Perhaps my favorite way to start the day is to go to the annual C-CAP awards breakfast.
The Careers through Culinary Arts Program is an amazingly cool organization that supports generally underprivileged students interested in cooking for a living, or being involved in related fields. Today they gave out hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships, but they don't just throw money at the kids. C-CAP's founder and president, Richard Grausman, insists that the beneficiaries stay in touch so that he and his associates can nurture and foster them and help them out should they get in over their heads or otherwise come on hard times.
The result is a group of articulate, intelligent, capable and productive members of society.
I'm usually misty throughout the whole breakfast, because while I drink my coffee and eat my berries and potatoes and bacon in a ballroom at the Pierre hotel, I actually get to watch kids' dreams come true.
I think I went to my first C-CAP awards breakfast about four years ago, and sat at a table with other press people as well as a student and her mother. We chatted with the student and asked her what her goals were (we would have talked to her mother, too, but she didn't speak much English). She said she'd really love to go to The Culinary Institute of America, a very expensive school in idyllic Hyde Park, N.Y. But of course, unless you come from big money or have parents that have both the wherewithal and the desire to take on pretty heavy debt for you, going to The CIA is not a reasonable aspiration.
It's nice to dream, though.
We members of the press already had folders with press releases announcing the scholarship winners, so we knew that our breakfast companion had won one to attend the CIA. I thought it was hard not to give away the secret, but boy, was it fun to watch her when her name was announced.
There are a few tears every year as the C-CAP members announce winners whose struggles have been particularly difficult, or as they hand out scholarships named after C-CAP alumni and others whose lives were cut short. The whole experience is really elevating.
But today I'm sleepy, because the breakfast starts at 8:45 (I was late), and last night I was at the European Wine Council's 10th annual black tie gala, which this year was held at the new, not yet open, Le Cirque.
We were upstairs in the private dining room, which has as one of its design features a wine tower. One of the Maccioni boys — Marco, I think — told our table the story of the tower:
Years ago as they were discussing the design of Circo — a more casual restaurant than the Maccioni flagship — with designer Adam Tihany, they conceived of the idea of a wall of wine, on which the most expensive wines would be at the top. Sirio Maccioni joked that the wines should be fetched by waitresses in short skirts, providing a bonus for those who ordered particularly expensive bottles.
The price for such an endeavor was not in synch with the budget for Circo, however.
Then Tihany was contracted to design Aureole in Las Vegas, which has the standout design feature of a wine tower, with wine stacked by price and fetched by lovely "wine angels."