This creative endeavor from the Centrolina chef sees Brandwein and other culinary luminaries craft innovative dishes together in her CityCenter kitchen.
Earlier this year, chef and restaurant owner Amy Brandwein launched an exciting new chef’s table series at her flagship restaurant, Centrolina. The series involves Brandwein pairing up with other talented local chefs to serve an innovative four-course dinner, marrying the Italian flavors that she’s known for with the cooking styles and cuisines of other chefs.
District Fray: When and how did you conceive of this concept?
Amy Brandwein: In March of 2023, I was feeling a little restless and was looking for a new challenge. I wanted to find a way to interact more with local chefs, friends and people that I admire and would love to work with. From there, I began texting some of my friends who are chefs and the idea was born. I launched the first dinner in the series pretty soon after I conceived of the idea, and it has just blossomed from there.
How do you choose the chefs you partner with?
I am very lucky because I have so many supportive friends locally who are also fellow chefs that I admire. Many of these individuals also want to learn and grow in their profession, and just have a good time, too. So far, I have collaborated with chefs such as Kevin Tien, Seng Luangrath, Sunny Baweja, and Masako Morishita. Scott Drewno is next on September 13 and after that, Jerome Grant, then Chris Morgan.
Is there a formula for putting these dinners together?
I always partner with each chef for just one evening. It’s always four courses, and the guest chef will choose two of the courses to cook, and then I take the other two courses.
How do you construct the menus?
The idea is that the dishes will be a blend of cuisines. The chefs will add an Italian perspective to their dishes, and I add elements of the cuisine the guest chef cooks to my dishes. I often have to do a great deal of research into these other cuisines, which is part of the challenge and is one of the goals of this series, which is to allow myself and other chefs to expand our repertoires, to give us a challenge and allow us to grow as chefs.
Any standout dishes that have come from these dinners so far?
So many! Chef Sunny did a pappardelle pasta in an Indian butter-tomato sauce with hunks of paneer cheese, another time we had compressed watermelon with stracciatella and Sichuan peppercorn oil. Chef Seng brought her yellow curry sauce to my kitchen, which was surreal — it was so amazing. Another chef did a crudo with tomatoes and a lemongrass broth. I do put some of the dishes I come up with at these dinners on my regular menu at Centrolina.
How has the reception been from the community regarding these dinners?
It’s been great. [We’ve seen] lots of regulars and fans of both Centrolina and of the chefs who are guest cooking. Just like I am seeking to build my relationships with chefs through this program, diners are also making friends at our dinners, which are served at communal tables. Relationship and community building between chefs and between diners is another major objective of this venture.
What beverages are served at these dinners?
The guest chef makes a specialty cocktail that is offered, and then Centrolina’s team chooses wines for the meal.
How long will this series continue?
We will have dinners through November 2023, and then I will launch another series next year. The chefs I invite will continue to be chefs who want to have fun, be creative, and engage in collaboration. This series is all about the food, community and culture, as well as learning and being open to exploration.
What has been the most fun aspect of the endeavor for you?
I have just loved trying new things and working with chefs I haven’t worked with before. I have learned so much about different cuisines, spices, flavors and cooking techniques, and I am just really enjoying the community-building and cultural appreciation that has stemmed from this experience.
Any other important details about the Chefs Table dinners that we should know about?
Reservations for the Chefs Table events are available on Resy, where you can also see a list of the chefs I will be partnering with next. The cost does not include drinks or gratuity, and a portion of the proceeds go to the guest chef’s charity of choice.
Looking for local restauranteurs to follow? Join the District Fray community for exclusive access to content surrounding some of the city’s most talented residents. Become a member and support local journalism today.