A Gastronomic Affair Cultivating Conscious Cuisine


A Fundraising Dinner at the James Beard House, Hosted by the Research Chefs Association

The James Beard Foundation holds events at the historic James Beard House in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village to educate, inspire and foster an appreciation of American food. One such recent event was a fundraiser for the Research Chefs Association (RCA), titled Harvesting Harmony: A Gastronomic Affair Cultivating Conscious Cuisine.

Our obsession with food definitely extends outside of our client work, and our very own Quynh Leahy was lucky enough to attend the 10-course kaiseki-style meal. It was prepared by a team of RCA Research Chefs and Culinary Science members (one of whom is her husband) and she’s back with notes and pictures of the tasty, consciously cultivated cuisine.

“We knew offering this opportunity to showcase our members’ culinary excellence would not only help us meet our fundraising goal but allow our members the privilege to cook in the iconic James Beard House."

—Jessica Goldstein, Regional Chair of the Greater New York/Philadelphia Region RCA, Vice President of NuSpice

First Off, What is the RCA?

Founded in 1996 by a group of research chefs dedicated to overcoming challenges facing the food product development professional, the RCA has grown to more than 2,000 members. Today, RCA is the premier source of culinary and technical information for the food industry. They are a community of chefs, food scientists and other industry professionals who work toward a common goal: the blending of the culinary arts and food science.

And Who is James Beard, Exactly?

Anointed the “Dean of American cookery” by the New York Times in 1954, James Beard laid the groundwork for the food revolution that has put America at the forefront of global gastronomy. He was a pioneer foodie, host of the first food program on the fledgling medium of television in 1946, the first to suspect that classic American culinary traditions might cohere into a national cuisine and an early champion of local products and markets. Beard nurtured a generation of American chefs and cookbook authors who have changed the way we eat.

Jessica Goldstein with the research chefs and culinary science members. Photo credit: Mark Cartier

The James Beard House

Guests were welcomed into an unassuming brownstone in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. Greeted by the event hosts, they were directed through the small and extremely tight Beard House kitchen to meet the team of chefs responsible for the culinary adventure that evening and observe them at work.

Next, guests were ushered through to the garden to enjoy the tsukidashi, the first of the kaiseki courses.

Pictured above: Jessica Goldstein, with the research chefs and culinary science members that prepared the meal posing in front of the James Beard House. Photo credit: Mark Cartier

What is Kaiseki?

It is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner, this one with an American twist. A kaiseki dinner is one where every element is thoughtfully designed for a full aesthetic and multisensory experience. Often considered to be the haute cuisine of Japan, kaiseki traditionally consists of nine courses, each one defined by a particular cooking method. The American-styled version was 10 courses, as the chefs included an extra amuse course as a bonus.

Onto the Epic Meal

Celebrating how food plays a vital role in our well-being and the health of our planet, the chefs each took ownership of a specific kaiseki course. They added their own personal twist to it, taking their artistry of culinary innovation and combining it with a commitment to conscious consumption.

The meal began with four passed-around hors d’oeuvres, paired with two cocktails and two non-alcoholic mocktails. After cocktail hour, the 50 diners climbed to the second-floor dining room to continue enjoying the 9-course tasting menu with wine and zero-proof pairings. After each course, the authorial chef visited the dining room to interact with the diners and answer any questions about their dish.

Photo credit: Mark Cartier, Rachel Spath and Rosie Schroeder

The 5-hour meal(!!) concluded with a question-and-answer session with the chefs. Then 50 very satiated guests returned to their hotel rooms to have sweet dreams of garlic-shiitake-barley short ribs and scallop-truffle-boudin-prosciutto-mushroom-corn lobster.

The hosts of the fundraiser, RCA, were pleased with the results of the evening, too.

“I’m proud to say we surpassed our goal of raising $25,000 for the organization. This will allow our dedicated members to continue to elevate and implement our Culinology® discipline and ensure continuity in the Research Chefs Association as we look towards a bright future.”

—Jessica Goldstein, Regional Chair of the Greater New York/Philadelphia Region RCA, Vice President of NuSpice

Who are Quynh & Cian Leahy?

This culinary power couple hails from Arkansas and Ireland and were brought together over their love of fine food. Quynh has been an Account and Marketing Manager for a variety of big brands in the food industry and is an Account Supervisor for us these days. Cian has been a Director of Culinary for a number of organizations—currently at Tribe 9 Foods—and sits on the RCA board. They live with their delightful son, Finn, in the hipster-foodie wonderland that is Madison, WI.

Drop Quynh a line if you want to inject this much passion into your food marketing.