I awoke on Friday and made a beeline to the Meatpacking District to pick up my event passes, stopping in at Pastis for a late brunch, and taking in the electricity of the festival’s first day. Heading back uptown, I headed to Keens Steakhouse, a legendary New York restaurant, for the day’s panel discussion with chefs Tom Colicchio, Dan Barber, Alex Guarnaschelli, and Daniel Humm. Moderated by Esquire‘s food editor Ryan D’Agostino, the chefs, along with Patrick Harris of Heritage Foods, batted back and forth their thoughts on the definition of “local” and food locality, from restaurant marketing to diner perception.
Both Colicchio and Barber spoke about the impact that chefs can have on the local food movement. Colicchio noted that the location of the recently opened Riverpark was in part to develop a 10,000 sq ft garden near the restaurant, not only to produce foodstuffs for the restaurant, but also with the intention of being utilized to teach local schoolchildren about growing food.
Barber commented that the next wave in the expansion of the local food movement will be led by chefs, “the curators of taste.”
Guarnaschelli agreed. “Not only the way we buy, but the way we choose to cook and present our food deeply affects our power to instruct the public on flavor and taste.”
Eleven Madison Park’s chef Daniel Humm talked about the practical application of incorporating more locality into restaurant menus, encouraging consumer education. “Sometimes we’re limited by how much local we can buy because of the cost. The consumer is not necessarily willing to pay for a specialty vegetable,” he said. “There needs to be more education on what’s really involved in developing a quality vegetable.”
With all of the chefs taking on local food projects in a variety of ways, Barber put forward his belief that we’re just at the beginning of a movement focused on quality local ingredients. “Big Ag will not look the same in our lifetime, with the decline of cheap oil, water levels, and a consistent climate,” he said. “We have to make a smooth pass to a sustainable food chain.”
“Foodies will rule the world.”
Later in the evening, after an early dinner at chef Scott Conant’s Scarpetta, I headed off to the Time Warner Center overlooking Central Park for the Chopped! event at chef Marc Murphy’s landmarc. Hosted by chef Murphy and Chopped’s Ted Allen, judges from the Food Network show – Amanda Freitag, Aarón Sánchez, Alex Guarnaschelli, Scott Conant and Geoffrey Zakarian – were on hand to meet fans and dish out signature plates from their own restaurant kitchens.
Post-Chopped!, I stopped in to the East Village’s Apiary to chat with Chef Scott Bryan. Look for my interview with the award-winning chef next month on Daily Blender.
Tomorrow, on to my Day 2 coverage of the NYCWFF – a TimesTalk with British chef Heston Blumenthal and the fantastic Sweet event!
**Photo credits: Jennifer Heigl / Daily Blender