Flavor SummitNapa Valley, CA
2015 Flavor Summit Program Summary
The presenters and panelists of this ninth edition of the conference
thoroughly and candidly covered the latest in food and beverage trends
and business strategies, along with some of the elements that are part
of the successes and challenges of their operations. We talked sweet and
savory menu ideas, pairing food with wine, cider, or shrubs, new models
for multi-use operations and pastry shops, live fire cooking and 21st
century barbecue, ancestral traditions, and lots of new ideas for meat
and seafood preparations. Through presentations, demonstrations, and
many incredible meals and tastings, we got to think about ways to expand
the flavors of our menus and the reach of our operations.
Keynote speaker Cindy Daniel, co-owner of SHED in Healdsburg, California, explained how she and her husband decided to complete the food cycle they had begun with their farm, HomeFarm (where they produce organic fruits, vegetables, and wines) by opening a multi-use space comprising a café, market, and store that support local farmers, producers, and artisans. They seek to promote a more food-based agriculture, while also functioning as a space for their community to gather, from morning to evening, around food and activities. One of the unique features of SHED is a fermentation bar, where food and beverage manager and fermentation crafter Gillian Helquist offers an assortment of shrubs (fermented concoctions of fruit juices, sugar, and vinegar) and low-alcohol cocktails called shims. She demonstrated a Meyer lemon and coastal fennel champagne vinegar shrub, which attendees also tasted that evening.
As presenters described the ways in which they are interpreting traditions from their regions with 21st century creative and business models, examples of breaking the molds appeared both literally and figuratively. William Werner, whose contemporary pastry shop in San Francisco, Craftsman and Wolves, has received national acclaims for its innovative sweet and savory creations, demonstrated how he uses traditional molds to come up with new presentations for classics such as tartlets and Taiwanese fruit cakes—complete with tasting—inviting all to look at objects of our trades with new eyes to expand our creative possibilities. In San Antonio, Texas, Tim Rattray of The Granary offers barbecue in its traditional form at lunch, accompanied with beers brewed by his brother, while at night the chef uses barbecue techniques for plated dishes that also utilize modernist techniques and technologies. He demonstrated a cauliflower risotto made by cooking rice in smoked cauliflower stock, into which cauliflower cream is then added. Pieces of a gel made with his brother's IPA are then folded into the risotto, which is garnished with dehydrated cauliflower chips and grated "sea truffles," which consist of scallops brined and soaked in bourbon that are then cold smoked and dehydrated.
Mark Liberman of TBD and AQ in San Francisco talked about live fire applications in an indoor restaurant setting and the use of smoke as a condiment, to not offer a menu of more than 20 items that all share a uniform flavor.
Nephi Craig, of the White Mountain Apache tribe, explained the role that ancestral taste and ancestral health play in indigenous foods found in the many Native American micro regions found throughout the continent. Food is used as a form of indigenous decolonization and a mean of peaceful resistance. Dishes are used to celebrate the end or beginning of a season, returning to the earth what was borrowed from it, along with many other ancestral rituals.
To foster knowledge exchange and interaction, attendees were broken into teams and took part in an ideation session where they worked on real-life challenges submitted by their peers. Teams then presented their suggested solutions. More operator-to-operator information was shared during the final panel, as Steve Byrne of Tavistock Restaurants, Brad Nelson of Marriott International, and Sebastien Silvestri of Venetian and the Palazzo) discussed the ways in which their operations are increasing their sustainability. The audience joined them for a lively discussion.
The panel was informed in part by sessions earlier that afternoon, from Doug Zeif of Next! Hospitality Advisors who talked about investment trends, to Arlin Wasserman of Changing Tastes who discussed menu developments with a sustainable framework, and Andrew Shakman of LeanPath who discussed what operators can do to reduce pre-consumer food waste. Daily measurements of what happens in an operation is key, Shakman stated, and has proven an efficient solution for businesses that create such data collecting systems; as is, 4 to 10 percent of food is thrown out before it reaches the plate, amounting to $9 to $23 billion every year. American consumption trends shared earlier in the conference by Harry Balzer of NPD Group also resonated in the various questions and comments heard.
From the wine regions of Chile and the pastures of Australia to the coasts of Maine and Louisiana and the steakhouses of Miami, along with new dim sum ideas featuring pork, the conference's top-level partners shared illuminating presentations that inspired all in attendance with new ideas for their menus.
We hope that our attendees enjoyed a memorable experience and took back concrete ideas to their operations!