IACP 2008 Rhythm on the Plate Conference in New Orleans
April 17-19, 2008
New Orleans, LA
by Amanda McDougall with contributions from Liz Tarpy
The Big Easy was the home of the 30th annual IACP conference Rhythm on the Plate. This year’s conference focused on the relationships between culture and food and its ability to unite not only ingredients and flavors, but people as well. New Orleans and its Cajun and Creole culinary traditions were a backdrop and perfect example of the intersections between culture and food.
Here is a summary of a few of the panel discussions and workshops we attended over the four-day event. And check out the photo gallery from the IACP Awards Ceremony, Chef Jam, Gumbo Giveback, panels, and other events.
Gumbo at Mother's Restaurant
Gumbo Gulch: A Photojournalistic Journey Through Undiscovered New Orleans
Groups of photographers, journalists, and intrepid gourmands were assigned to discover and document the history of gumbo – the quintessential New Orleans dish – in day-long expeditions around New Orleans. Shrimp boats, rice factories, and dozens of local gumbo-making restaurants were descended upon by participants; photos were taken, interviews were had, and the story of gumbo was revealed. The collaboration will culminate in a book and traveling exhibit with the Southern Food and Beverage Museum with proceeds from book sales going to the museum and The Culinary Trust.
Southeast Asian Street Food: Rhythmic Sounds and Flavors
Presenters: Robert Danhi of Chef Danhi & Co., and Mai Pham of Lemon Grass Restaurant
Danhi and Pham discussed the growing trend of incorporating street foods into restaurant menus, and the very source of that inspiration. Street foods have been popular on native streets for thousands of years and help to define the cultural identity of a country. Many street food vendors, in Singapore for example, only sell one dish which has typically been mastered over decades, such as fresh rice noodles with stir-fried shrimp or deep-fried baby bananas. Chefs are tapping into this rich resource, using their street food experiences to inform their menus back home. Attendees also enjoyed tastings of papaya salad and chicken sate.
- Liz Tarpy
Rhythm on the Plate: Plating as a Means for Personal, Artistic, and Conceptual Expression
Moderator: Antoinette Bruno of StarChefs.com
Panel: Susan Spicer of Bayona and Scott Boswell of Stella!
Our own Editor-in-Chief Antoinette Bruno presented a series of 55 dish shots, categorized into 11 different plating styles: Classic, Comfort, Rustic (Ethnic-Rustic, Modern-Rustic), Japanese-Inspired, Modern, Creative, Interactive, Small Plates, Experimental, Architectural, and Nature. Chefs Boswell and Spicer talked about their inspiration behind their plating styles. Boswell is experimenting with creating “paint” from food and painting his plates – part of the inspiration came from colorful glass paintbrushes he purchase on a recent trip to Italy.
Click here to check out the dish shots from the presentation..
Opera: The Love of Food
Presenters: Paul Levy of Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, and Fred Plotkin, “pleasure activist”
Levy and Plotkin explored the crossroad between opera and food in their media-enhanced main stage presentation. With equal passion for the two artistic mediums, Levy and Plotkin discussed and showed examples of the role that food and drink play in opera, from poisoned mushrooms to deadly steak knives to lust-inducing wine. And the connections go beyond the stage performances: chefs have long been influenced by various operas, naming dishes for and after composers, librettos, and characters; some chefs making dishes specifically for famed opera performers. It’s a two-way street, too, with composers being just as enamored of food and wine, not only incorporating consumption into their operas, but their gastronomic pursuits also being a source of inspiration, as well as nourishment.
Donald Link of Herbsaint and Cochon
Creative Inspiration: Local on the Table
Moderator: Andy Harris of Gourmet Traveler
Panel: Raymond Blanc of Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Mark Hix formerly of The Ivy and Le Caprice, Donald Link of Herbsaint and Cochon
North Americans are entrenched in supermarket produce, inexpensive food, and year-round availability of everything from asparagus to strawberries. Andy Harris led a discussion with chefs from various corners of the western world to discuss the challenges and rewards of using local products, and how to push the agenda further into the public arena. Chefs Blanc, Hix, and Link are all known for using local ingredients; all agree that chefs and food journalists alike need to continue to educate the public and other chefs about the advantages – from better flavor to health benefits to less environmental impact – of using local products.
Current Trends in Far Flung Places and How to Discover Them
Presenters: Lauraine Jacbos of Cuisine Magazine, and Tom Parker Bowles, food writer
Jacobs and Bowles discussed some of their more colorful adventures in Tonga, Laos, China, New Zealand, South Korea, and the South Pacific. Jacobs emphasized the importance of having a contact on the ground to guide you through unfamiliar cities, regions, and customs, especially when you don’t speak the language. Bowles used his own previous mishaps as a framework for lessons-learned. His story about getting “steaming drunk” in Laos the night before a long road trip through very rough terrain only to be presented with a feast fit for a king up his arrival, was an entertaining lesson in travel faux pas. Bowles also advised the audience to get into town and explore the street food first: “find the biggest street, the vendor with the longest line, and use the international language of 'pointy-pointy.' ”
Presenters: Paul Prudhomme of K-Paul’s, and Doug Duda of Astor Center
Paul Prudhomme of K-Paul’s
Doug Duda interviewed the legendary New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme about the phenomenon of being a celebrity chef and the responsibility that goes along with it. Prudhomme, in his typical humble and friendly manner, described the early days of his career – starting early on in life cooking, opening his first restaurant without any experience, and then finding the start of his success with the Brennan family. From there Prudhomme earned the chops to open his own restaurant K-Paul’s – a great success to this day, develop his blackened fish technique, and launch a spice blends company. Prudhomme put it plainly when asked if celebrity allowed him to do more: “In my heart, soul, in my body, I’m still the same. [...] It was just more money. Money is great to have, but it can’t cook!”
The Writer’s Voice: What is it? How do you get it? Why do you want it?
Presenter: Nancy Baggett, cookbook author
Nancy Baggett lead a workshop to help established and aspiring writers to identify his/her own “voice” through exercises using samples from published pieces, as well as quick writing exercises. Baggett discussed the importance of establishing a voice to reflect one’s “persona in print.” Bagget encouraged attendees to be authentic to one’s background, talents, and passions.
Meat Markets and Plate Lunches of Cajun Country
Moderator: Sandra Day, food editor
Presenters: Floyd Poche of Poche’s Market, Restaurant, and Smokehouse, and Ruby Sharlow of Ruby’s Restaurant
Poche, Sharlow and Day discussed the continued existence of family-run grocery stores and restaurants scattered throughout Cajun country. These establishments still serve up plate lunches and home-cooked food that represents the cultural food ways of the region. A typical plate consists of meat and three sides with a slice of white bread. The meats are often smothered – etouffee in French – in the holy trinity of Cajun food (onions, green bell peppers, and garlic) and gravy, or made into a type of stew – a fricassee – with a rich roux. Both of these dishes are usually served over rice. Small town butchers still exist in Cajun country, though much fewer in numbers these days. Andouille, boudin, cracklins or grattons, chaurice are a few of the best-known Cajun meat products.
- Liz Tarpy