Worlds of Flavor Day 2, here we go! I cannot wait to share more details on the food, discussion, and excitement that was exchanged during this international conference.
Day 1 was full of energy as all of the chefs and attendees settled in at The Culinary Institute of America for Worlds of Flavor. The next morning, no time was wasted. Breakfast was served promptly at 7:30am, a feast of Scandinavian-inspired dishes. Tables lined with colorful, satisfying food waiting to be devoured by hungry guests. It was definitely a good start to the busiest day of the conference!
The introductory general session was hosted by legendary Ruth Reichl, who paved the way for ethnic cuisine in the world of journalism. She gave some really insightful perspectives on how far the world has come in accepting and honoring world cuisines. When she first wrote about “hole in the wall” spots serving ethnic dishes that were basically authentic street food, everyone thought she was crazy. Luckily, she continued her pursuit. And now today, those same types of spots receive wide acclaim and are finally being noticed for the real, cherished cooking that happens behind their stoves.
This opening discussion was the perfect way for everyone to realize how foods evolve throughout the years, and what potential the future holds.
Rick Bayless continued the session with a unique shift from the previous day in that he shared how authentic Mexican cooking can be applied in a home setting, making it easier for home cooks to cook in a way that brings new, exciting flavors into their kitchens.
Since Bayless currently splits time between the restaurant world and teaching home cooks, he was able to provide some really good insight on what professionals can do to ensure world cuisines are accessible to everyone. He made his red chile adobo sauce, showing how he would have made it years ago versus how he makes it today. Today’s method being more approachable and less time extensive. It’s a whole new point of view that is needed in today’s fast-paced world, allowing traditional flavors to come through in the food with less time and effort.
Using that red chile adobo for a grilled bass (the signature dish of his restaurant Lena Brava), Bayless left everyone craving something bold and exciting.
Before the crowd broke out into their individual sessions, Sean Sherman spoke about his efforts to spread awareness and encourage the cooking of indigenous Native American food…a presentation that was nothing short of sensational.
Sherman’s mission is to reteach indigenous food ways because it truly has become a lost art. He explained how with all of the focus on bringing other cultures and cuisines into North America, we have forgotten that our land is pretty significant, too. Nobody is taking advantage of what the plants and agriculture of our land has to supply. And really, you don’t see any Native American restaurants…anywhere. Sherman expressed so much passion and really displayed that this will be a life-long mission of his – exploring the land right in front of us and teaching people what to do with it. Through research, he has gained so much knowledge from the past that now just needs to be applied today.
His words were really remarkable to hear. He also just released a cookbook, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, which is only one of the many ways he is out there pursuing his life-long mission to educate the world.
Three times throughout the conference, the large group broke out into smaller seminars. These smaller settings are more intimate and encourage lots of questions and discussion. The chefs are able to provide more detail and really hone in on their message. Food demonstrations range from mofongo to kobujime fish tartar, and topics range from reinventing the neighborhood restaurant to creating a unique sense of place with plays on color and texture. Some of the most exciting are the live fire kitchen showings where chefs cook outdoors over flames and display techniques that most people have never seen.
There is so much going on, and by this time it’s only about 11am. Everyone’s getting hungry for the second World Marketplace, but first, a few more presentations.
Christina Bowerman talked about being fearless with fusing flavor and technique. She explained, “In my kitchen, there is no limit.” Her gnocchi with salt cod and ‘nduja showcased her bold, unapologetic approach to cooking. It was really fun to watch.
Kyle Connaughton, the chef of the highly acclaimed SingleThread Restaurant in Healdsburg, brought something a little different to the table (and he literally brought a table from his restaurant as well). He shared his concept of dining in the most eloquent way, “We’re throwing a dinner party every night, with guests in our home.” And what shows up on his tables? The outdoors.
At SingleThread, their approach to cooking is inspired by their farm and whatever is currently happening right outside their door. Their tables are set with a bounty of natural elements, a mix of prepared tastings and seasonal offerings, before the guests even sit down. This feast for the eyes continues on with an elaborate eleven course tasting menu, a perfect combination of Japanese inspired cuisine and Sonoma ingredients.
The session concluded with Analiese Gregory sharing her eye-opening ideas on how “listening to and observing” ingredients can lead to using them in new ways…different parts, different applications. Instead of trying so hard, simply feel what the ingredient is telling you to do with it.
After an eventful morning, the World Marketplace was better than ever, with more exciting flavors and bustling conversation. Everyone briskly strolled up and down the aisles to taste bites of food from all over the world. There’s really nothing like it.
The highlight of the second half of the day was a seminar on vegetables as menu stars. Chefs broke down their philosophies on how to elevate vegetables and create something more out of them than just a second thought component in a dish. Ming Tsai beer-battered watercress and served it with a sambal aioli, detailing the “balance of flavor” that’s created. Going off on a slightly different tangent, his parting quote really hit home for a lot of people…
“Food is the glue of the world. If we just slowed down, and sat at the table, and just cooked…things would be better.”
Rick Lopez expanded on the vegetable movement with his butternut squash-based pastor style tacos, using flavors in a way that replicates the taste of meat. He also shared his “leaves to root” philosophy, a play on the traditional “nose to tail” concept. Taking roasted carrots, raw carrots, pickled carrots, and carrot chimichurri, he put together a really beautiful dish that got people thinking of all the beauty and possibility that vegetables have to offer.
The day concluded with everyone heading to the CIA at Copia, the school’s newest building in downtown Napa that includes a world-renown Hestan teaching kitchen, culinary museums, a full restaurant and bar, and tons of space for hosting the Worlds of Flavor 20th Anniversary celebration. Dishes from the past 20 years of the conference were served as everyone took in the new space. It was a night nobody will forget.
Stay tuned for the final Worlds of Flavor recap, coming soon!