story and photos by Linda Kaufenberg
The Second Annual The Chef and the Winemaker Dinner was presented by Bost Human Development Center at the home of Tim Smith on Thursday.
The dinner featured Chef Lee Richardson of Ashley’s Restaurant in the Little Rock’s Capital Hotel where he’s reinventing and refining what he calls New Americana Cuisine and Robert Craig, vintner, who celebrates more than three decades as a Napa Valley “mountain man,” producing distinctive Cabernet Sauvignons from vineyards in the highest, most remote reaches of the Valley.
The exclusive event was created as a precursor to Grape Escapes (March 9, 2012), according to Rob Coleman, Chair of the event and member of Bost Foundation Board of Trustees.
Talking about choosing the chef and the winemaker, Coleman said Craig was one of his top two winemakers and wanted him to be part of the event. After reading about Chef Lee and visiting with him at the Capitol Hotel, Coleman knew he would like for him to prepare the food.
And then Chef Lee said, “I would love to work with Robert Craig.”
And when Stuart Baker form Moon Distributors contacted Robert, he also wanted to join the event.
At the press reception, each course and wine was described in detail. Craig said the Chardonnay served is the only wine they make with grapes that come outside of Napa Valley. He said the grapes were so good that the wine had zero malolactic, which is a secondary fermentation that gives butteriness.
“These grapes do not need this process because of their natural flavor. Most of the California Chardonnays are 60-100% malolactic.
Chef Lee related how he was born in New Orleans, went to University of Colorado and then in 1992 began studying under Emeril Legasse. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, he and his wife were expecting their first child. He heard about the search for a new chef for the Capitol Hotel in Little Rock. At first he was a little hesitant, but after visiting and looking at the diversity of food it seemed as if American Southern food was encapsulated in the state. Chef Lee calls the food New Americana focusing on foods that had become traditions and then presented again to this generation.
Offering only 50 tickets at $250 each, the dinner was sold out in a matter of days.
“We chose to have the dinner again at the home of Tim Smith, wanting to perfect what we did last ear,” said Shannon Fawcett, event coordinator for Bost Foundation.
The presenting sponsor was Alpha Packaging.
“It is critically important to support the programs and services of Bost so people with developmental and related disabilities so that they may live, work and play in the community,” said Kent Jones, Bost executive director. “We serve many clients who don’t have families and give extra support to those who do have families. We provide adult day programs and work programs. Bost provides services to more than 800 individuals in Western Arkansas.”