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[10/14/10 - 10:18 AM]
CMT Brings Celebrated Chefs to the Table for a Culinary Inspired Evening As Part of "CMT Artists of the Year" Special
The December 3 event will honor Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and Zac Brown Band.

[via press release from CMT]

CMT BRINGS CELEBRATED CHEFS TO THE TABLE FOR A CULINARY INSPIRED EVENING AS PART OF "CMT ARTISTS OF THE YEAR" SPECIAL

James Beard Award-Winning Chefs RJ Cooper, John Currence, and Michael Schwartz to Provide the Menu and Cuisine for Artists of the Year Honorees and Guests

Wine Provided By Heitz Cellars of California and Ken Wright Cellars of Oregon

NASHVILLE - October 14, 2010 - In celebration of the year's top country artists, CMT has invited three of the nation's most highly respected chefs to create a three course tasting menu to complement an elegant evening honoring Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, and Zac Brown Band, in the new special, CMT ARTISTS OF THE YEAR, premiering Friday, December 3 on CMT and CMT.com.

CMT brings to the kitchen three James Beard Award-winning chefs: RJ Cooper (Washington, D.C., 2007); John Currence (Oxford, Miss., 2009); and Michael Schwartz (Miami, Fla., 2010) and their unique contribution to this premier Nashville event. In addition to the dinner, honorees and guests at CMT ARTISTS OF THE YEAR will be treated to some of the finest wines in this country by Heitz Cellars in Napa Valley, California and Ken Wright Cellars in Portland, Oregon.

"We are going to great lengths to wine and dine our five honored artists on a grand scale," said John Hamlin, SVP Music Events and Talent, CMT. "The talent of these three amazing chefs perfectly complements our ARTISTS OF THE YEAR event. And when you have great food, you need great wine. Heitz Cellars and Ken Wright Cellars are both world class and further elevate the entire occasion, making this event like none other in country music."

Deemed "the Oscars of the food world" by Time magazine, The James Beard Foundation Awards are the country's most coveted honor for chefs. Cooper, Currence and Schwartz will design the menu for the event and Goodlettesville, TN caterer Chef's Market will provide preparation assistance for the chefs.

In the first ever 90-minute special celebrating the year's best talent, CMT ARTISTS OF THE YEAR will bring the honorees together with their peers, as well as celebrities from across the entertainment spectrum for a glamorous evening of star-studded performances from the country world and beyond, all in celebration of the successes of the past year.

RJ Cooper, recipient of the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic in 2007, began preparing at an early age for his career as a professional chef. As a teen, Cooper cooked alongside his mother and grandmother in Detroit, Mich. and later enrolled at The Culinary School at Kendall College. Upon graduation, he continued to hone his craft in Atlanta, Ga. and New York City, where he worked in the esteemed kitchens of The Ritz Carlton, Brasserie LeCoz, and Michelin 3-Star award-winner Le Bernardin. In 2004, Cooper joined Vidalia in Washington, D.C. and let his contemporary philosophy shine as he used French techniques to transform the menu into a selection of elegant, innovative dishes rooted in southern comfort. With Cooper at the helm of the kitchen, Vidalia received a three-star rating by Tom Sietsema of the Washington Post and was included in the top 10 restaurants in Washingtonian Magazine's 100 Very Best Restaurant issue. Since leaving Vidalia, Cooper is moving forward with several Washington, D.C. based independent projects- the first, Rogue 24, is scheduled for an early winter 2011 opening. Cooper is also actively involved with the non-profit organizations Share Our Strength and Chefs as Parents, where he fights against child hunger and works to transform DC-public school nutrition programs.

John Currence was born and raised in New Orleans, LA and is currently the owner of the Oxford, Mississippi restaurant City Grocery, which opened in 1992. In 2009, he was awarded the James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef South and was a winner of Charleston Food and Wine Festival's Iron Chef Challenge. In 2006, he received the Southern Foodways Alliance Guardian of Tradition Award and won the 2008 Great American Seafood Cookoff in New Orleans. Currence was recipient of both Restaurateur of the Year and Chef of the Year awards from the Mississippi Restaurant Association in 1998. In the time since opening City Grocery, the City Grocery Restaurant Group has seen a number of openings, including Nacho Mama's, Kalo's, Ajax Diner, City Grocery Catering Company, Bour�, Big Bad Breakfast and Snackbar. Currence gained much of his experience in New Orleans where he worked as a sous chef at Gautreau's before moving on to the Brennan family of restaurants to help open Bacco before settling in Oxford. Currence is a contributing editor for Garden and Gun magazine and is active in the community, having served as chairman and president of the Mississippi Restaurant Association and president of the Yoknapatapha Arts Council.

Michael Schwartz, the 2010 James Beard Foundation Award winner for Best Chef South, is the chef/owner of Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, located in the Miami Design District. A native of Philadelphia, Schwartz moved to Miami in the mid-1990s when he opened his restaurant Nemo. In 2007, Schwartz opened Michael's Genuine Food & Drink after his wife sparked his interest in organics and sustainable products. Throughout the restaurant's three-year run, Schwartz has received numerous accolades, including landing on The New York Times 2008 compilation of the "10 Best New Restaurants in the United States". He's also been featured in Cond� Nast Traveler's 2008 "Hot List", Gourmet magazine, Bon App�tit, Esquire, Food & Wine and on hit shows "Rachael Ray's Rachael's Vacation," "Throwdown with Bobby Flay" and "Top Chef." Schwartz has achieved national renown by crafting simple, sublime cuisine created with the highest quality ingredients. He is recognized by his peers and the diners that flock to his restaurant for his culinary chops, as well as his support of local farmers and commitment to sustainability. Schwartz is a member of Slow Food Miami, is on Food & Wine's Grow for Good Campaign Committee, and is part of the advisory board for Miami-Dade College's new culinary arts program. In June 2010, Schwartz opened his second restaurant, bringing his brand to the Caribbean with Michael's Genuine Food & Drink Grand Cayman. In February 2011, Schwartz's will release his first cookbook, Michael's Genuine Food: Down to Earth Cooking for People Who Love to Eat.

A Napa Valley gem, Heitz Wine Cellars is a second-generation winery that has been producing luxurious world-class wines since the early 1960s. French oak barrels filled with aging wine are stored in a gray stone cellar, originally built in 1898, to allow the flavors to evolve patiently. Several United States Presidents have enjoyed and served Heitz wines. Among its extended varietal offerings, such as Chardonnay, Zinfandel, and Grignolino, are two internationally acclaimed single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons that exemplify the richness of the winery -- Martha's Vineyard and Trailside Vineyard. Martha's Vineyard Cabernet earned particular acclaim, as it was selected by Wine Spectator as one of the Top 12 wines of the 20th Century.

Based in the rural region of Portland, Oregon, Ken Wright Cellars is an award-winning winery that prides itself in its robust wines, particularly the Pinot Noir, which epitomizes the clarity and depth of the vineyard. Believing in a "less is more" approach, Ken Wright focuses on promoting vineyard health and nourishing the soil to maximize the fruit's inherent flavor while minimizing additional man-handling. During the aging process, these optimal flavors and textures mature into the exceptional wines stamped with the pedigree of Ken Wright Cellars. In its 26 years, the winery has received distinguished accolades including a 5-star "Outstanding" rating from Wine Spectator, "Oregon's Best Producers of Pinot Noir," and the 2002 Pinot Passion Award.

CMT ARTISTS OF THE YEAR is produced by Audrey Morrissey and Chad Hines. John Hamlin and Margaret Comeaux serve as executive producers for CMT.

CMT, a unit of Viacom's MTV Networks (NYSE: VIA and VIA.B), is the leading television and digital authority on country music and entertainment, reaching more than 91 million homes in the U.S. CMT and its website, CMT.com, offer an unparalleled mix of music, news, live concerts and series and is the top resource for country music on demand. The network's digital platforms include the 24-hour music channel, CMT Pure Country, CMT Mobile and CMT VOD.





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