"The New Culinary Order" General Session
with Ruth Reichl and Kim Severson
Julia Child: "The French Chef" Revisited
with Judith Jones
Oregon Truffles: Old World Pleasures, New World Treasures
with Jack Czarnecki
Culinary Medicine: Eat Something You Believe In
with John La Puma
The Future of Food: The Global Consumer Speaks Out
with Thomas W. Barritt and Linda Eatherton
The Death of Recipes?
with Andrew Dornenburg, Karen Page, and Michael Ruhlman
Restaurants in the 21st Century
with Adam and Brad Farmerie
Blogs and Beyond: A Symposium on Business Strategies in New Media
with Elise Bauer, Barnaby Dorfman, Mark A. Douglas, Jaden Hair, Lia Huber, Kim O’Donnel, and Sheri Wetherell
Sliced: A Symposium on Trends in Baking and Breadmaking
with Nancy Baggett, Jean Duane, Silvana Nardone, and Peter Reinhart
Food Books 101: From Proposal to Promotion
with Lisa Ekus Saffer, Virginia Willis, Jennifer Ferrari-Adler, and Bob Dees
The International Association of Culinary Professionals’ annual conference is the highlight of the organization’s year-round efforts to provide a global networking resource for culinary professionals. Concentrating all of the collective talent and drive of their global membership for three days of professional cross-pollination, this year’s IACP conference showcased Scott Givot and Doug Duda’s dedication to the future of culinary media and practices. And with the Eat Mobile street food competition, along with scores of panels covering the most practical, up-to-date issues in culinary relations, the conference married the real-time savor of grass-roots cuisine to the contours of a sophisticated, tech-savvy media.
Catering to a diversity of culinary professions, from nutritionists to photographers and food writers of every stripe, the IACP conference covers all aspects of the industry. This year topics ranged from social networking to the evolution of the recipe to food photography and beyond. And as always the IACP conference was imbued with the culture of its host city, with local food writer Mike Thelin acting as this year’s Host City Chair; this year it was in Portland, OR, whose high-quality street food, abundant charcuterie, and dazzling array of local products were a highlight of the conference.
StarChefs.com was there to attend the sessions, taste the food—Editor In Chief Antoinette Bruno even got to judge the street-food competition—and generally soak up the good vibes of culinary professionals meeting and greeting and eating in the context of their shared passion.
As educational as the sessions were, the real fun happened at night when our notebooks were safely tucked away. With the help of Host City Chair Mike Thelin the Host City Opening Reception at The Nines was the most vibrant yet, largely due to the enthusiastic involvement of local chefs and purveyors. From Pastry Chef Cheryl Wakerhauser of Pix Patisserie’s statuesque croquembouche to the down-home savory goodness of Bunk Sandwiches courtesy of Tommy Havetz the event was a fitting kick-off for the IACP festivities. Mixologist Kelly Swenson of Ten 01 was busy mixing fresh, creative cocktails that were dangerously drinkable and a variety of incredible Oregon Pinot Noirs were flowing freely. Afterwards we went into the kitchen of The Gilt Club with Chef Holly Smith while she prepared small plates for the Victory of the Wine After Party before heading off to the hopping Gastronomika Party at Fenouil.
The offerings at this year’s Culinary Trust Dinner were a highlight with delicious dishes from top Portland's chefs like Chefs Naomi Pomeroy, Adam Sappington, and Jason French making the meal as memorable as it was elegant. Pomeroy also hosted an underground Midnight Supper along with guest Chefs Mark Fuller of Spring Hill, Jason French, and Michael Hebb. While not officially affiliated with IACP the clandestine gathering drew a mixed crowd of conference-goers and locals to revel over shared plates like Pomeroy's take on the classic Chicken Marbella. And to unwind the whole event we hit the IACP Closing After Party, hosted by Chef Lisa Schroeder at Mother’s, where conference networking quickly transitioned to cocktail-sipping and story-swapping by dozens of happily exhausted industry pro’s.
|Kim Severson and Ruth Reichl|
Thursday began strong with a keynote address by Ruth Reichl and a follow-up interview by Kim Severson. Reichl shared her perspective on the demise of Gourmet Magazine—which she “should have seen coming” as the economy tanked and Gourmet’s critical luxury advertisers withdrew their support—along with a few key predictions about the future of food journalism. The way people consume media is changing, and Reichl noted that as website articles are getting shorter and pithier, the long-form food article has transitioned to even longer-form writing, with books replacing articles as the food writer’s best medium. She also commented on issues like conspicuous consumption and the complicated politics of food—from the sourcing to the shipping and preparation. “People who care about food care deeply about these issues,” Reich said, adding “I’m not about to stop eating in Chinatown—and we all know they get their chickens from god knows where!”
With her expansive knowledge of cuisine and her commitment to the dissemination of all information culinary, Julia Child may well be the shining star of the IACP’s Certified Culinary Professional Program. And in this session with Judith Jones, Julia Child’s lifetime editor and close personal friend, we got a closer, candid look at America’s charmingly gawky and unfailingly professional culinary godmother. After playing footage of Child on the iconic “The French Chef,” Jones shared bits of Julia-Child wisdom—“have your own voice, recipes aren’t copyright, only the directions”—and recounted what it was like working with Julia in the heady cultural fulcrum of 1960s America. “She used me as a guinea pig,” Jones recalled. “I think I helped her because I was the average home cook she was writing for.” Beyond her quirks of character and her affection for onomotopiea—“words are visceral,” Jones recalled of Child—Jones paid homage to Julia’s drive—“she just wouldn’t be beat by anybody”—and unfailing humility. “She didn’t consider herself a celebrity or even a chef,” Jones recalled. “If pressed, she would say ‘I guess I’m a pretty good teacher.’”
In Wednesday’s truffle session Jack Czarnecki of Oregon White Truffle Oil took a detailed look at the culture, culinary pedigree, and science behind one of the world’s most expensive and sought-after ingredients. Truffles were covered from the ground-up (literally); we learned about everything from measuring truffle ripeness (the three major indicators are color, odor, and texture) to the chemical two-dimensionality of synthetic truffle oils, to the best practices for infusing cheese and butter with truffle flavor. It turns out the incomparable flavor of real truffle can be infused into oil (high quality olive oil, or a blend of olive oils, is the best) over a period of 15 days, and that the volatile compounds that make truffles so rich and unctuously satisfying are extremely complex, making the real thing—whatever the price tag—a worthwhile culinary investment.
Speaking to an audience of culinary professionals is never easy, especially when you’re talking about the medicinal aspects of food, something many pros are inclined to view as either a marketing commodity or a raw material for the craft of cookery. But John La Puma (doctor, author, and founder of ChefMD) empowers chefs to use their specific skills of taste and discernment to guide the world into a new age of healthful eating. A trained physician who went to culinary school, Puma defines culinary medicine as “the art of cooking blended with the science of medicine.” Food, Puma explained, is “the most effective clinical intervention in chronic disease.” And chefs, both as purveyors of basic foodstuffs and as influential trendsetters in worldwide eating habits, have the power to infuse cuisine with health-giving properties. Puma offered practical examples of how foodstuffs can be the pharmaceuticals of the future.
Wednesday’s session was the result of a global research study by Ketchum PR’s Global Food Practice on the eating habits, purchasing habits, and evolving expectations of consumers. Conducted in the US, the UK, Germany, Argentina, and China, the study found that the global consumer wants more accountability from its food purveyors, and is increasingly sophisticated about the sourcing, marketing, and handling of food items. Although the top factors that consumers consider when shopping for food aren’t surprising (taste, price, and quality), it’s remarkable to learn that 40% of consumers worldwide wouldn’t agree to buy even tasty, affordable food without knowing where it comes from. And many consumers will pay more for better food. The global food market can take its cue from Ketchum; consumers are asking questions about their food, and everyone from chefs to merchants to marketing professionals will evolve accordingly.
|Ruhlman, Page, and Dornenburg|
In an age where less than 50% of meals are eaten at home, the only way to reacquaint the home cook with his or her kitchen is to take away the middle-man: the recipe. And unlike most traditional cookbook and food writers, Andrew Dornenburg, Karen Page, and Michael Ruhlman aren’t afraid to leave them behind. Once the training wheels of culinary education, recipes have become a crutch for the home cook, effectively inhibiting his or her growth in the kitchen. “People need recipes,” said Ruhlman, “but we’re using them in the wrong way.” But how can a cookbook eschew the standard recipe format? “Give them a connection to the dish,” said Dornenburg. With The Flavor Bible and Ruhlman’s Ratio, the cookbook industry has taken one step away from the shackles of step-by-step procedure and one step closer to intuitive, free-form composition. And as consumers begin to trust themselves in the kitchen—“the food industry has told us we’re too stupid and lazy to cook,” Ruhlman noted—it will be increasingly easy for cookbook authors, and food writers to parlay their expertise in an increasingly recipe-free format.
|Brad Farmerie makes the case for fusion|
Although it had overwhelming cultural cachet in the 90s, the concept of “fusion” is by and large a dirty word to most chefs, a kind of kitschy culinary patchwork responsible for lingering abominations like Mexican pizza. And for many young chefs the concept of culinary fusion has long since been discarded in favor of locavore, specifically regional cuisine. But Brad Farmerie dares to redefine fusion for the modern world, packing his menu at New York City’s Public with dishes that imaginatively reinterpret the diverse flavors and textures of world cuisine. And Brad’s brother Adam (owner of restaurant design firm AvroKO and designer of Publican, among others) follows the same philosophy with restaurant design. As they explained, fusion is about balance and transcendence. Playing music by such “mash-up” musicians as Girl Talk to demonstrate, the Farmerie brothers showed how a “mash-up” of elements A and B allows the chef to transcend his preconceived notions of a dish’s or an ingredient’s potential. Far from a faddish culinary concept to be avoided, fusion is inevitable, the natural result of the high-speed migration of ideas, products, and practices in the modern world. Chefs looking to the 21st century take note: what was once old can always become new again.
It might seem like everyone and their brother has a blog, half of which are food-related, and everyone from Ashton Kutcher to tech-savvy tweens are tweeting their daily habits. But new media enables more than just public show-and-tell and amateur foodie proselytizing. Whatever its dubious stature in the food industry, social media provides powerful forums for the dissemination of information and opinions. Even the much-maligned blog is one among a roster of high-speed, high-tech, but accessible tools that the modern food writer can’t ignore. And in this session, experts on the subject, from websites like Foodista.com and Culinate.com, gathered to go over the basics of establishing a social media platform to strategies for expanding that platform to the point of actually making money. The overriding theme? Every writer needs a website brand now.
Across the globe, bread—or some form of it—has been a staple of all manner of culinary traditions. And for hundreds upon hundreds of years not much about bread making has changed. Leavened or unleavened, salted, baked, enriched, or fried, bread recipes have by and large become standard, determined, the stuff of classical technique and local tradition. But owing to new technologies and discoveries, bread making has actually changed in recent years, and according to the session’s panelists, it promises to change more in the years to come. Bread baking experts and cookbook authors Nancy Bagget, Jean Duane, Silvana Nardone, and Peter Reinhart (also baking instructor at Johnson & Wales University) expanded on the evolution of bread making, from the latest techniques and ingredients to the proliferation of gluten-free recipes and even new grains in bread recipes.
|Barnaby Dorfman talks
With 15 years of experience with internet heavy-hitters IMDB.com, MSN.com, and Amazon.com, Barnaby Dorfman is an authority on successful branding. And in an age that’s as heavily plugged into social media as ours, his experience is extremely valuable. The concept of branding has become personal, and especially in the food industry—where visibility determines success—building an online brand is key. In Thursday’s session, Dorfman charted the new terrain of social media branding and offered practical advice on how to get the most of the best kind of exposure. The age of the resume is over, said Dorfman. A personal website with a biography, headshot, articles, and photography is the best way for an aspiring professional to advertise. Dorfman covered a range of practical topics, from achieving Search Engine Optimization (which Dorfman equated to a battle for high school popularity) to embedding widgets and utilizing Twitter to its fullest potential. He suggested resources like Oneforty.com, which catalogues Twitter tools, and programs like Google’s Ad Words keyword search.
From guides on gluten-free baking and Mediterranean fish to recipe-studded memoirs of career chefs, there are countless commercially viable food book varieties. But how do you get your idea off the ground? This session dealt with the nuts and bolts of the food book, from harnessing inspiration (you’ll need a skeleton, often a longer process than writing the book itself) to finding the right agent (they’ll be taking 15% commission, after all) to managing expectations on returns (first-time writers might make as little as $5,000 against future royalties). Bob Dees, president of Robert Rose, joined literary agents Lisa Ekus Saffer and Jennifer Ferrari-Adler, as well as author and production agency founder Virginia Willis for the session, offering practical advice straight from the horse’s mouth. Aspiring writers and chefs with cookbook dreams learned that they could expect a 1/3 advance against the book’s royalties, but it all depends on establishing yourself well from the ground-up. The success of a food book depends on everything from the sample chapter (text plus one recipe) to aggressive publicity (the panel outlined the “do it yourself” book tour) to, of course, good writing (newbies can hire a writing coach from $125 an hour).