Christmas cookies

Cooks Confab reunites to celebrate the holidays...and steampunk?

From 2009 to 2010, few local chefs were talked about more than the small group comprising a culinary consortium going by the name Cooks Confab. At the time, the group was just under a dozen strong, but boy did they do a lot with their little group. During that two-year span they put on a large number of dining events where each chef would create a dish based around a theme ingredient, be they truffles, meat, eggs, or craft beer. Those events were highly attended and grew in size as the Confabs popularity skyrocketed.

Cooks Confab has since increased its membership to include a number of chefs, mixologists, and even coffee roasters. Despite greater numbers, they are far less productive. Much of this has to do with the fact that many of the initial members have been consumed by work and career changes.

Three of the four original members have had a lot on their plate, changing employers, opening new restaurants and, in the case of one, Brian Sinnott, getting out of the kitchen entirely. Then there are chefs like Nathan Coulon, who left San Diego to take a position with True Food Kitchen. He’s back, but after years away and with new job demands, finding time for extra-curricular activities is challenging. Amy DiBiase, who was at the now closed Roseville when she joined the Confab, kicked around and has since found a home at The Shores Restaurant in La Jolla, but finding her spot and her rhythm there was consuming. Meanwhile, Tim Kolanko, former chef de cuisine at The Lodge at Torrey Pines, went the Sinnott route, quitting cooking to become a front-of-house manager at The Fishery in PB.

The Confab’s absence has been noticed and lamented by the foodie community that so quickly and firmly embraced them. Those gastro-groupies will get an early Christmas gift when key members of Cooks Confab reunite for one of their grand scale feasts, this time in celebration of the holidays. The event, titled Christmas Dinner! (Confab events always feature names of the ingredient or theme with an exclamation point) will take place on December 16 at Oliver & Rose (726 Ninth Avenue), a private dining venue established by the owners of Cafe Chloein the East Village. The space will be decked out to meet up with a theme described as “Victorian England meets Escoffier.” Guests are being asked to wear period costumes or steampunk attire (seriously, what’s with all the steampunk of late?).

The food spread will be extensive and include carving stations, terrines, aspics, Yorkshire pudding, and other edibles that, like the evening wear dictated by the dress code, are in keeping with the theme. Original Confabers taking part in the festivities include founding member and culinary consultant Andrew Spurgin, Jeff Jackson of A.R. Valentien, Olivier Bioteau of Farm House Cafe, DiBiase, Donald Coffman of Culinary Concepts, and Cafe Chloe's Katie Grebow. That sextet will be joined by mixology consultants Lucien Conner and Ian Ward of Pick & Rocks, James Rauh from The West Bean, and Melissa Mayer of Martini Media.

Tickets are required and can be purchased online. A portion of proceeds from the event will be donated to Slow Food Urban San Diego as well as an undefined local children’s charity.

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