Monday, December 17, 2012
French Inspiration: The Induction Ceremony and Holiday Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria
On December 17, 2012, sixty-nine members and guests of the Chicago Chapter of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs were thrilled to hold our annual Induction Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria, one of Chicago’s preeminent hotels. The Induction Dinner marked the ceremonial peak of our gastronomic year, drawing upon tradition, elegance and gastronomy—all hallmarks of La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs. During the 2012-2013 season, the Chicago Chaîne is celebrating diverse regional and ethnic cuisines, but for this black-tie evening we returned to the organization’s French culinary roots under the guidance of the Waldorf Astoria’s new Executive Chef, Hervé Cuyeu, a native of Bordeaux, France.
Our experience began with a lovely reception in the Hemingway Room where members were able to celebrate the holidays while tantalizing their taste buds with classic French hors d’oeuvres and canapés: gougères, airy golden-brown puffs of choux pastry infused with Gruyère cheese; tiny balls of poached pear wrapped in a savory duck prosciutto; a spoon of seared sea scallops with verjus; and dry-aged beef tartare on mini toasts. These delectable bites were accompanied by Champagne from the House of Ayala. The non-vintage Brut Nature is a unique sparkling wine with no dosage, so the absence of sugar makes for a bone-dry, food-friendly Champagne with delicate citrus and floral notes.
For the second phase of our evening, we moved to the adjacent Sinclaire Ballroom for the Induction Ceremony. Bailli Jane Tracy greeting attendees and introduced our Master of Ceremonies, Conseiller Gastronomique des États-Unis Honoraire Roger Tracy, who presided over an induction steeped in French history. After new members were led through a recitation of the Chaîne oath, each stepped onto the stage, held the symbolic broche (a nod to the rotisserie cooks who used these spits when the society was originally founded in Paris in 1248), and was sworn in by Conseiller Roger Tracy, his ceremonial sword resting perilously close to the neck of each new member. Fortunately, no one was injured, but Conseiller Tracy effectively integrated Chaîne tradition into the ceremony with an occasional light-hearted verbal “roast” of several participants.
Ten new non-professional (i.e., not in the hospitality industry) members collected their ribbons of membership (“decorations”) and were inducted. Margaret Dickerson, Karen P. Fine, Linda P. Garard, Beth Lang and Lou Stejskal became Dames de la Chaîne, and new members Ramsin Benyamin, Neil A. Fine, James L. Garard, Charles W. Hetzel and Michael G. Strong became Chevaliers. Three new professional members were inducted. Dee Robinson Reid, President of Robinson Hill Hospitality Group, received the title of Professionnel de Table; Markus Puereschitz, Food and Beverage Director at Park Hyatt Chicago, and Jann M. Kaiser, Food and Beverage Director at The Four Seasons Chicago, both became Maître de Table Hôtelier.
Next, several existing members were elevated to new positions. Chevalier Todd Arkebauer was made the Vice-Chargé de Presse, responsible for the public relations of the Chicago Chapter and for ensuring that our dinners are well reported in Gastronome and on our website and Facebook. Vice-Chargé de Missions Elan Jacoby was elevated to our Chapter’s Vice-Conseiller Gastronomique, and he will work closely with the Bailli and the host establishment to ensure the planning and smooth running of our dinners each month. Maître de Table Hôtelier Christopher Koetke, President of the Kendall College School of Culinary Arts, was elevated to Vice-Conseiller Culinaire. In this position he will work closely with each host establishment chef to ensure that the menu and execution are at the high levels. Vice-Chancelier/Argentier Honoraire Jeanne Cahill was given the title Officier Commandeur for her thirty years of membership and dedicated service to the Chaîne. Finally, three confrères transferred to the Chicago Chapter or rejoined the Chaîne: Dame de la Chaîne Trudy Cassin, Chevalier Bryce Carmine and Maître Hotelier Richard R. Evanich, General Manager of the Waldorf Astoria Chicago.
Following the Induction Ceremony, members and guests moved to the space formerly known as Ria for a modern French dinner created by Chef Cuyeu and his team with wine pairings from the Chicago Chapter’s deep and sizeable cellar. We were glad to see that this extraordinarily beautiful space hadn’t changed since the Chaîne’s two prior events at Ria, including a spectacular dinner before the restaurant had officially opened and earned two Michelin stars. Baille Jane Tracy introduced Maître Hotelier Rick Evanich, who welcomed Chaîne members and introduced Chef Cuyeu. The Chef graciously spoke about several of the courses and returned throughout the evening to explain his modern French cuisine.
Our amuse—a play on eggs—was composed of a layer of custard made from local farm eggs that was topped with Osetra caviar, crumbled rye toast and a frisée garnish, all nestled within a beautiful vessel evocative of a goldfish bowl. The contrasting flavors and textures of this luxurious starter was a perfect introduction to Chef Cuyeu’s modern French cuisine. Caviste Mon Roldan introduced the wine pairing, which was another Champagne from Ayala, the Cuvée Perle Brut 2002, which offered a charming bouquet of ripe citrus fruit and ginger bread.
The first course was a decadently rich sun choke cream soup topped with a generous dollop of chopped truffles, porcini foam and chopped chives. Fresh off of his induction, Chevalier Jamie Garard spoke about the white Burgundy wine paired with the soup, a fine 2005 Puligny-Montrachet Sous Le Puits 1er Cru from Domaine Liger-Belair. For our second course, we enjoyed a torchon of duck foie gras topped with a Monbazillac gelee, herbs and fleur de sel and accompanied by a savory crisp. Chevalier Neil Fine presented the magnificent wine pairing, a Château Rieussec Sauternes 1978 with an amber color and rich flavors of honey, toffee and ginger. Our third course was a filet of smoked sturgeon with brown butter winter apple, brussel sprout petals and fennel broth. Chevalier Charles Hetzel introduced the wine, Domaine Michel Niellon Chassagne-Montrachet 2009. The green apple notes of this very young Burgundian chardonnay paired well with this dish.
For our entrée, Chef Cuyeu and his team prepared sliced venison loin accompanied by celery root puree, maitaki mushrooms, fava beans, salsify and endive gratin with a rich garlic jus. Officer Commandeur Jeanne Cahill had the honor of presenting the red Bordeaux wine, Château Léoville-Las Cases 1988. The ruby-colored wine had a nose of blackberry and a palate of hazelnut, vanilla and red currents that paired beautifully with the meat. In typical French fashion, we progressed to a salad and cheese course, consisting of aged clothbound cheddar, frisée herb salad, fig vinegar and walnut crisp. Vice-Chancelier and Argentier Hilton Weinberg introduced the very special red Burgundy wine pairing, Domaine Jacques Prieur Chambertin Grand Cru 1996, which exhibited flavors of red raspberries and dark chocolate. To conclude our dining extravaganza, we enjoyed a decadent deconstructed chocolate crème chiboust with cranberry ice cream and a sage crisp. Chevalier David Zimbler described the exceptional wine paired with our final course, a Château d’Yquem Sauternes 1986 that exhibited beautiful caramel, peach, pineapple and honey flavors.
At the end of the evening Bailli Jane Tracy acknowledged and thanked Chef Cuyeu and Maître Hotelier Rick Evanich for the wonderful evening of fine food, wine and hospitality. Chef Cuyeu was presented with a framed Chaîne plate and other acknowledgments were distributed to the stellar Waldorf team. This gala evening was in the true tradition of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs worldwide—a celebration of our organization’s French roots with fine French cuisine in a holiday atmosphere filled with our Chapter’s friendship and conviviality. Vive la Chaîne!
The Induction Dinner is the high ceremony of our gastronomic year – and this gala event is a tradition for our Chapter where high ceremony, elegance and gastronomy depict the hallmarks of La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs.
Our host for the evening will be The Waldorf Astoria and RIA Restaurant. This property is very supportive of our organization led by Chicago Chaine member General Manager Maître Hôtelier Rick Evanich. I am certain that we all enjoy an exceptional and creative evening.
Waldorf Astoria has appointed Hervé Cuyeu as the Executive Chef for the property and who will lead its culinary team. Chef Cuyeu is a native of Bordeaux, France, debuting his career in the historical monument of St. Jacques de Compostelle. He has also trained under a number of world-renowned chefs including Chef Michel Guerard of La Bastide Gasconne, a two-Michelin-star fine dining restaurant in France. Most recently, Chef Cuyeu served as the Executive Chef at the Waldorf Astoria Naples and prior to that, he was the Executive Chef at the Loews Portofino for more than eight years.
Acknowledging Chef’s roots, expect some exceptional wines from the Chaîne cellar as well as a very warm welcome from Waldorf’s culinary team.
This gala evening promises to be in the true tradition of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs worldwide. Please join us to welcome our recently inducted members, discover a new chef in Chicago, and to celebrate our Chapter’s friendship and conviviality.