The New York City Wine & Food Festival (NYCWFF) kicks off on October 15 to pay homage to one of the greatest dining cities in the world while fighting to end hunger. One hundred percent of the net proceeds benefit Food Bank For New York City and No Kid Hungry. To date, NYCWFF has raised $8.5 million to help fight hunger. Some of the most exciting events are the intimate dinners series, which feature the nation’s best chefs joining forces to create one-of-a-kind dinners together. We’re highlighting two of these events. First up, chefs Alex Raij of La Vara and Ashley Christensen talk about working together on “A Dinner with Ashley Christensen, Alex Raij, and Gabrielle Hamilton.”
The event is billed as “Dine with Three Female Powerhouse Chefs!” Do you feel a special kinship with other female chefs?
Alex: I actually had no idea the event was billed that way. I could actually find so many other ways to draw parallels between us. I don’t feel a random kinship or obligation to all women who cook, but I like to pay special attention to what women are doing and try to be helpful to them when I like what they are doing. So there is a kinship born of being interested in what others are doing in my profession and trying to catch the contributions of people who may not be getting the attention they deserve. I think I always feel a little like an outsider, and I like to support other outsiders. Those people are often making bigger contributions with less noise and really inspire me.
Ashley: I feel a connection anytime I’m cooking with friends in the kitchen, regardless of if they are women or men. That said, I think friendships between women are unique from those between women and men. Not to say that they are closer or stronger; they’re just unique. For that, I think there is something uniquely special about the opportunity to cook with two female chefs with whom I share a friendship.
Did the three of you know each other prior to this? Have you ever worked together previously?
Alex: I have a personal history with these two chefs because Ashely is one of my best friends, and Gabrielle was “my” chef/employer. And while I know our priorities in cooking are deliciously aligned, I’ve never been in one room with these two women before. Ashley and I overlap a lot, cooking at each others’ restaurants and socializing. I love all her places. And Gabrielle I see at one or two events a year, but I’m happy to be collaborating. I don’t think that has happened in like twelve years. Gabrielle even cooked at my sister’s wedding!
Ashley: Alex and I go way back, and we have cooked together and traveled together several times. I love Alex’s food, and all of her restaurants. I met Gabrielle just a few years back, but I have been eating at Prune for years and years. I find great inspiration from each of their work.
What are some of the challenges around working with two other chefs at this level? Continue Reading