Ken Callaghan, Blue Smoke executive chef
Photo by John Wegorzewski

Smokin’ Good Party By
America’s Top Pitmasters

By Edward T. Callaghan

HAT if you invite your neighbors to an old fashion pit barbeque – and they all came?

Over 75,000 of them! No problem for legendary New York restaurateur Danny Meyer and his Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG), which includes more Zagat and New York Times chart-toppers than any other restaurant group in town.

Simply invite more of America ’s barbecue kingpins and take over New York’s little gem of a park – Madison Square.

Meyer installed barbecue pits along Madison Avenue for four blocks and special food stands in the park.

Meyer and his team of award winning chefs and restaurant pros have raised the hospitality bar with such beloved eateries as Union Square Café, Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, Tabla, Blue Smoke / Jazz Standard, Shake Shack and most recently, The Modern, Café 2 and Terrace 5 at the newly renovated Museum of Modern Art . No wonder Meyer was named 2005 Restaurateur of the Year by the James Beard Foundation.

Blue Smoke’s executive chef Ken Callaghan, a ‘cue veteran, was delighted with the enormous turnout. “Next year we’ll have to bring this to Central Park,” he said.

North Carolina’s Ed Mitchell was thrilled to be back in the Big Apple. In between autographing copies of his book, the burly gray bearded pitmaster clearly relished the attention, telling all that “he was even offered a modeling contract.”

No ‘cue event would be worth its sauce without three-time world champion Mike Mills, whose Peace, Love and Barbeque has become an international best seller. Mills likened the event to coming home “to a big ole family reunion that I’d never miss.”

Besides the ribs, tender brisket, homemade salads and mouthwatering deserts from the best in the country – Bruce Bracwell, Texas, Mike “Sarge” Davis, Little Rock, Chris Little, Georgia, Otis Walker, St. Louis, Garry Roark, Mississippi, Michael Rodriguez, Texas, and New York’s own John Stage – there was also great music, terrific seminars and panels with the nations top food critics. Even legendary newsman Dan Rather presided over an all-star panel, Texas Rising.

Meyer’s team of pros who have put the H in hospitality, including Michael Romano, Paul Bolles-Beaven, David Swinghamer and Richard Coraine, has earned an unprecedented thirteen James Beard Awards. It is their combined talents that truly shine in this lively, down-home incident-free event that is a true gift to New York.

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