At Edible Schoolyard NYC, There Are Never Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

Jake Gyllenhaal.

Jake Gyllenhaal.

As a booming, disembodied voice told guests at Edible Schoolyard NYC’s inaugural spring benefit to take their seats for dinner Monday night, the Transom learned that honoree Jake Gyllenhaal doesn’t have a favorite food—let alone a least favorite. “Seriously, it’s one of the areas of my life where I hold everything with love and no judgment,” said the actor. “Anything that is fresh from a garden is my favorite food.”

Mr. Gyllenhaal’s mother, screenwriter Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal, corroborated his story. Apparently he didn’t even object to broccoli as a kid: “He was very adventurous, and always, from the time he was really little, a spectacular cook,” she said proudly.

Even the pickiest eaters, however, couldn’t find much to complain about at the gala dinner, held in the Essex Market on the Lower East Side. Edible Schoolyard, which brings gardens and kitchen classrooms to New York schools, treated approximately 360 guests to multi-course meals designed and prepared by 20 of the city’s premier chefs.

The foodie dream team included David Chang, the chef and founder of Momofuku and the organization’s culinary chair, Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern, Joel Harrington of Red Rooster Harlem and Einat Admony of Balaboosta.

A further summons finally lured the crowd—which included Michael Bloomberg, Martha Stewart, actress Abigail Spencer and Jenna Lyons—into the dining space. The glamorous guests were a striking set against the rugged industrial room, formerly a meat market.

Table No. 9, where the Transom settled in next to Edible Schoolyard director Kate Brashares, was treated to a five-course feast crafted by Danny Bowien, the chef and co-founder of Mission Chinese Food. Mr. Bowien, a jovial young man with dyed green hair and tattooed arms, served slippery warm egg custard with Peking duck, green apple and citron tea to start. It only got better from there, as live spot prawns and sweetbreads, slow-cooked prime rib with hot mustard and marrow vinaigrette gave way to brûléed soy milk served with black vinegar and mitsuba.

An auction began around 9 p.m., led by James Niven of Sotheby’s. The bidding was at its fiercest when Lot 7, a private pig roast for 40, courtesy of award-winning chef and owner of The Spotted Pig April Bloomfield, flashed upon the screen. An elegant woman with bobbed blond hair whispered instructions in an attendant’s ear. Each time the lot seemed set to sell and was going once, going twice, the proxy would flash a white napkin and the battle was back on. The tenacious bidder, who proved to be fashion designer and board member Lela Rose, was prepared to pay $48,000 for the meal, but just as it seemed settled, Mr. Niven announced that if another guest was willing to part with $47,000, he could sell it to both Ms. Rose and the second bidder. (The idea was apparently Martha Stewart’s.)

Another bidder volunteered, and so two guests went home with tickets to another feast.