In August, chef Dan Barber announced plans to step down from his kitchen duties and pivot his Grand Award–winning Blue Hill at Stone Barns into a chef-in-residence concept. That came to fruition this week, with Jan. 13 marking the start of the first season of chef residencies at the farm and restaurant in Pocantico Hills, N.Y.
For five weeks, each chef will lead the kitchen and offer their spin on regional cuisines using produce from Stone Barns Center and other surrounding farms. “Each of these chefs will explore the intersection of cooking and farming—but also culture, identity, community and health,” Barber wrote in a statement. “A vision for food that is both physical and philosophical, and so much greater than the sum of its parts.”
First up is Shola Olunloyo, whose Nigerian-inspired dishes include spiced goat cooked in hay and pheasant-and-kale egusi stew. He’ll be followed by Omar Tate, Johnny Oritz and Victoria Blamey, formerly of the now-closed Gotham Bar & Grill. Barber and his team consciously selected chefs who were particularly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and who represent groups that are largely underrepresented in leading kitchen positions.
Reservations for Olunloyo’s residency are now available for $250 per person, or guests can book a spot at all four residencies in season one for $1,000. All proceeds support Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture’s nonprofit efforts.
The experience includes both alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverage pairings. “Residency provides the beverage team with a new opportunity and challenge to pair with dishes and flavors they haven’t experienced before,” a representative from Blue Hill told Wine Spectator via email. “They’re especially excited about wines from Languedoc.” Additional options are available à la carte, including the full wine list managed by beverage director Hannah Williams.—Taylor McBride
As U.S. restaurants face continued challenges from the pandemic, two top wine-and-spirit companies have teamed up to help some of those struggling businesses in New York state. Diageo North America and Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits’ (SGWS) Coastal Pacific Wine & Spirits division will soon distribute grants from their “Raising the Bar” Restaurant Recovery Fund, which will help New York restaurants adapt to pandemic restrictions. “The hospitality industry, specifically restaurants, has been one of the hardest hit areas of our economy during the pandemic,” SGWS CEO Wayne Chaplin told Wine Spectator via email.
To carry out this program, the companies partnered with Empire State Development (ESD), a New York state agency that encourages economic development, job creation and revenue growth. They began developing the fund this past fall, recognizing an increased need after indoor dining was prohibited throughout the state. Diageo North America has led funding with Coastal Pacific’s support, and over $3 million has been raised so far.
“Diageo North America, like many of our valued wine and spirits suppliers, has been at the forefront of relief efforts for restaurants and bars during COVID-19,” Chaplin said. The initiative is also one of several relief and recovery efforts by SGWS since early 2020.
Eligible restaurants could be granted up to $5,000, and the fund will stay open until its finances are depleted. These grants are intended to help restaurants with expenses they accrue as they create a socially distanced environment, enhance delivery and takeout programs and adapt to serving guests outside during winter.
Among the various requirements to apply, restaurants must not have made more than $3 million in revenue in 2019, and they must be able to prove that they have experienced financial difficulty from the pandemic.
The grants will be distributed by the National Development Council (NDC), which promotes community and economic development. The non-profit is planning to start distributing funds by early February. In a statement, NDC president Dan Marsh expressed his hope that this “tailored grant program” will be helpful for smaller establishments, particularly those with minority or female owners, and those in areas that have been badly hit by the pandemic. “Time is of the essence, and every day that goes by that restaurants don’t have support is another day they may not be able to remain open,” Chaplin said. “We hope this grant enables [restaurants] to literally ‘weather’ this season.”
There are no plans to expand this program to other regions or states (SGWS has offered aid to Florida restaurants through a separate effort), but the fund will continue to monitor the restaurant industry’s needs.—Collin Dreizen
To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of her Best of Award of Excellence–winning Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, chef Dominique Crenn is hosting a 12-day dinner series through a Casa Crenn pop-up in Baja California Sur.
Starting June 15th at luxury resort Montage Los Cabos, the dinners will each feature a 10-course menu of Crenn’s signature dishes, with twists by chefs Xavier Salomon and Juan Contreras. The meals will be seafood and vegetable–focused, and highlight local ingredients based on partnerships with farmers. “Through our travels along the Baja coast, we have been fortunate to connect with amazing farmers and producers and are looking forward to collaborating with them for this event,” Crenn's project manager and executive assistant, Nicole Dort, told Wine Spectator via email.
The wine list was built by Atelier Crenn lead sommelier Rachel Coe. It will feature wines from the state of California and local Baja producers, with an emphasis on organic selections. "Diversity is also vital as we strive to source wines that feature different areas and different techniques, as well as highlighting the many talented female vignerons and artists," Dort said.
Dinner tickets are priced at $1,250 per person. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Asociación Por los Niños de La Sierra, an organization dedicated to educating children in underserved communities.—T.M.
Legal Sea Foods, the prolific seafood chain with five Restaurant Award–winning locations, has been purchased by fellow Massachusetts-based company PPX Hospitality Group. Founded in early 2019 by Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group, which runs the Smith & Wollensky steak-house chain with eight Restaurant Award winners, PPX will immediately take over the daily operations of the Legal Sea Foods brand.
Over the course of 2020, Legal Sea Foods permanently closed multiple locations across the U.S., including the Boston Park Square location that received its first Restaurant Award in 1985. “The recent pressures COVID-19 has placed upon the restaurant industry have been enormous and nearly impossible to tackle alone,” read a statement from Kim Giguere-Lapine, PPX’s chief marketing officer. “As someone with decades of experience with Smith & Wollensky and several other New England brands, including a brief time at Legal Sea Foods, seeing restaurant operators come together to find solutions that support each other is a cause for celebration. We are confident we’ll get through these challenging times together.”
A representative from PPX told Wine Spectator that they haven’t yet finalized any changes to the wine programs, which were managed by Sandy Block, Legal Sea Foods’ vice president of beverage operations.—T.M.
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