the same plates. It was if we were a tight European family having our regular dinner together. Some people didn’t know each other before the trip, some knew each other very well. There was no rush to eat and go, we went to the restaurant and we left when we were good and ready,” Okin said.
“After leaving, I want to keep focusing on what I am doing and it added fuel to the fire of my drive to cook. It was a great experience,” said Kafcsak.
The next Dinner in the Dark is September 12th and it’s already sold out. And no doubt, this experience has helped with regional and national exposure….not to mention how it’s cemented some life long friendship formed at dinner tables far from home.
Click here for Chef Karen Small’s recipe for the local corn andouille spoonbread she made for this dinner.
The photos in this post are courtesy the Facebook pages of the chefs involved in the Dinner in the Dark night at the James Beard House.