Chef Michael Chiarello was about an hour late to a lunch he was hosting at Flavor! Napa Valley, but he was greeted with thunderous applause.
After all, the popular television chef and owner of Bottega restaurant had just been released from St. Helena Hospital, where seven hours earlier he had undergone an emergency appendectomy. On his way home, Chiarello stopped at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena to thank the understanding lunch guests as well as the chefs who’d carried on for him at his event.
“An Interactive Lunch with Michael Chiarello” was one of the hot tickets at Flavor! Napa Valley, a food and wine festival making its debut this weekend.
Chiarello had been one of the strong supporters of the initial effort to launch a Napa Valley food and wine event similar to those that take place in South Beach, Fla. and Aspen, Colo.
Some of the other biggest culinary stars of the valley, including Thomas Keller, Masaharu Morimoto and Ken Frank, also signed on to participate in the four-day event, which included tastings, cooking demonstrations and dinners. It was based at Silverado Resort and the CIA. Proceeds from the high-end gathering will benefit a scholarship fund for the CIA.
More than 100 people had bought tickets for Chiarello’s sold-out event, scheduled for noon Saturday.
Tom Fuller from Flavor! Napa Valley said he learned early Saturday morning that Chiarello had undergone emergency surgery at St. Helena Hospital at 6 a.m.
“Everybody rallied,” Fuller told the Register. The plan had been for Chiarello to demonstrate several dishes, after which the guests would get a chance to cook in the third-floor teaching kitchen of the CIA before sitting down to lunch.
Chef Scott Conant, a CIA graduate and owner of Scarpetta restaurant in New York and Miami Beach, filled in for Chiarello at the cooking demonstration, assisted by “a surprise visit from Morimoto.” Chiarello’s sous chef at Bottega, Ryan McIlwraith, also filled in, making his first official demonstration.
Fuller said he got a call that Chiarello, just released from the hospital, might be paying a visit to the CIA on his way home, but it wasn’t until the press room heard “a huge explosion of applause” from the third floor of the CIA that they realized Chiarello had shown up.
Chiarello, still wearing his hospital wristband, thanked Conant and the other chefs for helping out, and then went home to rest.