StarChefs ICC 2012 – Day 1 Overview

It has become impossible for me to cover the StarChefs ICC by myself. The event has grown and has an awful lot going on. Even with the return of Sarah Gardener, my son L.J. Sconzo and the addition of my nephew, Lucas Sconzo and a new contributor to the site, Rocky Merchant, the event is still too big for us to get everything in. Nevertheless, we will do our best to be as thorough as possible in covering this annual culinary highlight. Following are brief synopses of most of the events that occurred on this first fun and informative day. The day was divided into small room demos and hands-on workshops and Main Stage events, which were hosted by the entertaining brothers from Charleston, S.C., Ted and Matt Lee.

The Evolution of Tapas and Culture at El Tapeo 
Seamus Mullen of Tertulia – New York, NY

Seamus Mullen gave away some previously well-kept secrets of Spanish cuisine to the small room of onlookers and demo participants. He talked about wine-like qualities of various Spanish olive oils while offering samples, the particular methods and necessary conditions for raising Ibérico pigs, and the lesser-known cuts of Iberico pigs that are more difficult to find on classic American pigs, including “El Secreto” which they cooked up on an induction burner and served with confited potato and a fresh vegetable reslish. It was heavenly.  – L.J. Sconzo

Counter Culture – The History of Appetizing in NY
Niki Russ Federman and Joshua Russ Tupper of Russ & Daughters – New York, NY

What is appetizing? That was the question posed at the beginning of
today’s demo with the legendary Russ & Daughters, the iconic smoked
fish mecca now run by the great grandchildren of the shop’s original
owners. Simply put, appetizing (a noun) is the food you want to eat
with a bagel and is one of New York’s most unique food traditions.
Although New Yorker’s are now rediscovering Jewish food culture, with
high-end riffs on a bagel and lox popping up everywhere from wd~50 to
Eleven Madison Park, Russ & Daughters has been serving shmears,
herring, and their signature Nova for over 100 years. In this
interactive demo, Nikki and Joshua Russ trace the heritage of
appetizing in the Big Apple and demonstrate the proper slicing
technique to yield perfect slices of this delicate product.  – Sarah Gardener

Tradition Meets Modernity 
Hooni Kim of Danji – New York, NY

My first stop at the ICC led me to Hooni Kim’s (of Danji in New York City) demonstration of French-Korean Fusion cuisine. In two beef dishes, one prepared in a traditionally French style and the other in a traditionally Korean style, Kim highlighted authentic and bold asian flavors. The demonstration began with a steak tartar that combined both classic French and Korean tones. The tenderloin was prominently flavored by sweet notes of sesame oil, garlic and ginger, which fused well with hints of vinegar. The dish had a great balance in texture  – crunchy toasted pine nuts and sesame seeds were well integrated into the tartar, and the dish was garnished with a thin, crispy and refreshing slices of Korean pear. Kim then featured a traditional Korean Beef Bulgogi, made from brisket that was marinated for 24 to 36 hours in a sauce of ginger, garlic sesame oil and pear puree. The bulgogi, topped with scallions and thinly sliced carrots, was incredibly tender, as the addition of pear puree naturally tenderized the meat, and enabled the briskey to encapsulate all the Korean flavors of the marinade. Kim espoused that the key to authentic Korean flavors was the use of authentic Korean ingredients. Imported soy sauce, miso paste, sesame oil, and other Korean staples are essential to preserving the authentic style and stamp of Kim’s cuisine.  – Rocky Merchant

Capturing Edible Moments
Penny De Los Santos of Pennydelossantos.com – New York, NY
Adam Evans of The Optimist – Atlanta, GA

Following some technical difficulties with the projector, food photographer Penny
De Los Santos, with Chef Adam Evans of The Optimist, demonstrated various methods
for capturing food in its best light. Her presentation focused primarily on issues of
lighting and angle, and featured four unique dishes — steak, shrimp, short-ribs, and
swordfish — shot under a variety of lighting conditions (using reflective and light-
dampening boards as well as translucent filter-sheets) and at three different angles:
straight-on, three-quarters, and overhead. An old-school minimalist whose career
predates the era of digital photography, De Los Santos typically eschews heavy post-
production editing in favor of capturing the best-possible image from the start: “If the
food doesn’t look great,” she says, “it probably won’t photograph well.” In spite of the
initial technical setbacks and unnatural lighting of the room, De Los Santos’
presentation, in my opinion, managed to clearly impart to her audience the steps by
which a photographer can take food from the plate to the printed page. – Lucas Sconzo

Of the Moment: Cooking without Recipes 
Mathias Dahlgren of Mathias Dahlgren – Stockholm, Sweden

Mathias Dahlgren eschews the use of recipes whenever he cooks – instead, he varies the proportion of ingredients in accordance with their variable qualities in order to achieve perfect contrast on plate and palate. In his demo, the 1997 Bocuse D’Or winner dismembered and reassembled a local New York cauliflower, using each and every part of the plant in different ways. A larger update is forthcoming and will include elements from his joint main stage presentation with Marcus Samuelsson from this afternoon. – L.J. Sconzo

Wine Prophets
Joe Campanale of Dell’Anima – New York, NY, Olivier Flosse of MARC Restaurants – New York, NY, Daniel Johnnes of The Dinex Group – New York, NY & Emily Wines of Kimpton Hotels – San Francisco, CA

In the world of wine, you’d be hard pressed to find a more impressive
panel than the group assembled this morning. Hailing from some of the
most highly regarded restaurant groups in the country, the cast of
esteemed sommeliers fielded questions regarding everything from
hiring, to profitability, to creating a diverse yet approachable wine
list. The overarching themes of the discussion were the notions of
humility and customer service—that although knowledge is certainly
critical, the ability to enhance a diner’s experience is what makes a
great sommelier.  – Sarah Gardener

Unwrapping Layers of Flavor
Jason Bond of Bondir – Cambridge, MA

Jason Bond, of Bondir in Cambridge, Massachusetts, aims to find the balance between classic and creative flavors in his food – seeking to provide his patrons with a dining experience that is comfortable and pleasantly surprising. In his interactive demonstration, Bond walked through his recipe for his Red Cooked Butternut Squash Soup with Spiced Marshmallows – an ideal autumnal dish that is his vegetarian interpretation of Hong Shao Pork Belly Soup. The taste of Bond’s Butternut Soup evolved from my first bite to my last bite. Its initial taste was earthy and spicy – a deep and warm introduction. As the spiced marshmallow –  packed with flavor from cinnamon, nutmeg and clove –  began to melt into the soup, my subsequent bites began to take a sweeter, lighter note that added to the richness of the soup. As I finished, I had cycled through its complex, yet natural progression of multiple prominent flavors. Bond described his food philosophy with a contemplative and calm demeanor, intermittently tossing around some preliminary ideas for new approaches to traditional American cuisine throughout the demonstration. With a natural connection to his ingredients, and no shortage of ideas, Bond provides an perspective on traditional american cuisine. – Rocky Merchant

Barbecue Rub Down 
Anthony Masters of Fatty ‘Cue – New York, NY

Showcasing a pulled smoked lamb shoulder with spiced goat yogurt and house-
made pita, Anthony Masters of Fatty ‘Cue took us through the process by which a
simple, albeit quality piece of meat becomes barbecue masterpiece. Beginning with an
explanation of the brining process, Masters then explained at what temperature, with
what sort of wood (white oak), and for how long a piece of meat must be smoked before
it is ready to become the highlight of a dish at Fatty ‘Cue. Brilliant touches that might go
unnoticed by restaurant patrons — the ‘layering’ of certain flavor profiles and crisping
already-smoked meat in a pan shortly before serving, for example, not to mention
traditional preparations of several Southeast Asian dishes — were made apparent in
the presentation, as were secrets behind other popular Fatty ‘Cue dishes which
unfortunately could not be presented today, such as the ever-popular fried bacon and a
lamb breast slathered in fermented shrimp. The highlighted lamb shoulder itself was
delicious, with a satisfyingly crisp exterior (thanks to a quick toss in a screaming-hot
pan) which gave way to juicy, tender meat and a smoky-sweetness that pared
wonderfully with the spicy cilantro yogurt and house-made pita. – Lucas Sconzo

The Legacy of Japanese Cuisine 
Masaharu Morimoto of Morimoto – New York, NY

Masaharu Morimoto struck a chord with the audience today as he hopped onto center-stage to disassemble a 240lb Kindai Bluefin tuna. This was no ordinary Bluefin – although the presentation was a dazzling exhibition of the Japanese chefs skills, the real value lay in comparing the quality of this “conservation-friendly” tuna to the dwindling fish that can be found in the wild. More to come in the future as Morimoto demos Sushi Essentials on Tuesday morning. – L.J. Sconzo

The History of Carbonation in Cocktails 
Don Lee of Cocktail Kingdom – NY, NY

In a last minute change of plans, the witty and intelligent Don Lee of
Cocktail Kingdom stepped in to lead the demo initially scheduled with
Jeffrey Morgenthaler of Clyde Common in Portland. Don can best be
described as one part cocktail geek, one part mad scientist,
displaying slides of molecules alongside a Tom Collins. In his
lecture, Don traced the history of carbonation—from the scientists who
first discovered the elements that account for the chemical reaction,
all the way up to bottled carbonated cocktails that have come into
fashion within the past several years. – Sarah Gardener

Chocolate Innovations 
Francisco Migoya of Culinary Institute of America – Hyde Park, NY

It was a real treat to have a front row seat watching Francisco Migoya at work – crafting beautiful and delectable chocolate creations with precise scientific technique and imaginative design. Migoya presented three main platforms for innovation – rethinking chocolate’s base ingredients, flavor (this demonstration’s focus), format (pushing towards a redefinition of the dessert’s shape) and form. It was evident from his layered Chocolate Ganache Cube, triangular angel food and praline stuffed Entremet, to his spherical White Chocolate layered ganache dome, there is no geometric limitation to  what Migoya considers “chocolate bar”. With his particular attention to color and micro-detail, Miyoga’s delicate precision had an incredible visual impact. Migoya also showcased some of his flavor-driven innovations – an inventive aromatically flavored chocolate, by which flavor is infused into his chocolate using a Deadhead-standard volcano vaporizer. I was able to snag a sample of his Cinnamon-Sceneted Eggnosh Brioche Bar, along with some Golden Puffed Rice Bar – and I can vouch for the fact that Miyoga’s chocolate tastes just as good as it looks. – Rocky Merchant

Bitters Sweet: Cocktail Culture Invades Pastry
Plinio Sandalio of Carillon – Austin, TX

After giving us a brief introduction to the ingredients he would ultimately utilize
throughout his presentation, Chef Sandalio kicked off the workshop by speedily mixing
a classic Pisco Sour with a modern twist: rather than agitating the ingredients in a
standard mixer, Sandalio used two nitrous oxide canisters to quickly mix and aerate the
cocktail before setting it aside to focus on his pastry segment. He began this by mixing
sugar, butter, light corn syrup, and Campari to make a syrup that, after being heated to
approximately 150 degrees, cooled on a baking sheet, then blended in a food
processor, would ultimately become Campari-flavored Pop Rocks. While this mixture
heated on the stove-stop, Sandalio threw together a simple pastry cream from sugar,
eggs, and heavy cream, which he rather ingeniously prepared in the microwave,
alternating between mixing and heating for a minute at a time; this he would ultimately
combine, in a mixer of the same sort he used to create the Pisco Sour (which we had by
this point consumed; it was delicious), with angostura bitters, heavy cream, honey,
powdered sugar, and milk to create a sort of mousse. The final part of his dessert was a
fresh grapefruit sorbet, made from scratch. The resulting dish combined the Pop Rocks,
mousse, sorbet, and a wedge of grapefruit to make a dessert that was both fun and
fascinating. – Lucas Sconzo

Sons of the South 
Sean Brock of McCrady’s Restaurant – Charleston, SC and Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene – Atlanta, GA

Sean Brock and Linton Hopkins put together four fantastic-looking dishes while sharing their culinary philosophy with a packed main stage audience. They are flag-bearers for a generation of regional chefs whose preservation work is rooted in their strong desire to keep classic culinary traditions alive before aging primary sources pass on, and their dedication has inspired many others to join the fight. More details to come with a full post on this main stage presentation and Sean Brock’s demo “Exploring the Carolina Rice Kitchen”. – L.J. Sconzo

Eat@ICC Food Carts: Day One Pastry Pop-up Michael Laiskonis of Institute of Culinary Education – New York, NY

New to Star Chefs this year is a series of “pop-up” dining experiences
within the Congress. Today a select number of lucky attendees were
treated to dessert courtesy of pastry icon Michael Laiskonis, formerly
of Le Bernardin. Considering there is nowhere in New York where one
can currently enjoy his confections, this was a treat! The pop-up
featured a series of three desserts:

-A crunchy choux pastry filled will elderflower mousseline and topped
with a liquid-center sphere of apricot

-Milk chocolate sesame gianduia, brandied cherries, mandarin sorbet,
crispy rice, crunchy crepe dentelle

-Dark chocolate cremeux , warm liquid caramel, flaky Maldon sea salt

The final dessert—“the egg”—is one of Chef Laiskonis’ signatures. I’ve
enjoyed it several times over the years, and it’s still one of the
most delicious desserts I’ve ever tasted.  – Sarah Gardener

Exporting Flavor: Modern Peruvian Cuisine Virgilio Martínez of Lima – London, England

Virgilio Martinez took the Main Stage towards the end of the day on Saturday, demonstrating a masterful transformation of quintessential Peruvian ingredients. Martinez’s dishes proved an modern homage to Peruvian culinary tradition. The first dish was a sliced scallop ceviche in the traditional Leche de Tigre – a marinade of lime juice, Aji Amarillo puree, onion, garlic and ginger. The plate was finished with a sprinkle of rock salt and delicate garnish of amaranth and onion flowers. The presentation continued with an was eye-catching interpretation of the Andean potato – a pepper and potato gnocchi, underlined by a  sweet stevia syrup. Martinez provided a colorful counterpoint to the dish using red, black and white varieties of quinoa, along with a vibrant green amazonian almond and stevia leaf puree. Martinez’s cuisine is an exciting exploration of his culture, as he draws inspiration from ingredients that originate in the many different regions – and elevations – of Peru. – Rocky Merchant

Nerua and Nature at Its Core 
Josean Martínez Alija of Nerua at Guggenheim Bilbao – Bilbao, SpainMain Stage: Nerua Nature at its Core – Josean Martínez Alija of Nerua

By means of a translator, Spanish Chef Josean Martínez Alija explained to the
Main Stage crowd his philosophical goal of turning haute cuisine on its head by
elevating the role of the vegetable at Nerua to that typically afforded to protein — that is
to say, to center stage. To illustrate this, Martínez Alija presented “a meditation on
tomatoes… every aspect of tomatoes,” wherein he deconstructed the seemingly simple
into various forms — whole, sauced, and even strained through cheesecloth into a
translucent ‘tomato water’ — before ultimately re-combining these forms into a
compelling finished dish. This “meditation” was followed by a series of short video clips
showing chefs in action at Nerua, both in the kitchen and outside in the garden, and
then by a demonstration of the creation of Martínez Alija’s “vegetable foie gras,” itself a
product of the convergence of avocado, science, and imagination. The most
remarkable and most whimsical exhibition, however, may have been the ‘onion-as-cod,’
where a section of onion, after being braised in stock and covered with a piece of cod
skin, truly takes on the appearance of a piece of cod, albeit with a texture and flavor all
its own. – Lucas Sconzo

I wish that we could have covered everything, but alas, we still didn’t have enough bodies to go around. Add in a couple of scheduling snafus and a couple of presentations intended for coverage got missed. Photos of some of those presentations and more will also be forthcoming. Still, I’m proud of the coverage my team did get to. I’m excited for what we will have to present over the coming days and weeks. All photos, unless otherwise attributed and credited are by me. – John M Sconzo M.D. aka “Docsconz”


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One Response to StarChefs ICC 2012 – Day 1 Overview

  1. Hotel System says:

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