It seems that these days, there is no such thing as “too many chefs in the kitchen.” Invited guest chefs have proven as popular in restaurants as they are at food and wine festivals.
When chefs invite their colleagues, friends or culinary professionals to cook in their kitchens on an occasional basis, it makes for a special night. A recent trend in great restaurant cities such as Chicago is the guest-chef series, where a number of guests will appear in a chef’s kitchen, one per week over several weeks.
A Rhode Island chef-restaurateur, Albert Bouchard, is developing the concept into a nightly cavalcade of guest stars.
This is hardly a new phenomenon to us in Rhode Island. Local chefs have been inviting each other into the kitchen for decades. Noteworthy regional, national and internationally known chefs have appeared in restaurant kitchens statewide to cook at fundraising events and dinner-parties alike.
In November, Chef Matthew Varga, best-known as the executive chef of Gracie’s, invited friends Matt Gennuso, chef-proprietor of Chez Pascal; Andrew Shotts, chocolatier-owner of Garrison Confections in Providence; chef-proprietor Keith Luce of Main Restaurant in Greenport, on Long Island’s East End and Even Mallet, chef of Black Trumpet Bistro in Portsmouth, N.H. – a frequent guest in Gracie’s kitchen over the past few years – to prepare a multicourse dinner for a cause. The benefit was for an organization working to end childhood hunger in Providence.
Varga’s boss, Gracie’s proprietor Ellen Slattery, shaped and established Gracie’s Star Chef Series, which has brought guest chefs from around the country, including Mallet to collaborate with the Gracie’s team. Most have been benefit affairs to raise funds for the March of Dimes, the Ronald McDonald House and Share Our Strength, as well as the James Beard Foundation.
One Chicago restaurateur in describing the guest-chef experience said, “Our guests get two experiences for the price of one” on guest-chef nights.
Chef Bouchard and his wife, Sarah, have embarked on a project in Newport to actually give their guests three experiences.
For 20 years, chef Bouchard’s Restaurant Bouchard & Inn has been a staple for tourists from around the world who frequent Newport. Bouchard’s classic French style is renowned far and wide and the couple’s inn is a cozy landmark on Lower Thames Street. As it happened, the Bouchards had an opportunity to acquire the adjacent building at 509 Thames St.