Behind the Scenes at the Tony Awards After-Party with Chef Todd English

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Art Credit: Guillaume Gaudet

Any party hostess worth the salt around the rims of her margarita glasses will tell you that the final hours before the big bash are the most crucial. So, when celebrity chef Todd English welcomed us in for a chat less than an hour before his Tony Awards after-party—with a guest list of more than 2000 people—we were a little nervous for him. Would we be pilfering from the last few precious moments he had to prepare?

Not a chance, nothing could ruffle this restaurateur! When we sat down with English, we found him relaxed—even playful—as he discussed transforming his food hall in the underbelly of the Plaza Hotel into a classy food den for Broadway’s elite.  In an era of increasingly braggy DIY chefs, English was surprisingly open to quicker methods—as long as they don’t compromise quality.

For entertaining at home, he suggested finding a purveyor you trust for quick Chinese dumplings, little tart shells, and buying frozen items for easy prep. English assured us that, “there’s some really good stuff out there!" Though no frozen hors d'oeuvres were to be found at the party, there was the same pragmatic attitude toward creating a tasty, laid back evening.

Rather than meticulously plating little snacks throughout the evening, English and his team served simple, but elegant treats like melty chicken parmesan sliders and sweet corn tortellis that could be made ahead of time and then finished just before serving. “You don’t want to spend too much time away from your guests,” English said.

Unlike the primped party set going on upstairs under the Belle Époque stained glass ceiling; the soft, shadowy lighting in the eating area highlighted well-worn hanging pots and pans and startlingly large black bass presented on mounds of ice. Simple tables adorned with trays of sliced salami showcased the chef’s secret to planning a foolproof menu. “Bites and bulk,” he said. “You want things that are not so tedious that you go nuts.”

English’s unfussy approach to elegance made for a welcome environment to the throngs of made-up celebrities dressed to the nines, happy to have a place to socialize and unwind. A few were even spotted barefoot, clutches in hand, gleefully snacking on fish tacos.

Sweet classic cocktails captured the glamour of the event. Rather than veering on the craftier side, English chose refreshing bar staples with lots of effervescence to brighten up some of the evening’s heavier flavors. These included a tasty scotch and soda called The Lucky Guy and The Golden Boy, a zippy margarita that was served unconventionally in a lowball glass. The Glass Slipper—a Kir Royale charmingly renamed for the award show nominee Cinderella—was a favorite in our group.

The Glass Slipper
Yields 1 serving

Ingredients:
4 oz. Chandon Brut Classic
¾ oz. Chambord

Directions:
In a champagne flute, combine chilled Chandon Brut Classic with Chambord.

We really shouldn’t have worried. English knew exactly how to pull off a beautiful, seemingly effortless party. Keep an eye out for the October/November print issue of Verily as we share some of his tips on throwing your own sophisticated, stress-less gathering.

Photos by Guillaume Gaudet