My night with Alain Ducasse, Didier Rachou, Guy Savoy, Ludo Lefebvre, Nancy Silverton, Matt Molina, Daniel Boulud and Joe Bastianich:
Ever played the game Alive or Dead? I like to play this game for dinner parties – alive or dead who would I love to have dinner with? Top of my list would be great chefs I admire – they are a generous bunch and know how to give a girl a good time – food, wine, conversation – this is my fantasy dinner party. We used to play Alive or Dead for casting movies – alive or dead who would be the best cast for this movie? If the actor was dead we’d say there were ‘unavailable.’ I think I may well have dined at the ultimate dinner last month at Mozza when fantasy became a reality. It was most definitely dinner with some of the most talented chefs and the most Michelin stars sitting around one table I will probably ever be privileged enough to sit and enjoy pizza with.
My friend Joe sure knows how to throw a great dinner party – small and intimate, old friends and new, great food and exceptional wine all equates to fun times and loads of laughter. This was the guest list:
Other fantasy guests who were ‘unavailable’ but would have enjoyed the revelry and laughed along with us – Charlemagne, Marie-Antoinette, Marie-Antoine Careme, Julia Child, Pierre Franey and Auguste Escoffier perhaps?
We began our evening in the Osteria with a glass of wine and a selection of appetizers. Daniel instantly starts feeding me something that has artichoke in it that he’s loving and in that typical chef way has to share. We then went on a brief tour of the kitchens on our way over to the Pizzeria. Chefs love kitchens – no really – they love going into other chefs’ kitchens. They start to geek out like you have never seen – any shyness disappears and they relax 100%. This was the perfect way to get the party off to a flying start. It was a hard task getting them to move on – wrangling cats springs to mind – as they eagerly toured the steaming pots of boiling water at the pasta station. After brief introductions to the always smiling pastry chef Dahlia Narvaez and her cool pastry kitchen all the French chefs descended on Matt Molina in the Pizzeria next to the oven:
It would have been a very lucky night to be dining at the bar that over looks the pizza oven. You would have had a front row seat to see Ducasse and Boulud brandishing pizza peels like schoolboys learning cricket.
Pizza lesson and photo op over we moved in to the Jack Warner room. The walls of this private dining room are lined with wine bottles in wooden cases and flickering votives. In the center the rustic dark wooden table was surrounded by just twelve newly upholstered bright red leather thrones placed four and four, with two at the heads of the table. The diminutive impression of this one table in the seemingly larger than normal Jack Warner room was an indication of the intimacy of the dinner.
Joe started the evening by sitting all the French speakers together at the end of the table – above you have Didier Rachou (hubby), Alain Ducasse, Guy Savoy, Ludo Lefebvre and Daniel Boulud. Ducasse purchased La Cote Basque in New York from Hubs’ father (Jean-Jacques Rachou) and so he and Didier had a little reminiscing to do over a crisp glass of Bastianich Vespa. On the 3rd May Ducasse was celebrating 100 years of Benoit in Paris at Benoit in NY, the restaurant that replaced La Cote Basque – coincidentally it was 14 years since Didier and I were married at La Cote Basque on May 3rd.
“J’adore le bébé pizza,” said Boulud as he tucked into pizzette (baby pizzas) topped with ramps, pancetta, English peas and panna and then classic margherita. Next a selection of pasta from the Osteria – I think the last person to break the golden rule and eat these Osteria pasta dishes in the Pizzeria was Obama. Matt showed off our next course – giant steaks that had been expertly butchered by Dario Cecchini during his visit the previous week.
Nancy arrived and sat between Ludo and Daniel. “I only came to see Nancy,” joked Ludo. Let’s just say there was a lot of flirting as only the French can do as the evening progressed – and looking through the photos a lot of kissing.
Guy plants a kiss on Nancy’s cheek. [In this photo from left to right: Alain Ducasse, Daniel Boulud, Guy Savoy, Nancy Silverton, Joe Bastianich, Ludo Lefebvre and Matt Molina]
Rather than kissing cousins we have kissing chefs.
Didier talks to Alain, Joe, Ludo, Nancy and Matt share a joke… @DanielBoulud tweets.
…and tweets some more.
“Nancy, I love your muffins,” Daniel writes all over the English muffin page in Made in America. “I like the bubble in your muffin, Daniel xxx.” Nancy get’s the Sharpie and writes “Where’s the jam?” Daniel gets the Sharpie back and adds, “I want Nancy to teach me everything about bread! I love her touch, Daniel.”
Note to self: Always bring a Sharpie and a copy of Made in America to dinner with ANY chef of the 100 in the book – after a few glasses of wine the notes are hilarious.
Didier comments on our drive home that he’s never realized how fun Daniel is – I had got a taste of it up at Pebble Beach at the Final Final. He really is a true bon vivant, a lover of life. I ask him if he chooses to be happy – our little catch phrase – without missing a beat he says, “I am happy.” I am as happy as Daniel, it’s infectious and you can see it in every photo from this magical night.
Perhaps the ghost of Jack Warner visited our table and felt the happiness? [Rumor has it the private dining room in Mozza Pizzeria is haunted]. Daniel joked with Joe that he could see similarities between Joe and Jack Warner (his photo hangs on the wall), if Joe would only grow similar facial hair, “I’ll work on it for next time,” promises Joe. My heart skips a beat dreaming of a next time and I go to bed really happy thinking nothing will ever top it. The next morning I get a text from Joe “Thanx for making last nite grt!!!… Claim it as your own. It was very special.”