Main Stage: Feasting on Feeling and Filling Minds

Main Stage: Feasting on Feeling and Filling Minds

Girl & the Goat Belly: Strengthening Your Core Skills

Stephanie Izard is all about the goat, and packs several of the thin bellies together for a larger portion

Stephanie Izard is all about the goat, and packs several of the thin bellies together for a larger portion

Although Stephanie Izard can´t singularly be credited with increasing the popularity of goat meat, her uber-successful Chicago restaurant Girl & the Goat has certainly helped increase awareness for the meat (the restaurant goes through eight to 10 goats a week). In the first Main Stage presentation on Tuesday, Izard showed off a number of dishes using Boer goat from Spence Farm in Illinois. This 2011 StarChefs.com Chicago Rising Star chef uses the meat in at least three applications on her menu and offers a separate goat menu, so she has a lot of recipes in her repertoire. After buzzing a quick rub together with garlic, Dijon, and Thai chilies, Izard slow-roasted the goat’s neck. Several goat bellies (a much thinner cut than pork belly) are cooked confit in pork and duck fat, and then pressed together overnight to create a large portion size. Izard serves this belly seared and topped with shaved fennel and preserved lemon vinaigrette. As Izard wrapped up the last of the preparations, assistants passed out a spicy sweet stew topped with peanuts to the audience. The secret ingredient? One of Izards go-to ingredients (and something she fell in love with while traveling in Vietnam), fish sauce.

Dinner: 150 Minutes to Feel

The ultra-creative Andoni Luis Aduriz explains his inspiration

The ultra-creative Andoni Luis Aduriz explains his inspiration

Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz is a seasoned presenter; he travels to four or five congresses a year, and he's dedicated to being a role model for young chefs in search of a dream. Aduriz found his dream at Mugaritz, which he opened in 1998 near San Sebastián. The restaurant—so rooted in time and place—is essentially a laboratory for the Sixth Sense, which was on full display as the Main Stage audience met the purveyors of Mugaritz, who are scattered throughout hills of the Basque country and include goat herders, fishermen, and a geese breeder. Aduriz then demonstrated some of the exciting work that his team has developed at the restaurant, particularly experiments with heat-resistant molds and calcium carbonate. And Aduriz tossed a few Mannitol sugar-eggs out into the audience. The shells were part of a five-year Mugaritz quest to perfect a "broken egg" dessert, composed of the shell, cured egg yolks, egg yolk ice cream, and a mad scientist's zeal for innovation.

"We don't show this here to say, 'look what we´ve done,'" said Aduriz. "We do this so that anybody who wants to can pick up the thread. The possibilities are endless." At the restaurant, guests are served a 22-course tasting menu, so they can't select their meal. And they can't choose how their palates will perceive it. But they can choose how they will interact with the experience. It's up to the diner whether they want to take away something positive and constructive, or whether they will react negatively to something perceived as unpleasant. "At Mugaritz, we want people to feel."

Il Ritorno: A Revolution and Return to Italian Roots

Massimo Bottura discusses Italian traditions

Massimo Bottura discusses Italian traditions

To close the Congress Italian Chef Massimo Bottura presented Il Ritorno: A Revolution and Return to Italian roots, which he introduced by imploring chefs to dig deeper into what they know (and where they’re from) and extract the best from ingredients—with technology. Technology isn’t about shortcuts, he said, but a tool to help chefs achieve this more intense relationship with food. “I don’t cook to feed bellies but to fill hungry minds,” he said. To further his philosophy, Bottura presented two videos. The first relayed cerebral, mysterious, and hidden elements in food—one in light (bright foam “snow” covering the edible earth and reflecting light back to the sun) and the other in darkness (a black squid ink pool with black cod—“I left everything dark but the flavor.”). After the 2008 economic crisis, Bottura said that he (as other chefs) had to re-learn how to relate with consumers. In harder times, “people want truth.” His second video reflected more somber times by looking back at life in Emilia Romagna, when people didn’t have enough to eat, performed manual labor, and had to fill up on calories wherever they could get them. Bottura’s video celebrated the regional peasant cuisine of Emilia Romagna (and one tasty looking, steaming bowl of pig’s head soup), and it also inspired the government to clean up the Po River and lagoons that supply the area with eel and fish. To conclude his impassioned presentation, Bottura presented a few lucky audience members with Lambrusco-steamed cotechino sausage and lentil raviolis, a dish that encapsulated Emilia Romagna’s past, present, and future. And Bottura believes in the future (and dreaming) and chefs’ role in shaping the world we live in.

By Jessica Dukes, Caroline Hatchett, and Katherine Sacks