Chef Lauren Teague, executive chef of Pacci Italian Kitchen + Bar, seems like the perfect person to host a dinner party. She is a friendly and amazing chef, and she seems to know the perfect ingredients to create a memorable dinner experience with great wine, happy conversations and new friendships.
Guests will get the chance to experience one of Teague’s dinner parties at a new Savannah Food & Wine Festival event, A Chefs Collaborative, at 7 p.m. Nov. 10 at Pacci. Tickets are $120 and include a reception, four-course meal and desserts prepared by five Kimpton hotel chefs from across the Southeast, all served with beverage pairings.
And Teague’s biggest advice to enjoy this event? Sit with someone you don’t know.
“If I was coming to an event like this, I would tell someone to sit with someone you have never met,” she says. “Sometimes you miss a whole experience. You are with 180 people and to just sit and talk with two people you just had lunch with yesterday is a waste of time.
“... Those tickets are not cheap, so this is something you probably won’t do again until next year. So, for two hours, sit with people you’ve never met and make it an unforgettable experience.
“I’ve eaten a lot of really great food and I’ve had a lot of really great company, but I think sometimes when I go home, I look back on my memories and … I might remember what I ate, but I can definitely remember who I was with and where I ate.”
Joining Teague in her kitchen will be Chef Adam Barnett of The Katharine Brasserie & Bar in Winston-Salem, N.C.; Chef Robert Hoffman of Angeline’s in Charlotte, N.C.; Chef Daniel Gorman of The Henley in Nashville, Tenn.; and Chef Sebastien Rondier of Brabo in Alexandria, Va.
Not only is Teague hosting the chefs, she’s also responsible for creating the appetizer, and she’s drawing from an item she hopes to offer on the new sandwich menu she’s planning to unveil at Pacci.
While she casually calls it “a grilled cheese,” it’s more than your typical sandwich. The cheese she’s using is Fontina d’Aosta, which she says “is only produced in one valley during a certain time of year from the milk of red spotted cows.” She laughs and says, “Who knew? But it’s really great cheese.”
The sandwich is prepared with broccoli rabe and tomato jam and will be served with Vintage Stella Cadente, Rive Leon Barbera and Biltmore Estates Chardonnay.
The chefs are also tasked with preparing a special dessert for the evening and guests will get to sample all four.
“I happen to have a very talented young lady [Pastry Chef Nicki Mueller] that has created something delicious,” Teague says. She’s talking about a sweet potato mousse with chocolate tart. Other desserts include Corn, Candied Bacon, Whiskey Whoopie Pie; Chocolate Tortes with Charred Orange; and Peanut Butter Cremeaux Tartlett with Hazelnut Ganache and Caramelized Popcorn.
Barnett will also be at the dinner and the chef says he likes the idea of working alongside five chefs who are attached by the Kimpton name but with different menus. “So, we’ll get to see our different styles in the kitchen.”
The theme for the evening is A Return to Southern Provisions, and while Barnett has been hailed for combining Southern ingredients with classic French cuisine at The Katharine, he is quick to point out that he doesn’t have a Southern cooking background.
“When word got out that I was coming into The Katharine, local bloggers were saying, please don’t do another Southern food restaurant. I grew up between Ohio and Nova Scotia, so I don’t have that deep Southern tradition to draw on. I take a less of a direct approach to Southern tradition … For this dinner, I’ll greatly touch on Southern ingredients. For me, it just seems disingenuous for me to attempt Southern cuisine.”
For the dinner, Barnett will prepare a roasted salmon borscht with savoy cabbage, baby turnips and a dill mousse. His plate will be paired with a 2015 Etude Lyric Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara.
He’s known for his salmon dishes and says when planning his menu, he felt cabbage has strong Southern roots and would make for a nice complement to the overall dish.
“I feel my dish provides a nice contrast to the overall menu.”
He says he has enjoyed this experience to chat with the other chefs in the dinner to hear each other's stories of inspiration for each dish.
When asked what guests can do to make the most of their experience at a dinner like this, he says it’s always important to come to the table with an open palate, but to also come with an open mind. He says it’s important to be ready to learn why the chefs and everyone else involved in the dinner, including the beverage professionals, are doing what they are doing.
“Take some time to find out what the story is behind the dish and embrace it. Learn more about what chefs and producers are doing holistically. … You may hear a story about how a dish was traditionally served with blue fin tuna, but due to fishing pressures, it’s been changed to another type of fish...
“It’s those types of stories and subtle nuances they pick up on that will drive food culture further.”
And as a self-proclaimed architecture geek, Barnett says is looking forward to making the trip to Savannah, where he will not only participate in the dinner at Pacci, but also at Taste of Savannah at the Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants Stage, where he will prepare a Moroccan spiced cured salmon with chermoula, cumin yogurt and pita.
“I do enjoy Southern hospitality, so I’m really looking forward to getting down to Savannah.”