If I were to attend only one food event this year, it would be on June 6th at Bandy Canyon Ranch, where the sum of French Master Chefs in North America will be gathered for their annual MCF Congress. In fact, that date has been on my calendar since last June when French Master Chef Patrick Ponsaty, of Bellamy’s in Escondido and the soon to open and eagerly awaited Ponsaty’s in Rancho Santa Fe, broke the news that he was hosting this year’s event.
Suffice it to say that early June of 2016 in San Diego will bring with it more than the passing of spring and the heralding of summer in our fair city. It’s hard for me to imagine exactly how extremely cool this event will be, since I’ve never been in the company of 70 or so of the best chefs in the world before, but angels playing harps while hovering above the tables, birds bedecked in banners delivering fresh fruit and fair maidens dancing in the aisles all come to mind.
MCF, Maitres Cuisiniers de France, is the official moniker for the governing organization of French Master Chefs, but, with a little creative dyslexia, we can twist the letters around a bit to fit the English version of the term. What is it that makes these guys so special, considering that in our current world of cooking shows, chef competitions, showdowns and cook-offs, a foodie can throw a rock in almost any direction and hit a chef that has gathered a following and is well known?
For starters, only French nationals can be inducted as MCF members, and that is only if their provenance and skill bears the weight of intensive scrutiny, including training in Michelin rated establishments and upholding the highest standards of French cuisine. The host for the event, Chef Patrick Ponsaty, for instance, is a 5th generation chef who grew up in his father’s well known restaurant in the south of France and worked his way through some of the finest dining venues in France, Monte Carlo and Spain. Aside from his considerable credentials in Europe, he also spent time in New York before starting an 18 year tenure in San Diego as Executive Chef at local favorites such as Loews, El Bizcocho and Bernard’O. He currently claims 17 Michelin stars on his resume.
In the food world, French master chefs could be easily considered that country’s most important export and essential ambassadors to the rest of the world. Currently, there are only 71 North American chefs who can claim the title and a total of 500 worldwide. Interestingly enough, most French Master Chefs, while considered the best of the best in the culinary world, are often not at the top of “favorites” list when the general public is polled about the “best” in their region. The mandate for Master Chefs, as evidenced in the motto of the MCF is, “to preserve and spread the French culinary arts, encourage training in cuisine, and assist professional development.” It often seems that while the execution of these duties may bring renown to the master chef in question, it is not the notoriety that is the point of the exercise, rather it is the exercise that may accidentally create notoriety.
In any case, inevitably, when there is a write up on the best establishments, best service, best cuisine or best anything in regard to the upper levels of dining anywhere in the world, there is probably a French master chef at the helm. As an organization, they gather annually in a new city, to explore what that city has to offer to the food world and to discuss what they, as master chefs, are doing to perpetuate the growth of the industry. This year, from June 4th – 7th, this group of the world’s best chefs will descend on San Diego. If they each have a resume similar to Chef Patrick’s, by my calculations, we’ll have somewhere in the neighborhood of 9,000 years of achievement and cooking experience visiting our humble ville in a couple of months. Yes, yes and YES. I’m in!
Foodies: June 6th is the date to mark on your calendar. That’s the date of the MCF Gala Dinner. The dinner will be hosted at Bandy Canyon Ranch and feature a cocktail reception with all of the Master Chefs present and a five course dinner. New members of the MCF will be inducted and then it’s live entertainment and dancing the rest of the evening. For foodies in San Diego, this event is the equivalent of Mecca coming to us. Space is limited and, currently, over 62 volunteers have stepped forward to ensure this world class event has great local flavor, including local chefs, culinary students and an entire high school culinary program from Riverside County.
Event sponsorships, which include entry into this elite dinner are still available. See you there and Cheers, my friends!
For more information regarding attending or sponsoring, contact Carolyn Kates, event organizer: [email protected]