Main Stage: From Wendy’s to Picasso and Meatloaf to Nordic Naturalism: The Sundry Manifestations of the Sixth Sense

Main Stage: From Wendy’s to Picasso and Meatloaf to Nordic Naturalism: The Sundry Manifestations of the Sixth Sense

The Sixth Sense: A Conversation with Grant Achatz and Kim Severson

Kim Severson and Grant Achatz

Kim Severson and Grant Achatz

“If you can’t taste anything you look at ingredients as pieces in a puzzle.” Kim Severson, the Atlanta Bureau Chief of the New York Times, coaxed some incredibly revealing nuggets out of Alinea and The Aviary legend Grant Achatz. For Achatz, what he calls “ingredient memory” stood in place of a chef’s sense of taste after his illness. In other words, what does that smell make him think of? He recalled how in the mid-80s it was still common to rake and burn oak leaves. Coming up with a fall dish, he remembered what fall was like and looked at the smell of burning oak leaves as an ingredient. The smell became an important part of eating the dish. When discussing this year’s International Chefs Congress theme, the Sixth Sense, Achatz explained that for him it meant taking comfort food to a new level, and that a lot of chefs worldwide are tapping into the Sixth Sense as a jumping off point. It remains to be seen how the Sixth Sense will trickle down to the mass market, but Severson mentioned that Wendy’s was playing with the idea of grinding coffee in house to entice customers. Both Severson and Achatz expected the Sixth Sense to trickle down to the mass market—in about five years time.

Visual Storytelling: Conveying Soul on a Plate

Chef Laurent Gras demonstrates how to use window tape to test the internal temperature of a sous vide bag's contents

Chef Laurent Gras demonstrates how to use window tape to test the internal temperature of a sous vide bag's contents

Laurent Gras, fresh from his sous vide workshop, talked inspiration. After going to a Picasso exhibition featuring a painting of Picasso’s mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter, he was inspired to create a dish. “Her expression and eye captured me,” he remembered. It was a painting depicted using analytic cubism, in other words, objects are broken up, analyzed, and re-assembled in an abstract form. Gras translated that emotion into a kampachi-foie gras dish in the shape of a fish eye—Kampachi-Foie Gras Disc, Smoked Kampachi, Dried Olives, Squid Ink, and Anchovy Emulsion. Since the two things you use to determine the freshness of a fish are the scales and the eyes, he coated the plate with edible silver to create the skin of the fish. Black olives formed the pupils of the eyes, and anchovies formed the iris.

Burke and the Butcher

Chef David Burke and Master Butcher Doug Piper share the Main Stage with an Australian lamb

Chef David Burke and Master Butcher Doug Piper share the Main Stage with an Australian lamb

Emcee Elizabeth Falkner said it best, “This looks like a lamb construction zone.” Master Butcher Doug Piper broke down an Australian lamb carcass into premium off-cuts, and Chef David Burke of David Burke Townhouse demonstrated how kitchen creativity turns a raw product into incredible cuisine. Burke shared tips for (and brought along) lamb jerky, meatloaf, bacon, pie, hay-roasted lamb, lamb ham, dry-aged lamb, and several braised lamb cuts. Burke also introduced a lamb tallow candle that, when lit, slowly melted into a warm vinaigrette (watch out Yankee Candle Company). Burke also showed the versatility of a bandsaw for slicing interesting cuts of meat. “Buy a bandsaw if you can afford it.” After the demo, the crowd rushed the Main Stage for a chance to taste Piper and Burke’s creations.

From Fine Dining to Fast Casual (and the Formula to Get You There)

Chef Bill Kim discusses his fast casual business model for Urbanbelly and Belly Shack in Chicago

Chef Bill Kim discusses his fast casual business model for Urbanbelly and Belly Shack in Chicago

Bill Kim hasn’t yet achieved the work-life balance he hoped to find when he left fine dining for his fast casual concept UrbanBelly. But he has learned how to run the business side of a restaurant. And in three years, he learned to turn a profit and is primed for expanding with a product line. Now Kim reaches the other 98 percent of diners, who were excluded from experiencing his high-end cuisine. And what they get is delicious food for less than $9 to $14 a plate, in about three minutes flat. Kim believes in doing just a few things well (in the case of UrbanBelly, it’s rice, noodles and dumplings; for Belly Shack, it’s soups, salads and sandwiches), investing in employees and the magic power of fish sauce — a winning combination.

Nordic Naturalism and The Emotions of Time and Place

Chef Björn Franztén and Daniel Lindeberg speak about the inspiration behind their Nordic cuisine

Chef Björn Franztén and Daniel Lindeberg speak about the inspiration behind their Nordic cuisine

Slaughtering fish using the Iki Jima method. Snow white Swedish mountain cattle. Tent-dwelling farmers. Langoustines living in the walk-in for nine days, and served raw. Each of these things is a snapshot of one of the 24 seasons of the year at Frantzén/Lindeberg in Stockholm, as seen through the eyes of Chef-partners Björn Frantzén and Daniel Lindeberg. These two young chefs brought their humble message of respect for ingredients and "for the genuine, passionate people behind them" to the Main Stage on day one of ICC2011, and left an audience inspired. Their message, plus their tips on cooking horse meat with a hunk of coal produced from Swedish fir, and also on keeping fresh fish for up to twenty days at a time, makes Sweden seem like an ideal culinary destination for the young and hungry chef. The pair may only serve up to 20 guests nightly (and just Tuesday through Saturday), but as Lindeberg put it, "We are not being millionaires in this business."

Building a Charcuterie Empire

Building a Charcuterie Empire demonstration with Chefs Gilles Verot and Daniel Boulud

Building a Charcuterie Empire demonstration with Chefs Gilles Vérot and Daniel Boulud

Daniel Boulud went to Paris to find a charcutier—one who knew tradition but also would be willing to leave it behind for creative freedom. He found that charcutier in Gilles Vérot, who Boulud says, “was born with it.” After a three-hour meeting, Boulud tapped third-generation charcutier Vérot to collaborate on the charcuterie program at his New York restaurants. On the Main Stage, chef and charcutier—bonded by heritage—prepared Seven Meat Pie with venison, foie gras, wild boar, wild and domestic ducks, sweet breads, chicken livers, and pheasant. Verot gave tips on seasoning (season the meat at least 24 hours in advance), cooking temperatures (cook terrines at a high temperature to brown the dough and then cook low and slow), and blending the farce (by hand is best). And Vérot also believes that the model Boulud has created with their collaboration will influence the industry as a whole. The pair says the charcutier is the new pastry chef in restaurant operations.

by Caroline Hatchett with Jessica Dukes and Francoise Villeneuve