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International Chefs Congress 2006 Wrap Up on StarChefs.com Photo By Michael Harlan Turkell

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International Chefs Congress 2006

by Tejal Rao
Published: September 2006

Jay MacInerny, Eric Ripert, Antoinette Bruno, Daniel Boulud and Peter Eliott prepare backstage on StarChefs.com

Antoinette Bruno shows the Congress
book to Peter Eliot, Jay McInerny,
Eric Ripert and Daniel Boulud
Photo by Michael Harlan Turkell

On September 19 and 20, some of the world’s foremost chefs descended on New York for the inaugural StarChefs.com International Chefs Congress. A crowd of over 700 chefs, hoteliers, caterers, culinary students and press hailing from 37 states, 16 countries, and all walks of culinary life attended the presentations and workshops at our first Congress. The theme, “Flavor and the American Spirit,” also manifested itself in an appropriately vast scope of subjects, from a panel with Eric Ripert (le Bernardin, New York) and Daniel Boulud (Daniel, New York) on the makings of a 4-star restaurant, to a presentation with Ken Oringer (Clio, Boston) revealing how to source and prepare shark’s fin. It seems impossible to condense the intense two days of culinary education and chef-style partying, but the highlights follow.

Anthony Bourdain declares the kitchen "the last meritocracy" on StarChefs.com

Anthony Bourdain steps away fromthe podium in his "cook free or die" t-shirt
Photo by David Vogel

DAY 1:

Editor-in-Chief Antoinette Bruno set the tone for the event with her dynamic welcoming speech that brought up key trends and movements of 2006 with statistics taken from the 2006 StarChefs Culinary Trends Survey in which 60% identified themselves as Executive Chefs or Executive Sous Chefs in fine dining, upscale casual, or hotel operations, and over 50% as chef owners. Anthony Bourdain (Les Halles) took the stage for his Team Building and Crisis Management keynote address. In his signature dark, funny and no-frills style, Bourdain called the restaurant “the last meritocracy,” took a few friendly jabs at chefs famous for their lack of sense of humor, and offered up tips on how to make your team work as a strong unit: consistently rewarding and punishing successes and failures, and being a tough, but fair boss—which is to say getting your whites dirty with the rest of the team.

<strong>Albert Adria explains how natural textures, colors and flavors inspire his dishes on StarChefs.com

Albert Adria explains how natural textures,
colors and flavors inspire his dishes
Photo by David Vogel

Jose Andres (Café Atlantico, Washington DC) seemed to thoroughly enjoy his role as Albert Adria’s comical translator (el Bulli, Spain). Adria presented the recipes and techniques for two complex and stunning desserts: The Hummingbird and The Rock. A simple and whimsical garnish involved Adria piping chocolate directly into a bowl of cocoa in the shape of tree branches. Once the chocolate set, he gently removed it from the cocoa for a chocolate branch to create the look and texture of wood. As a film made especially for the event played on the large screen, Adria explained how the desserts’ textures, flavors, and visual composition were inspired by nature. While techniques like the one used to make the praline-filled caramel-head of The Hummingbird may be complicated, Adria made it clear that taste is of the utmost importance and that techniques are just another way of reaching a new level of texture and flavor.

Fergus Henderson, Anthony Bourdain and Chris Cosentino discuss the glories of the pig on StarChefs.com

Fergus Henderson, Anthony Bourdain and Chris
Cosentino discuss the glories of offal
Photo by David Vogel

The Guts and Glory offal panel brought together three stars in the revival of offal eating. Anthony Bourdain moderated as Fergus Henderson (St John’s, England) and Chris Cosentino (Incanto, San Francisco) mused, joked and waxed poetic on the glories of the pig and the underappreciated inner organs that make many uninitiated diners feel squeamish. While the taste of these delicious parts is supremely important to chefs, Henderson and Cosentino also explained why the virtue of “nose-to-tail eating” makes sense from a business and philosophy standpoint. Using a whole animal is an example of true sustainability. It is an economical practice, not to mention an exciting and traditional challenge faced by cooks for centuries.

<strong>Pascal Barbot shaves raw mushrooms for his foie gras galette on StarChefs.com

Pascal Barbot shaves raw
mushrooms for his foie gras galette
Photo by Michael Harlan Turkell

Pascal Barbot's Foie Gras and Mushroom Galette dusted with mushroom powder on StarChefs.com

Pascal Barbot's Foie Gras and Mushroom
Galette dusted with mushroom powder
Photo by David Vogel

After lunch, Pascal Barbot (L'Astrance, France) began his foie gras presentation with a focus on flavor harmony and precise simplicity. Barbot discussed his passion for combinations that make sense and his utmost respect for the ingredient’s natural texture and taste. Rather than cooking the foie gras in his first galette, Barbot marinated it in a herbaceous and astringent verjus. The result was the sort of dish that epitomizes the Astrance philosophy:a balanced dish with attention on no more than three flavors, in this case, mushroom, foie gras, and citrus. 71% of our chefs surveyed said they are currently using more familiar, classic flavors and ingredients in their dishes and Barbot’s beautiful galette reminded us all why! Barbot was another chef at the Congress inspired by nature, which he expresses by preserving the natural state of each ingredient.

Patricia Quintana set up an array of dried Mexican chilies</strong> on StarChefs.com

Patricia Quintana sets up
an array of dried
Mexican chilies
Photo by Michael Harlan Turkell

Who better to discuss the history of fusion than Norman Van Aken (Norman’s, Miami), who coined the term in 1987? Aken’s food philosophy is based in the intertwining of historical migrations with the great culinary revolutions we’ve seen in the past few centuries. Aken traced the ingredients of his dish, Poulet a la Creole, back to their original arrival in America. In another historically and culturally focused presentation, Patricia Quintana (Izote, Mexico) explained the difference between chili varieties in Mexico, specifically the versatile dried chilies used in her cooking. In her graceful presentation, Quintana explained the step-by-step procedure of pickling, softening and filling ancho chilies with a classic guacamole.

Susur Lee scales fish on StarChefs.com

Susur Lee scales fish
for his Cantonese dish
Photo by David Vogel

Patricia Yeo composes her smoking liquid with spices, salt and wood  on StarChefs.com
Patricia Yeo composes her smoking liquid with spices, salt and wood
Photo by David Vogel

The auditorium filled with the intense smells of spices and fermented black beans as Susur Lee (Susur, Canada) explained the technique for Cantonese steaming while preparing two traditional sauces to accompany his steamed fish. Another technique driven presentation followed as Patricia Yeo (Sapa, New York) demonstrated how she uses the YieldKing in her kitchen at Sapa. "It's my favorite toy," she laughed, using it to smoke chicken on-the-bone with tea leaves and spices. Yeo also demonstrated the technique she used before the equipment was brought in with a stove-top smoker or pot and a lot of ice cubes to achieve the same effect of gentle smoking that keeps the meat raw in the center and allows for searing without overcooking.

<strong>Ken Oringer explains the process for soaking a shark's fin on StarChefs.com

Ken Oringer explains the
process for soaking a shark's fin
Photo by Michael Harlan Turkell

A plate of rubbery, gelatinous shark fin was passed around the audience during Ken Oringer’s presentation on the use of unusual ingredients. Attendees poked and examined the strange ingredients as Oringer described his adventures cooking and eating abroad, and his trial and error system of experimenting with rare and foreign products like barnacles and shark’s fin. The scent filled the auditorium as Oringer composed a thick, rich broth with dried scallops, nori, foie gras, chicken stock, pigs feet and chicken feet to garnish the shark’s fin – a delicacy that must be soaked for 2 weeks before cooking.

Frederic Bau's savory Chocolate Chantilly  on StarChefs.com

Frederic Bau's savory Chocolate Chantilly
Photo by David Vogel

Frederic Bau (L'Ecole du Grand Chocolat Valrhona, France) presented Valrhona’s new spicy Xocopili chocolate. While 65% of our surveyed chefs reported a significant integration of sweet and savory flavors in their dishes, Bau still managed to wow the audience with a little taste of Chocolate Chantilly flavored with Crab and Chorizo Fumet and paired with Dungeness Crab and Tomato Water Gelatin. The result was a delicious, savory chocolate dish that matched the sweetness of the crab and the sweet and acidic nature of the tomato.

Bart Vandaele's Beer of Belgium workshop on StarChefs.com

Bart Vandaele's Beer of Belgium workshop
Photo by Michael Harlan Turkell

Upstairs on the 5th floor, David Meyers (Sona, Los Angeles) set up for the Art of Presentation with garnishes, sauces, vegetables and raw tuna for workshop goers to experiment with and create their own dish. After a quick and fun lecture on the art of presentation, attendees concentrated on putting their newly acquired knowledge to use and began garnishing their own plates as Meyers and Matt Hoyle (Nobu 57, New York) assisted with comments and suggestions. Next door, Bart Vandaele (Belga Café, Washington DC) thrilled his room with Belgian beers and thoughtfully paired small plates, Joel Atunes (Joel, Atlanta) worked with Izzy Yanay to educate attendees on the industrial production and professional preparation of foie gras.

Jose Andres demonstrates the texture of espuma on StarChefs.com

Jose Andres demonstrates
the texture of espuma
Photo by Michael Harlan Turkell

To finish the day with a bang, Jose Andres took the “Flavor of the American Spirit” theme to another level. His funny, animated, and thought-provoking presentation began by deconstructing American dishes like Caesar Salad and Philly Cheese Steak and rebuilding them through the lens of progressive fine dining. Andres then took the audience step-by-step through the process of aspherification using sodium alginate and calcium chloride. The inventor of the technique, Albert Adria, sat in the middle section, laughing at Andres’ jokes with the rest of the audience.

Ken Oringer and Wylie Dufresne chat over dinner at Butter on StarChefs.com

Ken Oringer and Sam Mason chat over
drinks at Butter
Photo by Michael Harlan Turkell

As Day 1 came to a close, attendees began to gather next door at Cabana in the Maritime Hotel, for a cocktail party on the roof terrace with beer, margaritas, and chilled wines.
From here, the chef presenters went to Butter for dinner, where Paul Liebrandt gave them an exciting couture-cuisine experience. Other Congress attendees dined together at The Modern, Sapa, Cru and Riingo. After dinner, everyone got back together for the after-parties at AER and Hotel QT, where chefs and industry members partied together by (and in!) the pool until all hours.

DAY 2:

Eric Ripert explains the importance of a good relationship with one's supplier on StarChefs.com

Eric Ripert explains the importance of
a good relationship with one's supplier
Photo by David Vogel

The next day in the big city began with some bright lights as author Jay McInerny moderated the Making of a Four-Star Restaurant panel with New York star chefs Daniel Boulud and Eric Ripert. The first question hearkened back to Bourdain’s speech the day before and asked the chefs to talk about their famously tough leadership style as “screamers.” “I’ve changed my ways,” Ripert announced, “I used to put on a show every night, throwing plates and making a scene, but I don’t believe in that anymore.” With focus on the details that make a restaurant four-star, Ripert and Boulud talked back and forth regarding everything from sourcing their fish (which Ripert picks up at midnight before any other chefs can get their hands on the good stuff) and hiring stagiers, to where they come up with their ideas and how they balance their personal lives with the intense demands of running a kitchen.

Marcus Samuelsson sautes the base for his Ethiopian beef stew on StarChefs.com

Marcus Samuelsson sautes the
base for his Ethiopian beef stew
Photo by David Vogel

Though Marcus Samuelsson (Aquavit, New York) is known for the New Scandinavian Cuisine of Aquavit, he chose to explore and celebrate the other part of his culinary identity at the Congress: the interplay between African cuisines, with a focus on Ethiopia. Samuelsson’s latest book, “The Soul of New Cuisine,” captures this exploration and experimentation with African recipes and ingredients. He was inspired, much like Aken, by the origins of his ingredients – tracing products like foie gras earlier than the French and all the way back to the Egyptians. Joining Samuelsson on stage to celebrate the African culinary scene, Peter Morales of 57 Main Street suggested African wine pairings to accompany the spicy foods. “African food is the next big thing,” Sameulsson declared, “there are so many interesting ingredients and techniques hidden on the continent, and they are going to spread to Europe and America next!”

Pichet Ong enthusiastically demonstrates the many uses of tapioca starch  on StarChefs.com

Pichet Ong enthusiastically demonstrates
the many uses of tapioca starch
Photo by David Vogel

Upstairs on the 5th floor, Lee Gross (M Café de Chaya, Los Angeles) worked closely with a small class sharing his macrobiotic philosophy and opening their minds to the idea of vegan charcuterie. Chris Cosentino frightened only one student away, enthralling the rest of the class with his hands-on tripe workshop that stressed sourcing the unbleached product. Pichet Ong (P*Ong, New York) celebrated the versatility of tapioca starch, teaching his class how to make everything from dumplings to tapioca pearls.

The Sustainability Panel discusses how small <strong>and local famers can actually suffer from this growing trend on StarChefs.com

The Sustainability Panel discusses how small
and local famers can actually suffer from
this growing trend
Photo by Michael Harlan Turkell

The Sustainability Panel followed in the auditorium with Peter Hoffman (Savoy, New York), Greg Higgins (Higgins, Portland), Bruce Sherman (North Pond, Chicago), and Jennifer Small (Flying Pigs Farm, New York)- all members of The Chefs Collaborative, a national network of over 1000 chefs on a mission to explore the issues of sustainability. While Traci Des Jardins (Jardiniere, San Francisco) and Todd Gray (Equinox, Washington DC) are not members of the network, they have plenty of ideas on how to incorporate the philosophy of sustainability into restaurants. Tips were given on how to source locally, and how to successfully integrate the philosophy of sustainability in fine dining kitchens. The panel discussed how the growing trend of choosing to embrace seasonal and local products is reshaping the way consumers and chefs shop and cook and affecting local farmers in both a positive and negative way. It is interesting to note that since last year, when 40% of our chefs surveyed told us they focus on locally grown, seasonal ingredients, and almost half of them use fresh, seasonal products almost exclusively, the numbers have increased to 65%.

Paul Liebrandt and his team discuss the role of a chef</strong> on StarChefs.com

Paul Liebrandt and his team
discuss the role of a chef
Photo by David Vogel

Paul Liebrandt presented the techniques for some of his most exciting dishes – turning leaves into delicious croquants that retain their original shape and color. He demonstrated the usefulness of one of the many technologies he uses in his cooking: the PacoJet, which he uses for making both sweet and savory emulsions, sauces and frozen products. After a brief discussion on the role of a chef in a world where the press makes distinctions between artists and artisans, Liebrandt introduced his pastry chef from the previous night’s dinner at Butter, Jordan Kahn who demonstrated the technique for “liquid sable.” The technique is very similar to that of the classic petit beurre cookie, but takes the concept farther. Kahn baked a cookie dough, crumbled it, and emulsified it with a large quantity of fat before freezing it in long shapes. Once frozen solid and removed from the freezer, the sable warmed up in room temperature and became a pliable cookie!

Pierre Herme narrates as the line of his "Ispahan" desserts plays on the big screen on StarChefs.com

Pierre Herme narrates as the line of his
"Ispahan" desserts plays on the big screen
Photo by David Vogel

Famous for his fashionable pastries, Pierre Hermé (Pierre Hermé, France) shared his process for discovering and putting together new taste combinations, layering flavors, textures and sensations, and building his seasonally released, thematic dessert lines. Herme discussed “Ispahan,” the raspberry, litchi and rose trio of his last line, presenting the audience with the photographs of his last collection. Herme surprised some members of the audience by discussing the current sweet and savory theme he is exploring: peas, mint and corn.

Makoto Okuwa assists with the octopus set-up for Morimoto on StarChefs.com

Makoto Okuwa assists with
the octopus set-up for Morimoto
Photo by David Vogel

Masaharu Morimoto’s demonstration required little narrative (Morimoto, New York). His incredible skill and speed held the audience captive. In almost complete silence, Morimoto took apart an octopus, shaved his own bonito, made his own dashi, and unraveled a continuous, transparent sheet of abalone with his knife. The last triumph, an impressive sheet of abalone that most chefs require tools other than knives to acheive, broke the quiet and won Morimoto gasps and applause from the chefs in the audience.

Wylie Dufresne (wd-50, New York) took the stage to discuss the developments in the wd-50 kitchen. Almost a full quarter of our surveyed chefs reported the use of gums, homogenizers, hydrocolloids or liquid nitrogen in their kitchens. In addition, 27% said they had amassed increased knowledge of science and chemistry, and 20% indicated experimenting with complicated techniques that use innovative equipment. Dufresne shared his experiences with new techniques, ingredients and cooking methods, some of which came about entirely by accident, others, through trial and error. Dufresne narrated as the footage played on the large screen: first, making egg white bubbles in oil and flavorful pebbles and then incorporating them into whimsical dishes typical of Dufresne’s style. The questions that followed about Dufresne’s knowledge of hydrocolloids, or gums, were greeted with the same advice: "call manufacturers! Go and experiment yourselves!"

Backstage, Josh Dechellis carves tuna cheeks for his presentation on StarChefs.com

Backstage, Josh Dechellis carves
tuna cheeks for his presentation
Photo by David Vogel

Josh Dechellis (Sumile, New York), whose Japanese influenced cooking philosophy showed through in his presentation, was on a mission to bring tuna cheeks – an often wasted part of the fish – back into kitchens. His dish was focused on simplicity, flavor and the appreciation of Japanese cuisine. After demonstrating how to remove the valuable cheek from the head of the tuna, Duchellis smoked the cheek with cedar paper using the Winston CVAP. He finished the fragrant dish with a watermelon and radish salad to balance out the flavors.

Using hydrocolloids to make crème brulee beads covered in a thin, crisp film of caramelized sugar was an amusing and information-packed journey with Sam Mason. The beads were self-contained morsels of sweet crème brulee piled atop one another like a natural bed of river stones. When Mason torched the plate at the end, and the thin layer of caramel (that he would have liked even thinner) began to seal the crème brulee spheres in a fitted dome of sugar—the dish made perfect sense.

Davide Scabin (Combal Zero, Italy) and his charming Italian translator, cookbook author Anna Teresa, discussed the toys and tools that remove food from its familiar setting to dramatically change the eating experience. Scabin is a passionate advocator of sensory deception, which about 18% of our surveyed readers reported using. From a box that holds pasta and allows each guest to “sauce” it themselves, to the Cyberegg process of isolating a liquid in a clear bubble of plastic wrap, Scabine challenged the audience to imagine the visual and interactive experience of eating in a completely revolutionary way.

Sergi Arola picks the bones from his sardine filets on StarChefs.com

Sergi Arola picks the bones from his sardine filets
Photo by Michael Harlan Turkell

Sergi Arola (La Broche, Spain) celebrated one of his favorite ingredients: the sardine. Arola sees the fish as a defining ingredient of Spanish cuisine, and with his energetic and passionate presentation challenged chefs that think of sardines as a second-class fish to imagine the possibilities of this oily, inexpensive, and delicious product. While he clearly explained how to clean, scale and store the fish, Arola presented 4 recipes, each suited in taste and heaviness to the corresponding season.

The Rising Stars gala in full swing on StarChefs.com

The Rising Stars gala in full swing
Photo by Michael Harlan Turkell

Alex Urena finishes his cured  on StarChefs.com

Alex Urena finishes his cured
tuna with chorizo aioli and caviar
Photo by Michael Harlan Turkell

Although Day 2 at the International Chefs Congress was winding down, the night was still young for the StarChefs team, chefs and attendees supporting New York’s young, hot chefs. We moved on to Crobar for the 2006 Rising Stars Gala. The venue was converted into a street stall fair with all the New York magic and bustle of Chinatown. Guests weaved their way around two floors packed with high concept street-food from all of our Rising Stars as well as cocktails and wine pairings. The most exciting week in StarChefs history ended sometime after 4 in the morning at the industry-only after party across the street at the restaurant and lounge, Bed. Wasting no time, we’re already planning our next event and heading off for editorial tastings in preparation for the Washington, DC Rising Stars!


The 2006 New York Rising Stars take the stage with Albert Adria, Sergi Arola, Daniel Boulud, Joel Atunes and Frederic Bau on StarChefs.com

The 2006 New York Rising Stars take the stage with Albert Adria,
Sergi Arola, Daniel Boulud, Joel Atunes and Frederic Bau
Photo by Michael Harlan Turkell

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  • 2007 ICC Photo Gallery
  • 2007 ICC Welcome Address
  • 2006 International Chefs Congress
  • New York Rising Stars 2007

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