On Sunday night, June 15, while Americans celebrated their fathers, RN74 threw a sold-out third anniversary bash and honored the father of American cooking, James Beard. Since 2003, the eponymously-named foundation has hosted celebrity chef tours featuring award-winning chefs from around the nation. The greater Seattle area is hosting two JBF dinners, the other being at Trellis Restaurant in Kirkland this coming October.
“The James Beard Foundation is more than the awards. The foundation and its members really focus on celebrating the culture of food and restaurants in the U.S.,” says David Varley, executive chef at RN74 Seattle. Varley said that contrary to the tense fights portrayed by chefs on shows like Top Chef, the atmosphere in the RN74 kitchen was collaborative, enjoyable and sans ego.
Though chef Jamie Bissonette, winner of the JBF 2014 Best Chef Northeast, received top billing for the event, he failed to show due to several cancelled flights. Chefs in attendance included local favorite Jason Franey of Canlis, Jason Barwikowski formerly of The Woodsmen in Portland, Adam Sobel of RN74 San Francisco, Matthew Jennings who put Providence, R.I. on the map with Farmstead, and the man behind RN74 and more than 20 other restaurants nationwide – Michael Mina. Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen, named Washington State’s Sommelier of the Year, expertly paired wine selections with the six courses served over a somewhat long four hours.
Dishes ranged from marinated hamachi sashimi with green strawberries (Franey), to whole roasted foie gras with porcini mushrooms in a full-bodied charred onion broth (Sobel)n to a fried oyster swimming in a bowl of Korean chili titled “kimchi stew” (Varley). Highlights for me were the lamb saddle accompanied by fabulous morels and cherry relish (Jennings) and the dessert course prepared by chef Mina – a postmodern take on rhubarb cheesecake with strawberries, jellied basil seeds and meringue. Though he playfully feigned irritation at being stuck with the dessert course, chef Mina brought his trained-as-a-pastry-chef A game.