The James Beard Foundation has continued to make inroads into the Southern California market over the years, picking up on Los Angeles’ years of producing quality culinary talent and unrivaled restaurants while doling out lifetime achievement awards to the city’s biggest chefs (read: Nancy Silverton). They’ve even begun to migrate their ongoing event series’ to the West Coast, most recently with October’s Local Flavor from Coast to Coast event at downtown’s Vibiana.
This weekend, however, James Beard is headed for the Southern California desert in a big way. Currently underway is a collaboration of sorts, between longtime chef and three-time James Beard Award-winner Jimmy Schmidt and Corazon y Miel’s own Eduardo Ruiz. The former has of late been overseeing the kitchen at Morgan’s in the Desert, a high-end farm-driven restaurant on the grounds of the La Quinta Resort, while the latter, Ruiz, is a James Beard nominee and previous Zagat 30-under-30 notable.
The culinary mash-up is part of a larger James Beard partnership with the iconic Waldorf Astoria hotel chain, tasked with letting young minds and culinary veterans interact together in the kitchen, creating dishes for curious diners that may end up being reflected on future Waldorf Astoria menus worldwide. For now, Ruiz is just happy to be learning under Schmidt — and using the gigantic kitchen at Morgan’s. “I still work the line with my guys at Corazon,” jokes Ruiz, “We’re shoulder to shoulder all night.”
Schmidt, for his part, is happy to tinker in the kitchen and explore some of the Mexican flavors that Ruiz brings to the collaboration, which will be on display at a series of dinners at the La Quinta Resort property over the weekend. Under the moniker Friends of the James Beard Foundation, the more expansive itinerary includes a Friday night reception that acts as a cross between a farmers market and food festival, with chefs like Ruiz at stations serving dishes among the produce.
On Saturday, a more elegant five-course dinner will pair chef Schmidt with well-known James Beard winner Larry Forgione, the iconic farm-to-table chef and culinary director of the Culinary Institute of America. Sunday offers — what else? — a casual brunch, followed by a Q&A on the future of food.
Despite being somewhat tucked away in the desert, the weekend roster at La Quinta Resort represent a real chance for L.A. diners to experience the sort of ongoing James Beard events and dinners that are usually reserved only for New York, where the Foundation is located. Of course, that access comes at a relatively steep price — Friday’s market-driven session with Schmidt and Ruiz costs $100, and the Saturday dinner with Larry Forgione is a cool $250. Weekend packages at the Waldorf Astoria property include all three events are only $395 total though, so hardcore James Beard fans can slice $50 off the bill if they commit to a weekend out in La Quinta.
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Hey, no one said those James Beard Foundation dinners were cheap — just that they’re hard to come by on the West Coast.
For more information on the James Beard Weekend at La Quinta Resort or to make reservations, click here.