“To be a chef,” says Corks owner/chef Jerry Pellegrino, “you gotta be a little weird.”
So when five chefs team up, as Jerry Edwards, John Walsh, Barry Fleischmann, Paul Glomp and Pellegrino did at their annual dinner to benefit Meals on Wheels, things naturally get a little wild. Twenty-four guests were treated to a six-course gourmet meal, from hors d’oeuvres through dessert, with a glass of wine to accompany each dish.
Organized by Edwards, president of Chef’s Expressions catering company, the Chefs’ Dinner has been a hot item at the Meals on Wheels benefit auction for the past 10 years, with a rotating roster of Baltimore’s culinary stars bringing fine dining to 12 lucky people. When two groups won the bidding war and asked to double the number of guests, the chefs, up for a new challenge, took the bait and served the guests at a long table on the homeowners’ veranda, where multicolored lanterns were strung overhead, softly lighting the dinner as dusk fell.
Pellegrino, who over the years has become “the guy out on the floor doing the dog-and-pony show,” brought the bubbly (Schramsberg Blanc de Noir 2000 ) and the hors d’oeuvres- salmon pâté with lemon aioli, smoked trout terrine and Maine diver scallops stuffed with roasted garlic custard- and entertained the crowd in dramatic fashion. “Since we were outside this year, I thought I’d open the bottles in the Napoleonic style,” he says. That meant sabering off the champagne corks with a swipe of a sword.
While corks flew and swords swung outdoors, in the kitchen the chefs worked as a team to finish each dish. “Whomever’s course it is becomes the executive chef,” says Edwards, who organized the meal and handed out course assignments, for which the chefs created their own recipes. “There are no egos battling. We respect each other’s creations.” Edwards presided over the second course, which included a salad of Maryland crab, heirloom tomato and corn tian and truffle infusions, as well as a cheese course.
After the amuse-bouches came the poultry dish, a Mediterranean roulade of chicken with a crisp almond crust served with Vina Salamanca Viura/Verdeja, created by Walsh from Chef’s Expressions. Fleischmann of Innovative Gourmet dreamed up the entrée, veal and lamb medallions with gnocchi, foie gras sauce and broccoli rabe, accompanied by a 2001 Cecchi Morellino di Scansano Val Delle Rose Riserva. Glomp of the Elkridge Club served a pyramid-shaped anise and guava mousse for dessert, accompanied by a Chateau Puy Servain Cerrement.
As each course was served, the corresponding executive chef mingled with the guests, discussing the flavors of the dish and its corresponding wine. “There were a lot of questions,” says Edwards. “People are very curious about chefs. This year’s group was particularly appreciative. They had such an incredible time- of course, an even better time as the wine was served.”
And it wasn’t just the guests making merry. “We’re all great friends,” says Pellegrino. “And it’s kind of embarrassing, but everyone is so busy that this is the only time of the year we can get together.”
In fact, when their guests’ dinner ended, the chefs’ fun was just beginning. “We’re pretty boisterous guys,” says Edwards. “Afterward we go raid someone’s wine cellar and make a night of it.”
Anne Howard is a former Style intern.