this past february, chef sara had the opportunity to cook at the famed james beard house in new york city. for those of you who are unfamiliar, james beard was a historic american cook, author, and teacher who was deemed the “dean of american cookery” by the new york times in the 1950s. he was an innovator in the american culinary industry, and now the namesake of one of the most highly regarded culinary institutions in the country.
the james beard foundation invited chef sara, along with fellow kentuckian, and multiple james beard award finalist, chef ouita michel to the famous james beard house to offer up some inventive kentucky cuisine. being able to take some of the famous flavors of kentucky, and more specifically paducah, was a great honor and looks to serve our community by getting recognition from one of the most esteemed kitchens in the country.
this event also served to further ky tourism’s “better in the bluegrass” initiative. the campaign is designed to promote all of the fine cuisine found throughout the commonwealth and entice destination-seekers and passers-through to explore kentucky’s chefs and restaurants, as well as their surrounding communities.
the sold out dinner at the james beard house featured an eclectic offering of kentucky-oriented cuisine crafted by the tandem of chefs sara and ouita, including sara’s lake barkley bighead carp with burnt cabbage, sassafras burgoo, and paddlefish caviar, and her griddled heritance farm mushrooms with fermented carrot–sorghum butter, weisenberger mill wheat berries, and preserved ginger.
not only was the event a great recognition for chef sara and all that she’s accomplished thus far, but it is also on par with some of the other great publicity paducah has received as of late. as chef sara would be the first to tell you, her mission is just as much about the community thriving and succeeding as it is about freight house.
not only did the james beard dinner help to elevate kentucky’s presence in the culinary world, it also served to forge a bond between two of the state’s top chefs. as like-minded, community oriented chefs and citizens, chef sara and chef ouita partnered once again shortly after their return for a fundraising event to benefit FoodChain, a Lexington non-profit that works to provide community access to fresh food and job training for young chefs, amongst other community-supporting activities.
in the end, the james beard dinner was a great success for freight house, for paducah, and for the state of kentucky. having the opportunity to showcase the region’s fare on such a grand stage was a big moment for paducah, and is sure to be just the beginning of what’s to come.