IACP Conference: 5 Gourmet Global Picks from Portland

by Sarah Henry on April 29, 2010 · 18 comments

in food events,food organizations,global cuisine

This is the third in a trio of posts sharing tidbits from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) annual conference in Portland last week, which included an awards ceremony featuring the best in gastronomical writing, styling, and photography for 2009.

Time to fill you in on the “international” flavor of this food meet. Full disclosure up front: You may spot some Down Under bias in my selections. My picks from around the world:

  • Truly inspiring presentation (it moved at least one food blogger in the room to tears) by Kamal Mouzawak, creator of Souk el Tayeb, a twice-weekly farmers’ market in Beirut, the first of its kind, designed to bring together a diverse people around a combined passion for good food. A chef and TV personality, Kamal celebrates Lebanon’s cultural and culinary heritage, creates links between communities fractured by religious or political divisions, and champions small, rural farmers and sustainable agriculture. His efforts have expanded into school programs, food festivals, and an open kitchen at the market, where each day a different farmer, producer, or chef showcases a traditional meal from their region. Born into a family of farmers, Kamal is convinced that cuisine can triumph over partisanship and that a peaceful food movement is possible in this war-torn nation. Learn more about Souk el Tayeb on the Taste of Beirut blog.
  • Stephanie Alexander, author of Kitchen Garden Companion, and Australia’s version of Alice Waters-Jamie Oliver, took top honors in the General cookbook category. I happen to own Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden Cooking for Kids and it is, hands down, the most beautiful school food book I’ve seen. Stephanie has paved the way for 138 kitchen gardens in schools around Oz. Go Aussies.
  • Another Southern Hemisphere chef,  Al Brown, won the cookbook award for a single subject for his Go Fish. I don’t know this New Zealander from a bar of soap, as we say where I come from, but anyone who promotes cooking sustainable seafood is worth paying attention to, in my mind. Plus, have you eaten from the sea down there? Amazing aquatic offerings from those oceans.
  • On the last night of dining around town those in the know booked a table at the tiny Pok Pok, where authentic, mostly Northern Thai cuisine (no pad Thai sold here) is served up banquet style at this slip of a much-lauded local eatery. Coconut curry noodle soup, giant prawns baked in a claypot, whole fish grilled with lime-garlic-chile. Even the water scented with Pandus leaf evokes a sense of supping in South-East Asia.
  • After dinner I caught an advanced screening of the sweet food flick, Today’s Special, a romcom with cumin and coriander set in Queens. The film features a cinematic celebration of Indian eats; paneer, parathas, biriyani, and dosas get equal billing with the actors. The movie stars Aasif Mandvi, who co-wrote the screenplay, and is best known for his work on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, where he serves as, um, a correspondent. Veteran, award-winning Indian actors Harish Patel and Naseeruddin Shah round out the cast, along with acclaimed cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey, (though funnily enough this actor never goes near the kitchen in this film). Read a glowing review of Today’s Special and a more measured response from Variety. My two cents: It’s a playful if tad predictable addition to the food in film genre.  Look for Today’s Special in theaters this fall.

A shout out to veteran cookbook authors and new friends Jill O’Connor, who organized the Pok Pok dinner, and Nancie McDermott, for her expert ordering — in Thai, no less. Nancie remained unflappable despite the stressful task of figuring out what dishes to pick for a large table packed full of opinionated food fans.

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Ruth Pennebaker April 29, 2010 at 6:29 pm

This story about the Lebanese food market is incredible. How wonderful to think there might be routes to reconciliation through something as basic and common as food.

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Sarah Henry April 29, 2010 at 8:13 pm

I know, Ruth, it’s amazing what food can do, isn’t it?

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Jennifer Margulis April 29, 2010 at 8:05 pm

This conference sounds amazing, and I love reading about the international component of it all. I want to learn more about Stephanie Alexander. This is the first I’ve heard of her.

Did you know that Stephanie Svietti was at the conference too?! She stopped by Ashland on her way back to San Fran. But maybe you’ve met her before?

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Sarah Henry April 29, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Jennifer, you’re too funny. Not only have I met Stephanie but she lives mere minutes from me and is the person behind the recent magical migration of Lettuce Eat Kale.

So, yes, I know Stephanie well. I did not drive to Portland, however, which is why I wasn’t in the car with her scarfing Voodoo Donuts on the ride home.

And yes, Stephanie Alexander has done amazing things in Australia but is not so well known in the U.S. for her school food work — though she should be.

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Nani Steele April 29, 2010 at 8:05 pm

I love Stephanie Alexander’s books–maybe you can do a giveaway with one of her books, eh? hint, hint..Come on, now, go ahead and spread the love from your homeland!

Loe the story about the Lebanese market too; I’ve come across his blog before, and now you’ve reminded me to look him up again.

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Sarah Henry April 29, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Nani, you’re kidding me, right? Have you picked up one of those Stephanie Alexander tomes? They’re huge! Don’t think the postal service would let me send them via regular mail. Real back breakers. But worth their weight, that’s for sure. Well, I guess the kids cookbook isn’t too heavy…

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Vera Marie Badertscher April 29, 2010 at 8:08 pm

I agree with Ruth. That Lebanese market is a heart-warming story. I look forward to the foodie movie, too.

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Sarah Henry May 3, 2010 at 7:47 am

Remind me to remind you when it’s screening this fall, Vera.

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MarthaAndMe April 30, 2010 at 3:49 am

The kitchen garden book for kids really sounds great. None of our schools have gardens and I would love to see that kind of program implemented here. I was also interested to read about the food movie with Aasif Mandvi – yet another Daily Show person breaking out.

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Sarah Henry May 3, 2010 at 7:50 am

I can’t tell you how much cool cred I got from my pre-teen son when I told him that I “met” Aasif Mandvi — along with director David Kaplan and actor/cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey — who conducted a little Q&A post screening. He’s got quite the following in a wide variety of circles.

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Susan April 30, 2010 at 5:29 am

Sounds like a great conference – yum! I love Indian food and romcoms, so I’ll have to look for Today’s Special next fall. Thanks for the heads-up!

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Sarah Henry May 3, 2010 at 7:51 am

You’re welcome, Susan. And I think you’ve hit on something fun: Would be great to see the movie and then go for dinner at your fav Indian food joint afterwards.

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Nancie McDermott April 30, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Well, I’m glad I read every word, because not only was it a feast of vivid and sumptuous memories for me as a fellow attendee and lucky-one-along on all these ventures, there I am in a most generous and astute shout-out. How kind. It was a hoot and a treat.

The first is the best — Hearing Kamal Mouzawak speak, and thinking about the work he and his team have done in Beirut and throughout Lebanon, brought tears indeed, tears of surprised hope and gratitude.

Other ways and other stories are possible, and the takeaway includes a vow to spend more time around tables of my fellow opinionated foodies (especially you and Jill “Sticky Chewy” O’Connor), as well as family, non-foodie friends, and people I need to meet around the table.

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Sarah Henry May 3, 2010 at 8:30 am

My pleasure, Nancie. So lovely to connect with you and Ms. “Sticky Chewy” live in Portland and now via Twitter too.

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Laura May 1, 2010 at 5:45 pm

I think that is fabulous that Stephanie Alexander got a notable mention.
I have friends’ children who are part of her gardening programme in Tasmania.
They really have a love of gardening and food that they grow — and from such a young age. I think that this is just so important.

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Sarah Henry May 3, 2010 at 8:31 am

Agreed, Laura. Wonderful to learn that Tassie schools are in the mix as well. Such a beautiful part of the world — and a great place to grow produce as well.

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MyKidsEatSquid May 3, 2010 at 5:30 am

As always, your post leaves me wanting to read more. I’d love to hear more about each of the stories you listed! I wouldn’t mind seeing a good coconut curry soup recipe either.

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Sarah Henry May 3, 2010 at 8:33 am

I hope to write more about all these matters on my blog and in other outlets, MKES, so do check back and stay tuned.

As for a recipe for coconut curry soup: See that little button/badge in the sidebar that says “Food Blog Search”? If you put a request for a specific recipe in there it should yield lots of possibilities from other food bloggers.

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