The Hercules Plaza, the new venue for today’s 16th annual Meals from the Masters Celebrity Chefs’ Brunch seemed to breathe new life into the culinary event – and, possibly, bring a larger than expected crowd.
Duck confit sandwiched between French toast prepared by Denver chef Kurt Boucher.
For years, the Meals on Wheels Delaware fundraising brunch, featuring out-of-town chefs preparing small plates for a well-heeled crowd paying $175 each, was held at the Bank of America (formerly MBNA) Bracebridge building near Rodney Square. Normally, about 1,000 to 1,200 attended the stroll-around party. Here’s highlights from 2009.
On Friday, Meals on Wheels Delaware organizers said they expected about 800 people at the newly renovated Hercules Plaza at 13th and N. Market streets.
But it seemed like more people were there Sunday than at last year’s brunch – though organizers said the Hercules Plaza space is smaller than Bracebridge’s sprawling site which could account for it seeming to be more bustling.
Chef Kurt Boucher of Denver has been a guest chef at the brunch now for several years.
Indeed, while there didn’t seem to be as many chefs – about 21, I believe (in 2011, there were 32 chefs) – and the event was cut to three-hours, instead of four in 2011, there were long lines at many of the tables.
“I think the food is better this year,” said one woman, as she snacked on shrimp and grits from Charleston, S.C., chef Don Drake
“And more substantial,” said her companion.
Holly Smith of Cafe Juanita in Kirkland, Wash., offered plates of grilled artichokes with fava beans, yogurt and an olive cracker.
Drake and at least two other chefs, possibly running out of food, packed up their tables and stopped serving with at least an hour left to go.
The new digs aren’t quite as lavish as the former BofA building, which is being renovated to house charter schools. (Here’s a recap from 2008.)
For instance, this year there were portable toilets outside, something you never saw at Bracebridge.
Chefs also didn’t have the advantage of an on-site kitchen. Many of the preparations took place Saturday at Delcastle High School, with the help of the school’s culinary students, – and the food was transported to Wilmington by truck.
Montreal chef Francois Gagnon had a long line waiting for his churros with bacon and peanut butter sabayon.
Some chefs, like Montreal’s Francois Gagnon, who made churros with double-smoked bacon and peanut butter sabayon, had to make do with mini deep-fryers at their stations or use griddles and hot plates.
But Wilmington restaurateur/chef Dan Butler, who staffed the event – he wasn’t cooking this year – told us he’s hoping the new restaurant he’s planning inside the Hercules Plaza could open by the end of the summer. (He plans to close Deep Blue Bar & Grill.)
A tent, featuring tables with several chefs, was outside this year. Since the weather cooperated, it was a beautiful idea, though the traffic jam to get food quickly became wearisome.
It was hard to tell who was in line inside the tent. Rehoboth Beach chef Jay Caputo can be seen in the background.
Some people stood in line, others just cut the line, mostly, it seems, because they didn’t know there was a queue.