During an event like Sundance, one certainly hopes for good film. But what about good food? To have it wash over you, nurture you, and actually feel meaningful, can be hard to come by when your schedule is more packed than a sophomore during mid-terms. That is where Mimi Kim and Kenny Griswold come in with ChefDance.
Now in its 14th consecutive year, Kim and Griswold took their business savvy to unite a small army of world-class chefs and sponsors to give the patrons of Sundance an evening of culinary and cultural sustenance. Each of the four nights features one of the star chefs taking on a flurry of fare from across the globe in an exquisitely presented four course meal. This year's chefs in the spotlight were Brian Malarkey, Shawn McClain, Cat Cora, and Edward Lee.
While some patrons may be enticed to attend for the simple desire to spot a celebrity such as Keanu Reeves or Parker Posey, most of us appreciate the congregational atmosphere. Indeed, as Griswold stated at the onset of our meal Sunday evening: "ChefDance is about friendship and being your best self... and getting to share that self with others." Coming in off the cacophony of Park City's Main Street, where crowds slip and slide about, knees and elbows akimbo in a rush to get into any sponsored event that beckons with the promise of free food and drink, the respite and resonance offered at ChefDance is a rarity during the festival. It is very much of a gentler and more mature class; sustained and curated with attention to detail and an atmosphere that recalls both banquette dining from yesteryear and intimate dinners with friends.
Sunday's meal was whipped up from the imagination of Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia in Louisville, Kentucky. Lee's magic in the kitchen yielded a light and flavorful mix of East Asian cuisine with just a pinch of charm from the American South. Over the three hour dinner, my table was able to savor both their food and the eclectic company. As someone who is generally surrounded by other film-minded folk it can be a refreshing change of scene to hear the story of a local baker or shop owner, their perspective on Park City and how it has grown and changed since Robert Redford came to town. Having the opportunity to listen and consider other walks of life certainly encourages me to take into account the story and the people behind the food we are partaking in. This kind of meditation on meals, on the hands and minds that shaped them, is something that is certainly becoming a rare occurrence in an age of pre-packaged, mass-produced culture and product. If ChefDance then offers anything it is the chance to celebrate the culinary arts and the value of food made with intent and presence.
As I take a step away from the dining room and back to the cinema, that kind of attention and appreciation towards the inherent holiness of craft is very much something I hold in earnest. Because when you are nurtured by good food you are all the more ready for good film.
Photography courtesy of Jordan Kartchner