Sacramento’s Mulvaney’s B&L crew invited to cook at famed James Beard House

01/29/2014 12:00 AM

06/29/2014 11:37 AM

The Big Apple will soon get a taste of Sacramento. Mulvaney’s B&L, the midtown restaurant and figurehead of the local farm-to-fork movement, has been invited to cook a Sacramento-centric menu at New York City’s James Beard House on March 14. The opportunity will shine the spotlight on Sacramento for some of the country’s culinary movers and shakers, and further promote Sacramento’s aspirations to be known as “America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital.”

An invite to cook at the Greenwich Village townhouse is considered one of the food world’s great honors. Its associated James Beard Foundation oversees the annual James Beard Awards, which are considered the restaurant industry’s Academy Awards.

“We’re pretty excited,” said Patrick Mulvaney, chef and proprietor of Mulvaney’s B&L. “We live in the the richest agricultural region in the world, and we’re inviting people in New York to come and enjoy some Sacramento hospitality.”

The late James Beard remains a key figure in culinary arts through his widely read cookbooks and James Beard Foundation, which offers scholarships to the country’s rising talent in the restaurant industry. A restaurant must be invited to take over the James Beard House’s kitchen and cook for 80 guests, which include members of the James Beard Foundation, food journalists, fellow chefs and others.

Sacramento area chefs have been represented only twice before at James Beard House. Taste Restaurant of Plymouth was invited to cook at James Beard House in 2012. The previous example came two decades before that. Sacramento chefs David Soo Hoo and Elaine Corn – with pastry chef Patricia Murakami, now of Ambrosia – cooked at James Beard House in 1993.

Mulvaney’s B&L landed on the organization’s radar after chef/proprietor Patrick Mulvaney expressed interest in attending James Beard’s Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change, a think tank for advocacy-minded chefs with discussion on hot topics related to food policy. Mulvaney, however, was not able to attend due to his participation in Sacramento’s inaugural Farm-to-Fork Week

The September celebration of Farm-to-Fork Week, which was organized by civic officials plus area chefs and restaurateurs, included a free festival attended by more than 25,000 and showcased the use of local ingredients at restaurants.

Mulvaney will fly to New York City with 10 members of his staff, where they will prepare a one-night-only menu titled “A Promise of Spring: Savoring Sacramento.” An early draft of the menu includes Sacramento area sturgeon from Passmore Ranch, lamb from Dixon, the region’s first fava beans, plus local beers offered to diners following the meal.

“You can have a beer with us in the kitchen while we’re cleaning up,” said Mulvaney. “We’ll crack open the Track 7s, the Ruhstallers, the Knee Deeps.”

Cooking at James Beard House is also a pricey proposition. Participating chefs are required to provide all their own ingredients plus travel expenses and lodging for staff. Mulvaney wouldn’t say how much this excursion would cost, but considering a round-trip ticket from Sacramento to New York City can cost at least $500, the total costs could easily top more than $10,000.

Mulvaney is providing a stipend for his employees to make the trip. He’s also getting a break from local farmers who are donating ingredients. Some of the local purveyors expected to be featured on the menu include Watanabe Farms, Full Belly Farm and Del Rio Botanical.

“It’s not about the money,” said Mulvaney. “When I told the chefs in the kitchen that James Beard House invited us to come, they said, ‘Yes! We’re on.’ When you see the light in their eyes, and they’re working in a place they’re proud of, all the other stuff falls into place.”

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