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Starchefs International Chefs Congress 2007


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I just wanted to add my thanks for this and all of your reports, Doc.  I set aside this evening to read through the whole thing and enjoyed every minute.  I'm not a member of the industry in any fashion, I'm just an eater of great food.  Industry coverage of these events usually just skirts the surface.  You really give great details and I love having pictorial accounts.  From all of us who only wish we could attend these things, I thank you for "taking me along with you".

Thanks for the positive feedback, Tangelo and others. I have returned from a little business jaunt to San Francisco and will be (hopefully) finishing this report soon. Of course, I will also have some things to report from San Francisco, but that will be in other topics. :wink:

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Returning to Andoni Luis Aduriz and his dish "Vanity" for a moment. He gave a good explanation of the concept of the dish at the Congress, but wanting to make sure that i did his explanation justice, I contacted him and asked him to explain it to me again. His answer is in Spanish followed by my translation. If anyone more fluent in Spanish notices any mistakes in my translation please do not hesitate to offer an alternate version or to correct me where I may be wrong.

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Vanity

Tal como su título indica, pretende trasmitir la idea de la vanidad mediante una expresión gastronómica. Es por todos asumido que la vanidad es sinónimo de gran apariencia o apariencia exagerada y poco fondo en realidad. Es algo que en un principio crea expectativas y después normalmente defrauda. Si bien reconocemos que este ejercicio es en si complicado no pudimos resistir la tentación de intentarlo. Para ello teníamos que combinar efectos que mostraran gran belleza y forma para que cuando el comensal participara en el plato, todo se redujera a lo que al final se pretendía: algo casi vacío y desdibujado.

El oro culturalmente representa el lujo y la riqueza, características que necesitábamos para uno de los elementos que compondrían nuestro plato. El brillo del pastel completaría este efecto.

Unas burbujas de gran tamaño y de bellas formas en un sabor admitido por casi la totalidad de los comensales, el chocolate, eran un componente perfecto para representar el momento de enamoramiento o atracción que algo produce con un desencanto final.

Todo se reduce a una ilusión.

No queríamos de todos modos que el conjunto fuera algo desagradable, por lo que aunque sea la degustación de los escasos componentes que se quedan en el plato, es agradable y sabrosa. El ejercicio culmina con el sabor agridulce de haber perdido algo grande pero haber disfrutado al menos de un momento de placer.

                                                            -Andoni Luis Aduriz

As the title indicates, the idea is to transmit the concept of “vanity” through a gastronomic expression. It is assumed that “vanity” is synonymous with grand or exaggerated appearance little founded in reality. It is something that usually creates expectations that subsequently are normally unrealized. Recognizing that this exercise is in itself complicated, we cannot resist the temptation to try it. To do this we have to combine effects that show great beauty and form so that when the diner receives the plate, everything is reduced to what we intended: something essentially vacuous and vapid.

Culturally, gold represents luxury and wealth, characteristics that are a necessary element for the composition of our plate. The glossy shine of the cake completes this effect. Some large and beautifully formed bubbles in a flavor admired by almost all diners, chocolate, is a perfect component to represent the moment of infatuation or attraction followed by a final disenchantment, all ultimately reduced to illusion.

Above all, we do not want the combination to be disagreeable, because even though the dish is high on gloss and low on substance, what is on the plate should to be pleasant and delicious. The exercise culminates with the bittersweet sensation of having lost something grand, but at least having enjoyed a moment of pleasure.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Wow. After reading Andoni Luis Aduriz's explanation of 'vanity', I feel very lowly when all I worry about is getting the plates out while they are hot!! :laugh::laugh:

Although it did get me to start wondering if there is a Maslow Pyramid for food...basic needs at the bottom and dishes like 'vanity' at the top.

You have to wonder where this intensive intellectual-ising of food will lead....

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Wow. After reading Andoni Luis Aduriz's explanation of 'vanity', I feel very lowly when all I worry about is getting the plates out while they are hot!!  :laugh:  :laugh:

Although it did get me to start wondering if there is a Maslow Pyramid for food...basic needs at the bottom and dishes like 'vanity' at the top.

You have to wonder where this intensive intellectual-ising of food will lead....

I think that there will always be a place for it, albeit limited. In this respect I don't think the culinary arts are unlike other arts. Not every element has to appeal to everyone so long as it is able to find its own audience. In the end every artist, no matter the medium, has to eat and have shelter. As such, every artist needs to be able to find an audience willing to pay enough for that artist to get by and continue making that art. If there is not a sufficient audience then that artist either starves, moves on to something else or changes the art until an audience is found. i think the better an artist, any artist, is at getting his or her point across, the more likely that artist will continue to generate sufficient support to keep doing what he is doing. So long as people continue to think and be creative, we will continue to see intensive intellectualization of food, probably in ways most of us could never imagine.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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What an odd goal to strive for in a dish though, huh? His whole definition of vanity would seem to be an illusion of grandeur that, when sampled, reveals its true nature and disappoints. Why would any chef chose this virtue to put on display then? What dish should be created with the goal of disappointing? And if a dish striving to be vanity on a plate is "pleasant and delicious", imagine what he could do with gluttony! Oh! And imagine the fun he could have doing all of the classic Roman virtues. Ooooh...or a whole tasting menu of virtues. Or contrasting virtue and vice. Oh my...lust would be delicious, wouldn't it?

Sorry, I'm getting carried away with that whole idea. How fun!

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Gualtiero Marchesi gave a talk entitled The Marchesi Code, which coincidentally is the title of his newest book (unfortunately apparently not carried by Amazon.com). Marchesi of Ristorante Gualtiero Marchesi in Erbusco, Italy and several other restaurants discussed his culinary philosophy while members of his kitchen staff prepared several dishes.

Beauty and perfection do not make themselves manifest, and I love cuisine as a pure form of art. To cook is not my ambition, it is a way to express myself.

    -Gaultiero Marchesi from the Introduction to The Marchesi Code

Marchesi outlined his "Total Cuisine as a product of his experience in the culinary world and focuses on the concepts and values of "harmony, beauty civilization, color, genius, taste, invention, lightness, myth, territory, tradition, truth and simplicity." The recipes prepared during the demonstration are given in his book and each illustrates a particular concept, non-traditional takes on traditional dishes.

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Marchesi spoke of his philosophy and his cuisine, which incorporates a minimalist aesthetic. He touched on creativity in cooking and what it means to be creative. This touches the heart of a recent and current discussion topic in the Italy Forum. From the book:

For years there has been much discussion as to the significance and the importance of "creative cuisine," albeit not always by those with full knowledge of the facts. For many people, "creativity" is achieved by distorting the dishes of tradition. In reality those wishing to discover what in substance has come to pass have realized that when the "new cuisine" was created, it respected the cultural roots of whatever dish it interpreted..."Reappraisal" does not signify distortion.

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"Pyramid of Venere Rice" in the foreground representing "Civilization", revives the pyramid as representative of the civilization of ancient Egypt. The venere rice itself, comes from China. It is cooked in the fashion of a risotto exclusive of the addition of butter or oil. The dish, garnished with lobster and squid, has a sauce that contains ingredients more commonly associated with Asian cooking including ginger and soy sauce.

From the book,

Every ideological and prejudicial approach relegates pleasure to cramped spaces: it constricts, closes. Civilization is, however, synonymous with openness to plurality. Curiosity and acceptance, receptiveness without passivity, interest in listening, in exchange, and in dialogue, are attitudes that promote the formation of civilization.

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"Rice, Gold and Saffron" an interpretation of Risotto Milanese, represents "Beauty" for Marchesi, which is "essential, without frills."

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Reminiscent of the painting of Jackson Pollock, "Dripping di Pesce" or "Fish garnished using the Dripping Technique", is an illustration of the importance of color to Marchesi. It basically consist of mayonnaise some kept yellow and the rest colored black with cuttlefish ink and green with pesto and tomato puree with various seafood arranged amongst the yellow base with red, black and green sauces dripped over it.

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"Open Ravioli" is Marchesi's interpretation of "Myth. Following the words of Thomas Mann, "the typical is also mythical", Marchesi feels that a restaurant becomes "typical if and when (it is) capable of giving rise to a myth, that is to say, of communicating a clear and distinct sensation recognizable and recognized by many if not by all."

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"Truth" is represented to Marchesi by the essential truth of the white on black of "Cuttlefish in its ink." According to Marchesi, "There is nothing left to be said."

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Behind the scenes with Chef Alex Atala of D.O.M. in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Seiji Yamamoto, Gualtiero Marchesi and Jose Andres

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Andoni Luis Aduriz and Grant Achatz

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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More behind the scenes:

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Elena Arzak being interviewed

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Wow. After reading Andoni Luis Aduriz's explanation of 'vanity', I feel very lowly when all I worry about is getting the plates out while they are hot!!  :laugh:  :laugh:

Although it did get me to start wondering if there is a Maslow Pyramid for food...basic needs at the bottom and dishes like 'vanity' at the top.

You have to wonder where this intensive intellectual-ising of food will lead....

I think that there will always be a place for it, albeit limited. In this respect I don't think the culinary arts are unlike other arts. Not every element has to appeal to everyone so long as it is able to find its own audience. In the end every artist, no matter the medium, has to eat and have shelter. As such, every artist needs to be able to find an audience willing to pay enough for that artist to get by and continue making that art. If there is not a sufficient audience then that artist either starves, moves on to something else or changes the art until an audience is found. i think the better an artist, any artist, is at getting his or her point across, the more likely that artist will continue to generate sufficient support to keep doing what he is doing. So long as people continue to think and be creative, we will continue to see intensive intellectualization of food, probably in ways most of us could never imagine.

I was thinking more or less along the same lines this afternoon on the way to the grocery store. And at first I thought, how pretentious, this chef should spend some time at a soup kitchen to balance his yin/yang. Then I started to think about the dish as a pure art form, and I understand this intellectually, but I'm with Tangelo in feeling confused about a dish that is designed to disappoint.

I also wouldn't want to eat the Dripped Fish dish of Chef Marchesi; it's pretty to look at, but doesn't make me want to pick up a fork. The photo of the blank ink and white cuttle fish is extraordinary! Now that might induce me to pick up a fork!

This whole concept of intellectual-ising food deserves its own thread. It's fascinating, and your beautiful reporting has sparked so many ideas!

But, when all is said and done, the world would be a much poorer place without this sort of creative intellectual-ising and I'm happy there are chefs out there that are pushing the envelope.

Edited by docsconz (log)
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I think Aduriz' "Vanity" is designed to be playful - poking fun at the concept by showing something all puffed up and full of air without a lot of "substance" behind it. That doesn't mean that it shouldn't taste good or ultimately is meant to disappoint. I do think it is meant to be delicious, albeit clever. It certainly looked delicious to me. Even something that is full of "vanity" may still have something good about it.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Dan Barber and George Mendes

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Dan Barber and Farmer Lee Jones of

The Chefs Garden

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Shannon Bennett of Vue de Monde in Melbourne, Australia and his assistant in the backstage prep kitchen

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Mixing things up.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Dani Garcia's assistants backstage working on "liquid gold"

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Although he subsequently regretted the decision, under the circumstances it was a very reasonable one for Grant Achatz to make when he bowed out of his demonstration for the Starchefs ICC. Very, very few people could step into that replacement role and still have the audience excited. Fortunately, for Starchefs, Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns is one of them. Locally grown and chef grown and raised produce have become buzzwords and a hot trend, but few if anyone in this country do it with as much aplomb and finesse as Barber, who described his approach in his demonstration, From Plate to Farm.

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Barber described the relationship between the farm at Stone barns and the restaurant. They are actually separate entities although there is a large inter-relationship between the two. The restaurant doesn't get produce from the farm for free or even at a discount. The restaurant actually pays market price for the produce. The advantage, barber and the restaurant do have though is they can raise the animals aby the standards they prefer and grow the vegetables they want the way they want them. barber used lamb husbandry as a prime example of how they prefer to raise the animals that they source for meat. They have very exacting standards for getting the lambs to feed on the right grass to make them most flavorful determined by how they rotate through their fields. He prefers that thier lamb has grass-feeding behind them as he feels it makes them more flavorful.

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He also described some of the inter-relationships between various products from the farm and how they are used in the restaurant.

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Honey produced from the bees that work the farm provided a great example of this inter-relationship and the usefulness and desirability of various by-products.

I had the opportunity to interview Chef Barber after his demonstration so as to elaborate on some of his themes. I hope to publish that here on the eGullet Forums sometime after I am done with this chronicle.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Nothing comes without a cost. The price i paid for the opportunity to interview Dan Barber was to miss most of the presentation by Brazil's Alex Atala of Restaurant D.O.M. in Sao Paolo, entitled Welcome to the Jungle: Amazon-Inspired Cuisine.

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Atala addressed his theory of cooking which was influenced by the work The raw and the Cooked by the Belgian anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss. Strauss, who spent time studying in Brazil much as Atala studied in Belgium, stressed that the transition from wild to cultural beings was due to man's domination of fire. The progression from raw to fire to cooked is completed according to Lévi-Strauss by the full-circle effect of rottenness. Atala added to Lévi-Strauss's scheme by adding a "northern" point for "toasted" for things added directly to fire and achieving an element of bitterness. This was in coordination with the "eastern" point of the schema - "cooked" representing sweet and the "southern "rotten" representing acid. Between these "cardinal points" lie continuums between the central fire to each outward point. Arising from this schema, Atala has developed a chart of static and dynamic flavors.

gallery_8158_5171_7264.jpg While Atala's culinary philosophy is quite interesting (he gave out a small book to the audience), the ingredients coming out of Brazil and South America, especially from the Amazon region are really causing excitement and caused my some angst as I missed out on the samples of tucupi, a broth made from a variety of yucca that is elemental to Amazonian diets. Atala is one of the leading lights in bringing out ingredients from the Amazon.

gallery_8158_5171_70763.jpg At the end of his presentation, Atala spoke with and signed copies of his book for a fascinated crowd.

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John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Shannon Bennett awaiting his turn for the stage

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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gallery_8158_5171_15674.jpgElena Arzak of Restaurant Arzak in San Sebastien, Spain spoke on Recent Restaurante Arzak Experiments. Expanding upon the work done by Joan Roca of Can Roca in Gerona distilling "earth", Arzak and her team are exploring ways of their own using the essence of "terroir".

The technique that they are experimenting the most recently with is freeze-drying with the lyophilizer their current favorite piece of equipment. They use it to freeze-dry various ingredients and transform them into powders, which are subsequently used to season dishes. They are seasoning various ingredients with freeze-dried powders of the same ingredient to add intensity of flavor.

For the demonstration, Elena Arzak and her assistant, Igor Zalakain demonstrated the use of these techniques and ingredients with a dish, Squid "Begi Haundi," in Abstract, an interpretation of a traditional Basque dish.

To make the squid powder, the squid was first cooked in olive oil then placed in the lyophilizer for forty hours before being pulverized into a fine powder. This was done prior to the demo.

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Earth Sauce was painted onto the plate with a roller. The sauce was made by cooking composted earth with onion, mushrooms, water and squid trimmings, then pureeing and straining the mixture before final seasoning.

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Grilled squid was plated and seasoned with powdered squid and drizzled with parsley sauce and more earth sauce. The parsley sauce was made by combining earth sauce with dried orange peel, mushroom powder, parsley and olive oil.

Several other dishes were made by Arzak and Zalakain including one with cod and another with squab and purple potatoes. Unfortunately, I do not recall the details of the dishes.

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Tona Palomino of WD-50 translated for Chef Arzak as he did for Andoni Luis Aduriz

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John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Freeze dried powders are great. When I was a pastry chef I used to make a variety of flavoured Macarons with various fruit powders... (I wasn't content simply doing coloured macarons with flavoured ganaches and fillings...) You can also use freeze dried ingredients in cakes, and a variety of other doughs...

Edited by Mikeb19 (log)
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A sauce made with compost? Interesting, but in all honesty, this doesn't sound appealing to me.

Doc, I would also like to thank you for your reporting. It's incredibly informational for all of us who couldn't be there.

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A sauce made with compost? Interesting, but in all honesty, this doesn't sound appealing to me.

Doc, I would also like to thank you for your reporting. It's incredibly informational for all of us who couldn't be there.

I have to agree. It doesn't sound very appealing, but I would try it with an open mind. I had Joan Roca's oyster with distilled earth and found it to be very good, though that isn't intuitive either. nevertheless, I doubt that this would ever catch on in more than a small handful of restaurants.

I'm glad that this is able to provide something of interest to some people. It helps justify my being there as an amateur amongst all those great chefs and media professionals.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I just found this photo of Arzak's finished squab dish:

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John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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gallery_8158_5171_21814.jpgShannon Bennett of Vue de Monde in melbourne, Australia was up next with his uniquely theatrical cuisine was up next with a presentation entitled Improv Theatre: Dishes Born from Quick Inspirations. Theater has always been an element of fine dining whether it was old-world style table-side finishing of dishes to contemporary open kitchens and bar-seating in front of restaurants. Bennett is a showman with his cooking, adding modern theatricality to his cuisine based on good flavor. He focused in this demonstration on the preparation of a specific dish, "5 Minute Bouillabaisse with Toro Tartare, Buffalo Milk Skin and Aromatic Herbs." The title of this is deceptively simple. Though the actual cooking time is brief, the prep time is probably quite lengthy.

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A Cona pot used to make the bouillabaisse

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The Cona pot set up and ready for action

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Setting up the Cona for the infusion. Bennette added crayfish bones, shaved fennel, shallots, tomato puree, carrot, tarragon, basil, thyme, celery leaves, crayfish antennae and spies to the top bowl.

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Mussdel stock was poured ino the lower boowl.

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Beginning assembly of the plate with toro tartare

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Heat was applied to the mussel stock

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The Cona pot wsa placed over the stock. s the stock heated a vacuum was created forcing the stock up into the top bowl where it was infused by the ingredients there.

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The vacuum was broken and the infused stock returned to the bottom pot.

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Buffalo milk skin had been applie over the toro, rouille dots were placed on the skin and covered with baby basil shoots and Chef Bennett poured the infused stock over the dish.

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The final plate: 5 Minute Bouillabaisse with Toro tartare, Buffalo Milk Skin and Aromatic Herbs. I tasted the infused stock backstage. It was delicious.

Edited by docsconz (log)

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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