2013 ICC Welcome Address
Editor in Chief of StarChefs.com – New York, NY
If things seem a bit different today, it’s because they are. We’ve moved to a fabulous new venue. It’s nothing chefs aren’t familiar with—getting used to a new space and working out the kinks, and there are lots—but we hope you like what we’ve done with the place.
And isn’t that what this industry’s all about? Taking on the challenges—building a floating fortress to food on the Hudson—achieving a dream against all odds. There’s not one person here who hasn’t struggled—whether with culinary school and loans; an impossible stage; bad business partners; or risking everything to finally get your name on a restaurant.
Whatever it is, you’ve all fought for what you’ve earned. And that’s the theme of this year’s ICC. We’re celebrating the Guts and Glory that make this industry so strong, and so incredibly innovative.
Not that innovation is ever in short supply around here. Culinary professionals are paving the way forward– forging boldly ahead, establishing a new culinary order. Indeed, this year was marked by torrents of Guts and Glory, and I’m thrilled to share them with you in the 2013 StarChefs.com Culinary Trends Report.
The New Food Dream
Over the years, we’ve witnessed the rise of the refined food truck and watched that mentality reverberate through the industry, crystallized in last year’s ICC trend, “New Frontiers for Chefs”—with butcher shops, retail outlets, and chef-driven concepts of all kinds dotting the country. In the New Food Dream, chefs can ply their skills in any context—globally, regionally, rurally, casually, in retail or even roadside shacks! Fine dining is no longer the final frontier. Success exists now, in any incarnation you can dream up.
- We saw oyster bars, barbecue joints—even diners—all over the country with technique that meets the standards of top-tier, big-city fine-dining restaurants. Like Chef Ricky Moore’s Saltbox Seafood Joint—look for his EAT@ICC food cart tomorrow at Congress Cocktail. Ricky worked at Daniel and Tru before opening his Joint, serving expertly cooked seafood through the window of his toll booth-sized hut in the flourishing food community of Durham, North Carolina.
- The resurgence of the sandwich is another great example of The New Food Dream. From Dan Sauer’s 7a Foods in Martha’s Vineyard, to Peter McAndrews’ Paesano’s in Philly, we’ve put our hands around sandwiches that are designed with all the thought and flavor of composed haute cuisine. Even though sandwiches are casual, the best aren’t casually crafted or constructed. James Beard award-winner Chef Rob Evans gave up Maine destination restaurant, Hugo’s, to focus on Duckfat in Portland—a 25-seat sandwich shop where he makes everything—from his own fish sauce, soda, and charcuterie to a dozen varieties of soft-boiled-egg mayonnaise. And yes, I had a flight of mayo. It was heaven!
- This focus on technique and micro-regionalism has the lead to an artisan expansion. It’s evident in every pocket of the country, as well as in all major markets—salumerias, pie shops, chocolatiers, distillers, and breweries opening from coast to coast—many of them helmed by former chefs! And at this year’s ICC, we have artisans like Portland’s charcuterie hero Elias Cairo of Olympic Provisions, as well as winner of the Regional American American BBQ yesterday at SMOKE@ICC, Ryan Farr of 4505 Meats. There's Zach Golper, of NYC’s Bien Cuit, who’ll lead the workshop “Slow Fermentation and the Long Road to Loafhood”. As you’ll see, the artisan arm of the culinary arts is stronger than ever—reviving, exploring, discovering, and advancing tradition and technique. It’s the dawn of the age of the artisan and we know first-hand that they are a force to be reckoned with—turning specializations into careers, and fortifying the culture and communities where they put down roots.
- For these personal projects, chefs are increasingly relying on crowdfunding—acquiring resources from an engaged audience to create something special. Places like Rose’s Meat Market and Sweet Shop in North Carolina, which will transform into an EAT@ICC food cart later today; and Hapa Ramen and Rich Table in San Francisco opened with the help of crowdfunding. And in the afternoon there’s Main Stage Presenter and ICC favorite Dave Arnold, who used Kickstarter for his most ambitious endeavor yet: The Museum of Food and Drink!
If chefs are dreaming, they’re also playing. And all chefs love to play with fire, and of course, smoke. Two years ago at ICC, smoke was an important part of the Sixth Sense theme. Today we’re seeing smoke everywhere.
- We tasted EAT@ICC Chef Evan Hennessey’s hay-smoked rooster from Stages at One Washington in Dover, New Hampshire. We savored smoked grit cakes from Chef Kathleen Blake in Orlando—even vegan smoked cashew nettle ricotta at Gather in Berkeley.
- But we’re not just blowing smoke. We’re sharing. We’re serving up smoke at ICC two-fold. EAT@ICC will feature dishes infused with smoke, like The Brooklyn Star Chef Joaquin Baca’s fried oysters & waffles with smoked cream corn; Jeremy Nolen’s smoked sausage sandwich; and smoked yukon potato purée from Kyle Knall of Maysville.
- And then there’s our 1st Annual SMOKE@ICC Barbecue Competition! Going rogue with refinement, barbecue has finally risen out of regionalism and is spreading like wildfire through the industry. And we’re celebrating with chef-competitors like Jason Dady and Aaron Siegel, who apply years of experience in fine dining to the primal satisfaction and technical perfection of barbecue. All 40 competitors are dedicated to art of smoke, fire, heat, and meat, but yesterday, a team of our very own Rising Stars, Team Carillon from Austin, Texas, demonstrated the guts it took to take the glory at the inaugural barbecue competition. Congratulations chefs!
Global Culinary Community
As chefs make the New Dream of Food a reality, they’re also making that reality global, exploring one another’s native pantries and exchanging flavors, techniques, and ideas without labels.
- Part of the attraction drawing chefs outside their gastronomic homes is the money market— international markets where budgets are unrestrained, chefs are free to create, and to take risks at lower personal cost: global microcosms like Hong Kong, Macao, and Dubai.
- One money market where you can try (almost) anything—if you’ve got the guts—is Singapore, a small pristine city-state, seemingly constructed out of the most expensive Leggos in the world—where everything from the beach sand to the culinary pantry is imported. We tasted everything on the luxe island from the intimate cuisine of Andre Chiang, to Tetsuya Wakuda’s nightly 10-course triumph, which he executes in a 20-seat, 10,000-square foot restaurant. Singapore is a global melting pot, with more freedom than terroir, leaving Chefs like Janice Wong of Singapore’s 2am:dessertbar free to imagine groundbreaking works of pastry art. Wong will be presenting here on the Main Stage Monday, and you can see and eat her whimsical edible art installation on the trade show floor.
- An important part of the modern global chef’s journey is the homecoming—with pockets packed full of discoveries and stories. In 2008, we talked about the trend of micro-regionalism in Nordic countries. Today, the reliance of chefs on the specific character and product of their cities, towns, and even backyards, is intrinsically, soulfully automatic. Take Chef Blaine Wetzel of The Willows Inn, where an elegant menu is born of the rugged ecosystem of Lummi Island—think kelp, fish eggs, oysters, even the tiny island’s local deer.
- Coming home can also mean chefs abandoning major urban centers to cook and create in smaller Hometown Markets. Chef Anthony Sasso of Casa Mono says, “it [used to be] all about getting a plane ticket to Europe and immersing yourself in a completely unfamiliar culture. [Today] there are quality food destinations all over the U.S.” The Modern Chef wants to feed real people, at lower cost, on their own turf. Chef Vivian Howard moved from New York City back home to Kinston, North Carolina, to revitalize its farm community, reinvent the downtown, and reinvigorate local appetites with her deeply delicious take on traditional Carolina staples at her restaurant Chef and the Farmer. Vivian will share the tactics of her mission at tomorrow’s savory workshop, “Pimp My Grits.”
The New Face of Pastry
We’ve been talking about innovation, resourcefulness, guts. Qualities that are embodied in pastry chefs—chefs who are simultaneously exalted for their sugary works and subject to shaky job security. Pastry chefs know what it takes not only to survive, but to thrive in a world that’s not entirely sweet!
- In fact, pastry chefs aren’t just dodging the wild hardballs—they’re hitting them out of the park. There’s a new crop of boundary-breaking pastry chefs who are redefining their roles. We call them the New Faces of Pastry. They’re chefs like Rising Star Katy Peetz of Brooklyn pop-up Monkey Tongues and Stephanie Prida of Manresa, who are altering plates and changing palates one mustard genoise or “snail” quenelle at a time. There’s a momentum we’re trying to ramp up with our recently launched “Whipped” pastry column, bringing you just a taste of the creativity that’s out there.
- This new guard is also responsible for expanding pastry’s artisanship with a turn to small-scale chocolate-makers across the country. From Dandelion Chocolate in San Francisco to Escazú in Raleigh, North Carolina, the trend is away from mass-produced chocolate, towards hands-on workmanship from bean to bar. In the past, pastry chefs have had to do it all. Now, they want to do it all—in their own way.
- Maybe that’s the sweet silver lining to the recession. Pastry chefs have endured rough economic times, often taking some of the worst—and earliest—hits. But these difficulties have strengthened them, creating a new guard that’s all guts and glory, opening their own spaces and expanding the definition of what they do.
The Über Beverage Professional
Beverage professionals are also staking a claim and expanding their roles. They’re not merely holding their own, they’re driving restaurant trends.
- Look no further than the humble “bartender.” Beverage professionals are finding wide-ranging, influential, and life-long careers behind the bar and beyond. Not only are successful bartenders choosing their shifts, they’re brand ambassadors, unearthing seriously historic recipes, starting new projects, consulting, and otherwise exploring their industry. It’s all part of a thriving cocktail culture that mixo-luminaries Dale DeGroff and Audrey Saunders will share in their Main Stage presentation later today—complete with tequila shots!
- Indeed, the modern cocktail movement isn’t about the “next trend.” It’s about the next business model. Bartenders have developed spirit and drink-centric bars; they’re exploring historic eras; they’re spinning into the centrifuge-future. Mixologist Joe Raya is part of this movement, with his focus on the pre-prohibition at Gin Joint in Charleston, South Carolina. Mix Master Dean James, whose menu includes only slight variations on a Negroni, a Manhattan, and a Martini at his bar Peccadillo in Carrboro, North Carolina, is delving deeper into the craft with a concise vision, and as a result, expanding people’s minds and palates. Tomorrow we’ll see Derek Brown join his love of Sherry and Ibérico ham—the inspiration for his new drinks spot, Mockingbird Hill in D.C., and join the fun as “Tiki Monday’s with Miller” creator, Mixo Brian Miller shares his rum-based passions on Tuesday.
- And this beverage swagger isn’t all alcohol-induced. Beverage professionals have evolved across the board, from coffee roasters and cider houses to juicers. Yes, juicers! Luminaries like Danny Meyer are capitalizing on the juice trend in New York City, as are smaller operations like Dellz Vibez in Charleston. Chefs are bringing a culinary perspective to juicing that’s already proving lucrative with an increasingly health-conscious audience.
Whether you’re talking about something as seemingly simple—and unlikely—as juicing, or defining your role in an unpredictable economic climate, there is one underlying theme here. Guts. The guts to follow through on your vision, to attempt a new flavor, trade the old ways in or—emphatically—champion them. It’s about pushing ahead, believing in your work, your craft, your own two hands AND your peers—all of you gathered here today. At the end of a shift, a long day, at the end of a career, you look back on the victories. The glory. And that’s what we’re here to celebrate.
I’d also like to announce a big change at StarChefs. We’ve moved to our new HQ in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, overlooking the bridge, where we’ll launch StarChefs Studio Lab in 2014! The Lab will be a state-of-the-art kitchen and bar—an industry home for chefs, product and cookbook launches, demos, pop-ups, menu development, recipe testing, photography, and video shoots. Look out for details in the coming months!
And don’t forget to stay for lunch. This year marks our second annual EAT@ICC, with 27 food carts from all over the country to prepare food for ICC attendees!
But before we immerse ourselves in ICC, and before we rush off to eat an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime lunch, I’d like to take the time to thank our sponsors, who not only believe in our mission, and in this industry, but in how important these kind of collective creative moments are to its advancement. I’d also like to thank our advisory board of culinary professionals who continue to push the industry forward with their guts, and who continue to reap the much deserved glory.
Thank you, and have a glorious ICC!