2010 International Chefs Congress Wrap Up: Main Stage Day Two

2010 International Chefs Congress Wrap Up: Main Stage Day Two

Day Two began on the Main Stage with the second round of the Pastry Competition, with ten remaining chefs battling it out to advance to round three. After the excitement settled—and spatulas were safely put away—the day’s presentations began.

Chef Charlie Palmer Chef Charlie Palmer
Iconic American Chef Charlie Palmer was on hand with four of his protégés, who collectively demonstrated the serious power of Chef Palmer’s generous mentorship. Chef Palmer presented four duck breeds that he uses in his restaurants (Peking, Lola Heritage, Muscovy, and Moulard) and his protégés prepared dishes using their various parts: Chef Amar Santana prepared a galantine with layers of duck prosciutto, duck rillettes, and Hudson Valley foie gras paired with lemon puree, and port glazed dates; Chef Scott Romano plated a crisped pressed duck confit with pickled shallots and micro cress; Chef Christopher Lee highlighted moulard and Lola heritage duck breast in his dish with smoked foie gras (smoked with Koerner’s ultra small and transportable Super Aladin cold smoker), glazed chanterelles, sautéed spinach, and Guinness gastrique; and Chef Matt Hill’s roasted whole Muscovy duck served with pickled peaches and a bouquet of fresh herbs. When asked about the most important things they’ve learned from their mentor, the young chefs noted Chef Palmer’s incredible work ethic, energy, guidance, willingness to advise, educate, spend time in the kitchens, and help out in every aspect of his restaurants (including bussing tables) as key components in his mentoring abilities.

The afternoon’s second presentation showcased the powerful effect something as simple as contrast can have on a culinary trend. Like East Coast and West Coast and salty and sweet, New York Chef Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune and California Chef Elizabeth Falkner of Citizen Cake and Orson are complimentary contrasts. And today they joined together to try their hand at one another’s craft. Falkner took on a savory dish, preparing her play on buffalo wings with a blue cheese ice cream, sweet barbecue sauce, and a celery potato puree. Hamilton stepped up to the pastry bar and demonstrated her play on ants on a log: candied celery, house-made peanut brittle, and rum-soaked raisins. While preparing the chefs prepared their dishes, host Rick Moonen interviewed them on their personal styles and tastes. Falkner talked about her ice creams and experiments with stabilizers—in search of new textures. And Hamilton served up a delectable gin and celery drink, showcasing her recent work with savory cocktails. The final results were innovative, a deliciously backwards play for both chefs.

Chef Dan Barber Chef Dan Barber
Chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill in NYC and at Stone Barns took the Main Stage audience on a trip through his and his team’s agricultural experiments in the great pursuit of finding the best flavor in products—whether it be the tomato, pig, or celtuce, the featured ingredients of his demo. Chef Barber was passionate and articulate in his usual fashion about the potential of the correlation between seeking out the best flavors and having a sound ecosystem in the earth and body. Fancy ideas but with a fundamentally basic concept. Barber explained that the perceived divide between the molecular gastronomist and the traditional fundamentalist is a false one and should be rethought in the culinary world. “The idea that you either pray to the mantle of farm-to-table or drink the kool aid of maltodextrin or guar gum is a false choice,” he stated. He argued that the Stone Barns’ farmers’ experiments in genetics, soil and diet, environment, and technique in the field—all in the quest to find the best flavors—is no different than the molecular gastronomist’s exploits in hydrocolloids to capture flavors at their peak. Barber covered so much information so quickly that his chefs barely had time to plate their dishes; in the end, he implored chefs to rethink their roles to include agriculture and the development of flavor from soil to seed to end product presented to the customer. In short, it was a not-to-be-missed lecture that should be entered into the annals of great culinary thinking. Thank you, Chef Barber, as always.

Chef Mourad Lahlou of Aziza opened his Main Stage presentation Putting Soul on a Plate by simply clarifying his philosophy—that in San Francisco saying a restaurant serves Moroccan food is inauthentic as his ingredients are from San Francisco. Only his technique rooted in his homeland evokes Morocco. By deconstructing the savory and sweet flavors of his past and reinterpreting them to suit an American urban diner, Chef Mourad creates dishes that can only be defined as from the soul. He plated squab cooked sous vide with sweet hibiscus sauce, deconstructed charmoula served in an eggshell with potato foam and egg yolk, as well as a radish salad with crème fraîche and a Moroccan take on brioche, topped with chicken cracklings and rethought Moroccan tagine for the audience. When asked by StarChefs.com Managing Editor Will Blunt how he interprets his role in the kitchen, he responded “A chef, now more than ever, is more than a cook. Food can mean a lot of things.” He went on to clarify that chefs must express their own vision, as we saw today in this fascinating presentation.

Chef Jordan Kahn dish inspired by blue and purple Chef Jordan Kahn dish inspired by
blue and purple
The cowboy boot clad and ever-robust Chef Rick Moonen introduced the soft-spoken but witty Chef Jordan Kahn this afternoon at the Main Stage for La Revolution Surrealiste. While Pastry Chef Kahn worked quickly and silently to plate three desserts, a music-enhanced video streamed overhead with perfectly timed simultaneous preparations of the dish components in detail, interspersed with scenes from a Hitchcock movie whose dreamscape set Salvador Dalí designed. It was a first for the Congress Main Stage: a completely silent demonstration with lowered lights, music, a video stream, and chef working diligently to plate his dishes. And it was a show-stopping success. Three of Kahn's most famous dishes were on display, including the moustachioed (reminiscent of Dalí’s moustache, joked Kahn) dessert inspired by the color green, another dish’s homage to blue and purple (which caused a roar with its concord grape bubbles and photo can be seen in the StarChefs.com Photo Gallery), and a dish inspired by Mark Rothko’s Black on Black paintings, which inspired Jordan for their varied use of layers and texture.

Antoinette Bruno and Rick Moonen were both curious about what flavor combinations could be found in the Black on Black dish, and Jordan broke his temporary vow of silence to respond: black sesame, plum, ginger, and licorice. Though the technique required for preparation is extremely intricate, requiring a lot of patience, quick wrists and handiness with a Silpat, Jordan reduced inspiration in pastry to its most basic element: texture. “As a pastry chef, I’m not asking myself if something needs to be crispy, I’m asking how many crispy components do I need?” He said also that he usually begins the evolution of a dish with one color in mind, uses music as inspiration in addition to art, film, and literature, and finally, that he wants his diners to be happy with the flavor: “That’s pretty much what it’s all about, isn’t it?” he asked innocently. When asked about his next project, Red Medicine, Kahn explained that it was conceived as a casual industry hangout, a place for chefs to go after work and have Vietnamese-inspired food. With the boom in chefs these days, that leaves this StarChefs.com reporter wondering if the next trend might not be young restaurateurs opening casual industry hangouts?

Chef Martin Berasetegui Chef Martin Berasetegui
To wrap up Day Two of the Main Stage at the 2010 ICC, Chef Martín Berasategui joined us from San Sebastián, a city that, as he puts it, “has three sons with three Michelin stars a piece…it’s a place where you go out for a drink and you’re surrounded with fantastic chefs, Michelin stars everywhere you turn.” He showed slides of the neighborhood where he began cooking at the family restaurant at age 15, and then began to unravel his tasting menu for the audience. He went through several recipes, narrating (with the help of an interpreter) videos demonstrating the preparation of each. First up was the first amuse bouche to arrive at the table on the current tasting menu at his eponymous restaurant in San Sebastián: a house-smoked salmon fillet rolled in two sheets of seaweed, and then Sammic vacuum sealed for 24 hours to impart the flavor of the seaweed wrapper. He serves the seaweed-infused salmon with cheese bonbons, made with a sheep milk cream mixed with a combination of walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds. He then shared with the audience a trial of experiments he’d done along with some colleagues to investigate into the edibility of fish scales. Sounds crazy, right?

A few of the audience members had questions, including one past Top Chef winner. Chef Berasategui eventually shared the secret and his technique for edible fish scales. The rouget fish (salmonete in Spanish), which are normally scaled on the boat to preserve their bright red color, arrived to his restaurant one day unscaled, per the request of the chef to a boatload of Basque fishermen. He rubbed the skin of the fish against the grain to make the scales stand up; he demonstrated to the audience, pouring smoking olive oil over the rouget to create what he called edible fish scale “crystals.” Following that the chef prepared cockles in Basque white wine and then reduced the resulting liquid to a mere few spoonfuls, using it to add “personality” and a little seasoning to emulsified kokotxas (or cod jowls--prized because each fish produces only two), beloved in the Basque country for their rich melt-in-your-mouth gelatinous quality. He announced to the crowd that the dish was designed as a show of thanks to the Basque country, for bestowing him with the Golden Drum, among the highest of Basque honors. “A singer would sing, a journalist would write well, but as a cook, my language is food.” NEWSFLASH: Stagiers on the prowl, be sure to head over to the Sammic booth or check out their website: Martín Berasategui is offering TWO fully compensated stages for interested chefs!

by Emily Bell, Francoise Villeneuve, Amanda McDougall, Jessica Dukes, Kathleen Culliton, and Carolina Daza Carreno