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

Chef Josh Dechellis uses a plancha in his workshopJosh DeChellis of New York's La Fonda Del Sol demonstrated the versatility of his favorite piece of kitchen equipment: the Jade plancha. Ideal for numerous applications well beyond searing, DeChellis emphasized how the plancha works to release aromas and showed participants how to use the plancha to steam, grill, blacken, smoke, and char. He prepared three very different dishes to illustrate how he uses the plancha, including a simple seared shrimp, confit pig tails with lentils, and charred and smoked skirt steak. He offered practical tips on cleaning the plancha throughout the day and at the end of service, and inspired the chefs in the room to utilize their plancha to its maximum potential.

Chef Daniel Humm of New York's Eleven Madison Park presented in an interactive seminar on sous vide, a technique that has become almost second nature to him when cooking. Humm uses this method for four reasons: consistency, presentation, texture, and flavor. He demonstrated the possibilities using videos and showcasing a few of his dishes, including a chicken breast with black truffles and endives cooked sous vide with orange and ginger. At the restaurant, he said, they cook a pork belly sous vide for 72 hours. Humm also demonstrated a hollandaise for the group, which was light and fluffy. "Sous vide is a very pure form of cooking," Humm concluded.

In her hands-on pastry workshop, Dana Cree shared her experience working at fine dining restaurants, from a stage at Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck to running the pastry kitchen at Viel, finally transitioning to a casual dining restaurant, Jerry Traunfeld's Poppy in Seattle. Cree used her chocolate pudding recipe as an example and compared her high-end versus casual/high-volume styles. She explained how she has adapted her recipe of chocolate pudding, brioche puree, caramelized Marcona almonds, croutons, and caramel sauce to fit a high volume setting where 300 desserts need to go out the door and with minimal staff—without sacrificing quality, flavor, or style.

Chef Yoshihiro Murata's Kaiseki King WorkshopAfter Chef Yoshihiro Murata's inspiring Main Stage presentation, workshop participants were excited to get intimate with the kaiseki master. The internationally renowned chef gave a scientific explanation for the amino acids responsible for creating umami flavor, and demonstrated three different dashi preparations with varying levels of umami, which participants were able to taste. He made a beautifully clear chicken dashi using just chicken breast (no bones); one chef remarked that it "puts consomme to shame." He argues that the three components that make a dish great are umami, sweetness, and oil, regardless if it's applied to dashi, ramen, hamburgers, or spaghetti. If you incorporate these elements, Murata says, "the dish will sell a lot at the restaurant."

Chef Marcus Samuelsson constructed his version of a seafood plate in the interactive seminar room. His cooking, he said, is influenced by his time in Sweden and Africa, Hawaii and Australia. His demonstration was inspired by his new cookbook, New American Table. Samuelsson emphasized his use of texture, temperature, and aesthetics in his dishes. He started out with a demonstration of a smoked New Zealand salmon with a harissa spice rub and followed up with New Zealand abalone and avocado. He spoke of the next trend in American food: all chefs, he said, are traveling, reading, interacting and therefore creating their own story in their food. "This will have a major impact on the diversity of our food," he said. "You can't really say where you'll find the next great meal or chef. Today, it's wide open."

Expert salumist Zach Allen's second "Charcuterie Equation" demonstration explained the details of salumi-curing, inspired by authentic Italian tradition. Following up his first demonstration, Chef Allen gave tips on seasoning, fermenting, and drying the perfect salumi. Chef Allen brought high quality Canadian Nagano pork for his interactive demo, and presented salumis that ranged from five days to three months old.

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