The Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau, whose farm-to-fork marketing campaign has evolved into a widely accepted way of cooking and eating in Sacramento, has named two of the city’s top chefs to lead this year’s gala bridge dinner in September.
Oliver Ridgeway of Grange and Ravin Patel of Selland Family Restaurants will orchestrate a four-course dinner for 700-plus people on the Tower Bridge, according to Mike Testa, chief operating officer of the convention bureau.
“This year, as the event matured into year three, we looked for two chefs that have big reputations not only in Sacramento but outside of Sacramento. When we brainstormed internally, these two gentlemen rose to the top of that list pretty quickly,” Testa said.
The high-profile, high-priced dinner is the centerpiece of Farm-to-Fork week, which presents an array of public events to underscore Sacramento’s standing as one of the great food centers in the nation.
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It’s a dinner replete with challenges, including unpredictable weather in late September that could deliver anything from extreme heat to chilly rain and whipping winds. And for such a large-format dinner, the chefs will face the task of creating a menu that delights both mainstream eaters who stick to the basic food groups and foodies seeking a dinner with edgy ingredients and creative cooking techniques.
The two chefs, both of whom oversee restaurants that have earned four-star ratings in The Sacramento Bee and are highly regarded among their peers, say they jumped at the chance to lead the bridge dinner. And while the announcement has been under wraps until now, Ridgeway and Patel have already been brainstorming about what they will cook and how they will serve it.
“It’s starting to hit its stride where farm to fork isn’t just a gimmick now; it’s something the city wants to represents itself by because we live and breathe it year round,” Ridgeway said. “I stand behind it because I do it, and I think it will be good to showcase some of the finer things I have been doing, what the Sellands have been doing and what some of the other chefs are doing, and carry on the momentum of what Sacramento is all about right now, which is cooking really good food with local ingredients.”
“The city is important to me. I was born and raised here. My family is here,” said Patel, who was executive chef at Ella Dining Room & Bar before he was promoted last year to his current position. “I believe in this movement. It’s not just a movement – it’s who we are. Now we get to show others what we’re about. The dinner is an opportunity for us chefs who rarely get to work together to be a part of something and cohesively work together.”
Rideway and Patel say they have compatible cooking styles and look forward to coming up with the right dishes for the event, still six-plus months away. So far, they have been thinking only in generalities, agreeing that beef should find its way onto the menu for the first time, possibly as a slow-cooking braised dish that would not be so vulnerable to exact cooking times and temperatures.
But they stopped short of saying they want to put their personal stamp on the cuisine.
“It’s a Sacramento chefs event. We just happen to be in charge of organizing and curating it,” Ridgeway said.
“Everybody has talent. You just need someone to take the reins,” Patel added.
In its first year, Randall Selland, the founding chef of the Kitchen Restaurant, and Patrick Mulvaney, the owner/chef of Mulvaney’s B&L, took the lead role for the bridge dinner. Testa referred to them as the “godfathers of food in Sacramento.” Last year, Testa said they looked “for the next generation of chefs” and selected Brian Mizner of Hook & Ladder and Jason Poole of Dawson’s at the Hyatt Regency.
Initially, the dinner proved controversial to some because of the $175 price tag, but it has quickly become one of the most coveted tickets on the Sacramento social calendar. About 740 people will attend, with one-third of those seats available to the public and the rest reserved for event sponsors.
“Last year, we estimate it sold out in 30 seconds,” Testa said.