StarChefs ICC 2012 – Day Two Overview

The Park Avenue Armory

The second day of the ICC tends to be the busiest. Presenters, attendees and sponsors have settled in and the Congress is in full swing. This year’s ICC was no exception. It began at 9AM and finished with the ever extraordinary and fun StarChefs Cocktail Party. The Docsconz team was hard at work taking notes and photos throughout the day. We also enjoyed some pretty good nibbles and quaffs too. There were plenty to be had. Please continue reading to get our capsule views of the day.

Naturally, No Sugar Added
Josean Martínez Alija of Nerua at Guggenheim Bilbao – Bilbao, Spain

Taking into consideration the health of his patrons as well as the strong emotional connections people tend to have to desserts, Josean Alija set out to show that it is possible to create desserts with little to no added sugar which nevertheless evoke similar emotional responses as their sweeter, fattier forebears. In his demonstration, Alija utilized products containing a natural sweetness, such as pear, fig, and grapefruit, as well as ingredients typically considered exceptionally fatty, like avocado, highlighting certain inherent textural elements in some cases — the creamy softness of fig as it contrasts with the crunchiness of the the fig seeds — while using gastronomic technology to create unexpected textures in others, such as the “Garmillas serum” in which a pear was lightly poached. – Lucas Sconzo

Nature and Sous Vide Nurture 
Matt Lightner of Atera – New York, NY

Matt Lightner of Atera demonstrated incredible skill with the sous vide bath. Intensity and purity of the product is imperative, but he believes that proper technique is important so as to preserve that intensity of flavor, and his treatment of pork belly, fudge-like duck egg yolk and wheatgrass oil not only showed everybody how talented he is, but also gave some insight into becoming similarly proficient with the low-temp bath. – L.J. Sconzo

Chef Development: Beyond the Kitchen Door 
Matt and Ted Lee of The Lee Bros. – Charleston, SC, Sisha Ortúzar of Riverpark – New York, NY, Anne Quatrano of Star Provisions – Atlanta, GA

This panel highlighted the modern challenges posed to chefs in the food industry today. In a panel discussion led by cook-book entrepreneurs, Matt & Tedd Lee, Anne Quatrano of Bacchanalia and Sisha Ortuzar of Riverpark and ‘wichcraft, they discussed the evolving demands on executive chefs and restaurateurs on all sides of the business. The expectations stem beyond developing and innovating their culinary styles – chefs today must be cognizant of the reality of media and personal branding if they are to succeed in the food industry. They concentrated the discussion on involvement in television and publishing opportunities, and discussed their experiences in handling media attention with regards to how fame affects their cuisine, businesses and professional relationships. – Rocky Merchant

Spanish Ham Without Borders 
Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene – Atlanta, GA

Iberico Ham and red wine is not a bad way to start the day, even if it’s at 9am. At first I was admittedly puzzled as to why one of the country’s foremost authorities on Southern cuisine was giving an entire lecture on a Spanish product. All questions were dispelled by the end of the hour, as Linton traced his love of ham from childhood to present day and pointed out that it’s not geography that creates commonalities in cuisine, but the spirit and soul behind the appreciation of the ingredients. With a giant shoulder of Iberico in front of him, Linton demonstrated the proper technique used for slicing and treated us to piece after piece of this luxury product. Hearing him speak so passionately about this product, and seeing the level of commitment he’s given to studying it, was truly one of the highlights of this year’s congress. – Sara Gardener

Sour Sips and Drinking Vinegars 
Lynnette Marrero of Drinksat6 – New York, NY, Kelley Slagle of Cocktail Kingdom – New York City, NY

Mixology experimentors Lynette Marrero and Kelley Slagle led this cocktail interactive featuring vinegar based drinks. They aimed to highlight the many ways of drinking vingar, and discussed the hopeful emergance of the drink in the contemporary bar and mixology scene. The sessions began with the tasting of some vinegars from the United States, Phillipines, Japan and China, and quickly got more hands-on. It progressed to trying vingar tinctures to adding an aromatic element to gin cocktails, then to making simple shrubs. – Rocky Merchant

The Link: Smoke and Sausage in New Orleans 
Bart Bell of Crescent Pie & Sausage Company – New Orleans, LA, Nathanial Zimet of Boucherie – New Orleans, LA

In this fun, tasty and truly ‘hands-on’ workshop, chefs Bell and Zimet explained the science behind meat-smoking, while demonstrating — as well as they could, given the unorthodox setup — the sausage-making process, for which they called up a volunteer to help work the meat grinder. Despite technical difficulties with both available sausage stuffing machines, the chefs remained positive throughout, and cracked numerous jokes while passing around generous chunks of addictive tasso and freshly-made pan-fried sausage. The workshop culminated in the big reveal of a large amount of delicious alligator andouille, which had been curing overnight in a Southern Pride smoker. – Lucas Sconzo


Exploring the Pantry of the Carolina Rice Kitchen 
Sean Brock of McCrady’s Restaurant – Charleston, SC

Sean Brock has been at the forefront of the current resurgence of Southern cuisine, and while his techniques are sound and his ideas fresh, this presentation was all about the ingredients. If anybody thinks they don’t like Southern cuisine, he says that’s because they haven’t had the real thing – the last great Carolina rice plantation was wiped out by a hurricane in 1911. This demonstration proved that with the right varieties of beans, rice, corn, and other produce, Southern cuisine deserves a ranking among the great regional foods of the world. – L.J. Sconzo

Architecture of Experience
Martin Kastner of Crucial Detail – Chicago, IL
Michael Harlan Turkell of – New York, NY

Martin Kastner is perhaps best known for the wildly creative service pieces he has crafted for Chef Grant Achatz at Alinea in Chicago. What is less widely apparent is that Martin is actually a trained blacksmith with a masters of fine arts. It’s this pragmatic yet aesthetically driven background that allows him to solve the “problems” chefs and manufactures approach him with. One of the critical aspects of his design process that Martin stressed is that it’s always about coming up with solutions—as he put it, “If a spoon is a best tool for the job, why try to reinvent the spoon?” Ironically, through several of his designs Martin has eliminated the very need for serving utensils, offering diners an entirely new way to experience a meal. – Sara Gardener

Main Stage – Urban Gothic: Exploring Cuisine through the Cityscape
Elizabeth Falkner of Krescendo – New York, NY

On the main stage, Elizabeth Falkner demonstrated the precision and showmanship that has made her so likable on Top Chef Masters and earned her a second place finish in The Next Iron Chef. She reconstructed a beauty of a rack of lamb into a boneless fat-wrap of sausage and rib-eye, complementing it with panelle cubes, eggplant puree and New York City Sludge, her take on the “soil” phenomenon. Expect great things from her new Italian restaurant Crescendo, in Brooklyn. – L.J. Sconzo

Main Stage –The New French Guard
Alexandre Gauthier of La Grenouillère – Madelaine-sous-Montreuil, France

In forty minutes, chef Alexandre Gauthier prepped, cooked and artifully presented 5 courses on ICC’s mainstage – while simultaneously describing his culinary philosophy at length. His food takes root in the rustic French countryside, as his dishes take inspiration from the flora and fauna of the fields, farms and swampland of the northern France. His demonstration celebrated traditional french ingredient prepared and finished with flair, and displayed interesting combinations of textures and flavors. During his demonstration he expressed his passion for French product, preferences of game, and his opinion of French food in America. – Rocky Merchant

Cocktail Couture: The Convergence of Commerce and Fashion
Damian Higgins of Planet Human – New York, NY, Jim Meehan of PDT – New York, NY, Taavo Somer of Freemans Sporting Club – New York, NY

Jim Meehan led a panel on the fashion of bartending, comparing it to contemporary DJing and fashion design and architecture. Guest speakers Damian Higgins (DJ Dieselboy) and designer Taavo Somer offered some perspective on the timeless and of-the-moment qualities of their respective crafts, while Meehan challenged our intuitions of the “classic” martini by preparing the old school Martinez (c. 1884), wet gin martini (c 1905) and dry vodka martini (c 1905). – L.J. Sconzo

Modernizing the Marshmallow
Shawn Gawle of Saison – San Francisco, CA

In this demo, celebrated Pastry Chef Shawn Gawle explored the many possibilities and uses for a common confection, the marshmallow.  The session began with a history of the mallow plant, which was actually used as a medicinal cough suppressant in the nineteenth century. Next, Shawn presented a technique that was entirely new to me—he demonstrated how to use marshmallow to give sorbet a fluffy texture you couldn’t otherwise achieve. That afternoon he prepared Meyer lemon and green apple, though the technique can be applied to any flavor you choose. The green apple was tart and vibrant, and the sorbet did in fact have an ethereal quality I had never experienced. He explained, “You don’t need to add water or other ingredients, so whatever the flavor of the sorbet, it comes through more prominently.” Maximizing his time, Shawn also demonstrated how to prepare his take on carrot cake served with carrot bubbles and frozen blood orange marshmallow, “smores” made with coffee ganache and torched mint marshmallow, and passion fruit marshmallows served on a hand-crafted isomalt sculpture. – Sara Gardener

Main Stage – Now What? Fallout of the Modern Kitchen
Jordan Kahn of Red Medicine – Beverly Hills, CA,  Alex Stupak of Empellón Cocina – New York, NY

Criticizing the use of words like “traditional” and “authentic” — so often dropped whenever ethnic cuisine is cooked outside its country of origin — as being both “unfair and absurd,” Alex Stupak defended his decision to open a Mexican restaurant in NYC that doesn’t sell tacos or burritos, but which is nevertheless home to innovative and tasty fare with clear Mexican influences. His demonstration plates consisted of two variations on a Yucatecan-style tamale, the second of which he disparaged for being excessively elaborate in its final form, and grilled swordfish with husk cherry salsa and masa sticks — a dish clearly informed by his years as a pastry chef. In the second half hour, Jordan Kahn further blurred the line distinguishing haute cuisine and fine art when he presented a performance piece in which — backed by a young chamber music trio and a video in which he garnishes and ultimately “plates” living plants — he decorated a rather sparse tree much as he might a plate at Red Medicine. In his Q&A segment, Kahn expressed a preference for the creative process over the finished product, and explained his penchant for surrounding himself with artists and musicians as being a source of inspiration and comfort, and thus, beneficial to his cooking. – Lucas Sconzo

The Best Bartenders I Ever Knew
Gaz Regan of – Pine Island, New York

“Adrian, get these people a drink,” was the first sentence we were greeted with as we waited for the lecture to begin. “They must be finger stirred!” Now this was a startlingly good Negroni we were served—and I love Negronis—maybe there’s something to the finger stirred approach. In this seminar, the legendary bartender Gaz Regan walked us through a history of his mentors in the industry in order to discover if there was a commonality between them. What was most surprising was that out of the five bartenders of whom he spoke, only one was a name I recognized (Dale DeGroff). Additionally, in the entire hour he didn’t mention one specific cocktail or technique. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I haven’t mentioned a single cocktail in this presentation; I haven’t mentioned their ability to be creative.” His point was that what distinguishes a good bartender is his/her personality, how they react to their guests, and how their guests react to them. After all, in the end no one really remembers what they drank, only how you made them feel. – Sara Gardener

Taste and Technological Pursuit
Dave Arnold of Booker and Dax – New York, NY

Mad mixologist Dave Arnold put together yet another exciting demonstration of the cutting-edge techniques he’s using at his new bar, Booker & Dax in the Lower East Side. Much of the demo focused on removing tannins and oaky notes from certain liquors while maintaining the complexity that develops with age, while he also demoed his interpretation of the McSorley’s cheese plate, an interesting example of a more savory cocktail. – L.J. Sconzo

Main Stage – Natural Cuisine and Freedom of Expression
Mathias Dahlgren of Mathias Dahlgren – Stockholm, Sweden , Marcus Samuelsson of Red Rooster Harlem – New York, New York

Marcus Samuelsson introduced his friend and countryman, Swedish chef Mathias Dahlgren, and incited a dialogue about the true mentality of innovative cooking. The primary theme involved risk taking, and the necessary strength and conviction one must have to defend his or her choices in the kitchen. While Dahlgreen stressed the importance of self confidence in modern cooking, the message was in no way limited to life in the kitchen. The conversation between Samuelsson and Dahlgreen rehashed the fact that in order to be successful, one must be williing to take risks and be prepared to defend his or her choices with a genuine sense of confidence and conviction for his or her passions and ideas. – Rocky Merchant

Main Stage – Refined Against the Devastation: The Cuisine of NG7
Sat Bains of Restaurant Sat Bains – Nottingham, England

Promising to “fuck you up with flavor,” Sat Bains shared original techniques for layering— and thus intensifying — flavor profiles using ingredients found in the UK and around his restaurant, such as elder flower buds (when pickled, “the natural caper from theUK”), pine, quince, and juniper berries. Expressing a fondness for wild game (which he serves seasonally at Restaurant Sat Bains), Bains prepared a piece of venison sous vide, keeping the meat rare and pairing it with bitter chocolate and watercress.Ultimately, Bains’ presented an honest, no-nonsense approach to food, championing intense and concentrated local flavors — often prepared, as Bains noted, using international techniques — over complex presentation. – Lucas Sconzo


This entry was posted in Cocktails & Libations, Cooking, Culinary Personalities, Food and Drink, LJ Sconzo, Lucas Sconzo, New York City, Photo Posts, Rocky Merchant, Sara Gardener, Slow Food, Southern Food & Cooking, Starchefs and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to StarChefs ICC 2012 – Day Two Overview

  1. Leeann Lavin says:

    Thank you so much for a very compelling and comprehensive overview of this important event.
    Author, The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook
    Food & Drink Editor,

  2. Thanks for sharing. docsconz, What motivated you to call this blog “StarChefs ICC 2012 – Day Two Overview”, not that the title does not go with the content, I am just wondering. Well put docsconz.

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