Feast of Many Moons 2004 – New York

By Franz Scheurer

Lion Dance Lion Dance

The Annual Chefs’ Tribute to James Beard, a fundraiser for New York’s Citymeals On Wheels took place last Monday, 14th June at the Rockefeller Centre in New York. Likened to the Golden Globes of the culinary word, this year’s red-carpet gala event brought together internationally acclaimed chefs from all over the world, raising well over a million dollars. Founded in 1981 by Gael Greene and the late James Beard, Citymeals on Wheels is a non-profit organisation providing meals for the homebound elderly of New York City delivering more than two million meals to over 17,500 households a year, throughout the five boroughs of New York.

Cheong and Nobu Cheong Liew and Nobu

The ‘Feast of Many Moons’ unifies the diverse cultures of the world through the language of food. Citymeals brought together some of the world’s top chefs, each representing a unique style of cuisine. The list included Masa Takayama (Masa New York); Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Gray Kunz, Pichet Ong and Stanley Wong (Spice Market, New York); Nobu Matsuhisa (Nobu, New York and London); Masaharu Morimoto (TVs Iron Chef); Hermant Oberoi and Michel Nishan (Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces, India); Susur Lee (Susur, Canada); David Thompson (Nahm, London); Floyd Cardoz (Tabla, New York); Michael Huynh (Bao 111, New York); Edward Brown (The Sea Grill, New York); Anita Lo (Annisa, New York); Daisuki Horai (Kai, New York); Alan Wong (Alan Wong’s Restaurant, Hawaii); Todd H. Nishimoto (Xian Restaurant, South Korea); Louis Tay (The Fullerton, Singapore); Khai H. Duong (Ana Mandara, California); Julian Alonzo (Brasserie 8, New York); Nadsa and Longteine de Monteiro (The Elephant Walk, Massachusetts); Ian Chalermkittichai (Kittichai, New York); Huy Chi Le (Indochine, New York); Roy Yamaguchi (Roy’s Hawaii); Michael Tong (Shun Lee Palace, New York); Susanna Foo (Susanna Foo, Pennsylvania); Frankie Woo (Lai Ching Yuen, Malaysia); Eric Basulto (Tropica, New York); Takashi Yagihashi (Tribute, Michigan); Sun-Do Man (Shun Lee West, New York); Claudio Quito (Tamarind, New York) and Cheong Liew (The Grange, Hilton Hotel Adelaide, Australia) who I was there to assist.

Bombay Dreams Cast of Bombay Dreams

The entertainment was as multicultural as the food, starting with Chinese Lion Dancers followed by various Polynesian, Burmese and Filipino dance acts and the cast of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Bombay Dreams performing a few songs, leading the way for Punjabi folk and bhangra music with dhol drums performed by special guest Jassi.

According to the organisers more than 1,200 prominent business and industry leaders, socialites, food enthusiasts, culinary trend-setters, chefs and restaurateurs attended the event, and they certainly were a hungry and appreciative lot. Once inside the ‘Feast Area’ the guests were free to eat from any of the stands as often as they liked and could order anything from the open and well-stocked bar.

As you might expect, the standard of the food was exceptionally high and everyone was trying to outdo everyone else. It certainly was an event that both food lovers and participants alike will never forget.

It was also very hard work. Cheong Liew decided to serve a marinated and barbecued Australian lamb cutlet with a giant white bean puree, topped with tomato concasse, served with a salad of roasted yellow capsicums, witlof, parsley and red onions with a kumquat dressing. Imagine the logistics! Cut, debone, trim and ‘French’ 200 lamb racks; make 30 litres of marinade with brunoise of vegetables and olives; fillet, deseed, roast, peel and julienne 300 yellow capsicum; chiffonnade 20 kg of witlof; slice numerous boxes of red onions; chop a couple of suburban garden’s yield of parsley, slice and deseed hundreds of tiny kumquats; boil, peel and puree countless bags of giant white beans; peel, deseed and chop bucket-loads of tomatoes, make the emulsion kumquat dressing and that was just the beginning. On the day, we then had to get all the gear uptown, set up and be ready to serve by 6.30 pm. Barbecuing that many lamb cutlets to order, plating the whole dish up ‘a-la-minute’ was a tough job and it got unbelievably hot at the charcoal grill. Cheong Liew, his son André Liew and I did the prep work and we were very happy to see a handful of students from the local hospitality college arrive to help us set up and plate on the night. Their smiles and enthusiasm lifted everyone’s energy on the night!

It was a bonus that diagonally across from our stand we could watch David Thompson from Nahm, having to work just as hard!

Summary: An incredible culinary gathering in a city that never sleeps. It was extremely successful for the organisers, the chefs, the public and the charity and a thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile event.

Personal summary: I flew into New York on Friday night, worked all day Saturday, Sunday and Monday in the prep kitchen or at the event; saw hardly anything of New York and flew back on Tuesday.

Crazy? Yes.

Fun? Absolutely!

Prep Setup Cheong

Before the storm BBQ Start Chops

Team Spirit BBQ Plating

Exhausted Tired