Starchefs ICC 2011 Day Three – A Personal Summary

Isaiah Billington and Chef Spike Gjerde of Woodberry Kitchen

The biggest problem at the Starchefs ICC is that one can’t see, do and taste everything. There is simply too much going on at any one time. Difficult decisions need to be made. Starting the final day , I was faced with just such a dilemma. Everything was interesting. While I probably could have personally benefitted the most from attending a workshop on food photography by Andrew Scrivani and Michael Harlan Turkell entitled “From Plate to Picture: Mastering the Art of Food Photography,” I passed it up because there were two workshops I couldn’t miss. As it turned out, even though, I bounced back and forth between the two, these were two of the most impressive workshops I had ever seen at Starchefs or anywhere. The first was from Chef Spike Gjerde and his team at Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore. Spike brought a good portion of his top kitchen staff with him as well as a few of their farmers and a fair amount of product to pull off “Sustaining Relationships: A Chesapeake Ecosystem of Purveyors.” The workshop was set up with a variety of stations, each manned by a member of Gjerde’s team. Each station wound up making a dish and the bar station even prepared a cocktail at 9AM, all to be sampled by the audience. It was an ambitious program, especially considering that Gjerde also introduced a number of his source farmers and explained their operations. Woodberry Kitchen is an impressive operation that makes all but a little of their product in house from scratch. That they maintain a consistent quality in what is a high volume restaurant makes everything that much more impressive. I will have more on this workshop as well as a visit I made to Woodberry Kitchen in late August in upcoming posts.

Chef Sang-hoon Degeimbre of L'Air du Temps

While the team from Woodberry Kitchen was wowing their audience in one room, Chef Sang-hoon Degeimbre was doing the same in another. Focusing on using the products of controlled rot, Degeimbre crafted exquisite platings in front of the rapt audience, explaining himself as he went along. I will also have more on this workshop in an upcoming post.

Aki Kamozawa and Alex Talbot of Ideas in Food

While I tend to rapidly bounce around the different workshops, that was not possible with the Ideas in Food workshop featuring sous vide cooking and New Zealand venison, since they served an entire meal including wine and it would have been rude of me to leave in the middle of the meal. Taking the tack that sous vide cooing is a step in the cooking process, Alex and Aki put together their meal that used sous vide cooking to prepare not only the central proteins, but many of the supporting elements as well. In addition, they utilized a variety of other Modernist techniques including the ultrasonic homogenizer and liquid nitrogen amongst others.

Angel Leon

While I was eating venison, Spain’s Angel Leon was exploring Spanish ingredients, both traditional and new. Leon made waves throughout the Congress with his techniques for utilizing and serving food from the very bottom of the food chain – plankton. Given the state of the oceans piscine reserves, this may very well be the wave of the future, even if it doesn’t always come with the talent of a Leon.

Judges for The ICC Pastry Competition

With my early dinner over, I left the workshop area and headed over to the main stage where the final day of the Pastry competition with only three competitors left, Chris Ford, Antonio Bachour and Ramon Perez still left to compete. The tasting panel judges pictured above included luminaries such as Pierre Herme, Francois payard, David Burke, Jeffrey Steingarten, Elizabeth Falkner and Johnny Iuzzini.

Stephanie Izard of The Goat and the Girl

While the Pastry Competition was winding to a close, Chef Stephanie Izard was busy prepping for her upcoming demo on the main stage. I’m not sure why, but for some reason, she was outside the main prep kitchen trimming her meat cuts by flashlight. She appeared unfazed and retained all digits.

Antoinette Bruno, Chris Ford and Iacopo Falai

Finalist Chris Ford looks on with Antoinette Bruno as Chef Iacopo Falai sliced Ford’s cake for the judges.

Stephanie Izard

Meats and extremities intact, Chef Stephanie Izard stressed core skills in crafting a dish featuring goat on the main stage.

Pastry Chef Michael Laiskonis of Le Bernardin

Pastry Chef Michael Laiskonis led a workshop in which he told how he uses a team approach to creativity. There is a lot of potential to harvest when encouraging the creativity of the kitchen staff in addition to fostering good will and a feeling of camaraderie. A number of Chef Laiskonis’ more well known desserts and a few lesser known ones were prepared for sampling .

Chef Asbel Reyes

Chef Asbel Reyes' Winning "Banana Pumpkin Pie"

The day was rollicking along and the energy that had been already flowing got that much stronger with the start of the 2nd Annual Vita-Mix Challenge. Each competitor was charged with using the Vita-Mix creatively to come up with a dish for judges that included Andrew Knowlton, Wylie Dufresne and Alex Stupac amongst others. The competiton was fierce. Chef Seth Siegel-Gardner of Houston, Texas created a beautiful dish as did runner-up Chef Jamie Bissonette of Boston, but neither they nor anyone else was up to the work of Chef Asbel Reyes, whose Vita-Mix -centric re-working of a pumpkin pie received rave reviews and the championship from the judges.

Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz

With the Congress beginning to wind down, two world class heavyweights were saved until last. Andoni Luis Aduriz of Mugaritz showed a film that gave a definite sense of time and place to his restaurant and then went on to show some of the techniques and dishes that almost invariably cause his diners to submit and feel the senses and emotions of the moment and beyond. His demonstrations included two dishes that wowed me when I dined there this past spring including the oddly, but aptly named, “Shhh, Cat Got Your Tongue.”

Pastry Competition Winner, Ramon Perez

After Andoni’s presentation, time was taken to announce the winner of the grueling three day Pastry Competition. The winner was Ramon Perez from the restaurant Comme Ça, receiving a nice check for $5,000 in addition to a variety of other prizes.

Chef Massimo Bottura

The honor of being the final presenter of the Congress fell to Massimo Bottura, superstar chef of Osteria Francescana in Modena. Showing two videos, one highlighting his past approach to cooking cerca 2007 and another his current one, Bottura stressed the need for responsibility for sourcing and creating food. It was a thought provoking way to end the Congress and like with many other demos presented, there will be more detailed coverage of this over the next few weeks to months.

Sommeliers Alexander LaPratt and Jill Zimorski

Bottura’s demo ended, but the Congress wasn’t quite over. The Somm Slam competition, which some Congress I will feature for itself -it really should be a stand alone competition, was left with two finalists, Alexander LaPratt from DB Bistro Moderne and Jill Zimorski of Volt with LaPratt being crowned champion of the diabolical food-wine pairing challenge. With this, another incredible StarChefs ICC was now history with only the NYC Rising Stars Review and after party left.

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