As I write this blog, I am in the throes of planning for the 2008 FOOD & WINE Best New Chef Awards, which take place this week in New York City. Each year, FOOD & WINE scours the country in search of the 10 most creative and talented young chefs, who we believe will go on to be the nation's next culinary stars. This year we'll announce the carefully chosen recipients to the press and food industry at a celebration on Thursday night. This being our 20th anniversary of the program, we have invited over 20 Best New Chef alumni to cook at the event. Old friends who have won in years past will attend and cook in our honor, including many friends of Top Chef, such as Tom Colicchio, Rocco DiSpirito and, of course, Daniel Boulud!
Daniel (my former boss of many years) was actually part of the "inaugural class" to receive the award, back in 1988. His year of award recipients was particularly remarkable, as it also included industry luminaries Thomas Keller, Nobu Matsuhisa, Hubert Keller, and Rick Bayless. It is amazing to think that back then these leading chefs were relative unknowns. They were young and ambitious, still conceiving their signature styles and the dishes that would eventually bring them national fame and legendary success. Their dreams were not unlike those of the cheftestants on our show today. How fitting it is that he was the guest for this week's challenge!