What is Progress? Such was the theme of the 2016 StarChefs International Chef Congress (ICC) (www.starchefs.com/cook/icc), held Oct. 23 to 25 at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and, it seems, everyone had an opinion. Richie Nakano of IDK in San Francisco, CA believes progress is greater female representation while J. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats, also in San Francisco, says it’s using more plant-based meat substitutes.

For Antonio Bachour of Bachour Bakery + Bistro in Miami, FL, the answer is “more sources of inspiration” while Claus Meyer of the Great Northern Food Hall in New York City says it’s more companies going about their daily operations with a stronger community approach. For Eric Kayser of Maison Kayser in Paris, on the other hand, it’s all about finding and cultivating talent while Daniel Holzman of The Meatball Shop in NYC defines progress as “the confidence to pull off simplicity.”

The list goes on—but it’s those thoughts that sparked many an ICC conversation, often in the bustling space where the Chef’s Products Fair was held—and where the Food Carts offered such gems as caramel-glazed duck, fried chicken strips, garlic knots, and cauliflower shawarma.

So, what’s new? What’s trending? And what were folks talking about at the 11th annual event? The following is a breakdown.

1. Waste Not, Want Not: Chefs incorporate throw-away food scraps into dishes—everything from smoked pork belly scraps into bacon jam or bacon pimiento dip to carrot tops and cheese rinds to dehydrating veggies then pulverizing them and adding them to anything and everything. Christine Cikowski of Honey Butter Fried Chicken in Chicago, IL says she and her Co-Chef Josh Kulp use every bit of each animal they receive. “To honor a living creature and to increase sustainability, we always make sure that all the fat, bones, and pieces are used for something in the kitchen whether on our menu or for family meal,” she said. Joe Cicala of Le Virtù in Philadelphia, PA is a big fan of using potato peels, cresto di gallo, braised meat in whey, toasted squash seeds, mushroom stem broth, and organ meats while Chef Hari Cameron of a(muse.) of  Rehoboth Beach, DE, says his favorite scrap is vegetable trim. “There’s so much flavor in the peel, stem, root, core, seed—the offal of the plant world.”

CLICK HERE to see trends from last year's Starchefs International Chefs Congress

2. Mexican Goes Avant-Garde: Quintonil anyone? The word for pigweed, more commonly known as a species of amaranth, is one example of ways Mexican food is making—and elevating—its mark, said Antoinette Bruno, Editor-in-Chief of StarChefs. From Jorge Vallejo and his innovative cuisine at Quintonil to trail blazing fine dining restaurants Cosme in New York and Californios in San Francisco to L.A.’s funky Broken Spanish and paleta-inspired dessert spot Churro Borough, to Monica Dimas’ Tortas Condesa in Seattle, “Mexican food in America is transgressive and transforming, making for some of the most exciting restaurants in the country.”

3. Peruvian Food Makes Headway: Brooklyn’s Llama Inn and La Mar in Miami are two of those leading the way. Said Bruno: “We’ve even seen anticuchos popping up on menus in non-Peruvian spots like the Beach Plum on Martha’s Vineyard and Valentino Cucina Italiana in Fort Lauderdale.”

4. Filipino Cuisine is At A Tipping Point:  Represented by the likes of Miguel Trinidad’s restaurants in New York, and by Pastry Chef Isa Fabro in L.A., by Bad Saint in DC, and by Chef Carl Foronda’s pork sig sig at 1760 in San Francisco, Filipino food is gaining ground and, said Bruno, “We’re ready for the watershed.”

5. Vodka Returns: The prodigal son of spirits is back on the menu, in more mature, balanced, complex, and profitable varieties. Bruno cited Bartender Nicolas Torres of Lazy Bear in San Francisco, CA who mixes two vodkas and infuses them with caraway, dill, star anise, and lemon peel for his “J-Dilla” cocktail. Rob Ferrara of Miami’s Lure Fishbar mixes vodka with watermelon, lemon, and orange bitters and pours it over watermelon ice for his “Catch and Release” cocktail. And at L.A.’s Ace Hotel there’s a drink called “Doo Wop Motel” made with oyster shell-infused vodka, blanc vermouth, fino sherry, Maldon, dry Riesling and bay leaf tincture.

6. How Low Can You Go: The classic cocktail is here to stay, but now, more than ever, bartenders are transforming the usual suspects—mojitos, negronis, Manhattans—with their own twists. Bartenders are also infusing their own spirits, bitters, and shrubs to elevate flavor. The trend in adult beverage is also steering to lower alcohol levels and lighter tastes, as consumer demand looks to marrying food and alcohol throughout their meal. Chad Arnholt and Claire Sprouse of Tin Roof Drink Community in NYC admit they like using strong ingredients that, when mixed properly and with the right proportions, end up tasting light. They are big fans of working with sake, madiera, vermouth and sherry.

CLICK HERE to view Culinary Chronicles - food trends from the Symrise Chefs

7. Charcoal is Hot: Charcoal is on the rise as more and more chefs incorporate it into their repertoire to enhance flavors and add personality to dishes. The Kopa oven was showcased by Giorgio Rapicavoli and Shola Olunloya, the latter which served up paprika bacon. Mark Plescha of Yardley, PA-based Charcoal BYOB says his restaurant, while reliant more on modern equipment for cooking aka low temperature cooking like sous vide, uses a charcoal grill to finish foods for dinner service, giving them the color, aroma, and look people are expecting. “We do this mainly with ribeye steak, octopus, and duck breast,” he says. “Those are all cooked sous vide during the prep day then ‘finished’ in the charcoal grill as it gives that desired texture, flavor, and aroma back that customers expect, which can be lost through low temperature cooking.”

8. The Power of Alternative Proteins: The protein possibilities are endless, with vegetables, grains, legumes and yes – even cricket – making it on to menus. The millennial generation, in particular, wants gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options and chefs are rallying around plant-based meals. This is not a trend, but something that’s here to stay, says John Sundstrom of Lark in Seattle, WA.

9. Tea Rises To New Heights: The popularity of tea in foods and beverages, also a 2015 ICC Culinary Trend, showed it continues to gain steam. Sam Mason of Oddfellows offered a green tea ice cream and said tea works well because of the way it infuses and steeps, the flavors changing along the way.  It was also in beverages, including the Agua Verde served on Day Three by Masa Urushido of Saxon + Parole in NYC.  The cocktail included Bacardi Superior, cold-brewed green tea, lime juice, Martini & Rossi Dry Vermouth and Cucumber-Daiginjo Sherbet.

10. Say Hello to Seaweed: Seaweed is infiltrating kitchens now more than ever, said Bruno. She cited San Francisco Chef Jeremy Wayne of La Folie who makes seaweed chicharones, Miami Pastry Chef Jill Montinola of Seaspice who tops a chocolate and toasted rice dessert with “seaweed snow” and Sarah Welch of Republic Tavern in Detroit who likes seaweed with her strawberries. Chef Ivan Dominguez, of Restaurante Alborada in Spain, demonstrated several techniques involving seaweed on the main stage.

11. Octopus is the New Pork Belly: So proclaimed Bruno in her Culinary Trends report. Christopher Lee, culinary director of Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurants, served grilled Spanish pulpo with marble potatoes and saffron aioli. "I like to use octopus because it's a staple in Spanish coastal diets." Dominguez also worked with octopus on the main stage, highlighting the food native to his terroir again. "The ingredients themselves—when the quality of the first is at this level, you want to keep it at this level." For Plescha of Charcoal BYOB, octopus is one of the most popular items on his menu and is always featured in some form or another. “With all the dining options in town we look to cook something you won't find on another restaurant in the direct area,” he says. “That, and just wanting to change proteins up for our sake are why we source out off-cuts or things people may not be so familiar with here in the ‘burbs.”

For a look into the future of the culinary world, stay tuned to in-sight for the next few weeks for all of our Starchefs ICC 2016 Coverage!

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