Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Chefs Congress

September 20

The United Nations General Assembly has been meeting in New York, which is a real drag for those of us who work in Midtown East. But I've been on the West Side at another gathering, the inaugural International Chefs Congress.
Isn't that a great name? Chefs Congress. How important!
It was a bunch of demonstrations and seminars and a little trade show. But the demonstrations I saw were quite interesting and engaging, all done by cutting-edge, famous chefs (famous for chefs, at least).
Despite the lack of air conditioning, it was a good event, at least what I managed to attend. I had to skip most of today's festivities to finish up NRN's Culinary Currents section.
I was a little annoyed that the guy interpreting for French pastry chef Pascal Barbot refused to say what the chef kept repeating, that the recipes he was demonstrating were all about respecting the integrity of the ingredients. The interpretor wouldn't say it. He just wouldn't. Maybe he thought that notion was just the bizarre ramblings of an overly artistic French prima dona, but if you're an interpretor, you're not supposed to edit (or not much).
Besides, using great ingredients and not doing much to them -- respecting the ingredients' integrity -- is where American food is going (and where Italian food, and to a lesser extent French food, has been for generations).
But I was mostly there to hang out with the chefs anyway. And I met a few that I'd only interviewed over the phone before, like John Critchley at Toro in Boston and Scott Boswell of Stella in New Orleans, so that was cool.
I'd meant to introduce myself to a guy who works for Joel Robuchon and who asked Jose Andres, after his demonstration, about spherification (when you use sodium alginate and calcium chloride to make globules; perhaps the most widespread use of molecular gastronomy, unless you count those ubiquitous foam canisters), but I didn't get around to it. Oh well.
But here's something interesting. Tonight at a big reception -- the Rising Stars Revue, thrown by, which also held the congress -- I chatted with Tony Esnault, the chef at Alain Ducasse at The Essex House. To be honest, one reason I stopped to chat was because at the Beard Awards reception in May I felt like I might have snubbed him, but of course I also wanted to talk to him because this week first and then the New York Post reported emphatically, emphatically, that the restaurant was closing. So I asked him what his plans were. He brushed off the notion of Ducasse closing as a ridiculous rumor, and one that has been floating around since the place opened (which is true).
So if Ducasse closes soon I'll know not to believe Tony Esnault when it comes to business plans, but I'll still interview him about food. He knows his stuff.

One other random thing. In Polish, if people know each other really well, they say they know each other like bald horses. Where on earth could that have come from?

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