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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Star Chefs International Chefs Congess - NY, Park Avenue Armory. Leave comments please. Thanks.

Antoinette Bruno, Will Blunt - of & Keenan Gerhard - Food Network w/
Finalists in Pastry Competition on Main Stage 
So have you ever been to a conference and wished it was over by the time you had already sat down? That seriously blows beacuse you're there thinking about all this money you've spent on airfare, hotel room, food for later, drinks at the bar whilst you're there bored and hamming it up with your boss or coworkers and newly net acquaintances you really can't stand. No, mean i'm the only one? Well damn, so why are you reading this then, go back to what you were doing for this may not interest you in the least. Why, beacause I was in New York recently, about a week ago and my experience was so far removed from any of that crap. I wished it lasted just one more day..Well, that's what I say now because after three days, I was surely exhausted. Of course not from boredom, from having too much fun. From time to time in whatever industry you are affiliated with, there comes a season when you must recconect with other "lost" souls to bridge the knowledge gap or to just acquire continuing education points. Well for me the the first was true but none of my fellow chefs that I met appeared to be lost and we certainly were not seeking continuing education points. What we sought was a collective inkling for knowledge and inspiration. We were hoping to be dazzled, to be educated, to be one with Culinary zen masters being innovative as chefs, pastry chefs, mixologists or ground breaking technology gurus. We all descended on the Park Avenue Amory in New York for the 5th Interrnational Chef Congress hosted by I can't really speak for anyone else but I wasn't disappointed.

We are a crazy bunch us chefs and any time away from seemingly mundane and repetitive duties can be a holiday, a time to recharge, a time to reflect and go back feeling renewed to be creative and play once again with our burners, salamanders, ovens, immersion circulators and need I say in some cases test tubes and liquid nitrogen canisters. The art of being a chef transcends what most cannot comprehend but for three days we were here to understand "The Art vs. Craft", are chefs artists or are they Craftsmen? This was the prevailing theme of the congress, a question that fueled discussions on varying levels. Was it answered?  Well it depends on what your point of view was coming into the congress and were you easily swayed by opinions. The barefaced truth though is, one cannot become a true artist if you are a bad craftsman, lipstick on a pig and it is still a pig.

As chefs, I do believe we all strive for one commonn goal, to be the best chefs we can be, to always be better than our last dish. We strive not be perfect, but to execute perfectly!! Our talents are honed using skills deeply rooted in classical and modern techniques and the chefs represented at the congress surely impressed. Today, food as we know it rides on a mass transit expressway that allows ideas, thoughts and techniques to be shared all over the world each time we make a pit stop invariably in someone's restaurant, cafe, kitchen or commissary or social networking events. Hydrocoloids, Cvap, Sous Vide, Maltose Dextrose, agar, zantham gum, stabilizers, liquid nitrogen are words that now describe how vogue the culinary frontier has become, for thus to remove yourself from the discussion renders you to a perilous state of becoming a fosilated culinarian.

Torching Sea Bream

I sampled treats that allowed my pallete and eyes to enjoy new textures, new flavors, new ideas. I met new chefs, new purveyors, new friends and got reaquainted with some old ones. I even tried something I hadn't eaten since I was a child - tongue. For one, the thought of eating an organ that could lick me in real life was bizare not to mention the texture at the time. Thank you Chef Boloud for having Veal tongue on your menu at DBGB, it was indeed stellar and that bloody piggie burger with pork belly..WHAT!! the warrant is on the way. Thanks to green mussels and Pastrami smoked King "melt in ya mouth like butta" Salmon from New Zealand, frigging awesome I tell ya.

New Zealand Abalone

Thanks to True Wold Foods for such delish treats as Blue Fin Tuna Sashimi and torched sea bream, outstanding. Your care to harvesting is to be commended so the same goes to Abalone from New Zealand, another first for me. A taste and texture so unexpected, soft but not chewy..seared quickly, no salt needed.  I will be experimenting in the future. I reallly can't forget my lamb belly with green mango and artichoke chutney, Thai vinaigrette crumbles and basil balm.  As I write this post, my tongue is bathing in watery goodness, yep emotions evoked from the memories. Yes there are others that titilated me.. I just have to say..Pork Rules man, but before I go on I am indebted to the barkeeps from Stellar Artois. Leffe beer is a new favorite and the mixologists shaking the Ron Zacapa cocktails - Adriana from Harlem - you guys rocked. I was never in fear of becoming parched, y'all kept me hydrated to the max.

Lamb Belly w/
Green Mango & Artichoke Chutney

Just in case you missed it, I am indeed having a great time. In the midst of renowned chefs:Thomas Keller, Charlie Palmer, Ken Oringer, Rick Moonen, Elizabeth Falkner, Albert Adria, Suzanne Goin, Martin Berasategui, Marcus Samuelson, Johnny Iuzzini and even "The Man That Ate Everything" Jeffery Steingarten to name a few, I couldn't help but wonder if I should be star struck or spanking my ass for missing last year's congress (sorry I missed you last year Anthony Bourdain.) This cookpot is ginormous. I'm soaking it all in. whether you were hear for one, two or all three days depending on your crazy work schedule, there was something here for everyone that came. And if you couldn't help keeping your mouths closed after sitting captivated during Jordan Khan's and Albert Adria's presentation, alas for three words come to mind; profound, surreal and wild.  Maybe you were out imbibing on a beer or snacking on some great tasting Wisconsin cheese. OMG that yellow bleu cheese, it was creamy, sweet, salty smooth enough for a sandwich between two piece of crackers...damn!!. 

The mind is the tool you can invest in, it costs you nothing.  Paraphrased from Michael Voltaggio that presented alongside his brother Brian - duelling wagyu, beef tongue and beef cheeks. I smile. Sly devils they are. There is none that can stop the creative force when it's at work. Sorry that I am not sharing recipes with you now but congress I believe was about putting ourselves in the recipes so we can employ new as well as tried and true techniques to formulate culinary innovations, hence good food. Good food from farm to table, good food from the rooter to the tooter and good food from pots to palletes.
I am truly glad that I came this year to congress, if you are a chef out there and you missed it..Next year, same time, place to be revealed soon.

Chef Irie  
Chef Irie w/
Claire & Keenan Gerhard - Food Network

New & old Friends @ Congress




1 comment:

  1. Great recap Chef Irie! I always enjoy reading your words. You have a beautiful way of expressing yourself..... your thoughts....your passion. I find myself hanging on every word that you write. You know very well that I am not a chef... not a foodie, per say. :-) But what I always take away from you is a magnificent sense of pride and love for what you do. Not all of us can say that we truly love our jobs. You inspire me to get inspired...if that makes sense.

    I was moved, just like Treisha, when you said that you strive not to be perfect, but to execute perfectly. I think we can all relate to that my friend..... How we execute all things in our lives truly sets the tone and is the key factor to being successful!! Strive for excellence and to be better than our last "dish". Love, love, love it!

    Keep on sharing. Keep on blogging. Keep your creative juices flowing. Keep those culinary fingers in action. Keep on being you- Hugh! We are thankful for you! Blessings!