Picture or it didn’t happen, right? The ChefSteps team snapped plenty of images during our invasion of New York City for the James Beard Awards last week. Were we nervous about the awards ceremony? Hell yeah we were. Still, what were we going to do, let a few butterflies prevent us from making the most of one of the world’s greatest food-and-drink cities? Not this crew.
So, from an epic dinner at Wylie Dufresne’s Alder to a morning-after-the-awards recovery session at the amazing Joe Pro Shop in Chelsea—and taking down no small quantity of cocktails in between—we made the most of our few days in the incredible city. And amazingly, we ended up winning in both award categories in which we were nominated, a major honor and an achievement that would have been impossible without you, our fantastic community.
Anyway, here are some of our favorite photos of the trip, along with commentary by the team members who represented us at the awards: Grant Crilly (co-founder), Chris Young (co-founder), Reva Keller (photographer/videographer), Hans Twite (audio engineer), and Rick Wallace (art director).
Grant: Balthazar was one of the team’s pregame stops before the happy hour we hosted. I love this place. I stop here every time I am in New York for at least one glass of wine. This time we had a Picpoul from their cellar that was just insane.
Reva: I ate a salad here. It was the first of many beet-based food and drinks of the weekend—guess beets are trending in New York right now.
Pregame Picpoul at Balthazar Left to right: Reva Keller, Rick Wallace, honorary Chefstepper Jen Utley, and Grant Crilly.
Feeding another obsession
Hans: Whenever I go to New York, I make it my mission to see as many musical instrument shops and historic musical spots around the city as I can. My “touristy” activities include walking to Greenwich village to go by Cafe Wha?, and staring longingly at the front of the minimally ornamented Electric Lady Studios. By far my favorite places in the city to see instruments of unique and historic quality are Rudy’s Music SOHO and 30th Street Guitars.
The incredible lineup at Rudy’s Music
ChefSteps community happy hour at Booker and Dax
Community member Odette Plavinskas bonds with Rick and his iPhone.
Chris: I’ve been friends with [Booker and Dax owner] Dave Arnold ever since he and I were the warm-up act for various Food Network stars at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival many years ago. Dave’s a genius—his incredible book, Liquid Intelligence, garnered a Beard this year—and Booker and Dax was really the perfect place to invite our community, since there’s a lot of overlap between its fans and ours. Above all, what made this great was how excited our community members are about what we’re doing at ChefSteps and it gave us an opportunity to talk with them in person. At the end of the day, even as a digital content and technology company, we’re still in the hospitality business. It’s great to hear we’re making people happy.
Booker and Dax owner Dave Arnold plus Chris and Rick.
Grant: The Eater editors were great; it was so nice to meet some of our media partners in person. Many relationships that we have at ChefSteps are digital, so I just love actually talking with people face to face. It was also amazing to watch the Eater team take home three(!) Beard awards this year. What an accomplishment. We are huge fans!
Eater editors Sonia Chopra and Amanda Kludt check out the cocktail menu. Their team took home an amazing three James Beard awards this year.
One of the incredible cocktails at Booker and Dax.
Reva: I was super-impressed to hear about the recipes from the site that our community members had made—ambitious things like Kouign-Amann and Wine Gums. Quite a few people mentioned liking the One Reuben to Rule Them All video, and wanted to know more about Camp. Mostly I took pictures.
Reva and her camera go behind the scenes at Alder.
Reva: Halfway through dinner, Grant did a very Grant thing and asked Wylie if I could go to into the back and take photos in the kitchen. Unexpected, but super fun! Wylie was very nice and let me hang around while they plated a couple of things. He insisted that I take a picture of their dishwasher and said he was the only one doing any real work. Later: pickled beets and a beet cocktail. (See what I mean about the beets?) Oh, and then there was “leech guy” Mark Siddall—a curator at the American Museum of Natural History—telling Rick and me about something called pu-erh tea that we should try.
Grant: The food was as interesting as Wylie’s food always is, but even more delicious than usual. I kept drinking these amazing dirty martinis that tasted like there was coconut water in them—the bartender thought I was crazy! I had Wylie try, and he said: “Oh yeah, we don’t wash the bar glasses” in the flatest Wylie tone.
There is no coconut water in this drink, Grant.
Rick: Course after course of tiny, amazing bites of food—I remember lots of beet flavor. We talked about a variety of things here, but what sticks in my mind is the series of stories about people driving into swarms of gigantic insects. But that’s what happens when you eat dinner with interesting weirdos.
A standout among an amazing set of dishes at Alder: Chicken Liver Mousse, Almond, Verjus, and Asian Pear.
Seriously, Grant. No coconut water.
Dry–ice ice cream: breakfast of champions
Chris: I’m a huge fan of Saveur magazine, and although 7 AM came pretty early the day after the happy hour at Booker and Dax and then Alder, I managed to pull myself together and then make a big mess with the dry ice–churned ice cream. Pretty much guaranteed to happen when you get impatient and want your soft-serve ice cream immediately! Think of what happens when you stick a straw into milk and blow bubbles—yeah, that. Except the soft serve–mix is thicker, and sticky. Of course the Saveur folks asked about the safety of dry ice, and I explained it’s really safe as long as you don’t end up trapped in a closed environment with it—since we can’t breath CO2—and as long as there is a way for the gas to escape. What happens if it can’t escape? Let me demonstrate….
That time Chris terrified the entire staff of Saveur.
Grant: I was super-hungover, but still beat Chris to the Saveur offices that morning. It was totally empty when I arrived; folks only started showing up once Chris was done with his ice cream demo—around 10 AM. So then of course he had to make a dry ice bomb. (The last time we did this, mind you, our office went dark from all the dust falling from our 100-year-old ceilings.) He tried three times! The first time he was too conservative with the amount of dry ice, so everyone waited for 15 minutes while nothing happened. Then we tried again and the same thing happened…but this time it was a shorter wait because Chris was now so impatient he approached the growing bomb and opened it slowly with towels. He loaded it with ice and water. A couple minutes later: MASSIVE EXPLOSION. Very, very loud. People in the office were so freaked out. The staff was hiding behind a wall, full of dread.
Rick: The food was great, but the decor was amazing. I asked Grant if he’d brought this place back from France, (he lived in Paris for a while), but he didn’t seem to think that was as hilarious as I did.
The beautiful food at majorly French-ified Buvette
Pre-ceremony jitters. Everyone has their own way of coping.
Winning for our documentary and labor of love “Wall of Fire” was an unbelievable thrill.
Chris: These were the third and forth Beard awards for a project I’ve played a role in making happen, and I still felt totally elated when we won. When I started cooking over a decade ago, I don’t think I would ever have imagined winning a Beard award. To get two for ChefSteps this year, I feel deeply gratified and thrilled for our team and so appreciative of our community.
Grant: I cried when we won.
Wait, where did that third one come from?
Hans: Shock and disbelief was the general tone of the night following the announcement of the second Beard award. The award photographer was visibly confused as we waltzed out a second time during the ceremony. We cushioned our transition from disbelief into the realization that we won with a steady stream of complimentary champagne.
All smiles in the official James Beard Foundation shot
The morning after
Man at his best?: Hans, Rick, and Chris in recovery mode at Joe Coffee
Hans: I look more horrible then I felt. Sleep deprivation + añejo tequila = saggy old man face.
Chris: That’s Hans realizing that ordering coffee in a paper cup is a faux pas.
What are your favorite places to eat and drink in New York? Tell us in the comments below!