2010 International Chefs Congress Wrap-Up: Savory + Pastry Workshops and Demonstrations Day Three

2010 International Chefs Congress Wrap-Up: Savory + Pastry Workshops and Demonstrations Day Three

Chefs Michael and Bryan Voltaggio on the mainstage Chefs Michael and Bryan Voltaggio
on the mainstage
The first interactive workshop of the day was hosted by 2010 Los Angeles Rising Star Chef Michael Voltaggio, formerly of The Dining at the Langham, and certainly opened the eyes of the ICC’s earliest risers. Porcelain Canvas: Eating with Your Eyes offered attendees an opportunity to witness Chef Voltaggio use state of the art culinary technology to reinterpret classic dishes to form revolutionary cuisine. He demonstrated a new recipe: a Caprese salad with a Japanese slant. The basic ingredients of tomato, basil, mozzarella, parmesan, and balsamic vinaigrette were completely transformed. Chef Voltaggio began with making his own soy milk which was transformed into house-made tofu and replaced the traditional mozzarella. Then he demonstrated how basil could be used to make a flavorful nori when oxidized. For the balsamic element, Voltaggio introduced Asian flavor by infusing rice vinegar with shiitake mushrooms. To add the umami that parmesan typically adds the chef instead used liquid nitrogen to freeze calamari, first baking the snow formation into a sheet and then deep frying the concoction to resemble the texture of a hard cheese. The ingredients were elegantly placed atop Steelite plateware. The end result was a never before seen salad that we’re sure inspired every chef in the room.

Fatto in Casa in Italian translates roughly to home or house-made, and it’s the pride of a growing population of do-it-yourself chefs. As Chef Dante de Magistris demonstrated this morning, no small feat, at least not where pasta is concerned. But that’s because Chef de Magistris is a pasta perfectionist, and he’s brought all the elements of house-made under his control. Extruded pasta, unlike hand-rolled, can be prepared in larger quantities. The machine at Chef de Magistris’ kitchen at Dante makes more than enough to serve his eager guests. And while he’s making it in large quantities, the beauty of extruded pasta, according to the chef, is the quality of the product. Like most foods that seem simple, pasta is the precious end result of a very specific set of factors. Anything from the humidity of the kitchen to the motion of the extruder can impact the quality of the pasta, not to mention the recipes. We started by tasting four pastas: one made with 00 flour and no egg, one with semolina flour and egg, and two more semolina pastas with different flour to egg ratios. Everyone seemed to most enjoy the semolina with the least amount of egg. And even though they were dressed with a sumptuous fresh ricotta, black pepper, and black truffle mixture, it was the pasta that stood out in every bite.

Chef George Mendez Chef George Mendez
Aldea Chef and 2009 New York Rising Star George Mendez and olive oil expert Alfonso Fernandez kicked off this morning’s hands-on workshop Iberian Rhapsody: Modern Rustic by reviewing the four main varietals of olive oil from Spain. Chef Mendes went on to demonstrate how a cornicabra olive oil can be utilized in frying for the dish of ruby red shrimp confited with the olive oil, dill-clam broth and ground country sausage; he finished the dish with the floral arbequina olive oil from the north of Spain. Fernandez instructed the audience on how to taste each of the highlighted olive oils as they were poured into tasting glasses: at 28°C, warming the glass slightly to release the aromas, and sipped before tasting each of Chef Mendes's dishes. Fernandez ended the workshop with the thought that wine and olive oil share many traits; they have varietals and reflect terroir. But there is one major difference, wine is preferred aged, while olive oil should not be kept longer than 20 days.

Chef Jamie Bissonnette Chef Jamie Bissonnette
What can a chef do with a big, flat, super hot surface? A lot, it turns out, and quickly, as Jamie Bissonnette demonstrated in his interactive workshop Viva La Plancha. Although demonstrating a classically Spanish cooking method, Chef Bissonette brought produce from his Boston hometown. With summer squash from a local farmer's market, sumptuously fatty pork belly that responded with a hiss to the high-heat kiss of caramelization, and periwinkle used in place of classic razor clams, the chef showcased three of the most common plancha-friendly ingredients. Not only did Chef Bissonnette demonstrate the sheer speed of the griddle that works at above 310°F, but he also put its versatility front and center. Shellfish are commonly known to love the plancha; its high heat means shorter cooking time which results in tender octopus, squid, and razor clams--even periwinkles sous vide pair happily with the plancha. As Bissonnette explained, it’s the moist proteins that can receive that last burst of caramelizing heat that reap the benefit of the flat top cooker, and with a crispy skin to boot. “Poultry skin loves the plancha” said Chef Bissonnette through a haze of aromatic smoke, “that’s why you’ll find most of the planchas in Spain outside.” As he cooked, the flavors commingled on the plancha, adding another element of complexity to each bite. Just like the soccarat at the bottom of a paella, the planacha developed its own rich caramelized crust. What the chef called the essence of the plancha, “another element of je ne sais quoi in the chef’s arsenal.”

Chef Keegan Gerhard of Denver’s D Bar Desserts was assisted by Alessandro Racca this morning in dehydrating the myriad of uses for the Carpigiani Pastochef. Contrary to popular belief, it produces consistent results not just pastry chefs but also for savory chefs. Chef Gerhard’s Passion Fruit Curd with Brown Butter and Tarragon showed just how creative you can get with this piece of equipment. Pastry creams, ice creams, soups, condiments, polenta, and sauces are achievable with consistent results, and it can cut back on errors from unskilled labor, as Chef Gerhard pointed out.

Interactive demo presented by Chef Tory Miller
Interactive Demo
presented by Chef Tory Miller
The final interactive demo of the morning demonstrated the Irinox Blast Chiller with exciting results. Chef Tory Miller of the restaurant trifecta Café Soleil, Graze, and L’Etoile in Madison, Wisconsin has recently garnered quite the reputation for his high-tech take on seasonality. Using the Irinox super-freezer, Chef Miller is able to serve the freshest ingredients at the peak of their season, no matter the ingredient, no matter the season. His brief explanation of the machine was that it worked in a way similar to liquid nitrogen: the Irinox quickly lowers temperature to preserve the flavor, color, and texture, almost completely. Any audience members who were not convinced had only to sample the plate of reheated pate sprinkled with frozen parmesan to taste the truth in his words.

Dynamic duo Chocolatier Dominique Persoone and food scientist Bernard Lahousse of FoodPairing.be joined arms once more today for the workshop Chocolate and the Science of Food Pairings. Persoone presented numerous chocolates to the audience, including some that were custom made for top chefs around the world. Meanwhile, Lahousse explained why esoteric combinations like caramel, vinegar, and poppyseeds actually pair incredibly well with each other and with chocolate due to their similar chemical makeup. The team also walked though the terroir of chocolate, with the same percentages from multiple origins to taste and compare.

By Kathleen Culliton, Emily Bell, Jessica Dukes, Katherine Martinelli, Amanda McDougall, and Francoise Villeneuve