Unfed, and Fed Up

The Valley's own James Boyce was celebrated Saturday night at the James Beard House in Manhattan. Boyce, chef de cuisine at the Phoenician's Mobil Five Star Mary Elaine's, was invited to create a spectacular tribute to the late, legendary chef Auguste Escoffier, renowned as the innovator of modern French cuisine.

I'd like to tell you what went on at the event. But I can't. Because although I really wanted to go, and I really tried, the crew at the James Beard Foundation wouldn't let me. Actually, at first they wouldn't. Then, they would. Then, they wouldn't, and by the time they would again, it was too late and I was thoroughly fed up.

Boyce's event was sold out, you see. Even as I called on the very day I received the invitation in August, all the tickets had been snapped up. And why not, with a menu of jaw-dropping creations like veloute d'homard au beurre d'isigny, supremes de poulard en gelee a l'alsacienne and selle d'agneau de lait (all really delicious stuff, trust me)? My dining companion and I were placed on a waiting list (under his name, of course), but the list was so long, we scratched the event off our schedule.

Almost immediately, good news came: We had been moved to the top of the list, and seats would open up, we were assured. We booked our reservations in the Big Apple and drooled in anticipation.

That's the last we ever heard from our friends at the Beard House. No one responded to our repeated calls. E-mails went unanswered. Finally, the morning our plane departed, a human being picked up the phone. "No, it's still sold out," an exasperated woman snapped at me. "I just told someone else that. Goodbye."

So by the time another JBF lackey left a voice-mail message Friday night, looking forward to seeing us at the event, we simply had to laugh (if we could have, with our mouths full of our consolation dinner at Nobu). Who's organizing this stuff?

The snafu makes no sense. The foundation certainly likes to shower members with invitations, after all. And these dinners are a gold mine for the Beard Foundation -- members happily pay $95 and up for a meal (the cost goes to the Foundation's maintenance and its culinary scholarships). A participating chef's effort, too, is monumental -- Boyce brought along his master sommelier Greg Tresner and restaurant manager Todd Orlich to ensure the complicated, cross-country catering came off without a hitch.

I've no doubt that Boyce's dinner was a smashing success. I just hope that with such inept clerical support, he had somebody show up for his party.


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