Monday, April 26, 2010

What happened last week in the food world was magic. The annual conference of the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals, held in Portland, was a time of incredible gastronomic synergy. I am filled with so much energy coming out of that week, as the connection and collaboration with other passionate culinary professionals built and built over the course of the week. It's not easy to explain,because there was an emotional and intellectual exchange that happened amongst almost 1,000 attendees. Every person had a unique experience, and I'm hearing much ofthe same response to my own in that it was much more than any of us had ever expected in terms of sharing ideas, supporting innovation across career lines (cooks, writers, restaurateurs, chefs, bloggers, p.r. people, etc.)

I started the week by leading an "Alternative Diets" tour of thirty culinary professionals to the vegan and gluten free businesses of Portland's eastside. The group was SO engaged, so interested. So social! Friendships and professional collaborations were formed, in addition to inspiration planted for future recipes and cookbooks. Some friends I made were an author who offered to proofread any future business plans, and a therapeutic personal chef whom I'll be having lunch with next time I go to New York. I got to share a table and talk with amazing writing coach. I found a common interest in gluten-free baking with another attendee - she turned out to be the Editor-in-Chief of a national lifestyle magazine. I took her to dinner a few days later, and on a tour of my neighborhood. In a seminar given by the famous Irena Chalmers, a witty, highly accomplished woman who has lived multiple lives in the food world, I got to ask a question about my own career and was answered by her, as well as about six other women who offered advice and suggestions. One of them offered me a tour of Sonoma to learn about culinary tourism there, herself a well-known vegan chef. The willingness of IACP members to share advice and mentor impressed me to no end.

Among the influential people who were in our midst last week were Ruth Reichl, Michael Ruhlman, Deborah Madison, Karen Page, Madhur Jaffrey, Robert Reynolds, Darra Goldstein, and countless culinary educators. Seminars began at 8:00 a.m., and this "food orgy" as the flamboyant President of IACP, Scott Givot, called it, didn't end until about 2:00 a.m. every night. On the last night, I had a blast dancing until the wee hours with Scott and the rest of the host committee. There were parties, after parties, and midnight suppers.

So many Portlanders donated time, product and energy to these events over the past year. I had the pleasure of meeting and working with so many generous individuals who live in Portland, forming relationships that I'm very excited to grow.

The city pulled out all the stops for this, putting on quite the show. Chefs teamed up for special dinners that happened once and will never happen again. Gastronomica magazine celebrated its 10th anniversary with a glamorous party at Fenouil. The Art Institute glamorized the Gala Awards with ingredient-inspired costumes such as the hat above. Every production was pulled off with incredible class and style. And the food and beverage in Portland impressed on every level. Beyond about seventy five recommended restaurants, the hundreds of attendees explored the city and I read feedback on even the most humble restaurants pleasing their discerning palates. Finally, the city's food carts were an endless source of astonishment, culminating in the Eat Mobile food cart fair on Saturday. Well done, Portland, well done. And, as far as IACP goes, I'll be a member for life.

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