Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Best Food Event. EVER.

It's taken a few days to come out of the foodie haze I've been in since attending SFChefs.Food.Wine. on August 6-9. It took 2-1/2 years to plan this amazing event and the organizers didn't miss a trick. The weather even cooperated - it was a balmy 72 degrees in San Francisco!

SFChefs was 3-1/2 days filled with the most fantastic food and wine - every participant brought their "A" game. It's hard to think of a top Bay Area restaurant or chef who was not at this event. And I loved that everyone served their food and drink using recycled and compostable plates, utensils and cups - way to go, San Francisco! The daily morning and afternoon seminars that I attended were all great, but two stood out for me. The first was En Vogue Toque, which was a discussion of emerging trends in cuisine, design and service. The panel, which included marketing guru Andrew Freeman, whose firm organized SFChefs, and Jennifer Cox, Joie de Vivre's Director of Culinary, talked about the impact on restaurants of the general public using Twitter, Yelp and blogs to criticize or praise, and in fact that thread ran through discussions at each of the sessions I attended. Instant critics are here, for better or worse, but restaurants can also use social media to their benefit. For instance, I'm able to promote the dessert program and special events at Grange through this blog and Twitter.

The other session I really enjoyed was Culinary Matriarchs, a panel of four female chef icons - Nancy Oaks (Boulevard), Annie Somerville (Greens), Cindy Pawlcyn (Mustards et al.) and Patty Unterman (Hayes Street Grill). They talked about their experiences in the industry and how it's evolved over the years. When some of them first started it was difficult to source fresh, local ingredients - now Cindy has acreage at Mustards when she grows a variety of produce for her restaurant and just bought a tractor! Patty lives in an area where she's allowed to have four animals - and she chose chickens for the fresh eggs! They are all dynamic, talented women and it was a pleasure to sit with them for a short time and hear their stories.

Some other highlights: The Back Burner Blues Band (chefs in their chef's whites with electric guitars - that's just hot!), followed by Hubert Keller (my new not-so-secret crush and a genuinely nice guy) spinning records like a NYC DJ, the stunning pastry display created by executive pastry chef Jean-Francois Houdre at the Westin St. Francis, a cooking demo by Laurence Jossel, chef at Nopa and recently named Best Chef by San Francisco magazine, who admitted he was improvising his chili recipe and using a pressure cooker for the very first time. He said, "Let's see what happens." That's a phrase I use often in the kitchen, because, after all, cooking is an adventure.

If the organizers plan to repeat this event next year I'll be one of the first in line to buy tickets. As I said to my husband at some point during the festivities, "If I died and went to heaven this is what it would be like."

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