Yosemite Chefs’ Holiday

January 20, 2012

I just got back from Yosemite’s Annual Chefs Holidays. Held throughout the month of January they offer 8, three day seminars of culinary demonstrations and a Gala Dinner. I have been lucky enough to be included half a dozen times over the last 15 years.

It’s a fun event for a couple of reasons. Yosemite is a magnificent national park but going in the summer can be a bit chaotic. The crowds are loving the place to death. In winter it is more peaceful without the masses. I also look forward to the park in the snow. Nothing beats looking out the windows of The Ahwahnee Hotel at breakfast and seeing the huge pine trees covered in white. But even though they haven’t gotten a single flake of snow yet this year there is an upside. You can still hike in areas that in a normal weather conditions would be off limits.

The other reason I like going is the people who attend the classes. They love food and wine and are very friendly. Many are repeats. They come as couples or in groups. I met a group of 14 this year who are having a reunion here. Many come from the Western States but some travel from Texas and even the east coast.

Three chefs participate in each session. This time I was fortunate to be paired up with two San Francisco Bay Area Chefs whose food I had not yet had the opportunity to try. Peter Chastain from Prima (ww.primawine.com) in Walnut Creek and Sean Baker from Gather (www.gatherrestaurant.com) in Berkeley.

Sean demonstrated two recipes he has served on his restaurant menu. Miso Grapefruit Cured Black Cod with Fried Egg, Compressed Celery, Smoked Oyster and Lovage and Citron Ramen with Dungeness Crab “Fish Balls”, Citron Leaf Confit Pork Shoulder, Trotter Bacon Dashi and Garnishes. I got to taste the Ramen and it was delicious. A perfect balance of flavors. Sean uses sous vide to produce most of his food and he is a master of that machine. I can’t wait to go to Gather and try more if his food.

The demonstrations were moderated by Andrew Friedman, a talented writer who has co-authored cookbooks with many chefs including, Alfred Portale of Gotham Bar and Grill in New York and former White House Chef Walter Scheib. He wrote the book Knives at Dawn: America’s Quest for Culinary Glory at the Legendary Bocuse d’Or Competition.  His newly relaunched website, www.toqueland.com is a wealth of chef and food information.

Peter Chastain is a 10 year veteran of Yosemite Chefs’ Holidays. This year he and his sous chef, Jose Luis Laragazza, prepared the Gala dinner. Here’s the menu.

Fried Ascolani Olives Stuffed with Meat Ragu & Pecorino

Crostini of Cauliflower, Sweet Onion & Marjoram

Marinated Peppers Stuffed with Tuna Conservato

NV Villa Sandi Extra Dry, Proseco Valdobbiandene

Misto of Lobster, Monkfish, Clams, Mussels & Calamari

Salsa Verde- Micro Greens

2010 Poggio Al Tesoro Vermentino

 Baked “Little Scarves” Filled with Porcini Mushrooms

Besciamella & Leek Passato

2006 Castello di Bossi Chianti Classico Riserva

 Long Simmered Niman Ranch Stuffed Pork Spareribs

Valley Rabbit “In Porchetta”, Corona Beans & Tuscan Kale

2009 Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo

 Chocolate-Hazelnut Semifredddo

Shattered Candy & Espresso Inglese

Check out the website  and consider going. There are a few tickets left for some of this year’s remaining sessions or plan it for 2013. You’ll enjoy it.


  1. Emily, I went to Yosemite once, it was in the Fall and it was wonderful, it even snowed the second day, just perfect.

    I love Sean’s food even though I have been at Gather only once. I haven’t eaten dishes that interesting in a while, amazing pairing of flavors. I had an eggplant dish that was unbelievable.

    I remember reading in one of your books that you have many lemon trees, they must be heavy with fruit now, are you going to propose a meyer lemon dessert? I wonder what to do with mine.

    It is pouring tonight!

    • I picked my Meyer Lemons a couple of weeks ago. I will get more in another month I hope.
      I think i am going to make marmalade. Lots of work but worth it.

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