John Rivers, owner and chief pitmaster of 4Rivers Smokehouse, has been invited to cook at the prestigious Beard House in New York. Rivers and his crew will be the featured culinary talent on August 1, 2013.
Rivers tells me that the representatives of the Beard House first noticed him last year when he was invited to cook at the South Beach Food and Wine Festival in Miami Beach. He went to New York and did some demonstration dishes and impressed the staff, who extended the invitation then and there.
An invitation to cook at the Beard House is a sought-after honor among chefs. The townhouse on 12th Street in Greenwich Village was the home of culinarian and cookbook author James Beard. It is now owned by the James Beard Foundation and is used as a showcase for chefs from around the world. The dinners are attended by members of the Beard Foundation and members of the general public who just love good food and wine. That the date is in August of 2013 gives you an idea as to the demand for scheduling the house. Rivers was told that he could have an earlier date only if he cooked with other chefs.
Rivers said he liked the idea of being the only featured chef, but he was also concerned about space issues if he were to share the evening with other cooks. The kitchen is large by Manhattan standards but still quite small. The kitchen is in the lower part of the townhouse. Guest are seated at tables in the solarium on the lower level and on the first floor in the space that was Beard’s living room and bedroom.
Although Rivers has 18 months to plan the meal, it isn’t like it will get all of his undivided attention. He and Jeff Palermo, John Radcliff and John Huffard are headed back to SoBe in two weeks for the annual food and wine festival. (They’ll be cooking the same dishes that were offered at the Rioja Street Fare Festival I held at Winter Park Farmer’s Market in September, with tacos and Rioja smoked cheese.)
And he’s in the process of constructing a replacement building for his original 4Rivers Smokehouse on Fairbanks Avenue. He said the demolition is finished and the plumbing lines have gone in; he expects the foundation to go down next week. The new restaurant will be open in June or July.
That Rivers was invited by the Beard House is exciting news for Central Florida, and another step toward getting the rest of the country to recognize the fine talent we have here. In June of 2010, a team of chefs from Central Florida — Jamie McFadden of Cuisiniers Catering; Kevin Fonzo of K Restaurant; Scott Copeland, Antonio’s La Fiamma; and James and Julie Petrakis, The Ravenous Pig — cooked at the house, and others, including Scott Hunnel of Victoria & Albert’s, have also been visiting chefs.