Chautauqua Prize dinner to feature farm-to-table menu inspired by winner



Food has been the topic of countless books and writing workshops — Kevin Young’s upcoming Week Three Writers’ Center workshop, for example — but food inspired by writing is more unusual.

The Chautauqua Prize will be presented at a special award dinner at 6 p.m. on July 9 in the Athenaeum Hotel Parlor.

The five-course, farm-to-table dinner — designed by Chef Ross Warhol — will be inspired by the 2013 Chautauqua Prize-winning novel, Timothy Egan’s Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher.

“The book is this man’s obsession with trying to capture the photographs of the last remaining Native Americans and their lifestyle,” Warhol said. “It’s our obsession in the kitchen to produce great food.”

Though Warhol has created menus inspired by visual art, this will be his first time designing a menu based on a literary work. He said the goal is to evoke the mood of the novel through the meal’s courses.

“When we had the meeting [to plan the dinner], Ross said, ‘I can’t wait to read this book,’ and so he went off with it,” said Sherra Babcock, Chautauqua Institution vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education. “I am always excited when he is creating a menu because it’s just interesting and delicious.”

One of the challenges of the menu, Warhol said, will be to recreate the classic s’more.

“That’s going to be the most fun that we’re going to have with the meal,” Warhol said. “Just really take it outside of the box — not just basically your graham cracker, chocolate and marshmallow.”

While Short Nights is the second winner of the Chautauqua Prize, this is the first time the Athenaeum Hotel and the Department of Education will co-sponsor a special dinner to commemorate its presentation.

“I thought, ‘Let’s do this,’ ” Babcock said. “ ‘Let’s look out at the lake, and let’s talk about the book, … and let’s have a wonderful dinner and enjoy ourselves.’”

Babcock said she has admired Warhol’s farm-to-table dinners since he began cooking them about a year-and-a-half ago.

“It’s a unique and special evening because everything is geared around honoring Timothy Egan and Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher,” Babcock said. “[Guests] may be a little bit late to the symphony that night because it’s not a rushed, let’s-hurry-up kind of dinner.”

The dinner costs $109, or $129 with wine pairings. The dinner is limited to 75 participants.

“It’s an intimate setting; it’s fabulous food,” Babcock said, “and then to have a menu that’s especially created for the evening, to me, is the culmination of the way that we’re truly honoring the winner of the prize.”