Final Day of the IACP conference

Peter Reinhart teaching candlelight powered artisan pizza class

Peter Reinhart teaching candlelight powered artisan pizza class

Up at 6am and back to the Sheraton.  My body is wrecked and the cumulative exhaustion is taking its toll.  This is the last day and fortunately there should be very little that could go wrong.  Everyone has their food and the volunteers are all lined up.  The events taking place at JWU are in the very capable hands of Marcia Kramer.  I might even be able to enjoy this day and catch some classes.

I arrive at the Sheraton parking lot and the stench is more pungent than usual.  The lot is particularly difficult to negotiate as they have tried to get as many spaces in the tight lot as possible.

Sharon, Vicki and Justin (all students that were at the Wild and Rare event the night before) are all there prepping for the two classes being offered that morning.   Justin is working on the lamb class and Vicki and Sharon are working on the Sardines, Anchovies and Mackerel class.

They seem to have it all together and there are no last minute situations that require my attention.  I go to see Toni Lydecker and Sam Hayward to see if they need anything.   I apologize for the fish situation and give them a run down of the issues we had.   I talk to Sam and  ask him if he knows Gallit Sammon.  He is amazed to hear that name.  We talk fondly about her for awhile.

I notice there is a presentation on how to increase your internet presence so I see if I can fit in.  It is a fascinating presentation and I learn alot.  I also learn that I know a good amount already.  The big take away was to become a featured publisher on FoodBuzz.  Yet another site I will have to click and update.  What someone needs to create is a site where you can manage all your sites at once (did I just give away a million dollar idea?).  This probably already exist or is in the works.  So far I have, My Blog, Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Slideshare, Vodcast and now FoodBuzz.  Of course I also have my yahoo which has RSS feed from quite a few other blogs I follow.

At the presentation they were talking about creating a separate Facebook identity just to handle close friends and family.  Have you noticed how quickly you get inundated with the daily updates on the new Facebook format?  I can only imagine what that must be like for people that have over six hundred friends.

After the class I go to check in on how the other classes went and they were all quite successful.  We still have to pack all the cooking gear that IACP  brought to the conference.  They should seriously consider doing some triage of all the gear as there are many pieces that are completely unnecessary.  Viking obviously donated one of each item they make to IACP.  Steve brings us the crate and we pack almost 80% of the gear up.  Justin still has the Bourbon class to attend and I need to head off to Cook Street for the Artisan Pizza class.

The hotel is serving up the final lunch and I decide to attend.  I look around the banquet room and find Sylvia Tawse and Tim Stein.  I have lunch with them and also meet the Chair of the Host committee for next year’s conference in Portland.  His name is Mike Thelin and he already has business cards designed for the title.

Cathy Cochran Lewis is giving her farewell address as IACP president and goes around the room to thank all that participated in making the conference happen in Denver.  I am thanked publicly again.

After lunch (not worth commenting on the what they served), I went back to the prep kitchen and got intercepted by Holly Arnold.  She wanted the Demo kitchen to be sanitized and the trash removed.   I would have hoped that the volunteer in charge would have cleaned it, but what the hell.

I clean the space and then I head over to Cook Street to insure all goes well.  As I leave I tell Holly that her JWU student volunteers should be there shortly.  I hope and pray there will be no issues there.

I pull out of the garage one last time and head down 15th Street.  At about two blocks down I notice that the stoplights are not functioning.  As a matter of fact not one from that point on until I get to Cook Street is working.  Clearly this is a major power outage.   We were already concerned with running this class as we were expecting snow that morning (they were saying 1 foot but really only a couple of inches of wet snow fell).  It was still pretty windy.

As I pull up to Cook Street I see that Antonio Laudisio has indeed set up his wood burning oven on the sidewalk and that Cami has loaned them a tent which is already getting a beating from the wind.

Antonio Laudisio making pizzas outside Cook Street with Sharon Talbert assisting

Antonio Laudisio making pizzas outside Cook Street with Sharon Talbert assisting

The inside is dark but all the key players are there.  We are committed to runing the course and Tina our FOH manager is already busy getting candles lit.

Participants start to arrive.  “Yes the lights are out in the city and yes we are running the class, make yourself comfortable and we will make sure it all goes smoothly.”

We set up candles in the bathrooms (the last place anyone wants to be in the dark) and we are cooking ovens in wood burning ovens so all is good.  We actually get an amazing showing of around 40 participants.  Once everyone accepts our situation then we are ready to proceed.  Talk about the ultimate sustainable environment.  No lights just wood burning and candles.

Cathy Whims and her sous chef is up first and they go over their style of pizza.   Once they present they run off to cook their Margherita pizzas.

Next Peter comes up and presents.  By then I realize I can take pictures with my tripod and maybe catch some of this without flash.

The crowd is really digging this and I know it will be one of the most memorable events of the conference.

The pizzas start to be passed around and the ones made by Cathy Whims are amazing.  I manage to click a few shots of the girls in action with Cami pointing the flashlight on them while they worked.  Thomasino is working the wood burning oven and is doing great.  My former students are being rock stars and that just feels great.

Cathy Whims and her sous chef making pizza under candlelight

Cathy Whims and her sous chef making pizza under candlelight

The pizzas keep coming around, kindly passed by my students, they all taste amazing.  We are reaching the end of the presentation.  I get countless request for recipe packs.  “yes, well as soon as the power comes back on we will print all the copies we need.”

And then in the last half hour of the presentation the power comes on.  There is a collective sigh and joy at the return of our creature comforts.  Now I can take pictures.

Peter Reinhart in the final half hour of presentation

Peter Reinhart in the final half hour of presentation

The class ends with Antonio having to leave with his wood burning pizza oven and many questions from the crowd.  We were treated to a great presentation and frankly I am ready to get back to my family.  Sylvia tells me to take a picture of Antonio in front of Cook Street so:

Antonio Laudisio in front of our school and his famous portable wood burning oven

Antonio Laudisio in front of our school with his famous portable wood burning oven

The class is over and once again many people come up to me to tell how much they enjoyed their experience at our school.

It’s over……………..the conference is over…………..and I am heading back to my family with the comfort of knowing that I was instrumental in making this conference successful.

Too many people to thank, but I especially thank all the volunteers, Marcia Kramer, Carrie Balkcom and the most special thanks to Patricia Belaire for helping out in her most difficult time.

Next year PORTLAND.

Day 3: The storm takes a new direction across town, Wild and Rare

John Ash, Andrew Dwyer and Andy Floyd after a successful event

John Ash, Andrew Dwyer and Andy Floyd after a successful event

There was only one scheduled class on Friday and that was Extreme Cooking with Andrew Dwyer from Australia.  I had taken care of every major detail the day before so I was fairly confident it would run smoothly.  He had a group of Johnson & Wales students to assist him and some of them were coming to give me a hand later in the day for the Wild and Rare dinner at Cook Street.

The Wild and Rare dinner was not the only thing on my mind as I had agreed to cater an off premise gig for the IACP Culinary Trust.  I had our Alumni coordinator David Bravdica in charge of putting together the food for that event and also helping to prep the same appetizers to be served for Wild and Rare.  Donated food for this event as well as cheese for the Artisan Pizza class the following day had been pouring in all week and was filling the walk-in cooler to capacity.

I had told my assistants to arrive at 10 am, but only two of them actually could.  The three volunteers from J&W were assisting Andrew Dwyer at the Sheraton and would not be at the school until after 12:30pm (remind me not to schedule volunteers for two places in one day).  My FL (stands for Fearless Leader) had to work until 3 pm and would not show up until then. Will Poole long time friend and owner of WEN chocolates was there early to work on his dessert and came with his usual ebullient energy.

Add to this a general uneasiness from Tina our FOH manager about having the necessary hands available to set up the room and we were already off to a great start.

I wrote up a prep list on the board and had my two assistants Sharon and Vicki start to check off the task that needed to be done.   John the recreational program chef came to help us out as well.  My former Culinary Arts instructor, Francois Dionot as well as his wife Patrice owners of l’Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda Maryland came by to check out our school and to say hello.  I spent a little time with them, but in the back of my mind I already know I’m behind and understaffed.  Then the Dean of J&W, Jorge de la Torre,  comes by with Adam Seger who is doing a cocktail class the following day and they manage to eat more of my time.  Not that I mind, but I am preoccupied to say the least.

OK now I can focus on the prep list.  I get a voicemail for John Ash: “do you think I could come by later?  A friend of mine has invited me to lunch etc.”  I call him back and let him know that we have more work then he might feel comfortable catching up on if he came later.  He’s on his way.

David Bravdica is working with Patricia to get catered event completed on time and he is a little nervous.

John Ash shows up and gets to work.  Meanwhile, Carol Fenster and Cassidy Tawse-Garcia (Sylvia Tawse’s daughter) are setting up the room for a fine dining event.  Now there are quite a few people that have never set foot in our school trying to set up which leads to lots of questions to guess who?  That’s right you guessed it: ME.

So with ME being under the gun trying to accomplish what I need to for the event and all the questions that need to be answered from the front of the house people and new people in the kitchen, I am about ready to crack.  But I have been in the weeds before and I know the only way to get out is to focus and keep moving faster through each task.

It’s 12:30pm and still no Andrew Dwyer sighting.  He calls and says he is on his way.  I suggest he come as quickly as possible as there is plenty to do.  The J&W students show up and I am relieved, except they tell me they need to get a bite to eat as they have not eaten all day.  Join the club my young friends.  OK, go feed yourself and get back as quickly as possible.

It’s getting to be crunch time for the catered event so I transfer Sharon Talbert to assist David.  Ian Scott a fresh graduate comes in to ask me for a letter of recommendation.  I ask him “what are you doing right now?” he says “nothing” and I say right “here’s an apron, go wash me some greens.”  He jumps right in on the task.

Now John Parks has sparked up the wood burning oven to get it warmed up for the Artisan Pizza class the following day.  He is feeling under the weather from some kind of bug, but I appreciate any assistance I can get today.  The next person to walk in is Peter Reinhart the bread guru and teacher for the following day.  He is here to make pizza dough and he has an assistant from J&W who he taught.  More questions……….Oh and Cathy Whims, chef and owner of Nostrana in Portland OR, is supposed to be joining him to work on some doughs along with her sous chef. He has tried calling her several times and she has yet to reply.  He’s sure she’ll show up in time, but she is already an hour late.

Cassidy comes up me: “it’s LeeAnn Stevens and she has some questions regarding your Panzanella recipe” ,”yes LeeAnn, un hun, yes…yes, what did you say?  no I don’t understand, can you just send me the fucking thing over email and I can correct it there?……….yes and I will send right back so that you can publish the recipe booklet.”

Oh I have this huge tank of liquid nitrogen in my dry storage that I have been fantasizing about in my dreams to try and use for the dinner in some capacity.  I even lost sleep thinking about how I was going to use it.  Can’t think of that right now must move forward.

The countdown is on for David who is trying to pack all his stuff to take over to the Sheraton.  The asparagus egg cups got cooked a little more than I would have wished, but with a little whipped cream all  is fixed.  I managed to commandeer some people over to his side to get him out the door.  He is packing his stuff and Patricia (the Godsend during this whole affair) has agreed to join him to insure all goes smoothly.  They’re out the door and just in time as Cathy Whims and Sous chef are coming in.  And my (FL) Justin Hugill the Kiwi and former student is also there and shortly after Andrew Dwyer comes in.   I’m about ready to burst and but we’re ticking off the to do list and it looks like we might actually make it, but right now we have about twenty people in the kitchen and front of the house and in about an hour I want everyone out so I can get the floors mopped.   “Andres, a las 5 y 15 necessito limpiar”  “si jeffe” “

I am giving countdowns to all so that we can be sure that when the first people show up we have all ready and the place is clean.  Andrew Dwyer is getting quandong sauce ready and is putting off firing some of his veggies until we are ready to serve.  I convince him to pre-cook some of his stuff. John Ash has been carefully trying to figure which platters each of these dishes are going to go on.   Thank God he is on this project.

We have caught up on all the prep and the kitchen has been mopped.  We have a quick chef’s huddle to determine our game plan.  We come out of the meeting with a vague but workable plan.

It’s showtime……people are coming through the door.  Morey Hecox the owner of the school has invited some of his buddies to come for dinner.  I am on a pure adrenalin high and gladly suck down two glasses of Sauvignon Republic.  I get to meet quite a few people, like Roberta the owner of Cambridge Culinary School and the editor to Bon Appetit.  All are trying the appetizers of King Canyon Buffalo Carpaccio, the salume platter and the platter of arancini and tochetti.

It is a light moment after endless barrage of stress.  We consult with each other to figure out when is the best time to start our demoes.  Yes each of the chefs has agreed to demo a dish and we have all agreed to do all of our presentations in under 45 minutes combined.  That’s 15 minutes a piece.

First John Ash comes up and does a demo on his elk dish.   He goes on entertainingly about the right amount of salt to use in blanching being similar to the salt content of our mother’s embryonic fluid sac (it’s getting philosophical now).  We are having issues with our audio but moving through it.  He does a great demo and I plug Andrew Dwyer into the system.  He does a great demo talking about Quandongs and how you want to be careful how you spell and say that word.   He demos his kangaroo dish and his presentation is quite lively.  Then I am up.  I go on about Buffalo and the tall grass prairie and talk about my dad driving across Kansas and how he always talked about what it would have been like to be the first white man to see the Rockies and so on and so forth.  I talk about the buffalo being the ultimate sustainable creature of the tall grass prairie and finish my demo by searing the bison meat and making my interpretation of Chimichurri sauce.   I think I have done well and even notice David Carter the president of the Bison association nodding in approval.

Later he comes to me and says: “you know I agree with all you said regarding bison, but I just want to make sure you understand that the prairie east of Denver is the short gras prairie not the tall grass prairie”   I am so happy that he didn’t correct me while I was making my presentation as it would have deflated my energy, but I always get the tall and the short confused.  Now maybe I will never forget.

Patricia and David come back from the catered event and all went well.  She still has one more task to do to prepare for the following day.  Gut the previously frozen sardines and take them to the hotel for tomorrow’s Mackerel and  sardines class.

There is a mad dash to plate all the stuff to go out to the dinning room and we have the plating pretty well set up. There is a couple there who is filming the event and ask to interview me right then. I don’t know why I agree to do it at that exact moment but they proceed.  Apparently she is good friends with Dale Lasater and Andy at the ranch and her cousin Athena is a new student in our program.

We finally get to sit down and enjoy the fruits of our labor and the two Silver Oak AVAs from 2004.  The food is great and there is tons of it.  We set the tables up with the maximum occupancy and so that all can see and talk to each other.  The food is served family style.

Then we get different producers and foodies to come up and talk throughout the dinner.  It is a great social moment and very interactive.  John Ash calls it a “salon”.

The night ends with the dramatic presentation of the pears poached in Chateau de Rolland Sauternes garnished with a super rare Hawaiian chocolate that Will Poole has a friend of a friend who manages to get him a little each year.

The evening is a huge success and many people come up to the chefs to offer their thanks.  We pack up all our stuff.  We are exhausted but still manage to share one last bottle of Silver Oak.  The chefs are elated, we have had a very bonding experience and were able to pull off a great meal.  Hard to believe that all the planning came together over a few conference calls.

John Ash, Cassidy Tawse, Andrew Dwyer, Sylvia Tawse and Andy Floyd

John Ash, Cassidy Tawse, Andrew Dwyer, Sylvia Tawse and Andy Floyd

IACP Conference: Day 2 the storm drops to category 3

They provided me a room in the hotel.  I go to sleep at around 11pm after the round of drinks with Rick Moonen, Barry Estabrook and Adam Sobel.  The room is tiny, has a huge flat screen but no remote so I just go to bed.  I have a hard time sleeping because H-Vac doesn’t stop for the night and the controls do not work.  It feels like maybe the H-Vac is set to blast at 65.  Hard to sleep, but also I am fretting about those Cholla buds. What if they overcooked in the gradual cool-down, what about the nopales salad?  I am working with product I have never touched before.  I know my cooking skills are solid enough to handle most anything, but still it is keeping me up.

I finally just get up at 6 am, shower and head downstairs.  I run into Steve Gigantiello right off (those guys are on non-stop until the conference is over).   I get all my mise en place together to make the dishes for Native American Food of the Sonoran Desert and start to cook.  The Cholla buds need more time and as I focus on my next cup of coffee I start to work on the prickly pear crumble.  I also start to prep the nopales by peeling off the prickly cactus thorns.  I get pricked by one of the cactus barbs, which are not too easy remove.   I saw these cactus paddles and prickly pear tunas being sold when I lived in Mexico City, but never paid them much attention as a possible food source and honestly why bother when the stand owners would hand out samples of jicama, pineapple and mango at every stall.  It was a feast for the eyes and palate.

Alright how hard could these recipes be.  The nopales salad was basically jicama and nopales julienne with a orange vinaigrette with crushed Chiltepin peppers to give it heat.  It was of course garnished with the famous Cholla buds that have caused several anxiety attacks since they appeared on the global food order.

Erin and Beth show up on time to help and I gladly relinquish the two dishes to them.  Patricia also shows up and I get her on the prickly pear agave syrup reduction for the crumble.   She starts to work on other stuff and almost forgets to turn off said reduction.  I catch it in the nick of time.

She has a lot on her mind. On the first day of the conference she tells me that her sister in Argentina has been diagnosed with a brain tumor.  I ask her if she needs to bow out of this project and she says she prefers to continue to avoid thinking about it.

The black chef coated team of Rick Moonen and Adam Sobel arrive and start to set up their line. They have brought most of their own stuff and they have solicited Brian Hardy’s help as he is the first there and maybe Adam has some kind of apprehension about his head assistant Cami.

Their show is not on until 2pm.  Barbara Poole Fenzl shows up and she is delightful.  She used to spend time with Simca and Julia Child and she knows my friend Robert Reynolds.  The presentation team has all they need and they move forward on schedule.  It is a fairly effortless presentation.  Erin and Beth do a great job at getting all the tasting dishes together along with a little help from Brian.

Meanwhile I head over to the opening address to the members of the IACP.  Sylvia Tawse thanks us publicly.  I meet Andrew Dwyer the Australian outback chef and we talk about his demo tomorrow and what we need to prep for it. Alex Talbot from “Ideas in Food” Blog fame needs some food from our walk-in to make a plate for the “food photography for blogs class.”   I wish I could stay but must go back and make sure all is well with the Native American class and the Moonen team.

Apparently I miss an awesome story by Dan Barber of Blue Hill Stone Barns restaurant about a foie gras farm in Spain where they do not force feed the ducks (geese?) and only have buried electrical fence to keep predators out.  Sustainable and humane foie?  I get to meet him after his presentation.

Patricia brings over the sardines we had special ordered and that she mistakenly brings to the school instead.  She brings them to us and we inspect them and determine pretty quickly that they are un-usable for Sam Hayward’s presentation.  Another crisis to solve.  I am on the phone again with New York.  They could get them to me but not until Saturday.  I send Patricia on another hunt to the Asian market.

We have lunch with the rest of the IACPers.   They serve us a pathetic rendition of trout, but we’re hungry and there is little chance we will get food later.

At 2 pm the Moonen, Estabrook and Monterrey Bay Aquarium team go on.  It’s a great presentation and a message I have heard quite a few times now.  The oceans are in peril and many of the species are in grave danger of extinction.  The rest of the panel passes the presentation over to Rick Moonen who is a self proclaimed ADD victim.  He is a great speaker and know his material well.  However I still have an issue with preaching sustainability while having a restaurant in Vegas.  Maybe he knows something I don’t, but that city is the antithesis of sustainability.

He does this black cod dish with a miso glaze and pea risotto that is to die for.

Miso glazed black cod with pea risotto

Miso glazed black cod with pea risotto on Bauscher plate

Patricia has located sardines but they are frozen.  Not my first choice but I have to take it.  Brian and Patricia help me to set everything up for Andrew Dwyer the following day as I will be completely focused on the Wild and Rare dinner and the catered event for the Culinary Trust.   I eventually head over to the school where Hugh Carpenter is about to teach a class.  I verify he has all he needs and head home.  I’m wiped but it has been another successful day at the conference.

Back on TV

Yesterday I had another shot cooking on TV.  The day before I was told I had to prepare healthy breakfast item and that I would be on a new segment with Dr. John Torres that might occur every Wednesday.  I was provided his cell number and a meeting time.

I tried to call him several times the day prior but got no-where.  So I just came up with my own segment.  I cook breakfast for my family every day and one of their favorite dishes is blueberry pancakes.  Usually, my wife Lucy cooks this for them every Saturday morning, but I figured what the hell let’s break the rule and I’ll take some of the batter with me to the station.

I adjusted the recipe from Joy of Cooking to omit the butter and to change the sweetener to Agave Nectar (which has a lower glycemic index).

here is the recipe:

Blueberry Pancakes (adapted from Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Ronbauer)

Mix together in a large bowl:

1 ½ cups All-purpose flour

1 ¼ Tablespoons Baking Powder

1 teaspoon Salt

In separate bowl mix together:

3 Tablespoons Agave nectar

1 ½ cups milk

2 eggs

½ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Add the wet ingredients to the large bowl of dry ingredients and mix.  Then add ½ cup of frozen or fresh blueberries.  Heat some oil in a fry pan and when the oil is in between sizzling and smoking add ¼ cup of batter for each pancake.  Cook to golden brown and then flip the pancake over to finish.

I also figured I would demo turning a grapefruit into suprêmes (segments).  All of this would make for a healthy breakfast.

When I got to work, I saw the Dr. John had called.  We chatted and he said that he had an omelet in mind and I told him what I had prepared for and he said let’s do it.  I took for the station with plenty of leeway time to make sure I wasn’t going to be in a panic.

The station is very different than Channel 9.  The set is surrounded by all the newscaster’s cubicles.  They showed me where to set up and I chatted with Dr. John about our segment.  Already this felt considerably more organized than my last TV segment.

Then before you knew it we were on the air.  I was a lot more prepared this time and was able to articulate better.  The segment was about 3 minutes long.

I packed up my stuff and headed back to school.

Day 1 of the IACP conference: Andoni Aduriz

After the David Arnold and Nils Noren presentation, I grabbed a bite to eat (the food at the Sheraton was dismal and not worthy of such a foodie organization).  Patricia was still getting the rest of the food for later presentations and I told her to meet me at Johnson & Wales University to catch the Andoni Aduriz presentation.   I was really excited to see how he was going to use the products I had so much trouble acquiring.

The first thing I grasped from watching Andoni work, is his level of organization.  He is meticulous and nothing is out of place.   When I ate at his restaurant in 2005, you could tell that it operated under the same level of perfection.   The weather outside was getting worse and I was truly exhausted by this time.

The Johnson & Wales Jared Polis auditorium is beautiful and all can have a great view of the presentation.  They had two screens to catch the action and there were two students handling remote video cameras  (these most times took forever to focus and zoom to close ups).

The translator was a young lady from Peru.  I am not sure how she got the gig, but I thought her translation fell short and almost lulled me to sleep.  Translation is really hard and it is even harder to hold an audience’s attention.  Andoni talks softly with that characteristic Spanish lisp (not sure how that lisp creeped into their language but I find it slightly challenging).  So between him talking softly and the monotone nature of her translation coupled with a lack of technical knowledge of the subject matter it was hard at times to follow.

When I received the recipe pack from Andoni it had 11 recipes in it.  I just couldn’t imagine how he was going to present all of them in 2 1/2 hour time period.  He presented around 9 recipes and even managed to slip in some video presentations.

The Mugaritz team worked extremely well together and they anticipated all of Andoni’s needs to insure the presentation went off without a hitch.

The first dish he presented was the Koalin potatoes.

Koalin potatoes with alioli sauce

Koalin potatoes with alioli sauce

He cooks the potatoes and then dips them in an edible blue corn colored kaolin clay and bakes them in the oven. They come out looking like stones and must come as a shock to his clients when they see them at their table.

Next up he presented a dish using romaine hearts and milk skin.  The harvest of the milk skin seems really tricky and required that we find a raw milk source.

Heart of romaine on milk skin served on a bauscher plate

Heart of romaine on milk skin served on a bauscher plate

The hearts of romaine were impregnated with vanilla brine in the cryovac machine using a technique called compression (you put the lettuce in a cryovac bag with the brine and then you repeatedly subject it to cryovac suction. This compresses the cell walls and replace the air with brine).  The milk skin is made by combining raw milk with cream, cooking it and then allowing the fat to rise to the surface and form a skin that attaches to a parchment sheet.

Snap pea ravioli

Snap pea ravioli

The snap pea ravioli was held together by a very thin methyl cellulose membrane made by incorporating the Metho Cell with a pea distillate (think rotovap).  He called them the thinnest raviolis ever.

Carrot dish

Carrot dish

A beautiful carrot dish garnished with squid cubes and Chinese mushrooms and squid consommé

White Asparagus dish

White Asparagus dish on Bauscher plate

These white asparagus were blanched and shocked and served with pine resin liquid thickened with cod skin (though if you read my previous posts, you know they had to use salmon skin).

This was a gorgeous dish of baby leeks and clams

This was a gorgeous dish of baby leeks and clams in a Bauscher bowl

The leeks were roasted in the oven until the outside was somewhat charred and then he removed the outer leaves to get to the tender hearts that had been steamed and flavored with the char.  He used cherry stone clams and mussels to created the broth.   The little green twigs used as garnish are actually salicornes or sea beans.

Butternut squash cube with puree

Butternut squash cube with puree

The butternut cubes are soaked in water mixed with calcium oxide (remember the red lime in the David Arnold segment) that enhance the texture as it cooks (like the bananas did in David and Nils demo).  The butternut cube is placed on top of a gelatinized sweet potato purée.  On the left there is a smear of mascarpone and coffee cream.

Jerusalem artichokes made to look like crab meat topped with crab

Jerusalem artichokes made to look like crab meat topped with crab

This dish was an interesting evolution.  I guess that he had cooked Jerusalem artichokes once in their skin and noticed that once he opened them up that the flesh resembled crab meat, which gave him the idea of topping it crab-meat.  I believe he had this revelation on the plane and had to act on it when he landed.   I was unable to find him whole crab at the last minute but I guess someone was able to procure two for him.

Fig eating beef carpaccio

Fig eating beef carpaccio on Bauscher plate

Then he went on to talk about taking watermelon and compressing it in the cryovac and having it replicate the flavor and color of beef.  He said a large percentage of people could not tell the difference between the watermelon and the beef.  He discussed a special type of beef where they would introduce figs into their diet and the meat would taste sweet.  He passed around the carpaccio for us to look at.

He played us a video that showed a 120 step salad of wild greens and flowers he features at the restaurant (there is even a checklist to make sure that each leaf is accounted for and included in the salad).

Andoni and his amazing bubble beet machine

Andoni and his amazing bubble machine

Andoni’s final presentation was an explanation of how he figured out along with a research team in Italy how to make these bubbles.  He made a mixture with egg protein (not sure how he got this as I tried all week to find it), beet juice and xanthan gum and set it in a large jar in which he had placed a tube connected to an aquarium pump.  As he was talking about the process of the discovery the mass of bubbles was growing in the bowl (kind of like the chocolate pudding in the movie the sleeper).  When it started to go over the sides he had us all taste it.  It was the lightest foam encapsulating the bright flavor of beet I have ever tasted.

El equipo de Mugaritz

El equipo de Mugaritz

The presentation was amazingly well organized and the dishes inspirational.  A true genius visited Denver on this day and it was great to see he was able to use most of the ingredients I gathered for him and how he survived without the ones I couldn’t.

I still had to head back to the Sheraton to cook off some Cholla Buds and then on to the reception at the Denver Art Museum.

I pressure cooked the Cholla buds for a 1/2 hour then put them in the walk-in.

I headed off to the DAM and Sylvia had set it up in a wonderful way, with stations of different restaurants and caterers.  Intermittent among the food stalls were Colorado wineries and even a drink out of the barrel Stranahans Colorado Whiskey station.   You had to cross the art gallery to get to yet another area featuring Boulder restaurants.  It was a great event and even Hickenlooper the Mayor of Denver was in attendance.

After I left the opening reception, I strolled down 16th street mall and walked over to the school to see how the Molecular Gastronomy class had gone.   I arrived just as people were packing to go.  It was a success and Ian even gave me a little lesson on how to handle the LN without the hose he took with him.

I walked back to the 16th street mall and bike taxi asked me if I wanted a free ride to my hotel.   I took him up on it and he dropped it in front of the hotel.  I entered into the Irish bar connected to the hotel and saw Rick Moonen sitting with two other people.   I introduced myself and told them I would be coordinating their presentation the following day.

Barry Estabrook a contributing editor to Gourmet was with him along with his Chef de Cuisine Adam Sobel.   They were drinking Bourbon and I had a few beers with them (they were nice enough to pay for my drinks).  Very interesting people.

Off to bed finally for some sleep and to prepare for another big day.

Day 1 of the IACP Conference: Nils Noren and David Arnold

I drive to Denver early to get to the Sheraton by 8 am.  I forgot to mention that the night before I received a call from Terry our C.O.O.  saying that Ian Kleinman was coming by the school by 7:45 to pick up some liquid nitrogen to take to a TV shoot that Terry had scheduled.  When I heard this I was confused as I thought he was coming to drop off the liquid nitrogen at the Sheraton in time for David Arnold’s and Nils Noren’s class which started at 9am.  So I decided to stop by the school to clear up the confusion.  It turned out that he had no idea what time their class started (I hadn’t communicated it to him).  David Arnold wanted a Dewar of liquid nitrogen and he wanted me to fill up some coffee press pots for his mixed drink presentation.  I felt uncomfortable using our press pots for liquid nitrogen transport so I ignored this request.  Ian and I discussed other options to get the liquid nitrogen to him and settled on him coming right back to the school to refill his 10 liter Dewar after his TV interview and bring it to me at the loading dock by 9:30am in plenty of time to have it for their presentation.

The day was already starting out stressful.  I rushed over to the Sheraton and met up with the team that was working with the Dynamic Uber Tech Duo.  They had a little conflict with the hotel steward as David had taken some of their pitchers that he was planning on doing a liquid nitrogen application in.  They worked it out and at 9am they went on.  The attendance was surprisingly small. I got to watch most of it and it was amazing. Meanwhile I had Patricia out looking for different stuff at whole foods  and picking up Sardines and Mackerel for some other classes.

David and Nils went through most of the modern techniques that are popular right now. They first discussed sous vide and someone asked a question about the conflicts that all the restaurants were having with the NYC health department concerning this technique.  David is a very animated presenter and I love his mannerisms.  He fits the mad scientist profile quite well and is very confident in his delivery.

Nils Noren on the left and David Arnold explaining the Rotovap

Nils Noren on the left and David Arnold explaining the Rotovap

Nils is a very competent and a good presenter.  They presented some very interesting products.  One was corolase that they had a small sample of.  If you add few drops of this to a very gelatinous stock it will dissolve the gelatin instantly.  The benefit is that you can keep the reduced flavor of a highly reduced stock without the cloying sticky sensation you get from the reduced gelatin.  The chef could then thicken the sauce back up to the desired consistency.  They also demonstrated the use of thai red lime powder (a type of Calcium Oxide) which allows a chef to cook bananas without the banana losing color and becoming mushy.

These guys were fascinating and wonderfully entertaining.  They cooked some lamb racks in glade freezer ziplock bags (don’t use any cheap zip lock bags as the one they used from the hotel melted on him).  The racks were seared and then re-thermalized (David likes this expression better than reheating).  They served it with the veal stock reduction that they had de-gelled, seasoned with pressure cooked mustard seeds and a Paonia peach purée thickened with Methyl Cellulose.   The lamb was perfectly cooked and evenly rare throughout.  Special thanks to Douglas Baldwin for the use of his cryovac machine and his thermo recirculator.

At around 9:15,  Ian called me on the cell and I went out to the dock to get their liquid nitrogen.  Special thanks to Ian.

The dessert they served was out of this world.  They had made these little passion fruit mousses and dehydrated them.   They took some of them a froze them with Liquid Nitrogen and it was an amazing texture. They had people come up and taste them and it was hysterical as each would put them in their mouth and it looked like they were smoking and exhaling out of their noses (like people on a freezing cold day).

Earlier they had taken some grapefruit segments and poured LN on them (to save time LN will be used to describe Liquid Nitrogen) and pounded them with a pestle.  They had everyone try them and it was an amazing grapefruit experience.  Too cold to put into your mouth right away (it would stick to your tongue).  When it was finally warm enough to put into your mouth it was an explosion of flavor like I have never quite experienced before.

The banana served along with this dish was firm and caramelized. They also served a coconut mousse that I believe they firmed up with Methyl  Cellulose and mixed with some blanched and shocked tarragon that David froze in a one speed Vita Prep blender with Liquid Nitrogen and then strained the dust through a chinois.  He added the Liquid Nitrogen and it appeared that it froze up the blade and then suddenly it started and blew Liquid Nitrogen everywhere.  As it was cutting the herbs David would occasionally give out the yelps of pain from the places where he had been sprayed with the Nitrogen.  He warned everyone “don’t do this demo with a one speed blender.”

They ended their presentation with a cocktail.  David had used his rotovap to distill a few liquids.  They offered us a shot of scotch that was mixed with peanut essence that he had extracted from the rotovapor.  The cocktail allowed David to demonstrate the use of his carbon dioxide tank (also thanks to Ian).  David had brought some soda bottles that were filled with various liquids and he had a special adapter that he could attach to each bottle to fill them with CO2.

Dave Arnold making his cocktail, Cook Street alumni John Arp assisting

David Arnold making his cocktail, Cook Street alumnus John Arp assisting

First he poured LN into each glass to cool them down and then he filled them with his carbonated liquid mixed with a little Tanqueray and St. Germain.  It was really cool to watch, but the carbonated liquid was flavored with the essence of caraway (another rotovap application) and honestly in my opinion it tasted foul.

The presentation went off without a hitch and everyone was quite satisfied.  I had spent hours trying to gather all the different equipment components and acquire all the products they needed to succeed.  One presentation down 17 to go.

Just a quick note

I have too much to write about in order to give my readers an inside view of the IACP Conference n Denver.  Once it is over and the dust settles I will attempt to do a comprehensive review of the events I witnessed and the people I met and worked with.

Generally it has been a lot of fun working under pressure to solve problems as they arise (and they do arise).  The visiting chefs have been mostly gracious and thankful for the reception.  There are so many unknowns when you walk into a conference and a new town.  You can easily tell the veterans (they bring all their own stuff and leave little to chance).  Others expect to be waited on hand and foot to fulfill their highly complicated dishes.  There is a pecking order in the conference presenters.  If I ever get to that level I will have a good view of how to prepare.  I am getting a good understanding of how to prepare for my trip to Uruguay.

Tonight we are doing the Wild and Rare event at Cook Street and I am really looking forward to it.  Chefs Andrew Dyer (from Australia),  John Ash and myself will cook an all game menu for around 5o people and we will pair the menu with Sauvignon Republic and Silver Oak.

My students from Cook Street and the JWU students have been great, but I am most impressed by my Crisis Manager Patricia Belaire who has relentlessly given her time and energy in helping me on this project.

D-Day minus one

Yesterday reminded me of my experiences taking students to France and getting them all installed in their new homes at the start of their month long stay.  Crisis after crisis to be solved by a think on your feet perspective at a very rapid pace.

I guess  all my 19 trips to France prepared me for what I had to go through on this day.

I got up and drove into Denver to arrive at the Sheraton at 9am.  There were a few of the volunteers there ready to assist.  I met up with the uber tech crew of  David Arnold and Nils Noren from the FCI and started to get an idea of the magnitude of what they were attempting to make for their demo.

When they sent over there equipment requirements, I almost fell off my seat.  I found out that day, that the management company (I assume the old one before Kellen company took over) asked them what equipment they would want in an ideal world and David just threw all the toys he could think of.

Will Poole from WEN chocolates was the kitchen set up volunteer leader for the day and he came in like a whirlwind (as usual) and got all the volunteers to clean up the boxed equipment and set up a periphery around our prep kitchen.  We grabbed whatever metal prep tables and speed racks we could and set up ground zero (or as I refer to it the Alamo, my students didn’t feel that was a good image).  IACP has accumulated a lot of donated equipment throughout the years that nobody has bothered to discard.  It is clear that Viking has donated a whole bunch of equipment.  But there are so many crappy little knick knacks.    We cleaned it all nonetheless and cleaned all the hotel equipment (they were disgustingly dirty).

Meanwhile I am trying to figure out the most expeditious way to get the rest of the food to all the recipients.  I have the school instructed to tell me whenever a box comes through their door.  They are receiving a Liquid Nitrogen delivery and of course many little things for our friend Andoni.  All along there is jack hammering going on above our heads and it is deafening.  the Sheraton is undergoing a 70 million renovation which just so happens to coincide with this conference.  We are told they will stop the construction for the conference.

But there is hope as I have the support of Patricia Belaire a former start student who has aggreed to be my Crisis Manager and help me by being my outside shopper.

So my goal is to consolidate all my food orders and then make one big circle of pick ups and drop offs and hopefully make everyone happy with the least amount of trips.

I send Patricia to Whole Foods to pick up a whole list of food and then I have her go to the Asian Market to try to find small crabs that Andoni wants because he got a revelation on the plane along with Oswaldo.

Meanwhile my volunteer group is getting antsy during some downtime so I get them to run to Cook Street to pick up a few items that came in and to gather all the Bauscher plates so that I can have the chefs choose which ones they want plate their food on.

Patricia is taking forever to get to the hotel and I am starting to get nervous.  I know that Andoni needs his fish.  David Arnold is looking for a cryovac machine, a Paco Jet, a juicer and pressure cooker.  Earlier in the morning Ian Kleinman dropped off his immersion circulator, a CO2 tank and a dehydrator.  Will Poole and I are brainstorming on how we can get the equipment.  I call up my old job and they agree to deliver the Paco Jet, the pressure cooker and the juicer.   I call up Douglas Baldwin who is teaching a class on sous vide at school and ask him if he can lend us his cryovac machine.   I believe that my equipment crisis is solved and all is expected to arrive in time for the culinary Sigfried and Roy show.

I am checking in with my food orders.  Most of the fish is in at Seattle Fish and will be ready for pick up by 1 pm.  All of my special vegetable order is in at Coosemans but we have to be there by 2pm to pick it up, most of my orders have arrived at Cook Street.  Everything is clicking into place. But where is Patricia?  My crisis manager is my crisis.

She eventually arrives and brings in the groceries.  I am in a mad mental rush to get on the road, but I try to settle down to make sure not to make any mistakes.  We go through our list.  What do we need to take with us and drop off at Cook Street, what do we need to drop off at JWU and what do we need to leave at the Sheraton.

We get it all together and head off to Cook  Street.  I relay to Douglas Baldwin that we need his cryovac machine and tell him who to call.  I see the huge canister of liquid nitrogen (space age). Pick up the stuff we need from there and try to get as quickly on the road as possible.  It is 1:45 pm.

Back on the road,  I ask Patricia to call Coosemens and get directions, then I have her call Seattle fish to get directions.  I ask her to find out which is closest to our present location so we don’t have to backtrack.  Patricia gets all confused, but eventually gets the info we need.  Seattle Fish is closest.

I had never been to Seattle fish before.  When I worked at CSR we always used Northeast seafood.  Seattle Fish is really modern and clean.  Not what I had envisioned in my mind.  Chris got our order together sans cod (which Andoni only wanted for the skin) or Sardines for another class.  We then take off for Coosemans which is a little father east (lot farther) and pull up at 2:30pm.  The front door is locked.  No way. ……….. We see a truck pull away and we stop it.  “is there anyone inside?’  Yes there is.  Patricia calls them up.  We go in through the back door and they bring out our order.  It is huge and can barely fit in my trunk.  We try to sort it out based on what we are dropping off where.

Quick off to JWU.  We arrive and you could tell that the Andoni’s team was quite nervous about the delay of the fish.  We give him everything we have for him and start to distribute the rest to some of the bags  I had already prepared the day before.

Oswaldo comes rushing back.

“Where’s the COD!”

“On the plane my friend,  supposed to come in this evening. You can’t have it until the morning.”   “

What about the crab?”

“Patricia tried two asian markets and my fish purveyor can’t get it, forget about the crab.”

“Where can I go to get it?   I will drive right now to find it. “

He rushes off and tries to get the JWU purchase manager involved in the solution.

I bring a large box of Bauscher plates to the room and have Andoni choose the ones he wants.  It’s a stressful time and you can tell the team is trying to figure out the solution to their present crisis.

Oswaldo says “we need fish skin any kind of fish skin.”   OK let me call Seattle Fish again and talk to Chris.    “Chris do you have any fish skin left from any fish you just filleted?”  “I think so let me go check…………….yes we do come on over.”

I start to head out the door.  Chris calls back  “chef turn around they just threw all the fish skin into the renderer.”

I start to think.  “Chris can I just buy a whole salmon and you skin it for me and I’ll take the meat and skin?”  “sure.”

So we are back on the road to get the salmon.  Fortunately they agree to cancel our COD order and we grab the fish and return to JWU.

You can tell that Andoni is really appreciative and says I’m “crack.”  What did he say?, I ask to where’s Oswaldo.  “Your crack, it means you get the job done.”

Quick back to Cook Street to drop off some vegetables.  I get a call while I am in the walk-in ” chef it’s Adam, I’m on my way and should be there in a few minutes”   Excuse me who are you”  I ask  completely disoriented.  ” I am the chef at CSR bringing you the Paco Jet.”  “oh so sorry I had completely forgotten you were coming at 5.”

and then on to the Sheraton.  Drop off the vegetables.  Meet with Patricia and make sure we are all set for tomorrow the first day of the conference.  I am waiting for Adam.  David Arnold is hoping the pressure cooker is coming and he is quickly pushing the juicer we loaned him from the school to extinction.

Carrie Balkcom returned from her Chico basin tour and brought me my Callicrate flatiron steaks.

The lady with the Cholla Buds calls me.  “I have your buds, where do we meet.”  Adam arrives at almost the same time “where are you.”   I manage to find him and we go to his car to get the rest of the Paco Jet gear.  I meet up with Mary Paganelli the Cholla bud lady and she proceeds to give me detailed instructions on how to cook them.  Adam couldn’t bring a pressure cooker and CSR doesn’t have their juicer anymore.

Downstairs to put away buds and tell David the bad news.  I run into Carrie again.  “Do you have a pressure cooker?”  “what kind do you want?”   I get her on that project and I head back home.

One last project.  Go the liquor store to get David Arnold some Tanqueray and some St. Germain.

I survived D-Day minus one.

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