The heat at this past Saturday’s James Beard Foundation Chefs and Champagne event in the Hamptons wasn’t enough to keep people away from the $275-per-ticket tasting, though it did manage to make some high-profile guests — mingling between sampling stations under the event’s large tent — a little uncomfortable.
"I didn’t want to leave home," sighed Richard Gere, as he helped himself to an oyster. "My wife made me leave as usual." Gere was supporting Jeremy McMillan, his chef at the Bedford Post Inn, who was busy prepping melon salad with marinated octopus.
Martha Stewart, meanwhile, put on a happy face: "Despite the heat, the food is delicious, chefs are in a good mood, and the turnout is great," she told us, grabbing a slab of striped-bass crudo from Esca’s Dave Pasternack.
"I got up this morning and took a swim; I would have been happy sitting on the beach all day," said Pasternack. "I’ve been doing this event over the last twenty years, but I skipped a couple. I figured I was due for a few Beard awards, so I was playing the politics,” he quipped. "Hopefully it works, ‘cause it’s brutal out here.”
Emeril Lagasse, the event’s honoree, was of a similar mindset. "David Pasternack wanted me to go fishing with him, but I’m filming a new show in Texas and I can’t even stay the night," he told us. But still, he was happy to be there. "I’m pleased to be the recipient of money for my foundation. Martha has been trying to get me here for years."
Perhaps the surest sign that weather was effecting the situation, was that Daniel Boulud, who did stay the weekend at Jay McInerney’s house ("He’s in Scotland playing golf so I can trash the place," Boulud joked), did not offer a second cheek-kiss to the guests he greeted. "It is too hot for two cheeks," he explained.
It was Iron Chef Mark Forgione who had what Grub Street considered the best advice for beating the heat: "If you drink enough beers, it doesn’t matter."