During one’s time in Park City for Sundance a person must be careful on how to navigate a snowscape filled with consumer excess and shallow posturing. This is not a wholly negative observation, it is merely the way things are when you gather in a small town with half a hundred thousand people. While many of us may be here to be thrilled by great cinema, everything happens.
So where film happens, food happens. At that’s the idea behind Chefdance. Now in its 15th consecutive year, co-founders Mimi Kim and Kenny Griswold took their business savvy to invite a culinary chorus of world-class chefs and sponsors to give the attendees of Sundance a long weekend of culinary and cultural sustenance. Taking place over four distinct evenings, ChefDance spotlights each star chef for a banquet style four course meal featuring fantastic fare from all corners of the culinary world. This year’s chefs in residence were Luigi Fineo (Lugi al Teatro, Los Angeles), Shawn McClain (Sage, Las Vegas), Beau MacMillan (Sanctuary, Phoenix), and Brian Malarkey (Herringbone, San Diego).
I had the pleasure of attending on Sunday night when Chef MacMillian and his dynamite staff took to the kitchen just 15 yards from the dining tables to craft a meal that took the notion about complimentary tastes and built that out over each course in subtle and pleasing ways. The genius of MacMillian’s work was how each course was a great primer for the next. We began with a soft palette cleanser, Island Creek Oyster “Rockefeller”, which brought a gentle taste of spinach to the proceedings. This built beautifully into the second course of Cauliflower Pana Cotta. The intermingling black truffle and smoked tomato jam then gave us a heads up for the main event in a Beef Striploin that featured charred sprouts, cipolilini onions and bone marrow ravioli (a first for me). A coconut and passion fruit parfait brought the evening’s meal to a satisfying conclusion. It’s important to note that a meal of this high quality, care and artistry has to be replicated about a hundred and fifty times over, so my winter cap off to MacMillan’s dedicated and diligent cooks and staff for their craft and timing.
And with interesting food comes interesting company. A guiding light with ChefDance’s banquet style event is to encourage a leisurely meal where guests can mingle and gain insight and share life with their fellows. While I was more than happy to sit with ScreenAnarchy’s very own Ryland Aldrich, it was all the better to speak with a female stunt driver, and a young woman who organized Ted Talks in prisons. The evening also saw Kim and Griswold’s daughter, Skyler, give an impassioned speech about inclusion and the importance of moving away from labels. Sticking with the empowered energy of the night, women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred shared a few words on the current climate in American politics and what women can do to change that. As we came to desert singer and composer Siedah Garret, co-writer of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror”, offered up the tune to an effervescent and captive audience.
Falling back into the crisp, cool embrace of the Park City night and the ruckus that is Main Street, I felt more than content with my evening. Satisfaction is a strange beast. Humans tend to measure it rather haphazardly. Taking the time then to sit and savor a meal is appreciated, yes, but more than that it is the kind of subtle and true magic that can arise in an event like Chefdance. While we may say the movies are for entertainment, deep down we seek nourishment, guidance and new perspectives from our films. These things help us grow. So too with our food. Sharing in the electricity that is a communal experience is both key to the cinema and key to the culinary arts. For it is there, hidden in plain sight, where we are able to see ourselves in strangers, and soon realize that indeed, labels, beyond love, beyond being, beyond nourishment and sustenance, don’t really make us.