Hot music. Piccante salumi. A bust of berries. And Ruth Reichl. This is an IACP event? Wow. Bring it on! The Association sent a clear message at the launch party for its 34th Annual Conference to be held in New York City: this year’s events will be hipper, sexier, and more star-studded than ever.
The once-a-year gathering doesn’t happen until late March, but to kick things off early, conference speakers, staffers, and organizers were invited to meet, eat and drink at Santos Party House in downtown Manhattan last Monday. Partygoers knew this was the place to be when Ruth Reichl sashayed through the crowd sprinkling her magic pixie dust over everyone’s heads. PBS chef Sara Moulton hugged old friends. Baking genius Rose Levy Berenbaum and Gastronomica editor Darra Goldstein nibbled on al dente sopressata and meltingly tender porchetta from Salumeria Rosi. Meanwhile, Garrett Oliver, guru of gastronomy at Brooklyn Brewery, discussed roasted garlic duckfat ciabatta and cave-ripened cheddar with Jonathan White from Bobolink Farm.
The Party House was a like a boxing ring with culinary heavyweight champions in every corner. At the center of it stood Doug Duda, incoming IACP President, holding the microphone:
“Ladies and Gentleman,” he announced, introducing the speakers and events for this year’s conference, “IACP is proud to present an all-new conference like you’ve never seen it before.” He exuberantly told us how things will be different at the New York gathering. For one, the conference runs Thursday to Monday this year with an extra full day. The awards will take place at the very end, on Monday night, after a weekend packed with engaging sessions and optional tours. “You can eat at Katz’s Deli with Ruth Reichl on a Jewish Heritage tour,” Duda beamed. “You can join Madhur Jaffrey on a food adventure through Jackson Heights and Floral Park. Or you can enjoy a bagel and a schmear at Arthur Schwartz’s apartment before exploring one of Brooklyn’s great ethnic neighborhoods.” Another unique experience this year: all day Sunday will be spent in SoHo with hands-on classes at the French Culinary Institute just before an afternoon of schmoozing, tasting, and author signings at the Culinary Expo and Book Festival. The Awards will be held on the beautiful Times Square stage of the New York Times Center; and instead of wondering what to do afterwards, there will be an Awards After-Party for all attendees in the same location. Brilliant! The theme this year is “The Fashion of Food,” so bring your uptown look.
At the kickoff, plenty of A-list conference speakers were happily snacking and chatting with guests: Hiroko Shimbo will be teaching a hands-on class on Real Ramen; Leticia Moreinos Schwartz will share her irresistible brigadeiros in a class on Brazilian cuisine, and Pam Anderson leads an interactive 3-day session on blogging the conference itself.
Photographer Penny De Los Santos turned her infectious smile 360º around the Santos Party House and Dan Kohler paraded his camera through the crowd like Freddie Mercury chanting “We Will Rock You” at a Queen concert. It was refreshingly surreal to see such a mix of talents and personalities at the launch. Brooklyn Brewery beers, pulled pork and apple crostini, and seasonal cocktails were all free and flowing for two high-spirited hours.
If this kickoff party was any indication of what the New York conference will be like, I am registering early so I don’t get waitlisted out of my top sessions and events.
IACP thanks Food Karma for producing the event, Santos Party House for donating the space and staff as well the following sponsors: Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse, Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn Oenology, Bull Dog Gin, Driscoll’s Berries, Jarlsberg Cheese, Jimmy’s No. 43, Salumeria Rosi, and Voss Water.
*Sorry about the lack of photos here – I was too busy stuffing my face! (and only had a phone camera)