As I drove home from NYC the other night after leaving the Starchefs International Chef Congress all I could hear were the words from some of the best chefs in the world.
I was humbled to be in the same room with Chefs like Charlie Palmer, Thomas Keller and Dan Barber to name a small few. Each speaking to a crowd of chefs, cooks and industry personal hoping to get the one piece of inspiration that they will take back with them to their kitchens and use to continue to create and in Chef Kellers words "nurture" their guests.
The theme of this years ICC was Art vs. Craft...and after a few days of debating there is no right or wrong answer but a common ground among these industry leaders that first we are craftsmen, repeating our task over and over again until it is perfect. In my opinion this is what separates chefs around the world. Some are never happy with a dish, despite positive feedback and praise from guests, these chefs are always looking to improve on the dish never settling and always looking for an even more perfect dish. While other chefs use the "copy and paste" method to put a dish out without much thought or repetition. Good? maybe? But perfection, not even close.
The Art in my opinion comes into play with a chefs like Jordan Kahn...a pastry chef prodigy who is motivated by music and art....and tries to capture his interpretations of classic art into his pastry dishes. His demonstration was amazing to say the least....a silent demo with music, movies and a live simultaneous plating of the dishes showed in the video...as Chef Franklin Becker said after the demo....." What I do in my kitchen is so far from what I just experienced, but I have so much respect for what you do". Chef Becker went on and compared the demo to the first time he watched the pink floyd laser light show. I concur
One piece of knowledge that stuck with me was from Charlie Palmers executive chef in Los Angeles...he said during one of their first tastings together Chef Palmer asked the young chef is the dish that he just created was good? Chef says "yes, very good" ....Chef Palmer asks " Is it good enough to return tomorrow and order the same dish again?" Chef says " no".
Chef Dan Barber from Blue Hill , gave the demo of the event....a full house, standing room only, to hear what he had to say about combining molecular gastronomy with farm to fork...But his method is not what you might think. What about turning used pig bones into pig charcoal? Used Lamb head into lamb charcoal? Lobster bodies into lobster charcoal? Grilled corn grilled over corn husk charcoal?
using science to help grow the perfect carrot, or what about the best tasting unnamed tomato you have ever experienced?
He tracks the animals on his farm from birth, and is starting to use scientific tools like the ultra sound to determine fat distribution before the animal is slaughtered...therefore being able to tell if its ready, or even better to keep it alive and breed with it to continue to produce high quality berkshire pork for his charcuterie program.
He talked about using used hazelnuts after being pressed for hazelnut oil...he takes them and sprinkles them over the soil where he groes his saltruse....hazelnut flavored saltruse?
The conference was inspiring, motivating and an experience I will never forget. I thirst to get in the kitchen again and start to use what I have learned to become a better cook!!