Last night at a super-fashionable gala at New York’s Pier 60 gathered dozens of the country’s best female chefs doing what they do best: being supportive, generous as all get out, and cooking to their hearts content. The event was a fundraiser for SHARE — an organization which offers free help to women facing breast and ovarian cancer. Their mission during these last 35 years has been to give these women an opportunity to experience a “second helping of life” — hence the 8th annual A Second Helping of Life tasting event. I was there as a celebrity “sous chef” helping out at the table of D’Artagnan — the company that put foie gras in the mouths of every gourmand. Ariane Daguin’s featured dish was a “filet mignon of duck” (the “tender” from under the duck breast), topped with a mousse of foie gras with black truffles, and drizzled with a balsamic reduction. That was my job — to drizzle 400 small plates of this delectable offering.
It was a fabulous event with more than 20 guest chefs and lots of famous actresses, editors, cookbook authors, and TV personalities as celebrity sous chefs. What a blast it was to hang out with all these women who have made such a difference in the food world and have extended that world into such beneficent charitable work. In addition to sampling some of the most delicious bites I’ve had under one roof, I sampled the humility of these women who have made it big-time and just want to give back. Many of these women are also members of the organization “Les Dames d’Escoffier” whose efforts have helped women break through the glass ceiling in an industry that once exclusively belonged to men.
I was thrilled to see Gabrielle Hamilton (of Blood, Bones & Butter fame), Alex Guarnaschelli, Anne Burrell, April Bloomfield, Anita Lo, Dorie Greenspan, Sarabeth Levine, and Rosa Ross (from Scrimshaw on Long Island), to name just a few. It was lovely to re-connect with Donna Hanover (Rudy Giuliani’s first wife) who became a foodie herself as co-host with David Rosengarten of Food News & Views — one of the Food Networks first shows (and I was their first guest!). And what fun it was to sample Rebecca Charles’ Lobster Roll (from Pearl Oyster Bar), scarf down Sara Jenkins’ Porchetta “slider” (from Porchetta and Porsena), sip an amazing corn soup with smoked ham hocks and corn relish (The Spotted Pig and The Breslin), Alison Awerbuch’s remarkable bbq shortrib & late summer tomato shepherd’s “pie in a jar” with a brown butter cornbread crumble crust (Alison is the executive chef of Abigail Kirsch catering), Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez’s “Shahi Chicken with Basmati Rice,” Babbo’s Gina DePalma’s “Sweet Olive Oil and Rosemary Cakes with Lemon Icing,” and eat too many of Nancy Olson’s Salted Chocolate and Peanut Butter macaroons (Gramercy Tavern.)
I hope their goal of $400,000 was reached last night. Every bite was worth it. And kudos to Melanie Young who “imagined” this event eight years ago and then made it happen in such a glorious and meaningful way. Toques off to you.