Appetizers

Meet the chefs working this year’s Tower Bridge Dinner

The chefs team for the Bridge Dinner: from left, Matt Azevedo (Z. Miller Meats), Vinnie Lazzaretto (Hook & Ladder), Brock MacDonald (Block Butcher Bar), Ravin Patel (Selland Family Restaurants), Oliver Ridgeway (Grange), Patrick Prager (Marriott Rancho Cordova), Bret Bohlmann (Boulevard Bistro) and Jim Mills (Produce Express)
The chefs team for the Bridge Dinner: from left, Matt Azevedo (Z. Miller Meats), Vinnie Lazzaretto (Hook & Ladder), Brock MacDonald (Block Butcher Bar), Ravin Patel (Selland Family Restaurants), Oliver Ridgeway (Grange), Patrick Prager (Marriott Rancho Cordova), Bret Bohlmann (Boulevard Bistro) and Jim Mills (Produce Express) Octavia Valencia, Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau

It sold out in seconds, so there’s a good bet you’re not one of the lucky740 folks who will be dining on the Tower Bridge on Sept. 27.

Still, it’s a showcase event and, in just three years, this $175-per-person dinner has become an important part of Sacramento’s flourishing reputation as “America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital.”

We’ve already told you about the dynamic duo of Ravin Patel of Selland Familiy Restaurants and Oliver Ridgeway of Grange who are overseeing this year’s dinner. Now, we can tell you about the chefs who will be working in the wings in a role you might call super-sous chefs.

Asked how these chefs will assigned to cook each of the five courses, Ridgeway said: “It has been a very seamless, natural progression of a bunch of chefs talking about food and what they want to do.”

Patel said they made an effort this year to look for talent beyond the city limits. That accounts for why Rancho Cardovo and Elk Grove are represented on the 2015 roster.

The chefs have met frequently behind the scenes for several weeks, discussing options for each course, including specifics about style, preparation and sourcing.

The menu has been a closely guarded secret as the chefs hashed out the logistics, but on Monday, the team will do a preview tasting at Grange. It’s not open to the public, but we will be there to report the details.

Here are the chefs that are filling out the team for Patel and Ridgeway.

Bret Bohlmann, Boulevard Bistro, Elk Grove: “I’m kind of on the outside of Sacramento. My restaurant is small. It seats 30. To be involved in such a huge event is an honor. I have a cancer background and I am a firm believer in farm-to-fork, the idea that what we eat heals our body. It’s something I preach every day to my cooks.”

Vinnie Lazzaretto, Hook & Ladder, Lazzaretto Pasta Co, Sacramento: “I’m very honored to be part of this. I try to do my part with farm-to-fork with my pasta. I will be using local grains for the pasta (a tortellini) and we’ve been testing how the pasta will hold (up time-wise after cooking).”

Jim Mills, Produce Express, Sacramento. He will be working with Produce Express sales manager and former chef Scott Rose on the cheese course. Produce Express has recently expanded its cheese inventory. He noted that much of the produce has been two weeks earlier than usual this year and that will play a role in the final selections for the menu. When Patel quipped that they recruited Mills in part for comic relief, Mills said, “I’m the oldest guy in the room. I’ve got more stories.”

Brock MacDonald, Block Butcher Bar, Sacramento: Highly regarded for his charcuterie skills, he noted that he began preparing the charcuterie for the dinner months ago and that it has been curing at Block since then. The pigs he uses are from a farm in Windsor.

Matt Azevedo, V. Miller Meats, Sacramento: A partner in the soon-to-open whole animal butcher shop in East Sacramento, Azevedo will be cooking the beef course. We asked him about grass-fed versus grain-fed beef. “Cows aren’t naturally meant to eat grain. That’s not how they evolved. When cows are fed on grain, they tend to get very fatty and the meat has a mild flavor. When an animal is grass-fed, you get a more nuanced flavor and you taste more meat. That’s why you will hear people say grass-fed beef tends to be gamier. I just think it tastes more like beef. You will notice a difference, It tends to be a bit leaner. It’s much healthier for you.”

Patrick Prager, Marriott Hotel, Rancho Cordova (formerly of Grange): “I like the idea of expanding beyond Sacramento. When this whole Bridge Dinner started, it was like the midtown Sacramento idea. Now it’s expanding and we’re involving bigger hotels and smaller restaurants in Elk Grove. It’s a special thing.”

Blair Anthony Robertson: 916-321-1099, @Blarob

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