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Chefs Celebrate Cooking Light

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Cooking Light celebrated its 25th anniversary by bringing together celebrity chefs and master mixologists for a first-ever tasting event, Light Up the Night. The idea: create healthy delicious food and drink in the magazine's signature style.

The Sept. 21 event was a huge success, and TravelsinTaste was able to chat that night with many of the attending celebrity chefs about their dishes and dedication to the event.

Hugh Acheson, a judge on Bravo's Top Chef and the 2012 James Beard Award winner for Best Chef Southeast, is also a chef-partner of restaurants Five and Ten, The National, Gosford Wine and Empire State South. Famously fusing Southern and European flavors, his dish was a fall salad of roasted shiitakes, soybeans, petite mustard greens, celery leaves and boiled farm egg with roasted scallion ranch. "I really like being involved in food advocacy, and I think Cooking Light is a great vehicle for making America eat better. It's a well done publication run by great people," Acheson said. "I love the idea of making America cook, so I picked a salad that was really possible for all in our food community to accomplish."

What made it so special for him? "A properly cooked egg and a great dressing, the punch of mustard greens and the richness of mushrooms. Complete package of salad!"

Award-winning chef-restaurateur, cookbook author and television personality Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill in Chicago has helped revolutionize the image of Mexican food in America, and that was certainly evident in his coconut lime ceviche. "I wanted something fresh and delicious. Mexican food is all about flavor. So many people associate Mexican food with cheese and sour cream, and that is just not the case," Bayless said. His special touch was "That coconut flavor -- it is just wonderful." He participated because "I want to support sustainable, good food. I love surprising people with what Mexican food really is -- food with flavor, fresh and delicious."

The James Beard Award-winning chef-owner of Blue Ginger in Wellesley, Mass., and the executive producer of the Emmy-nominated TV series Simply Ming, Ming Tsai, "thought the event was a momentous occasion, celebrating a quarter-century of this terrific magazine. I was honored to be part of it."

"Given that this was a Cooking Light event, I wanted to feature something that was delicious, healthy and vegetarian. It also had to be something that was going to compete with -- for instance, be as equally satisfying -- as a meat or seafood," he said. That meant fan favorite quinoa risotto on miso-eggplant puree with chayote squash salad, a perfect example of East-West cuisine. "We started with the lovely eggplant and gave it tons of added flavor with the Shiro-miso. Then there was the twist to classic Italian risotto cooking technique when we applied the fantastic nutrition and deliciousness of whole-grain barley," he said.

Also participating was Dan Kluger, Food & Wine's 2012 Best New Chef and executive chef of Jean-Georges Vongerichten's James Beard Award-winning restaurant ABC Kitchen in New York City. "It's really an honor to be in the company of amazing chefs such as Rick Bayless and Suvir Saran. I was also pleased to be supporting FoodCorps, as it's something in line with some of the other causes I support," Kluger said, referring to Cooking Light's featured charity, FoodCorps, which connects kids to real food to help them grow up healthy.

He showcased his sophisticated balance of flavor, texture and presentation with his sauteed corn, manchego, jalapenos and lime. "It's a fun summer dish that's great and tasty for an event like this. Guests love it. I love it. Also it was important to me to do a dish that really represented our cooking style. The corn, herbs and cheese were all from the Union Square Farmers Market," he said. "It's also a dish that really shows the way we work with different flavor components, from the heat of jalapenos and chili flakes to the sweetness of the corn and the acidity from the lime balancing out with the richness of the cheese."

Held at twilight at the Chelsea Market Passage section of New York's High Line, Light Up the Night had sponsors that included Alabama Gulf Seafood, Frieda's Specialty Produce, Pillsbury Artisan Pizza Crust with Whole Grain, Sonoma County Vintners and Texas Pete Sauces. Brewery Ommegang provided a selection of craft beer, while Jeni's Splendid Ice creams featured a custom sorbet. A portion of the proceeds went to FoodCorps.

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