Two James Beard Award winners — the amiable Food Network host Ted Allen and Chicago-based chef Stephanie Izard — are coming to Kuro restaurant at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino on Friday, March 2, for a James Beard Foundation benefit dinner.
“The events at Kuro have gone well, so I’m happy to be back,” says Allen, the host of “Chopped” and “Chopped Jr.” He will emcee and moderate a question-and-answer session with Izard and Kuro executive chef Alex Becker after the five-course meal. “I can’t wait to see what Stephanie does in that beautiful kitchen working with Alex.”
Izard, 41, who is building a national profile but has yet to expand her restaurants outside Chicago, has racked up an impressive cooking triple crown. She won a James Beard Award in 2013 as best chef in the Great Lakes region for her restaurant Girl and the Goat. She won the fourth season of the Bravo TV show “Top Chef” a decade ago. And last year, she became the latest Food Network “Iron Chef” after defeating star chefs Bobby Flay, Michael Symon and Masaharu Morimoto.
“I was a judge for the finale of ‘Top Chef’ that Stephanie won,” Allen says. “She’s obviously able to cook under pressure. I’m excited to see her on ‘Iron Chef America,’ taking on chefs from around the country.”
This marks the third straight year that Kuro will host a dinner benefiting the James Beard Foundation’s scholarship program for culinary students. Ten students are annually awarded $20,000 by the New York-based foundation, named for the late writer and gastronome whose Greenwich Village townhouse it inherited. Becker presented Kuro’s high-end Japanese cuisine at the James Beard House last year.
The menu on Friday will feature yellowfin tuna with hoisin buttermilk and goat belly with puffed rice furikake from Izard and hamachi with asparagus salad and Wagyu rib-eye with onion-miso jam from Becker. Each course will be paired with wine or sake.
Izard won Iron Chef before the #metoo movement took hold and shined a spotlight on sexual misconduct by powerful men in several industries, including the culinary world. Mario Batali (a former Iron Chef), John Besh and other restaurateurs were accused of misconduct and have stepped down from their companies and TV gigs.
Allen, a journalist and magazine writer before breaking into television as the food guru on the original version of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” says the James Beard Foundation has made a concerted effort to have more women cook at its events. The foundation released its semifinalists for its annual restaurant and chef awards, and the lists skewed heavier female than in previous years.
“Culturally, we’ve been in a bit of a reset mode,” Allen says. “I’m glad all this is coming to light.”
The recent reboot of “Queer Eye” on Netflix has also caught Allen’s attention. The world has changed considerably since the original first aired in 2003, with same-sex marriage now legal across the U.S., but he says the show’s ethos of acceptance and improvement is timeless. “As a cast member of the original, it’s flattering to see the show brought back,” Allen says.
Allen says he is also interested because of his friendship with Antoni Porowski, the culinary expert on the revamped version whom Allen calls “the breakout star of the show … the camera just loves him.”
Porowski was Allen’s neighbor in Brooklyn (and a fan) earlier this decade when they met. Allen and his husband hired Porowski as a personal chef and assistant because of their hectic schedules. “He’s a better cook than me,” Allen says. When Allen heard about the “Queer Eye” reboot, he encouraged Porowski to try out. Allen says he put in a good word with the producers, but beyond that Porowski, 33, had to beat out a field of hundreds.
“I feel like a proud papa,” Allen says.
As for Allen, he’s been doing his best to stay in sunny climes and away from wintry New York. He was in Miami Beach for the South Beach Wine and Food Festival last weekend and recently made his first trip to Havana with a friend, Megan Fawn Schlow, a cookbook author who co-wrote “Paladares,” which features recipes from Havana’s private restaurants, known as paladares.
“There’s poverty and hardship, and we got picked up in a 1957 Chevy Bel Air, which seems to be the car of choice in Havana and the latest model available,” Allen says. “But the people of Cuba are beautiful, and we ate like kings.”
The James Beard Foundation Dinner will take place 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 2, at Kuro restaurant, 1 Seminole Way, Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, in Hollywood. Tickets cost $175 (tax and tip included) and are available at Ticketmaster.com. There will be no cocktail hour. Call 954-327-7625 or go to SeminoleHardRockHollywood.com/JBF.