James Beard Foundation – Taste America Los Angeles Event

The 2016 James Beard Taste America Los Angeles event boasted some of the nation’s most renowned chefs and vendors

JBF Executive Vice President Mitchell Davis with All-Star Scott Conant, Pastry Chef Hedy Goldsmith, Host Chef Neal Fraser, and Local Star Curtis Stone.

Taking place in downtown Los Angeles’s Vibiana, the 2016 James Beard Taste America event boasted some of the nation’s most renowned chefs and vendors. Hosted by chef Neal Fraser of Redbird restaurant, the event celebrated both food and philanthropy.

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Marc Fiorito/Gamma Nine Photography

Guests enjoyed the beautiful setting at Los Angeles’s Vibiana

The evening air was warm and welcoming as the jazz band played in the large courtyard next to the cathedral. The cocktail reception was impressive; the beverages and hors d’oeuvres flowed forth. Upon arrival, the servers delivered a mix of cocktails to the guests. Bourbon, gin, wine… The entire spectrum of flavor was covered.

Two of the hors d’oeuvres were particularly impressive. The first dish was Josef Centeno’s “Breakfast in a Shell.” A coddled egg yolk with cream of wheat, bacon, chives, and maple. Any fan of egg yolk would have been mesmerized by this unctuous dish. One was simply not enough to satiate this writer. I went back four times, even though I knew that dinner was still waiting for me. Rich, creamy, salty and sweet. Simply mind-blowing. Chef Centeno’s “Breakfast in a Shell” changed my life.

The other star of the reception was Nyesha Arrington’s clever take on the French classic “Coq Au Vin.” Three cuts of meat: chicken, duck, and bacon, pressed overnight into one uniform piece. Crisped and served with togarashi, maldon salt, pickled Hon Shimeji mushrooms, and a wine reduction. Unreal. This dish was not just a challenge to prepare, but it was also a tremendous undertaking to cook this dish to order. Arrington took a huge risk and succeeded in knocking it out of the park; her dish was simply brilliant.

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Marc Fiorito/Gamma Nine Photography

Local Star Curtis Stone putting the final touches on his eggplant caponata.

Once the reception closed, we made our way into the grand event space, the landmark Cathedral of Saint Vibiana. Inside the palatial cathedral, violet and yellow tones covered the hall in a dramatically stunning manner. The tables were set with all of the wine glasses needed for the pairings of the evening, and the chairs had goodie bags that would be the envy of any party. The room was simply breathtaking.

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Marc Fiorito/Gamma Nine Photography

Beef short rib with braised endive and eggplant caponata by local star Curtis Stone.

The dinner included dishes from Scott Conant (Imperro Caffé, NY), Curtis Stone (Gwen,Hollywood), and Hedy Goldsmith (Sweet Hedy, Los Angeles). It was the pasta dish from Scott Conant that stood out from the rest of the entrées. Torchio with cured egg, truffle, and smoked butter. It was like macaroni and cheese made exclusively for adults… It was triumphant.

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Marc Fiorito/Gamma Nine Photography

Hedy Goldsmith’s bittersweet Guittard chocolate torte with pickled late summer fruits.

The silent auction offered some amazing opportunities, including a trip to the Farmers Market & Lunch with event host, chef Neal Fraser. This included a tour of the Santa Monica Farmers Market, a private cooking class, and finally, a special meal prepared by the chef of Redbird, Neal Fraser. A portion of these charitable donations were given to the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America Scholarship Fund.


Everything, from beginning to end, was jaw-dropping. The sponsors, vendors, food, and drinks dazzled guests all evening. As James Beard once said, “Food is our common ground,” and the evening was a beautiful opportunity for people to come together, celebrate the flavors of life, and help the James Beard Foundation nurture and honor the America’s diverse culinary heritage, through programs that educate and inspire the community. It was truly a night to remember.