LA Times Second Annual Food Bowl lasts until the end of May. This ‘Plant Power No Beast’ event curated by Pulitzer Prize winning Jonathan Gold brought together 20 of the world’s most exciting women chefs in his opinion. It was this event he said he had been most looking forward to and hung around to the end dining and socializing to prove it.
Hosted by long time restaurant partners who are making it in a man’s world are entrepreneurial chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger of the venerable Border Grill. Founding members of the OG Golden Uterus Club of multi-culti veggie focused cuisine, Milliken and Feniger represent a fresh food movement and way of life, a moment in the sun for today and a baton for the next generation. It was their modern Mexican take on a fresh blue corn tamale topped with guacamole, creme fraiche and pico de gallo which helped to expand my palate in the 1980’s.
Founding members of the OG Golden Uterus Club of Multi-Culti Veggie Focused cuisine, Milliken and Feniger represent a fresh food focused movement and way of life they helped to found. Their moment in the sun is for today and a baton for the next generations to come.
The night held promise as governors of the kitchen strutted their stuff with signature plant-based dishes. All produce was supplied by Frieda’s Specialty Produce with the eponymous 94-year-old visionary disrupter extraordinaire alive and well. “Fear No Fruit,” (2005) the documentary explains how Rappaport-Caplan introduced chefs to tropical and semi-tropical fruits such as kiwis and specialty items common in the cuisines of less developed economies such as jicama from Guatemala. “Pass the kale,” could be the family motto of this matrilineal business in its third generation.
Who traveled the furthest to participate? It’s a tie between rising star who needs a cookbook Monique Fiso of New Zealand’s, Hiakai, revivifying Maori cuisine with “beans are my new obsession,” Nadine Levy Redzepi co-owner of Noma. With René Redzepi her chef husband, she is a new cookbook author of Downtime: Deliciousness at Home. Levy Redzepi runs the business of redefining Nordic cuisine and is the chief cook for the family with three daughters under 10. One of Nadine’s favorite recipes from her childhood is a Portuguese chicken liver ragout recipe she deployed to impress and woo her husband.
The other 17 chefs have restaurants within a 10-mile radius emanating from the femme centric Coral Tree Plaza location of Border Grill and Frieda’s warehouse. One could argue that LA being a mecca for vegan at the moment, availability of Freida’s produce ushered in plant locus food trends such as World Cuisine and Street Food over the last 30 years they’ve been in business. The sky’s the limit in terms of what these chefs can pull out virtually from thin air.
An evening of such extravagance wouldn’t be complete without a charitable component which releases the obligation to serve those high on up allowing others to rise. Giving up a Saturday night to cook for this event was an honor with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Girls Inc., an innovative after school girls program, and the James Beard Women in Culinary Leadership Program.
For the list of these fabulous women, see below:
Besides Milliken and Feniger, participating chefs include cookbook author Nadine Redzepi (Noma), Monique Fiso of New Zealand (Hiakai), Akasha Richmond (Akasha), Antonia Lofaso (Scopa Italian Roots), April Bloomfield (Hearth & Hound), Brooke Williamson (Playa Provisions), Dahlia Narvaez (Mozza), Roxana Jullapat (Friends & Family), Shirley Chung (Ms. Chi), Dakota Weiss (Sweetfin/Estrella), Jazz Singsanong (Jitlada), Niki Nakayama (n/naka), Nyesha Arrington (Native Santa Monica), Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson (Kismet), Sherry Yard (iPic Theaters), Tanya Holland (Brown Sugar Kitchen) and Valerie Gordon (Valerie Confections).