Awards Watch: Chefs Night Out at At Vermilion

For all the intricate planning and amazing coordination that goes into the lavish and beautiful JBF Awards ceremonies, dinners, and receptions, the casual, crowded, invitation-only Chefs Night Out may very well be the most fun event of the weekend. Everyone is there—chefs, purveyors, nominees, journalists, celebrities, friends, family, colleagues, food-world legends, you name it. There's a flirtatious, chatty vibe, and the atmosphere is punctuated with surprise and delight as friends run into friends they haven't seen since last year's festivities. Tonight's venue, the modern Indian sensation At Vermilion, was a perfect setting, especially given the overall theme of the 2009 festivities: Women in Food. Once through the blockade of clipboard-clasping door people, senses were seduced by the heady scent of Indian spices from chef/owner Rohini Dey's contemporary cooking and the pounding beat of Bollywood-inflected music spun by DJ Rekha. Airy and bright, the flower-strewn space was near capacity—a total of 979 RSVPs had been received, and droves of people showed up who weren't on the list. Salman Rushdie, one of the investors in the restaurant, vied with Thomas Keller for the attention of star gazers. Daniel Boulud, recently back from his new restaurant in Vancouver, was flanked by young, beautiful things who wanted to fetch him a drink. 2009 Who's Who inductee Betty Fussell arrived after midnight with a suitcase in tow, just off a  plane from New Orleans that had been delayed due to weather. At 1 a.m. the party was still going strong. For some it will last through tomorrow. The red carpet kicks off at 5 p.m. outside Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. And the celebrations will go through the night. We'll be blogging the Awards live here with multimedia coverage and @BeardFoundation on Twitter.

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