This September at New York’s 7 World Trade StarChefs brought together 50 of the world’s foremost chefs, chefs, pastry chefs, mixologists, scientists and sommeliers for a three–day culinary congress of presentations, dialogues, workshops, and parties. On the window–lined 51st and 52nd floors, two main stages, workshop rooms, and a Products Fair hosted a crowd of over 1100 industry attendees from 37 states and 14 countries.
The View From the 52nd Floor
While the driving theme was ingredients conceptualization and cooking, each chef took a completely different approach at this year’s Congress. What tied them all together: a sense of culinary optimism and highly personal points of view inspired by the global culinary dialogue that has emerged in recent years.
Sunday was dedicated to pastry presentations, panels, wine tasting seminars, and hands–on workshops on mixology, ingredients, tools, and regional cuisine. On the pastry stage, Pichet Ong (P*ONG, New York) used two dishes — a ceviche with mango puree and scallops with chamomile ice — to demonstrate his philosophy of integrating sweet and savory. Traditional Asian cooking has involved combining sweet and savory for centuries, said Ong, and Europeans have long roasted and caramelized to bring out sweetness. At P*ONG he uses an ostensible pastry technique (ice creams, mousses, sabayon) in every savory dish. Johnny Iuzzini (Jean Georges, New York) and Dave Arnold (Director of Technology, the French Culinary Institute, New York) carried on a lively banter about an often–mentioned but little–understood topic: hydrocolloids. Iuzzini is known for desserts with multiple components — within the context of a single dish, he aims for a progression of flavors and contrasts in temperatures and textures. The two provided an exposé on the function of various hydrocolloids (xanthan gum, methylcellulose, alginate), and the ways they can be integrated into desserts.
Pichet Ong Sears Scallops with Honey
Next chef–turned–renegade lunch lady Ann Cooper took the stage to teach the audience about the challenges — and importance — of changing the country’s approach to school lunch. She discussed her recent initiatives in school food, and the costs, ingredients, and imperatives involved. Chef Barton Seaver (Hook, Washington DC) provided the tangible segment of Cooper’s lesson: two different school lunches given to attendees at random — one regular (frozen chicken nuggets and tater tots) and one healthy (organic, hormone–free hamburgers on wheat buns, salad, and fruit).
After lunch, the 2007 New York Rising Stars joined StarChefs.com Editor–in–Chief Antoinette Bruno to discuss culinary school, stages, mentors, travel, and “How to Make It.” They’ve traveled different paths and have different goals, but each has come into their own, with a successful concept, style, and vision that earned them the title of Rising Star. As talk turned to the future, many expressed the desire to open their own restaurant; surprisingly, no one spoke of a cookbook. With over 200,000 books on food, cooking and wine published each year, the food publishing market is flooded — publishers Anne Bramson (Artisan Press) and Will Schwalbe (Hyperion Press), literary agent Lisa Queen (Lisa Queen Literary Agency), chef Grant Achatz (Alinea, Chicago) and writer Jeffrey Steingarten (Vogue) gathered on stage with moderator Heather Sperling of StarChefs.com to discuss the current state of the market and the genre, and how to get, literally, from kitchen to cookbook. They explored the process — from idea, to agent, to publisher, to press — and the different options (like self–publishing, which Achatz is doing with his upcoming book). The overall message: there are lots of cookbooks out there, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t publish your own — especially if it breaks the mold.
New York Rising Stars Consider “How to Make It” on Their “How to Make It” Panel
The stage presentations finished with Alex Stupak (wd~50, New York) discussing innovative flavor combinations and techniques. He demonstrated the method for textures that make his desserts so distinctive, using carageenan to make a grapefruit custard, and pectin for encapsulating (it yields better flavor release, he explained). Stupak addressed classic flavors — called “classic” because they are sensible and well–established — and talked about his interest in finding new combinations that can become classic, while pursuing new techniques that allow for increased freedom in textures to apply to various flavors.
Alex Stupak’s Mysterious Spheres
While pastry was on the stage, workshops of all subjects were held in the surrounding rooms. Mixology was a new and exciting focus at the Congress this year, and four of the country’s leaders in the field gathered to guide attendees through the processes and philosophies behind their drinks. Adam Seger (Nacional 27, Chicago), spoke of the importance of using seasonal ingredients, high–quality products, and interesting flavor and texture combinations. He taught attendees to make a drink with antioxidant–rich blueberries (“antioxidants are a big trend in mixology right now”), and shared the recipe for Bitters 27, his house–made bitters made of vodka infused with 27 different botanicals. Todd Thrasher (Restaurant Eve and The PX, Alexandria) led attendees in the creation of lemon bitters — using zest, cardamom, star anise, clove, lemongrass, vodka and sugar — and homemade tonic water. According to Thrasher, bitters were basically lost until the “bitter renaissance” of a few years ago. Now they are en vogue, and at any given moment, Thrasher features lemon, orange, mint, peach, kumquat, fig, cherry or pomegranate bitters on the menu at Eve.
Mixologist Dave Wondrich led his group in the making of classic whiskey cocktails from the 1860s and 70s, explaining the social history and culinary history of ingredients of the Mint Julep, Manhattan and Whiskey Sour. He made the classic Whiskey Cocktail (a drink of whiskey, bitters and sugar — served without ice until the 1850s) that was the go–to cocktail of the 1860s. Along a more modern mixology vein, Junior Merino (The Liquid Chef, Inc, New York) and Maximo Tejada (Rayuela, New York) joined forces and linked the bar and the kitchen via ingredients and flavor profiles. A light ceviche with lemongrass and ginger was paired with a gin cocktail with lemongrass simple syrup, and an Amarula Cream Cocktail went with a decadent Coffee Tres Leches.
Wines from Fred Dexheimer's Wine Tasting Seminar
Michael Harlan Turkell
In the wine room, overlooking the Statue of Liberty, Fred Dexheimer (T.Edward Wines, New York) discussed complementary and contrasting pairings. He leans towards a 90/10 ratio of complementary/contrasting, and in his workshop served pairings of “simplicity” — notably a “sea pairing” of briny, effervescent Txakolina and kumamoto oysters. Sommelier Scott Mayger (Telepan, New York) took the opposite approach, using Loire Valley Wines to highlight the contrasting, cleansing potential of wine pairings — a round, floral muscadet with aggressively acidic tomato, for example. According to Mayger, Loire Valley sells almost all the wines they can make — they have incredible harmony straight out of the bottle due to soil and climactic conditions.
Layers Flavors with the Vita-Prep
The hands–on chef workshops brought attendees together with ingredients — chilies, lobster and chocolate — and the chefs who are working to master them. Stephan Pyles (Stephan Pyles, Dallas) led his group in making ajo blanco, a traditional Andalusian soup, which he finished with the distinctly Latin addition of Peruvian–style ceviche and a popcorn garnish (a palate cleanser that removes the acidity). He used aji peppers from the capsicum baccattum family, a Peruvian chili that is used extensively throughout the country, and explained that the great misconception about chilies is that they are just for spice — they add depth too. Michael Cimarusti (Providence, LA) followed with an exploration of the world of Australian seafood via Australian Rock Lobster, which the workshop prepared both cooked and raw. He paired the meat from the spindly legs, called “dead man’s fingers,” with burdock and shiso broth, finishing the dish with a vadouvan sorbet, made in liquid nitrogen on the fly (“I’ve never done this before,” said Providence pastry chef Adrian Vasquez, “let’s hope it works…”).
Graham Elliot Bowles (Avenues, Chicago) led his workshop in plating four dishes, each inspired by a different art movement. Contemporary art took the form of deconstructed clam chowder; Impressionism was manifested by a Toulouse–Lautrec–inspired seared scallop with eggnog foam. Bowles instructed on the physical aspects of plating as well, telling attendees that holding a spoon should be like choking up on a bat: “Get down there. We always say you want to make love to your food.” Elizabeth Falkner (Citizen Cake, San Francisco) and John Scharffenberger (Scharffen–Berger Chocolates, San Francisco) served high–content love incarnate (chocolate–style): a chocolate box of chocolate cake, homemade caramel sauce, homemade marshmallows, pretzels, shortbread, mousseline, and salted nuts for workshop participants to dip their (gloved) hands into. Falkner’s other dessert was less interactive but equally playful and provocative, with a shot of lip–numbing liquid spiced with peppercorns and chilies preceding a sous–vide chocolate cake made with high–content Scharffen–Berger chocolate.
Hector Santiago Blends Salsa in
Carmen “Titita” Degollado’s Workshop
In the regional cuisine workshop room, Fabio Trabocchi (Fiamma, New York) began the day with “the pillars of Italian cuisine”: Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano. Trabocchi and pastry chef Tom Wellings (Maestro, Virginia) approached the ingredients from the angles of tradition and evolution, offering a taste of the ingredients unadorned, and then in the form of dehydrated Prosciutto di Parma flakes and Parmigiano Reggiano ice cream. Carmen “Titita” Degollado (El Bajio, Mexico City) made four classic salsas, the last of which, salsa negra, featured fried chipotle meco chilies. As attendees coughed at the pungent frying chilies, Titita explained, “in our kitchen, everyone is always coughing, but the customers don’t mind because it smells so good!”
Donald Link (Herbsaint and Cochon, New Orleans) made New Orleans–style tapas — dumplings, corn and rice patties, and boudin beignets — inspired by the little gas stations along Louisiana’s I–10 that serve fried pies and balls out of windows. “Those are easier to eat while driving, you can keep one hand free for your beer,” the chef joked. Katsuya Fukushima and Ruben Garcia (Café Atlantico, Washington DC) finished the day with Spanish olive oil workshop. The packed workshop room spherified Campbell’s tomato juice using xanthan gum and calcium chloride, then applied the idea to olive oil, making sugar–coated “pendants” of fruity, fresh, spicy Arbequina olive oil.
Will Blunt and the Welcome Dinner Chefs
Bruno Bertin and Bruno Goussault (Cuisine Solutions, Alexandria) demonstrated low temperature cooking with the CVap oven from the point of view of both chef and scientist — emphasizing precise temperatures and the quality of the bags. “Chefs often buy the cheapest vacuum bags in bulk, but those are only good for storing, not cooking, as they tend to break down” Bertin explained. Shea Gallante (Cru, New York) presented Sous Vide The Right Way, using DayMark, Multivac, and Techne products and covering everything from the proper way to seal a bag to searing the meat properly and bringing it up to temperature safely. Pastry Chef Jordan Kahn (San Francisco) tackled Demystifying the Pacojet: Sweet and Savory Applications — teaching the class the basics and a trick or two, like blocking the air duct with a metal piece to control the airiness of the puree, “don’t use wood,” Kahn warned, “as it tends to splinter and get stuck and you don’t want to damage the machine.” Takashi Yagihashi (Noodles, Chicago) demonstrated Japanese Knife Skills with Henckels Miyabi knives, giving each group of students a whole fish to take apart.
That night the presenters, the New York Rising Stars and the product and equipment sponsors that made the entire affair possible gathered in the Renzo Piano–designed atrium of the Morgan Library for a 5–course Welcome Dinner cooked by chefs Michael Cimarusti, David Burke (Davidburke and Donatella, New York), Tony Bombaci (Nana, Dallas), Elizabeth Falkner and Alex Stupak. The night went late, as expected, but crowds came out earlier the next morning for the kick–off of the main stage presentations.
David Kamp’s Keynote, The Evolution of American Cuisine
Editor-in-Chief Antoinette Bruno began the day with a welcome speech that discussed global culinary dialogues and released statistics about the American culinary industry from the 2007 culinary trends survey. Bruno introduced keynote speaker David Kamp (Vanity Fair, New York), a writer, de facto food historian, and gastronomic and cultural optimist who spoke of the positive progress of American food by tracing the history of a few of the chefs and food professionals that shaped the national consciousness in recent years. He discussed how food critiquing, once considered fluff, used to be dominated by women but has since been embraced by men — one of the many indicators that chefs are being taken seriously. “Figuratively, the chef is Rochester’s mad wife from Jane Eyre, finally being let out of the attic,” Kamp closed. “There has never been a better time to be a chef.”
Seiji Yamamoto Brandishes a Burdock Root “Cork”
Culinary Director George Mendes ran the prep kitchen next to the main stage on the 52nd floor, getting each presenter ready for his presentation. First up was Seiji Yamamoto (RyuGin, Tokyo) who presented playful dishes with a focus on Re–Shaping Classical Japanese Cuisine. His video presentation drew oohs, aahs and laughs as it showed tools with high wow–factor — notably the “Magiqual” refrigerator that keeps liquids liquid at below–freezing temperatures. The liquid turns into a solid when agitated or poured — at RuyGin this means verbena and mint iced tea is poured into a cocktail glass, instantly turning into a slushy on contact, and topped with liquid nitrogen clouds of sugared cream. David Burke tantalized the audience with smells of his salt–aged steak roasting in the CVap combi–oven on stage. Burke discussed his use of salts for aging, brining and flavoring, and showed pictures of the salt block–lined aging cave at David Burke Primehouse in Chicago.
The crowd broke for a Southern Small Plates lunch in the products fair, cooked by Anne Quatrano’s team of chefs from her restaurants Bacchanalia, Quinones, Floataway Café, and Star Provisions in Atlanta, Georgia. Attendees sampled tastes of the south — oyster, okra and pork belly pilau, Benton’s country ham with homemade biscuits and peach preserves, among others.
Attendees Sample Wines from Spain at the Products Fair
Michael Harlan Turkell
In the workshops and stage presentations downstairs, Linda Pelaccio taught chefs how to represent themselves in the media, Scott Mayger led an Australian wine tasting seminar, and Jason Kosmas presented classic mixology. Zak Pelaccio of Fatty Crab led five tables of eager chefs in the making of his signature Chili Crab dish, discussing classic Malay cooking — specifically street food. “Everyone killed the fish,” his sous chef said, as in, they really listened and cooked it properly.
After the break, pastry chef Oriol Balaguer (OriolBalaguer, Barcelona) presented his approach to modern patisserie: Concept Cakes, playful, versatile cakes that blend familiar flavors in clever ways, and can take many forms. He worked with the flavor profiles of a classic apple tart, using apples, caramelized sugar, salted broad beans, arugula, and cream cheese, and spoke about the versatile packaging and forms — from small individual cakes to single bites to larger tarts — that a single idea can take. Next David Bouley (Bouley, New York) gave a technique–focused presentation on his fondness for Japanese techniques and ingredients married with classic French ones. Bouley presented developments in his technique that stem from his collaboration with Japanese culinary expert Yoshiki Tsuji, with whom he has been sharing a test kitchen and creating new menus for his upcoming restaurant projects.
In the midst of Monday’s programming, New York chef Daniel Boulud (Daniel, New York) was presented the 2007 New York Rising Stars Mentor Award, an award voted on by the NY Rising Star chefs, honoring the mentor chef who does the most to support young chefs in his local industry, and help them succeed. As he accepted his award and bantered on stage with David Bouley, Boulud spoke to America’s exponential culinary growth over the last 20–30 years, saying “I never would have thought that America would have been as good, if not better, than Europe…”
Joel Robuchon Sous Vides
with Bruno Goussault
Michael Harlan Turkell
Brown butter banana and peanut butter pebbles were then passed around by Wylie Dufresne of wd~50 in New York, who presented his process for pizza plus his recent experiments in streamlining the puff snack process (with Funnions, specifically), and his knotted foie. “I don’t think tying foie in a knot is something Escoffier would have done,” said Dufresne, “it’s cool that I can tie it in a knot, but if it doesn’t taste good, it doesn’t matter.”
Monday’s presentations ended with Joël Robuchon (L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, France) and Bruno Goussault (Cuisine Solutions, Alexandria) demonstrating how 20 years of sous vide cooking research has led to a wealth of cooking temperature knowledge. Even the simplest thing, cooking an egg for example, involves a precise method: one needle takes the temperature of the yolk, the other needle, the white. While Robuchon rejects additives, except for agar agar (which is alright because it comes from seaweed), he seemed keen on what the avant garde chefs are working towards: precision and understanding.
Marcus Samuelsson with Berbere Rack
of Lamb and Mango Couscous
Michael Harlan Turkell
Monday night finished with a celebratory Congress Cocktail on the 51st floor, hosted by chefs Jose Andres , Josh DeChellis , Iacopo Falai , Paul Liebrandt , Pichet Ong , Ken Oringer , Marcus Samuelsson , Alex Stupak and Patricia Yeo. Each mixologist who led a workshop served a drink, and Manhattan served as a backdrop for the tables of cocktails and small bites served to the congress crowd. Highlights include Ken Oringer’s Oyster “Royale” served in an intact eggshell with a small hole for a straw and painted with the restaurant’s red and gold logo and Todd Thrasher’s Tomato Water Bloody Mary.
Tuesday’s chef presentations, coincidentally enough, seemed inspired by native landscapes. Andoni Luis Aduriz (Mugaritz, Spain) created edible “rocks” from potatoes, and “vanity” in the form of large, shiny, hollow chocolate bubbles, stabilized with xanthan gum and made with a fish tank bubbler. He explained how important it is for him to create food that speaks to the emotions and the palate.
Will Goldfarb Plates “Red”
Pastry chef Will Goldfarb (New York) gave an in–depth explanation of “Experiential Cuisine,” which he describes as a fusion of experience, art, and cuisine. His ventures in Second Life, an online 3D world, aim to create a customizable experience that streamlines the relationships between chefs, products, techniques and guests — much like he did at his dessert bar Room 4 Dessert, where he eliminated tables and servers, instead plating in front of the guest, and passing over the bar. Goldfarb was followed by Gualtiero Marchesi (Ristorante Gualtiero Marchesi, Italy) who presented a number of dishes while reading from The Marchesi Code, a treatise on his philosophy of cuisine. Though he’s one of the most experienced chefs in what could be called “nuova cucina,” two of Marchesi’s plates were inspired by contemporary artists: Dripping of Fish played upon Jackson Pollock’s splattering of colors, and his dish of four forms of pasta was inspired by Andy Warhol’s four Marilyn Monroe’s.
Alex Urena of Pamplona and Harisson Mosher of Alta hosted a Spanish lunch of small plates, cheeses, and charcuterie. Speed racks of boquerones with piquillo peppers, salt cod mousse with potato confit and hackleback caviar, and warm croquetas were prepared in the 51st floor prep kitchen run by Asbel Reyes , and brought up to the products fair for attendees.
Meanwhile, on the 51st floor, hands–on workshops continued. Adam Block , of Block and Associates, took the business stage and taught chefs and restaurateurs how to make smart business moves and grow their brand, encouraging chefs to be aware of the risks and economics inherent to every project. Mixologist Albert Trummer (Fraiche, Los Angeles) presented cocktails with a surprising slant — nutrition. With an LA nutritionist, Trummer gauged the nutritional value of his fresh fruit cocktails. Steve Olson (Bar LLC, New York) created ideal pairings between Spanish tapas and Spanish sherries from Jerez while Ken Oringer (Clio, Boston) explored the use of ultra–modern culinary gadgets like the smoking gun.
On the main stage upstairs Dan Barber (Blue Hill, New York) showed stunning images of the pastures and animals (including whole, skinned, butchered ones) from the Stone Barns Center in upstate New York and explained, using a holistic approach, how such a system can function successfully — from the farm to the table. He described the process of growing heirloom and near–extinct vegetables, like pura cassava, an ancestor of broccoli, and explained the scientific method that shapes the flavor, texture, and marbling of what ends up on his plates. Alex Atala of D.O.M, shared Brazilian cuisine, a young culinary scene. He put Levi Strauss’s theory of the raw and the cooked in a modern culinary context, adding toasted, fire, fermentation and more to create a scale of flavors and culinary experiences. He gave the audience a taste of Tucupi, a broth made from a variety of yucca, grown only by Amazonian Indians, whose flavor is to the Amazon “what tomato, basil and mozzarella is to Italy; what soy sauce and ginger is to Japan.”
Elena Arzak of Restaurante Arzak in Spain made her version of a traditional Basque squid dish, adding a sauce made with actual soil to further evoke the sense of terroir. One of the newer techniques from Restaurant Arzak: seasoning an ingredient with freeze–dried and ground powder from that same ingredient. Shannon Bennett (Vue de monde, Australia) used a Cona to make a Bouillabaisse — in 5 minutes. Bennett’s “improve” theatre is smart and sophisticated: the glass Cona rushes liquid through flavorful lemongrass, crawfish, and herbs to make tableside consommé a la minute.
In his presentation of dishes inspired by Andalusian landscapes, Dani Garica (Calima, Spain) and translator Jose Andres (Café Atlantico, Washington DC) showed the audience a photo of the land — piles of smooth rocks in silhouette looking like ancient tombs — then built and painted a dish that mimicked Andalusia’s rocky landscape with frozen coins of chocolate and orange mousse. When an attendee asked why he was referencing landscape, Garcia asked “Have you seen ‘Ratatouille’? There’s a moment when the miserable critic takes a bite of food and it’s like time travel. He goes back to his mother’s house when he was a happy child — it’s a [food] doorway.”
The 2007 New York Rising Stars
The Congress closed with New York Rising Stars at Mansion, converted for the evening into a two–story walk around tasting arena. Our Rising Stars each set up a New York style street cart and served their high concept street food to over 600 guests. Guests voted Country Chef Doug Psaltis’ Astoria Lamb Kebabs their favorite dish of the night, winning Doug the Jade Range Plancha. Bill Corbett traveled from San Francisco to serve his Sesame creation –Corbett focused on sesame’s many incarnations (halva, brittle, ice, powder, tuile etc.) to create an understated monochromatic plate in shades of taupe and brown with a wide range of textures. After the awards ceremony, chefs and their teams of cooks headed to Katra for the Afterparty to celebrate — and when the venue closed, chefs continued the celebrations in various pockets of the city until the wee hours of the morning. See you at next year’s Congress, September 14, 15, and 16!
Guests Walk Around and Taste at Mansion