Hot chefs and cool soirees. In a nutshell – an organic and surely impeccably sourced and curated nutshell – that’s the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival.
With its intimate events and star-studded lineup, the festival, which features a series of 13 culinary events from Dec. 14 through 17, may seem like a delicious secret in the world of American food fests. After all, it’s not a teeming affair where fest-goers must elbow their way through a mob for a fancy chicken wing.
But the 11-year-old festival, which has spread across the bridges into West Palm Beach and Palm Beach Gardens in recent years, is intimate by design. Sure, the festival includes lively, walk-around events, sold-out, sit-down lunches and dinners, and an annual grand tasting finale. But they are manageable events that afford fest-goers a chance to chat with visiting chefs and other nationally acclaimed food dignitaries. It’s a foodie’s dream fest, where it’s not rare to find several James Beard Award-winning chefs cooking in one Palm Beach kitchen on any one night.
This year, the festival welcomes several new faces and events as well as returning favorites. Here are five noteworthy newcomers to the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival.
Food Network fans may know Duff Goldman as the “Ace of Cakes.” That’s the reality series shot for 10 seasons at his Charm City Cakes in Baltimore. The pastry chef born Jeffrey Adam Goldman – Duff is a nickname that grew out of a sibling’s mispronunciation of Jeffrey – is also a musician, an artist and a metal craftsman.
Goldman is set to appear at two festival events: the Chillin’ N’ Grillin’ cookout on the afternoon of Sat., Dec. 16 and that evening’s Street Food event. Both events, taking place at the Four Seasons Resort, are sold out.
A repeat James Beard Award winner, Donald Link is a pivotal chef on New Orleans’ culinary scene. Each of his restaurants – Herbsaint, Cochon, Peche, and other spots – is a nationally acclaimed venture.
It was at the now 11-year-old Cochon that Link, paying homage to his native Cajun country, kindled a new appreciation for the cuisine of Louisiana’s Acadiana region – not only locally but across the country.
“Not since Paul Prudhomme opened K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen more than three decades ago has New Orleans seen a new restaurant elicit such a phenomenal response from such an array of diners,” wrote New Orleans Times Picayune dining critic Brett Anderson in a 2011 profile of Link.
And in a rave of Link’s 2009 book “Real Cajun,” TV’s roving culinarian Anthony Boudain proclaimed “there’s no one in the business with more credibility” than Link.
Link’s equally acclaimed business partner, chef Steven Stryjewski, a Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival regular, will return to the fest this year.
Link is scheduled to participate in the Southern Revival lunch at The Regional Kitchen on Friday, Dec. 15. Stryjewski will take part in the Street Food event at the Four Seasons on Saturday, Dec. 16. Both events are sold out.
All one needs to know to verify Tim Hollingsworth’s culinary chops is that he was tapped by Thomas Keller to be chef de cuisine at the world-celebrated French Laundry in Napa Valley. That was a decade ago, long before Hollingsworth opened his first solo restaurant, Otium, two years ago. The modernist restaurant, located inside downtown Los Angeles’ Broad museum complex, has been hailed as a blockbuster feat. The restaurant received raves from Pulitzer Prize-winning restaurant critic Jonathan Gold, who called it L.A.’s “most ambitious new restaurant in years.”
Hollingsworth, who was named “Rising Star Chef of the Year” by the James Beard Foundation while at French Laundry in 2010, will take part in the festival’s First Bite dinner at Buccan on Thursday, Dec. 14. Tickets are still available at $185 per person, for a multi-course dinner with wine pairings.
New England chef Matthew Jennings is no stranger to dramatic transitions. After he and his wife/partner, Kate Jennings, closed their nationally acclaimed Providence restaurant Farmstead in June 2014, they opened a big new brasserie, Townsman in downtown Boston seven months later.
On a more immediately personal level, Matt Jennings has lost a reported 160 pounds in the past year or so.
And just two months ago, the chef made another transition – to author – when his first cookbook, “Homegrown: Cooking from my New England Roots” was published by Artisan.
Jennings will take part in the festival’s First Bite dinner at Buccan on Thursday, Dec. 14. Tickets for that multi-course, wine-paired dinner cost $185 per person. He also will appear at the (sold-out) Street Food event on Saturday, Dec. 16.
If you caught the recent Episode 5 of “Hell’s Kitchen All Stars,” you may recognize chef Ben Ford as the expert brought in by star Gordon Ramsay to help judge the cooking competition.
What you may not know is that Ford is the adventurous chef and owner of Ford’s Filling Station restaurant in greater Los Angeles, that he’s a noted outdoorsman, and that he sharpened his culinary skills at Berkeley’s Chez Panisse, Alice Waters’ legendary restaurant.
You also may not know that Ben Ford is a devoted son. In honor of his mother, a cook and illustrator who was stricken with multiple sclerosis when he was 11, he serves as an ambassador to a national campaign to bring awareness and relief to MS patients.
He takes inspiration from his father, the actor Harrison Ford, as well – though not so much in the acting department. Like his father, Ford is a skilled craftsman.
He is taking part in the festival’s Chillin’ N’ Grillin’ cookout at the Four Seasons Resort on Sat., Dec. 16. That event is sold out.