Had the privilege of attending the James Beard Awards last year as a nominee in a media category. Now, the media shindig is always the night before the chef-saturated restaurant awards ceremony. And for me, a first- and quite possibly only-timer, it was an amazing evening with knockout food, even if it felt a bit like what I imagine the technical awards before the Oscars is like. That's what my sister (and date) and I kept giggling about, anyway.
But what topped the whole night was the after-party (or, if you were a chef, the pre-party), formally called Chef's Night Out. There was food, music, dancing, champagne, more champagne. Look, there's Drew Nieperont swaying to a little Justin Timberlake! Over there, it's Tom Colicchio - and he's smiling! Hey, it's David Chang, looking all I-don't-know-you-but-I-know-you-know-me!
This year, the chef's party will be at At Vermilion, a Chicago export from restaurateur Rohini Dey (the awards are Sunday and Monday). It's a pretty big coup, considering the restaurant just opened in mid-November -- and considering it's not homegrown (to New Yorkers, that is).
"A lot of places vie to host this because of the visibility, so it's very validating to be selected," Dey (below, left) said Thursday.
With the theme of this year's awards being Women in Food, it makes sense. Helming At Vermilion's kitchen are Maneet Chauhan (below, right), who previously headed the original in Chicago, and Ipshita Pall.
The 16,000-square-foot, bi-level restaurant at 480 Lexington Avenue is ready for its close-up Sunday, Dey says. She's expecting 850 people, plus last-minute hangers-on.
From 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., it will be street food heaven, with kababs and chaats galore and Latin-Indian fare such as duck vindaloo arepas and boar jibarito, plus five signature cocktails and three desserts. Indian sensation DJ Rekha will funk things up.
Me? Well, there's always next year.