JBF Awards 2010

Several weeks ago, I reached out to the Director of Student Affairs of my school to inquire about volunteering opportunities for future events.  He promptly told me about the James Beard Foundation Awards.  The JBF Awards is the Oscar of the food industry, and I have wanted to be a part of this event for the last couple of years but something always came up that prevented me from participating.  So I happily submitted my application along with my resume and patiently waited until I hear back from the organizer.  A week later, I was picked and was thrilled that I will be involved in such a prestigious event.  I was really excited about being able to be there amongst the best in the industry, but also anxious to find out my assignment as well as meeting the chef whom I'll be assisting.

I was assigned to Chef Liu Zhizun of Quanjude Restaurant in Beijing, China.  The restaurant is world famous for their Quanjude Peking Roast Duck.  I was hoping that maybe I'll get to learn a thing or two about roasting a Peking duck.  As you may recall, I originally wanted to make Peking duck for my graduation's grand buffet; however due to the hours or days that it takes to hang and dry the ducks in order to achieve the crispy skins, I made regular roast ducks with Chinese flavor instead.

Once I arrived at Avery Fish Hall, Lincoln Center, I found out that Chef Liu prepared to serve two desserts:  Sweet Potato and Red Bean Puddings.  The sweet potato pudding was really delicious and surprisingly light.  As to the red bean pudding, there was a gelatin texture on top and the red beans on the bottom.  Once again it was light and refreshing; both desserts were not too sweet.  The red bean dessert reminded me of the red bean ice cream I loved as a child growing up in Hong Kong.

As the guests arrive, the excitement grew.  I first spotted Jean-George Vongerichten.  He is such a super star and being that I loved my dining experience at Jean-Georges, I made sure I said hi and told him how much I enjoyed his restaurant.  Then I saw Michael Symon whom I love even before he became an Iron Chef.  His laugh is so contagious.  I would love to go to Cleveland just so I can visit his restaurants.  Then one by one, Thomas Keller, Dan Barber, Wylie Dufresne, Mario Batali, Tom Colicchio, Jose Andres, who was profiled on 60 minute for his avant-garde cooking technique of molecular gastronomy, and many more talented chefs were there.  I was surrounded by super chefs and people in the industry that I admire because of their passion for food.

As the award ceremony begins, I was able to sit through some of the awards presentation.  Then final preparation was underway for the post award reception.  I helped Chef Liu and other volunteers set up the food and plated the desserts.  As the reception filled with guests I was able to walk around and taste other chefs' dishes.  I also love working at our station, there I met so many people who were eager to taste and comment on the desserts.
In the end, I met some really amazing people and volunteers who worked in the various restaurants.  The night was filled with lasting memories of the sights and senses of the food.  It was just an awesome experience, and I was so glad I got to be a part of it.


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