For many of us, the holidays mark the best time of the year as we toast the season with family and friends. No matter what you celebrate, everyone can agree: Nothing brings people together like an amazing meal. So when West Palm Beach–based chef Lindsay
Autry and her foodie husband, David Sabin, owner of Brickhouse Public Relations & Special Events, threw a potluck holiday party for their chef friends, the result was a feast for the eyes and the taste buds.
For Autry, who celebrates Christmas, holiday food always meant Southern staples like corned ham, turkey, rib roast, sausage, boiled shrimp, and pecan pie. “I grew up with lots of holiday food, drink, and hospitality,” says Autry, co-founder and partner of West Palm Beach’s The Regional Kitchen & Public House, which opened in 2016 and was named “Best Restaurant in Palm Beach County” by the Palm Beach Post. “My mom was the local cake lady who baked six or seven desserts, and my grandfather was a butcher. As I got older, my grandmother, who did a lot of cooking, even let me prepare some of the Christmas food.”
Fresh food—on holidays and every day—is a way of life for Autry. Raised on a 60-acre farm, she worked in her family’s peach orchards and helped preserve, freeze, and can peaches, peas, okra, tomatoes, and squash. She also showed livestock at the 4-H fair.
At a young age, she started cooking and won her first competition at age 9 with a recipe for grilled turkey breast with a soy, garlic, vinegar, and olive oil marinade that she still uses today. At 10, she offered locals her own ice cream made using fresh peaches. “My mom was Martha Stewart with an herb garden,” Autry says. “So it didn’t take long until I fell in love with all kinds of cooking.”
Autry studied culinary arts for two years at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, South Carolina. After accepting an internship at The Breakers in Palm Beach in 2001, she transferred to the university’s Miami campus, graduating as class valedictorian. Soon Michelle Bernstein, an award-winning, Miami-based chef, hired Autry to work at Azul in the Mandarin Oriental, then to open the restaurant MB at the Live Aqua Beach Resort in Cancun, Mexico, as chef de cuisine. “Mexico was an incredible experience,” Autry says. “I grew up fast and loved it there.”
After five years abroad, she returned stateside to become chef at The Lazy Goat, a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant in Greenville, South Carolina. In 2009, Bernstein lured Autry back to South Florida to prepare “fancy food” at the Omphoy in Palm Beach (now the Tideline Ocean Resort & Spa). In 2011, she was a finalist on Bravo’s Top Chef, and she opened a series of culinary pop-ups. In 2012, she took over the historic Sundy House in Delray Beach, renovating the kitchen and changing the menus. For the past three years, Autry has been nominated for a James Beard Award in the category of Best Chef: South, the first woman chef in Palm Beach County to receive this recognition.
Autry met Sabin in 2009 in his role as organizer of the Palm Beach Food and Wine Festival. Born in Miami and raised around the U.S. before settling in Aventura, Sabin says a staycation in Palm Beach changed his life. “I loved Palm Beach and decided to stay. I got involved with public relations and eventually opened Brickhouse as I began to organize the first Palm Beach Food and Wine Festival. I met Lindsay, and we worked together on various projects for a few years. I called her ‘boss lady.’”
By 2013, they’d begun dating. The following year, during the Palm Beach Food and Wine Festival at The Breakers, Sabin proposed. They were married in 2016 at Cedar Room, an old cigar factory in Charleston, South Carolina.
“Our wedding and home parties are always celebrated with chef friends,“ Sabin says. “During the holidays we are all busy but like to find time for get-togethers with good food and conversation.”
For this year’s potluck Christmas party, the couple—along with their 13-month-old son, Jack—opened their Palm Beach Gardens home to a group of the area’s most celebrated chefs: Tim Lipman of Coolinary Café and The Parched Pig; Clay Conley of Buccan, Imoto, and Grato; and Michael Hackman of Aioli.
The theme, “how chefs spend the holidays,” featured a night of feasting on one another’s childhood family favorite holiday dishes and enjoying the warmth of seasonal decor.
“Even though I am Jewish and celebrated Hanukkah as a child, I love Christmas festivities, especially with baby Jack in our family,” says Sabin. “In 2013, I went to Lindsay’s family Christmas in North Carolina and got the bug.”
Autry and Sabin’s guests surely felt the Christmas spirit as they entered their home through the blue front door decorated with an earthy wreath. The couple’s Christmas tree was topped in holly, birch, and twigs, and decorated with ornaments made each year by Autry’s mother, Pandora. “I have a 38-year ornament collection all labeled in a book,” says Autry. “I love Christmas trees: vintage, nostalgic, and modern.”
Gathered around the kitchen with drinks in hand—Krug Grande Cuvee´, small-batch rare whiskies, Miller High Life magnums, Havana Lager, and Perrier—the chefs set about putting the finishing touches on their dishes, placing them on the center island to be served buffet style.
First, there were the appetizers. Autry created an hors d’oeuvre called “Betty’s Cheese Balls,” which her grandmother always made and served with warm cider. For Conley’s part, there were sweet potato samosas. Lipman prepared the charcuterie and garnishes, presented on a vintage magazine holder–turned–serving tray. “Growing up in Central Florida I disliked sweets,” says Lipman. “So I got into salty pickles. My family always had pickles and olives with deli meats and ham. I brought that for an appetizer in honor of my childhood.”
Conley was in charge of the first course: butternut squash soup with chanterelles, which was the only item not served as part of the buffet. “I do the soup at home vegan style, and we all love it,” says Conley. “I use honey crisp apples with natural acidity, cinnamon, nutmeg, and coconut milk.”
For the main course, Autry prepared a bone-in rib roast (compliments of Okeechobee Steakhouse’s Okeechobee Prime Meat Market in West Palm Beach) with Florida tomato chimichurri, a Low Country shrimp boil, and roasted brussels sprouts and heirloom carrots with crushed chiles and pecorino. “My dishes are a combination of what my family likes for Christmas Eve and Christmas day,” Autry says. Harking to his mother’s recipe, Lipman prepared a side of baked mac and cheese.
Hackman’s mouthwatering bacon and Gruyere sourdough brioche was served as table bread. “I love all of the food and family tradition here at Lindsay and David’s,” says Hackman. “It’s fun to eat and talk shop.”
On the screen-enclosed pool deck overlooking the duck-filled lake behind the house, Autry set up a long table for eight with Sequoia ladder-back chairs. Kerosene lamps and candles illuminated the scene. Overhead, she hung a mix of evergreen, spruce, magnolia, and eucalyptus boughs amid romantic mercury lights. Autry called on Kelly Murphy from Events on the Loose to design the tablescape, which presented guests with a multisensory experience of smells, textures, and tastes. “The theme is a Southern girl from a rustic, North Carolina farm meets modern living with a little gold and tradition,” says Murphy. “The table runner is a mix of eucalyptus and other greenery for easy decorating.”
Murphy’s centerpieces of birchwood vases and a mashup of greenery and candles contrasted with the whimsical, gold-banded Duchess bone china dinnerware and the Joman bowls by Cookplay used for Conley’s soup course. Beautiful Vivi flatware, featuring brushed gold on a chevron-inspired pattern, added a holiday vibe atop the beige, natural linen napkins with fringe. Monaco golden-covered plates by Pampa Bay blended with the gold-banded, stemless Riedel drinking vessels from Autry’s aunt.
Other touches included a bar cart made of reclaimed wood and the rough-hewn Nagoya stoneware collection. “This stoneware looks like wood, and since Lindsay is a natural wood and earthy kind of girl, it was perfect for the party,” says Murphy. “I love working with chefs to take what they create and use our pieces as a palette.”
After the delicious meal, the guests returned to the kitchen island for dessert. In the hectic restaurant business, lots of meals are served standing up in the kitchen. Dessert at this holiday potluck was no exception. “Even for special occasions like this we like to hang out and talk in the kitchen,” says Sabin.
After-dinner sweets included old-fashioned whiskey balls that Lipman made using his grandmother’s recipe (“I always wanted to steal them,” he confesses), housemade buttermilk ice cream from pastry chef Sarah Sipe (who was not able to attend, but sent a dessert in her stead), and pear and cranberry pie from Hackman that he says he loved as a child.
“My husband makes my bread and pastry dreams come true,” says Melanie Hackman, with a laugh. “He’s good for everything except my waistline.”
Guests enjoyed a variety of drinks with their yummy desserts and even helped do the dishes—truly a group effort. As the evening came to a close, the chefs waxed nostalgic.
“I love spending the holidays with these friends,” says Conley. “We are all in an insane business, and it’s fun to celebrate together.”