Chefs in the city: Relais & Châteaux Dîner des Grands Chefs

08 June 2012 by
Chefs in the city: Relais & Châteaux Dîner des Grands Chefs

New York's Gotham Hall played host to Relais & Châteaux's second annual Dîner des Grands Chefs, bringing together 45 of the world's most acclaimed chefs. Kerstin Kühn reports

When the people at Relais & Châteaux put on a party, they don't do it half-heartedly. And the French hotel and restaurant consortium's second Dîner des Grands Chefs, which took place in New York in April, was no exception. The event had a lot to live up to after the first dîner, held at the breathtaking Palais du Versailles in Paris last year. But with a line-up of 45 top chefs from around the world cooking for about 400 guests at the iconic Gotham Hall, it didn't fail to meet expectations.

The participating chefs came from France, the USA, Italy, Japan, South Africa, Germany, Singapore and Taiwan, as well as the UK which was represented by two-Michelin-starred Grands Chefs Andrew Fairlie, chef-patron of restaurant Andrew Fairlie, and Claude Bosi, chef-patron of Hibiscus. Gary Jones, executive chef at Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, was there as a guest.

The chefs not only came from four continents but also from all sorts of professional backgrounds, with legends such as Marc Meneau or Daniel Boulud next to recently crowned three-Michelin-star holders like Thomas Bühner or Emmanuel Renaut, and the next generation of top chefs such as César Troisgros (son of Michel) or Christopher Kostow. And being part of this prestigious group was as much of a privilege for the chefs as it was for many of the guests.

"It was like being a kid again," says Bosi. "The Relais & Châteaux logo is a sign of quality and recognition and I've always looked at these types of establishments and never thought I could be one of them. It's like a dream come true."

"Meeting legends like Marc Meneau or Jacques Chibois, whose books I read when I was growing up in France, was really something special."

For the chefs, the Relais & Châteaux event officially started on Sunday 15 April, with a special brunch hosted by Thomas Keller at his three-Michelin-starred Per Se restaurant. Here, over a buffet of delicious food and lashings of Champagne, journalists, sponsors, organisers and Grands Chefs were able to meet and greet. "It was at this point that both Claude and I realised just how big a deal this was going to be," recalls Fairlie.

Next up was a photo shoot on the rooftop of the Surrey hotel, Relais & Châteaux's New York flagship property on the Upper East Side, after which the chefs were given the opportunity to visit Great Performances Catering's central production kitchen in downtown Manhattan, where the mise en place was taking place.

Each chef had been given the choice of preparing a starter, fish or main course in the style of their own restaurant using a selection of seasonal produce, including asparagus, morels, Maine scallops, sea bass from Montauk or rack of lamb. After all the chefs had submitted their dishes, they were then split into teams of three - each cooking for up to 30 covers - to make up a balanced menu.

Central Catering provided most of the produce - many chefs, including Bosi and Fairlie had brought some of their ingredients with them - as well as a commis chef to assist each of the Grands Chefs both in the run-up to and during the event.

"I could not fault the catering company in any way," says Fairlie. "The standard of produce was excellent, they were as hospitable and accommodating as they could be, nothing was too much trouble and the commis on the evening were fantastic. I would have employed any one of them."

Fairlie had decided to serve seared scallops with Scottish sea vegetables and seaweed broth. "I chose to cook the scallop dish because it showcased Scottish spring sea vegetables at their finest," he explains. "There are a few types of sea vegetables that are available in very few places in the world and they have a very short season, it just so happened that it coincided with the event, so it was a perfect dish for me to do."

He was teamed up with US chef Mark Ladner, executive chef at Del Posto in New York, who cooked Lobster Fra Diavolo; and Patrick Bertron, head chef at Le Relais Bernard Loiseau in Saulieu, France, who prepared rack of lamb with garlic sauce stuffed morels, green asparagus and fromage blanc with young dandelion greens.

Meanwhile, Bosi cooked roast tenderloin of veal with aubergine and miso caviar, roast baby gem lettuce and dried bonito. "I chose to cook something that I knew I could do as closely as Hibiscus given the conditions and also something that would represent the restaurant - a dish that shows classic technique with a bit of a twist," he says.

Bosi cooked alongside Davy Tissot, head chef at Villa Florentine in Lyon, who served lobster tiramisù lime chutney; and Stéphane Mazières, executive chef at the Hôtel Le Toiny in Saint Barts, whose dish comprised scallops with morel-brioche and sunchoke cream.

After a boat trip on the Hudson River the next morning and a few hours off for lunch, the chefs finally arrived at Gotham Hall late on Monday afternoon, just a few hours before the guests. All teams were cooking from small pop-up kitchens surrounding the tables - so diners could watch the Grands Chefs in action - where space and equipment was limited, to say the least.

"The lack of equipment was definitely a challenge - at one point I felt like Keith Floyd in New York," recalls Bosi. "But everyone was in the same boat and we just got on with it."

Fairlie agrees: "The biggest challenge was lack of facilities. We were advised to keep our dishes as simple as possible. Those who paid attention to the brief were glad they did."

Rendered speechless

On the night, the theme was springtime in New York and the backdrop couldn't have been more perfect. With glorious sunshine outside and Gotham Hall breathtakingly decorated with cherry-blossom trees and a spectacular display of lights, the guests, who had paid up to $1,600 (£1,022) to be there, could have been forgiven for being rendered speechless.

An army of 42 maître d's and 12 sommeliers served the food and poured the matching Champagnes and wines and, despite working from 15 different kitchens, everything went faultlessly. "Service was one of the areas I was a bit worried about but all of the front-of-house staff were absolutely brilliant and it could not have gone any smoother," notes Fairlie.

So despite challenging cooking conditions, in the end it all came together perfectly. The fantastic food cooked by the world's most acclaimed chefs, coupled with the impressive setting and electric atmosphere at Gotham Hall, left everyone, diners and chefs included, feeling exhilarated.

"There was a real sense of camaraderie among all the chefs," enthuses Bosi. "I got my jacket signed by everyone and that's what I loved about it. There were so many different generations of chefs but everyone was like a big family."

Relais & Châteaux's second Dîner des Grands Chefs in New York was a spectacular success and no doubt the culinary highlight of the year. With rumours suggesting the third event will take place in London next year, the UK delegation will have a lot to live up to.


Normand Laprise (Canada) Lobster Marie-Louise

Daniel Boulud (USA) Sea scallop rosace with hatcho miso crispy rice and Brussels sprouts fondue, jus au sake

Jonathan Gushue (Canada) Roasted rack of lamb with dried fruit crumble, confit sweetbreads, wild herbs, cipollini onions, smoked black trumpets, spiced elderberry jus

* * * * * *

Edouard Loubet (France) Maine lobster with marjoram bouquetière of country vegetables, royale of lobster, green wheat gazpacho

Christophe Bacquié (France) Fillet of sea bass from Montauk studded with lemon confit and basil, green asparagus and sabayon with lemon-olive oil

Thomas Henkelmann (USA) Medallions from the rack of lamb "en habit vert de cresson et de truffe noire" with fresh morel, Parmesan crisp and risotto d'Aborio

* * * * * *

Christopher Kostow (USA) Salt-baked Maine lobster raw radish, spring peas, buttermilk

William Bradley (USA) Seared Maine scallops avocado purée, preserved lemon, squid ink sauce

James Kent (USA) Herb-roasted lamb with eggplant, cumin and yogurt

* * * * * *

Hiroshi Yamaguchi (Japan) Lobster fraîcheur with young vegetables and sprouts, mayonnaises of tomato confit and caramelised turnips, a thousand aromas

Gunnar Thompson (USA) Seared Maine scallops stewed wild nettles and oxtail, bone marrow, spring garlic, juniper

Pierre Carrier (France) Grenadine of milk-fed veal in Saltimbocca timbale of green asparagus and morels, veal demi-glace, morel emulsion

* * * * * *

Barbara Lynch (USA) Chilled lobster asparagus, pickled ramps, pea greens

Annie Féolde (Italy) Sea scallops wrapped in pancetta sautéd morels and spring pea cream flavoured with bush garlic

Lanshu Chen (Taiwan) Veal tenderloin with morels and radish

* * * * * *

Jean-Georges Vongerichten (USA) Green asparagus with morels and asparagus purée

Norbert Niederkofler (Italy) Grilled sea bass with parsley sauce, oysters and artichokes

Jacques Pourcel (France) Roasted rack of lamb in a spring-tagine style

* * * * * *

Mark Ladner (USA) Lobster Fra Diavolo

Andrew Fairlie (UK) Seared Maine scallops, Scottish sea vegetables and seaweed broth

Patrick Bertron (France) Rack of lamb with garlic sauce stuffed morels, green asparagus and fromage blanc with young dandelion greens

* * * * * *

Davy Tissot (France) Lobster tiramisù lime chutney

Stéphane Mazières (French West Indies) Maine scallops morel-brioche, sunchoke cream

Claude Bosi (UK) Roast tenderloin of veal aubergine and miso caviar, roast baby gem lettuce and dried bonito

* * * * * *

Patrick O'Connell (USA) Chilled minted pea soup with lobster and orange

Gary Danko (USA) Herb-crusted Montauk sea bass fillet with asparagus, green garlic purée

Patrick Henriroux (France) Rack of lamb "prime ribs" wild mushroom croquette, piquillos and goats' cheese, thyme and lemon jus

* * * * * *

Emmanuel Stroobant (Singapore) Maine lobster sashimi and diver scallop chawanmushi with piquillos coulis, pickled shimeji mushroom and micro cress

Jean-Georges Klein (France) Pan-fried Montauk sea bass fillet, Hollandaise with miso, radish and black truffle

Joseph Lenn (USA) Roasted rack of lamb with morels rapini, ramps and sunchoke purée

* * * * * *

Jean Joho (USA) Roasted Maine lobster with Alsatian Gewürztraminer, butter and ginger

Christopher Coutanceau (France) Scallops in cream of cauliflower soup, leek cannelloni with oysters and truffle

Jean-André Charial (France) Rack of lamb en croûte, anchovies and thyme

* * * * * *

Michael White (USA) Maine lobster burrata, eggplant al Funghetto, basil

Jacques Chibois (France) Maine scallops with asparagus, wild dandelion greens

Georges Victor Schmitt (France) Grenadine of veal with lemon, risotto with lemon balm and morels

* * * * * *

César Troisgros (France) Lobster Agrodolce

Jonathan Cartwright (USA) Pan-seared Maine scallops on spring asparagus, ramps, and morels with Champagne foam

Marc Meneau (France) Veal tenderloin fillet, bitter caramel, endive tatin

* * * * * *

Yoshinori Shibuya (Japan) Maine lobster with asparagus, radishes, sugar snap peas and rapini

Thomas Bühner (Germany) Maine scallops, sesame ice-cream, passion fruit

Michel Kayser (France) Rack of lamb grilled over vines, croustillant of chèvre risotto, asparagus confit, sauce Nîmes

* * * * * *

Jean-Luc Rocha (France) Maine lobster with asparagus, garden herbs, honey and mustard dressing

Peter Tempelhoff (South Africa) Roasted scallops, Cape Malay curry sauce, coconut jelly, sultana-lime leaf purée, candied aubergine, tomato-cucumber salsa, tempura onion rings, coriander micro herbs

Emmanuel Renaut (France) Veal tenderloin "au goût de montagne"

* * * * * *

All menus were served with a selection of American cheeses and a dessert of Caramelia chocolate mousse, coconut ivoire cream and nyangbo cremeux.

The winesCuvée Louise Pommery 1999Cuvée Louise Pommery Rosé 2000Peter Michael "Les Pavots" 2007Cuvée Louise Pommery 1989Porto Rozès 1947Cuvée Louise Pommery 1990

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