Here in Minneapolis, where has been freezing rain all day, I’m remembering fondly last week when I was in San Francisco at the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference. I miss the warmth of San Francisco, the delicious local fare I ate all week and the very cool and super smart attendees and speakers who made the conference a fantastic experience.
And now, without further ado, five things I learned while at the IACP conference that will inspire and make an impact on caterers…
1. It’s important to talk about technology, whether it’s in the commissary kitchen or the marketing department, with people of all ages. One panel discussion put together Maxime Bilet, Thomas Keller and Peter Kaminsky, who are all at different points in their culinary careers. Bilet, a 30-year-old chef who helped write Modernist Cuisine and is the head chef at the Cooking Lab in Seattle, described how he used a centrifuge to separate a pea into starch, juice and lipids. He hopes that the centrifuge is the next food processor, but he also knows that chefs should get comfortable with traditional equipment before they branch out.
Similarly, Thomas Keller– the mid-career chef on the panel– discussed how he still enjoys the simplest things like glazing onions. And Peter Kaminsky, the session’s eldest member, decried Instagram photos of desserts and crazy cooking shows– but still discussed how he frequently uses the internet to find recipes. But all three chefs agreed: technology is second to the technique and the food itself. We should use the tools that we have to make the best food that we can— we just all come at it in different ways, based on our age and experience.
Overall the panelists agreed that technology is constantly changing, and it’s important to remember that new technology will eventually become traditional. But at the same time, we can’t forget our classic techniques.
2. Crackers! I visited a lot of cookbook authors at the Culinary Book & Blog expo. Ivy Manning, who wrote Crackers & Dips, started out as a caterer and found that no matter what complicated cooking techniques she was using, guests were most impressed when she made her own crackers. Other cookbooks I thought would be helpful for caterers included Roots, which is filled with recipes for cooking root vegetables, and Classic Snacks Made from Scratch, which covers homemade twinkies and Devil Dogs.
3. Berry good design turns heads. This hashtag design made with blueberries and strawberries was such a creative idea from Driscoll’s, I thought I’d share. What a wonderful way to use berries for a summer event!
4. I also attended a panel on California’s rich food history, filled with farmers, cheesemongers and restaurant operators and learned a lot about the state’s rich history. What I took away was that the California local food movement started with farmers and foodservice operators helping each other. Although other states are not necessarily as bountiful as California, the relationships that restaurant operators and farmers built in the 1970s came from cooperation and a desire for change. Now, California has a healthy local food economy. Some of those ideas are spreading across the country, but it’s always important to remember that relationships and reaching beyond the familiar to can create change organically.
5. The most important aspect of ensuring a healthy future of food and foodservice is education. Almost every speaker I saw talked about outreach efforts, whether it’s working with schools to educate children on where food actually comes from or training your staff to be aware of food costs and impact. Greg Drescher of the Culinary Institute of America spoke about the Menus of Change initiative, which is incorporating culinary science, entrepreneurial studies and nutrition into the traditional culinary school curriculum. It was inspiring to hear that so many organizations are working toward business models that train chefs to create food that is sustainable, tastes good and is healthy– and that can also make money for a foodservice business. Education helps maintain that balance– and the more we reach out to educate younger people, the more they will understand how food figures into their future.
That said, ain’t no party like a Catersource party, and I missed the familiar faces of our annual Conference & Tradeshow. Has it only been a month? I wonder what the IACP folks would think about a party like Harmony… 😉