A taste of Collierville will be served at the James Beard Foundation’s Celebrity Chef Tour inside the Memphis Zoo tomorrow night. P.O. Press Co-Owner and Chef, Jimmy Gentry, will be among some of the highest tier chefs cooking a seven-course meal paired with wines and cocktails. Gentry is one of seven featured chefs who will be spotlighted at the event, along with one James Beard award-winning chef. When asked to put the James Beard Award in layman’s terms for the rest of us, Gentry said, “you could say it’s like the Oscars for a chef!”
“In the last decade or so, Memphis has grown by leaps and bounds as far as the culinary scene goes, and events like this help to legitimize that we are more than just BBQ,” says Gentry. “I’m just glad to participate.”
The Celebrity Chef Tour began in 2004 with a purpose of bringing “the unique experience of dining at New York City’s historic James Beard House to cities around the country.” Gentry is looking forward to many things about tomorrow night, but thinking about one particular dish already has his taste buds watering: “We don’t have that upscale Mexican style cuisine near us, and it’s [cuisine] one of my favorite things! Having someone else come into town and prepare something we don’t normally have is always cool!”
Serving a large quantity of guests is nothing new for Gentry, who also owns Paradox Catering and Consulting. “Under the catering company we’ve served in one form or fashion for the last four years, starting out by just offering service and hands in the kitchen. This year we’re preparing hor d’oeuvres and dessert and since P.O. Press hasn’t been open a year yet (you have to be open a year to be considered for an award); we’ll be that much closer to the James Beard radar.”
The 200+ guests fortunate enough to enjoy the sure-to-be memorable meal will have to wait until seated to know what each course will entail. Even Gentry won’t give away all the hints of what he’ll be cooking, keeping some things secretive until everything is plated! “For dessert we [his Pastry Chef & Gentry] decided on a pistachio cake and lemon verbena chiboust, served with a carrot ice cream. The cake has that nice hint of green, the chiboust has a yellow glow, and then the carrot ice cream is bright orange! I haven’t figured out the hor d’oeuvre yet. I’ll be 100% honest, some of the best things I’ve ever come up with are the things I’ve come up with in just a few seconds. If I think about it too long, I over analyze it. I take the familiars and make them into something I’m happy with!”
The Teton Trek Lodge inside the Zoo will host the tasty event and all proceeds will benefit the Memphis Zoo and the James Beard Foundation. Gentry says he is honored to participate in this year’s event, but also won’t forget the path that lead him to special moments like cooking for the James Beard Tour Dinner. “Every single place starting out, whether it was me in high school working at a BBQ joint, working at a steakhouse learning to cut meat, or being a busboy at my first job in a high-end continental cuisine restaurant, all of these things ground you. And even though you’re the Chef now, or the Owner now, all those little bitty steps along the way makes you appreciate moments like these and makes you better in the end.” Collierville is honored to have Chef Gentry represent us at this exciting event and we look forward to enjoying his cuisine for many years to come!
Written By: Anna Bell