The Courier-Journal: Taste of Derby Chefs are at their Posts for Annual Charity Event

Taste of Derby Chefs are at their Posts for Annual Charity Event
By Ron Mikulak

April 24 2012 | The Courier-Journal
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Since Louisville has been certified by Southern Living magazine as the second “foodiest” city in the south (although some here in town are convinced that the voting early on got rigged, putting Lafayette, La., unfairly and uncatchably ahead), it is only natural that food-oriented fundraising parties have become major Derby-time events.

For the third year, Churchill Downs is jumping on this bandwagon with its Taste of Derby celebrity chef event, to be held at 7 p.m. May 3 at the Louisville Executive Aviation Hangar at Bowman Field.
The $300 a person party will benefit Blessings in a Backpack, a national food program that provides weekend meals for children whose families qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches.

The food for the Taste of Derby party will be created by a phalanx of chefs, all preparing their signature dishes. Local restaurateurs participating will be Anthony Lamas of Seviche, Michael Paley of Proof on Main and Garage Bar, Jo-Jo Doyle of Churchill Downs’ Levy Restaurants, and Ouita Michel of Holly Hill Inn in Midway.

They will be joined by a small army of out-of-town food personalities, some of whom appeared in various TV food shows, and others who are chefs at notable restaurants. All the chefs profess to be racing fans (though who isn’t on Derby Day?) and will be nominally representing race tracks near their restaurants.

Casey Cook Ramage, vice president of brand development and marketing at Churchill Downs, explained the genesis of this event.

“Since Louisville has such an exceptional restaurant scene,” he said, Churchill Downs did research that showed racing fans in town for the weekend “would support the event.”
The model it studied that best suited the needs at the Downs, Ramage said, was the Taste of the NFL event at the Super Bowl.

“This model matches up national chefs with their city of residence and the racetrack that is located nearby,” Ramage said. “This event allows us to work with the horse racing industry and showcase the culinary palettes in each region.”

The producer of Taste of the NFL, Wayne Kostroski, will produce the Taste of the Derby event here, procuring the chefs and managing the logistics.

While the out-of-town guest chefs usually will bring sous chefs with them to help out, getting food purchased and prepped, getting the serving stations set up, and actually doling out the food to the several hundred guests who show up would be near impossible without local help. That help comes from Sullivan University’s Center for Hospitality Studies.

Sullivan opens its kitchens to the guest chefs, who need lots of professionally equipped space for prep work. The food is stored in the college’s walk-in refrigerators and freezers, and as many as 40 students help with the cleaning, chopping, arranging and serving.

“The event’s focus is for chefs to showcase flavors from their region,” Ramage said, “so ingredients that are indigenous to their location will be shipped in, but we do focus on sourcing the rest locally.”

Among the chefs coming to the event will be Musabbeh Al-Kaabi, from the Dubai Racing Club. “This is our first year to welcome an international chef,” Ramage said, “and we are thrilled to welcome Dubai since the Dubai World Cup is a major international Derby prep race.”

Other corporate sponsors of the event, which will have stations offering samples of their products, include 14 Hands Vineyards, Woodford Reserve, Stella Artois, Hendricks’s Gin and Creekstone Farms.

Some of the chefs, local and out of town, shared a few of their recipes that would bring some different tastes to Derby-time partying.

Nicolas Bour’s Alsatian Potato Salad

  • 2 pounds fingerling potatoes
  • 1 sweet Vidalia onion, peeled, halved and cut into thin half moons
  • 2 shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken broth
  • 4 slices good quality bacon, diced and cooked crispy (reserve the rendered fat)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Maille Dijon mustard
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chives or flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Chopped hard boiled egg

Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water by an inch or two. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce heat to medium, and continue to cook at a low boil until the potatoes are cooked through and a sharp knife pierces them easily. Drain and set aside to cool.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them if you like. Cut the potatoes in half and then cut them into thick slices. Put the potatoes in a large bowl and carefully stir in the onions and shallots.

In a saucepan warm up the chicken stock, reserved bacon fat, vegetable oil, vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper, and whisk until smooth. Stir this warm vinaigrette into the potatoes, along with the chopped chives or parsley.

Add chopped bacon, and let sit for a half-hour. Add chopped egg as garnish on top.

Serve warm or at room temperature; this is great with grilled sausages. Serves 6.