Emmanuel Laroche, host of the "Flavors Unknown" podcast, knows his food. With decades of marketing experience, he is at the forefront of launching new flavors into the world and highlighting the ever-evolving culinary world's latest trends.
At the recent Starchefs Providence panel discussion, Laroche brought together renowned culinary experts to delve into the latest trends and developments in the world of flavors, ingredients, and the culinary industry as a whole. These remarkable individuals included:
Derek Wagner from Nick's on Broadway
Chef Eric Brown from Thick Neck at The Dean Hotel
Chef Kevin O'Donnell from Giusto
Chef Nick Gillespie at Dune Brothers Seafood
Bartender Jesse Hedberg from Pizza Marvin
There was also notable insight from several other industry experts, pastry chefs, mixologists, and bakers. Hosted in Providence, Rhode Island, home to a vibrant culinary scene, the discussion explored various topics, from unique seafood ingredients to the impact of technology on the industry.
Let's take a closer look at the insights shared by panelists and participants and the state of restaurants, cocktails and other drinks, desserts, and especially seafood in New England.
Exploring New Flavors From the Sea
At the heart of the discussion was a strong emphasis on creativity in using underutilized seafood. The chefs discussed how underappreciated seafood options like scup could add exciting new options to their menus.
Speaking to Chef Kevin about the lesser-known scup fillet, Dan, a professional from Nestle, highlighted his discovery of its unique quality when he first visited the area. "That was the first fish that I tasted last time I came, and I had dinner at your place here... That was delicious."
Chef Kevin pointed out that scup could also be a much more affordable option for his customers. "When speaking about scup, when you go down and get it off the boat, it's $1.75. That's really cheap. If we can figure out a way to get that out and out to the masses and get that fed, that's huge."
The panelists also focused on exploring spider crabs as an option. As one chef enthusiastically noted, "I think I was telling you the other day like we're working with people right now to see how we can get spider crab meat and be some of the first people to try that, and to see if that's marketable because there's a million spider crabs in the ocean."
Technology's Impact on the Culinary World
In an age where technology plays a significant role in every industry, the culinary world is no exception. The panelists delved into the influence of technology on the culinary landscape, sharing their perspectives on how it is transforming their craft.
Chef Eric highlighted the use of technology in business operations. "The other day, I put business projections... I think we put in maybe five or six numbers, and it spit out a whole three-year projections plan that was more or less accurate." He continued, "For certain things that's just beyond the scope of a restaurant as a small business, I think that there's certainly a use for it."
However, the chefs' views on technology were not uniform. While some embraced these innovations, others aren't big fans, "I hope it goes away. I want nothing to do with it," Chef Kevin said, reflecting a sentiment shared by those who value human touch and craftsmanship over technology.
Chef Derek acknowledged that artificial intelligence (AI) technology isn't for everyone. "I think it's a tool, right? I think some will lean into it more than others," he said. However, he struck a balance, noting that while technology is helpful, there's something unique and human about what chefs do. "I get into hospitality and cooking because I want it to be a respite from some of the changings of the world, if you will, because there's just something about sitting around a table," he concluded.
The chefs' differing viewpoints highlighted the ongoing global dialogue about the balance between tradition and innovation. While technology offers undeniable advantages, the essence of culinary artistry remains deeply rooted as a personal human creation.
The discussion extended beyond ingredients and technology to the essence of the culinary experience — authenticity. More specifically, Chef Derek expressed the virtue of authenticity by embracing locality. "It creates a unique opportunity... a sense of partnership with people within our community," he exclaimed. He went on to say, "If we're doing it right, if it's good, if it's delicious, and if it's authentic... You taste and feel the difference when you walk into a space that has that energy. You just do."
Mixologist Jesse echoed these sentiments regarding cocktails and other beverages, "We try to use local whenever we can... I think one thing that inspires me a lot in New England is the seasons and, actually, the colors of the seasons... People often talk about what grows together, goes together, which is true."
Authenticity doesn't just come with the ingredients used and dishes created. Chef Eric explains that authenticity also means creating a culinary experience that shows care for the community it feeds. "I think that the average guest is going to continue to get more and more discerning with who they choose to patronize... Are you using fish from our waters? Do you have equitable practices as far as keeping your staff in a healthy and functional state?... The people that are treating their teams right and the people that are treating our small economy right are going to be the people that are going to attract the passionate diners in this city," he said.
The Starchefs panel discussion in Providence provided a glimpse into the culinary world of New England. With an unwavering dedication to authenticity and an evolution to use new ingredients that express their love of their community, these chefs are shaping the future of food.
In the end, the insights shared by the panelists paint a picture of Providence that highlights a culinary community that offers the world something unique and flavorful — an experience unlike any other.
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