Iron Chefs galore at Culinary Institute’s Worlds of Flavor conference

wof_thurs_500While some are supping on sushi in Seattle, I’m down in the Napa Valley attending the Culinary Institute of America’s Worlds of Flavor International Conference & Festival, with this year’s theme being “Japan: Flavors of Culture.”

And while I was especially amused seeing Masaharu Morimoto and Hiroyuki Sakai yukking it up, I must say there’s an incredible number of amazing chefs, Iron and otherwise, doing presentations and preparing food. Many of the masters from Japan are here, along with the likes of Thomas Keller, David Chang, and Chris Cosentino from the States.

Yoshiki Tsuji, president of the Tsuji Culinary Institute in Osaka, gave the opening keynote. His look at traditions and innovations of Japanese cuisine was jam-packed with facts, philosophy, and a bit of fun. For example, while Japan is roughly the same size as California, the country has 50% more coastline than our entire country, which helps explain (along with other factors he outlined) the popularity of seafood there.

Tsuji discussed the evolution of sushi as popular fast food in Japan. Then, using Powerpoint graphics, he explained how the original nigiri sushi (from the Edo period) was the size of an iPhone, then in more recent times went down to the size of an iPod, and in today’s recessionary times is now the size of an iPod shuffle. Funny guy. But very insightful, kicking off the conference in fine fashion.

Consul General Hiroshi Inomata (from San Francisco) summed up the big message from the opening night: “Japanese cuisine is our culture.” These three days will be a big cultural experience, full of learning and eating. I’m looking forward to presentations and cooking workshops on Osaka street food, noodle-making, building umami, and much more.

You can follow some of the action on Twitter by following Worlds of Flavor or the conference hashtag.



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