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Celeb chef Jonathan Waxman at Hamptons benefit

Jonathan Waxman

Jonathan Waxman Photo Credit: Lee Fryd

"This is the 10th anniversary of Jeff’s death,” celebrity chef Jonathan Waxman remembered as he watched his staff dole out dollops of his eggplant Parm with corn salsa to eager eaters Sunday at the 2011 Chefs Dinner at the Hayground School in Bridgehampton. ”He was my best friend. I still feel that he’s around sometimes: Every time I have a little question, I think he’s there to answer it.”

Jeff Salaway died in a car accident one summer night, after leaving Nick & Toni’s, the East Hampton restaurant that he and wife, Toni Ross, created. The Great Chefs Dinner, featuring more than 15 local and New York chefs, is a fundraiser for the Hayground School, which Salaway co-founded, its Jeff Salaway Scholarship Fund and Jeff’s Kitchen. Ross was one of the evening’s hosts.

“Jeff and Toni used to work for me at a restaurant I had called Jams back in the '80s in Manhattan,” said Waxman, who came to the Hamptons for the benefit. “We were very close in lots of ways, but especially with food.”

What does Waxman, the celebrity chef in the '80s, think of today’s media deification of our culinary stars with so many television reality shows? “Funny, I was on the cover of Newsday in 1987 in my bathrobe drinking Champagne, so I’ve lived with it a long time. Now instead of being seen by hundreds of thousands of people, you’re seen by millions. And they’re turning on a new generation to cooking. That’s the future. That I love.”

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