Monday, April 11, 2011

Event: CIA Panel Discussion

The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) recently had a panel discussion to celebrate Paul Bocuse as the Chef of the Century. Led by the CIA president, Tim Ryan, the panel was a collection of some of the most esteemed chefs of this generation. It was both an honor and an education to be able to listen to these masters of their crafts.

The honoree, Paul Bocuse, is this unassuming French man that changed the world of fine dining. In line with 11 generations of chefs within his family, Paul set out to change the world with his nouveau French cuisine. Respected as a innovator, the panel of chefs were also really humbled with this man's dedication to his family, his friends, and his home (Lyon, France) throughout his career.

Prior to the nouveau food revolution, most establishments served platters of food that waiters would plate tableside. However, Chef Paul Bocuse and his fellow chefs at the time changed all that. From kitchen to table, the food was fully plated representing the chef's true inspiration in not only taste but also presentation. Nouveau cuisine really told a story about the chef instead of being just about the food. Though Chef Bocuse quipped, "Nouveau cuisine is about nothing on the plate, and everything on the bill".
The esteemed chefs that sat on the panel with Paul Bocuse were no slackers themselves. Jerome Bocuse, Paul's son, was being celebrated as CIA Alumnus of the Year. Daniel Boulud was awarded as CIA Alumnus of the Century. And Thomas Keller was being recognized for being named Chevalier from the French Legion of Honor.
One of the recurring themes in the evening was the importance of tradition. This tradition speaks about the respect of ones product because "without good ingredients, chefs are nothing", as simply put by Thomas Keller. The panel also stressed the tradition of the cooking technique. Too often they find new chefs in the field that too comfortable with machines with exact thermometers and times. Chefs need to know how to feel their food again.
Leaving the discussion left me with a high of happiness, admiration, and aspiration. It was truly an honor for me. I learned a lot that day and also came away with my own cooking philosophy reassured. You see, I'm more of a traditionalist. Though I'm of no caliber of these chefs, I'm trying to improve my own skills. I want to be able to see, touch, smell, hear, and taste my food as it's cooking. The technology out there right now is truly innovative and I wouldn't want to see it disappear. However, I think it's really important to know the fundamentals first. And that's what I'm striving for.

Afterward, I enjoyed the packed lunch that the CIA and the Marriot Marquis provided. The first thing I tried was the marinated Israeli couscous. The pasta was really good. Perfectly al dente but tossed lightly with chopped vegetables and dressed with a vinaigrette.
The sandwich that was offered along with the couscous was roasted vegetables. This was surprisingly better than I thought it would be. The vegetables had a nice texture and flavor that complemented the soft bread really well. This is a good example of how using good ingredients, your product will also be good.
Here's a close look. It included roasted red pepper, summer squash, and fresh arugula. There was also a spread on the bread but I'm not sure what it was.
The snack was a bag of Terra chips. Terra is known for using different root vegetables for chips. This variety bag had sweet potato, taro, parsnip, batata, and yuca. Fried and salted, these chips offer more natural flavors and textures than regular potato chips.
And a nice, ripe Washington apple. Crisp and sweet, this was a good contrast to the bag of chips.
For dessert, 3 chocolate cookies were baked in house by the Marriot Marquis.
Pastry Chef Steve Evans made these gluten free cookies especially for this event.
Yes, you read that right. These were gluten free cookies. So how were they? Freaking delicious! They tasted more like brownies or cake but you couldn't even tell there wasn't any gluten ingredients in it. Truly a fantastic feat.
After this great day, I was a happy person all day. Thanks to the Feisty Foodie and the CIA for invited me.

And so I'll end this post with some funny/inspirational quotes from Paul Bocuse.

Paul Bocuse is the only chef to have participated in Louie (like France's Playboy).

So you still live in the same room that you were born in. What have you changed?
"The sheets."

"At one time, I was traveling a lot and never in my restaurant. However, there are chefs in their restaurants all the time but doesn't mean it's any good."

"There's only one cuisine for me. The good one."

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