ICC 2009 and Boston Rising Stars
We’re just coming down from our Congress high from last month. Our fourth International Chefs Congress was another success, and we’re already starting to plan for our 2010 event (save the dates of September 19-22nd!).
And we’re also ramping up for our Boston Rising Star Awards! Our winners are officially announced and we’re thrilled with our latest group of culinary talent. Read all about our Boston Rising Stars in our Why They Shine feature. Tickets to our Revue awards gala are already on sale!
If you weren’t able to attend this year’s Congress, or if you just want to re-live the highlights, you can read about each day’s main stage, workshop, seminar, and tasting discussions and demonstrations in our daily wrap-ups. And don’t miss our 2009 Trends Report from my Welcome Address from day one here. Of course, we also have a slew of fantastic photo galleries to see and inspire!
The Congress brought together 1,200+ culinary professionals from 36 states and over 20 countries from across the globe, from Belgium to Venezuela! We were thrilled with the turn out and with the response we got from our attendees. This year’s line-up of Main Stage presentations was star-studded with chefs like Pierre Gagnaire, David Bouley, Juan Mari Arzak, and José Andrés who thoroughly impressing the audience with their culinary wizardry. Arzak’s sentimental talk of his culinary “home” (his restaurant ARZAK in Spain) and his shared bits of wisdom was both moving and historical in its summary—how often do we have a chance to see such an influential chef on American soil?
The significance of so many of the Congress events wasn’t lost: the seats were packed for the three-way center stage discussion between Grant Achatz, Daniel Boulud, and Pierre Gagnaire. The three mega-chefs exchanged ideas on the state of global cuisine today, with a special focus on American cuisine, and the two elder chef-statesmen called Achatz the future of American cuisine. Equally heavy-hitting was the opening panel discussion between American chef icons Emeril Lagasse, Charlie Trotter, and Norman Van Aken (moderated by Clark Wolf). These three chefs share a decades-long friendship and their message to the next generation of American chefs was clear: know your region, know your people, and know yourself.
We opened our Congress Main Stage to its first mixology presentation in the able hands of Audrey Saunders and London-based Tony Conigliaro, who shared their experiments and discoveries of using aroma in cocktails. Pastry artistry was represented by Spanish sweets maestro Paco Torreblanca who wowed our Main Stage audience with the US debut of his new “Oysters and Caviar” dish in which he molds an oyster shell from white chocolate and dusts it with silver and green tea powder—it’s indistinguishable from the real thing.
We also announced our 2009 Innovator Award winners on the last day of the Congress. These awards were given to three chefs and four products for their outstanding performance in the realm of American cuisine. We honored chefs David Burke with the Contribution to American Cuisine Award, Jacques Pepin with the Mentor Award, and Dan Barber with the Community Award for their outstanding contributions to the industry. And as a community of working chefs and industry professionals, we recognized the AccuTemp Accu-Steam™ Griddle, iSi’s Thermo Whip PLUS, and The New Zealand King Salmon Co. Ltd.'s Regal Salmon Pastrami for their incomparable utility in the kitchen.
Those were just a few of the highlights from this year’s Congress. And, of course, over three days we were constantly coming back to our theme, What is American Cuisine? There were Main Stage discussions on the topic and we asked our presenting chefs the same question up front. In the end, we’ve come away with a few high-minded conclusions about American cuisine and what and who defines it.
It goes without saying that American cuisine is a little bit of everything; the beauty of a relatively young cuisine is its ability to absorb and adapt to influences from across the globe, as so many chefs pointed out to us. Perhaps Chef Rick Tramonto said it best when he answered our question: “I am American Cuisine; we are all American cuisine. To me, American cuisine has to do with the melting pot and culmination of all of the ethnic neighborhoods and transplants that landed in America to from an entanglement of cuisine and tradition.”
So, maybe it was kaiseki chef Yoshihiro Murata’s presentation on umami that bowled you over, or Chef Sean Brock’s use of heirloom southern ingredients in ultra-modern Lowcountry classics like shrimp and grits that got your culinary chi flowing. Whatever it was, we hope we’ll see you again or for first the first time at next year’s event. And if you have any ideas for presentations, demonstrations, themes, share them with us now!