Star Chefs International Chef’s Congress 2011

So this is going to be an EPIC post… last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the 6th annual Star Chefs International Chef’s Congress. The good folks at PolyScience invited me and I jumped on the opportunity to visit the Big Apple and learn from some of the best chefs in the world.

Let me for a moment reflect on the great fortune I’ve had this year. In the past 6 months, people have started to call me “Chef”… kinda funny when it’s my friends, but strangely odd when a real Chef calls me chef. I feel as if I haven’t earned the title. Sure, I cooked a few dishes, some where featured on a TV show, but in my mind that’s not a chef. A chef is a leader. A chef is inspiring. A chef is… well, that’s just it. You can’t quite describe all of what a true chef is. It goes way beyond cooking. The only time in the last year I’ve felt worthy of the title is after executing the 8 course dinner for 25 with my good friend Jason McConniel…. So I’ve been thinking a lot about the title of “Chef” lately…. It’s more of a sign of respect than a title I’ve decided. So even though it feels odd, I’m flattered when somebody calls me chef, yet I’ll NEVER require of it of people I work with. “Chef” is truly something you earn with each and every person you cross paths with in the kitchen. I’m thankful for the opportunities that being a part time “Chef” has afforded me. I can’t help but feel bad that I know there are thousands of people who work many times harder than me, that don’t get near the opportunities I’ve had… I thank these folks for paving the way, hope to learn in each of their kitchens, and humbly offer anything I can do to help them succeed in each of their environments. Enough of this esoteric stuff… on to the good suff.

The morning after my dinner at WD~50, I rode the subway to the Park Avenue Armory to watch Houston Pastry Chef Chris Leung compete in the Star Chefs Pastry Competition.

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Then Chef Elizabeth Falkner showed up… we actually saw her eating dinner at WD~50 the night before. Chef Falkner is chef/owner of Citizen Cake and Orson in San Fransisco. She’s got an inspiring biography and will be a contestant on Next Iron Chef this season.

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I saw a $6,000 PolyScience Super Chiller used to chill a can of Red Bull… seems reasonable to me!

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Listened to Chef Grant Achatz (Chef/Owner of Alinea [recently names 5x best restaurant in North America], NEXT, and The Aviary) talk about conveying emotions and memory in food. He mentioned that the upcoming menu at NEXT will include “Alinea-fied” Mac & Cheese as well as PB&J… the flavors of your childhood.

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He signed my copy of Life On The Line (made it out to “AlBen” but I wasn’t going to correct Chef Achatz… he can call me whatever he wants)

After the book signing and photo op with Chef Achatz I enjoyed watching Chef David Burke break down and cook a New Zealand Lamb. Nordic Chefs Bjorn Frantzen and Daniel Lindeberg talked about aging fish for maximizing flavor as they prepared an Antelope Heart tartar.

Later in the day, after an amazing presentation by Chef Daniel Boulud (Chef/Owner of Cafe Boulud, Daniel, and BCBG. Author of the ever inspiring Letters to a Young Chef )and Charcuuterie Gilles Verot where they prepared a seven layer game terrine en crute, I met Richard Blais (winner of Top Chef All Stars)

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When I wasn’t watching a world class chef talk food or give a demo, I was at the PolyScience booth playing with the New Sonicprep Ultra Sonic Homogenizer (which I hope to be reviewing on Eat Drink EXPERIENCE soon) and a Heidolph (PolyScience cooked) Rotary Evaporator… I learned that I freaking NEED a roto-vap… brainstorming a DIY build now.

As if this wasn’t enough food excitement for one day, after the convention I met up with MasterChef friends David Mathie Bersch, Chi Dixon (who opened her spare bedroom to me and put up with my snoring for three nights) John Addona, Monica Cheung, Natalie Rodriguez, and Alterik Wilburn for a mind blowing potluck dinner… and wine. Lots of wine.

Day two I rode the train in again, saw a fight on the subway and arrived at 7am (after a long night of wine) to meet with Chef Blais and his Sous Chefs to prep for his demo… we made this during the demo.

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Then I went back to PolyScience when Dave Arnold & Nastasia “The Hammer” Lopez (Cooking Issues) came by… then a few minutes later Jeffery Stiengarten (Iron Chef America Judge, Author of The Man That Ate Everything) and a few minutes later Chef Johnny Izzuni (Head Judge Top Chef Just Desserts, Pastry Chef @ Jean Jorges) at one point I was completely surrounded by these culinary greats! Oh yea, Philip Preston (President of PolyScience) was at the booth most of the weekend as well.

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The main stage was graced by Pierre Herme (the man that re-invented the Macaroon) Chris Young (Co-Author of Modernist Cuisine) and many other fine chefs.

Day two at the congress ended with an AMAZING cocktail Hour featuring drinks by:Todd Maul, Junior Merino, Christy Pope (my favorite drink of the night), Audrey Saunders, Katie Stipe, Stanislav Vadrna, Naren Young, Naomi Schimek, Achlemy Consulting, and more…

Buzzed on incredible cocktails and amazing toro belly, I met with an old high school friend, Derrick and Monica from MasterChef, and one of Richard Blais’ sous chefs Hannah Cheung for a food crawl. We hit up Shake Shack, Eataly, Momofuku Noodle Bar (where we saw Michael Cera), Artichoke Pizza, and Momofuku Milk Bar… Food Coma had arrived.

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One more day of culinary awesomeness… Tuesday started with the breakfast of champions. No, not Wheaties… a five course venison tasting prepared by Alex and Aki of Ideas In Food.

Venison Flank Steak with Lemon Squid, and Butternut Squash.

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Venison Shank with calamari, Caramelized Butternut Squash Puree, and Ultrasonic aged Fish Sauce/Venison Jus.

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Cocoa-Cayanne Noodles with Venison Heart Bolognese

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Gratuitous Venison Rack Shot

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Salt Cured Venison Heart with Coconut Lentils, and Butternut Squash “Brunoise”, and charred pecan crust.

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Venison Rack, Torn Cabbage and Butternut Squash Cream

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Tuesday also had Stephanie Izzard (Top Chef Winner) preparing Goat on the main stage. But the day was stolen by Spanish Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz who demonstrated how to make a complete egg… shell, white, and yolk… re-constructed, and completely edible. AMAZING. He then proceeded to throw eggs into the audience. One of my new friends Steve from Gran Malo in Houston was lucky enough to catch one of the eggs… I hope to get to examine it soon;)

Overall it was an amazing weekend of Food and I feel incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity from all the chefs present. Thank you PolyScience for the invite!

One Response to “Star Chefs International Chef’s Congress 2011”

  1. MikeZ says:

    funny you write this as ill never forget when you called me chef at the ICC and I thought to myself, what did I do to deserve alvin calling me chef… I am just a very fortunate cook. I was also the guy who tried to catch the egg in mid air and it exploded around me.. I also see you hitup my favorite burger and pizza joints :)

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