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Top Chefs Collaborate on Cookbooks to Fight Hunger

By Mary Johnson | September 15, 2011 12:22pm
Chef Duwaine Harris, 34, (at left) and Sous Chef Jermaine Morgan, 29, from Caribbean restaurant Negril Village attended
Chef Duwaine Harris, 34, (at left) and Sous Chef Jermaine Morgan, 29, from Caribbean restaurant Negril Village attended "The Great Gathering of Chefs" on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011.
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DNAinfo/Mary Johnson

FLATIRON — The gilded interior of the Prince George Ballroom in Flatiron was a blur of starched white coats on Wednesday as chefs from across the city gathered for an event benefiting the fight against world hunger.

“The Great Gathering of Chefs,” as the annual event has been dubbed, celebrated the debut of two new cookbooks created by food photographer Alan “Battman” Batt that feature recipes from some of New York City’s top chefs, including Daniel Boulud, David Burke, Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin and Bill Telepan of Telepan.  

The first book, “Pies,” focuses on sweet and savory recipes from more than 80 chefs. “Salads,” meanwhile, includes dishes from more than 125 chefs.

Of the chefs whose recipes are featured in the book, 150 attended the event to sign copies of the book. Following the signing, guests were treated to a sampling of recipes from 20 of the restaurants featured in the book, including Gilt, Spice Market, Buddakan, Jean Georges and Nobu.

Batt, who has been the force behind the event for the past seven years, donated 100 percent of the proceeds from the cookbook sales and the tasting to Action Against Hunger, an international nonprofit that works to save the lives of malnourished children.

“It’s not the hunger that we know in the States,” said Dumonet, senior officer for events and donor relations at Action Against Hunger.

The children her organization treats in 40 countries around the world are near death, Dumonet said, and just four packets of a special protein and vitamin rich mix per day can bring them back from the brink.

“The work that we do does work,” said Dumonet, who went on to thank the chefs for their contributions to the book.

After a few brief remarks from Batt and Dumonet, the chefs took their seats around the room, black Sharpies resting in front of them in preparation of the signing.

Chef Duwaine Harris, 34, from Negril Village on West 3rd Street in Greenwich Village, said his restaurant contributed recipes to both “Pies” and “Salads.”

Harris' salad is an interesting, cold concoction made with bananas and swordfish, which used to be on the menu at Negril Village, but was removed because the restaurant wasn’t sure customers were ready for such an odd but delicious mix of ingredients.

“Now we’re bringing it back,” Harris said. “They’re ready now.”

For the “Pies” book, Harris contributed a recipe for a coconut tart, which his restaurant only makes on special occasions, he said.

This year marked Harris’ second time collaborating on Batt’s annual project. He sees it as an opportunity to be creative and challenge himself.

“You’re like, ‘I’ve got to bring my A-game,’” Harris said. “It’s really fun.”

For others at the event, it provides an annual excuse to get together, with the added benefit of giving back.

“It’s really nice to get everyone together like this,” said Stanley Licairac, 40, executive chef at Havana Central.  

Licairac contributed to the “Pies” book by tweaking an old favorite. Havana Central serves a guava cream cheese empanada, but when he got the call from Batt about contributing to the book, he decided to open the empanada up.

He threw in some mozzarella to use as filler and piled the whole thing onto a cassava crust.

The dish had to go through rigorous taste testing by the staff at Havana Central, as all dishes do, Licairac added. But it passed, and will now be included on the fall menu.

Robert Truitt, 29, the executive pastry chef at Ai Fiori, went for more of the traditional in his contribution to the “Pies” book, submitting a recipe for a classic lemon meringue tart.

Truitt has been involved with “The Great Gathering of Chefs” in the past, and he too appreciates the convivial atmosphere and opportunity to mingle, which is rare given the nature and intensity of their jobs, he said.

But overall, Truitt said he just loves to cook.

“I’ve cooked my whole life,” he said.

“It’s what I do that makes me happy, besides my wife,” he added with a smile.