Five hundred dollars per ticket was too much for our budget to allow, but we still wanted to experience last night's South Beach Wine & Food Festival Tribute Dinner honoring Charlie Trotter and Piero Antinori so we snuck into the kitchen for a behind-the-scenes peek.
What we found was not only a super-calm, super-controlled, expertly choreographed assembly of professionals ranging from some of America's top chefs to our local stars, but also a slew of servers, photographers and others dancing the ballet that makes a 600-plate dinner at the Loews more than just an average meal.
Trotter, who handpicked the chefs who would be preparing his meal that night, couldn't resist stopping into the kitchen before the evening's emcee, the ever-entertaining Anthony Bourdain, took the stage.
His list of participating chefs included Loews' own Frederic Delaire, molecular gastronomy expert Wylie Dufresne, talented pastry chef Michelle Gayer, Chef Bam! (Emeril Lagasse), The Inn at Little Washington's Patrick O'Connell, and Norman Van Aken. Nathan Myhrvolld from Modernist Cuisine wasn't there, but he sent over co-author Maxime Bilet and other top talents to get the job done.
Here are some shots of what we saw.
The staff was shown precisely when each course should be served and how the plates should appear.
Jean-Paul Veziano from Le Pain JPV was imported to contribute and this gorgeous bread plate he created spells out why.
The first course was O'Connell's "Tin of Sin."
"There's peekytoe crab mousse and cucumber under the caviar," he explained.
Here's the finished product with a brioche accompaniment.
The Modernist Cuisine crew served this caramelized carrot soup with coconut cream and chaat masala...
...and cold-smoked sous vide pastrami with pressure-cooked mustard seeds with a microthin pumpernickel crisp.
Local talent was also called in to help. Jeffrey Brana, Van Aken's top toque at Tuyo, chats with Trotter here, while Trump International Resorts' Kurtis Jantz and Chad Galiano worked with Wylie Dufresne.
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Jantz and Galiano share Dufresne's mise en place diagram. The chefs said they've never worked with anyone so organized.
Back in the kitchen, it's easy to see the crew at the Loews has done this type of dinner before.
Trotter couldn't resist stopping by to thank the chefs and hobnob with some old friends.