James Beard Foundation's chef tour comes to Chattanooga

James Beard Foundation's chef tour comes to Chattanooga

April 24th, 2013 by Karen Nazor Hill in Life Entertainment

Daniel Lindley, chef and owner of St. John's, Alleia and The Meeting Place, will host a Celebrity Chef Tour, welcoming seven James Beard Foundation Award nominees.

Daniel Lindley, chef and owner of St. John's,...

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.


Seven James Beard Foundation Award nominees, semifinalists and culinary professionals from the region will prepare a meal for the James Beard Foundation Celebrity Chef Tour. Attendees will dine on:

• Chicken Breast, Ramps, Radishes, Foie Gras: Daniel Lindley - St. John's, Alleia, The Meeting Place, Chattanooga

• Sunburst Trout Farms Raw Trout, Tomato, Black Olive, Sweet Onion, Lemon Vinaigrette: Katie Button - Cúrate, Asheville, N.C.

• Roasted Lamb, Veal Sweetbreads, Fondue of West Tennessee Leek, Brown Butter Vinaigrette: Kelly English - Restaurant Iris, Memphis

• Handmade Macaronara Pasta, Smoke Guanciale, Fava Bean Puree, Crisp Tomato Skin, Aged Caciocavallo: James Lewis - Bettola, Birmingham

• Baby Carrots, Hakurei Turnips, Creme Fraiche, Hazelnuts, Green Garlic: Steven Satterfield - Miller Union, Atlanta

• Poached Gulf Oysters, Smoked Pork Tongue, Horseradish: Michael Stoltzfus, Coquette - New Orleans

• Cardamom Panna Cotta, Strawberries, Sorrel, Roasted Peanut Biscotti: Rebecca Barron, St. John's, Chattanooga

Steamed Chicken Breast with Ramps

2 chicken breasts (skin removed)

4 ounces ramps (cleaned)

8 ounces morel mushrooms (cleaned)

1 pound carrots

4 ounces of pea shoots

1 lemon

3 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1 ounce unsalted butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Remove the skin of chicken breasts. Season the chicken breast and skin with salt and pepper. Sauté half the ramps and morel mushrooms, then season, cool, chop finely and reserve.

Place one chicken breast on large piece of plastic wrap (skin side down). Place a one-inch wide strip of chopped mushroom-and-ramp mixture down the length of chicken breast. Top with the other chicken breast (skin side up, facing opposite direction as first breast). Wrap the stuffed breast with plastic wrap and twist tightly on both ends to form a tight cylinder. Puncture with the tip of a knife a few times. Place in steamer and cook. Allow chicken to rest for 10 minutes after finished cooking.

For the carrot puree, sweat carrots and remaining ramps in olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Add just enough water to cover and simmer until very tender. Place carrots in food processor and blend until smooth, adding carrot liquid as needed. Add butter at the end.

Spoon a pool of the carrot puree onto each plate. Slice the chicken into 6 pieces (3 per plate) and place on top of carrot puree. Place remaining sautéed morel mushrooms adjacent to chicken. Dress pea shoots with lemon juice and olive oil, salt and pepper and place on top of chicken.

Serves two.

- Daniel Lindley

James Beard was talking about food before people talked about food.

A chef and food writer who died in 1985 at age 81, Beard was talking about the importance of food at a time when food personalities hadn't hit the mainstream, says Daniel Lindley, chef and owner of St. John's, Alleia and The Meeting Place in Chattanooga.

"The media wasn't interested in the food world back then," Lindley says. "It was James Beard, Julia Child and Alice Waters who brought exposure to our food culture, strengthened it, and unified it. The foundation was formed to honor and continue his work."

Lindley has a history with Beard, or at least with the James Beard Foundation, one of the country's most prestigious organizations in the food industry. The group has honored Lindley four times as a semifinalist for the annual Best Chef Southeast Award, the most recent honor being this year.

And because of that relationship, Lindley has been asked to host The James Beard Foundation Celebrity Chef Tour on Thursday evening in Chattanooga. The tour brings together seven James Beard Foundation Award nominees, semifinalists and culinary professionals from the South and Southeast. Benefiting the foundation, the tour offers attendees a chance to experience the diverse culinary talent of a distinguished lineup.

Reservations were filled within two weeks of announcing the tour, Lindley says.

"What's really important to me about doing this is bringing the exposure to Chattanooga about the James Beard Foundation," Lindley says. "The organization is preserving our food heritage and its future. There's so much that has changed about how we eat as far as quality goes, and the foundation is really strong in promoting that. I'm honored to host this tour at St. John's."

According to jamesbeard.org, the foundation, based in New York City, offers education programs that include continuing education classes, guided tastings, conferences, children's programs, culinary scholarships and volunteer opportunities.

The Celebrity Chef Tour began in 2004 by bringing the experience of dining at the James Beard House to cities across the country. The tour has helped raise more than $900,000 for the foundation.

Chattanooga Chef Michelle Huffman Wells, owner of Events With Taste Catering, says the tour shows that Chattanooga has clout in the restaurant industry.

"James Beard is the 'Oscar' of food and beverage," she says, explaining that the annual awards are given by a group of judges that sets "amazing standards."

The James Beard Awards is not a popularity contest, she says, "which is why it carries real prestige."

Tara Plumlee, chief executive officer of The Catering Companies in Chattanooga, says the Celebrity Chef Tour coming to Chattanooga is an indication of how the city has progressed from a culinary perspective.

"To bring the tour to the local community only solidifies that we are on track with our food evolution in Chattanooga," she says. "Food is a central focal point in family cohesiveness, in cultural sharing around the world, and is always a staple at every private function celebrating anything from weddings to holidays."

Lindley, 35, says the restaurant business has come a long way since 2000, when he moved back to Chattanooga to help his brother, Nathan Lindley, open St. John's on Market Street. Nathan Lindley also owns Public House restaurant at Warehouse Row.

"I had moved to New York when I was 20 to start cooking in a restaurant there," he says. "I thought I might go to school, but I ended up in a great restaurant and realized that I was taking the route of getting paid to learn on the job. It was better for me to learn in a kitchen than a classroom, where you may see something once or twice. In a real kitchen, it's different."

Daniel Lindley says he originally planned on staying in Chattanooga for six months before returning to New York to continue his cooking career.

"In New York, I worked just a couple blocks form the Union Square Market, which in the 1990s was one of the first to bring the farmers to an urban environment and distribute fresh vegetables," says Lindley. "It's where the restaurant movement jumped in on 'fresh.' I got to experience it there and got to implement it here (Chattanooga)."

Getting recognition from The James Beard Foundation is affirmation that he made the right decision to stay in Chattanooga, Lindley says.

"I've always wanted my restaurants to be dining destinations for the region," he says. "I didn't want them to be just for Chattanooga, so an event like the Celebrity Chef Tour is an affirmation of that. I got to pick the chefs, and I invited them all personally. Each one agreed to come. I picked chefs I wanted to represent the region, and I went as far as New Orleans. It's not easy for chefs to pack up and leave their own busy restaurants."

Philip and Theresa Martin of Ooltewah will be attending the Chef Celebrity Tour and say it's their introduction to The James Beard Foundation. Martin, a retired flight registered nurse, and his wife, a registered nurse at Memorial Hospital, say they have been regular customers at St. John's for the last decade.

"We were not familiar with The James Beard Foundation before this event but have recently followed the foundation and are impressed to be now supporters of it," he says. "It is a benefit to all involved for this event to be brought to Chattanooga as the city evolves into a large upscale metropolitan area. Having seven chefs at once allows us to compare what other locals are experiencing in their city. These events are an experience to the personal palate, socializing and gaining knowledge of the dining trend of local and regional dining."

Contact staff writer Karen Nazor Hill at khill@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6396.