Mark & I have just returned from the International Association of Culinary Professionals’ annual conference and I am profoundly moved, inspired and changed by the people and plates that I met along the way. From the Denver’s mayor to fellow bloggers, cookbook authors, teachers and travelers that I had lunch with everyday, from as far away as Sweden and as near as Hoboken, each person I met was kind, committed and fascinated by the food we all eat.
This year’s theme was “Sustainability” and many of the speakers that I was audience to took their approach to a definition. The one I found most compelling was “Finding a way to live off the Earth’s interest, and not its capital,” as defined by Fred Kirschenmann, Ph. D., President of Stone Barns, organic farmer, Distinguished Fellow of the Leopold Center at Iowa State university and IACP scholar-in-residence.
I had the priveldge of hearing Dan Barber, chef/owner of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, speak lovingly of Eduardo Souza, a natural foie gras producer in southwestern Spain. Souza produces foie gras by allow the ducks to follow the natural gorging instinct initiated by the migration cycle, but his geese never evacuate. In fact, they attract wild geese to come and stay. Eduardo electrifies only the outside of the fences, to keep predators out. The geese are free to go, but they don’t. To hear Mr. Barber tell the story of passion, love and sacrifice brought tears to my eyes, like a perfect musical chord or the happy ending of a romantic story.
Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz, also from Spain, said “The new exotic is what’s local.” Through his translator, he talked about the global commitment we all must make – and that shopping at the farmer’s market isn’t enough, albeit a good start.
Whole Foods co-president and COO Walter Robb cited the Great Law of the Iroquois: “In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation… even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine.”
There was some rumbling of perceived hypocrisy in the audience, but if we are realistic, isn’t mainstream America’s choice to buy from Whole Foods better than any non-sustainable, non-organic counterpart? According to this report from the Hartman Group, 67% of consumers buy products based on concerns about the environment or social well being, at least some of the time, although I heard that the latest figure is as high as 80%.
So change is afoot and we can be very academic about it. (Seriously, did I just quote a statistic??) Or, we can enjoy the fruits of labor of like-minded farmers, chefs and vintners.
For instance, “green” wine is readily available in every price point from every wine-producing country, and I had the pleasure of tasting several, at 8:30 in the morning with Marguerite Thomas, travel editor at The Wine News and who writes a monthly column called The Intrepid Gastronome for the LA Times International Syndicate. A few nights before, we had dinner together and Marguerite lamented the archaic blue laws that prevent wine delivery to a hotel. Dinner was at the fabulous Lola Mexican Bistro in the Highlands neighborhood of Denver.
Interesting how a group of like-minded individuals gathered for dinner could be so vastly different in temperament and manners. The very proper Marguerite, world-traveling gastonome and member of Les Dames d’Escoffier among other highly refined accolades, seated next to a effervescent turkey marketer from Saskatoon who knew how to have a good time and choose the perfect breast.
Also, I have to thank Chef Jen Jasinski and her general manager Beth Gruitch-Verucchi at Rioja Restaurant. Our dining experience was so flawless, I am planning an entire post dedicated to an interview with these two icons of sustainability and passionate palate.
Look forward also to Mark’s account of our tour of Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey Distillery. (Ben: Watch your mailbox! We didn’t forget!!)
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Finally, there are going to be some technical upgrades to the site and if you want me to geek out, drop me an email and I’ll let you know what I have planned post-graduation from culinary school which is on May 5th.
Keep cooking and keep reading and remember that our planet and our palate’s futures are in the making, so choose your ingredients accordingly.