Gothamist's Star Chefs report is brought to us by Regina Varolli, a Manhattan-based freelance writer. Though most of her private clients are in DC, she lives here because the food is better, in general.

starchef.jpgAfter 11 years on the web, held its inaugural “International Chefs Congress” last week. Gathering chefs from around the globe, the event boasted an impressive line-up including pastry god Pierre Hermé, elBulli’s Albert Adrià, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, NYC chemist-chefs Wylie Dufresne and Sam Mason, local icon Anthony Bourdain, and culinary giants Daniel Boulud and Eric Ripert (though Boulud is significantly smaller than a real giant, Ripert comes close).

The two day food fest, filled with delicious demonstrations during the day and topped with cool cocktail receptions and after-parties steeped in alcohol, was the first of its kind in the U.S., and of course it was in New York. Prior to last week, anyone wanting to attend such an event would have had to fly to Europe. Which, as it happens, may cost less than the all-inclusive Congress Pass, a steep $850.00. But, for the hundreds of chefs who came from as close as Lower East Side and as far as Bali, Indonesia, the presentations, parties, and hand-pressing opportunities were well worth the price.

Headlining day one was elBulli uber-Chef Albert Adrià. One of the two biggest names at the event, Albert—with the help of José Andrés’ translation into English—narrated a demo film in which he created “The Hummingbird.” Though initially disappointed at not getting to see the master dirty his hands on stage, one quickly realized that creating an edible hummingbird in an edible nest required more than the half-hour allotted and the basic kitchen equipment provided. Though thoroughly amazed by the technique and creativity of Albert, the audience was equally amused by the witty back-and-forth between the presenter and his long-time colleague. The two men morphed into stand-up comics, and whenever Albert ventured into the English language, José would then translate into Spanish. No actual cooking, but satisfaction in spades.


Though all of the demos made one hungry, on day one, the only demonstrator to touch our tummies was Chef Frédéric Bau of L’Ecole du Grand Chocolat Valrhona, (translation: Valrhona Chocolate’s Cooking School in Hermitage, France) pictured above. Using Valrhona, of course, Frédéric concocted a crab and savory chocolate parfait right before our eyes. Then, from the back of the auditorium, like angels in chef’s whites, ICE students ushered platters of the parfait to every salivating mouth in the auditorium. Though not one of the big names, or perhaps because of that fact, Frédéric ensured himself a lasting impression by actually feeding us.


Wrapping up the day with his second appearance was Chef José Andrés, pictured below. Formerly of elBulli, José now presides over a DC restaurant empire. His Mini Bar, located on the top of his flagship Café Atlantico, is the closest thing you’ll get to dining elBulli style in the U.S., and well worth the quick journey to DC just to eat there. Perhaps the most action-packed and entertaining demo of the day, José blew foams into the audience, crumbled dehydrated croutons on stage, and balanced a tiny glob of caramelized olive oil on his finger as his assistants prepared deconstructed Caesar Salad, Corn on the Cob, and New England Clam Chowder. Most amusing was his frustration with the cameraman who never seemed to get the perfect close-up José wanted. But how could he? The camera sat on a tripod twelve rows back.


On the second day, the cameraman took to the stage... as did Pierre Hermé, Masaharu Morimoto, Wylie Dufresne, and Sam Mason. Followed by the “Push-Cart Gala” at Crobar, and an after-party at Bed, day two did not disappoint. But, you’ll have to wait to hear about it until tomorrow...

- Regina Varolli