When the James Beard Foundation plans a stop in your city for one of their nationwide Taste America dinners, your expectations tend to soar. At $300 a person, you come to expect a menu filled with multiple courses featuring some of the most elaborate, inventive dishes you might eat all year.
So when you arrive and hear that the featured guest chef Dan Barber is going to do something different with the dinner, it makes you pause. That’s because you’re asked to remove all preconceived notions and to openly enjoy the “food- waste” dinner you are about to be served.
It is an exciting task for food-minded folks in the audience. We understand the importance of the issues surrounding food and how much of a problem waste has become to restaurants and food service institutions. Chef Barber has become a champion of combating this issue as he staged a summer-long food waste dinner series at his restaurants in New York with other famed chefs.
By his side was chef Sean Brock, who has become a rock star in the eyes of most, especially to a room filled of Charlestonians. We were all anticipating a fabulous dinner in a new unexpected twist as we began to enjoy the night.
The overall meal was very interesting and some of the dishes were standouts that we will not forget. Dishes like calf’s head with leather britches that was inspired as a celebration of traditional peasant food. For the main course, a platter of make-your-own burritos were served and you we able to to choose from a benee cake or pork blood crepe to wrap waste ham or shrimp, field pea guacamole, and pate made of the liver of local pigs inside. There was also the emmer gleanings risotto with dried goat and rice bran which utilized emmer that is usually torched after the harvest.
It was an exciting and ambitious feast. The dinner made a statement, showing that food that is often ignored or disposed of can make for a thought-provoking and delicious meal. Bravo to Chef Barber and Brock for showcasing an important issue that can really have a big impact on the way we eat in the future!