The James Beard House has been on a mission to “celebrate, nurture, and preserve America’s diverse culinary heritage and future” since 1985. One way they’ve done this is by having aspiring and renowned chefs prepare extraordinary meals seven nights a week for an intimate audience. I recently spoke to the Director of Programming at the House, Izabela Wojcik, about her approach to organizing these events, and more specifically, about the “Modern Korean with a French Twist” dinner this coming Tuesday, November 15th.
H.H : How did your collaboration with Chef Hooni Kim come about?
I.W : The house is used as a culinary performance space, when I invite the chefs it is with the understanding that they have a story to tell. I guide them through the process, and give them some things to consider if I think some ideas won’t work. Most chefs understand you cook for an audience, it is about creating a hospitality experience that people will want to come back for. Chef Hooni has exceeded those expectations with his growing popularity.
HH : Chef Hooni Kim is known for his innovative cuisine at Danji, did that influence his appeal to the James Beard House?
I.W :We haven’t had a lot of Korean dinners, it is not a typical cuisine. I liked the idea of looking at a different flavours and style of cooking. The idea of being able to offer that at the Beard House was appealing. It is his pedigree, he just opened Danji recently, so when I scheduled him it was a chance we were willing to take. I had a wonderful, memorable dinner at Danji. His cooking credentials are quite impressive, having been at Daniel and Masa. For someone to say, “I am Korean, I am going to look at my cuisine and I am going to interpret some of the flavours and food combinations; apply these extremely exalted cooking techniques,” to me that is a dinner worthy of the Beard House.
H.H: With Danji being a new eatery, it’s amazing he was able to catch the eye of the James Beard house, wouldn’t you say?
I.W : He has gotten really great reviews for his restaurant, a Michelin star and he was included in Star Chefs as a New York city rising star chef. I don’t necessarily need to have dinner at these chefs restaurants in order to invite them. I am showcasing their expertise and having had an incredible experience at Danji firsthand, with their great price points it is a very smart restaurant. It made sense to feature him.
H.H: Regarding the “Modern Korean with a French Twist” taking place at 7PM, November 15th; what was the process that took place to decide what should be on the menu.
I.W : I provide the Chef with the structure, whether it should be 5 courses or less, consideration of the Hors d’Oeuvre reception that is about 45 minutes. There is a lot of opportunity to decide and select how a chef would like to include a signature style and flavour within the menu. Then there is feedback once I am presented with the menu. The food that you are seeing for the event, there is a lot more ingredients and prepartion not included that will be present on the plate. It’s really all about the chef, it’s his menu, his flavours and dishes. There is the consideration timing, plating and the type of kitchen and equipment that we have.
Tickets for this extraordinary dinner event can be purchased here : Modern Korean with a French Twist.
Reasonable pricing including gratuity for members and non-members. An intimate dinner with Chef Hooni Kim in attendance should not be missed, it is an experience unlike any you’ve ever had in a restaurant.
Later on this week, I’ll have the final part of my interview with Izabela Wojcik talking in-depth about the James Beard house and the role it plays on the culinary stage.