StarChefs ICC 2012 – Day Three Overview

The final day of each StarChef ICC is always bittersweet. It’s a power-packed day of demos, workshops, competition finals and great food and drink, but then it is over for another year. Unfortunately, for the final day, my team was down two people due to outside work commitments resulting in missing coverage from some excellent presentations. Nevertheless, a lot was still covered. 

Sushi Essentials
Masaharu Morimoto of Morimoto – New York, NY

In today’s demonstration, Chef Morimoto, along with his head sushi chef Robby Cook, demonstrated his skill and knowledge of the precision-based art of sushi. In addition to preparing and slicing the fish and various seafoods, Morimoto emphasized the importance of rice preparation, proper sushi assembly, and the physical structure of the sushi itself. – L.J. Sconzo

Deep-fried Traditions: Montanara Pizza
Roberto Caporuscio of Don Antonio Pizza – New York, NY
Antonio Starita of Don Antonio Pizza – New York, NY

We were treated to a truly delicious breakfast by chefs Roberto Capuscio and Antonio Starita, who took us through the process of making Neapolitan-style fried pizza Montanara. In the case of Don Antonio’s Montanara, simplicity is the key to a perfect pizza: Don Antonio began with a dough made only of flour, water, yeast and salt, which he then gently hand-pressed (in true Neapolitan style) and dropped into a pot of hot oil until crisp and light. When the dough had finished frying, it was removed from the oil and simply topped with ragout, basil, and smoked mozzarella, then placed in a hot oven for a little over a minute — Don Antonio’s innovation on the traditional Neapolitan pizza fritta. The resulting pizza was absurdly good, and because it was finished in the oven, not even particularly oily; it was, in short, a wonderful way to start the morning. – Lucas Sconzo

French Transformation
Alexandre Gauthier of La Grenouillère – Madelaine-sous-Montreuil, France

Alexandre Gauthier, chef of Michelin two-star restaurant la Grenouillère in Northern France demonstrated his unique brand of French cuisine. He takes classic French dishes and flips them around, using modern techniques and a clever imagination. The food was stunning, and included potato pasta in a butter garlic sauce, texturally diverse green beans bundled around mint and basil, and lightly grilled squid served with congealed pig’s blood and a French garden herb, pampanelle. – L.J. Sconzo

The Human Cost of Food: Chefs Supporting Farm Workers’ Rights
Gerardo Reyes Chávez of Coalition of Immokalee Workers – Immokalee, FL
Jose Duarte of Taranta – Boston, MA
Barry Estabrook of politicsoftheplate.com – Vergennes, VT

With their presentation “The Human Cost of Food,” chef Jose Duarte, farmworker and
community organizer Gerardo Reyes Chávez, and writer/editor Barry Estabrook made the case for increasing chefs’ awareness of and responsibility for the deplorable conditions — often tantamount to slavery — in which many farmworkers today live and work, particularly in the “tomato capital” of America: Immokalee, Florida. Despite an increasing concern for issues of sustainability among professional chefs, Duarte, Chávez and Estabrook noted a disconcerting ignorance of what they called “the human element,” that is, those people who make the culinary world possible in the first place. The presentation featured a short clip from an upcoming documentary on the plight of the Immokalee workers as well as discussions of possible solutions to this relatively unknown, albeit very real, problem.- Lucas Sconzo

Not Just Desserts: The State of the Pastry Industry
Antoinette Bruno of StarChefs.com – New York, NY
Johnny Iuzzini of Sugar Fueled INC – Brooklyn, NY
Jordan Kahn of Red Medicine – Beverly Hills, CA
Michael Laiskonis of Institute of Culinary Education – New York, NY
Sam Mason of Empire Mayonnaise – New York, NY
Alex Stupak of Empellón Cocina – New York, NY

Antoinette moderated an all-star panel of pastry chefs in front of a large industry audience. Approximately 66 percent of the audience were pastry chefs specifically, and many voiced their opinions before the question and answer session at the end. The debate became heated at times, and Wiley Dufresne stepped in on behalf of the creative pastry chefs. While outnumbered, Antoinette held her ground for the entirety of the panel. More coverage of this talked-about event is on its way. – L.J. Sconzo

Main – Guts, Glory, and the Gulf
John Besh of Besh Restaurant Group – New Orleans, LA
Susan Spicer of Bayona – New Orleans, LA

Chefs Susan Spicer and John Besh showed a refreshingly-comfortable stage presence, teasing and joking with one another as they prepared Spicer’s Shrimp and Sheepshead Boudin and Besh’s Redfish Courtboullion. Together and separately, the dishes showcased the Gulf’s still-formidable bounty in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill, and prompted discussion — of varying seriousness and jocularity — of such subjects as sustainable fishing, southern culinary tradition, and the eating habits of children of Southern chefs. Ultimately, both dishes looked extremely appetizing, and perhaps the greatest — indeed the only — disappointment of the presentation was that there wasn’t enough for all of us in the audience to have a taste!- Lucas Sconzo

Chilean Pisco: From Valley to Bottle to Bar
Dave Wondrich of Esquire – New York, NY

Dave Wondrich is one of the world’s foremost cocktail historians and writers, with knowledge so thorough and ingrained that he delivered his 75 minute lecture flawlessly from memory, having left his pages of copious notes at home that morning. During the lecture, Wondrich traced the history of Chilean pisco from the time of Spanish colonization in South America in the 1500s through present day. We were treated to a tasting of four varietals, three of which aren’t sold in the US, as well as two variations on the classic pisco sour—one made with Poblano peppers (though his first choice is the Aji, which was unavailable that day), and the other with lemon verbena leaves which are native to Chile. The difference in color, flavor, and consistency between the brands was astounding to  note as Wondrich walked us through the history of the distilleries and the manufacturing process.

Main Stage – Italian Pasta Reloaded
Davide Scabin of Combal.Zero – Piemonte, Italy

Davide Scabin’s main stage presentation was replete with fun, original takes on classic Italian pasta dishes and ribald Italian humor. Interestingly, Chef Scabin cooked the pasta in a bag, cutting the vacuum-sealed sheets into the shapes he wanted to place on the plate, with deconstructed sauces and hilarious commentary. Also clever was his variation on risotto, which ended up as a thick disk of rice atop a hamburger patty. Italian grandmothers look out – here’s a chef who’s not averse to messing with tradition. Or your daughters. – L.J. Sconzo 

Main Stage – 21st Century and the Changing Role of the Italian Chef
Mario Batali of Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group – New York, NY
Mario Carbone of Parm – New York, NY
Melissa Clark of The New York Times – New York, NY
Davide Scabin of Combal.Zero – Piemonte, Italy

The 7th Annual Starchefs ICC finished up with a round-table interview of chefs Mario Batali, Davide Scabin, and Mario Carbone by New York Times reporter Melissa Clarke on the main stage. While each chef takes a unique approach to Italian cuisine, they acknowledged their traditional roots while simultaneously making the case that they are not trying to reinvent traditions, merely that they are reinterpreting them. As it turns out, their reinterpretations (especially Mr. Batali’s) have been wildly successful in the American market. – L.J. Sconzo

Stay tuned for more detailed reports of the various presentations briefly presented in these overviews.


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