Tuesday, September 9, 7:00
Members $100, guests $125
It was January 1984. And in the words of a
New York Times “Metropolitan Desk” headline on
the 27th of that month, “L.A. Came to N.Y. Yesterday at JAMS.”
It came in the form of a restaurant operated by Jonathan Waxman,
who had left his post as chef of the quintessential L.A. eatery,
Michael’s, in Santa Monica, and Melvyn Master, who had been
director of Jordan Winery. They opened JAMS on East 79th Street.
And from the day the first diner took her seat, the restaurant was
jammed with people wanting to sample the exciting new “California
Cuisine” everybody was talking about.
Marian Burros described the modern style of
cooking Waxman championed in her New York Times review, just
six weeks after the opening: “California cooking borrows from
other cultures, but is rooted in the classical kitchen while acknowledging
its debt to nouvelle cuisine. Food is served on oversize plates—on
top of the sauces rather than under them. Preparation is based on
brevity of cooking: meats and fish are quickly seared on a grill,
often over mesquite; vegetables are poached or steamed, but just
barely. The ingredients are chosen to heighten and balance, rather
than to mask individual flavors.” Waxman’s was a market-driven
cuisine, the menu for the night written in the morning, based on
whatever ingredients were at their peak. The service, Master’s
domain, was professional but casual, friendly and enthusiastic.
Today we take these things for granted. In 1984, they amounted to
New Yorkers couldn’t get enough of the
roast chicken, the crisp French fries, the fresh salad, the crunchy
vegetables, the taste of the mesquite grill, the view of the open
kitchen. A year later the dynamic Waxman and Master duo opened an
American bistro (Bud’s), and a year after that, a French bistro
(Hulot’s). Next came a JAMS in London.
Aaah, but that was the 1980s. And they came
to an abrupt end with the stock-market crash in October of 1987.
Fast forward to 2003. After opening several
restaurants back in California and in New York, Jonathan Waxman
is once again cooking in the Big Apple, at Washington Park, serving
the roast chicken, French fries, “and simple market-inspired
cooking” (per William Grimes) that made him famous.
Master settled in Denver, where he and his
wife, Janie, operate Mel’s Restaurant and Bar, and Les Jamelles,
a winery in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southwest France.
His international experience in the wine and food industries has
made each venture an unqualified success. For one night only, the
old team behind JAMS, including many of the chefs who worked in
the kitchen, is reuniting at the Beard House. Think of it less as
a trip to L.A. and more as a trip back in time. As it was back in
the day, the menu will be written that day, based on the finest,
freshest, ingredients Waxman and Master can find.