It's the end of that time of year... when we get to actually do some travelling and take a break from the usual day to day. Actually, it's the end of that time of year (I just said that, didn't I?). Now begins the process of digesting, revisiting notes, remembering, and processing. In the past (this was the 6th annual Chef Congress and the 5th that I've personally attended), we would come back with pages and pages of notes, huge video files, and tons of photos. These days, we travel back a bit lighter but richer with information than ever. I still need to get down to recapping the Venezuelan trip on top of this. The information these days comes more in the form of affirmation and inspiration.
The theme of this year's congress was "The 6th Sense." This was partly because it was the 6th annual (and it actually took me 2 days into the event to figure that one out). Getting to meet up with so many of the chefs we've made the acquaintance of through the years is the best part. These contacts are so vital to progressing as a chef. Perhaps the 6th sense is in reality the 'sense of community' present among the chef world today. It is certainly as important as the other senses when you consider the necessity of information flow. I could not even begin to name all of the amazingly cool people we had the pleasure to meet up with.
Fried Chicken- Yes, it makes my world go round. Our trip to New York was dotted with some pretty good fried chicken experiences this year. We stayed in Brooklyn with a friend. This was, more now than ever, a great 'headquarters' for some great food experiences. We ate at a small place called SoCo on our first night. Although not a well-known place by any means, the food was good and it was as good a spot as any to begin. Fried chicken and red velvet waffles and the okra dishes were good. Later that night after more drinking, we had the craving for the Jay-Z chicken special from Crown Fried Chicken 2 doors down from our friends apartment. I hate to say this about yankee chicken, but I wish I had a CFC in my hood. The Jay-Z special seems to stem from the fact that our location is right across the lot from Jay-Z's old hood and also (I think) because the subway stop is right on the JZ green line. That's a double J-Z! The best chicken yet would not come until our last night in NY. We stalked down Mad for Chicken for some Korean awesomeness. Not fully aware of the whole BonChon/Mad for Chicken story, we probably did not pick the best location, but the chicken was super solid. I will be spending many evenings over my fryer trying to get that crust texture... it just doesn't seem humanly possible.
Gastropod- It would not be right in any way to exclude the gPod from mention in this trip. I want to express how fully proud anyone from South Florida should be at the way Jeremiah represented at the ICC. This is an event where the floor is full of amazing chefs... no, not just amazing chefs, but some of the most bad-ass chefs in the world. Jeremiah nailed down a great menu, and we heard nothing but positive feedback the entire 3 days. It was great to see Kyle Foster (formerly of Talula) on the gPod team as well. The Benton's ham fried rice with a perfect egg on top seemed to be an all around favorite amongst those who discuss such things.
We went to NY on a super budget this year, and still came out with some great food experiences. As you may infer, we did not have the tasting menu at Corton. Some simpler locations provided their own label of awesomeness to our trip. Roberta's was amazingly good... the kind of good that sends you home wondering how possible is it to make an entire menu taste like every dish is a signature. The sweetbreads, tripe, octopus, pizza (with cannelini beans), and even the table butter were ridiculous. We also had the great experience of eating at Empellon (smoked cashew 'salsa' = "Holy Shit!"). During our stay which happened to coincide with my birthday, we made a late night run to a Milk Bar location (if there was a Miami location, we'd all be in trouble... compost cookies... seriously, just go online right now and order some and you'll see why). I cannot say how fortunate I feel to have a piece of crack pie as my birthday cake this year. Crack is whack.
Antonio Bachour- If you were at the Jeremiah Cobaya dinner in Miami and you still don't know who Bachour is, then just know he was the bad-ass pastry chef who was responsible for those amazing ending courses. His techniques are solid and his flavors and textures so balanced. I am mentioning him here because Antonio was one of 20 selected pastry chefs to participate in the pastry competition portion of the Congress. This meant 3 days of advancing in the ranks and working early mornings and late evenings to perfect his submissions. Bachour went on to the last 3 finalists, and although did not take the main prize I feel it is an amazing honor considering the list of top pastry chefs that were in competition. Salut! Awesome job.
So, that's the boring run-down portion of our program. I'd like to revisit my personal theme interpretation later since it coincides with some of the inspirations I had in Venezuela. What else is there to add? I'm super-motivated now, and ready to push fast forward into learning something new.