search
Loading
login |  home | feedback | help          
StarChefs
header

Under the Texan Sun: Big Ideas, Names, and Calories at IACP Austin

by Caroline Hatchett with Antoinette Bruno
Antoinette Bruno and Caroline Hatchett
June 2011

Photo Galleries

IACP Sessions

Three Hot Chefs Culinary Trust Dinner at Hotel Saint Cecilia

IACP Gala and Award Ceremony

IACP Sessions

The Craft of Food Writing
with Toni Allegra, Dorie Greenspan, and Joe Yonan

Food Photography Workflow for Pros and Seasoned Veterans Alike
with Scott Martin

Transformative Ideas for Culinary Professionals
with Jim Hightower and Kim Severson

Meat: It’s Changing Place on a Plate
with Marissa Guggiana, Ralph Loglisci, and Kim O’Donnel

Experts Are In: New Media
Creating Community and Conversation with Amanda Hesser

Finding and Crafting a Great Story
with Daniel Klein, Penny De Los Santos, and Kim Severson

How Food Trends Impact TV Cooking Shows
with Katherine alford, Gabe Gordon, Mark Levine, Bruce Seidel, and Michael Smith

The New American Plate
with Ellie Krieger and Sally Squires

Chili, Kolache, Cornbread, and Collards: Food Crossroads of Central Texas
with Dawn Orsak, MM Pack, and Toni Tipton-Martin

Gluten-free Cooking for Everyone
With Shauna Ahern

Let There Be Light: Harnessing the Right Light for Digital Photography
with Diane Cu and Todd Porter

Whether it fit best as a conference theme or reference to the Texas heat, “Light Your Fire: Sparks from the Culinary Edge” defined our week in Austin at the 33rd Annual Conference of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. In between attending seminars from the industry’s top writers, photographers, chefs, and TV personalities, we ate our way across Austin—from an 11-course meal at Ned and Jodi Elliott’s Foreign & Domestic and late-night food truck bites to lunch at upstart Franklin Barbecue, where the brisket should be added to your bucket list.

At the Host City Opening Reception, we met our first Texas longhorn (mascot of the University of Texas) and jived to Marcia Ball’s Nola-style blues. After a few cocktails, we dined al fresco at the Three Hot Chefs Culinary Trust dinner at the elegant Hotel Saint Cecilia, where 2011 James Beard Best Chef Southwest Tyson Cole of Uchi, 2005 New York Rising Star Chef Brad Farmerie of Public , and 2003 Seattle Rising Star Holly Smith of Cafe Juanita prepared dishes in their signature styles (Texas-meets-Japan sushi, high-concept global, and soulful Italian, respectively). On Thursday night, we traipsed through the historic Driskill Hotel, nibbling on Texan fare, and snagged front row seats for the IACP cookbook awards at Austin’s Paramount Theatre.

And after four days of sessions, events, and networking and 18 tastings with chefs and pastry chefs, we left IACP full. Full of story ideas, inspiration, new contacts, and Austin’s finest calories. Here’s just some of what we took away (doggie bags, notwithstanding).

Sessions:


Writer and Cookbook Author Dorie Greenspan makes scone dough

The Craft of Food Writing
with Toni Allegra, Dorie Greenspan, and Joe Yonan

What language crutches bog down your writing? What food stories do you pitch magazines and newspapers? Who is the modern recipe reader? A room full of industry stalwarts and newbies had these and more questions answered at “The Craft of Food Writing.” Writing Coach Toni Allegra led a writing exercise, where attendees crafted food memories from a single word. The Washington Post’s Joe Yonan guided the group through an editing exercise, trimming superfluous adjectives from a Yonan-fattened Ruth Reichl piece. And cookbook author Dorie Greenspan taught the group about archaic recipe writing and, in contrast, a 21st century recipe audience who doesn’t understand the phrase “to cream.”

Food Photography Workflow for Pros and Seasoned Veterans Alike
with Scott Martin

Scott Martin wants you to work smart. The photographer and Lightroom expert led IACP food photographers through the more mundane (but oh-so-important) steps of snapping, editing, sharing, storing, and backing up pictures. From practical tips on photo selection (use one star, not five, and edit incrementally) and using bounce cards to posting photos on Facebook (it’s a checkbox in the new Lightroom) and saving images to a cloud for quick retrieval, Martin showed the room how to remove clutter from the photography process and, subsequently, clear more time for what attendees are most passionate about: taking beautiful photos.

Populist agitator Jim Hightower with Kim
Severson of The New York Times

Transformative Ideas for Culinary Professionals
with Jim Hightower and Kim Severson

Populist agitator and former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower (who was clad in jeans, a cowboy hat, a turquoise ring, and a bold mustache) was “happier than a mosquito at a nudist colony” to speak at IACP’s opening general session. Hightower is a high-power optimist, and he believes that by freeing up free enterprise for small farmers and producers, we can make a lasting impact on America’s food culture. He spoke about the roots of what he calls the “upchuck rebellion,” a local food movement born after eating a hard, tasteless tomato. He also implored the audience to stand up to big government and agriculture and push for change in next year’s Congressional farm bill. Kim Severson of The New York Times moderated a talk with Hightower, and she coaxed him into talking about his beer for breakfast habit, his love/hate relationship with Whole Foods, and a way to bring together hunger advocates and the local and organic movements.

Meat: It’s Changing Place on a Plate
with Marissa Guggiana, Ralph Loglisci, and Kim O’Donnel

What do you get when you combine an advocate behind the Meatless Monday campaign, the founder of a new butchers’ guild, and the author of The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook? A snapshot of the new, complicated meat paradigm (and the modern, eco-conscious, and occasionally guilt-ridden omnivore). With a nonexistent marketing budget, Ralph Loglisci and the team behind Meatless Mondays somehow have awakened half of Americans to the possibility of going meat free one day a week. With school systems and chefs like Mario Batali and John Fraser joining in, and the environmental and health reasons for cutting back on meat becoming abundantly clear, meat's prestige may wane on the American plate. Going further, cookbook author Kim O’Donnel projected that in 20 years eating a hamburger would carry the same stigma of driving an SUV. We’re more inclined to see the future through Marissa Guggiana’s eyes. Cookbook author, founder of a new butcher’s guild, and president of a sustainably minded slaughterhouse, Guggiana agrees that Americans should eat less meat, but her business model and mantra is based on Americans rediscovering high-quality, well fed and treated, and subsequently delicious, meat. And we’ll raise a Mangalitsa pork chop to that.

Amanda Hesser of The New York Times and Food52.com discusses building community
around content

Experts Are In: New Media
Creating Community and Conversation with Amanda Hesser

Amanda Hesser of The New York Times and Food52.com gave a room of bloggers and web publishers the secret to more hits, more engaged readers, and more ad dollars: build a community around your content. “Conversation is a valuable means to an end,” she says. Whether followers come from Facebook, crowd sourcing, online bulletin boards, Twitter, or other blogs, Hesser says to maintain community, publishers have to be ever-present in social media. It’s not enough to push out tweets and Facebook posts; you have to be there to answer readers’ questions and complaints. Even though full social media engagement requires a Big Brother-esque watch on your accounts, Hesser instructed that Monday at 8am is the most effective time to send social media posts—when readers disconnect from the weekend and switch gears to a week spent in front of a computer.

Filmmaker Daniel Klein, Photographer Penny De
Los Santos, and Kim Severson of The New York Times

Finding and Crafting a Great Story
with Daniel Klein, Penny De Los Santos, and Kim Severson

It’s amazing what a writer can learn from two visual storytellers. Daniel Klein of the ThePerrenialPlate.com treks across the United States with his video camera and girlfriend, capturing “real” food stories, ultimately becoming part of the story himself. He spends the night in his subjects’ homes and burrows deep into their lives, connecting through trust and his own vulnerability. Photographer Penny De Los Santos shoots food stories all over the world, but, in her mind, she celebrates people—whether they’re famous food personalities, refugees in the Middle East, or Mexican-American women gathered to cook a family meal. She also steals into her subjects’ worlds by making herself vulnerable (and sitting for hours until they don’t notice her anymore). Klein and De Los Santos share an extraordinary enthusiasm for their work, for finding stories and capturing images, and with The New York Time’s Kim Severson onstage to draw out juicy details of Deliverance-like stories from Klein and tears from Santos, every journalist in the house left the general session recharged to take on the next great story of human life.

How Food Trends Impact TV Cooking Shows
with Katherine Alford, Gabe Gordon, Mark Levine, Bruce Seidel, and Michael Smith

A panel of Scripps execs declared the “Big Food Divorce” of the 1950s is over. People no longer want to be slaves to TV dinners and microwaves; on the contrary, 70 percent of Americans feel much more passionate about food than they did 10 to 20 years ago, according to their research. This tide of food love and growing hoards of “food connectors” (an alternative term for the newly loathed “foodie”) resulted in the birth of the Food Network’s younger, hipper sibling, the Cooking Channel. Initially launched on Facebook, the Cooking Channel relies on social media to drive much of its content, taking full advantage of the potent online food community, a group that sees “food and cooking as an important expression of identity.” More than the research, much of the audience wanted advice on pitching to the network, for which the leadership of the Food Network and Cooking Channel advised: be yourself, show us how you’re different, and use a production company.

Health Writer Sally Squires of The Washington
Post
and Dietitian Ellie Krieger of the Food Network’s “Healthy Appetite”

The New American Plate
with Ellie Krieger and Sally Squires

With the USDA’s dietary guidelines updated mid-conference, Sally Squires and other IACP nutritionists were abuzz with talk about ditching the old food pyramid and welcoming in the Michelle Obama-inspired My Plate. The new plate icon asks (begs) Americans to build a diet made up of 50 percent fruits and vegetables, 25 percent each protein and carbs, and a cup of dairy for good measure. It turns out that a third of Americans are skeptical of dietary guidelines (if they’re familiar with them at all—only 18 percent of Americans say USDA guidelines affect their diet decisions), which are based on collaboration between the food industry, politicians, and scientists. But Ellie Krieger, a registered dietitian and host of “Healthy Appetite” on the Food Network, presented the audience with practical tips we can all get behind: cut back on meat, boost umami, eat more whole grains, gorge on fewer processed foods, and (best of all) enjoy food more, but eat less of it.

Writer and Chef MM Pack weaves history of
Central Texas foodways

Chili, Kolache, Cornbread, and Collards: Food Crossroads of Central Texas
with Dawn Orsak, MM Pack, and Toni Tipton-Martin

Austin is the unofficial border town of the South and West, and since the first Native Americans moved to Texas 12,000 years ago, Central Texas has served as a cultural crossroads. Native Americans, Spaniards, Mexicans, Anglo settlers, Germans, Czechs, and African Americans have all left their culinary imprint on the area. Texas gave the world its first bite of chili and crop of pecans (pralines, anyone?). And a mash-up of culinary traditions are the hallmark of Texas barbecue, which largely draws from German, Czech, and African American foodways. While MM Pack, a food writer and private chef, provided the background on the region’s tantalizing culinary heritage, Czech cuisine expert Dawn Orsak waxed on kolaches—a traditional pastry that has in some bakeshops remained a staunch reminder of its Moravian homeland and in others undergone full assimilation with chorizo and jalapeno fillings. Toni Tipton-Martin, a journalist and the IACP host city chair, shared stories about Texas’ oft forgotten culinary heroes, female African American slaves.

Gluten-free Cooking for Everyone
with Shauna Ahern

If you walked into Shauna Ahern’s session a gluten-free naysayer, you walked out a convert. Ahern, a gluten-free blogger and proselytizer, spoke about her personal journey with Celiac disease—how she struggled for years with unidentifiable health problems, came to terms with her diagnosis, and married a chef who vowed love and gluten-free cooking for life. About 3 million Americans have Celiac—people with Celiac can’t eat gluten (found in wheat, rye, and barley) without serious digestive upset and damage, among other unpleasant symptoms. And scientists estimate that another 18 million Americans have gluten sensitivity. Ahern’s answer to gluten free isn’t one of the thousands of microwave dinners or cardboard cookies on the market; she feeds herself and her family real food that happens to be gluten free. And she challenges chefs to stop thinking about gluten-free as a trend and roadblock to good food. “If a chef can make a meal that’s safe for me, I’ll be your customer for life,” she says. “If you make me two or three, I’ll tell everyone on my website.”

Photographers Todd Porter and Diane Cu of EvoMultimedia.com and WhiteOnRiceCouple.com

Let There Be Light: Harnessing the Right Light for Digital Photography
with Diane Cu and Todd Porter

Light is life. Energy. Emotion. Depth. (And the hot topic of the final photography session of IACP 2011.) Diane Cu and Todd Porter have a Biblical appreciation for natural light, and they challenged photographers to cast off their light kits in favor of shooting dishes under the glowing sun. They also gave newly-minted light disciples dogma to shoot by: “Your eyes are the lens; your heart is the shutter.” “Being a good photographer requires patience and sometimes waiting for clouds to move.” Light’s darker side got its due, too. Cu and Porter say shadows aren’t the enemy—they add drama to photos. They also presented a how-to on styling: 1) start with one element; 2) appreciate simple shots; 3) choose the best possible subject; 4) add one element at a time to the photo; and 5) don’t over-crowd the scene.