Over the course of its 120-year history, New York’s Waldorf-Astoria has given the world some highly recognizable recipes. The most obvious example, of course, is the Waldorf salad—a dressed mixture of walnuts, celery, apples and grapes, created for the first charity banquet served at the famed hotel in 1896—though that’s far from the only menu standby that supposedly began in the Waldorf-Astoria kitchens. It also stakes a claim to eggs benedict, Thousand Island dressing, lobster Newburg and even red velvet cake, to name a few.
So when it came time for Waldorf-Astoria—which now has 25 international hotels in addition to the Midtown Manhattan flagship—to develop a new signature dish, the bar was set pretty high.
To help meet the challenge, Waldorf teamed up with the James Beard Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit dedicated to celebrating and nurturing the culinary arts in the United States. Together, they selected five American chefs who’d recently been nominated for the Foundation’s annual Rising Star Award, and paired them with chefs established at Waldorf outposts around the world.
Then, last fall, the emerging talents were shipped off to far-flung ports-of-call for three days of culinary scheming with their Waldorf mentors. At the end of their time together, each pair produced what they considered a perfect plate, one that celebrated both Waldorf’s culinary legacy and the place where the chefs had developed their dish, be it Shanghai, Berlin, Rome, Edinburgh or Southern California. In February, the duos brought their concepts to New York for a final Top Chef-style cook-off and tasting, where an expert panel of judges picked One Dish to Rule Them All.
Finally, next month, the winning dish of this Taste of Waldorf challenge will appear on menus at each of the brand’s hotels around the world—and we’ve got a sneak preview:
The dish comes courtesy of Heinz Beck, whose La Pergola at Waldorf-Astoria’s Rome Cavalieri is the only three-Michelin-starred restaurant in the Eternal City, and David Posey, an alum of Chicago’s beloved Blackbird, who’ll open his first solo venture in the Windy City this year.
Together, Beck and Posey dreamed up a recipe they call Celery Risotto alla Waldorf, which combines a base of finely chopped, rice-like pieces of celery root with Granny Smith apple, shaved black truffle, toasted hazelnuts and Parmesan, mixing ingredients both American and Italian, and paying creative homage to the famed Waldorf salad where this competition got its start.
It doesn’t end here, however. There are plans afoot to send another group of rising stars out on gourmet missions around the globe in the coming months, continuing the expansion of Waldorf’s culinary cache in 2016. Stay tuned.