As this issue comes out, six members of the 5 Fusion team are accompanying chef Joe Kim to the James Beard House in Manhattan to prepare an exquisite five course meal for patrons of the American culinary tradition. You may wonder why a chef would travel clear across the country to cook for just one night.
The James Beard Foundation is a nonprofit that continues the legacy of Oregon chef, author and educator James Beard. After Beard's death, his home was maintained as a gathering place for culinary pros to prepare, present and enjoy food in its highest form. In 1986 the Foundation officially opened the Beard House as a "performance space" for visiting chefs. To this day it remains the only historic culinary center in North America. The Foundation hosts a notorious gala each spring to award the country's top culinary talent—considered to be the food version of the Oscars.
Chefs are also welcomed by invitation only to host a dinner at the Beard House—and Kim is not the first Bendite to be graced with the honor. Ariana and Andres Fernandez of Ariana Restaurant presented Mediterranean fare in 2014. This time around, the doors open to Kim at 8 am on the morning of Sept. 22 to prepare the evening's meal. His team includes cooks Shivie Barin, Corey Bailey, Bryce Beard and servers Laura Kim and Nicole Mann, along with bartender Rian Steen and photographer/videographer Alex IV.
The excitement of the invite is paired with a healthy amount of pressure. The 80 seats are sure to be filled with people boasting subtle palates—considering that those who dine at the Beard House are likely to have dined with the world's best. The kitchen has been occupied by hundreds of esteemed chefs, some of whom Kim draws personal inspiration from. Typically chefs are recognized for having a specific style. Joe is oft-referred to as Asian fusion because of his heritage—but that could also be because no one can pin down his creative style. He's a bit of a chameleon, integrating traditions and techniques from many cultures and experiences. His interest lies in making food that is above all fun to cook.
The dinner, dubbed a Modern Taste of Oregon, involves literally bringing Oregon to Greenwich Village. A dry ice chest accompanied the group on the airplane and other items were shipped directly. The team visited the grass-fed Wagyu cow on the open pastures at 2 Sisters Ranch in Tumalo, and even watched it get slaughtered to ensure the desired cut. Overall the menu is modern American Cuisine and includes Dirty Water Dogs made with Dungeness crab, Rockin' Dave's Miso Bagels, Live Lobster Sashimi, scallops wrapped in King Salmon fanned out to look like pinwheels, kimchi made with unique veggies and Heritage Farms Pork Belly with Bibimbap Rice. The wine spirits for the pairings were donated by the Northwest Wine Coalition and Bendistillery. Bartender Steen has brewed and bottled kombucha at 5 Fusion, and prepared Huckleberry bitters for Manhattans. After the five courses, tiny bites of juniper bubble gum and pine gummy bears will be presented to complete the experience.
Humbled by the recognition and grounded by the fact that this is a life-changing experience for his entire team, Kim marks another milestone in his career's success. His ambition is continuously supported by his partners Lilian and Mike Chu, who, of course, are attending. Fifteen local supporters have also planned trips specifically for the event. For those of us who couldn't make it, we can watch the live stream from inside the Beard House kitchen, and hope that they will do a replica of the dinner when they return.
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