It's just after eight on a Tuesday night when Chuck James slides into a booth after a long day on the line at 1515 Restaurant. He lets a heavy sigh escape before he springs into conversation. "This is the highlight of my career," he says. "I mean, seriously, I'm going to cook at the James Beard House. I'm not sure I've been this excited about anything, maybe ever."
Three hours later, James is carefully pulling out a vat of veal stock from inside his walk-in; it will soon become a hazelnut demi-glace for his sous-vide buffalo. He offers a taste and anxiously waits for feedback. "It rocks, don't you think?," he asks, bobbing his head up and down. He already knows it's a killer stock, and he's right.