Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Chef Installment

 Tech industree founder Alisia Kleinmann and RAMW CEO Kathy Hollinger
Just two months after launching its speaker series, Industree returned to the spotlight in a big way, doubling the number of presenters (as well as the bites available) for the second installment of the series.

The event began with time for networking over delicious bites. 

Bean and Bite served a super greens salad made of kale, brussels, broccoli, cabbage, chicory, chickpeas, beats, cucumber, tomato and cranberry, topped with EVOO & balsamic vinegar. 

Chef Geoff's prepared bacon two ways, serving black pepper bacon with Boursin topped with bruleed fig and sugar glazed bacon with with bourbon peach confit and baby tatsoi. 

Rounding out the lunch offerings, Beuchert's saloon supplied local pork country pate while 2941 dished out dessert in the form of caramelized milk chocolate mousse over a salted caramel brownie, topped with candied orange zest.

No networking event is complete without a few drinks. Don Ciccio & Figli was the only vendor at the Howard Theater that had also been at the launch event at The Hamilton, serving a refreshing "Regina Marina" made with green hat gin, Don Ciccio & Figgli Fennel, strawberry, basil and simple syrup.

After this initial networking over lunch, it was time for the chefs to take the stage.

Food writer Nevin Martell moderated the event featuring chefs Brian McBride of Marcel's, Brasserie Beck, Mussel Bar and Wildwood Kitchen, Andrew Market of Beuchert's Saloon, Geoff Tracy of Chef Geoff's/Lia's and Hank's Tavern & Eats, Bertrand Chemel of 2941, Todd Gray of Equinox and Muse Cafe at the Corcoran and Kyle Bailey of Birch & Barley/Churchkey, GBD and Bluejacket.

In the first event of the series, each of the three featured restaurateurs arrived to the stage solo to speak about their journey one at a time before they all gathered together on stage for a Q and A Session. This time around, all 6 chefs remained on stage throughout the duration of the event. After each of Nevin Martell's questions, each of the chefs had the opportunity to share their experiences and opinions on the topic at hand.

During the obligatory self introduction, it was quickly revealed that these chefs really disliked school growing up, but this was about the only commonality between each chef's journey to his current position. Where some grew up in the restaurant industry, others were told to stay the F out of the restaurant business (which only fueled the fire to succeed in this business, as everyone wants to prove someone wrong). Kyle Bailey even stated it was never his goal to be a great chef, he just wanted to be the best cook. 

After the initial introductions, the questioning began. What's the best piece of advice these chefs had been given? Guests were reminded of the tried and true concepts of working hard and being passionate about your work and leading by example. With a few chefs experiencing a complete lack of support during their journey in the restaurant business, it was also shared that you can give yourself the best advice, as you are your own biggest critic and should define your dreams and continually redefine them. Chef Geoff Tracy also brought the concept of "the time is now" to life when he shared the story of how he opened up a restaurant with a few thousand dollars in his pocket after he asked how long he should work for other people, and was told "This is a young man's game. The time is now." 

Which is better? Culinary school or hands on education? Most chefs agreed that culinary school is good for gathering a knowledge about everything, but  most learning comes from hands on experience, where with enough experience you can become an expert at one thing.

How important is local food? Chefs were honest in their description of local food, explaining that though using local food is a priority and it's better to write the menu after going shopping rather than the other way around, its sometimes difficult to write a menu when a delivery comes with only a small amount of one type of produce. However, this presents a challenge that chefs are happy to take on.

What's missing in the DC food scene? 4 out of the 6 chefs said more late night options should be available. The metro's operating hours were brought up in the discussion, as not many people can go out late without a way home. In the ideal world though, there would be enough late night options that we wouldn't need to take the metro to them, as we could just walk to them, right?

Saving the hard hitting questions for last, Nevin Martell borrowed a few questions from none other than James Lipton, asking chefs, "What sound or noise do you love?" Guess which chef said "opening a beer in the shower." (answer: Kyle Bailey) What's the sexiest ingredient? Guess which chef said "octopus." (answer: Bertrand Chermel). Chef's were also asked their favorite drink, comfort food, curse word and other occupation they would like to have (half of the chefs said they would want to be a musician). 

After Nevin Martell wrapped up his questioning, the Q and A Session began. One guest asked the chefs what they thought the next food trend would be and in my favorite answer, Chef Andrew Markert said he hopes it is churros.  Someone make this happen for me please! Churros could be filled with so many delicious flavors. (I may or may not have had 8 churros last week when I ordered a plate of churros at a tapas restaurant as one of my two dishes for dinner). 

I have been set on bookmarking each of industree's events on my calendar after the launch event at the Hamilton and this event at the Howard Theater simply reminded me how great of a decision that was. These events are great for anyone looking to network in the restaurant industry. Though I haven't been specifically looking to network in the industry myself, I happily take time off of work to enjoy some funny and inspiring stories from the restaurant industry.

Which industree event should you bookmark next? F*CK FORKS "a finger lickin' culinary crusade against cancer." On October 24, 2013, from 6-9 pm, help the resturant industry f*ck forks to f*ck cancer. Visit letsfcancer.com and fckforks.com for more information.

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