This past Saturday I decided to volunteer in the kitchen of the James Beard House in an attempt to keep my knife skills sharp. Chef Perry Hoffman had been invited to create an exquisite five-course meal showcasing the flavors and techniques from his Michelin starred restaurant, Étoile at Domaine Chandon. Working with Chef Perry was both informative and fun, and though he is only 26-years-old, Chef Perry was extremely professional in the kitchen.
A life-long resident of Napa Valley, Chef Perry’s grandparents were the original owners of The French Laundry before they sold it to Thomas Keller. It was at this famed location that he had his first taste of restaurant life. As might be imagined, running a kitchen conveniently located on a winery has inspired much of what Chef Perry creates. For example, for dinner this past Saturday, he paired Tuna Carpaccio with Pickled Champagne Grapes and a Pinot Noir Verjus pulled straight from the presses of Domain Chandon. Chef Perry also explained that there are always the ‘backdoor’ farmers of the Yountville area who will stop by with any particularly fresh offering of the day’s yield.
Sometimes that will drive what he serves for dinner in the restaurant that evening. It’s obvious the he is following the farm-to-table ethos instilled upon him by his grandparents. By volunteering at the James Beard House, the other culinary school students and I got to taste and prep a couple of interesting ingredients we might not be exposed to otherwise: briny seabeans that tasted like they were plucked straight from the ocean, plump gooseberries with paper-like husks, and thick reddish-orange lobster mushrooms that truly live up to their name. I only wish I could have stayed to taste the entire dinner!
Learn more about volunteering at the James Beard House online.