We strutted uptown May 17-19 to attend the Fourth Annual Harlem EatUp! presented by Citi. Founded by Chef Marcus Samuelsson and Herb Karlitz (Karlitz & Co), Harlem EatUp! is a delicious love letter to this vibrant community.
Thursday, May 17 was the Luminary Dinner at Ginny’s Supper Club recognizing community legends “Dapper Dan,” owner of Dapper Dan’s Boutique, and SIRIUS radio personality, Bevy Smith. Dinner featured selections of Bordeaux wines paired with dishes from Guest Chefs Adrienne Cheatham and Geoffrey Zakarian along with Marcus Samuelsson. By the end of the night, everyone was on the dance floor doing the Harlem shake, rattle and roll, thanks to The Rakiem Walker Project band.
A cold rainy Saturday didn’t deter any hungry souls (including us!) from heading to Morningside Park to enjoy the Harlem Stroll which featured local restaurants and more Bordeaux wines, as well as Hendrick’s Gin cocktails and numerous other wine and spirits libations. By Sunday the sun came out and in characteristically crazy Spring weather, it was hot and moist! We traipsed over to bustling Boulevard Bistro to taste Chef Carlos Swepson’s famous biscuits which we discussed when he was a guest on our radio show last year. Then, we headed back to Morningside Park to try more food and libations.
The community spirit in Harlem is vibrant and – wet weather aside – we soaked it all in with pleasure!
Thank you to our friends at Karlitz & Co. and Lauren Monroe at Marcus Samuelsson Group for our Harlem Stroll tickets and to Mary Gorman McAdams, (CIVB) – Bordeaux Wine Council, for including us at her table for the Luminaries Dinner.
“The way I see it,” says Melba Wilson, “Soul food is the foundation of American comfort food.”
She’d know. For Melba, a Harlem native, or as she likes to say “I am Harlem born, bred, and buttered,” owns one of most influential soul food restaurants in New York City’s most exciting dining neighborhood, aptly named Melba’s.
Like many children, she grew up watching her mother and grandomother cook and learned to love food, and soul food, in the process. But, Melba actually went into marketing and sales after school, anything from cosmetics to limo driving, finally entering the restaurant business on a lark when the great Sylvia Woods, Harlem’s Queen of Soul Food and owner of the world famous Sylvia’s, called and asked Melba to spearhead the 25th anniversary of the restaurant.
Melba did such a good job that Sylvia offered her a postion at the restaurant, starting her love affair with the hospitality business and eventually leading to her opening her own place.
Opened in 2005, Melba’s was an almost overnight success, with a family style menu that as Melba likes to say, “blends my Carolina heritage (her family is from South Carolina), with a dash of extra spice, a little urban edge, a taste of the melting pot, and a few ‘dee-lish’ twists.” It’s also been covered regularly in foodie magazines, and Melba even “Beat Bobby Flay” with her fried chicken recipe, now renamed Throwdown Chicken in honor of that accomplishment.
With almost two dozen restaurants scattered throughout the U.S., Bermuda, and across Scandinavia, a handful of cookbooks, and a growing list of media and philanthropic interests, Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s reach in the culinary world crosses multi-cultural boundaries
Born in Ethiopia, adopted and raised in Sweden, from an early age Marcus was taught to appreciate and respect food by parents who were driven to instill those values in their children.
“I feel like I’ve been cooking all my life,” he says. “Growing up, my sisters Anna and Linda and I spent summers in Smögen, on the west coast of Sweden. Every morning I went fishing with my dad, Lennart, and my uncles. We caught crayfish, lobsters, and mackerel, and often smoked and preserved the catch. My grandmother, Helga, would gather us in the kitchen to teach us how to pickle fresh vegetables, and make meatballs, ginger snaps, cookies, and apple jam. These experiences taught me to love and appreciate fresh and local food.”
David and I were thrilled to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Careers Through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) on Tuesday, March 3, at Chelsea Piers in New York City. We’ve attended- and produced- numerous multi-chef tasting events in our careers, and this one is among the best. It was so much fun catching up with industry colleagues and friends whom we have worked with in over the years, including Nina and Tim Zagat, Chef Michael Lomonaco, Sarabeth Levine, Marcus Samuelsson and Daniel Boulud. Several of my fellow Les Dames d’Escoffier members were on hand to support the event, including: Rita Jammet, Pamela Morgan and Saori Kawano and, of course, C-CAP’s Director of Communications, Joyce Appelman.
The evening honored restaurauteurs Richard (Dick) Parsons and Alexander Smalls, who’ve contributed to the culinary landscape of Harlem with Minton’s and The Cecil, the latter of which was named Esquire Magazine’s 2014 Best New Restaurant. David and I had the pleasure of interviewing JJ Johnson, Chef de Cuisine at The Cecil on The Connected Table LIVE! on February 18. Listen to our iHeart podcast with Chef JJ here: http://www.iheart.com/show/209-The-Connected-Table-Live/?episode_id=27165818
A few thing we learned about Dick Parsons: He is a lifelong New Yorker, philanthropist and business executive extraordinaire, currently serving as Senior Adviser at Providence Equity Partners, and formerly Chairman of the Board for Citigroup and Chairman and CEO of Time Warner, Inc. He is also a big jazz fan who currently serves as Chairman of the Apollo Theater. It was honor to meet him and his special guest, actress, Cecily Tyson!
I’ve known Alexander Smalls through our mutual paths working in the food industry, for his “Southern Revival Cooking” and visiting his former restaurants Cafe Beulah and Sweet Ophelia’s. And we are friends on Facebook. He’s long been a force in the industry and was named one of Zagat’s 19 Restaurant Power Players To Know. But what I didn’t know is that Alexander is both a Grammy and Tony-Award winning opera singer, honored for his recording of Porgy & Bess with the Houston Grand Opera. I’d love to hear that!
C-CAP’s mission is to offer career training, scholarships and other opportunities in the restaurant and hospitality industry for under served high school students. Since its inception C-CAP has awarded $45 million n scholarships, and classrooms have received $3.2 million worth of supplies and equipment. It was a special treat to meet and taste dishes by C-CAP alumni, including Pastry Chef Veronica Rivera (Marc Forgione Restaurant), Chef Cesar Gutierrez (Lexington Brass) and Chef Kelvin Fernandez (The Marina). You can learn more about C-CAP and hear from both Founder and Chairman Richard Grausman and C-CAP alumni Kelvin Fernandez at The Connected Table LIVE’s February 25th edition. Listen to our iHeart link here: http://www.iheart.com/show/209-The-Connected-Table-Live/?episode_id=27169745
Harlem is one of the most historic and iconic neighborhoods in New York City and the world. We’re Harlem bound this week to attend the Harlem Hospitality & Culinary Conference and will catch up with two personalities in the restaurant and bar world.
JJ Johnson, Chef de Cuisine The Cecil Harlem and sister jazz club Mintons, had an awfully good 2014, and 2015 has started out pretty stellar. In 2014 JJ was on both the Forbes and Zagat “30 Under 30” lists, was named an Eater Young Gun, and The Cecil was named Esquire Magazine‘s Restaurant of the Year. This year, StarChefs named JJ the Rising Star for Community. And we are only in February.
JJ’s culinary spark was lit from the expressive Caribbean flavors and influences he learned cooking at his grandmother’s side. From home hearth to classical training, Johnson made the move to the Culinary Institute of America, giving a technical backbone to a well laid foundation of food love. He honed his skills in New York restaurant kitchens including Centro Vinoteca, Jane, and Tribeca Grill. Constantly in search of new flavors, Johnson also spent time in Ghana, studying West African cuisine and cooking at Villa Monticello, Ghana’s Premier Luxury Boutique Hotel and Spa.
Now he helms the kitchens for two of Harlem’s top hospitality which he helped open under the auspices of Restaurateur and Executive Chef and owner, Alexander Smalls. #HarlemontheRise
Charles Hardwick began his bartending career humbly in 1992, at Acme Bar and Grill in New York City. It was here that he quickly grasped the most important fundamentals of the trade; understanding that even Lynchburg Lemonades and Oreo Cookie shots taste much better coming from the hands of a skilled and attentive barman. In those years before the current Cocktail Renaissance, he worked at a wide variety of bars and restaurants in the New York City area, among them such noteworthy venues as: Pravda, Mercer Kitchen and The Odeon.
A turning point in his career came whilst working alongside Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric at Pravda as part of a beverage program created by King Cocktail, Dale DeGroff. From the aesthetics of the bar to the crafting of a well-balanced libation, his vision of Utopia in a glass began to take shape.
In 2006 he reconnected with a former colleague and opened Blue Owl, the first of what would be many resurgent cocktail bars in the East Village. Voted NYC Best Cocktails 2 years running in 2006-2007 along with several features in the New York Times, The Daily News, The New York Post.
Charles has most recently turned his attentions to the drinks program at the New York Times 3 star-reviewed and Michelin Star-rated Betony Restaurant in Midtown Manhattan, and he now currently operates drinkmärkt beverage consulting, a company that seeks to further relationships between brands and consumers through spirits consultation and the management of beverage programs for luxury clients including: Stolichnaya Vodka, Hendrick’s Gin, Remy-Martin, Art Basel Miami, Vogue,Interview Magazine, Esquire, Victoria’s Secret, the TriBeCa Film Festival, Diageo and many more. He continues to evangelize on the nobility of the bartending profession and the pursuit of the perfect cocktail, served at the perfect moment.
Join Melanie Young and David Ransom on The Connected Table LIVE! Wednesdays 2pm ET/ 11 am PT on W4CY.com and on demand any time at iHeart.com (under Shows & Personalities). Melanie and David are the Insatiably Curious Culinary Couple who bring you the dynamic people working front and center and behind the scenes in food, wine, spirits and hospitality.