Posted on April 5, 2009

IACP Blog: Chefs make the sustainable food world go ’round

Open-to-the-public blog details gathering of community of chefs

“Chefs are critical to the sustainable food movement.”

I heard Ed Cassano, deputy director, Future of the Oceans for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, utter those words a couple of weeks ago during a conference at the International Boston Seafood Show.

Tuesday, March 31

It’s Tuesday, I’m in Denver attending the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) 31st international conference, and it’s encouraging to see Ed’s sentiment in action.

The IACP’s conference – offering everything from master classes to educational seminars, local tours to networking receptions – underscores that commitment from the foodservice sector. The conference theme: "Pioneering a Sustainable World."

I started the weeklong journey in nearby Boulder, Colo., for an IACP tour at Pastures of Plenty Farm, an organic farm owned by husband and wife duo Lyle Davis and Sylvia Tawse.

Lyle is a well-known chef/farmer in the region (who started the original Alfalfa’s natural food market in Boulder). Sylvia is this year’s host committee chair of the IACP conference, and founder of The Fresh Ideas Group (FIG).

After rushing to get the daily Sustainable Food News newsletter out (that always happens), I sped over to Pastures of Plenty, and their 1887 farm house, for a regional, New Mexican-inspired meal.

Despite the rush, I was still the first one there (that usually happens, too).

Lyle and Chef Hugo Matheson, of nationally acclaimed restaurant The Kitchen Café, were already in the kitchen cooking.

Chef Hugo Matheson in the kitchen at Pastures of Plenty

Soon after, about a dozen IACP members hailing from far flung place like Italy, Japan, Sweden, the Netherlands and throughout North America.

Sylvia whipped up some tasty Chimayo cocktails, and we all introduced ourselves. Within what seemed minutes, the scene was more akin to a family reunion.

After a quick tour of the farm and its operations, we headed back into the rustic farmhouse to eat.

On the menu was New Mexican green chili made with naturally raised pork from local (former conventional) farmer John Long in Eton, Colo., and Hot Anaheim green chiles packed in Pueblo, Colo.

Sylvia ladels out steaming bowls of green chili with just enough bite as Hiroko Sugiyama looks on

Accompanying the chili was a heaping bowl of calabacitas, a salad made of baby, summer squash, onions, garlic, thyme and Mexican crema.

As we seated ourselves, Sylvia was quick to point out that much of what the IACP conference is setting out to do, was being executed in her own kitchen.

"We are fulfilling the mission and creating community," she said. 

Eating Lyle’s green chili with pork at Pastures of Plenty

As we sopped up the last remnants of chili from our bowls with warm tortillas, a delivery of Lion’s mane and shitaki mushrooms showed up.

The mushrooms will be lightly battered and served at the IACP reception Wednesday evening.

Lyle, Sylvia and Hugo check out the mushrooms

After the repast, we drove over to nearby Heil Ranch, Boulder County’s largest open space mountain park to burn some calories hiking.

The crew at the top of (what seemed) a pretty steep hike

Following the afternoon hike, we all reconvened around the community table at Chef Matheson’s restaurant on Pearl Street for a family-style dinner featuring ingredients from local Boulder farms and ranches.

  

Chef Matheson talks with Susan Payne Dobbs and Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen during dinner

 The meal at The Kitchen featured food and drink from local producers and artisans as well as some around the country.

 

Cheeses, including cave-aged Marisa made from sheep’s milk and four-month aged blue cheese from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont…

Chef Matheson also served up a delicious farm-raised, whole striped bass from southern Colorado and mussels from Maine…

Other dishes included naturally raised chicken from Wisdom Farm, lamb sausage from Fox Fire Farms, and potatoes from Monroe Farm, all in the area.

We were also served the first greens of the season. Matheson received his first 80 pounds of greens just this week from a local grower using hoop houses.

Wednesday, April 1

Wednesday started with the threat of snow for Denver (and the posting of an April Fools article on SFN that I would soon regret.)

But for many of the nearly 800 attendees at the IACP conference – spending the day under the Sheraton downtown hotel shuffling between cooking demos, eating plenty of healthy and tasty foods at breakfast and lunch, and learning more about sustainability in foodservice at educational workshops – brushing off the angry springtime weather was easy.

Early Wednesday, a workshop titled “The Science Behind Sustainability — Organic, Local, Green…What’s Nutrition Got to Do With It?” kicked off the series of educational seminars.

The panelists included Cathryn Olchowy, culinary director, at the Rice-Sterling Group and Melinda Hemmelgarn, nutrition advocate and columnist, who are busy tracking the science behind sustainability from the consumer to the check-out counter.

“The color green is a shortcut for good,” Hemmelgarn told the crowd, pointing to the increased use of green imagery from food marketers.

However, she pointed out the pitfalls of what is commonly referred to as “greenwashing.”

Panelists Olchowy and Hemmelgarn

Hemmelgarn cited Subway’s Eat Fresh slogan, and the company’s use of tomatoes picked by poor Florida workers, as an example.

“There is blood on those tomatoes,” she said. “You should see how these people (tomato pickers) live.”

She also pointed to the contradiction apparently inherent in the production of Fiji bottled water as one third of the island nation’s residents lack access to clean drinking water.

“Good food,” she said, “is healthy, green, fair foods that are nutritious, taste great, grown without harming the environment, produced humanely and accessible to all.”

She advised chefs and consumers to ask key questions when seeking “true, good, green food.”

Where does the food come from? Who produced it (and under what conditions? And what is in or on it?

The bottom line, Hemmelgarn said, is that the buck can stop with the consumer by “voting with their forks.”

At noon, the buffet lunch included chicken and brisket and a host of side dishes

The afternoon conference was called Sustainability in a Mainstream World: A Farm-to-Plate Perspective on Sustainability Practices and Communication.

Moderated by Allison Beadle of public relations firm Fleishman-Hillard, Inc., two of the conference panelists were Mark Retzloff, chairman of Aurora Organic Dairy, the nation’s largest private label organic milk producer, and Kim Essex from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

Essex said the U.S. beef production system is a “model production system for beef” for the rest of the world.

A question from one attendee asked how can beef production be sustainable when some feedlots hold thousands of cows “standing in their own feces.”

Essex defended her association’s ranchers from the widely-acknowledged reality that the many of these feedlots are factory farms.

“Cattle ranching is a family business,” Essex said. “And, while many think that the vast majority of feedlots are factories. They are nothing of the sort.”

Retzloff said the fact that U.S. producers feed their cattle grain for the most part, and European producers allow their cattle to roam and feed on grass. American consumers have long been used to the taste and flavor of grain-fed steaks, which are touted for its marbling.

Mark Retzloff, chairman of Aurora Organic Dairy

“If we can change taste and flavor, then we can change production practices,” Retzloff said. “I’m not going to defend one way or the other. Environmentalism has never been a fad for farmers. They are the original environmentalists.”

Regarding sustainability, Essex said the U.S. beef production system should not shoulder all the blame for the conclusions of a 2006 United Nations report, which said the livestock sector is responsible for nearly one-fifth of global greenhouse gases.

Essex said the culprits are mostly overseas in the top beef producing countries of India and Brazil.

“We need to understand that all [beef] operations can be done sustainably,” she said. “Conventionally grown beef is sustainable. Organic [beef production] can be sustainable and grass-fed beef can be sustainable. I don’t think it should be a distinction to be made.”

While the debate continued, other attendees wafted into the ballroom to watch "Kids in the Kitchen."

 The gold medal-winning Durango ProStart Team

This culinary competition highlighted Denver teens from Colorado’s top ProStart high school cooking team, which demonstrated its winning three-course meal in just an hour.

ProStart is a program of the National Restaurant Association that teaches high school students culinary skills with the view of encouraging students to pursue culinary careers.

On the menu was Japanese sushi shots, Sumac-encrusted New Zealand king salmon and Ruby Port poached pear.

As the afternoon wound down, and the snow outside started whipping up, a wine and beer reception hosted by the Colorado Association for Viticulture & Enology and a local brewer hawking Man Beer helped IACP members loosen up a bit for the night’s festivities.

 IACP members tasting wines from CAVE

Starting at 6:30, the crowd shuffled through light, wet snow to the Host City Opening Reception at the Denver Art Museum across from Civic Center Park, where President Obama held one of his largest rallies days before his election.

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, a founder of and master brewer for local Wynkoop Brewery, made a brief appearance to kick off the festivities.

Mayor Hickenlooper and his wife, Helen Thorpe

The event put the spotlight on sustainability and local culinary talent comprised of Denver’s and Boulder’s top chefs dubbed “The Sustainable Seven.”

Wine, beer and Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey ("the first straight Rocky Mountain whiskey") were the libations for the evening.

Here’s Lyle Davis again speaking with an IACP member. Lyle cooked up tender and delicious hangar steak.

“Welcome to Denver, Colorado!”

Thursday, April 2

Cold temperatures and a coat of thick snow greeted IACP members as they woke Thursday. Word has it a major snow storm is bearing down on Denver for Saturday. (I thought I left all this behind in Maine).

Hundreds showed up early for the Welcome & Opening of the event featuring Sylvia Tawse, host city chair and Mayor Hickenlooper, who said Denver, which is home to 300 restaurants, is “a city that appreciates what the culinary arts bring to life.”

Mayor Hickenlooper welcomes IACP members to Denver

His remarks were followed by a keynote presentation called “The Soul of Sustainability.”

Lynne Rossetto Kasper of American Public Media’s "The Splendid Table" moderated the discussion with panelists Walter Robb, co-president and chief operating officer, Whole Foods Market, Inc., and Dan Barber, executive chef at the internationally acclaimed Blue Hill Restaurant at Stone Barns Center, which sources its menu from the farmland on which it sits in Pocantico Hills, N.Y.

In his opening remarks, Barber told the crowd that the U.S. food system “is an insult to history. It is an insult to the basic laws of nature and biology. It’s this General Motors mindset of farming – sell more, waste more – where we convert natural resources to cash, and we think endless amounts of protein as some inalienable right, which it is not.

“And for the future, it is not going to serve us. We need, now, to think about a new conception of agriculture.”Robb took the podium and gave a rundown of Whole Foods’ sustainability initiatives from progressive animal welfare efforts to social justice with its Whole Trade Guarantee program.

Kasper then asked the two panelists if sustainable food can be accessible across the entire scale, especially to low-income people. “How do you respond to being elitist?”

“How can [this sustainable food movement] be sustainable if people are left out?” Robb said.

“Is there a way to take awareness of the land and do it on a larger scale?” asked Kasper.

Barber responded that sustainable farming principles can be scaled up. “This is the challenge for the future.”

Kasper: “Is the key to finding the way to make sustainable food affordable rethinking how our agriculture system is supported by the federal government?”

“This country is sick,” Robb said. “The food is not healthy. We have food with calories and not a lot of nutrition. The government policies have to shift.”

Walter Robb address 31st IACP Conference (Dan Barber and Lynne Rossetto Kasper look on)

Robb said he was encouraged by the change in the White House (“people in high places”) and the prospects of “making things happen on a policy level.”

But Barber said the changes necessary to forward the sustainable food movement has to come from the masses.

“It’s not a top down, it’s a bottom up,” he said. “The revolution isn’t here. But when the consciousness about food becomes more sincere and connected that’s when things will happen. But the idea that political maneuvering is going to solve problems is [not correct] and it won’t happen.”

Kasper then asked how realistic the concept of local sourcing is.

“The bigger question you are asking is can we move to local systems?” Robb said.

He said Whole Foods is making progress in that area but questions of infrastructure and support remain. “Is local sourcing happening, absolutely,” he said, pointing to the increased growth of CSAs, restaurants like Barber’s, farmers markets, and retailers like Whole Foods.

“What are the barriers to having smaller-scale farmers creating local systems,” Kasper asked.

“Sanitation is a big issue,” Robb said. Many smaller farmers are “not willing” to do food safety systems like HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) to get the greens in the store.

“Small-scale and mid-scale producers have to do that,” Robb said. “One blowup would really set us back.”

Barber pointed out another barrier for small-scale operators.

“Slaughterhouses have closed down at fantastic rate and hobbled quite a few farmers that I know in the Hudson Valley,” he said, referring to the added costs of traveling long distances and across state lines to slaughter their livestock.

“There is no inherent reason that we cannot have a meat processing system that can be mobile and go to where the animals are to make it easier for small-scale operations to come to market,” Barber said.

Kasper wrapped up the session asking for parting advice for the audience.

Robb said: “Be an entrepreneur, that’s how change happens.” (Or one goes broke.)

After the General Session, conference attendees scattered into the various late morning workshops. Afternoon workshop titles included Gluten-Free Goes Mainstream and Sustainable Sourcing for Quality Organic Spices.

The International Models for Children’s Healthy Futures session, moderated by Catherine Pressler, a chef and culinary educator with Food FUNdamentals, focused on three such models in Norway, England and Brazil.

Panelists included Teresa Corção, also a chef and culinary educator, from Projeto Mandioca in Brazil; cookbook author Scott Givot, who represents Health (A)ware in Norway; and Caroline Fanshawe, operations manager for Let’s Get Cooking in the United Kingdom.

Panel watches video below, detailing the progress being made by a program in Brazil that teaches the nutritional value and culture of the Brazilian staple manioc through informal classes, theater and hands-on cooking in the classroom and after school.


 

 At the Bison is Big – The Ultimate ‘Slow Food’ workshop, Bon Appetit magazine food editor, Kristine Kidd, moderated a very informative discussion on the rising popularity of bison.

Despite being raised in every U.S. state, there’s still a long way to go. Just about 50,000 bison were processed through USDA-inspected facilities last year. Compare that to the estimated 128,000 animals processed daily in the U.S. beef industry.

(Kristine Kidd of Bon Appetit magazine)

But during the discussion, Dave Carter, executive director of the Denver-based National Bison Association, who was sitting in the audience, told the crowd that the growing popularity of bison can have a direct impact in reversing the decline of bird populations across the country.

He said that grassland bird species, in particular, are having trouble surviving as the conversion of North American grasslands to cropland continues. Bringing back more bison – and their nomadic grazing ways – would contribute to healthier pasturelands, and mitigate the decline of grassland bird species.

(Bison rancher and industry leader Dave Carter talks to crowd about the eco-benefits of raising bison, while panelists Steve Wilson from Kentucky Bison Company and Chef Michael Paley of Proof on Main in Louisville, Ky., look on)

Carter, who lives in Colorado, purchased a handful of bison calves about five years ago. He slaughtered his first just last week.

Artisan Pizza: Going Beyond Gourmet Pizza was also a hot workshop.

Brian Spangler, of Apizza Scholls, Portland, Ore., and Chris Bianco, co-owner and chef of Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix look on as Peter Reinhart, executive pizzaiolo for PieTown, located in Charlotte, N.C., and author of Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor responds to a question from the crowd.

The Low-Mileage Eating workshop was packed.

Chef Michel Nischan talked about his efforts to change the way children eat and think about food through his Wholesome Wave Foundation

And Judy Fink, education programs director for the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Westchester County, N.Y., talked about what her group is doing to introduce a new generation to the concepts and practices of low-mileage eating by connecting them with the first link of the food chain in their own community – local farms and the goods they produce.

Judy Fink talks to standing room-only crowd

There was even one late morning workshop called Blogging Made Simple: A Hands-On Class that I was able to duck into for the last few minutes (which most of you are probably thinking I should have spent a bit more time in.)

In the afternoon, many were eager to attend the workshop moderated by IACP Scholar-in-Residence 2009 Dr. Fred Kirschenmann, also an organic farmer and president of the Stone Barns Center.

“Food is about relationships,” Kirschenmann led off with, citing Michael Pollan’s insightful sentiment that humans should think of food as less of a thing, and more as a relationship.

 IACP Scholar-in-Residence 2009 Dr. Fred Kirschenmann

The session, Farmers & Chefs Face the Future of Food Together: An Open Conversation, featured three other Stone Barns Center workers – including executive chef Dan Barber, Jack Algiere and Gregg Twehues, who detailed the progress being made at the four-season, pastured livestock farm, which is in its sixth year.

The farm is an agricultural laboratory where the science of composting mixes with the art of animal husbandry to produce a glimpse of the future of food. Its mission is to provide people with a viable alternative to the industrial ag system.

“Instead if asking what do I need to feed myself, we need to ask what does nature need to stay healthy,” Kirschenmann said.

He warned that the era of the industrial economy overusing everything from water to energy to fossil fuels – and the consumer’s overeating ways, especially of meat – is “rapidly coming to a close.”

Rick Moonen, Las Vegas seafood chef and owner of RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, didn’t disappoint with his passionate enthusiasm for all things fishy at the Sustainable Seafood: From Confusion to Solutions demo and tasting.

(He was also pretty stoked about his new cookbook coming out this month in hardcover, Fish Without a Doubt, which he kept reminding the audience.)

Even Chef Moonen – probably holding his cookbook in his right hand – looks surprised at his own culinary genius using Alaska sablefish and fresh wasabi, both of which are certified as sustainable

 Moonen took to the kitchen for a cooking demo on wild Alaskan sablefish, also known as black cod. The fishery in Alaska was certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council in May 2006.

(That reminded me of once working eight hours of the first of five, consecutive, 12-hour shifts at a seafood processor on the island of Sitka in southeast Alaska.

We were glazing frozen black cod, which entailed slamming a sheet of frozen whole fish to get them unstuck, grabbing the stiff, three-foot fish by the tail, and rifling them through a syrupy liquid to glaze them for shipment to retailers, who would cut them into fillets.

Word got out after my first spaghetti break that there was a bartending job at the town’s only hotel, so I opted out.)

Moonen told the crowd that he’s seeing a new sensitivity among consumers toward the kinds of fish they eat.

“[They are] are starting to show a shift in mentality,” he said.

But just as uncertainty – sometimes trepidation – grips your regular shopper when contending with cooking seafood at home, even choosing the fish or shellfish that will more closely match one’s eco-values at your local restaurant can be too much to handle.

Moonen said he’s trying to take the heat off the choice by serving what "middle America" wants.

"So, for the first time in my life, I’m broiling catfish," he said.

Moonen demands: "Be nice to your eco-system, eat lots of oysters!"

He encouraged consumption of smaller fish like sardines, mackerel and anchovies as well as the popular calamari (squid) instead of the bigger fish like tuna and Chilean sea bass.

The best farm-raised species to eat are catfish and tilapia because they are fed a vegetarian diet, compared to farmed salmon, which are carnivorous, he said.

“I’m not saying all farmed fish is bad,” Moonen said. “There is good aquaculture, and there is aquaculture that needs work.”

Closed-containment aquaculture (where fish are raised in tanks that use recirculating water) is “good, generally speaking,” Moonen said.

His other advice: “Eat lots of bivalves! (mussels, clams, oysters) They clean the environment and they’re good for you."

While IACP attendees started looking forward to Thursday night goings-on, I was personally invited with just a few other reporters, including Kim Severson of The New York Times, to sit down with Mayor Hickenlooper and a small gathering of local chefs – including chef Jennifer Jasinski of Rioja and chef and Marczyk Fine Foods owner Peter Marczyk.

Nationally acclaimed chefs John Ash and Dan Barber, as well as local artisan producers including Todd Leopold (yes, of the University of Iowa’s Leopold Center fame), also sat in on the discussion of the city’s greening culinary scene.

IACP Host City Chair Sylvia Tawse chats with Mayor Hickenlooper before sitting down to discuss how the Denver culinary scene is practicing sustainability.

The exchange was moderated by The Denver Post’s Tucker Shaw.

(I had been asked to invite Tucker to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Cooking for Solutions sustainable seafood event in May, which brings together again many of the chefs attending this week’s event along with many more. Plug: I’ll be moderating a panel there on the sustainability of farmed seafood. For more information, go to the event’s website. Yes, that’s you-know-who in the picture below Chef Alton Brown.)

Martha Holmberg, food editor at The Oregonian, takes notes during the Q&A

Colorado has just a 110-day growing season, and the limited availability of water is a daunting issue for the agricultural category, which is especially the case for the state’s growing wine industry, Doug Caskey, executive director of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, told us.

The same restrictions would also apply to the community gardens, which are flourishing, according to Michael Buchenau, executive director of Denver Urban Gardens. He said the number of urban gardens – raising everything from vegetables to chickens, bees to flowers – has exploded from just 15 in 1993 to 90 today, and the number is now growing by 10 every year.

Master distiller Todd Leopold of Leopold Bros. (above) has been able to cut the amount of waste water used in the production of spirits by 75 percent.

Chef Barber told the locals that the conversation we were engaged in sounds eerily familiar to the one he had with local growers and chefs in the Hudson Valley about 10 years ago. "You’re on the cusp of something."

He also teased that he could "see a Blue Hill [restaurant] in Denver."

Friday, April 3

On Friday, attendees had the treat of being greet by poet/farmer David Mas Masumoto, who read some of his poetry, which spoke of sustainability and what it meant to him.

Mas was followed by the conference keynote: "Pioneering A Sustainable World – What’s The ‘S’ Word Really Mean, Anyway?"

The irony of the keynote could have been summed up by Fred, who hoisted up one of the bottled waters on the table before the panel, and declared: "One of the greatest symbols of unsustainability."

Kim Severson of The New York Times moderated a distinguished panel, which included (from right): Chef Michel Nischan, Kim Jordan of local New Belgium Brewery, which makes the Fat Tire brand of  microbrewed beers, Fred Kirschenmann, and Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz, Mugaritz, from Errenteria, Spain, and his translator.

Severson asked each panelist to tell the packed crowd what sustainability means to them.

All agreed that sustainability is not a fad, nor a trend, and that people have to make a commitment to the movement in order to make effective changes. All agreed that there is not one single subject that touches societal, environmental and human health more than sustainability.

“Defining sustainability is very simple,” said Kirschenmann. “It’s about maintaining something by keeping something going. Defining it is not the problem. It’s applying it to real life, and that’s where it gets complicated.”

Kirschenmann went on to say that the challenges facing the human population are quite serious.

“The end of the cheap energy era is now coming to a close. We’re depleting our fresh water resources and the third big elephant in the room is climate," he said with a sense of urgency in his voice. “How do we get a head start to prepare for these changes coming at us? Well, let’s talk about it. Ten years from now, oil will be at $300 a barrel, only half the amount of fresh water we need will be available, and we’ll experience twice the severe weather events. Now, what kind of agriculture can we produce on that landscape?”

An acute silence met his rhetorical question, until Severson broke the tension.

“Okay, I’m a little bummed out,” she joked half-heartedly.

She then asked Chef Luis Aduriz  whether sustainability influences his daily menu sourcing decisions. “Are you making decisions based on the future?” she asked.

Aduriz  said that he absolutely thinks about sustainability when coming up with his menu.

“I have a responsibility to my area and my community, and a responsibility to my customers,” he said through his the translator.

Aduriz goes to the local market everyday and simply buys what’s available. If it isn’t there to be bought, then they make do with the available supply.

"Sometimes, we buy fish for just six portions, and we may have 40 on the books. Sometimes, I just buy 20 eggs because they are the best," he said. “Only after we see what we bought, do we make the menu up. So, right now, the new exotic is what’s local." The crowd applauded his words.

Chef Nischan told the crowd about the necessity to make sustainable foods more accesible to "middle America," a place where "many people can’t afford an apple." But cautioned that it’s not the "small percentage of restaurants" that are going to make the impact necessary, but a "massive volume of people."

Kim Jordan of local New Belgium said that her company is doing its part to lower the company’s production impact on the environment. About 60 percent of the carbon footprint of a six-pack of beer is refrigeration, she said. To fix that the company is looking to make its beer without refrigeration.

So, Severson summed up, should chefs and other culinary professionals – not to mention consumers – be optimistic or pessimistic about the future?

Kirschenmann said neither. “If you are optimistic about the future, you may just say, ‘Oh, things will work out just fine,’ and go have a beer,” he said. “If you’re pessimistic about the future, you may just say, ‘Screw it,’ and go have a beer.”

“The best thing to have is hope. The kind of hope that Rosa Parks showed when she sat down on that bus,” he said. “She wasn’t optimistic about the civil rights movement, I can tell you that. But she must have had hope.”

Aduriz also said optimism and pessimism have no place in navigating the uncharted waters of sustainability. For him, it’s all about loving the environment, the foods it produces, and the farmers that harvest that food and nurture the soil to produce more.

"You only love the things that you know, and that love never disappears," he said. "if you love the peach grower, then you won’t let him go away."

Some of the afternoon workshops I attended included Media Pitch-o-Rama, moderated by Joe Yonan of The Washington Post and supported by panelists Kristine Kidd, The Oregonian’s Martha Holmberg and Nancy Hopkins of Better Homes and Gardens.

Joe Yonan gives some pointers on how to pitch a media story to an audience member

Attendees were invited to come pitch story ideas in 90 seconds or less to convince these top food editors to give them editorial coverage of their product, client, cooking classes or culinary tour.

Another worksop was titled Labeling Vertigo, and it detailed some of the rewards and pitfalls of eco-labeling, as it sought to bring meaning to the flood of green claims in the market today.

Karin Endy of the French Culinary Institute, Kimberly Lord Stewart, food journalist and author of Eating Between The Lines joined Margaret Wittenberg, global vice president for the world’s largest retailer of organic and natural foods, Whole Foods Market, and author of New Good Food.

Margaret Wittenberg of Whole Foods Market

After the morning sessions, conference attendees were invited to the Denver Convention Center for a mini-trade show of sorts called Culinary Showcase that lasted through the afternoon.

Tony Garcia, director of marketing and licensing at the renowned Le Cordon Bleu culinary schools, talks with fellow foodie

Representatives from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (above) were on hand to tell IACP members more about its sustainability program for wild-caught favorites like Alaska salmon, pollock, cod and sablefish, to name a few.

The range of booths hawking products at the showcase included sustainable brands like Gridley, Calif.-based Mary’s Gone Crackers, now the nation’s largest manufacturer of organic, wheat-free and gluten-free crackers…

To Sara Lee Corporation, which had a folding table loaded with its Soft & Smooth brand of whole wheat bread.

Yes, that’s the same Soft & Smooth brand that settled a legal threat by the Center for Science in the Public Interest last July by promising to make clear to consumers that the product is only 30 percent whole grain rather than what it had initially suggested was as much fiber as 100 percent whole wheat bread.

Wild & Rare

That evening I was invited to a small gathering of foodies at the Cook Street School of Fine Cooking that proved to be the highlight of the week for me.

The Wild & Rare cooking demo, wine tasting and family-style dinner was hosted by chef, teacher and author John Ash, along with Chef Andrew Floyd, Cook’s culinary director and author from Down Under and outback chef Andrew Dwyer.

Mas Matsumoto and Kristine Kidd try the bison carpaccio

The chefs worked with some unusual cuts of game. On the menu was spice-rubbed roasted bison strip loin with chimichurri sauce; roast loin of elk with blackberry sage sauce; and kangaroo with quandong chili glaze.

Chef John Ash talks game at Cook’s School to IACP members

Accompanying the main courses was frozen Alaska salmon with red wine sauce and butter-braised chard, red roasted vegetables and grapefruit & savory greens salad with Mouco camembert. Rare vintages from Silver Oak Winery were also served.

Author from Down Under and outback chef Andrew Dwyer

Jennifer Margoles, general manager of 34 Degrees, tries the elk

Dessert was poached pears with fudge sauce from WEN Chocolates

Saturday, April 4

After the terrestrial repast the night before, Saturday morning’s workshops started out with tasty treats from the ocean.

Sardines, Anchovies, Mackerel: Darlings of Sustainability kicked off the tasting seminars Saturday morning.

Sam Hayward, chef and partner at Fore Street restaurant in my neck of the woods in Portland, Maine, showed attendees that the the dark-fleshed fish are not only more eco-friendly than other species, but heralded for its omega 3 fatty acids content.

Sam Hayward takes a break from his mackerel and sardines breakfast

Another tasting workshop Saturday morning was Red, White & Green: The Emergence of Eco-Friendly Wines moderated by writer Marguerite Thomas, who was joined by Paul Dolan of Paul Dolan Vineyards and Allison Jordon of the Wine Institute.

It’s happy hour somewhere…IACP members taste wines early Sat. morning

By Saturday evening, conference attendees heads were full of information and their bellies with all the above.

The culmination of the week’s events got underway at the Sheraton IACP Gala Awards Reception dubbed “Colorado Culinary Destinations” and sponsored by Le Cordon Bleu.

IACP VIPs: LeeAnn Stevens, Chef Michel Nischan, Chef Jesse Cool, Sylvia Tawse, Chef Hosea Rosenberg, Chef Hugo Matheson, and Chef/farmer Lyle Davis

An as-yet-to-be-identified conference attendee belts one out at the reception

Honoring the culinary profession’s best and brightest, the IACP Gala Awards Ceremony was next, hosted by Mistress of Ceremonies Lynne Rossetto Kasper.

To see a list of the 2009 IACP Awards of Excellence Winners, click here.

To see the 2009 IACP Bert Greene Awards Winners, click here.

Stay tuned for video of the award ceremony…

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