The Waldorf Astoria is known as many things: A luxurious symbol of old Manhattan, a celebrity hotspot and, of course, a mainstay in Hollywood movies and television shows—because who doesn’t remember the cinematic masterpiece that was Maid in Manhattan? And while J.Lo’s blessing is no doubt an impressive claim to fame, the Waldorf’s real crown jewel is actually the food.
The famed hotel has invented some of the country’s most cherished dishes: eggs benedict, red velvet cake and the eponymous Waldorf salad, which became their signature dish in the late 1890’s. And although three culinary revolutions would be enough to satisfy most hotel kitchens—who are happy when room service is simply delivered on time—the staff at the Waldorf refused to rest.
This past fall, their team enlisted the help of 10 chefs from around the world, challenging them to invent the Waldorf’s next iconic dish. The result was a cutthroat competition in which teams of two battled it out in the kitchen, contributing a new dish they hoped would win a spot on the menu at 29 Waldorf properties around the world. Most pairs had several Michelin stars and a few James Beard Awards between them.
Photo Credit: The Waldorf AstoriaThe winner? Celery Risotto Alla Waldorf, the brainchild of Rome’s most beloved chef, Heinz Beck, and a James Beard Foundation Rising Star from Chicago, David Posey. Inspired by the century old recipe for the Waldorf Salad, the pair created a succulent risotto with crisp apples, fresh truffles and buttery-sweet hazelnuts.
Haute Living caught up with the winning team, and asked their tips for preparing a restaurant ready risotto at home.
“The most important thing is at the beginning, when you toast the rice,” said Beck. “If you toast the rice too hot, it won’t release its starch, which thickens the risotto…and if you don’t toast the rice long enough, it won’t remain firm. The rice will break into pieces during the cooking time. Toast it over a medium heat for a long time and you’ll have the best risotto in the world.”
When asked for his opinion, Posey humbly replied, “I thought I knew how to cook a risotto, and then I met Heinz. Now I’m starting all over.”
Photo Credit: The Waldorf Astoria
Heinz Beck has been the executive chef at La Pergola, Rome’s only three Michelin-starred restaurant, since 1994.
David Posey is a breakout star on the culinary scene in Chicago. Formerly the Chef de Cuisine at Blackbird, is preparing to open his first solo venture within the next year.