“Once upon a time, food was about where you came from. Now, for many of us, it is about where we want to go,” John Lanchester.
The “culinary greats” ascended to the Brooklyn Expo Center last month for the 9th Annual StarChefs.com International Chefs Congress. The theme: Cooking Honest.
George Mendes creates food with generosity. On stage, he paid homage to his family and Portuguese roots, as he similarly does every day at Aldea. He discussed the authenticity of his refined cuisine, and confirmed rumors he would be opening another restaurant in New York City early next year. “Cooking honest” is a celebration of one’s self and wherever George goes; he appears to take his authentic self with him.
Jamie Bissonnette personally massaged each tiny sea creature on stage as he explained the hands-on approach that each member of his culinary team takes to most of their offal dishes. His honesty exposed that if he found ways to use 100% of the products he procured, he could afford to purchase higher quality items. He appears to have uniquely mastered product and process, and has creatively designed a system that thinks small, and speaks volumes. When dining at Toro, you feel the food.
Grant Achatz is famous for incorporating the elements around him in his cuisine. He forces diners to divorce their preconceptions and be aware of the technology-forward experience he provides. His explanation is that a restaurant must tell a story. The story behind his restaurants, uniquely situated in urban Chicago, draws global influence, with a metropolitan feel, while communicating with each of our senses. At ICC, he finished his presentation with edible apple helium balloons. Proving again, that great culinary artists show you the power of discovery and suspend disbelief.
Eminent culinary professionals are known for their unique ability to shape markets and establish trends. The symposium paid striking tribute to Charlie Trotter on multiple occasions, reminding all of us that the legends have permanence. In a world where chefs are now celebrities, it was enlightening to see today’s most recognizable culinary personalities pay homage to a professional who paved the way for the entire industry. Always on a quest for excellence, magic only happens for those who are driven to find it.
What I learned from each of the presentations at Star Chefs, and from the conversations I had throughout the conference, was that honest cooking means knowing who you are and not straying from it. The best chefs take inspiration from their past, insight from their peers in the present, and are always investing in reinterpreting cuisine in the future. I often find myself in the hottest new restaurants, where “chefs” are cooking to impress us restaurateurs and press. We have become a chef-obsessed society. However, the most rewarding part of the congress was seeing the chefs obsessed with each other and having the opportunity to watch them openly share creativity. To all the unabashedly fearless chefs who let down their guard at ICC, and allowed us distributors, reps, and manufacturers into your inner sanctum to see honest cuisine amongst your peers, thank you. It is a privilege to be on this journey with you.
For more with Morgan, visit her new website www.littlemtucker.com.