My Saturday night in New York was a busy one. A few hours lounging around the Eater.com Blogger Lounge, watching chefs and writers mix and mingle all afternoon, and I was off to the TimesCenter near Times Square. Arriving to hear British chef Heston Blumenthal talk about the philosophy behind his avant garde cooking, I reflected on the first time I stood in the TimesCenter, only two years prior, at my first NYCWFF event – a TimesTalk with Bourdain and Adria. How far Daily Blender had come since then.
Much like the chefs who had graced the TimesTalks stage before him, Blumenthal spoke passionately about his craft, discussing a number of dishes from his kitchen, including his inspirations (pre-Victorian era recipes) and menu methods (“I’ve chucked the rules out the window.”). Host Pete Wells questioned the chef on everything from the differences between taste and flavor to his schedule on menu updates.
“Food should be fun. We eat with our eyes, ears, all of our senses,” Blumenthal explained before showing pictures of the ‘Sounds of the Sea’ dish – three fish bites on top of a glass sandbox – which he paired with a set of shell-encompassed headphones playing a seaside soundtrack. He spoke of the strong reaction it would create for his customers. “When you have the shell, the sand, and something to eat, it really triggers emotion.”
Like a number of his peers, Blumenthal was self-taught. “I didn’t go to school or have an apprenticeship,” he told the crowd. “I taught myself over ten, fifteen years.” He mentions his recent listing as one of Britain’s 100 most important scientists. “For me, it was more about being inquisitive. I think naiveté is a beautiful thing. Anything and everything is possible.”
He also noted that depending on the success of his next project – the opening of Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental in London’s Hyde Park this January – expansion of his restaurants outside of the UK is a possibility. “I would love a reason to visit New York City more often,” he said.
After snapping a quick pic with chef Blumenthal, I headed for the diamond of the evening – Sweet! Hosted by the Food Network’s Duff Goldman and Sandra Lee, Sweet is always the highlight of my festival weekend. Everywhere, tables and plates piled high with pastries, candies, and frosty beverages. Top New York pastry chefs perched behind displays of sugary sweet perfection. It’s every dessert lover’s dream.
As always, fantastic restaurants from around the city were represented at the event, including Aureole, Daniel, Le Bernardin, Colicchio and Sons, Donatella, The Stanton Social, and Jean-Georges, with chefs Michael Laiskonis, Johnny Iuzzini, and Francois Payard on hand to greet guests.
Tomorrow, coverage from my final day of the Food Network New York City Wine and Food Festival, including a brunch at Norwood with the Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink gang, Carts in the Parc with Andrew Zimmern, and a little Sunset Stone Crab at the Hotel Gansevoort.
**Photo credit: Jennifer Heigl / Daily Blender