*All Photos Courtesy of StarChefs
The 2017 Rising Stars Roundtable Discussion, hosted by Symrise in collaboration with StarChefs, tapped into the culinary minds of some of New York City’s 2017 Rising Star recipients. Emmanuel Laroche, Vice President of Marketing and Consumer Insight at Symrise, led the discussion, which gave participants an insider’s look at the motivating drivers of innovation and inspiration in the restaurant world.
The panel featured Angela Dimayuga, executive chef for Mission Chinese Food NYC; executive chef and owner of ATOBOY Junghyun Park; Jon Nodler, the culinary director of High Street Hospitality Group; Jesse Vida, head bartender at the Cuban-inspired Blacktail; and Johnny Iuzzini, an award-winning pastry chef, cookbook author, and past Rising Star winner.
After the first question was posed, the panelists provided detailed information (https://in-sight.symrise.com/beyond-the-plate/article/new-yorks-star-chefs-dish-on-innovation-and-inspiration/) on how they were inspired to create the cutting-edge creations which earned them a spot on StarChef’s Rising Star list. The conversation quickly navigated to valuable insight to the rise of restaurant industry trends. “When it comes to trends, it’s a pipeline rather than a choice,” said Dimayuga. “It starts with being authentic, then comes innovation, and then the possibility of creating a trend. It happens that way naturally. One feeds the next. But you want to be ahead of the curve.”
As the discussion progressed, two finite focuses emerged as “being ahead of the curve,” and key to innovation—mentorship and collaboration.
MENTORSHIP BUILDS INNOVATION
Early on in his career, Iuzzini studied under chefs who told him not to use or give our their recipes. “I think it’s important to pass on the classic French training,” he says. “My generation is different; we’re all about sharing. Maybe that’s because of the internet, but I think it’s because we were open to it. We recognized we’ll do more [as an industry] together.”
Vida mentioned how much the beverage scene mirrored culinary trends, and the connection between mentorship and future innovation quickly became apparent. “The recipe sharing and openness had this trickle down effect.” He went on to talk about how he was influenced by both chefs and bartenders. “I have so many mentors. You start blending your school of thought. You take the good things with you, and you leave the bad things behind.”
Iuzzini chimed in: “You work under these amazing people. You pick and choose what you take with you. It’s how you create your own voice. It’s how chefs cultivate who they are; the hard part is the need to create on your own.”
Nodler named Eli Kulp, former chef of High Street on Market, as his mentor. “I learned less about cooking from him, and more about how we present food to the customers,” Nodler says. “Eli always stresses the genuine reason for you to create a dish. We try to keep everything at a high level, but it’s not about technique—we focus on the elements that create context in a dish.”
INSPIRED BY COLLABORATION
Dumayuga also stresses the importance of being a mentor, empowering her staff to collaborate on future dishes. “We have to look at our staff, the people who are always executing our dishes,” she says. “They have to understand our palate and then also learn how to develop their own.”
In her kitchen hangs a whiteboard, where she itemizes dishes she is tinkering with, plating styles, and describes how and why dishes are changing for her kitchen staff to see. “It’s all about sharing information,” she says. “I am able to convey where we are headed. It boosts the collaboration efforts and allows us to learn from each other.”
According to Vida, collaboration played an important role in the creation of Blacktail. “Management allowed the bar staff to have input on seasonal menus,” he says. “That gave ownership, which only leads to innovation and boosting morale.”
He also mentioned how much he learns from peers. “We recently did a pop up at The Bloomsbury Club Bar in London, where we each brought four of our cocktail recipes. I was inspired by the showmanship of the London bartenders, but also enjoyed how they made classic recipes more approachable.”
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