I was fortunate enough to be invited along with my company's R&D team to be part of the CIA's Worlds of Flavor at the Greystone campus. In essence, the event is a 3-day seminar/conference that revolves around a particular cuisine, region, culture. Done in true CIA-style, there is an abundance of experts, seasoned professionals and myriad top shelf ingredients. This year's theme was the integration of Asian flavors with western concepts. Some observations:
The facility is first-rate! Every piece of equipment imaginable, from Montague ranges to Vitamix blenders in assorted sizes, to prosciutto slicers, PacoJet blenders, vac-pack equipment and sous vide suites. An amazing array of tools to explore and test-drive. Greystone is kept impeccable, in my experience. The grounds are laden with herb bushes, contoured gardens, outdoor cooking venues and spacious cooking islands. Of course, our team was there while class was out and students may argue the amenities may be congested at peak times, alas that was not the case during my brief residency.
As you would expect, the program was bursting with opportunities to learn. Chefs from near and far were on location to lend their knowledge. Martin Yan, Ivan Orkin (of Ivan Ramen), Masahru Morimoto, Jeneger Mehta, @Suvir Saran, Jehanigir Mehta, Nobuaki Fushiki, Richie Nakano and countless others were there. Seeing their sheer elegance and brilliance in the kitchen is nothing short of a religious kitchen and the ranges were their altars. Martin Yan is a powerhouse of knowledge! His dan dan noodles were, for me, a highlight of amazing flavor. Suvir Saran is riotously funny; this guy is an equal-opportunity offender with a great spirit matched by his culinary prowess. Saran's rabbit terrine is unparalleled. To sample Ivan Orkin's ramen after seeing it prepared is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity. I have dined at Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop in NYC and it really doesn't get any better. Jehanigir Mehta, you may know from FoodTV, really gets it! He is all about hospitality and creating food as beautiful in flavor as it is in appearance.
The students that were supporting the visiting chefs were top-shelf, as well. Hard working, ambitious, professional and well-intended. Class was not in session, so the obvious spring-break stalwarts truly long to be in the field. Yes, there was precision knife work that took, well, too long. But, the eye for detail is refreshing; these are not people going out into the field to hack apart good food. These are the people that will, one day, hoist there own monikers built on commitment. Very serious group of students, these CIA kids.