Fernando Martinez, co-owner of Guaca Mole and Mussel & Burger Bar, melted cheese for his burgers at Bourbon and Bowties. All photos by Steve Coomes.

Get 19 Louisville chefs and at least that many cooks under one roof, and you’ve not only got a lot of terrific food on hand, you hear a lot of fun news about what’s going on in the Louisville restaurant scene.

That group gathered last night at Corbett’s: An American Place, where they cooked for 650 attendees of the fourth-annual Bourbon & Bowties fundraiser for Kosair Children’s Hospital.

Most local restaurateurs are good friends who love to talk with and about each other, and we were on hand was on hand to hear a lot of cool news about changes at their restaurants, new jobs for some, even a possible end in sight to the Louisville Originals embezzlement lawsuit.

* Fernando and Christina Martinez, co-owners with Yaniel Martinez of Guaca Mole and Mussel & Burger Bar, said they plan to open a 42 seat, high-end restaurant in the basement of M&BB.

Fernando said patrons should expect clever and cutting-edge foods much like he produced while working in restaurants in Miami between the time he left Mojito Tapas Bar and Havana Rumba several years ago and returned to Louisville in 2011.

* Shawn Ward, executive chef at Jack Fry’s since 1994—not sure any other non-owner chef can match such an incredible one-restaurant streak here—said the restaurant is rolling out new lunch and dinner menus this month. He said to expect some big changes and added with a grin, “even though some good customers are still complaining about things I took off the menu years ago.”

Ward also said that most of the artwork stolen (no, WHAS11, it didn’t “go missing”) recently from the restaurant has been recovered.

* More than one person mentioned the possible settlement of the embezzlement lawsuit filed by Louisville Originals against its former treasurer, Pabs Sembillo. Word last night was Sembillio, co-owner of Asiatique, was preparing to pay back more than $40,000 taken over the course of three years in that role.

(Just to double check that rumor, I called LO’s attorney, Artie McLaughlin, who would only say negotiations between LO and Sembillo are moving in a positive direction. “The response to the matter has been swift and encouraging, and I don’t see at this point that we won’t be able to put this to bed in the very near future.”)

Corbett’s sous chef Mike Dunbar turned server to hustle food to a special $300 per plate VIP area.

Good news indeed.

* Josh Moore, executive chef and partner at Volare, is just a couple weeks away from his first James Beard House dinner in New York City. So serious is commitment to a real farm to table meal, Moore will bring nearly all the produce for this high-profile meal from his own garden, a nearly 2-acre plot he tends by himself on his farm outside Taylorsville.

Beard dinners are famously difficult events for non-New York chefs who have to ship food there, a fact Moore correctly acknowledged: “I know, I must be nuts, right?”

Perhaps only crazier/guttier was when Peng Looi (chef-co-owner of Asiatique and August Moon, who was also there last night and still funny as hell) did his first Beard dinner without shipping a thing. He shopped the day of his dinner in Chinatown for all his ingredients.

Now that is truly nuts!

* 610 Magnolia and Milkwood chef-co-owner Edward Lee took a break from promoting his new cookbook, “Smoke and Pickles,” to serve some food at the event. As you might think a book tour would be, Lee said the work is both exciting and tedious, “But I’m having fun.”
* Josh Hillyard, executive chef and partner of the recently closed Quattro, cooked at the event and said he was now executive chef at Big Springs Country Club.

Disappointed Quattro’s run was so brief, Hillyard was upbeat saying he’s working to “put that nightmare behind me and move on.”

Patrick Roney, chef de cuisine at The Oakroom, finished one of several hundred smoked salmon appetizers.

The public dining community has not seen the last of this talented cook.

* The recent Great Gatsby movie and dinner events at The Oakroom were so successful that the restaurant is doing a third on July 26.

“It was a homerun for us,” said Oakroom chef de cuisine Patrick Roney. “The lobster Thermidor turned out incredible … but we couldn’t light the baked Alaskas in the dining room. People are not only watching the movie in the dark and you can’t light fires like that in an historic building. Lesson learned.”

Side notes:

* A barrel of Four Roses Bourbon sold for $12,000 during the live auction portion of the event.

Now, if you think that’s generous (it would usually sell for closer to $8,000), try this: Four Roses originally donated one barrel to B&B, but due to a small snafu last night, was asked—on the spot—if they could donate another.

They did, the Kosair foundation got the dough, and the generous buyers will get somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 bottles of incredible old bourbon for their shelves.

* Hometown boy gone Hollywood actor William Mapother also was at the event. He and I worked together back in 1982 busing tables at Casa Grisanti and he’s as friendly today as he was back then—and making considerably more money.

He said to keep watch for several indie projects he’s got coming out and urged everyone to attend the Flyover Film Festival currently underway at the Clifton Center.

Kathy Cary (chef-owner, Lilly’s) and Dean Corbett (chef-owner, Corbett’s, Jack’s Lounge and Equus) cracked wise about their “senior” status among the collection of chefs.

* We left the “after party” at 11:20 and there were at least 40 people—most of them chefs—still there sharing, what else, Four Roses single barrel being generously poured by B&B board member Jerry Zegart.

Dean Corbett, who organized the chefs for the event, left a bit after 10 p.m. saying, “I’m old and I’m blown out. I gotta go home.”

His similar-age peers, Kathy Cary (Lilly’s), Anoosh Shariat (consultant) and Peng Looi, all left earlier. Like Corbett, Cary said similarly about the party, “I’m too old to hang around for that!” and scrammed about 9.

So you still won the stamina challenge, Deano.

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Steve Coomes
Steve Coomes is a restaurant veteran turned award-winning food, spirits and travel writer. In his 24-year career, he has edited and written for multiple national trade and consumer publications including Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living. He is a feature writer for Louisville magazine, Edible Louisville & The Bluegrass and Food & Dining Magazine. The author of two books, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke," and the "Home Distiller's Guide to Spirits," he also serves as a ghostwriter for multiple clients.

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