Savory & Pastry: European Masters and American Modernists—Avant-garde Meets Soul at ICC

Savory & Pastry: European Masters and American Modernists—Avant-garde Meets Soul at ICC

Contemplating the Contemporary at Corton

Chef Paul Liebrandt cuts a clam in his "Expressions and Gestures" Workshop

Pushing the bounds of seafood and pasta preparations, Chef Paul Liebrandt presented high-concept scallop ravioli that he serves in a tasting sequence based on Atlantic interpretations at Corton in New York City. The “pasta” was made of thinly spread scallop purée that he cooked sous vide and cut into ravioli sheets. He wrapped the sheets around lime meringue foam, and served them atop black olive gel, lemon verbena gelée and a fresh diver sea scallop, gently cooked in a Rational oven. The complex techniques yielded a contemporary dish that fit into Liebrandt’s philosophy of modern cuisine: food should be clean, “very simple, with a slight of hand, but lots of personality.”

Rethinking Pasta in the Modern Kitchen

Chef Tony Maws making pasta with an Arcobaleno pasta extruder

Chef Tony Maws making pasta with an Arcobaleno pasta extruder

“Who doesn’t love a noodle?!” Chef Tony Maws of Boston’s Craigie on Main certainly does. Maws demonstrated (and passionately expressed) his belief that a “really good noodle is all about the noodle” by preparing fresh pasta (in fresh flavors) with the help of unusual ingredients and an Arcobaleno pasta extruder. At Cragie on Main, Maws plays around with flours like faro, corn, buckwheat, and even split pea (made from freeze-dried peas). And he relies on his pasta extruder to crank out different pasta shapes—with a small kitchen footprint and little to no mess. (Attendees, thankfully, weren’t covered with split pea flour.) Maws demystified pasta making with the extruder—you just mix flours and water in the body of the machine, and then extrude it through one of many die cutters. “Using different noodles is the same as thinking of a different wine glass or a different plate for your food,” he says. And he showed that the possibilities are endless.

Avant-Garde Italia

Chef Massimo Bottura talks inspiration in his Avant-Garde Italia workshop

Chef Massimo Bottura talks inspiration in his Avant-Garde Italia workshop

Massimo Bottura operates on a fundamental premise: evolution, not revolution. In his interactive workshop, the chef of the world-renowned Osteria Francescana advised the packed room to “learn everything, forget everything, and create something incredible.” Rather than rushing into the kitchen with the urgency of knee-jerk innovation, young chefs should draw from within themselves, respecting tradition while also pulling the best of it into the future. With techniques and tools he’s been using since the late 90s (though they’re often ascribed to modern “molecular” gastronomy), Bottura demonstrated how his dishes—all of them on the forefront of avant-garde cuisine—were actually deeply rooted to history, tradition, and locality (despite its current trendiness, local cuisine is, and has always been, the Italian way). Dishes based on the simple, rustic cuisine of Bottura’s childhood were transformed. In his Ham and Eggs—two staples of the Emilia-Romagna diet—the dish’s complexity was hidden in simplicity: embryonic eggs—the kind a young Bottura fought with his brother for—were poached and injected with a salty, nutty broth of Prosciutto di Parma. A Monochrome of Parmigiano Reggiano celebrated the cheese in five forms, from ivory foam to gold-hued paper. Bottura paid respect to French tradition with a foie gras ice cream pop, to be eaten “with the joy of a child.” And Osso Bucco became compressed veal marrow broth and overcooked, drained, and fried risotto. Bottura (who claimed his muscles are Parmigiano, his veins course with balsamic, and his brain is soaked in Lambrusco) finished with recreated Pasta and Beans—a “compression” of his entire life and a bridge between the roots and aspirations of Italian cuisine.

Man of la Plancha

Chef Richard Blais works with a Jade Range in his Man of la Plancha Workshop

Chef Richard Blais works with a Jade Range in his Man of la Plancha Workshop

“I was in this very fluid mode,” said Richard Blais of the time he discovered his Sixth Sense—his gut instinct in the kitchen. A chef friend came to his restaurant, and desperate to prepare something off the menu, Blais began cooking on the fly. The dish he came up with was an interpretation of “Chicken of the Sea,” with hamachi, fried chicken, aïoli, pickled vegetables, mustard seeds, and Spanish olive oil. That dish (an unusual surf and turf combination) was on full display in his ICC workshop, where Blais demonstrated a method for “frying” chicken on the Jade plancha. Blais also layered the dish with different Spanish olive oils, and expert Alfonso Fernandez explained the different olive oils on offer to season the hamachi and cook the chicken—from the high heat-friendly hoji blanca to the green, aromatic finishing oil Picual, or as he termed it, “the goat effect” (the grassy aromatics bring to mind a goat grazing in lush fields for Fernandez).

Liberté, Egalité, Charcuterie!

Charcutier Gilles Verot seasons meat in his Charcuterie Workshop

Charcutier Gilles Vérot seasons meat in his Charcuterie Workshop

In his charcuterie master lesson, Gilles Vérot, the charcutier who collaborates with Daniel Boulud on Bar Boulud and DBGB, demonstrated a beef terrine with carrots and leeks. He braised beef short ribs in aromatic beef stock, but recommended any cut that separates nicely as it cooked. Attendees joined in and layered beef in terrine molds with gelatin-enriched beef jus and the carrots and leeks. Each participant then sent his or her terrine off to be chilled and enjoyed at home later (not a shabby reward for only an hour’s work). On his award-winning head cheese, the humble charcutier champion quipped, “I wasn’t so good at sports, so I decided to do a competition of charcuterie.” His talents are clearly directed to the appropriate profession and passion.

Feast and Feeling at Mugaritz

"Walnut" made with a silicone mold at Andoni Luis Anduriz's Feast and Feeling Interactive Demo

"Walnut" made with a silicone mold at Andoni Luis Anduriz's Feast and Feeling Interactive Demo

Andoni Luis Aduriz’s workshop was essentially a recreation (or translation) of the context that defines Mugaritz (a highly anticipated stamp on the passport for many a chef traveling to Spain). With only a few products and techniques, Aduriz sought to share a few examples of the innovations coming out of the Mugaritz kitchen in the past year through a demonstration of his experiments with stocks, calcium lime, and wax molds. He showed how Iberian pork stock, when blended with a boiled down kudzu solution (kudzu root, whose transparency when boiled and elasticity when brought to high temperature, impressed Aduriz’s team) and a little sugar, could be dehydrated to form a “crunchy sauce,” which goes from pork-cracklin’ crispy to a nourishing, brothy sip with one bite. Aduriz also discussed a method for making molds with mannitol; the molds—which produce realistic copies of walnuts, eggs and nails—are so strong they can be heated to 140˚C, meaning that food can be cooked inside the sugar shell. Chefs from across the country, including Johnny Iuzzini, Iacopo Falai, and Alex Talbot, and Canada’s Patrice Demers had plenty to take away.

Tasting Nostalgia: The Sixth Sense Ingredient

Chef Philip Speer of Uchi

When you take one of the most innovative chefs (Philip Speer) out of Texas, whose restaurant, Uchi, plays around with notions of nostalgia—and invite him to contribute his ideas on the Sixth Sense—you get a workshop packed with chefs from around the country, including New York’s own hometown hero Johnny Iuzzini and New York Rising Star Pastry Chef Shawn Gawle of Corton. Everyone had a bite of the dessert inspired by Chef Speer’s grandpa: Tobacco Cream, Scotch Gel, Maple Budino, Candied Pecans, and Huckleberry Coulis, which provoked ICC 2011 presenter Alex Talbot from Ideas in Food to pipe up with a recipe request. ICC attendee Chef Scott Miller of Max’s Oyster Bar in Hartford, Connecticut called the workshop “phenomenal.” “The techniques were great. You can’t get this close to other chefs by watching TV.”

Macaron Indulgence

Pastry Chef Pierre Herme's pea-pistachio macarons

Pastry Chef Pierre Herme's pea-pistachio macarons

Normally you’d have to travel to Paris or Tokyo to taste pastry legend Pierre Hermé’s macarons (the pastry that helped solidify his haute patissier, macaron meister cred). But on the second day of the 6th Annual International Chefs Congress, participants picked up some key tips as Hermé discussed his macaron technique by preparing a mint-pea confection in the hands-on demo. The takeaways—age your egg whites for five days in the fridge before using them for macarons, and once you’ve baked and filled your macarons, place them in a plastic-wrapped Tupperware before letting them sit in the fridge for 24 hours. Only then will they be ready to savor! Macarons might seem a bit like needy movie stars—the thousand tiny details he mentioned could make or break the petit fours, which require constant attention. But the day-old macarons sampled in this session made it easy to see why he continues to set the bar in the industry.

by Emily Bell, Jessica Dukes, Caroline Hatchett, Blayre Miller, and Francoise Villeneuve