The November issue of Esquire touts John Sedlar as the Chef of the Year, beating out chefs across the country. The homage suggests that as soon as you graduate culinary school you should beg Sedlar “for a job peeling vegetables.” Sedlar’s new venture, Playa, also won Best New Restaurant of the Year. Monday night Esquire hosted an event at Playa fêting the comeback chef. Of course, even with Esquire hosting, it was mixologist Julian Cox and Chef du Cuisine Kevin Luzand along with everyone else at Playa doing all of the heavy lifting.
The room was crowded and buzzing. Nibbles were passed with regularity and speed, and I don’t think Julian’s shaker ever stopped. In attendence were PR Maven Alexia Haidos, Castulo de La Rocha, President and CEO of Alta Med, Street Gourmet’s Bill Esparza and food writer Pat Saperstein. Kris Morningstar, whose Ray and Stark’s also received a nod for Best new Restaurant from Esquire, was spotted making a late entrance since he had to work.
The bar was serving up Herradura tequila cocktails (and was still able to produce a cold diet coke upon request!). The Thai Beau contained reposado, Meyer lemon juice, honey, chili, and a garnish of a grapefruit peel that had to be set on fire. Bad Words in Spanish was made with Blanco, Campari, Vermouth, lime and club soda. My favorite drink was the Violet Revolver with Anejo, lemon, violet liquer, ginger syrup and a dash of bitters.
The open kitchen produced a Maize Cake Salsa Semilla with fresh burrata, salsa verde, and arugula salad, and one of my favorites, Pork Belly Confit Mini Tacos. The kitchen sent out Sopapillas, Flan de Elote with a delicious wild mushroom sauce instead of the usual squash blossom. Also on the menu were cute little doots on potato chips, one with ceviche and another with caviar.
As I waited for my car from the valet, people could not stop talking about the ice cream! They insisted I return to the restaurant and try it. I noticed my keys were still on the hook, so I rushed back inside. They were right! I had planned to just try a spoonful of the vanilla ice cream with passionfruit and a kick of chili pepper, but ended up licking the bowl.
As John Sedlar gave in his short but poignant speech, the awards were not just about him, but about everyone in the kitchen, all the holder-uppers.