On a typical Saturday night, famed chef Douglas Keane ’93 prepares food for the packed dining room at Cyrus, his world-renowned restaurant in Sonoma Valley, Calif. However, this past Saturday, Cornell had the honor of hosting chef Keane at its very own Banfi’s, where he worked alongside student chefs and organizers from the School of Hotel Administration to create a four-course feast for attending faculty and undergraduates.
Every spring semester, students enrolled in H ADM 403: Specialty Food and Beverage Operations course -nicknamed “Guest Chefs” – invite celebrity chefs to Ithaca to share their culinary expertise and help create formal dinners for the Cornell community. Student teams manage every aspect of the dinner, which cost $125 per person, including planning the menu, publicizing the event and conducting a financial analysis after its completion. While past chefs have included such well-known figures as Daniel Boulud, Emeril Lagasse, Masaharu Morimoto and Wolfgang Puck, Keane is the first hotel school alumnus to be invited back to cook.
The evening started off with a reception, during which champagne and hors d’oeuvres were served, and ended with a question and answer period with Keane. The meal itself was a feast for gourmands, ranging from Thai marinated lobster with hearts of palm, avocado and mango to braised short rib with truffled risotto. A particular wine was chosen to enhance each dish, including sweet liquor with the dessert.
Melanie Kirshenbaum ’08, who attended the meal, expressed her satisfaction with the evening.
“The food was really amazing, and it was different because they had little courses between the dishes like lime sorbet palate cleansers, and this homemade lychee soda pop that made the evening unique,” she said.
Attendees were also generally enthusiastic about the service.
“What was almost more impressive than how amazing the food was,” Kirshenbaum said, “was how masterfully it was served by the students. For the few hours I was in Banfi’s, I really felt like I was in a top restaurant in New York City.”
Keane, along with his pastry chef from Cyrus, Annie Clemmons, arrived Thursday, and spent the past few days planning the event with students. It seems that Keane has not lost touch with his college days, as Debra Erber ’06, a member of the marketing team, said, “We all had so much fun just hanging out with Keane. He even came out with us to Collegetown at night.”
After graduating from Cornell, Keane worked at a number of the nations’ top restaurants and hotels, including the eminent Four Seasons restaurant in New York, as well as the former grand-dame of the New York culinary scene, Lespinnasse. Keane then left New York, and after working at various restaurants in San Francisco, sent out to open Cyrus, which he describes as serving “contemporary luxury cuisine.” Since its opening in spring 2005, Cyrus has been acclaimed as one of the best restaurants in the Sonoma Valley.
The next “Guest Chefs” dinner will take place on March 11, with a tasting dinner prepared by Jonathan Benno of Per Se, one of New York’s most renowned restaurants.
Archived article by Josh Harris
Sun Staff Writer