Research Chefs Meeting Preview: Return to the Big Easy
A reborn New Orleans plays host to the Research Chefs Assn. Culinology conference, March 8-11.
Although the Big Easy is still on the comeback from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina a year and a half ago, the city is benefiting from a revived interest in it as one of the best places in American to gather food experts of all stripes. The annual Research Chefs Assn. conference and trade show, to be held a mere two weeks after Mardis Gras, promises to continue the celebration of joie de vivre.
This year's annual Research Chefs Assn. conference and trade show will be held in New Orleans, March 8-11.
Fittingly, the theme for this year’s March 8-11 gathering is “Culinology on the rise.”
Centered at the Hilton Riverside Hotel, more than 1,000 U.S. and international attendees are expected this year. The tradeshow portion, featuring more than 120 exhibitors, will occur March 9 noon-5 p.m. at the nearby Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in Hall B.
The show will open with keynoter Douglas Brooks, president and CEO of Brinker International, Dallas. The 30-year-old Brinker company owns a $4 billion (annual sales) national restaurant conglomerate that includes such casual dining leaders as Chili's Grill & Bar, Romano's Macaroni Grill, On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina and Maggiano's Little Italy.
General sessions will be diverse and informative, with some appropriate local flavor, beginning with “The evolution of Cajun and Creole cuisine.” This panel session will be moderated by Michael Batterberry, founding editor and publisher of Food Arts magazine.
John Folse, former RCA president and owner of John Folse & Co., will host “Louisiana's story through culture and cuisine.” With roots that plumb deep into the RCA and even deeper into New Orleans, Chef Folse will bring his insight into the centuries-old <I>pas de deux</I> of the region’s unique marriage between food and culture.
Of the breakout sessions, you’ll want to hit “Lipids: The skinny on dietary fats.” The shift away from trans fats means challenges to processors and restaurateurs that will begin at the bench. Presented by Tom Tiffany and Brian Yager of Decatur, Ill.-based ADM Co., the session will cover basic structures and functions of lipids, the impact of fatty acid compositions and new technologies for lipids substitutions in trans-free applications.
Professional development sessions not to be missed include “Just tell me what you want: How chefs and scientists can understand each other better,” focusing on how to better navigate the waters of communication between culinarians and scientists in the workplace. This session is presented by Jonathan Griebel Sr., food technologist at General Mills Inc., and Christopher Keegan, research chef for Degussa Flavors & Fruit Systems.
Lest one forget so much of New Orleans’ culinary roots are African, it’s worth taking in “A taste of Africa: Who we are and why we eat what we eat,” by Rochelle Schaetzl of Nando’s Chickenland.
Can one swim upstream toward conformity? That question is to be answered in “Working inside the box: Creativity within strategic parameters,” a panel session moderated by Steven Goldstein of FOODthinque, the New York-based strategy development group for retail and foodservice manufacturers and multi-unit operations.
Surfing the other side of conformity are two promising sessions: “Baking myth busters,” by Klaus Tenbergen from California State University at Fresno, Jeffrey Cousminer of Firmenich Inc. and Dolf De Rovira of Flavor Dynamics Inc.; and “Counterintuitive culinary systems and methods,” a session by forward-thinking culinologist and chef-provocateur (can you say “photosushi?”) Homaro Cantu of Moto Restaurant in Chicago.
Finally, dessert … that is, "The evolution of dessert: Experiential cuisine,” presented by Will Goldfarb of Room 4 Dessert, New York. Goldfarb, known for his cutting-edge creations, will show us what lies beyond the edges of the end-of-dinner experience.
Chef/Culinary Center Profiles
Edlong Dairy Flavors Corp.
Harold Plein is the corporate chef at Edlong Dairy Flavors. Founded in 1914, the company is well-known for its extensive line of concentrated dairy flavors which includes many varied profiles of cheese, butter, milk & cream, cultured, sweet dairy and functional dairy flavors.
Edlong utilizes the team approach when serving customer needs, and Chef Harold lends his expertise to the sales, marketing, R&D and technical solutions groups. He is a summa cum laude graduate of Chicago’s Northeastern Illinois University and holds an additional degree in applied science and culinary arts from Kendall College, Chicago. He is a member of the Research Chefs Assn., the Institute of Food Technologists and the American Culinary Federation.
Plein’s experience involves three years with the Keebler Co. as a product development technician prior to a six year tour with the Springfield, Mo.-based Turover/Straus Group as a “techno-culinary” associate specializing in new product development. Since joining Edlong in 2002, Chef Harold has worked closely with product developers and chefs both domestically and globally.