A Legend is Born
Thursday, April 3, 2008
In The Beginning… I had been anticipating opening day at the first ever Pebble Beach Food & Wine for a while. I remember sitting on the patio at Spanish Bay on a magnificent afternoon about seven or eight months ago, helping the beverage department reduce its inventory, when Rob Weakley and David Bernahl came over to say hi and mentioned their idea to create this espectacolo grande. I was immediately excited at the prospect of them continuing the tradition of gathering world class chefs and wineries in our county to show off their magical powers and enjoy a long weekend party.
As the weeks passed and the idea metamorphosed into reality, I would stop into the office the boys had set up in Carmel, or see them out and about, each time gleaning a bit more about the progress they were making. Well, for all those of you who were able to make it out there sometime last weekend, you know just what type of progress they ultimately made. We, the collective we who love restaurants, food, wine and hospitality, the collective we who live here on this outback of majestic grandeur and natural beauty, the collective we who collectively appreciate the dedication, talent, effort and commitment required to produce the world’s greatest food and wine, the sacrifice and love necessary to serve our fellow humans by preparing, feeding, cleaning up after and coddling them, we all shared in the greatest launch of any event in this area’s history and, quite possibly, the most impressive first-time event of any kind ever launched on this or any other coast.
The First Annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine, conceived, believed and achieved by this band of bold action bravadoes with the help of a unified, committed, turned-on Pebble Beach Company, along with countless volunteers, purveyors, suppliers and an electrified crowd of attendees, magically appeared as if from thin air, fully formed, unbelievably polished and proudly ascendant upon the mountaintop where great collaborative human endeavors reign. The greatest names in the food and wine world formed one enormous multi-celled organism that reinvented itself each day in various forms, superstar chef working alongside volunteer prep cook (alongside ultra successful sommelier, alongside energized hotel staff, alongside television icon) hour after hour – forming one unyieldingly colossal restaurant staff assembled for this weekend-long opening of the greatest restaurant ever made, all contributing their best, subjugating their egos for synergistic team accomplishment.
While I have done nothing much to speak of, I truly know the effort required to spring forth an event of any magnitude, let alone this scale, and certainly know what toll the restaurant and wine business take on its devotees. I found myself emotionally moved on the morning of the opening day, out in front of the pro shop at Golf Mecca awaiting the shotgun start of the tournament for chefs, winemakers and hangers-on like myself. The heartfelt toasts by Pebble President Cody Plott, then David Bernahl, to begin the festivities Thursday morning, reminded me just how much time and effort go into a production this vast. Their words set the tone for what became a four-day-and-night extravaganza of good tastes, good taste and good vibes.
I began writing this piece at the end of that Thursday evening, recapping the things I had done throughout the first day of the first PBF&W. I am rewriting it completely on the morning after the last tent emptied. My experiences have had a moment to evolve into emotionally richer, more fully formed memories. I could start listing all the big names I rubbed elbows with – how often do you get to drink DP at eight in the morning with guys like Thomas Keller, Ming Tsai, Roy Yamaguchi, etc.? When do you get to walk up to a table and have Cal Stamenov and his top guys furiously plating a dish of something beautiful they created just for this moment and happily handing it to you? How often do you get someone from Peter Michael Winery thrilled to pour you some of the greatest Chardonnay this country offers?
But it was really about more than that. Behind the scenes, in front of the scenes, in the scenes, it was just a massive group of hospitality folks, some of who just happen to be iconic, joining together doing what they were put on this earth to do: serve. This conglomeration of culinary, oenological and hospitality professionals, on this one weekend, banded together to create a one-of-a-kind Olympian homage to the grown, the cooked, the fermented and the served.
In the hallways behind the Bacchanalian ballroom beauty, teeming hordes of tuxedoed servers, white-coated kitchen jockeys and suited supervisory sorts, normally stressed and suffering, seemed surprisingly serene, perhaps pacified just to be associated with this Herculean hoedown. It was as if each person knew they were part of something greater than themselves and was willing to ignore deadening leg pain and focus on the joy of sharing, serving and loving.
Now, days after the after-parties-after-the-after-parties, long after the last sweaty sock has been peeled away from puppies praying for their host bodies to get horizontal, after the clanging of support posts, after the cacophony of crating, hauling, shipping and restocking has subsided, after the minions called upon to create last weekend have made their way back home, reintegrating themselves into home bases, after the magic dust of this dance of a thousand stars drifts away into the universe (until next year), after all of it is when the small, faraway, knowing smiles spontaneously appear.
To each and every person who contributed in any way to the Pebble Beach Food & Wine, to every single ingredient used, to our Shangri-La we love so dearly and to Rob Weakley, David Bernahl and those closest to them, my most humble and deeply felt thanks for enriching our lives with this oh-so-special event.