Starchefs ICC 2009 Day Two – An Overview

Kaysen & BouleyGavin Kaysen watches David Bouley eat his salmon

Day two started with a lot of bleary eyes including my own, as I was still tired from the evening before when I attended a Star Chefs Dinner held at Le Cirque. That cocktail dinner featured items from chefs around the country including Le Cirque host chef Craig Hopson, who served Roasted Duck Breasts with Pluots and Chocolate-Peppercorn Vinaigrette and Rougie Foie Gras Torchon with Tri-Star Strawberries, Redondo Serrano Ham and Aged Balsamic; Cafe Boulud's Gavin Kaysen who served House Cured New Zealand King Salmon, Rye Guiness Puree, Dill, Lemon Confit; Dante DeMagistris of Restaurant Dante in Boston, who offered "Tongue & Cheek" Grilled Lamb Tongue, Guanciale, Buckwheat Orzotto, Porcini Crema, and Grappa Grapes; Mourad Lahlou from Aziza in San Francisco, who prepared Pickled and Grilled Spanish Mackeral with Leaves, Marble Potatoes and vadouvan; Dana Cree from Seattle's Poppy who created Nutter Butters and "New York Cheesecake" Blueberries, Perilla, Pinenuts – paired with Hoegaarden Beer; Pierre Poulin from Le Cirque who made Chocolate-Hazelnut Spheres and a variety of Chocolate Bonbons; and cocktails from Albert Trummer from NYC's Apothéke. The food and drink was all excellent. The space itself was quite impressive, perhaps even more than its predecessor, Le Cirque 2000.

Despite being tired, I made a point of getting to the Congress for the 9AM start, since I very much wanted to see one of the world's greatest pastry chefs, Paco Torreblanca do his workshop. It was a testament to Torreblanca and the other workshops starting at that hour that they were fully attended. Chef Torreblanca demonstrated his technique for creating realistic looking oysters, shell, body and all as well as a few other techniques.

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At the same time as Torreblanca, Ruben Garcia and Dr. Cesar Vega from Jose Andres' ThinkFoodGroup in Washington, D.C. gave a workshop on handling and using liquid nitrogen. One of the techniques they showed was how to use a spoon to shape liquid chocolate by dipping it into the ultra-cold nitrogen.

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My next stop was Sean Brock's Workshop on a subject regular readers of my blog will know is near and dear to me: Bringing Back American Heirloom Ingredients. Brock featured an heirloom corn and local just-in-season South Carolina brown shrimp to make a classic Carolina Low Country dish of Shrimp and Grits. Of course he happened to use a few cutting edge techniques along the way like liquid nitrogen and the CVap oven.

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After Brock, it was over to the main stage for a pastry extravaganza with Johnny Iuzzini, Sam Mason and Alex Stupac sharing the stage. Originally conceived as "Three Men and a Dessert," Iuzzini explained that trying to all work together on one dish was too difficult. Instead, they approached it as "Three Men and Three Desserts" with each re-interpreting an American classic: Iuzzini did a "Dirt Pie", Mason did "Jello Shots" and Stupak did "Apple Pie" none of which our grandmothers would have recognized by sight, though they likely would have enjoyed them nevertheless.

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The inimitable and indefatigable Jose Andres followed with Ruben Garcia acting as his assistant and straight man. Always entertaining, Andres nonetheless puts out food that is seriously good. Following the lead of Iuzzini, Mason and Stupak, for this presentation, he and Garcia produced classic minibar dishes based on American classics such as New England Clam Chowder, Corn on the Cob, Ham and Eggs and a Tom Collins Cocktail. Each of these dishes was re-imagined and reinterpreted using modern techniques to enhance the dish and the experience of eating them. The idea is to please the mind as well as the  palate.

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After a break for lunch and networking, Masaharu Morimoto returned to the Starchefs' stage. His dissection and preparation of an entire large monkfish on stage was an all-ICC classic. This time, he applied the treatment to a variety of smaller fish including a live fluke, a needlefish, a live eel and a few others. While providing good theater – there is no better culinary showman than Morimoto, the aim of the demo was to teach quick and humane ways for dispatching, safe and proper ways of butchering them fish as well as different ways of using their various parts. Morimoto was accompanied by 2009 Starchefs NYC Rising Star and his Chef de Cuisine at Morimoto, Jamison Blankenship.

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With Morimoto a difficult act to follow, Rohini Dey and Maneet Chauhan of the dual-citied Vermilion Restaurant managed quite creditably as they addressed a unique style of Indian-Latin fusion cooking. Their grilled marinated beef was certainly one of the most intoxicating aromas I smelled throughout the Congress.

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Cocktail greats Audrey Saunders and Tony Conigliaro demonstrated ways that aroma could be used to enhance the cocktail experience including placing scented sugar cubes at the bottom of a straight sided champagne flute and misting various cocktail elements with scented atomized sprays.

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The day's concluded with a conversation between Grant Achatz, Pierre Gagnaire and Daniel Boulud connecting the generations of fine dining.

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One Response to Starchefs ICC 2009 Day Two – An Overview

  1. Xadrian says:

    AKAIK you’ve got the asenwr in one!

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