After an educational and thought-provoking opening day at the first Culinary Congress London 2018, Day 2 saw a fresh host of inspirational chefs up on stage giving their take on a range of cuisines from around the world.
Starting the day off was Anna Hansen giving insight into her cooking at The Modern Pantry, her antipodean influences and what she likes to create in the kitchen. "Antipodean fusion means I'm not limited by cuisine of by a culture or religion, I can pick whichever flavours or ingredients I want from around the globe."
Anna added "Often we don't think to use savoury ingredients in desserts – I approach desserts with a savoury chef's hat on, using smoked paprika, miso, tamarind..."
Taking over from Anna was Tim Anderson and his Japanese Soul Food, combining American and Japanese cuisines, and what these mean to him. Tim got mouths watering around the room with his Sasebo burger – 2 beef patties, Chashu pork, fried egg … all with a Japanese twist, including MayuMayo … get yourself down to Nanban in Brixton to try it!
"With the American army bases in Japan, you get a lot of US influence. In Okinawa you get tacos, in Sasebo you get burgers. What makes Sasebo burgers special? Not a lot, but they're often very over the top. They're big in diameter as well as height. They look funny, it's about excess. I incorporate Japanese flavours that we put in our ramen for example into our Sasebo Burger."
Moving away from the meaty burger Tim delivered, conversation turned to the plant-based movement, with Derek Sarno leading a passionate and thought-provoking discussion on his vision for the movement as a whole, and his new Wicked Healthy project. Looking at the different ways of creating eye catching and delicious dishes using just vegetables, Derek demonstrated plates that would turn heads for even the biggest meat-lovers. His parting thoughts – try Vegan for a week and see how you feel….
"Plant-based isn't just a trend, it's not going anywhere. Wicked Healthy is taking something deep down that we know is right, and bringing it to market. If I can be pleased with it then I can serve it. I'm my biggest critic. I look to do amazing things with vegetables."
Elizabeth Haigh continued the conversation before lunch, creating a Eurasian version of an Eton Mess, and expanding on the Eurasian concept, as well as her of cooking. "I like to source beef very carefully and I work closely with farmers up in Yorkshire and Scotland to make sure it's well sources and just what were after. Sorry to Derek before me, but I use a lot of beef!"
Attention turned from talking about food to eating it, with choices served up by Club Mexicana – a vegan box following Derek Sarno's advice, or for those sticking to their meat-eating guns, Salt Shed.
After lunch, the room was soon filled with spicy and aromatic smells created by Michelin starred chef Atul Kochar, of Benares, who took us on a journey through Modern Indian cuisine, with a large focus on flavours, ingredients, and questioning what we perceive as Indian food.
"Beyond a small wave of young chefs, India is still not ready for Modern Indian food – they're still deeply attached to their separate regional cultures. Outside India we'll continue to grow, taking influences from across India and beyond."
Following on from Atul was new Culinary Director at The Stafford London Group Ben Tish, with his view on Southern European cuisine, combining his two passions -Spanish and and Italian. Ben created two delicious dishes for everyone to test, a whole roasted cauliflower and then Iberico pork with smoked paprika – both very well received despite being soon after lunch!
"My passion has always been Spain and Italy, for many years. Even before Salt Yard Group where we combined cuisines of both. There's a real synergy between both – charcuterie, the cheese, the food philosophy. When we set up Salt Yard Group we couldn't decide which to focus on, so we went for a blend of both."
Coming all the way from Melbourne, next up was Justin James of Vue de Monde. Modern Australian does have an influence on what's happening here in the UK in its own way, and it is a trend setting cuisine in it's own right. Executive chef Justin kicked off by discussing what he viewed Australian cuisine to be: "What is Australian cuisine – there's no right or wrong. It's a young country, but it does have history in food. Australia's been on the back burner with lots going on, lots about using the ingredients you have around you."
"I look at five things, and food has to tick all five to make my menu – seasonality, local (in the state of Victoria – where Melbourne is), native, (are they native ingredients – bush tucker and also seafood), barbecue (smoked or charred), culture and history. That's my idea of what Australian cuisine is."
Rounding out the second and final day of the Culinary Congress was a true legend of the industry. With over 50 years' experience, and one of the few chefs to have received the coveted three Michelin stars at his restaurant La Tante Claire in London, we were proud to present to our audience, Pierre Koffman.
At ease cooking and answering questions throughout, Pierre encapsulated the audience and engaged with all while making the job at hand look so easy. Having moved over to the UK from France many years ago, Pierre gave his take on classic French cuisine, while discussing the state of the industry as a whole.
"The only downside about modern cooking is that chefs are losing the art of cooking good sauces – they don't do it any more and it's a bit sad."
"If a chef doesn't respect the product or doesn't have passion, I'm not interested in that kind of chef. You've got to give your best to the customer – they pay to come to your restaurant and eat your food."
When asked about how he sees Classic French cuisine nowadays, Pierre said: "You need everything in life – it's great seeing street food and drinks at Hawker House, but there will always be a place for Classic French. At least I hope there will!"
All that's left to say is a big thank you to all those who came down to spend time with us and our guest chefs over the past few days. For a first Culinary Congress it was great to see so many enthusiastic and engaged faces at the event, and we look forward to hearing your feedback and seeing you next year.