The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 11 No. 10 - December 8, 2010


James Beard’s House

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Matt Deason, Mac deCarle, Sean Murphy and Peter Arpke
at the Beach Bistro's bar before traveling to New York to
prepare a dinner at the James Beard House.

ONe hundred sixty-seven W. 12th St., New York City is a non-descript brownstone in Greenwich Village across from the old St Vincent Hospital. It is also James Beard’s House - the temple of American culinary art.

James Beard and Julia Child were responsible for making chefs cool. He encouraged young men to go to Europe to develop chef skills, wrote books on food, and promoted restaurants and food events.

The House is operated by the James Beard Foundation, the foundation that awards the culinary Oscars – Best Chef of the Southeast, Best New Chef in the West, Best Food Writer, etc. – treasured awards that are the bright pennies of chef’s dreams.

Invitations to perform a Beard dinner are generally extended after a secret visit from a couple of members of the Beard Foundation Board. They check you out, you become the topic of conversation over coffee in New York, and then you are asked to come to the city for an interview.

The interview was not as easy as I had hoped. My inquisitor was Mildred, the tough little lady, who then ran the Beard House.

We had just won a Golden Spoon from Florida Trend Magazine.

I thought it would be cool to wear my Golden Spoon lapel pin to my James Beard interview.

Mildred looked over my resume, looked at me and said, “What the hell is a golden spoon except something to stick on your jacket?” I still have nightmares about Mildred.

We got our invitation and performed our first dinner there five years ago. We returned again this past week to perform another.

The logistics of a Beard dinner are daunting. Each dinner consists of four passed appetizers and then a full six- course presentation. Each item has as many as 10 ingredients. Thus there about 100 items that have to be sourced, delivered, prepped and transported into a kitchen that is not much bigger than yours. Coolers packed onto airplanes, suppliers shipping from all over the country, guys speeding around New York in taxi cabs in search of edible flowers, fresh micro-greens and grits.

The pressure of travel and preparation builds in intensity over three days. Finally the clock ticks down to the guests’ arrival.

All guests enter James Beard’s house the same way. Stone steps lead below street level and through a small hall and anteroom into a tiny kitchen stuffed with blazing hot equipment. Guests creep single file through the kitchen past a team of chefs who are working diligently. Photographers are popping pictures. Writers are asking questions. The crowd then stands elbow to elbow for an hour in a tiny patio for a champagne reception before climbing a set of stairs to the dining room – a room that regularly hosts 80 of the toughest food gangsters in the country – diners that demand you show all your best skills and serve the best food product in the world.

Once the guests are seated, the chef team is left to check food temps, fret over sauces and focus on the thousand things they have to do in the next two hours to launch the best dinner of their lives.

The logistics have been maddening. The expectations are massive. The pressure is almost suffocating.

It’s great.

A marathon runner's diary

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

PHOTO BY CLARENCE JONES Ellen Jaffe Jones runs on
the beach, the most ideal place to run when conditions
are right – flat sand and firmly compacted.

Editors note: Ellen Jaffe Jones is an Anna Maria resident and 5K runner, as well as an in-home personal trainer, who is training for her first marathon race. She also is chronicling her run-up to the Dec. 5 race for The Sun. She can be reached for questions and comments at 941-704-1025 or at or

Dec. 1 – if this is your first time reading the diary, I chose to run my first marathon at age 58 to show my three daughters that genes do not always determine destiny. My mom, aunt and both sisters had breast cancer. Most other adults had major heart disease and diabetes. Doctors urged me early on to have an active lifestyle and eat healthfully to avoid the many diseases that can be prevented. As the youngest in my family, I had a lifetime to witness the physical and emotional side-effects of diseases. It also gave me time to follow doctors’ orders and make different choices. Every time I cross a finish line in a race, I see a face or two of relatives not there. Finishing without injury has always been the goal.

To stay injury-free I sought the help of a great coach, frequent race winner and Boston Marathoner, Rae Ann Darling Reed. I have achieved a personal record (fastest time) in every race I have done in 2010 and many in 2009. Most of the races were 5Ks (3.1 miles), but some were 10Ks (6.2 miles). To prepare for the marathon, I did three half marathons during the past 18 months. I improved my time by 20 minutes from the first half marathon to the last one I did a year later.

Rae Ann is the accomplished coach of the girls' cross country and track team at Manatee High School. After I ran some eight minute miles last summer and held a plank position for six minutes, she asked if I would be her assistant coach this year. Working with the girls has truly been one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever done.

Many coaches across the U.S. do this for free, since schools can no longer afford to the pay them. Schools like Manatee can only afford to pay one coach per team, per season. Recently, I asked a fellow runner who used to work in the school system what she thought a high school running coach made. She answered, “$10,000?” The answer is just a few hundred dollars – not even enough to cover gas mileage every day to the school and all the extra events. Those who coach share the belief that some jobs are just more important than money. Every running coach I’ve met has been an inspiring role model and is very modest about his/her contributions.

I’m now in the taper phase. A week or two before races, runners are supposed to reduce their running time, resting and building up energy for race day. It is one of the more challenging phases of training. The tendency is keep the pace and not let down.

As training goes, this phase is more about brainpower than muscle power. Staying positive and tuning out any negativity that suggests for one second you can’t do this. I rationalize that 26 miles was something I probably already accomplished in my youth walking around shopping malls or hiking on trails with my friends.

Runner's log, Nov. 30

My run on the beach was the last long run at 6 miles. A major cold front slams into a warm front and splashes the sky with entertaining clouds. Birds love the tidal pools the rough waves leave behind. The pools carve out a flat surfaces ideal for running. Cool temperatures keep the pre-sunrise beaches desolate except for an occasional heron. The beach is the most ideal surface to run on when conditions are right – flat and sand firmly compacted.

My increased mileage (about 30 to 40 miles a week now) does not seem to produce more pain. The pain I feel is the classic zig-zag pattern: right lower back, left knee, right ankle. I have slathered on my menthol gels and arnica creams, which do a great job of warming up the muscles and masking the pain. The trick is to mask the pain enough to run, but not so much that you don’t feel serious pain that says, “oops…time to stop, don’t do that.” The general rule of thumb is if pain does not go away while you run after you are warmed up, you may want to reduce running or not run at all. Llistening to your body is definitely a learned art.

I end every run with stretching to avoid injury. The tree photo is the view from lying on the ground while stretching my back and hips. I saw some race-winning Kenyan runners finish a marathon and immediately collapse on the ground and do this same stretch. If it works for them… Nature’s fitness center doesn’t get any better.

Runner's log, Dec. 2

This is the last training run before the marathon three days from now. I meet Coach Reed and our training group at the Manatee High School track. Since we can’t afford the $80 required to turn on the lights, we run in the dark. Fortunately, ambient light from the lighted football field and buildings in the area are enough to keep the track visible and relatively safe. I had decided to run an easy 3 miles off the asphalt track and on the softer grass next to it. The grass and soft surfaces will protect joints better in the long term.

One of my biggest disappointments was that the wonderful rubber track that the high school had was cheaper to replace with asphalt. I would have led a fundraising campaign to pay for a new $80,000 rubber track, if I had known or could have done something about it. Many high schools now have rubber tracks because it helps protect against injury. From attending many school sporting events in recent years, it should come as no surprise that the sport that attracts the most money gets the most money from the school district.

The run is done. I am done. I am ready. 26.2 miles…bring it on. Thanks for listening! See you at the finish line.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper