When three New York City chefsJohnny Iuzzini, Cornelius Gallagher and Shea Gallantedecided to visit their friend Bradford Thompson in Scottsdale, Arizona, the idea was to get as far away from the pressures of their high-profile kitchens as possible. That's how four of the hottest young chefs in the country found themselves sitting astride all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) one morning, impatiently waiting to race over the pitted mountain slopes of the Sonoran Desert at perilous speeds, risking limb if not life.
But first their guide from Stellar Adventures has to explain the safety rules and regulations in mind-numbing detail. Finally, he concludes with, "Don't do anything wild and you guys won't get into trouble. And avoid the slippery muddy spots." He clearly doesn't know his audience. With a holler and a roar and much gratuitous revving of engines, the four friends take off, zooming across the sloppy wet earth and out of view.
Ever since Thompson, 36, left New York to become chef de cuisine of Mary Elaine's at The Phoenician two-and-a-half years ago, the guys' only chance to spend quality time together is on short trips like this one. They sometimes convene at Iuzzini's cabin in the Catskill Mountains of New York. But this time, they decided to try off-roading, with its daredevil posturing and undercurrent of dangerideal for chefs who wreaked havoc while working together at Daniel in Manhattan seven years ago. That's where Thompson, Iuzzini and Gallagher earned the collective nickname "Pyramid of Darkness"; Gallante became friends with them a couple of years later.