It’s midnight and the party is just starting. Expert host extraordinaire and loved local personality Mickey Bakst has delicately shuffled out the general diners at Charleston Grill who thought they were the last thing on his agenda tonight. Little do they know he has other plans. Like a pro, he clears the way to give entrée to the top Charleston and visiting chefs for his signature private chefs’ party.

Most chefs are out of uniform and sporting civilian clothes tonight. It’s their night, after all, winding down after their full day of demos and dine-arounds. But they never really turn it off. We think they might, but then we overhear a passionate conversation about cumquats from New York and know we’re wrong.

We spot Richard from Bravo’s last season of “Top Chef” (hard to miss him with the mile-high spiked hair) and bee-line straight for him. We nearly shed a tear, telling him that he absolutely should have won, and the gracious TV star just smiles and says, “things work out.” He tells us about a new project he’s working on in LA and jokes about wanting lots of photos with girls this weekend. He’s nice as he can be and excitedly smiles for CHARLIE’s photographer. Click.

The room starts getting overly crowded for just a second and Mickey somehow miraculously corrects it immediately before anyone notices. If only we could see behind the curtain to discover this magician’s tricks.

Chef Bob Waggoner, sporting the traditional Food + Wine Festival white coat tonight instead of that racy black pinstriped one, was thoroughly entertaining all evening. First he’s schooling sweet-as-pie Chef Frank Lee on iPhone applications; then he’s sneaking behind CHARLIE’s reporter, playfully trying to grab the notepad she’s busily scribbling on out of her hand; then he’s snapping photos with our photographer’s camera; and then he’s giving out mouth-to-mouth kisses. A top chef with top personality indeed.

We look across the room and see a bearded Jimihatt hugging a mustached Mike Lata. That’s a hairy bunch of chefs.

The visiting chefs (in from some of the best restaurants in the world like La Bernardin) have wide eyes, excitedly taking in our city that many of them are experiencing for the first time. We get on the welcome wagon.

We tell Chef Ken Vedrinski how much we adore Lucca, and then his friend shows us how much she adores Grappa. We take a whiff and nearly pass out from the drink that can be something like 86% alcohol. But then we get a lesson on how to drink Grappa. She pours a bit of her drink on our open palms and we’re told to rub them together and then sniff. This apparently prepares your body mentally enough for your first sip. Just as we’re wondering who drinks something that you have to pour on your body first, Mickey’s voice bellows like a foghorn, “CLEAR OUT!” Time to go home already? Sadly, yes, but just a few more hours until the next one.