Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Kohler Food and Wine Experience

I have to admit, until this year all I knew about Kohler was that they made some pretty nice toilets and faucets.  I was right.  What I didn't know was that Kohler is also a town in Wisconsin with some serious chefs, foodies and hospitality.  They also throw a party every year (link) and get some of the best chefs in the country to come cook, demo, speak, compete and just party.  This year's lineup included Jacques and Claudine Pepin, Marcus Samuelsson, Jon Ashton, Bruce Sacino, Andrew Zimmern, Marc Stroobandt, myself, and a host of local and regional badasses.  It was an honor to be among the lineup.  Oh, there were also two of the coolest pumpkin carvings I've seen.

My adventure in Kohler started with a sustainable seafood demo.  I spoke to a crowded room in the grand tent about finding, purchasing, sourcing and eating fish that is sustainable.  I made two dishes, "Hiramasa Sashimi with avocado, grapefruit and soy noodles" and "Wild King Salmon with maple-sweet potato hash and red wine syrup."  Both dishes went well and the crowd seemed to really enjoy the presentation.

After the demo, I acted as a judge for the local chef competition.  Myself, Ulrich Koberstein (executive chef of the resort) and Joh Ashton (site) were the three "celebrity" judges.  This competition happens every year among the chefs of the resort and they take it VERY seriously.  It basically means bragging rights among the guys for a year and they basically spend every day together.  I wasn't really sure I wanted this responsibility as I needed their help over the next couple of days to get my demos together.  Didn't want any angry chefs sabotaging my dishes :)

Let me take a minute to talk about Jon.  He is far and away the funniest, most energetic and craziest chef I've met in my life.  I don't know if I could spend every minute of the day with him, but I really appreciate him and think he is someone who will be blowing up in the next few years.  Keep your eyes and ears open...

I had some down time during the weekend, so I was able to check out some of the other chefs' demos.  One of my favorites was Tory Miller of L'Etoile Restaurant in Madison (site).  He did a demo explaining his food philosophy and he used a pig to demonstrate how everything can (and should) be used.  We had some really cool dishes:  house-made sausage, head cheese, pig ear salad, ham....   Everything was delicious and it made it better hearing his story.  Inspiring.  I will definitely be there next time I'm in the state.

Saturday was my luncheon.  I was paired with Marc Stroobandt, the beer master, and Stella Artois, Leffe, and Hoegaarden Beers.  We did three courses:  "Roast Butternut Squash Soup with dungeness crab, local apples, and pecans", "Colorado Baby Striped Bass with pork belly, fingerlings, brussels sprouts, and pomegranate brown butter", and "Star Anise Roast Pear with semolina cake and cardamom ice cream."  The beers worked wonderfully and I learned a few things about sipping them.  Marc was fantastic and everyone had a blast.

That evening we attended an event at the Kohler Design Center.  If for no other reason, the KDC made the entire trip worthwhile.  There were the most amazing tubs, sinks, bathroom/kitchen ideas, and of course the "wall of toilets".  You can't beat that!

The weekend culminated in the "Feast of Talent."  Jacques, Marcus, Andrew, Jon and Ulrich each presented courses.  A perfect ending to a perfect weekend.  I definitely had a blast!

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