Hosted by “Top Chef Masters” finalist Kerry Heffernan, New York’s most renowned chefs stepped out of the kitchen and on to the court for the Celebrity Chef Tennis Challenge at the Midtown Tennis Club on Aug. 20, 2014. The chefs took part in a one-of-a-kind round-robin style double tournament. “These guys are gonna be exhausted by the time the thing starts for real,” one chef exclaimed as he looked on at another set of chefs on the court warming up for the challenge, just one of the many events AYS the team behind Taste of Tennis Week has curated.
Over the course of several days, the week combines the top people from both the culinary and tennis worlds for exciting events like this, all leading up to the start of the US Open. The Celebrity Chef Tennis Challenge began in the morning. This of course meant that while guests and great chefs alike mingled in the hour before the doubles round-robin tournament began, they were also able to enjoy an impressive selection of bagels and spreads courtesy of Ess-a-Bagel and delicious cold brew from La Colombe. Still others, either having eaten earlier or just not into the idea of eating before playing, decided to spend the first portion of the event gearing up for the competition that was to follow.
This was the first year of (hopefully) many where such an event was held in the week leading up to the US Open. Most chefs/players seemed to be in great, though competitive, spirit. It was evident right from the start who was there to have fun, and who had had tennis in their lives and was ready to show off their other talents. Each doubles team consisted of a guest paired up with a celebrity chef, and, much like in the kitchen, succeeding meant not only being on top of your own game, but also being a cooperative teammate. Host and Top Chef Masters finalist Kerry Heffernan laid out some basic guidelines. Each round was to be timed; “in 20 minutes you should be able to play at least 4 no-ad(vantage) games.”
Each game was to be worth one point. “Get to the court. Play as many games as you can.” Though the range of skills ranged from high to low, spirits remained high amongst all the participants. Even so, that some of these master chefs also possessed master tennis capabilities was quite impressive, especially at the early hour. After over an hour of competition, host and Top Chef Masters finalist Kerry Heffernan announced that Anshuman Vohra had emerged victorious out of almost 30 participants, winning 20 matches against chefs and guest alike. All in all, the Celebrity Chef Tennis Challenge was a great addition to an exciting table pre-US Open events, and it was obvious that everyone was enjoying themselves. And the bagels.
Participating chefs included: Marc Murphy (Landmarc), Daniel Holzman (The Meatball Shop), Michael Chernow (The Meatball Shop), David Seigal (Cull & Pistol), Francois Payard (FPB, FP Patisserie), Zac Young (David Burke Group), Chad Brown (Davio’s), Eric Gabrynowicz (Restaurant North), Jonathan Waxman (Barbuto), Phil Conlon (Corkbuzz Wine Studio), Alfred Portale (Gotham Bar and Grill), Philippe LaJaunie (Les Halles), Carmen Quagliata (Union Square Café) and Floyd Cardoz to name a few.
Ziye Hu contributed reporting.