In just a few hours the ICC will kick off another year at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City and, like last year, I will be attending. But this year will be a little different...
In July I had the honor of doing a tasting for StarChefs with the smart, sexy, vivacious, strong, opinionated, flirtatious and lively Antoinette Bruno. I had no idea what the tasting was for or about until it was seemingly over. And then the interviews began in earnest and I was being signed up for all sorts of things at the ICC in the fall.
No matter, fall was months away.
And then I heard a little rumour. I was being considered for a Rising Stars award. It was all happening really fast. October was getting busy even before September arrived.
The day I got the call from Star Chefs to say I had won the award I was also told I could tell no one. Top Secret news they said. I was bouncing with happiness but no one to understand why. The night before the photo shoot for all the award winners I was having dinner with Jenny McCoy, pastry chef at Craft, and Scott Hocker, Editor-inChief of TastingTable.com I couldn't hold it in any longer-- I had to tell someone! I leaned in and asked if I could share an off-the-record piece of news just between us? We had been dishing some other industry gossip and I knew my sealed envelope news was safe with them.
"I won a Star Chefs Rising Chefs Award and--"
And Jenny turned to me and exclaimed, "ME TOO!"
Neither one of us knew who any of the other winners were, and we wouldn't until the next day.
The next day we learned what was expected of us because of the award.
We, all the NYC 2011 Rising Chefs Award Winners, will all sit on a panel tomorrow morning, 10-11 am called How To Make It. And that night some of the best chefs in NYC will "cook for us. We get to dress up, invite our significant other and Mentor and relax a bit.
Monday morning, 9-10am, I'm sitting on a panel with Amanda Hesser of Food52.com, Regina Varolli of Huffington Post, Dave McCue of SubscribeMail.com and Antoinette Bruno of Star Chefs called How To Build A Better Digital Mousetrap.
Tuesday night all of us will present our "winning dish" in miniature, to about 600 chefs, press & industry folks. Expect 2-3 "thimble" mini 3 - 1 Cream Pies from us at Peels. Yeah, only 600. Minaiture. Petit Four size.
I am especially looking forward to Hillary Sterling's gnocchi, Jesse Schenker's carpaccio, Adam Schop's Peruvian Chicken and Hooni Kim's spicy pork.
That very same night we will receive our award. Our "Mentor" will present us with it. I have invited the incredible Claudia Fleming to give me mine. No other pastry chef pushed me harder, got under my skin farther, inspired me more.
If you're in the business, no matter just starting out or have been cooking so long you feel like a dinosaur, the ICC is for you. Last year I won a 3 day pass by filling out one of the many Star Chefs industry surveys they send when you sign up for their newsletter. This year Pastry Chefs can go for a fraction of the price-- $199 for 3 days! It's an overwhelmong, inspiring, intense three days.
Last year I happened upon a demo by Patrice Demers, who thoughtfully approached me, knowing who I was because of eggbeater. He introduced us to Ice Cider and made desserts so gorgeous and at the same time intensely flavored and delicious, I had tears in my eyes and a new friend & colleague when I walked away.
The International Chefs Congress hosts some of the best chefs in the USA and world and because it's not open to the general public we can let our guard down and meet our heros, heroines, future and past mentors and all the cooks in between.
This year you'll find me pinching myself as I watch Pierre Herme make Macaron, hugging tight chefs I haven't seen since last year, catching up with colleagues I don't see enough because we're all too busy in our own kitchens, asking questions of panelists and answering questions posed to me.
I didn't win this award alone. I am the accumulation of all who have taught me. I am as strong as my team. I am continually awed and honored. I am humbled daily. I practice a craft whose depth is beyond measure. I show up every day and attempt to be better than I was the day before. I ask as many questions as I answer.
Thank you to all of you who participated in giving me the 2011 New York City Rising Star Chef 'Community Chef' Award. You know who you are, especially you Mourad Lahlou & Pichet Ong. My admiration, appreciation and love to you both. I hope I can continue to honor the award, the duty, the camaraderie the award merits.
It is my goal to be a chef among chefs. But Chef is not the end of a sentence, it is not a place we arrive. It, like the craft we practice, is a verb, like love.