It’s a challenge worthy of Top Chef: creating a meal intriguing enough to tempt the most discerning foodie out there. One catch though, you can’t include a single peanut, tree nut, or shellfish.
However, thanks to a constellation of brilliant, allergy-aware chefs, the Food Allergy Initiative pulls it off every year. For the organization’s 10th annual Food Allergy Ball, Lifetime Achievement Award recipients Jacques Pépin, Alain Sailhac, and André Soltner of the French Culinary Institute designed an exquisite menu per the above specifications. All other ingredients were listed, and the Waldorf staff accommodated the dietary needs of the over 1,000 attendees—no small feat.
The event’s raison d’etre is a serious one: food allergies are on the rise. These days, roughly 8 percent of American children are at risk for mild to potentially lethal adverse reactions to particular proteins found in certain foods, with peanuts, tree nuts, and shellfish the most dangerous, followed by dairy products, wheat, eggs, fish, and soy. (Allergies to brown rice and broccoli are virtually unheard of, which, once again, goes to show that boring things are generally safe.)
The war on food allergies is being waged by a contingent of dedicated parents, grandparents, and concerned friends, all committed to funding research to find a cure. To that end, the ball raised a record $5 million. Frank Bruno, president of Cerberus Global Investment Advisors, received honors, and the Jaffe family received a special 10th anniversary award for their invaluable work in the food allergy field.
Chairs included: Ronald Perelman, Sharyn Mann, Todd Slotkin, Mary Richardson Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Patricia and James Cayne, and Julia and David Koch. Renée Fleming and Brian Stokes Mitchell performed a sing-along version of “I Could Have Danced All Night.”