Heston Blumenthal, on left, scenting the room in a similar fashion he does at his restaurant, The Fat Duck, England.
|Think Like a Chef
By Lourdes Castro
Its an age old question ... What to make for dinner tonight? While inspiration surrounds us in the form of cooking shows, magazines, even the Internet, it seems we are always in a rut. The same ingredients keep showing up in our refrigerator – chicken breast, salmon steaks, salad greens. And the same uninspired food keeps showing up on our plates.
But this is New York. And a good meal is only a phone call away. So we leave the “dirty” work to someone else. Let the restaurants figure out how to keep our taste buds engaged and coming back for more. But if we are talking about taste bud engagement, the one ultimately responsible for this is the chef.
How does a chef come up with a dish? How does it occur to him or her to combine two ingredients – say artichokes and cured beef – and create an appetizer? Or decide to braise veal shanks until the meat is falling off the bone and serve it with creamy turnip puree?
Culinary conferences – a gathering of food industry professionals sharing their knowledge and expertise – offer a potential answer to those questions.
Table at the mixology workshop on bitters lead by Toby Maloney from The Violet Hour, Chicago.
|StarChefs.com International Chefs Congress is one such conference that takes place in New York City. Last week a culinary who’s who gathered at the Park Avenue Armory for three days of demonstrations, workshops, and symposiums.
Chefs such as Heston Blumenthal, Marco Pierre White, Daniel Boulud, Grant Achatz, and Wylie Dufresne gathered to discuss techniques and trends. Some topics were controversial (should restaurants subject their patrons to 20+ course menus), while others were truly mouthwatering (old school techniques for making suckling pig).
But probably the most gratifying display of true “chefdom” was Daniel Boulud’s demonstration where he explained how he is able to have multiple successful restaurants without sacrificing his standards to high quality. In a word ... mentoring. Chef Boulud selects whom he considers rising stars in the field, guides and inspires them, but ultimately allows the chef’s personality to shine through in their menus.
The trust he has for his chefs is the reason why his operation runs the way it does. He inspires them to be the best they can which in turn inspires menus full of great dishes we are only a phone call (and reservation) away from.
|Chef Daniel Boulud during his demonstration surrounded by his chefs from Restaurant Daniel, DB Bistro, and Bar Boulud.||Grant Achatz from Alinea, Chicago, during his demonstration.|
|Clockwise from top left: Old and new techniques for making suckling pig, Chef Candido Lopez (Meson de Candido, Segovia, Spain) and Joan Roca (El Cellar de Can Roca, Girona, Spain); Michael Ruhlman, Marco Pierre White, and Anthony Bourdain during a round table discussion; Heston Blumenthal, on left, from The Fat Duck, England, preparing frozen egg ice cream; Heston Blumenthal during his demonstration.|