2011 Starchefs – International Chefs Congress – Day 2

Chris Young one of the authors of Modernist Cuisine and his lab set up

Heading out into the street on Monday had a very different feel to it than Sunday.  The city was bustling with workers.  Wherever I went on the subway, I was fighting the tide of the working masses.  Not quite sure why the subway is designed so that everyone has to come in or out of the same turnstiles.  The Parisians have a much better system.  It’s also rare on the Paris system that you have consider that the train you might get on is going to hit the stops you have on your map.  Not the case in NYC,  be very aware of the train letter that comes into the station.

Today’s wine presentation was fascinating.  It featured a Quebecois, François Chartier, who has been intently studying aroma compounds in all foods and wines and creating food and wine parings based on aroma comfort zones. He got my attention right away when he conjured Jimi Hendrix by bringing up how Jimi turned to music science when he created the album Rainbow Bridge. Prior to that Jimi was playing completely by instinct, then as any artist he felt he needed to understand the theory behind the art.  I always wonder what Jimi would be playing now if he were alive.

François has worked intently with Ferran Adria (they both have the same hairdo – curly hair on a slightly balding head) in the creation of some of his dishes.  His system which he demonstrated in several pairings brings together the same aroma compounds in various elements of a dish and ties it together with the main aroma compound in the wine.  His main curious pairing was a Nori wrapped raspberry gel and a McClaren Vale Shiraz Grenache.  I really want to buy his upcoming book called Tastebuds and Molecules to play around with some of researched pairings. He was a fascinating and enthusiastic presenter.

Back to the main stage to catch the last part of Pierre Hermé the Macaron king.  This year I chose to go the wine route as the primary focus of the seminars and activities to catch.  It meant that I was often torn to have to miss some of the outstanding presenters.  There’s just too much activity to catch everything at the congress.  Pierre Hermé’s shop, across the street from St. Sulpice on Rue Bonaparte in the 6th, was one of my Pastry stops on my bi-annual trips to France with my culinary students.  Walking into his shoebox size store was like walking into a fine jewelry store.  Pierre was putting together some funky entremets with weird pairing like strawberry and wasabi.  He explained that he came up with his pairings by focusing on one ingredients then tasting it with many other flavors and eventually stumbling over great flavor combinations. “flavors find him.”  It would be interesting to see if there are scientific aroma connections à la Francois Chartier in the inherent aroma molecules in Pierre’s pairings. Time to go Hendrix in your approach Pierre.

Then it was back to the 2nd day installment of the Somm Slam.  Missing both Sanghoon Degeimbre from Belgium and Paul Liebrandt of restaurant Corton on the main stage.  The original 11 sommeliers had dwindled down to 6.  They had like the previous days a wine to blind taste.  Today the focus was going to be on pairing the wine selections with the cuisine of RJ Cooper who recently opened a restaurant called Rogue 24 (because he serves only 24 course tasting menus) in Washington DC.  RJ was the chef de cuisine at Vidalia which is owned by the first chef I ever worked for Jeff Buben.   They had to pair wines to two of his dishes. One dish was based on cured duck, corn silk, quail egg and filled the room with smoke as each dish was presented covered with a plastic cup filled with smoke.  The next dish was based on green peanuts, tobacco, liquid corn polenta, sorghum and maple.  They each picked their fist wine and then those were taken out of the selection for the following dish.  I was happy to see that Côtes du Rhône was often being chosen and seemed to form the best pairings.

They finished the second day of the Slam with more theory questions and then it was back to the main stage. Once again I took in the tail end of a presentation by Spanish chef Angel Leon of restaurant Aponiente in Puerto Santa Maria in Andalucia on seafood and using ingredients from the bottom of the food chain. He’s doing some soylent green type stuff with plankton and other stuff we should probably get used to eating.  He managed to fatten up a type of lake carp and transform its belly into a seafood chorizo which he passed around the room.

Then it was on to a presentation by a chef from Chile: Rodolfo Guzman of Restaurant Borago in Santiago.  As in the previous year with Dan Hunter from Australia, you can quickly spot a disciple of Andoni Aduriz. They all seem to share an amazing connection to their native soil.  They all actively seek out foods and special attributes of their surroundings and incorporate them into their cooking.  He showed an awesome video of his work creating a dessert based on the nuts of a tree sacred to the Mapuche Indians.  He re-created the outer part of the seed with a mold and then the seeds and was able to reseal the pod so you could shake the pod and hear the seeds inside.  All edible of course.

His presentation was followed by Chris Young one of the authors of Modernist Cuisine , the most anticipated culinary encyclopedia. His set up looked like a mini lab.  He showed us an inexpensive ($400) way of creating a Rotovap like machine for reducing liquids at low boiling temperature. The top blew off the contraption mid lecture, which added some comic relief to the otherwise serious scientific tone of his presentation. He had a counter top centrifuge (everyone should have one) and he showed the multi layers you can get out of puréed peas.  In the vial he passed around you could clearly see three distinct layers of green.  Really cool, but I’m not likely to have enough money to purchase a centrifuge in my lifetime. Could be a cool product.

I was done after that demo and instead of staying for David’s Thompson Thai Street food presentation and the cocktail reception that followed, I decided to meet up with my wife and members of her family who came up to visit from Philadelphia.

We went out to Co. a nearby pizzeria owned by Jim Leahy, the man who popularized No Knead bread which I have posted about here.  Excellent wood oven pizza.

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