Chefs from across the country recently convened for three days of networking, chef demonstrations, and talking trends at the eighth annual StarChefs.com International Chefs Congress in New York City.
Under the banner of “Guts and Glory, Leaving It All on the Line,” more than 3,000 participants gathered at Pier 57 to taste, learn, and discover new technology, cooking methods, and equipment.
“The biggest reason chefs come is to learn, connect with their peers, and stay on top of trends,” says Antoinette Bruno, editor in chief and chief executive of StarChefs.com.
Several trends were front and center at the Congress, which brought together suppliers, chefs, and industry insiders.
“There is a great buzz and dynamic here,” says Mary Humann, an industry consultant and president of The Humann Factor. “The show brings in a lot of chefs who are really interested in new products.
In her opening remarks Bruno outlined proprietary research from the 2013 Culinary Trends Report, detailing five areas that are trending across the industry.
“In the New Food Dream, chefs can ply their skills in any context, globally, regionally, rurally, casually, in retail, or even roadside shacks,” says Bruno. “Fine dining is no longer the final frontier. Success exists now in any incarnation you can dream up.”
Other trends Bruno elaborated on include the proliferation of smoking and barbecue, the globalization of the culinary community, boundary-breaking pastry chefs, and the über beverage professional, where a thriving cocktail movement isn’t about the next trend but rather “It’s about the next business model. Bartenders have developed spirit and drink-centric bars; they’re exploring historic eras; they’re spinning into the centrifuge-future.”
“Cocktails are becoming unbelievably complex,” says attendee Joshua Rosen, chef owner of Charm School Chocolates in Baltimore. “A lot of former chefs are venturing from food into drink and they are more intensely focused on ingredients, looking for the best of the best.”
Melissa Kelly, an award-winning chef with restaurants in Maine, Florida, and Arizona, says she has noticed there is action afoot when it comes to desserts. “I am noticing a lot more savory ingredients with desserts, things like herbal infusions and spicy ingredients. There is so much more creativity in those areas.”
Kenny Magana, a research and development chef for Sweet Streets, agrees. “Pastry chefs are really becoming trendsetters with the combinations of sweet and savory. That is where the pastry world wants to go.”
A variety of chef demos ranging from Building a Cocktail Legacy to Performance Art and Pastry Imagination took main stage amidst tastings at vendor booths and pop-up restaurants onsite from such popular suppliers as Australian Beef.
“Whether you’re talking about something as seemingly simple and unlikely as juicing, or defining your role in an unpredictable economic climate, there is one underlying theme here: Guts,” Bruno told attendees.
“The guts to follow through on your vision, to attempt a new flavor, trade the old ways in or, emphatically champion them. It’s about pushing ahead.”