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Imagine an experience with some of the nation’s best chefs from the finest restaurants right in your own backyard.  This is all possible through the “Celebrity Chef Tour” brought to you by New York City’s historic James Beard House. These nationwide events provide guests the rare opportunity not only to enjoy the artistry and craftsmanship of our country’s best restaurants, but also the rare opportunity to interact with the participating celebrity chefs.

Photo courtesy of Grand Wailea.

The kick-off tour was hosted by Chef Mike Lofaro and the Grand Wailea Resort in Hawaii. As the sun set on the beach in Maui, we watched as world-renowned James Beard winning chefs Jonathan Waxman (Barbuto NYC and Adele’s Nashville), Johnny Iuzzini (Sugar Fueled Inc.), Bruce Bromberg (Blue Ribbon Restaurants NYC and Las Vegas), Nancy Silverton (Pizzeria Osteria Mozza Los Angeles), and Tiffany Derry (Tiffany Derry Concepts) came together with famed master mixologist Manny Hinojosa, to create a once-in-a-lifetime six-course meal and beverage pairing experience.

The menu was inspired by in-season produce from local farms after the visiting chefs toured Maui and met with farmers to determine their choice ingredients. The evening began with a dish from Chef Silverton.  Waipoli watercress and White Aina Lani Farms Grapefruit Kula Avocado, Maui onion, walnuts, Picholine olives perfectly paired with a 2013 Michel Redde, Sancerre Blanc.  Chef Waxman followed with Opakapaka Pohole fern shoots and macadamia nuts.  Next was a course from Chef Bromberg featuring Malama Farms pork meatballs, ,ustard greens, sweet potato pierogies in sweet and sour glaze.   This was paired with Manny Hinjosa’s cocktail Anejo Julep Cazadores Anejo, agave, ginger beer and chipotle powder.

Chef Derry’s course was Mongchong tomato-chorizo stew, baby veggie salad and sea asparagus.  Then Grand Wailea’s own Chef Lofaro offered his Masami Kobe flat-iron roasted baby potatoes, black garlic and truffle oil, chermoula, Moroccan spiced carrots.  Chef Iuzzini gave the final bow for the night with his show-stopping pineapple coconut meringue torte, pina colada pastry cream, and crunchy meringue cookies.

It was fascinating to follow the chefs’ journey from the fields, to the prep kitchens, and finally to the culinary stage under the stars at the Grand Wailea.  The highlight was being able to see these celebrities in a setting where they collaborated and assisted each other to make sure each course was delivered with perfection.

Chef Lofaro, Chef Bromberg and Chef Derry assist with the plating of the final dish of the evening. Photo courtesy of Grand Wailea.

From the beaches of Maui and from coast to coast on the mainland, the Celebrity Chef Tour is coming to a city near you. Next up is Washington, DC on Wednesday February 11, 2015.  Visit the Celebrity Chef Tour page on the James Beard website for ticket information.

by Kristina Vanni