No Joke

Chef Kathleen Blake answers the call of James Beard House.



Kathleen Blake (right) with Chef Elizabeth Faulkner

JAMES BEARD FOUNDATION/TOM KIRKMAN

When Kathleen Blake got the call to cook at the famed James Beard House in New York City, she thought they had the wrong person.

“I actually said, ‘Is this a joke?’”

Blake, chef/owner of award-winning Rusty Spoon on Church Street, is a leading proponent of the farm-to-table movement and a “Best Chef: South” semifinalist. She was taken aback by the chance to cook at an event held in January in partnership with Women Chefs & Restaurateurs, which offers culinary scholarships to women across the country. 

“It was so much fun, just a bunch of girls getting together,” Blake says. “It sounds like a cliché, but it really is different when women are working together in a kitchen.” 

The dinner was billed as “Pioneers and Legends,” and the lineup epitomized both. Elizabeth Falkner, known for TV appearances on Top Chef and Iron Chef America; James Beard Award winners Susan Feniger, Mary Sue Milliken, Susan Spicer and Emily Luchetti; and Jamie Leeds of Washington, D.C.’s acclaimed Hank’s Oyster Bar turned out dishes with a world’s worth of influences. New Zealand venison ravioli, Alaskan halibut carpaccio with coconut–chili broth, and duck breast from Louisiana were just a few parts of the seven-course extravaganza. Blake’s savory creation used Nantucket Bay scallops and smoked pig cheek to great effect.

The appreciative sold-out crowd made it clear that choosing Blake was no joke.

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