Deena Chafetz, chef at the newly opened Wölffer Kitchen, champions James Beard's commitment to local bounty and culinary technique at this year's Chefs & Champagne fundraiser.
“The James Beard Foundation’s mission is to celebrate and nurture America’s diverse culinary heritage—and the East End of Long Island is one of this country’s real gastronomic gems. We have working farms, active fishermen and shellfishers, and ranches, not to mention wineries, breweries, and even distilleries all producing beautiful, artisanal, seasonal products.
“With all this local bounty, it’s easy to see how food brings us together and enriches our lives. James Beard would have loved the Hamptons, so it’s no surprise that the foundation created in his honor hosts its annual tasting party here.
“I started cooking in 1984. I didn’t go to culinary school because I wanted to just get right into it and get my hands dirty. I read cookbooks, and I cooked. I worked in a lot of restaurants, and I spent my days off working for free in other kitchens, sometimes just peeling onions and watching and asking questions. One of the first books I found in a used bookstore in Vermont was James Beard’s Theory & Practice of Good Cooking. It remains one of the most important books I’ve ever read. I’ve read it over and over again and cooked everything in it. Then I found James Beard’s Fish Cookery. The foundation those two books gave me as a new chef started me off right— technique is everything.
“Even casual foodies should get to know the James Beard Foundation. Go to dinners at the James Beard House. Participate in its fundraising events, like Chefs & Champagne. You’ll have some of the most gorgeous food you’ve ever tasted, and it’s a way to honor chefs’ work and their role in furthering our American culinary heritage.
“At Wölffer Kitchen, a new venture of Wölffer Estate Vineyard co-owners Marc and Joey Wölffer, we’re serving modern American cuisine—the kind of cooking James Beard championed—and focusing on food that’s made with wine in mind. It’s a deliberate approach to cooking that’s a relatively new evolution in the culinary world, and one that’s celebrated at events like Chefs & Champagne, where Wölffer wine and Taittinger Champagne heighten the experience of tasting great food.
“I’m honored to be among the more than 40 chefs cooking under the tent on July 25, including the inimitable Carla Hall, who is being honored at this year’s Chefs & Champagne. I only hope I get to taste some of their dishes!”
James Beard Foundation’s Chefs & Champagne takes place Saturday, July 25, at Wölffer Estate Vineyard, 139 Sagg Road, Sagaponack; visit jamesbeard.org