For restaurants in certain parts of the country, August is a notorious slow-down time. Not so for the publishing world. It’s been a busy (and somewhat crazy, and certainly exciting) summer at StarChefs, and we’ve got a lot to share.
The 3rd Annual International Chefs Congress is less than 1 month away, and there is no doubt that this year’s event – held over 3 days at the historic Park Avenue Armory – is going to be more dynamic and exciting than ever. As always, the Congress will focus on individual expression, creativity, and professional success. But this year we’re also introducing three specific themes to the dialogue: sustainability, community, and mentoring. These issues will be reflected throughout the programming, like in Rick Moonen’s presentation on sustainable seafood and the future of the oceans, in Daniel Boulud’s “Mentor/Protegee” presentation with the executive chefs of three of his New York restaurants, and in Charlie Trotter’s speech about community involvement, and the ways in which chefs can be leaders.
Heston Blumenthal will touch on the cerebral, emotional, multi-sensory aspect of dining, and Rene Redzepi will shed light on the ingredients and techniques of his native Denmark – interpreted through a modern lens, of course. Chocolate master Jacques Torres, an exciting new addition to our workshop roster, will lead a hands-on workshop on essential chocolate techniques. Morimoto will perform a stunning feat of knife skills on stage, breaking down a whole fish in record time, and hopefully inspiring the audience to give head-to-tail cooking a try.
The Congress culminates with one of our most exciting and looked-forward to events of the year: the New York Rising Stars tasting gala. This year’s Rising Star award winners are a stunningly talented, ambitious, compelling bunch. We tasted with and interviewed nearly 70 of New York’s most exciting chefs, pastry chefs, mixologists, and sommeliers, and this group represents the crème de la crème – New York City’s best up-and-coming culinary stars. We hope you join us as we celebrate (and taste!) the Rising Stars’ talent at the gala at the Museum of Natural History on September 16th – and check back closer to the date for the winners’ bios, recipes and interviews.
We’re fully focused on the Chefs Congress and all that surrounds it, but a few short weeks ago we were working ‘round the clock to get the 2nd edition of Chefs to Know: A Guide to Chefs for Chefs out the door. This year’s book features over 600 chefs and pastry chefs from across the country, plus over 70 sommeliers and 30 mixologists. There’s a guide to some of the international chefs we’ve been fortunate enough to meet on our travels, and a pull-out guide to chefs’ favorite restaurants off the beaten path in city’s across the country. There are new kitchen facts, too: # of covers, # of kitchen staff, check averages, and more. The 2009 edition of Chefs to Know will be available at the International Chefs Congress – yet another reason to be there!
That’s not to say we haven’t managed to fit some travel in here and there. A trip to New England held some reunions with old chef friends, and a few new meetings as well. 2006 Boston Rising Stars Gabriel Frasca and Amanda Lydon are doing great things at Straight Wharf, the 30 year old Nantucket dining landmark they took over two years ago. The food is bright, homey, and inspired by the seasons and the sea – it’s exactly what you want to eat as you overlook the bay, be it morning or night. At American Seasons, also in Nantucket, Chef Michael LaScola’s dishes are rich and sumptuous, like a foie gras tasting with rich, silky foie gras crème brulee, chunky and delicious duck confit terrine, and a round of creamy house-cured foie gras.
We found some great talent in Portland, Maine. At Five Fifty-Five, Steve (chef) and Michelle (wine director/GM) Corry have created a small, seasonal restaurant that combines rusticity and elegance. In Steve’s hands, the classic (and often over-played) combination of beets and goat cheese gets new life in the form of a delicious beet-topped tarte tatin, and scallops are treated like steak au poivre, crusted in cracked black pepper and seared. Hugo’s is the home of lauded chef Rob Evans, who honed his skills at The Inn at Little Washington and The French Laundry. As you’d expect, his dishes at Hugo’s are elegant and refined, drawing upon seasonal and local ingredients for inspiration and resulting in compositions like local lamb tartare with cauliflower tabbouleh and breaded and fried cornichons – a dish that is both clever and delicious. And of course a trip to Portland isn’t complete without a stop at one of Sam Hayward’s restaurants. Fore Street remains one of the best restaurants in the region, with very simple dishes in which the natural flavors of the ingredients shine.
What’s your personal culinary style – do you barely manipulate your produce, or do you play with the shapes, textures and forms? Do you source from local farmers, or artisanal Italian producers, or both? Do you present your creations in a tasting menu, tapas, or a la carte? We want to know what you are doing and where the industry is going – so take our 4th annual Culinary Trends Survey and tell us more about your restaurant, your business, and your style. The results will be covered in the opening remarks of the International Chefs Congress, and published on StarChefs.com later this year.
We’re focused on fall, but there’s still some summer left yet – and the produce at markets around the country is at its most colorful and luscious. The Summer Farmers Market recipes from chefs in Florida, New Orleans and New York each take an ingredient and add a fun twist – from red bell pepper in cocktail form to a sweet green tomato pastry. If you’re suffering anxiety about soon-to-be dwindling market stands, take a cue from Chef Tory Miller of L’Etoile in Wisconsin: he makes it through the winter by diligently storing produce through the summer. He cans, freezes and pickles, filling up root cellars and freezers (not only in his restaurant, but across town!), so that he can grace his plates with local produce, even in the middle of the long, cold Wisconsin winters. His “put-by” system is age-old, but worth re-visiting in this modern age.
Enjoy the rest of the summer, whether it’s the calm before the storm, or crazy as ever. Hope to see you in New York City in September!