The 2014 Taste of Tennis Gala on Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014 at the W New York in Midtown Manhattan as part of the first ever Taste of Tennis Week was an event that was in a league of its own. Where else would you get to meet extraordinary tennis superstars alongside amazing and talented celebrity chefs? When the red carpet first started, the chefs were the ones who made the first entrance. Big smiles were on the faces of the celebrity chefs and their teams and excitement filled the air. And when the co-host of the event, Masaharu Morimoto, got to the event, everything became that much more exciting.
After all the chefs arrived, it was time for the tennis stars to make their way onto the red carpet. Each and every one of them looked fantastic and the amount of star power all in one room was incredible. This year’s event was headlined by Serena Williams, Chef Masaharu Morimoto of "Iron Chef" fame and was hosted by Tamron Hall. Tennis players we spotted included Victoria Azarenka, the Bryan Brothers, Aga Radwanska, Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens, Dustin Brown, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Jack Sock. New York’s most prestigious chefs in attendance included Marc Murphy (Landmarc), Peter Andino (Heartbeat), Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow (The Meatball Shop) and Kerry Heffernan (Top Chef Masters Finalist) and Zac Young (David Burke Group).
After all the pictures were taken, people made their way upstairs to the gala, which overall, looked phenomenal. On every single corner there would be a station where you could pick up food made by the celebrity chefs who work at five star restaurants. This is food made by some of the best chefs in the industry, so obviously every single bite was a little bit of heaven. And what was even better was that the tennis stars were walking around the gala, talking to people, taking pictures with everyone, dancing, and even helping out the chefs make the food. It is an event that people must go to if they ever have the chance to attend.
At this gala, people get to meet their favorite tennis stars, but what really brings people to this event is the food being served. When you first walk into the event, you are met by these little Rice Krispy treats of different flavors, all made by Dasha. The s’mores treat was so gooey and had a sweetness that wasn’t overpowering at all. The marshmallow was front and center, but at the end you get this hint of cocoa that makes the dessert so much better. They also had a caramel sea salt treat which hits you with a burst of sweet, sticky caramel goodness but has an undertone of the sea salt to balance out the sweetness of the caramel.
Another dish that was absolutely delicious was the buffalo chicken balls with bleu cheese dressing and Frank's red hot sauce, which was made by Chefs Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow, owners of The Meatball Shop. The meatballs were so good and savory. It had a little spiciness to it, but the cold blue cheese dressing really brought the entire dish together. The presentation of the plate with all the colors on it was also very nice and made the dish even more appetizing, because as the saying goes, we eat with our eyes first.
Next, there were these small cupcake dishes made by Tres Chic Cupcake. The red velvet cake was pretty good with the cream cheese frosting - it wasn’t too sweet - but the star of that dish was the moist red velvet cake, which overall was so lush and rich, it was hard to not go back for seconds. They also served a French vanilla cake which was heavenly. It had caramelized apple bits on top of it and tasted exactly like a rustic, warm apple pie fresh out of the oven. Even though this was a bite sized dish, it packed all the deliciousness that any apple pie made with a lot of love would have. It was absolutely amazing.
Another dish that was featured was the roasted hanger steak with jalapeno mashed potatoes and a gremolata made by Chef Cesar Gutierrez, the owner of Lexington Brass. The steak just melts in your mouth; it is just that good and well cooked. The mashed potatoes were really what sets this dish apart from any other steak dish out there. The potatoes were creamy and spicy, but not too pungent. Combined with the juiciness of the steak, the coolness of the gremolata, and the smooth and spicy mashed potatoes, this dish was one of the highlights of the night. There were two dishes by Jay Hinson, chef at The Cheesecake Factory. The first dish was their beets with goat cheese. This dish looked amazing, there were so many bright colors on it that it was impossible not to pick one up because it looked so good. Taking a bite into it, we could taste the sweetness of the beets. It was balanced out with the sharpness of the goat cheese and also with the sweet and fresh tomatoes added to the dish. The second dish that they served was their signature cheesecake with a strawberry on top. The Cheesecake Factory is obviously known for their cheesecakes; and this particular one was so scrumptious. It practically melted in the mouth and was sweet and tasteful. And the strawberry on the top of it was basically the cherry on top.
Another spectacular dish of the night was the crab karukera made by Chef Sebastian Aubert of Guadaloupe Island Tourist Board. There is nothing much to say about this dish besides the fact that the crab was sweet and delicious. Then there was also the local fluke ceviche made by Chef Peter Andino, chef of Heartbeat. The ceviche, at first glance, had so many vibrant colors ranging from the pink of the fish to the green of the avocado puree. The taste was spectacular, too. The fish tasted so fresh and citrusy and sweet, and the avocado was creamy and tasty which really added an extra dimension to the dish that would only be expected from chefs of this caliber. They also had a second dish which was a tres leches push pop with rum caramelized pina. This was a fun dish because it was exactly like the push pop ice creams that kids usually eat, except this dish tasted exactly like a peach cobbler. The pina was warm and sweet, and the glaze that it had because of the caramelization was to die for. With it though, was this sweet cream that resembled the ice cream that would be had with any sort of pie.
We had the opportunity to exclusively interview Chef Marc Murphy. Read it below:
Q: What is it like as a celebrity chef? What are the perks of it?
Well the good thing about it is that I started off cooking and I thought I was just going to be cooking all of my life. And then all of a sudden this whole celebrity chef thing came around and now I have to do interviews and talk to people in microphones. People want to take pictures with you and stuff and its fun. But I think one of the best things about it is that we get to have a voice and I’m on the board with City Harvest which is one of the charities that is being benefitted tonight, and to me this is one of the greatest things about tonight, that being a celebrity chef, we can help people, not just by cooking and making money, but being a celebrity chef we can help people come on board to different charities and different ideas. I work a lot with different hunger organizations. I work with City Harvest and I work with Share Our Strength to end childhood hunger in America because it is a big problem and I think it is something we need to look out for and I am very proud that it is something, being a celebrity chef, I can help with that.
Q: What are some of your favorite summer dishes to cook?
Right now I’ve been doing a lot of grilling, I have a house in Long Island, and I got this new grill that’s all wood burning, so I have been grilling all these different vegetables. I grill them and I toss a little bit of faro, which is a great, sort of complex carbohydrate, but it also helps bind a vegetable salad together, and that’s one of my favorite things right now. It has a lot of flavor, and the wood really gives it something. It’s amazing how vegetables really pick up the flavor of the smoke of the wood. It’s kind of cool.
Overall, the food at this event was phenomenal and the chefs went above and beyond expectations. Proceeds from the event benefited City Harvest.
Vinesh Vora contributed reporting.