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my starchefs.com congress overview

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
Star chef’s congress September 2007

I still continue to be amazed by my industry, culinary arts. After 27 years you may think one becomes jaded and looses interest, on the contrary, I find myself constantly hungry for more knowledge and experiences.

Well the two short days at starchefs.com did well to satiate some of my hunger.

The title of this year’s congress was “A kitchen without boundaries” for the most part it lived up to its billing.

We arrived Sunday afternoon at 7 world trade center. The first tower to go up since that fateful day 6 years ago. The tower was stunning, pristine and stands with a powerful confidence. We settled into a chef’s panel discussion with this years NYC rising chefs.

These are the new guard, chefs that are really starting to be recognized by there culinary prowess. Starchefs success can largely be based on these factors they have managed to excel at.

There restaurant design works, they have developed a clear concept there staff can execute, there doing something new, there doing something worthwhile, interesting, even educational. Understands finance, and of course there making delicious food.

There were 13 chefs, 1 mixologist and 1 sommelier recognized. Some honored were Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern, Craig Hopson of Picholine, Masoto Shimizu of 15 East, Yosuko Suga of L’ Atelier de Joel Robuchon, and Damon Wise of Craft.

These chefs’ paths and destinations are different, but they share a number of important criteria of success. An uncompromising palate, a sense of culinary identity, pride in there work and a timely concept.

The foundation of the discussions were rooted in there culinary journeys, education and work ethic. A question was posed to the panel was how they felt about culinary school graduates applying for jobs in there kitchens. It was almost unanimous that the chefs found that culinary schools can lay a great foundation and offer a very diversified exposure to culinary arts that may take a number of years and restaurants to accomplish for a non culinary student.

Of course, I was very pleased to hear the chefs say that. Just another of many reasons our students should really plug into there culinary studies. This panel was followed by a panel of publishers and 1 chef. Ann Bramson of Artisan, Lisa Queen of Queen Literacy agency, Jeffery Stiengarten of Esquire magazine and a Iron Chef Judge, and Grant Achatz who is self publishing.

Some notables published by the panel are Thomas Keller, Eric Ripert, Alain Ducasse, Michel Richard, Julie Childs, Jacques Pepin, David Bouley, Fabio Trabocchi and many others.
The discussion was primarily based on the challenges chefs face trying to write a cookbook. The packaging of a book, the marketing, art direction, budget, and release date.
Interesting segments included what makes a cookbook good, what makes a cookbook sell, and when is a chef ready to write a cookbook. Also with a bit of playful skepticism they addressed the question “should I write my own cookbook”

After this panel discussion we headed uptown to the west 80’s, had some good wine and cheese. Then hit a little place called Cilantro for a Margarita and an excellent steak fajita. Then back to Brooklyn to our hotel for some Z’s.

The next morning we had a nice breakfast and walked from our hotel in Brooklyn to the congress. This meant walking over the Brooklyn Bridge. It was a beautiful morning, blue skies, crisp air and the cities skyline in our sites the entire way. Absolutely breathtaking. I was overcome with pride as we walked that bridge, taking pictures and watching the 100’s of people walking and riding bikes. I actually phoned my family when I hit the middle of the bridge. I felt really lucky and was charged up for a great day of learning.

We proceeded to the 52nd floor of 7 world trade center, took a quick look at the trade show (more on that later)

The first presenter of the day was a dynamic Japanese chef named Seiji Yamamoto from Kawaga Japan. Chef Yamamoto did his apprenticeship with master chef Hirohisa Koyama in 1992. After 11 years working and training in some of Tokyo’s finest restaurants Seiji opened his own restaurant Nihonryori RyoGin in Tokyo.

Seiji prides himself in sourcing the finest ingredients and meticulous technique. Also interesting is Seiji is a certified Sommelier. His dishes at RyoGin are technology-driven (instead of classic). His dishes are playful and modern, yet only seasonal ingredients are used. An example of a dish he demoed for us was “Chateau RyoGin” Starting with a clam and beet soup, walnut smoked potaoes, Kombu and sake flavored.

He then peeled a burdock root and cut it the length of a wine cork, and rolled it on a very hot branding iron to burn the name RyoGin and 1970 vintage (his birth year)This looked exactly like a cork. It is then cooked in Dashi and ginger, then one end is dipped in Port and a puree of Tasmanian berries to mimic red wine. He then filled an empty wine bottle with the soup, corked it with the burdock root cork, and using a hair dryer heated and sealed a capsule on the neck. The soup is served table side in a martini glass holding uni, Szechuan leaves, edible flowers and chives. The bottle is un-corked, the cork added to the glass, and the soup poured from the bottle. Very cutting edge, yet ultimately playful. Chef Yamamoto had a contagious personality, very enjoyable.

The next presenter was chef David burke of davidburke & Donatella. Burke cut his teeth with some of NYC most notable chefs, including Waldy Malouf, Daniel Boulud and Charlie Palmer. Burke graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. Then headed to France staging with Pierre Troisgros, George Blanc and studied under master pastry chef Gaston Lenotre. Chef Burke’s presentation was on salts, aging, brining and flavorings.

Burke discussed the affects of dry aging and wet aging, which our students learn about in there first module. He also discussed the “fifth” sense “Umami” and the Umami compounds found in dry aged meats. I found it very interesting that Burkes own aging room walls are tiled with Himalayan pink salt, how this permeates the flesh for added depth of flavor, and also how the bones of the meat affect the flavor profile during the aging process.

Also of interest is what Burke describes as “protein Buttercreams” these are used for mousses and the like with no stabilizers other then a % of pureed proteins blended with whole butter. He simply (in this case making a lobster filet Mignon) pureed .5 pounds lobster meat,.5 pound shrimp, .5 pound butter, chives, lemon zest and salt & pepper. He then packed it very tightly in a ring mold, chilled it, un-molded it, secured it with foil and twine. He then sautéed it, the butter did not melt, it maintained its cylindrical shape. Very cool. Burke also showed us 5 or 6 different ages of beef ranging from 28 to a whopping 80 days. I would say I found the protein buttercreams the most interesting topic in Burke’s demo. Will surely experiment with this at school. I should mention that Burkes assistant Eric Hara was named a rising star chef. Cool guy.

Next was Oriol Balaquer of Barcelona Spain. Balaquer has been acknowledged with the highest distinctions granted in the field of pastry in Spain and around the world.
He’s very innovative and questions established idea’s in pastry. His demo was on what he calls “concept cakes” which he comes up with a new one with his team every month. There based on sweet and savory which Balaquer says marks the next trend in taste and flavors. His cake was called “Tarta de Manzana” with a foundation of streusel dough which he froze then grated. It was flavored uniquely with almond flour, ground coffee, anise and vanilla powders, not your ordinary streusel. This was then tightly formed in a 6 by 6 square mold in a thin layer. Then topped with an apple puree set with bloomed gelatin and pectin. Sugar was then sprinkled on top, torched and topped with ground habas saladas (deep fried and salted broad beans). Then quenelles of sweetened cream cheese (Philadelphia) brand which I found amusing  Gelatin brushed arugula leaves, Malden sea salt, black pepper and olive oil. This cake really highlighted chef Balaquers case of sweet and savory working in tandem. Basically it was like de-constructing a classis European apple dessert, totally re-thinking it and adding sophisticated surprises. Very nice.

Ahh, David Bouley, this is a visionary chef. I have dined on his cuisine twice. Once at Montrachet and then at his namesake “Bouley”. Interestingly enough, Bouley was born in Storrs CT; he eventually made his way to France to study at La Sorbonne. The chefs he worked with are some of the greatest names of the past 50 years. Roger Verge, Paul Bocuse, Joel Robuchon and Gaston Lenotre, and the incredible master Fredy Giradet.After returning to the states and NYC, David worked at Le Cirque, Le Perigord, and La Cote Basque.
In 1987 David opened Bouley, and from 1990-1996 he was considered the top chef in NYC. 4 stars from the NY times, and the highest ratings on food and popularity by the Zagat guide. Unfortunately he closed at the end of 1996, but then re-emerged in 97 to open Bouley Bakery and Danude. As an aside, Danube closed its doors 9/11/2001 because of it’s very close proximity to the world trade center towers. But he turned his restaurant into a staging ground of volunteers to feed hundreds of fire fighters, police officers and construction workers, all with donations.

Chef Bouley’s demo was called “American ingredients, Japanese techniques”Bouley has a test kitchen in NYC and has worked closely with Yushiki Tsuji of the Japanese culinary school. They have become close friends, and work closely to develop new and imaginative menus for Bouley’s restaurants.

In our workshop Bouley demonstrated a classis Japanese technique of making fresh homemade tofu. Garnished simply with dashi broth and mushrooms. He proceeded to make the tofu with soy milk, egg whites and a drop of white soy. Strained and steamed, he then made a truffle dashi with katsuo, Konbu dashi, soy, miren, kuzo starch (a very expensive starch derived from seasonal seaweed) and truffle paste. These ingredients were warmed and thickened with the kuzo, then topped the warm tofu. Garnishes were cepes, chanterelles, straw mushrooms, shiitake’s and button mushrooms. Another example of a great chef not resting on his/her laurels, but stretching his mind, learning new techniques, and sharing knowledge. Bouley has opened a new restaurant in Miami, and hopes to re-open Bouley by years end.

Wylie Dufresne “The mad Scientist”

Wylie is considered one of the nation’s most creative chefs. After working his way up to sous chef at Jean Georges Jo Jo and then onto 71 Clinton Fresh as head chef, he moved across the street and opened W.D.50
Dufresne developed his cooking into what I would describe as a complete synergy between ingredient driven cuisine and technique driven. Does it always work” not 100% of the time (grilled corn pebbles) but close. Some examples of what is in Wylie’s kitchen. Hydrocolloids, vacuum fryers, instacure, agar-agar, locust bean gum, propylene glycol alginate, thermo circulators, sous vide equipment, blast chillers, vita mixers and on and on. Whylie’s demo showcased the manipulation of foie gras into a product that could actually be tied in a knot. The name of the dish “knot foie”. First he melts a terrine de foie gras, stabilizes it with agar-agar and locust bean gum, it’s laid out on a sheet pan to set up. Sliced into long thin strips then tied in a knot and garnished with a multitude of textures, flavors and colors (I forget exactly what he used). Pretty bizarre, but very interesting none the less.

It was now 4:30 and all the rising star chefs were asked to come and sit in the first two rows of the theater, at which time Daniel Boulud was called onto the stage. He was awarded the Chef Mentor award of the year to a rousing standing ovation. This five minutes in time codified why I teach, it’s all about nurturing and sharing our knowledge with the next generation of chefs.

Next came Joel Robuchon,

There’s not enough energy in my fingers to type all there is to know of this chef. Just know he is a jewel, a true master, the real deal. Chef Robuchon teamed up with Dr Bruno Goussault in 1984 to develop the application of sous vide cooking into fine dining. Sous vide is all about controlled, very consistent temperatures. Robuchon uses a thermo circulator and a multivac vacuum sealer to demo the sous vide technique and applications to 2 very rustic, yet precise French dishes. Rouelle de Homard Avec Sauce Civet and milk fed lamb shoulder, and then simple poached eggs, and squab and foie gras en creppinette. Robuchon shows how using a series of timed water temperatures phases and close core temperature monitoring can produce extraordinarily consistent and predictable products. That evening at dinner we were given by the chef of Degustation a sous vide foie gras with tri-star strawberries and white pepper foam. The flavor and texture were fantastic.

What I learned from these two days is that I can never stop learning, a community of chefs are like brothers and sisters, very close knit. And with respect for the past and classics we are destined to a very bright future in our world of culinary arts.

At this time, culinary students are in a position to experience a renaissance of new techniques, flavor combinations and start to develop there culinary identity.

As culinary educators it should be our sole responsibility to set our students up with the highest level of education and practicum to best prepare them to perhaps be the next “rising star chef’s”
Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
post #2 of 5
Having known you and read your posts over the last 7 years it's obvious that you are both teacher and student. In this post alone it shows to those of us who have known you this long how much you yourself have grown and learned. I am very impressed by you and am envious of your students.

Well written Chef! Bravo :beer:
My latest musical venture!
http://www.myspace.com/popshowband "I'm at the age when food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table." Rodney Dangerfield RIP
My latest musical venture!
http://www.myspace.com/popshowband "I'm at the age when food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table." Rodney Dangerfield RIP
post #3 of 5
Thank you as well. Very well told! Some of what you described was mind opening to say the least. Your explaination of things made me feel like I was sitting next to you as well. Most creative by all the presenters. Makes one feel pale/insignificant/humble by comparison. But then we all choose different paths in our careers. I guess the key would be to keep many of the path's not chosen open to exploration as one goes thru things. Sounds like an opportunity to rethink things for me. (Based on my comments to you in our last talk):blush:;)

Any pics? Should we look forward to them in the photo gallery?
post #4 of 5
wow. thank you for taking the time to tell us about your starchef experience.
I've met some young guys in their mid 20's-very early 30's that are doing incredible things in STL.....their exploration is contagious.....I was trying to find a home for a pig head last week and found out one of the "youngsters" had staged at St. John's in London and was using 3 heads a week at his restaurant here to make all kinds of shtuff. ears, tongue....etc.....so when time permits I'll go hang with him to learn.

being turned on by the energy of others.....
what goes around comes around and Brad you've got loads of good Karma.
thanks again.
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #5 of 5
Am going to try and go next year.
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