2009 International Chefs Congress Wrap-Up: Savory + Pastry Workshops and Demonstrations Day One

The FCI's Dave Arnold and Nils Noren, in their usual fashion, went all-out for their morning high-tech workshop. They started out the multi-part hands-on workshop with a shot of beef-and-tomato-distilled vodka with a Jade Plancha-seared tuna belly tendon that woke up the attendees' taste buds. The duo demonstrated several of their kitchen exploits, including distilling ice wine into brandy and syrup, using a centrifuge to extract nut oil and paste, and using agar and gelatin to clarify orange juice. Kombu-wrapped duck breast with distilled Port reduction and a pistachio sorbet with freeze-dried corn reconstituted in clarified orange juice capped off the event.

Dr. Bruno Goussault on the basics of safe sous vide cooking at 2009 Chef CongressIn her Pastry Workshop, Pastry Chef Kate Zuckerman of Chanterelle introduced the audience to one of the most distinctly North American products, maple syrup, and the imaginative way she uses it in her kitchen. She explained the difference in syrup grading and its oft neglected but very legitimate display of terroir. Tasting varieties of grades A and B maple syrup from Vermont and New York State, participants experienced the syrup's terroir first hand.She demonstrated its culinary uses in recipes for crème caramel, ginger maple ice cream, and a smooth maple buttercream frosting.

In his workshop, the Father of Sous Vide Dr. Bruno Goussault covered the basics of safe sous vide cooking. The low-temp cooking expert emphasized the importance of food safety throughout his workshop, explaining that the current trend of cooking at below 56° Farenheit doesn't kill off dangerous bacteria. Even experienced sous vide practitioners learned a thing or two: We overheard attendee-chefs comment to each other that they will be changing their sous vide techniques after the workshop, which just goes to show that in a group of chefs, there will always be something to learn!

Boris Portnoy on pastry inspired by modern art at 2009 Chef CongressIn the "TechniqColor: Color Transfer Inspired by Modern Art" pastry workshop with Boris Portnoy, the San Francisco pastry chef emphasized from the get-go that his presentation on art-inspired pastry was going to be an interactive, group effort. Real inspiration only happens, Portnoy said, "when we look at the outside world and we see other artists using their technique." After a brief discussion of art and how it inspires him, Portnoy worked with the group on Robert Rauschenberg-inspired edible color transfers made with cacao-based dyes and demonstrated Richard Serra-inspired molded strips of chocolate dusted with edible bronze.

Zach Allen's "The Charcuterie Equation" interactive demo was a wealth of Italian curing knowledge and precise techniques for seasoning, fermenting, and drying for the perfect salumi. Chef Allen brought high quality Canadian Nagano pork for his interactive demo, and presented salumi that ranged from five days to three months old.

iSi was the name of the game in Richard Blais' "Breakfast in B Minor: Progressive Techniques in Breakfast Cookery" demonstration. He spoke about how his innovative applications for the iSi whipper and newest Koerner equipment have revolutionized his cooking techniques, particularly for his progressive, yet authentic American Breakfast dishes. Blaise put modern, avant garde spins on traditional dishes, like pancakes with foamy maple syrup, emulsified and smoked sausage, tempura hash browns, carbonated orange segments, frozen coffee beans, and liquid nitrogen brown butter. Is there a better way to start off the morning?

by Amanda McDougall, Katherine Martinelli, Emily Bell, Carolina Daza Carreño, and Francis Joven