All-star chefs converge for Chef Tables in The Vineyard on Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, co-hosted by celebrity chefs Guy Fieri and Mario Batali. It’s a food-tastic fantasy league of talent that includes more than a dozen of Wine Country’s top talents cooking individual meals for each table. The event is part of a weekend-long celebration of tomatoes at Kendall Jackson Wine Center that includes the annual Tomatofest on Saturday, Sept. 15.
“Everyone is bringing their A-game,” said K-J executive chef Justin Wangler, who has helped organize the menus and 22 chefs, along with the challenging logistics of having the winery’s kitchens undergoing extensive renovations. With more than a hundred varieties of heirloom tomatoes grown on the K-J property, chefs are taking inspiration from the varied flavors, textures and colors of the height-of-the-season fruits.
On the roster are Cyrus’ Douglas Keane, culinary eduator John Ash, Kendall-Jackson executive chef Justin Wangler, Dino Bugica of Diavola Pizzeria, Perry Hoffman of Napa’s Etoile, Jesse Mallgren of Madrona Manor, Josh Silvers of Petite Syrah, Jeff Mall of Zin, Adam Mali of Mandarin Oriental SF, Mark Stark of Stark’s Steakhouse, Dustin Valette of Dry Creek Kitchen, “Top Chef” star Casey Thompson and many others. Each chef cooks for a table; diners won’t find out which chef will be cooking for them until the night of the dinner.
Fieri’s and Batali’s menus are closely guarded secrets, revealed only at the dinner itself. But other chefs’ plans include dishes like a haute Caprese (mozzarella, basil and tomatoes) BLT salad from Zazu’s John Stewart, beefsteak tomato and beef steak carpaccio from Wangler and a caramelized tomato tart tatin from Mark Stark. Other dishes on the three-course menu include Zin’s shrimp and grits; grilled Monterey calamari with coconut, mint and lime green salad; uni pasta with tomato confit from Hana Japanese chef Ken Tominaga; and Wagyu beef, mung bean sprouts and tomato confit from Keane. Each course will be paired with K-J wines.
“Even with tomatoes being the common theme for this dinner, just how different all the chef’s styles and techniques are. A lot of chefs have requested to bring their own equipment, everything from liquid nitrogen, a grill named Big Red, several immersion circulators, to a Huli Huli roasting machine from Oahu,” Wangler said.
The event is a benefit for Fieri’s Cooking with Kids Foundation, which encourages kids to develop healthy eating habits to address childhood obesity and works to strengthen families through sharing quality time in the kitchen.
“Mario really understands all the components of cooking, and the impact it has on family and especially kids. I feel he sees the big picture, that everyone needs to know the life skills of cooking, and how empowering kids to cook can give them the confidence and self esteem they need to be successful in the future,” Fieri said.
Tickets range from $350 per person to $3,000 for VIP tables with Fieri and Batali. VIP diners at the celebrity chef tables will also be given a behind-the-scenes reception with Guy and Mario before dinner. TICKETS FOR THE DINNER INCLUDE ADMISSION TO THE HEIRLOOM TOMATO FESTIVAL, WHICH IS SOLD OUT TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC.
Both the dinner and the Heirloom Tomato Festival on Saturday will be held at the Kendall-Jackson Wine Center, 5700 Fulton Road, in Fulton, and guests must be at least 21 years of age to attend. Details and tickets online at www.kj.com/tomato-weekend or by calling (866) 287-9818.