"Anything but a potluck dinner!" wails a flustered Alison Hurt (owner of Alison on Dominick), arriving at a Bridgehampton beach house with wild-rice salad in hand on a recent Saturday evening. "How on earth do you decide what to bring to this?" "Count yourself lucky," whispers Sheila Lukins (co-author of The Silver Palate Cookbook), nervously dressing her hacked-chicken-and-peanut-butter salad. "I got stuck bringing an entrée!"
The annual summer potluck hosted by Flavors caterer Pamela Morgan provides a chance for her food-world friends to turn their attention from langoustines and lemongrass to hot dogs and mayonnaise. Tonight her open-plan kitchen is crowded with more than 30 pan-wielding chefs, restaurateurs, and recreational food enthusiasts. "So you're the pasta cook for the evening!" squeals an overexcited yoga teacher, nosing over the shoulder of a bearded, bespectacled man in a black turtleneck. "Yes, indeed," murmurs Union Square chef Michael Romano, his eyes firmly fixed on his lobster linguine.
Out on the terrace, dusk has brought on a swarm of mosquitoes almost as persistent as the horde of admirers buzzing around CBS celebrity chef Bobby Flay. "Oh, Bobby, you have to taste my Moroccan tagine chicken," pleads Karine Bakhoum, a bubbly food publicist in a leopard-print blouse. "It would be my dream to work for you!"
"We're ready!" Morgan announces, ferrying Steve Hanson's chocolate cake (the same one served at Ruby Foo's) toward the lantern-lit buffet table as Romano emerges from the kitchen and makes for the barbecued ribs. "Oh, they're Caroline's? Really? I thought they were Bobby's," he mutters, glancing at comedy-club owner Caroline Hirsch and hurriedly helping himself to a lobster roll.
Watching guests elbow one another to get at Flay's lobster rolls, Romano's pasta, and Hanson's cake, Hirsch's guest, comedian John Priest, shakes his head. "I've never been around so many foodies in my life," he whispers, glancing at the creators of the clear favorites as they collect compliments at a pastel-clothed table. "They're just like a bunch of out-of-work actors pushing their soufflés as head shots."