10 Key Learnings From Our Recent Culinary Congress 2018

The Food People

The Food People

Standard Supplier 19th July 2018

10 Key Learnings From Our Recent Culinary Congress 2018

This June we held our first Culinary Congress – bringing together 16 chefs over two days to explore their culinary influences, seeking to feed your creativity and to break your creative routine. As we said at the start of the first day, "routine can be dangerous, so we wanted to try something different and exciting." We take a look back at the event, and pull out 10 key take away points from the amalgamation of ideas, inspiration and innovation we encountered.

Boundless Cuisines

“Fusion means I'm not limited by cuisine, by a culture or by a religion, I can pick whichever flavours or ingredients I want from around the globe" – Anna Hansen, The Modern Pantry.

Nearly everyone was blending savoury with sweet and using ingredients, flavours and seasonings from other cuisines, countries and regions. For example, Atul Kochhar showed his quinoa-based interpretation of Indian street food Bhels (Bhelpuri) or Anna Hansen fusing liquorice, pandan, chilli and hibiscus in the form of a Baked Alaska. This gastronomic freedom means that rule-breaking reigns supreme. This is clearly hugely important to these chefs, as Tom Aikens revealed, “I try to send my chefs around the world as much as I can; it's great to see chefs' appetite for travel and learning getting bigger and bigger. As chefs, we're so much more willing to share things these days – recipes, methods, techniques etc. – because we all have different ways of cooking in our own countries."

Eye-First Food

“It's all about the colour – getting the colour in (as well as the flavour, of course!)," Claire Clarke MBE.

Many chefs spoke of visual appeal being as important as taste. They talked about using colour contrast, height, moulds, shape, the power of three and visual texture. 3 Michelin Star Chef Claire Clark reflected this new extreme visual vibrancy in her UK patisserie, using bright, clashing colours, glitter and flowers. Claire also spoke of giving the everyday a splash of artistry; we see this as a wider social and cultural force, and it is clearly a huge consideration for chefs as well.

Low and Slow

We saw Pierre Koffmann's olive oil confit salmon fillet, Tom Aikens' sous-vide egg yolks, David Carter marinating brisket to make pastrami and then cooking for 9-hours, Judy Joo maturing her kimchi for up to 2-years and Tim Anderson smoking eggs at 68 degrees with Lapsang tea. Low and slow cooking allows you to retain both flavour and structural integrity, instead of damaging the defining qualities of the raw ingredients.

Keep It Local & Seasonal

"Seasonality of the food is the most important thing for me – we're very, very, very lucky in this country to have such amazing produce. Working closely with, and being proud of the suppliers, was the founding principle for Tom's Kitchen; being proud of our seasonal produce," Tom Aikens, Tom's Kitchen.

Quenching a thirst by all for using unloved British, local and, crucially, seasonal ingredients were the Michelin starred Benares chef Atul Kochhar who used watercress in his dish, or the team at Silo who forage for Alexander (similar to lettuce), green tomatoes or mushrooms every Tuesday. Woodland bounty and florals were also used heavily by Claire Clark, including peach, rose and, of course, elderflower (with lemon) following the Royal Wedding in her sample delicacies. Even Ben Tish imports very little for his Moorish cooking – "with the focus on provenance and local, in terms of meat, the only thing I would import would be ingredients like Iberico pork which you simply can't replicate in the UK."

Finding Foundations

“Modern cuisines need to be anchored in the past – in terms of culture, techniques etc. - but [as a chef within that cuisine] you need to be open-minded and travel a lot. They're rooted in tradition, but looking to the future," Greg Marchand, Frenchie Restaurant.

All chefs without exception talked about only being able to innovate from a secure skill or knowledge base. For some, such as Tom Aikens, that was a classical or formal training in the world's most prestigous fine dining restaurants; for others, such as Tim Anderson, his deep knowledge came from living and travelling across Japan. With this skill and knowledge you can then innovate, challenge norms and break rules. As Tim says of his famous Brixton-inspired Curried Goat Ramen, "[it] is a Japanese dish that starts in China, and features a star that is a Caribbean dish based on a Sri Lankan recipe!"