Worlds of Flavor 2013
Copenhagen, Tokyo, Paris, Mexico City, Sydney, New York, Istanbul, Lima, Singapore, Barcelona, San Francisco, London—when thinking about menu concepts, dishes, and flavor profiles, we increasingly turn our adventurous palates to multiple centers of global influence to complement the best of local sourcing and seasonal ingredients. Chefs visit each other's kitchens both literally and virtually, making use of airplanes and social media interchangeably to gain access to other food cultures and culinary spaces, in turn sharing everything from photos to fragments of their creative process with their colleagues, customers, and the media.
In this 16th edition of The Culinary Institute of America's Worlds of Flavor® International Conference & Festival, we will use four intersecting thematic areas—Millennial Appetites, Information Technology, Creativity, and Culinary Science—to discover how our most inspired chefs leverage change and global touch points to build community and success around their culinary vision.
Join chefs and culinary experts who include Nathan Myhrvold, author of Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking; Thomas Keller, who will share what continues to inspire his creativity process at the French Laundry, per se, and his Bouchon and other restaurants; Lisa Abend, Spain correspondent for Time; Stuart Brioza, chef-owner of State Bird Provisions in San Francisco, winner of the 2013 James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant; André Chiang, whose Restaurant André in Singapore is no. 5 on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list 2013; Florence Fabricant, food and restaurant columnist for the New York Times; Alexandre Gauthier, who represents a new generation of French cooking with La Grenouillère, his restaurant in the north of France; Peter Gilmore, whose nature-inspired cuisine has made Quay in Sydney, Australia, one of the most acclaimed restaurants in the world; Virgilio Martinez, whose Central restaurants in Lima and London showcase the next wave of Latin cuisine and a inspiration deeply rooted in Peru’s landscape; Claus Meyer, who launched the New Nordic cuisine movement and was a founder of Noma, and is now working on creating a similar movement in Bolivia; Josep Roca, who handles the extensive wine and beverage program of El Celler de Can Roca, no.1 in the 2013 World’s Best Restaurants list; and Kunio Tokuoka, whose restaurant Kitcho, in Kyoto is widely recognized as one of the world’s finest examples of Japanese cuisine. Click here for a full list of presenters.
Creative Disruption: Millennial Appetites and the Future of Dining
Millennials—youth and younger adults in the generation born between 1981 and 2000—have come of age in a time of great culinary diversity. Their childhood dinners were as likely to include sushi as mac and cheese, while salsa became their condiment of choice. It’s a generation that dines out—a lot (at least for those who can afford it in this struggling economic recovery).
Their experienced palates demand variety in dining styles as well as flavors: white tablecloths still have their place, and it’s not rare to see the dining room of some of the world’s best restaurants filled with these young, adventurous diners who have cash to spare (and/or choose to spend their money on food and culinary experiences). But they also expect great food in less formal settings; a three-star experience can take place around a wooden counter at a restaurant like Brooklyn Fare. The world street food and food truck phenomena are tailor-made for this generation: often big flavors, quick, hand-held, fun, and high on value.
They watched the Food Network as much as cartoons and made their first step in the kitchen alongside the likes of Emeril or Bobby Flay; Top Chef winners and other food personalities have become their rock stars. They look for dining inspiration on Twitter, Yelp, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest, and share their own reviews and photos with friends and strangers alike on those sites. Millennials can be a fickle audience, attracted to the latest of just about everything, from technology to chefs.
Millennials are the most educated and the most diverse generation in terms of attitudes and appetites; they grew up with expanded horizons and unobstructed potentials. They have moved far beyond the old “day part” menu framework of our industry to become a generation of 24/7 snackers and flavor seekers.
They also care about social responsibility, and like to think about their food choices in that context. Millennials want to feel good about what they purchase, seeking out sustainable, local foods to complement their organic personal care products and fair-trade clothes. They demand corporate transparency, and expect answers to all their food sourcing questions—along with locations of the nearest coffeehouses—from their favorite apps.
As we gather for Kitchens Connected, we’ll ask: how should we cook for this hungry, curious generation rich in food knowledge and aspiration? How do we create dining concepts that attract their overly informed palates and satisfy their closely held values? What, more broadly, does the latest research tell us about the evolving Millennial world view of food?
And finally, we’ll explore how the joining of information technology, culinary science, and the imperatives of creativity—an already lively intersection—takes an “on-steroids” turn when we factor in the likely impact of Millennials on our industry, and on food in America, in coming years.
“Worlds of Flavor 2010 was a conference that will find a place in history for Japanese cuisine. With 54 leading chefs from Japan teaching and sharing skills and philosophy, the conference was educational and impacting. It also was a great experience for participating chefs, as they have learned from teaching to others about their cuisine.”
Chef-Owner, Kikunoi Honten, Kikunoi Akasaka, and Kikunoi Roan, Japan
Information Technology: Kitchens Connected, Connected Chefs
To be a chef today means to be plugged in—to local communities, national networks, and global conversations. Chefs in Spain look to the kitchens of Tokyo and Kyoto as part of re-imagining their regional traditions. Chefs from New York to California exchange ideas over the web as they re-invent Moroccan and Southeast Asian flavors. In Lima and Mexico City, chefs from Latin America and beyond gather at international conferences and forge new professional bonds that expand the creative space in which they work. And within major metro areas, chefs reach deeper into local, ethnic, and immigrant neighborhoods in pursuit of menu innovation.
Global and regional chef connections often result in an exchange of flavor insights, but such connections might also be more focused on sharing techniques—or something less tangible. The New Nordic Cuisine movement is showing chefs around the world that there is more to discover in our own regions if we are willing to look beyond the familiar. Increasingly, culinary philosophies are being incubated in highly personal, globally conscious ways that could only happen in this current, hyper-connected age of information and social networking technologies. A single YouTube video or real-time webcast, transporting us to a restaurant or village kitchen thousands of miles away, can alter the culinary aspirations of a chef in an instant.
But beyond the mind and imagination of the chef, information technologies are changing foodservice in profound ways. Whereas previously, influential food critics at city and national publications controlled the destiny of ambitious chefs and restaurants, chefs today can build their own communities of support. A four-star review from the New York Times or a top Michelin rating still yields considerable weight in a restaurant’s ability to attract and retain customers, but they are no longer the only game in town. Crowd-sourced reviews from Yelp, Zagat, and others—along with social media juggernauts like Twitter and Facebook and the commenting sections of blogs—have undercut the established critics who used to have the power to make or break a restaurant.
Equally important, technology has shortened distances between chefs and their customers, who can now communicate directly with those diners without media or public relations intermediaries. From fine dining to fast casual and campus dining, this gives operators an unprecedented opportunity to directly build on customer insights, share culinary vision, and tell the stories of the people behind the scenes—from cooks to trusted growers—that shape the food experience every day.
In terms of driving innovation and supporting creativity, this evolution in information technology is vital for chefs and operators. Not having to court the favor of high-profile critics means not having to skew one’s cooking or dining concepts to the expectations of a small handful of gatekeepers.
Technology has also given chefs the power to better control their reservation systems, with some restaurants, such as Grant Achatz’s Next in Chicago, selling tickets rather than taking reservations. Under that system, diners pre-pay for their meal, the way they do when buying theater or concert tickets. Mobile devices, like the iPad and other tablets, have allowed restaurants and hotels to offer wine lists and service menus that are extremely detailed and updated in real time, for example, and place the full power of selection in the customers’ hands—literally.
Kitchens Connected will explore the thinking and approaches of leading chefs around the world as they seize opportunities inherent in our information technology revolution to create new networks of collaboration and support, and new pathways of inspiration and expression. We’ll hear stories about riffs on exchange—and taste the results—from chefs who draw on global connections and eclectic influences in their search for critical and commercial success.
"Worlds of Flavor is one of the most impressive food conferences I have been to. Whatever the theme, the ability of the CIA to gather so many great chefs and food experts together to demonstrate dishes or discuss relevant topics makes it an essential event for anyone interested in food, from a practical and/or theoretical point of view. I am honored to have been part of it in the past, and I am thrilled to be part of it this year."
Author and Journalist, England
Creativity: Art & Process
Being creative goes beyond the gathering of information and networking. Surely one needs to have all of his or her senses wide open, but creativity really starts with openness of mind and curiosity of spirit. For too long in our industry, we ranked the world’s cuisines, prescribed narrow routes to culinary prestige and excellence, and were too comfortable in simply passing on received wisdom about flavor development, culinary techniques, and meal and menu format.
But today, the best of professional cooking from London to New York and Chicago to Singapore is all about possibility—questioning everything while still respecting tradition. That is the imperative of research, and the regular result of travel.
True creativity isn’t always about the new, but it could arguably be about the better—or at least achieving singular re-interpretation of flavors and dishes that deeply resonate with diners.
In a culinary world that now thinks of Shanghai and São Paolo as being as close as Los Angeles, or fish sauce and kimchi as potentially mainstream as olive oil and masa, the quest for creativity begs the question of how one develops culinary identity. If the whole world is ours for the taking, how do we balance restraint, coherence, and adventure all in the same menu—or the same dish? How do we prevent “signature” from becoming confusion? What’s the fine line between old/bad “fusion” and new/good “mash-ups”?
And, more simply, with respect to both flavor and technique, when do brilliance, high-design, and the element of surprise start to lose out if the results are not delicious?
Creativity in casual dining, multi-unit operations and institutional foodservice means something very different than in fine dining. At lower menu price points, especially those that encourage everyday dining, creativity with smaller protein portions, flavor strategies that effectively bridge the new and the familiar, “stealth health” techniques, and in general, doing less with more, is often the challenge. And in all foodservice settings—high and low—creativity is as much welcome on the design, beverage, and hospitality fronts as it is in the food and cooking.
At Kitchens Connected, chefs from some of the world’s top kitchens will invite us into their creative process, sharing how they conduct research and exchange ideas with their peers around the world—whether they speak the same language or not—and carve out time and space to develop new dishes, and even new techniques. We will discuss strategies for innovation and flavor development appropriate to a variety of foodservice sectors, and open our minds as much as our palates to new approaches to discovery and creativity.
Culinary Science: Beyond Foam & Spherification
Food, science, and the culinary arts are intersecting more than ever in the 21st century, as the profession of the chef continues to evolve. From the impact of Ferran Adria’s elBulli legacy to the publication of the groundbreaking Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking in 2011, chefs today increasingly understand the opportunities presented by a methodical approach to the creative and cooking processes.
A number of restaurants around the world have opened test kitchens to expand their innovation efforts beyond the limited time afforded in the kitchen after service, hiring staff who have a specific research mandate and often collaborate with scientists, food scholars, designers, or anthropologists to look at both the history and the potential evolution of dishes relevant to their operations.
As a result, science is shedding its often sterile reputation and chefs are coming to understand that use of the scientific process does not mean producing unnatural foods. To the contrary, some of the most ardent locavore chefs grasp what science and a methodological approach can do to improve, for instance, soil quality and production methods and thus yield more flavorful raw ingredients.
If the fruits of culinary science have dazzled diners in top, international restaurants in recent years, the real potential of the field is to dramatically advance what’s possible in terms of quality, freshness and differentiation in volume foodservice. From multi-unit restaurants to campus dining and hospital foodservice, culinary science and applied technology have the potential to transform these sectors in the years ahead. In an era of prolonged economic constraints and lowered expectations, culinary science—in the hands of talented chefs—can bring the excitement of fine dining to casual price points.
Kitchens Connected will explore this potential of culinary science to advance our industry, and thereby help secure its future. We will consider both newly invented technologies as well as very ancient ones—such as fire and roasting—that are getting a fresh look. We’ll peer into the future of menu R&D, examine potential synergies between foodservice and CPG corporate R& D, and discover the “kitchen of the future” from varied sector viewpoints. And we’ll ask, from food safety to flavor development to labor strategies: how can culinary science make us better chefs and operators?
“[In 2006], The Culinary Institute of America staged what must have been the largest, and certainly most spectacular, conference ever held in the United States on Spanish gastronomy. We—my chef colleagues and I—have traveled all over the world, and we have never, ever had such an extraordinary experience as this, showcasing the best of Spanish traditions as well as our new spirit of discovery, creativity, and invention.”
Chef-Owner, elBulli and elBulli Foundation, Spain