From The Editor
By Robin Jay
It’s 3 a.m. on a Friday morning, just hours before my 21-year-old son departs on a flight to California en route to start his career as a chef at the Ritz-Carlton near Palm Springs.
Ryan completed his last final exam yesterday as a college student and before it seems the ink could even be dry, he’s already preparing to launch. Right now, I can hear the bass of his stereo thumping as he packs his last bag in his bedroom. This time tomorrow, his room will be silent. A very surreal moment for a mother indeed.
Seems like just yesterday when he was born – on the night of the Academy Awards in 1995. At the time, I was perplexed at how the nurses and my husband couldn’t take their gaze off the television screen, sipping their warm and sweet coffee, anticipating who would win the Oscar for Best Actor or Best Actress. I remember thinking, “Hello! I’m about to have a baby over here – can you please put down your delicious creamy coffee for a second and go get me something more thirst quenching than ice chips?!”
Nearly 22 years later, I now understand the captivating anticipation of an Academy Award being announced. For me, however, I daydream about what it would be like to anticipate the announcement of a different kind of Oscar – the sort awarded to American star chefs in the culinary world – the James Beard Awards. The mere nomination of a James Beard Award can forever change the trajectory of a budding culinary entrepreneur.
Ryan has aspired to be a great chef since before he could drive a car. I laugh to myself that maybe he went into the culinary field out of necessity – because his mother, yours truly, has literally burned water, melted metal teapots to the stove, and caught the inside guts of two (no, three!) microwaves on fire by attempting to pop corn in a dry paper bag or forgetting to put water in the oatmeal bowl before pressing start.
I sit here quietly thinking about what Ryan’s future may hold for him as he prepares to move about as far from his childhood home as the United States is wide. I wonder if maybe – just maybe – my husband and I might some day be sitting at the Lyric Opera House in Chicago on an early May evening, decked out in our Sunday best, sipping sweet coffee and anticipating at the edge of our seats the announcement of the next James Beard Awardee. A mother of a budding young culinary professional can only dream of such a day!
Our cover story for this issue is about a very special chef, Mr. Curtis Duffy, who as the co-proprietor of his first fine dining restaurant in Chicago – Grace – has achieved the pinnacle of culinary success, earning a very rare and coveted 3 Michelin stars and a 2016 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Great Lakes. Don’t miss our compelling, heartfelt interview with Curtis on page 48 – but grab a tissue first. As a member of the James Beard Foundation, International Opulence is pleased to welcome Chef Curtis Duffy as our special guest of honor at this issue’s launch party. Stay tuned for details!
Editor in Chief