Monday, January 16, 2006
With Officier Chef Rôtisseur Leo Waldmeier – Executive Chef
GASTRONOME A STATE INDUCTION DINNER AT THE DRAKE INDUCTION! AND A STATE DINNER AT THE DRAKE, CHICAGO
Early 19th Century Chef Antonin Carême garnered his glory in the upper echelons of the Royal European Courts and noble society by promoting a sense of drama and elaboration. This was emulated at Chicago’s Grande Dame of hotels – The Drake – on January 16th for the Chicago Bailliage’s Induction Ceremony and Dinner. It has been 39 years since the Chicago Bailliage held its first induction, and over 25 years this host establishment has extended her hospitality to us - the dinner of 2006 being Officier Chef Rotisseur/Commandeur Leo Waldmeier’s 17th for our Bailliage as Executive Chef.
A 1998 Champagne, André Robert Cuvée de Reserve Blanc de Blanc, Grand Cru, En Magnum, produced in one of the top villages – Le Mesnil - in the Côte des Blancs was served with hors d’oeuvres at the reception in The Palm Court. This amounted to a particularly out of the ordinary experience as only 17 villages out of the 300 in Champagne are classified as Grand Cru. The Induction Ceremony in The Drake Room followed. Eighteen new members and two elevations were sworn into their ranks. Conseiller Gastronomique des Etats Unis, Roger Tracy, conducted the formal procedure converting the postulants to the higher paths of gastronomic virtue, flanked by Officers of the Chicago Chapter who exhibited the all-important spirit of endurance!
Following the new Chicago members’ Class photo, the Drake staff ceremoniously opened the doors onto The Gold Coast Room revealing a breathtaking panorama. Down the center of this famous Chicago room had been placed and decorated in the most lavish way, a very long and festive table stretching from one end to the other – a formal table for a State Dinner that could have been for The White House, Buckingham Palace or the Elysée Palace. This table, laden with magnificent topiaries of red and yellow roses, curling wisps of verdure, massive candles and rose petals scattered over a shimmering, ivory, silken table covering, captured a sense of occasion that must have been experienced at the very inception of this oldest gastronomic Order. Suspended above the table were expanses of billowing silken fabric, gently being kissed by the movement of air, scintillating as the surface - infused with cool blues, translucent yellows and dazzling pinks projected upon it from special lighting effects installed at various points around the vast room - danced its unruffled ballet throughout the entire evening.
Maître Hôtelier and Drake General Manager, Gregor Andréewitch proposed the Toast and explained that The Drake was celebrating its 85th year. The Bailliage de Chicago of La Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs was welcomed as part of the birthday celebration.
Each course was formally announced and the famous service staff of The Drake emerged through large doors in a procession, gracefully serving each diner. The air of pageantry was palpable. Wine service was exemplary and the newly elevated Vice-Chargé de Missions/Caviste Bruce Foudree, who had meticulously planned and worked with the best of the Drake staff and Sommelier Timothy Flynn of Chicago, gave discerning insights into the wines, always adding historical fact and details about the vineyard and name origins. The first course began dramatically with a luscious Grand Cru Sonnenglanz Gewurtztraminer by Bott-Geyl beautifully married with foie gras. Next, a powerful Gigondas Domaine Les Goubert “Cuvée Florence” 1995 was paired with the venison and squab duo, matching triumphantly with the five spices, caramelized chestnuts and red cabbage.
Vice-Conseiller Culinaire Frederic Castan, Executive Chef Sofitel Water Tower gave enlightening food commentaries at precise points throughout the menu displaying his deep knowledge and allowed the amateur gastronomes amongst us to learn. A magnificent Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou Saint Julien 1985 was paired with an international cheese selection, displaying a subtle finesse and appeared to be aging seamlessly. This “beautiful pebble” has been considered one of the top dozen wines in Bordeaux and described by Robert Parker Jr. as “the essence of elegance”.
As though there could not be anything more to come – there was! As dessert was delivered by an endless parade of staff, the 1812 Overture boomed throughout the room. Bailli Heinz Kern introduced Maître Hôtelier and Drake General Manager Gregor Andréewitch to introduce to great applause, Officier Chef Rotisseur/Commandeur Leo Waldmeier and his staffs. The room then was treated to two unexpected surprises. Firstly Conseiller Gastronomique des Etats Unis Roger Tracy made a planned, yet surprise induction of a new young star at The Drake - Banquet Sous Chef, Chi Ping Xu - who had expressed a keen desire to belong to such a serious organization as ours. This ceremony was followed by Bailli Heinz Kern, awarding Officier Chef Rôtisseur/Commandeur Leo Waldmeier with the Bronze Star of Excellence for the many years of dedication to our Chapter. The Drake Induction and Gala Dinner has become a tradition for our Chapter, and the high ceremony of our gastronomic year. We truly felt that we had “gone home”, and the evening represented a magnificent legacy for our wonderful Chapter.