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.jpgOn day two of the International Chefs Congress, Pierre Hermé was announced as “The God of Pastry.” With many foreign chefs requiring English assistance, only Hermé had award-winning cookbook author Dori Greenspan as his translator, pictured below. With Hermé on stage at Covenant House, the spectators became devout worshippers. And when the dessert Hermé made was passed to the audience directly from the stage, you’d think they were giving away winning lottery tickets by the reaction of hopeful would-be tasters.


With assistant André Loutsch demonstrating how to make a Tarte Ispahan, the jovial Hermé discussed “Taste Architecture”—his method of choosing fixed flavor components and developing them into myriad different desserts. The Ispahan components—rose, lychee, and raspberry—have been developed into nineteen different forms: cakes, ice creams, petit-four, etc. Though Hermé is known throughout the U.S., he has no store here. But here’s a secret, if you’d like to try an Ispahan, head to Bouley Bakery where Chef Patissier Damien Herrgott, four-year veteran Chef of Pierre Hermé in Paris, creates the closest thing you’ll get in the U.S.

2006_09_food_Morimoto.jpgMasaharu Morimoto, did he ever lose an Iron Chef battle? In full Japanese attire, Morimoto showed off his sword-sharp skills, his sense of humor, and several large pieces of fish. He presented a 4-foot long octopus tentacle, a foot-long strand of salmon roe, and a piece of Toro so marbled it made him think of Prosciutto, “Toro-sciutto” he said giggling. Aided by three assistants, the bouncy yet disciplined Morimoto prepared Irisake (plum vinegar and sake reduction), abalone, and authentic Dashi. The only disappointing thing about this demonstration was that the audience could smell these delicious dishes, they just couldn’t taste them.

Unlike his creations, Chef Wylie Dufresne of wd~50, pictured below, is casual and down-to-Earth. Like elBulli’s Adrià, what Wylie wanted to show us couldn’t be done in-house, so he narrated a demo film. Giving the attendees a sneak preview of his new menu, Wylie explained the techniques and chemicals being used for deconstructed “Egg, Bacon and Toast” and “Cassoulet.” The “cassoulet” is made with pine nuts cooked in a pressure-cooker for four hours, Wylie said “Let’s really upset people by not using beans.” When explaining “Egg, Bacon and Toast” he remarked that “Toast is rarely liquid”—as if toast is ever liquid—then proceeded to tell us how he liquefied his. Who thinks of liquid toast? Wylie Dufresne, that’s who. If you have yet to try wd~50, go.


Pastry Chef Sam Mason came to the Congress to demonstrate “The Use of Hydrocollioids and Non-Traditional Ingredients in Desserts.” I know, the use of what? That’s the thing with chefs like Mason, they’re using ingredients and techniques we can’t pronounce, but their creations are cool and delicious. To make his deconstructed Crème Bruleé, Mason squeezed drops of unbaked Crème Brulée batter into oil stabilized at 50 degrees to produce tiny, solid orbs. Then while he made caramel for the top, Mason displayed the frustration one sees in a perfectionist when the rolling pin wasn’t like his and the caramel came out too thick. Joking often, and sometimes about himself to former-boss Wylie who sat up front, Mason’s creativity was punctuated by a quick, coarse wit.

The only acceptable conclusion this event had to involve food we could eat, and lots of it. must have known that, because on Wednesday evening we were treated to “The New York Rising Stars Push-Cart Gala.” For the event, Crobar was turned into a giant street-food style festival, where each Rising Star had a push-cart of offerings from their restaurant. Of note was Chef-owner Iacopo Falai of Falai in Lower East Side, who handed out fois-gras-stuffed phyllo dipped in savory chocolate and surprised everyone by handing out clever, logo-baring to-go samples of his creation.

Like the rest of the event, the Push-Cart Gala provided ample liquid refreshment. With an open bar, wine and sake tastings, by the time everyone came to Bed at 11:30pm, they were ready to lay down. But good chefs have stamina, and a pretty high tolerance for alcohol, so they stood until closing without collapsing.

It’s this writer’s wish that the success of the International Chefs Congress will guarantee more of its kind. It was educational, inspiring, and wicked fun, with first-class talent not normally seen in the same place at the same time. The culinary industry has come a long way in the States, it’s about time someone put on a show worthy of that fact., I raise my glass to you for being the first.

- Regina Varolli