Introduction to the 6th Annual StarChefs.com International Chefs Congress by Will Blunt
Managing Editor of StarChefs.com Will Blunt
Good morning everyone and welcome to the 6th Annual StarChefs.com International Chefs Congress in this historic space. My name is Will Blunt. I’m Managing Editor at Starchefs.com. Before I begin today, I’d like to take a moment to thank the entire StarChefs.com staff, our invaluable interns, and the volunteers who are making today possible. It’s been a busy summer, frantic sometimes—and punctuated by the first StarChefs.com pre-ICC earthquake, here in New York City of all places. But tremors, Irene, Charlie Sheen, and debt ceilings aside, we all made it here. And if you take a moment to look around you today, I hope you’ll feel the reward of your efforts, whether you’ve helped build the program, are presenting in the next three days, or have simply taken the time out of your schedules to attend, engage, and—of course—eat and drink.
I’ve been Managing Editor of StarChefs.com for years now. It’s been my responsibility—and pleasure—to make sure our site is an authentic reflection of this incredible industry—from the talented professionals who populate it, to the latest developments that stir it, to the enduring traditions that root it to history. We enjoy a privileged position and we don’t take it lightly. You invite us into your kitchens, behind your bars, into your wine cellars. We observe firsthand the products, techniques, and, most importantly, the people that drive the world of food and drink.
And each year, after observing so many of you—hundreds directly, thousands indirectly—we bring a prominent issue or concept to the fore at our ICC. We do this not simply as a means of intellectual exchange—or high-powered networking. We do it to explore the philosophical and practical realities facing each and every one of you. We do it to address an idea as a community. And this year, as you know, we chose to explore The Sixth Sense: Intuition, Emotion, and Experiential Evolution in Dining.
The Sixth Sense might not sound like a concept with any practical realities. But if the backbone of this industry is built on tangibles—product, people, and profit—the spirit of this industry is something intangible, something beyond the basic act of consumption. It’s that quality of welcome—the warmth, recognition, and exchange of hospitality.
Most of you are probably unfamiliar with the term. And it’s true, the Sixth Sense isn’t common industry parlance—just yet. But that’s because the Sixth Sense isn’t common. It’s extraordinary, extraordinary, in the most literal sense of the word. And while there’s no exact definition, we’ve come to understand what the Sixth Sense means through our interaction with you. After all, it was you—not us—who led us to this theme for our ICC—your efforts to reach your diners and guests on an emotional and intellectual level, to play with definitions, to enhance that dish or drink with added value—those efforts, as we observed them across the country and the globe, inspired our theme.
In an industry that trades on sensory input, the Sixth Sense is added value, the self-conscious effort to transcend the basic obligations to feed, to strike a nerve with the diner and reach for that emotional jackpot. It’s the unabashed embrace of meaning in this industry.
And there could be no better timing. The world is changing, and so is this industry. Now more than ever, we’re examining not only our products and methods, but our motivations—and our place in the greater social community. And the Sixth Sense will become the central commodity of the responsible, ambitious professional. And on that note I’d like to remind everyone that a portion of the proceeds from the 2011 ICC will benefit the Steven Scher Memorial Scholarship for Aspiring Restaurateurs, established in conjunction with the James Beard Foundation.
In just a short while, Grant Achatz, one of the transcendent talents of our time and master of the Sixth Sense, will kick off the conversation formally on our Main Stage. But before we cede the spotlight to the stars, I’d like to introduce my partner at StarChefs.com, our CEO and Editor-in-Chief, and the woman with whom I’ve been proud to build this incredible event, Antoinette Bruno. Welcome Antoinette!