Food and wine festivals are always extravagant affairs, but when one is produced by Relais & Châteaux, the decadence is taken to an entirely new level. The third annual Relais & Châteaux GourmetFest took place this past weekend in Carmel, with chefs flown in from Japan, Denmark, France — plus some nearby notables like David Kinch (Manresa) and Josh Skenes (Saison) — to cook a whirlwind of meals that practically glowed with Michelin pixie dust. Here’s a rundown of the most memorable moments of the weekend.
1) David Kinch kicked the weekend off with a demo of Manresa’s signature dish, "Into the Vegetable Garden," a custard topped with vegetable veloute and 35 to 40 picked leaves, flowers and herbs from Manresa’s gardens. It’s the only dish to have been on Manresa’s menu since conception, and one person in the kitchen is completely dedicated to making it every night — tweezers required.
2) Kinch then served the dish to a roomful of 140 attendees at a lunch that also had dishes by chefs Nathan Rich (Twin Farms, Barnard, Vermont), Hiroshi Nakamichi (Restaurant Molière, Sapporo, Japan) and pastry chef Stephanie Prida (Manresa). At that lunch alone, there were nine Michelin stars of firepower in the kitchen.
3) One of Kinch’s wishes was to be able to cook with chef Nakamichi, whose Hokkaido wagyu filet with charred turnip and wasabi dish was the most talked-about of the weekend.
4) The other stand-out dish was a collaboration between father-and-son duo Michel and César Troisgros (La Maison Troisgros, Roanne, France), who made what was titled, "Jaune d’or et soleil vivace," which translates to "yellow gold and vivid sun." You can see why — silky sunchoke puree enveloped an egg yolk sprinkled with black truffle.
5) Chris Kajioka (Hotel Wailea, Maui, Hawaii), who was the opening chef de cuisine at Mourad, carted over seaweed in his and his chefs’ carry-ons for his dish at the closing dinner: nori-wrapped venison with a Maui onion tartlet, fermented hearts of palm and Hawaiian pistou. He (and all the other chefs) were assigned their proteins and had to come up with the dishes on the fly.
6) Throughout the weekend, R&C cycled through 5,000 wine glasses, 50,000 black truffles and 22 pounds of caviar.
7) Attendees were mainly of the variety you'd expect to see at the luxe (read: expensive) R&C properties around the world, considering events cost up to $5,500 per person (though the average cost per event was $200). Many were in the industry, some were guests of sponsors and others were unapologetic chef groupies.
8) Minus pastry chef Stephanie Prida and one badass sous, there was an unfortunate grand total of zero headlining female chefs at the event.