Part 3 of the in-sight Starchefs 2015 Series

Food spanned the globe, tickling and delighting the palates of ICC conference participants. Day One was all about “hot diggity dog” with Rising Chefs strutting their culinary chops. Bill Kim of Chicago’s Belly Shack featured an all-beef hot dog with egg noodles and pickled green papaya (The Belly Dog) and said he’s all about offering the unexpected amid familiar flavors.

The three mantras of his restaurant, he explained, are being “accessible, flavorful and affordable.” “I like to use common things people understand and then add a surprising element.” That means mac and cheese made with Thai curry (being from Korea, he’s big into Asian ingredients) or spicing up tofu, which he says diners don’t fully appreciate, with a crab ragu. He’ll even marinate tofu overnight to give it a steak-like texture and taste.

Chef Matt Gennuso of Wurst Kitchen (Providence, RI) served up a classic frank with sweet pepper relish, pickle reus and house mustard. Also on his menu: smoked hot links with a bacon jam. Between handing out dogs to hungry participants he said his inspiration for food comes from the seasons – as well as from events like ICC where he can glean ideas from others around him.

Other hot dogs served during the lunch rush included an Icelandic hot dog from Phillip Gilmour of Momo Sushi Shack in Brooklyn, a lamb creation smothered with Remoulade, sweet brown mustard, ketchup, chopped onions and fried shallots; a beef and cheddar frank with mustard and a pretzel bun from Chefs Michael Hudman and Andrew Ticer of Porcellino’s (Memphis, TN), and a spicy okra dog with choron and scallions from Benjamin Thompson of The Rock Bar (Arrington, VA).

Among the popular tables: Cosme Chef Daniela Soto-Innes’ pop-up where she offered three courses (six to some lucky patrons) of Langoustine with Pear Mojo and Hoja Santa, Veal Tongue, Ha’Sikil P’ak and Brussel Sprouts Pico and Blue Corn Piloncillo Gordita.  Soto-Innes said she likes working with corn as there are so many ways to use it and transform it into a variety of dishes. She also likes testing and trying out vinegars due to their array of acidity, which can really alter a dish.

Another popular stop: Matteo Boglione of New York’s Le Cirque who offered a double-cooked homemade mozzarella with porcini mushrooms, green asparagus and black truffle cream. He said if he can’t find a new ingredient to play with, he finds another way to make something “old” work together in a new way. Right now, he’s experimenting with octopus and its varied incarnations.

The theme of using different techniques to mix up flavors was seconded by Michael Brewer of The Sammich (New Orleans, LA) who showcased a roasted shrimp with sweet potato gnocchi and a shrimp demi. “I tend to take the Creole classics and put a new spin on them,” he said. Collaborating is key. “Being in New Orleans, the chefs are a band of brothers. We’re constantly learning from each other.” Right now he said is working on pork and shrimp combinations, ideally using white shrimp.

Day Two’s “Hey, Asia!” focus showcased dishes with influences from Japan, Thailand and Vietnam. From fish sauce, to soy sauce and Sriracha, to jungle curry, traditionally Asian ingredients made their way into surprising dishes like chicken liver mousse and pork pastrami. Chef Mike Gulotta of MoPho (New Orleans, LA), for example, learned to make his Creole “backbone stew” from an old friend in the neighborhood, but also saw how the heavy dishes of New Orleans could be “lightened by Vietnamese techniques, which were more suited for the heat of the south.” The result? A fusion backbone stew with fermented beans, pork blood, and lime leaf aioli served with a charred sticky rice that was a crowd pleaser.

While Asia was certainly named the ICC showcase for the day, Foods from Spain—a conference sponsor since Day One—was on full display with a host of Ibérico ham, Estrella beer, and cheeses. Spanish and Latin American influences creeped into dishes elsewhere—Jaime and Felipe Torres of Raymi (New York, NY) served ceviche mixto and dumplings to enjoy with Taste Peru’s Macchu Piso cocktail. Café ArtScience’s (Boston, MA) Chef Patrick Campbell paired beef tongue with parmesan, salsa verde and Spanish anchovy. Mahón cheese, originating from the island of Minorca off the Mediterranean coast of Spain, was included in the smoked chipped beef toast offered by Chef Nathanial Zimet of Bourée (New Orleans, LA) and also in Chef Tyler Anderson’s sweet squash dumpling with black truffle (Millright’s in Simsbury, CT).

Day Three guests experienced some serious “Fermentation Funk,” with a range of dishes featuring fermented foods. For Chefs Andrew Whitcomb and Jessica Koslow, who both run kitchens that are farmer’s market driven, sustainability and fermentation go hand in hand. “Sqirl (Los Angeles, CA) is known for fermenting a lot of things to extend the life of our produce. We thought it was a natural transition to start using those same flavors to create our own spices. The spices usually come from what we happen to be fermenting that week, and then we uses the spices, like fermented Furikake powder, to create flavored popcorn,” said Koslow. New York City’s Whitcomb also created a condiment to add enhance flavor, creating a fermented honey at Colonie to complement his smoked fried chicken and hot sauce.

One of the most popular dishes featured was created by Chef Ethan Pikas of Cellar Door Provisions (Chicago, IL). Guests raved over his fermented turnip soup, which also included cultured dairy and pickled root vegetables. But the most interesting use of fermentation went to pastry chef Mina Pizzaro of Juni (New York, NY), whose fermented oat cracker sat atop a tasty toasted oatmeal stout cremeux and carrot glaze.

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