ChefDance, the five-night invite-only dinner party series now underway in Park City that piggybacks on the Sundance festival, has been steadily cultivating its reputation as one of the hottest tickets in town since its start in 2004. The founders, L.A. couple Kenny Griswold and Mimi Kim, handpick a collection of buzz-worthy toques — in the past, Mozza’s Nancy Silverton has been brought in, and this year Top Chef winner Hung Huynh of Manhattan’s Catch will be in the kitchen — to cook for 250 people each evening. Sponsors like Sotheby’s and Voss Water cover the costs.
Every night one or more Sundance competition films are honored. For example, Sunday, Jan. 22, will celebrate Save the Date, the romantic comedy starring Alison Brie and Lizzy Caplan, while the following day Spike Lee’s Red Hook Summer will be toasted.
Griswold, a real estate developer who owns a number of Park City parcels, including ChefDance’s home base, the former Harry O’s (now Park City Live), first came up with the idea when the festival veteran finally became frustrated with the relentless tray-pass appetizer scene after one too many years on the Sundance circuit. “You’re running around, ordering a drink, networking, going from screening to screening, trying to get full on a meal of tray-pass,” he said. “People start conversations but never finish them. ChefDance was created to give people a chance to slow down and talk.”
Kim, who has worked in the syndication and acquisition department for FX, and before that in finance for Goldman Sachs, helped her husband develop the idea into a key Park City power nexus, where on-the-rise filmmakers, big-time stars and deep-pocketed financiers mix over four courses and bottomless glasses of wine. “It’s someone from Deutsche Bank with Sharon Stone,” she said. Adds Griswold: “We put together people who have never met each other. Paul Allen sits next to Paul Oakenfold. Those are the kinds of pairings that happen at ChefDance.”
The Sundance Institute has had a notoriously prickly relationship with the various entities that have attached themselves to the main festival over the years, from Slamdance to swag suites. But ChefDance has the unofficial seal of approval. “A couple of years ago we got a phone call from [Robert] Redford’s camp saying he wanted to host a dinner in honor of his daughter Amy’s film, The Guitar, which was screening that year  at Sundance,” says Griswold. “He could have gone anywhere, including his own restaurant [Zoom], and he was with us. It was the ultimate endorsement.”