At the Madrid Fusión international chefs' congress in January, Andoni Luis Aduriz, the influential Basque chef, told me a curious story. At another gastronomic summitthis one in Francehe'd watched his equally well-respected peer René Redzepi of Denmark demonstrate a strikingly complex roasted-onion broth. "I was fascinated and began taking notes," Aduriz recalls. "Then René announced to the audience that the broth was inspired by a recipe by...me!"
There was a time, not long ago, when such a scene would never have happened. Master chefs kept their ideas to themselves, and an innovative Spanish chef might never have met his Scandinavian counterpart, let alone borrowed his broth. The idea of kitchens without doors, even borders, owes almost everything to the advent of high-powered chefs' congresses around the world. (The Internet has something to do with it, too.) And what exactly is a chefs' congress? Part conference, part trade show, it's where influential chefs demonstrate their latest recipes and techniques on a high-tech stage, in front of an auditorium packed with hundreds of their peers, aspiring cooks and the press. It feels like an haute couture showhighlighting food trends rather than fashion onescrossed with a medical conference. Except that the guy doing the ultrasound presentation isn't a doctor but a chef. In fact, at the 2009 Madrid Fusión, Eneko Atxa of Azurmendi in Spain revealed how ultrasound can help graft the aroma of one ingredient onto another to create, say, a strawberry with the scent of a rose.
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Following our talk about broths at this year's Madrid Fusión, Aduriz, of Mugaritz restaurant near San Sebastián, Spain, demonstrated a dish: baked Jerusalem artichokes that looked uncannily like the crabmeat he paired them with on the plate. Using a scientific process, he soaked the Jerusalem artichokes in a solution of lime (calcium hydroxide) to form a kind of second skin, which preserved the vegetables' texture while they cooked. The dish was a hit at the conference, representing the newly popular style often called neo- naturalism: earthy ingredients presented with a deceptive simplicity that belies the scientific research underneath. The celebrated chef Yoshihiro Narisawa of Tokyo's Les Créations de Narisawa continued the theme, coating beef in leek ashes and leaving the crowd to ask, half jokingly, whether dashi broths infused with fragrant cedar shavings will be the Next Big Thing.