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Chefs and Champagne 2016: an in-depth review

August 2, 2016
By Nadia MK
Photography by Jeff Gurwin and Mark Von Holden/Invision; courtesy of James Beard Foundation/AP Images; and courtesy of Wölffer Estate Vineyard

On July 23, the James Beard Foundation brought together 40 of the best chefs in the U.S. and food lovers from the New York City area at Wolffer Estate Vineyard in the Hamptons for the premier culinary event of the season, called Chefs and Champagne.

The East End’s biggest food lovers soaked up the sun into the evening under an enormous white tent on the heels of one of the most popular Hampton wineries in Sagaponack, New York. Wolffer’s floral-clad Summer in a Bottle rosé appeared to an inspiration for a number of attendees whose floral sundresses stood out from the crowd of Hamptons-classic whites and blues. A variety of delicious hors d’oeuvres were also served throughout the event.

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The James Beard Foundation, named after the champion of American cuisine, has educated, inspired, entertained and fostered a deeper understanding of culinary culture. Honoured this year at Chefs and Champagne was award-winning chef, author and restauranteur Chef John Besh, whose dominance in the New Orleans and southern food scene is undeniable across the U.S.  

Besh, who has been involved with JBF for two decades, says he’s proud to be affiliating to something that’s perpetuating regionalism and culinary education. “Making education available to others is something that’s really important to me,” said Besh, adding, “the James Beard foundation has done so much to make that a reality, but also has acted as a thought leader and think tank in the areas of food policy and using food to do good.”

Susan Ungaro, who has headed the James Beard Foundation for 10 years, is proud of JBF’s role as a convenor of the country’s top talent in the culinary space. “After all, James Beard himself was the first to talk about farm to table cooking, and cooking what’s in season…” she said. “He was the lead consultant on the Four Seasons restaurant in New York that was centered around that exact premise.” Ungaro is also responsible for James Beard Greens – the Under 40 club for food lovers in New York City.

From left to right: Susan Ungaro, Frederic Mairesse and John Besh.

From left to right: Susan Ungaro, Frederic Mairesse and John Besh.

Sitting next to a fan under the large tent, Ungaro is in the Hamptons-Summer uniform of white and blue, accented by a turquoise jewelry that she bought in the East End. “Because I make frequent public appearances, I love to mix and match, creating new outfits from older pieces,” she said. Even in the sweltering heat of summer, none of the foodies in attendance looked the least bit uncomfortable in their summer best.

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