March 16, 2011
"Spiritual experience" is right.
Only Cooking for Solutions chief Ginger Hopkins wasn't talking about the incredible fennel soup, saffron toast or fresh crab louie tasters Portola Restaurant Chef Jeff Rogers just laid on us—or the signature dishes from new Aquarium culinary partner Cindy Pawlcyn to come, including Mighty Meatloaf with horseradish barbecue sauce ($19), orange cilantro chicken breast tostada ($16) and a lemon buttermilk pudding cake with fresh huckleberry sauce ($8).
She was talking about the power CFS can have on its attendees, and the very power they have arranged to amplify for the 10th Cooking for Solutions May 20-22.
This member of the congregation can bear witness. It was here where I first understood how obsessive past honored chef Thomas Keller is about sourcing ("If I can get better ingredients than you," he told me, "I'm a better chef than you"), how this year's Chef of the Year Rick Moonen turned the tide on swordfish overfishing and affected the ape-sh*t consumerism in Vegas, and what visionary futurist Paul Hawken feels food can do to save our crippled planet ("Tastebuds are a teacher, a kindness, a guide. They guided us here today," he said. "They can heal us, heal the earth, heal how we farm.").
This year Hopkins and company have added capacity, chefs and wines to the gala—right to the delicious cusp of sustainable taste overload—and stacked a lineup of celebrated chefs and guests long enough to make the Food Network tremble in envy: Lynne Rossetto Kasper, Alton Brown, P. Allen Smith, Guy Fieri, Carla Hall, Charles Phan, Sam Choy, Chris Cosentino, John Ash and Jesse Ziff Cool among them.
To capitalize on that caliber, there are more intimate food and wine adventures than ever, in which, say, 20 uber-lucky Phan fans join Charles (of Slanted Door) on a Santa Lucia adventure that includes four-wheel ATVs, Hahn wines and a cooking demo and lunch. "People come back from the food and wine adventures," Hopkins marvels, "and say, ‘It's life-changing.’"
The “salon series” talks—like Seafood in Season with Rogers and Sustainable Sushi with Bamboo Sushi’s Brandon Hill—have been similarly expanded, as have the pavilion presentations with folks like Fieri and Brown sharing sly tips and clever quips.
It’s the communion of those chefs, interestingly, that contains potent potential that goes beyond educating eaters on healthy-planet eating habits, Hopkins adds.
“I love seeing them at the [private] closing dinner,” she says. “Celebrity chefs, regional stars and our local chefs talking about what they—and we—can do together.”
Learn more at 866-963-9645 or www.cookingforsolutions.org.