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.
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.