Delray Beach is steadily emerging as a culinary destination for South Florida food enthusiasts. Delray’s long-time restaurants, 32 East, 50 Ocean, Da Da, and Luna Rosa have set a culinary standard over the years for creativity, inspiration, and food trends. Having partnered with the folks who produce the annual Delray Beach Garlic Fest, we decided to up the ante for the opening night event. With a bit of a pitch in my back pocket, I presented having the towns’ first-ever Collaborative Kitchen; this, coming on the heels of the successful, Chef’s Panel at the Delray Beach Wine and Seafood Festival, so I knew it wouldn’t be too hard of sell, to the producers or the chefs. Sometimes you just know if something is going to work or not. And this Collaborative Kitchen, there was no doubt in my mind it wouldn’t be successful, I just had no idea how successful it would be.
We brought together local culinary talent to collaborate on a multi-course dinner; one menu, four chefs, one kitchen. The chefs were, Executive Chef Blake Malatesta – 50 Ocean, Executive Chef Ernie DeBlasi – Luna Rosa, Executive Chef/OwnerJoey Giannuzzi – The Farmers Table, and Executive Pastry Chef Mark Jones – Hudson at Waterway East. This was an opportunity to put talent and colleagues in a situation that they had never been in and simply watch what happens. The event was hinging on being a huge success as it sold out a month in advance. The meeting we had a month prior to the event was all about the details. Each chef was going to prepare two tasting courses, for a total of eight courses for the evening. Everyone was on the same page, the meeting ended.
On February 6th I showed up at noon at Garlic Chef Stadium to do a television interview and found two of the chefs, Ernie DiBlasi and Mark Jones already two hours into doing their prep for the dinner. I was surprised but didn’t think anything more of it. They said it was a great opportunity to “get out of the kitchen” and be in a different environment. Once I got settled, and started talking to Ernie and Mark [and taking pictures] about what they were doing, I realized they took their two little tasting plates to a whole new level. Ernie was making dough and cranking out fresh cavatelli on a miniature wood pasta machine that he made, and Mark was tempering three different chocolates for his triple chocolate mousse.
And then about and hour later Blake showed up with what looked like the booty from a hijacked fishing boat in Rhode Island. Blake promptly started to make a fresh seafood bisque from scratch.
And then Joey Giannuzzi showed up. Up until this point each of the chefs were doing their own thing, in one kitchen.
Much of Joey’s prep had been done at his restaurant, The Farmer’s Table, so he stepped in and stepped up to help out the other chefs do any needed prep. It was at this moment, my little idea of a collaborative kitchen took on a whole new meaning. First we got a lesson from Blake on how to make black garlic a.k.a. black gold. Joey pitched in, and helped peel the glorious caramelized umami wonder.
and then he moved over to help Mark with the dessert. Shaving block after block of chocolate.
There were a lot of laughs amidst all the work. There was camaraderie. There was a collaborative work effort. There was an excitement, and a dynamic that exceeded all my expectations for this dinner. It was exceedingly, abundantly, above and beyond.
Whether or not the chefs talked outside of our meeting in January about their menus, which I don’t believe they did; they simply did what they do best….they prepared a menu, and cooked a dinner with the best ingredients they could find, and poured their heart and soul into it. And that is why it was a sold out event 30 days in advance. Apparently those who bought tickets, knew something very special was going to happen.
We kept it small and inviting, we kept it civilized, limiting ticket sales to 50 people. We made it so you’d want to come back for round two. All four chefs are ready to do a repeat. And before the guests left most told me they’re in for next year. A lot can happen in a year, but one thing’s for sure, these four are already planning their menus.
Click here to view more photos from the 2015 Delray Beach Garlic Fest Collaborative Kitchen
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