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Overheard at Palm Beach Food & Wine

By Beth Landman
December 20, 2013

The Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival went down earlier this week, bringing together top chefs from all over the country including Daniel Boulud, Elizabeth Falkner, Marc Murphy, Johnny Iuzzini, Mike Lata and more. The five-day fest included panel discussions, tasting events, and of course some fabulous parties. Below, we've captured the best quotes from the event from various celebrity chefs. 

Photos by Lila Photo

  • “I’m not a best chef like these guys, but I can cook and I know food,’’ says Robert Irvine. “I’ve thrown up twice tasting on the show.’’ The Restaurant: Impossible host is on a panel with Marc Murphy, Jeff Mauro, Johnny Iuzzini and Kevin Sbraga, held at Palm Beach’s luxurious Four Seasons; the first event of the tony island’s five-day Food & Wine Festival that ended on Tuesday night.

    The discussion turns to the transformation from kitchen to spotlight.  “We didn’t go to acting school,’’ shrugs Murphy.

  • “I’m not going to lie, when people recognize me in the gym steam room it’s a little much,’’ says “Sandwich King’’ Mauro. “But the scary thing is that you can wake up and some guy can cancel your show. In any case I can still go into a kitchen and support my family.’’

    Hours later the feasting resumes at the opening night bash, held at the palm tree studded courtyard of Café Boulud within the Brazilian Court hotel. “We’re 48 hours into everyone harassing each other,’’ jokes Pam Schein, Murphy’s wife. “We met Jeff and Sarah Mauro here last year and became fast friends.’’

  • Corvo Blanco chef Elizabeth Falkner has just arrived from bitter cold New York, and she is fully appreciating the balmy courtyard. “It feels amazing; my jacket is in my bag!’’ she exclaims. Her sleeveless black top reveals the freshly tattooed name, Hudson. “He was my four-pound Yorkie and he passed away in February. We just launched brunch and there were all these parties booked but I had to get away. I get to go to the beach and do some cool stuff. It’s every chef’s dream!’’

  • The next day the Four Seasons holds another chef’s talk, which focused on James Beard. An attendee comments on Johnny Iuzzini’s slick chef’s blacks he was wearing in lieu of traditional whites. “I’m like Johnny Cash, I wear only black,’’ he smiles.

  • “James Beard was an extravagant character,’’ says Boulud. “He put his shower on the balcony and exhibited himself to neighbors. He must have been a fun guy.’’ He muses about winning a Best Restaurateur Beard award. “Drew and other restaurateurs protested and said ‘what the heck is going on?’ They wound up taking chefs out of that category, but I did grab it!”  Boulud later observes of such honors: “Many things you get accolades for, but you can become a has-been in a year.’’

  • Panelist Giorgio Rapicavoli reflects on his youth. “I grew up in the TV era when Emeril still had lots of hair.’’ Thomas Keller was his culinary hero. “I used to call him TK, and I would always say ‘what would TK do?’’’

  • The Four Seasons, which is about to unveil its own new signature restaurant, Jove, plays host for an ocean side barbeque, “Chilling and Grilling. ’’

    “This is my first time away from the new restaurant (Kingside),’’ sighs Murphy about taking a few days off from Kingside. “It’s like leaving your kid at home.’’

  • Fig’s Mike Lata is enjoying the vibe. “I do a lot of these and it’s clear here that they want us to have a good time. They have a beach mentality – represent yourself well but don’t kill yourself while you are doing it. ‘’

  • Falkner is grilling up two pizzas, a classic margarita and her “Californication’’ with walnut arugula pesto, mozzarella and goat cheese, shishito peppers, prosciutto and a drizzle of honey.  “The owners just said they might put in a $15,000 wood burning oven for me at Corvo Blanco,’’ she enthuses. “I’m about to jump into the ocean. I don’t care what I look like in a bathing suit!’’

  • The event is packed, with theatrical veterans David Burke and Todd English cooking alongside chef/owner Clay Conley at Buccan restaurant. 

    “Tonight is a little black dress fest,’’ assesses West Palm Beach salon owner David K. “I had an animal print on and changed to black,’’ seconds a client. 

    As one man reaches for yet another lobster samosa, he glances at his companion unapologetically. “It’s fine. I’m going to work out at 8 AM.’’

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