One of the biggest culinary events of the year, the All Star Chef Classic, returned to LA Live for its fourth year in a row from March 8th to 11th. Bringing together some of the world’s most celebrated and award winning chefs, this four day experience features their Masters Dinner Series as well as a couple of strolling events. The Masters Dinner series features different cuisines every night, ranging from French, Italian, American and Asian, all taking place in Restaurant Stadium™. This year, Melissa’s Produce had the honor of sponsoring the Italian Masters Dinner for a splendid evening of showcasing all the wonderful flavors Italy had to offer. Melissa’s was the provider of all the featured produce used in the courses for the evening.
The Italian Masters Dinner featured five highly respected chefs from all over the country, all of whom have achieved many remarkable accomplishments in the culinary industry. Our all star lineup for the evening included Chef Antonia Lofaso, Chef Dahlia Narvaez, Chef Fabio Viviani, Chef Jamie Bissonette and Chef Mirko Paderno. The purpose of tonight’s dinner was to demonstrate how simplicity is the secret to cooking the most exquisite Italian dishes and showcased traditional flavors made with modern techniques. This event featured five courses as well as a specially selected wine pairing with each dish.
Billy Harris, star of popular hit culinary web series “Hanging with Harris” was our host for the night. We were ecstatic to have him again like we did back at the 2015 All Star Chef Classic at another one of our sponsored events, Cuisine for the Cure. Once again, Harris did an excellent job interacting with the crowd and interviewing the chefs around Restaurant Stadium as they led us through demos of their featured dish. The famed state-of-the-art Restaurant Stadium™ is a special venue designed to allow attendees an intimate experience of being as close to the action as possible. After all, it’s not every day you get to sit nearly kitchen-side to some of the biggest names in the culinary world!
We started off the evening with a delicious amuse bouche. On the plate were tasty bite-sized delicacies that included a Riccio di Mare Santa Barbara Uni Coppa and Butter Panino. We also had a Mary’s Chicken Liver Mousse Bigne with Parmigiano Fonduta and a Caramelized Ciopollini Onion Tart with Fired Sage. Along with that was a Toasted Cirander and Cracked Pepper Cured Salmon topped with Regalis Caviar, Coccoli and filled with a Roasted lemon Creme Fraiche.
For our first course, Chef Jamie Bissonenette of New York’s City Toro and his latest venture, Little Donkey, treated us to a Tonnato Crudo. This dish featured tuna from the Tahitian Islands, Pistachio, Castelveltrano Olives, Seaweed and Meyer Lemons. Served chilled, the crudo made a delicious and refreshing way to start off the meal. There was an exquisite array of colors and textures from the firm, meaty tuna to the creamy bed of sweet, tart lemony puree it was served on. By the way, a fun tidbit from the evening: an audience member asked Chef Jamie what the weirdest or strangest ingredient he ever worked with in a dish. It was difficult for Chef Jamie to answer as he quipped, “Well, one man’s weird is another man’s vanilla!” A champion of nose-to-tail cuisine and nationally recognized for his exceptional charcuterie, Chef Jamie is well known for pushing the envelope and there probably isn’t any ingredient that he finds too out of this world to handle. Wine Pairing: Paolo Manzone Dolcetto d’Alba Magna 2015
We were treated to our second course by Chef Mirko Paderno of Culina, a stylish and modern restaurant located at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons Hotel. Tonight’s dish was a porcini gnocchetti with braised lamb shoulder sugo and castelmagno cheese. Gnocchetti is a smaller, Southern Italian version of gnocchi and is durum instead of potato flour. Its soft, doughy texture with curved ridges made it excellent for soaking up the scrumptious red sauce. The sauce was rich with flavors of red, ripe tomatoes and succulent, hearty braised lamb. Wine Pairing: La Mannella Rosso di Montalcino 2013.
The audience was rampant with anticipation over Chef Antonia Lofaso’s dish as our projector displayed a pot chock full of melting butter. It was time for the seafood course! Chef Antonia is the executive chef and owner of Venice’s Scopa Italian Roots, a restaurant specializing in old school Italian food reminiscent of the boroughs of New York. Our third dish was a beautiful plate of cockles, lobster, cod served on top of a delicious sauce made from Melissa’s chilis, tomatoes and sunchokes. Each bite of seafood was exquisite, from the mild, gentle-flavored cod to the sweet, buttery lobster. Wine Pairing: Attilio Ghisolfi Langhe Nebbiolo 2011.
Next up, we had Chef Fabio Viviani, former Top Chef and author of best selling cookbooks, of Cafe Firenze. We were definitely excited to have him plating the meat course. Rocker Bros. Kurobuta Pork Cheek served on top a bed of farro risotto and dressed with a savory sea urchin gremolata. Each bite was heavenly, with the incredibly tender pork set atop a bed of chewy, nutty risotto. During this Italian masters dinner, all chefs treated us to a brief demo on their featured dish. Chef Fabio shared with us his technique for cooking the farro risotto, tossing the pan with expert precision to make sure the grains were cooked perfectly. The audience got quite a laugh when Billy Harris attempted this technique and although not quite as on point as Chef Fabio, was still a nice effort. Wine Pairing: Bel Colle Simposio Barolo 2011
Dessert was a real treat as we followed up dinner with the final dish created by Los Angeles hotspot Osteria Mozza’s Chef Dahlia Narvaez, 2016 James Beard Foundation Award winner for Best Pastry Chef. Tonight’s featured dessert was a velvety butterscotch budino with rosemary pine nut biscotti. Budino is a traditional Italian dessert, best described as a creamy pudding or custard. Sweet and buttery, the butterscotch flavor was incredibly pronounced and contrasted beautifully with the crunchy, refreshing biscotti. To top off the course and round everything out, we were served coffee from Verve Coffee Roasters to drink alongside.
We would like to thank all who attended the Italian Masters Dinner as well as the incredible organizers and staff who made the night possible. Also, a big thank you to all the master chefs who gave showcased their incredible Italian dishes. We had an amazing time at the event and look forward to another successful year at the All Star Chef Classic!