2013 ICC Main Stage Wrap-up

2013 ICC Main Stage Wrap-up

Day 1: Torrents of Guts and Glory

Hunger for Wanderlust: David Myers and the Global Kitchen
David Myers of Hinoki & the Bird – Los Angeles, CA

Chef first, businessman only recently, Chef David Myers laid raw the realities of life as a chef in this year’s opening address at ICC. “Each of my successes has been followed by a huge ‘oh shit’ moment.” The succession of his “hell yea” and “oh shit” moments came in fast and furious succession in his early days as a cook—going through Charlie Trotter’s boot camp and spending nights scrubbing the kitchen clean.

David Meyer plating his Loaded Sweet Potato with Cured Plum Crème Fraiche, Pickled Chiles, Herbs, and Lardons
David Meyer plating his Loaded Sweet Potato with Cured Plum Crème Fraiche, Pickled Chiles, Herbs, and Lardons

After moving to L.A., Myers opened his first solo restaurant, Sona, to critical acclaim. And the hell yea moments came flooding in: spreads in Gourmet, a packed restaurant, Bon Appétit’s “Best New Chef,” and stories in GQ. Until they didn’t. In 2008, the economy crashed, Sona teetered near bankruptcy, and the restaurant closed to a press piranha fest, said Myers. “In a matter of months I went from peacock to feather duster.”

But in that low moment, Myers learned about himself—and he learned to fight and dig his way out of near collapse. Now, with restaurants across the globe, “I’m in a hell yea phase, and it feels like I’m living the dream. But I know for certain that an oh shit moment is around the corner.” But Myers now has stronger confidence to “navigate out of the shit.” Myers finished his presentation by demonstrating two dishes from his newest restaurant, Hinoki & the Bird: Charcoal Brioche Lobster Roll (based on the flavors of a Vietnamese goat curry), and the ultimate Loaded Sweet Potato with cured plum crème fraiche, pickled chiles, herbs, and lardons.

Richard Around Town: A Legendary Chef Cracks the Big Apple
Chef Michel Richard of Villard Michel Richard – New York, NY

On the Main Stage, Chef and Legend Michel Richard discussed his early days on the frontier of American cooking. He moved to New York City 40 years ago and worked at 59th and Lex for just a year before the restaurant failed. Instead of returning to France with his fellow cooks, he gathered his pastry bags and headed to New Mexico, eager to make the most of American kitchens. The rest is history—the birth of French-California cuisine, a pastry legacy, and a D.C. fine-dining powerhouse were all born in time.

Pastry Chef Michel Richard makes his microwave lemon curd.
Pastry Chef Michel Richard makes his microwave lemon curd.

After thoroughly charming the audience, Richard demonstrated his charming, delicate Lemon Eggceptional. He filled egg shells with water, froze the water, and dipped the ice in warm white chocolate and oil to form a thin egg shell replica. He filled the chocolate shell with a French meringue and a microwaved lemon curd. (“At home, I microwave everything, I make pastry cream, ice cream, and lemon curd—everything in the microwave.”) Simple and elegant, it’s the food he’ll showcase in his new New York home, 40 years from his first stint in his kitchens.

Umami Burger World Domination
Adam Fleischman of Umami Burger – Los Angeles, CA

When Adam Fleischman started Umami Burger, he had “no money and no talent.” But he did have a new way to approach hamburgers. Instead of building burgers with meat, bun, condiments, and veg, he used Umami as a prism through which he crafts chef-driven, obsessively-tinkered-with burgers of all stripes. No ingredient is off-limits.

Chef Adam Fleischman of Umami Burger using a Jade Induction Plancha
Chef Adam Fleischman of Umami Burger using a Jade Induction Plancha

On the Main Stage, Fleischman and his New York assistant Hillary, made Umami’s signature Five-Spice Duck Burger, grinding fresh duck meat and incorporating a 50/50 mix of dark and light meat with added duck fat for good measure. In his restaurants and on the Main Stage, Flesichman starts his burgers in the Winston CVap, which brings the burgers to about 100°F—not exactly cooking them but getting them ready to sear on a screaming hot plancha for a thick crust and the ultimate Maillard reaction. He paired the duck burger with fennel confit, duck cracklings, and fruit compote.

Fleischman next demonstrated his “secret” off-menu Casablanca Lamb Burger, the patty of which is a mixture of ground lamb shoulder and mergez. Instead of cheese, he topped the burger with nutty cashew spread, mergez curry, and apricot chutney. Just in case attendees had not been able to get into his first NYC restaurant, Fleischman announced that not one—but two—new Umami Burgers are coming to New York (and Emcee Joe Isidori demonstrated the secret knock to get in)!

Mission Chinese by Bi-coastal Glory
Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese – San Francisco, CA

It takes guts to put yourself out on the line, especially when you’re casting into the unknown. Danny Bowien fully embraced this year’s ICC theme: Guts and Glory, Leaving It All on the Line. Long before the bi-coastal glory of Mission Chinese, Bowien learned  from the best at several high-profile restaurants. But he left fine-dining kitchens behind for a pop-up in a terrible Chinese restaurant, where the owners presumably spent more time playing mahjong than cooking. "I didn't fit into a lot of kitchens," said Bowien on the ICC Main Stage. “We wanted our own voice, but we had no capital.” The collaborative pop-up grew, and eventually Bowien found himself (a Korean adopted by American parents, who lived in Oklahoma) making Chinese food for the first time in his life.

Chef Danny Bowien on the Main Stage
Chef Danny Bowien on the Main Stage

In his talk, Bowien highlighted his best and most memorable times at Mission Chinese—from having the owner’s son and drag-racing friends deliver takeout Chinese food for them the first month (until every car was totaled) to communicating with his Chinese-only speaking employees with primitive tally marks and drawings for orders. A photo slideshow was nostalgic of simpler, experimental times, and followed the restaurant's rise from “shit hole, where the owners ate grapes all day” to “the most over-hyped restaurant in the world,” according to Bowien, whose staff drank beers with Ferran Adrià (without knowing who he was).

To prepare for the opening of his New York restaurant (“one of the scariest things I’ve ever done”), Bowien went to culinary school in China. “Everyone was talking shit about us. I wanted to go to China to learn to make real Chinese food. We ate six meals a day to it.” He took on New York with his new knowledge and a kitchen full of young, white cooks. Though the human guts of his restaurants couldn't be more dissimilar, Bowien gives his cooks full credit for his success. “I owe it all to my cooks.” And the success and good will is building with a second Lower East Side restaurant scheduled to open soon. “It takes balls to open in NYC.” And Bowien has the goods to do it.

Unsung Kitchen Heroes
April Bloomfield of The Breslin – New York, NY

April Bloomfield, a chef who has “this little restaurant called the Spotted Pig” ceded the Main Stage on Sunday to three unsung heroes of her New York City kitchens. Chef Christina Lecki (The Breslin), Katharine Marsh (The Spotted Pig), and Charlene Santiago (The John Dory) stepped from behind the line to the limelight to break down a 30-pound, line-caught, Long Island striped bass.

Chef Christina Lecki (<em>The Breslin</em>), Katharine Marsh (<em>The Spotted Pig</em>), and Charlene Santiago (<em>The John Dory</em>)
Chef Christina Lecki (The Breslin), Katharine Marsh (The Spotted Pig), and Charlene Santiago (The John Dory)

Lecki discussed the restaurants’ philosophy of sustainability and local buying as Santiago broke down the fish into a boneless side and then the collar and head. Lecki roasted the head simply, with salt and pepper—she tries to sell one a day at The Breslin, saving on food costs and giving one adventurous table a dramatic fish presentation. “It’s about 100 percent respect for the product,” said Lecki. Marsh stepped in to transform the bass skin into a cracker, scraping the meat off the durable skin with a spoon and cooking it between sheet pans until crispy. She then made a quick ceviche with thin slices of the fish. The tag-team butchery and expert technique spoke to the skills and devotion of the women who cook for a living—with all guts and surely, soon-to-come, glory.

Building a Cocktail Legacy
Dale DeGroff of KingCocktail.com – New York, NY
Audrey Saunders of Pegu Club – New York, NY

Imagine a back bar with little more than a soda gun, sour mix, vodka, and whiskey, and take a sip of Dale DeGroff’s reality when he jumped behind the bar in the 1970s. Such was the grim state of affairs DeGroff described on the Main Stage in his joint presentation with the Queen of Mixology, Audrey Saunders. Soon after DeGroff began bartending, Restaurateur Joe Baum tapped him to work on Baum’s latest projects and introduced DeGroff to Jerry Thomas’s Bartender’s Guide. DeGroff proceeded to decode Thomas’s work—reconfiguring measurements for the modern bar and re-sourcing ingredients that went the wayside during Prohibition and the culinarily unfortunate 1950s. Thank you, sir. (The cocktails this writer is currently consuming during ICC Congress Cocktail are direct descendants of your work.)

Dale DeGroff and Audrey Saunders discussing the modern cocktail movement on the Main Stage
Dale DeGroff and Audrey Saunders discussing the modern cocktail movement on the Main Stage

DeGroff’s work paralleled America falling in love with big flavors. And a few years down the line, his work nourished Saunder’s growth. “The moment I walked behind the bar, I knew I was home,” she said. Her professional inspiration took her to DeGroff as a mentor, and they made and refined all the classics together—drinks we take for granted today: the Sidecar and cherry Caipirinhas (“our hands were bloody hand-cracking ice”).

The force of Saunders and DeGroff together drove home just how far the bartending profession has progressed. “It’s OK to be a bartendner now. It’s a profession,” said DeGroff. As late as 2003, Saunders was buying all the Luxardo cherries she could put in her cart at Dean and Deluca—the only store in New York City that imported and sold them. We all know the present state of cocktail culture, but DeGroff and Saunders gave us a glimpse of a future, where “there’s serious money to be made” if you have beverage knowledge, according to DeGroff.

Saunders is starting the first mixology finishing school in the country (world?) outside of Seattle, and DeGroff says that more and more large hotel and restaurant groups are spending money on bar programs. Forty years after he began slinging drinks, “there is no career ceiling” for talented mixologists.

Day 2: Colorful Characters and Flavors Fill the ICC Main Stage

Breaking It Down with Olympic Provisions
Elias Cairo of Olympic Provisions – Portland, OR

On Day Two of ICC, Elias Cairo showed everybody how to break it down on the Main Stage. He took a beautifully eviscerated Australian lamb and chopped and sliced it down into primal and sub-primal cuts on a Randell Chill-top table (a boon to chefs, he said, who cook in hot kitchens and want to preserve the integrity of meat and fish).

Elias Cairo breaks down a whole Australian lamb
Elias Cairo breaks down a whole Australian lamb

Sticking his face into the chest cavity, the charcutier inhaled deeply the fresh scent of raw meat before going in with a hacksaw and knife (always using the knife to slice around meat and the saw only bone). While pigs are typically broken down into three sections, lamb gets butchered into four: front, rack, saddle, and legs. After removing the neck and forequarters, he sliced through after the sixth rib to separate the rack. At the 13th rib, he sawed through to detach the legs.

Along the way he presented individual cuts and their uses at Olympic Provisions—lower flaps for mergez, loins rolled in skin and fat for a dinner special, and the leg, which he cures whole. Cairo learned how to handle lamb while he studied and worked in Greece, and he showed the audience how to prepare a lamb leg for curing. First he beat the meat (bone side up) with a rolling pin, and then rolled the meat to remove as much blood as possible. As a charcuterie professional, Cairo doesn’t recommend amateur curing, but he said anyone with a curing space can successfully preserve lamb leg—largely because the meat is pure and free of parasites. To make his version of lamb “prosciutto,” he coats the leg in a mixture of salt and curing salt (4% and 0.2% of the meat weight, respectively), rests it for 30 days in the refrigerator, and hangs it in the refrigerator for two to three weeks.

Full Range of Flavor
Bryan Voltaggio of Range – Washington, D.C.

Bryan Voltaggio making Gochujang Kimchi Pasta on the ICC Main Stage with Arcobaleno's AEX18 Pasta Extruder
Bryan Voltaggio making Gochujang Kimchi Pasta on the ICC Main Stage with Arcobaleno's AEX18 Pasta Extruder

“You know the best thing about an Arcobaleno [pasta extruder]: you don’t have to buy fucking Barilla,” said Bryan Voltaggio, chef, Rising Star, culinary competitor, and two-time ICC presenter. His anti-Barilla rant got a loud round of applause from the Main Stage audience, but his demonstration illustrated more than the boycott-ready potential of a pasta extruder. Voltaggio’s first pasta featured Chung Jung One’s gochujang red pepper paste and kimchi juice that he incorporated into the pasta dough. Passing the freshly extruded dough around the audience, attendees leaned in for a whiff of deep, fermented aroma. Voltaggio finished the dish with seared scallops and a sauce of mirin, soy, blitzed uni, and lemongrass.

Voltaggio also explained that the recipe for extruded pasta is quite different from hand-kneaded dough. “It should have 30 percent hydration,” he said. And though it may appear shaggy, you should be able to form a ball when you pick it up. For his second dish Voltaggio used a die that produced “cute,” pumpkin-shaped pasta. Destined for one of his fall menus, Voltaggio paired the pumpkin pasta with a sauce of whey-marinated pumpkin purée (for tangy lactic acidity), smoked turkey tails, shiitakes, and more gochujang.

Voltaggio said he owned hundreds of dies that allow his team to change up their pasta menus on the fly—without tons of investment in time, research, or failed noodles. He also discussed his work with alternative grains, such as an amaranth-quinoa pasta, and essentially cramming a composed dish into a noodle, as with his borscht-inspired beet juice-horseradish pasta. As if the audience needed convincing, Voltaggio and his team passed around bolognese and noodles for a few hundred guests—the prep work made much simpler with his trusty extruder.

Performance Art and Pastry Imagination
Janice Wong of 2:amdessertbar – Singapore

“Why edible art?” posed pastry chef and performance artist Janice Wong of Singapore’s 2:amdessertbar. Because for Wong, the world, and not the plate, is the final frontier in plating, composing, and sharing her craft. “Six years ago [when I started 2:amdessertbar], I was making food and art on a plate,” said Wong. “As we evolved, I thought, ‘How can I make the experience better?’”

Janice Wong prepares a mustard crumble in a Waring Commericial food processor
Janice Wong prepares a mustard crumble in a Waring Commericial food processor

As she demonstrated with her edible art installation on the Chefs Products Fair floor, Wong changed her focus by creating engaging, complex, and highly edible exhibits that evolve as guests pull gummies off a wall and marshmallows from a ceiling. Alongside the success of her edible art, Wong’s interest in flavor and the plated dessert has also intensified, as she pushes herself to “create without reference.” On the Main Stage, Wong prepared a dish of miso-caramel, miso-yuzu ice cream, and mustard crumble. Sweet, salty, funky, and bright, the audience savored the chance to taste—not just see—her philosophy. “I never look at an ingredient as savory or sweet. It’s how you can pair one ingredient with another,” said Wong, who leaned heavily on red miso to push attendees palates.

As Wong devises new and daring flavor combinations and even techniques, she believes in sharing them with the greater culinary community. She self-published one book, and her second is on the way. “I share all my recipes and techniques,” she said. “If I pass them along to the next chef, maybe he can make them better.” Was this a challenge for the audience? The culinary community at large? If so, we can count on endless innovation starting in Singapore and spreading the world over.

Man of Manzanilla: Modernist Spain Takes on the Big Apple

Dani García of Manzanilla – New York, NY

Dani García graced the ICC Main Stage like a seasoned performer. The modernist chef, who has restaurants in Spain and New York City, brought his lively wit, humility, and talented Chef de Cuisine, Santiago Guerrero, to a packed audience. García started the demo with an interesting rice paper preparation. Painting it with egg white and seasonings, he deep fried the papers for 10 seconds, during which time they puffed and became shatteringly crispy. He then garnished them with dried Chinese pork, dried shrimp, a dusting of shrimp powder and dots of textured Spanish olive oil. Two lucky participants experienced the texture and umami-forward flavors (with García holding the microphone to their mouths as they ate) and described the sheets as elegant, oceanic, and nori-like.

Dani García represents Spain on the ICC Main Stage
Dani García represents Spain on the ICC Main Stage

Santiago next made a quick emulsion of Spanish olive oil and seasoned tomato water at a 1:1 ratio with an immersion blender. After adding powdered egg whites and gelatin, he poured the mixture into a whipper, charged it, and expelled the mixture directly into liquid nitrogen. García tested the popcorn-esque result on more audience members and used the pieces as a garnish on his tomato-lobster salad. “Our technique is always in service of taste,” said García. “You cannot do this without liquid nitrogen. It’s how you can eat 50 percent olive oil with a nice mouthfeel,” according to the man who first introduced liquid nitrogen to the kitchen. Ending his presentation with some awe, García presented his dessert, Marbella’s Full Moon, a provocative display of White Chocolate Mousse, Mandarin-Yuzu Center, Walnut Brownie Crumble, Chocolate-covered Corn Nuts, and Citrus Yogurt.

In Pursuit of Maximum Flavor

Aki Kamozawa and Alex Talbot of Ideas in Food – Levittown, PA

Aki Kamozawa and Alex Talbot, the couple surging the culinary industry forward one blog post at a time, turned up the flavor knob to 11 on the ICC Main Stage. The duo presented on a variety of topics, including how to achieve the intensity of dry aging without moisture loss and expensive equipment by holding beef in a layer of funky blue cheese or cured ham skin. They discussed their new favorite beef fat monté (made with beef fat, beef jus, and xanthan gum) that they use to sauce plates and poach proteins. They also showcased the benefits of lightly scoring and flash freezing meat before deep frying as an incredibly effective way of achieving a crusty surface, tender meat (ice crystals help break down cell walls), and rare center—before bringing the meat to temperature in a CVap.

Alex Talbot "aging" Australian beef rib-eye with a 48-hour blue cheese rub

Standing on a Camrack for a little bump in height, Kamozawa broke down a boneless Australian rib-eye into the deckle and center cut, which she then split into two separate steaks. “The rib-eye is an interesting cut of meat,” said Talbot. “It has fat, sinew, and gristle. If you slice and grill it, it has tons of waste. But there’s so much potential.” To help reduce waste and tap into said potential, Talbot discussed how they pressure cook a stock of sinew, cracklings, trim, and even silver skin. When pressure cooked, the silver skin breaks down, and they say it has more flavor than bones. “When you use meat and bones in stock, you’re a gelatin factory. When you’re pressure cooking skin and cracklings, you’re chasing delicious,” said Talbot.

Talbot rendered the rib-eye’s trimmed fat and infused it with vadouvan curry, pepperoni, and ground onions (because it’s faster than chopping), later adding shrimp shells and Madeira- and bourbon-marinated scallops to make an umami-forward sauce, which he imparted with smoky flavor inside the Beech Stone Hearth Oven from Jade Range. Talbot and Kamozawa finished the demo with beef tartare with kimchi juice (stolen from Bryan Voltaggio’s demo), assembled on top of ham skin instead of a plate—so they wouldn’t miss their chance at achieving maximum flavor.

Crazy Creamery Collaboration at OddFellows
Johnny Iuzzini of Sugar Fueled Inc. – New York, NY
Sam Mason of OddFellows – Brooklyn, NY

All these bitches wanna lick my ice cream—or at least Sam Mason’s, according to Johnny Iuzzini and his introductory Instagram slideshow that was accompanied by a thumping, sticky rap by Borgore. And for good reason. Mason spends his days in the test kitchen of OddFellows Ice Cream Co. trying to “get as many different things as I can into ice cream—shove in as much flavor as I can.”

Sam Mason and Johnny Iuzzini freezing chocolate with liquid nitrogen

Mason’s favorite vehicle for folding flavor into ice creams is liquid nitrogen. On the Main Stage, Mason and Iuzzini made whiskey fluid gel noodles with prehydrated agar. They then pumped the gel into liquid nitrogen, broke them into small pieces, and incorporated them into ice cream base. It’s the best way they’ve found to incorporate virtually impossible to freeze alcohol into an ice cream, with the added benefit of creating pockets of intense whisky flavor. As the temperature of the rock-solid gel balances with the ice cream, the pockets remain, but the textures become homogenous. Mason also froze mini marshmallows with liquid nitrogen, so he could torch them and achieve camp fire glory without a gummy, expanding mess. The frozen marshmallows went into a blender with frozen graham crackers and chocolate to make a s’more powder that he used to coat ice cream balls. One of his proudest achievements is his melon-prosciutto ice cream made by incorporating melon sorbet rocks into a prosciutto-infused ice cream base.

Infusions are another method of choice for delivering flavor to his ice creams, as with his prosciutto and chorizo caramel ice creams that involve blitzing meat into cream with a Waring Commercial immersion blender. Another favorite is his cornbread ice cream that involves a quick two-hour infusion with Jiffy cornbread. In his demo, Iuzzini made a trompe l’oeil showpiece with sourdough-infused ice cream, piping a bread slice-shaped mold one-third full with ice cream and pulling it with a vacuum to fill the mold. In the shop, Mason has topped the “bread” with PB&J ice cream (liquid nitrogen shards of Welch’s grape jelly and peanut butter base), serving the ultimate, re-imagined ice cream sandwich.

“As a chef, you’re always a target. But ice cream makes everyone happy, and you’re off critics’ radars,” said Mason, whose self-deprecation belies the energy, research, and pastry prowess that he puts into each of his ice cream flavors.

Day 3: MOFAD and Madness

The Master and His Crispies

Francois Payard of Payard Patisserie – New York, NY

Pastry Chef Francois Payard didn't bring liquid nitrogen or any molecular equipment to the Main Stage for his presentation on Day 3 of ICC. He proclaimed, "basic isn't boring. And if you can do it perfectly, why not?" And so, he brought his simplicity to the big show for the pastry faithful who packed the stands on StarChefs final day at the SuperPier. Before he dove into his cooking demonstration, Payard noted, "people think I'm mean, but I'm not mean!"

Francois Payard reinventing the humble rice crispy treat
Francois Payard reinventing the humble rice crispy treat

He portrayed his true fun-loving and playful nature with his choice for the demo: the iconic sweet of every modern American's childhood, the beloved Rice Crispy Treat. "It's so simple to make. And really easy to fuck-up," said the thickly accented Frenchman as he used a paint brush to coat sheets of phyllo in clarified butter and cocoa powder. He stacked the sheets together and baked them between silicone mats to create a crisp geometric garnish to embellish the modest treat.

For the crispy itself, Payard combined the tried and true puffed rice cereal with PreGel's dark roasted hazelnut paste, milk chocolate, white chocolate, and peanut oil. He then plated the composed dessert-treat with chocolate mousse, caramelized nuts, caramel sauce, and powdered sugar.

When Payard finished the plate and held up the dressed-up American staple for all to see, the humble Rice Crispy Treat received wild applause. Preferring to let his food speak for itself, Payard concluded by saying, "You're lucky if you understood half of what I've said!" A wide smile crept across his face as the audience continued to applaud.

The Museum of Food and Drink Explodes on the Main Stage
Dave Arnold of The Museum of Food and Drink – New York, NY

Since Dave Arnold's puffer gun was deemed too dangerous (without permits) for the ICC Main Stage, he improvised a slightly less explosive demonstration. He sealed rice inside an airtight glass container and placed it inside a hot convection oven with a glass front, and while an official timer and safety professionals stood nearby, he waited for it to explode.

Dave Arnold and Peter Kim discuss MOFAD
Dave Arnold and Peter Kim discuss MOFAD

The audience had their eyes on the browning rice in the glass tube, now effectively a ticking time bomb. But their ears were attuned to Arnold as he excitedly explained the significance of his Jerry-rigged experiment.

"The Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD),” began Arnold, “is not your mother's museum. It's about touch and taste and how food interacts with culture." The puffer gun—which transforms rice, corn, nuts, coffee beans, and various legumes into cereal using pressure and heat—encapsulates how food technology, American-style capitalism, and some crazy robber barons, like Kellogg and Quaker, collided to create a now dominant force in the food industry and culture: breakfast cereal.

The rice in the convection oven duplicates—on a much smaller and safer scale—what happens inside a puffer gun. As Arnold peered inside the oven to check on the seemingly innocuous grains, he encouraged the audience to go to the MOFAD homepage to give their support, or to the museum's Kickstarter page, especially if they enjoyed stories and demos such as this. And BOOM! The rice puffs, the glass shatters, and the startled audience smiles and applauds.

The Mystery and Madness of Atelier Crenn
Executive Chef Dominique Crenn of Atelier Crenn – San Francisco, CA
Pastry Chef Juan Contreras of Atelier Crenn – San Francisco, CA
Chef de Cuisine Christopher Bleidorn of Atelier Crenn – San Francisco, CA

At home on the ICC Main Stage was the daring duo of Atelier Crenn, Chef Dominique Crenn and Pastry Chef Juan Contreras, along with Chef de Cuisine Christopher Bleidorn. Dominique introduced herself and quickly took a step to the side, allowing Contreras to showcase his prodigious talent . He humbly took the reins and began by inviting attendees into his mad mad world of flavor, innovation, and whimsy.

Contreras crafts his own compelling serving vessels from materials such as like lava rocks, logs, metal grates, or in this case, a glass wine bottle sheered in half and a piece of wood whittled into a hexagon. He conceives each piece in conjunction with each new dish and develops them to fully flesh out the narrative suggested by his food. It’s thinking far beyond simply what sits on the plate, according to Contreras, who wants all of his dishes to speak to customers and engage conversation without contrived theatrics.

The most profound moment of the presentation came when Crenn introduced a new technique her team had recently hashed out. “Vegetable’s are the new meat,” she said as the first video began to play. The screen quickly faded to a mixture of heirloom carrots covered in salt and sugar; Crenn was curing them before creating a vegetable jerky. After the cure removed the majority of moisture, creating a jerky-like texture, the carrots were rinsed, cooked sous vide, and dried in a dehydrator. The finished product was a vegetable jerky she playfully plated on a tree limb set against a vibrant green moss. The image mirrored on the big screen was striking, and symbolic of the power of a chef’s mind when applied single-mindedly to an ingredient that’s been around the block: the carrot.

Michelin stars glinted in the eyes of the rapt audience.

A Peruvian Empire Built on Passion
Gastón Acurio of Astrid y Gastón – Lima, Peru

“Each restaurant has to have its own soul,” said Peruvian Chef and Restaurateur Gastón Acurio to the Main Stage audience during the final hour of ICC. That’s a lot of souls. Acurio has 33 restaurants in 12 countries, including several in his hometown, Lima. His flagship restaurant is Astrid y Gastón, but on this day Acurio was eager to share the story of one of the most recent editions to his Peruvian empire, Los Bachiche.

Gastón Acurio and Chef Diego Muñoz opening the next chapter of Peruvian cuisine
Gastón Acurio and Chef Diego Muñoz opening the next chapter of Peruvian cuisine

Each of his Lima restaurants specializes in a different aspect of Peruvian cuisine. Los Bachiche focuses on the contributions to Peruvian food made by Italian immigrants. Everything from the restaurant’s décor to the dishes comes together to tell the story of the Italian diaspora in Peru. The immigrant tale that Acurio recounts every night with a 21 course menu is so elaborate that in six months, when he changes the menu, the entire restaurant will undergo a complete redesign in order to tell the next story.

Acurio brought Astrid y Gastón executive chef Diego Muñoz with him to ICC and Muñoz brought with him: a suitcase. The suitcase was actually a serving vessel used to signal the beginning of the Italian immigrant story in the dining room of Los Bachiche. Guests open the suitcase to find a macaron of roasted onion water and sour artichoke butter, cured duck breast, nasturtium leaves, balsamic and strawberries, fish skin and rice; roasted tomatoes, lime water, anchovy, chicken liver, croquette with cheese and aji amarillo, and salted chocolate. And so the meal and the story begins.

To test the authenticity of the experience, Acurio invited six older gentlemen men who migrated from Genoa to come experience the 21 course story. At their table, the story of Acurio's empire comes full circle. Acurio filmed the event for a video—titled “From Liguria to Callao: 100 Years of Taste"— that played on the big screens while he and Muñoz prepared the ninth course from the menu: Potato Linguini, Pine Nut Milk, and Basil. It’s a perfect depiction of Peruvian-Italian cuisine, making the Italian noodle from the most Peruvian of foods, the potato. “Looking into the past is as important as looking into the future,” Acurio said. “Peruvian cuisine has no limits.”

The finale of the video (and the demo ... and of ICC) was a montage of all the people that helped Acurio tell his stories at Los Bachiche and at his restaurants all over the world: chefs, designers, artists, bussers, dish washers, students. He offered his heartfelt gratitude and thanked his global team for their guts, without which there is no glory.

Contributing Writers: Dan Catinella, Caroline Hatchett, Sean Kenniff, and Sunny Liu

Photos by: Anna Beeke, Clay Williams, Ellen Wolff, Ester Soligue, John Keon, Ken Goodman, Laura Thompson, Mark Kohlman, and Shannon Sturgis