You've heard of chefs' knives, chefs' coats, and Chef Wear(tm), but a chef's kilt? That is what you may find David Cunningham wearing during off hours. Cunningham, who is the pipe-master of the New York Scottish Pipes, Drums, and Dancers, not to mention chef of the elegant Lenox Room in Manhattan, is as much at ease in a kilt as he is in the kitchen. A second-generation Scot, Cunningham has periodically celebrated his heritage in events such as the Beard Foundation's Greens night at the Friar's Club (with Scotland's Bowmore Distillery) and a Robert Burns birthday dinner he hosted at the Lenox Room last year. This month, Cunningham teams up with the Beard House in another tribute to this most eloquent of poets.
Although Cunningham grew up in a family of Scottish descent in Connecticut, his life veered away from the moors and toward the Continent when his sister married a French chef. At age 19 Cunningham moved to France on a student visa and immersed himself in all aspects of the French food scene, from the boucheries to the pâtisseries. His culinary investigations led him to one of the oldest three-star restaurants in France, Auberge de l'Ill. When he returned to the United States he took a job at Le Bernardin under the late Gilbert LeCoze and current chef Eric Ripert. After three years, he moved on to Gray Kunz's Lespinasse, where he was eventually promoted to sous-chef.
At the Lenox Room, a collaboration between celebrated New York restaurateurs Tony Fortuna and Charlie Palmer, Cunningham is cooking contemporary American food that has given the elite dining spot a new lease on life. Where described the Lenox Room as "a sophisticated bastion of New American cuisine." As Steve Cuozzo wrote in the New York Post, "Folks who balk at venturing to Third Avenue in the 70s for 'destination' food don't know what they're missing."
In his tender love poem "A red red Rose," Robert Burns wrote, "As fair art thou, my bonie lass,/ So deep in luve am I;/ And I will love you still my dear,/ Till A' the seas gang dry." Not to belittle Robert Burns-far from it-but we Beardies kinda like the sort of art you can eat, culinary art, that is. This month, taste Cunningham's ode, his own little love poem, measured out in finnan haddie and haggamuggie instead of meter and verse.
Savory Glazed Chicken Wings
Dungeness Crab Cakes
Scottish Smoked Salmon Cushion with Pickled Herring Stuffing
Seared Venison with Whisky Sauce, Neeps, and Taties
Coup of Drambuie Ice Cream with Raspberry Butterscotch Sauce