Chef Chad Johnson's timeline was tight, starting at 3:30 p.m. with a family meal and culminating at about 4 a.m. when 31 Tampa Bay chefs finished giving each other a hard time. Johnson was the force behind the second Friends of James Beard Benefit Dinner on Sept. 27. Proceeds from the $300-per-ticket dinner benefit the Bern Laxer Memorial Scholarship Fund, administered through the James Beard Foundation. In the dining room at Haven guests enjoyed dishes like Bern's chef Habteab Hamde's squab with truffle and white eggplant, as well as Chris Ponte's (Café Ponte) foie gras mousse cupcakes and Tyson Grant's (Parkshore Grille) Mote Marine red drum with local sea greens, each course paired with high-end wines. An enviable way to spend three hours, sure, but the real action was in the kitchen as dozens of the area's top chefs enjoyed the opportunity to spend a little time working toward a common goal, everyone chipping in to get each course out into the dining room.
Laura Reiley, Times food critic