The trend to Asian tastes and techniques has been growing exponentially in the U.S. for years. It never came together with such enthusiasm and promise as it did at the 17th Worlds of Flavor International Conference and Festival, held last week on the Greystone campus of The Culinary Institute of America in the Napa Valley in front of an audience of more than 700 culinary, foodservice, and hospitality professionals.
"The vastly varied cuisines of Asia are deeply rooted in traditions that have evolved over millennia," says Greg Drescher, vice president of strategic initiatives and industry leadership at the CIA. "Today, American chefs are embracing and experimenting with what once was considered exotic. These foods and flavors are poised to continue their ascendance and become ever-bigger players in our national dining scene, whether it is in small independent restaurants, high-volume operations, food trucks, or university cafés." That fact became evident when reviewing the list of participants and the foodservice outlets they represent: Fairmont and Grand Hyatt hotels, Harvard University and Indiana University dining services, Red Lobster and TGI Fridays, Vail Resort and The Cliff House, independent restaurants from across the country, Wegmans, and—from London—Marks and Spencer.
Highlights of this year's conference included:
· A fascinating and fact-filled historical perspective keynote on the rise of Asian cuisines and global perceptions of those cuisines, brought to today and a look at the change in status experienced by Asian restaurants in the U.S. presented by Ken Albala (University of the Pacific).
· Paul Qui, of qui in Austin, Texas, preparation of a rich and spicy Filipino Pork Blood Stew, which he demoed while talking about cooking with points of references in a deeply rooted culture, expressed in innovative fashion.
· The Grilled Duck Salad prepared by Dylan Jones and Bo Sangvisava of Bo.Ian in Bangkok—one of the seven restaurants represented at the conference from S. Pelligrino's "Asia's 50 Best Restaurants" list—that featured Thai Salted Pickled Cabbage.
· An in-depth discussion—with culinary demos—of the diversity and traditions of Asian noodles with Jehangir Mehta (India), William Wongso (Indonesia), and Ivan Orkin (U.S.).
· The appreciative gasps from the audience when Will Goldfarb (Room4Dessert, Bali) shared the secrets of his meringue during the final session.
Plans for the 2016 program were also announced. Next April, the food world will gather again to hear the trends and tastes related to the theme, On Fire: Culture | Passion | Invention in Europe and the Americas. Additional information will be available this summer onwww.worldsofflavor.com.
For 17 years, Worlds of Flavor has been considered by the industry to be America's most influential professional forum on world cuisines, food cultures, and flavor trends. It is the flagship event on the CIA's Industry Leadership calendar, which includes a dozen national conferences, retreats, and industry leadership initiatives each year that address issues and trends related to flavor development and world cultures, health and wellness, foodservice menu research, sustainability, and collaborations between agriculture and restaurant kitchens. This and other conferences are made possible partly through the contributions of many sponsors and supporters, including this year's Grand Presenting Sponsor, Suntory; Platinum Sponsors Chobani, CJ Foods, Kikkoman, and Unilever; Premium Gold Sponsors Avocados from Mexico, Maine Lobster, Paramount Farms, and Woodstone Corp; and more than a dozen other food manufactures and foodservice suppliers.