Start spreading the news: The Denver FIVE bring their Mile High culinary magic to the James Beard House in New York
"New York City is the culinary mecca of our country, if not the world," declares Hosea Rosenberg. "It's a place like no other, where ingredients and techniques of every conceivable style congregate. It's where the best chefs on the planet come to shine."
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And last week, Rosenberg, along with Around the World in 80 Plates contestant Jenna Johansen; Tyler Wiard, exec chef of Elway's Cherry Creek; Samir Mohammad, who commands the kitchen at Lala's Pizzeria + Wine Bar; and Bistro Boys pastry chef Jessica Scott, touched down in the Big Apple to do exactly that: shine.
The local chefs, all of whom are members of FIVE, Leigh Sullivan's crop of hand-chosen kitchen magicians who commit to cooking together at various food and wine soirees and benefits for the duration of a year, gathered in New York City to cook at the James Beard House, arguably the country's most coveted culinary cultural center.
To be honest, the Beard House, named for the legendary chef and cookbook author, is incredibly modest, its brick facade so inconspicuous that you'd walk right past it if you didn't know it existed. And the historic interior of the four-story building, built in 1884, is just as unassuming as its exterior. It's full of hallowed hallways with floors that moan or squeal, depending upon the weight of your footstep, steep staircases, the smallest bathroom in Greenwich Village and nostalgic dining rooms shelved with hundreds of antiquated cookbooks and a kitchen barely bigger than Beard himself. There's nothing remotely fancy about it, but this charmingly understated tribute to Beard is the food world's equivalent of appearing on a Broadway stage.
And the beyond-exquisite meals that visiting chefs from all across the country cook in that tiny, hot kitchen -- where nervous, adrenaline-pumped chefs wielding sharp knives, cleavers, torches and china collide, and the clank and din from their efforts echo in the dining rooms -- explain why nearly every single dinner is sold out. Including the FIVE dinner, which sold out weeks in advance.
This, this is where just about every chef in America dreams of cooking. It's on their bucket list, and even the ones who have racked up multiple invites to strut their stuff at the Beard House rarely say "no" a second, third or fourth invitation. Despite its petite size, it's a powerful platform that's larger than life.
"I love how every time I walk into the James Beard House, it gives me a such a sense of overwhelming joy," says Wiard, who's now cooked there five times. "I never go to the James Beard House with any expectations. I'm just so happy to be able to cook with fellow passionate and talented chefs, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat."