Like any trade conference, you come home with more than a collection of brochures and handouts. After spending three days with chefs from around the country, I brought a number of new ideas to try at work.
The most valuable reason for attending are the friendships. At the Christian Chefs International Conference in Canby, Oregon, this week, I met a dozen new like-minded colleagues. I can now call on any when I need advice or assistance.
In many respects this was the best conference that I've attended in my professional career. We enjoyed informational sessions from Boyds Coffee, Chef Bob Vaningan's Fit2Eat meal plan, vegetarian cooking from Dr. Frank and Rosalie Hurd and a special presentation on the Scandinavian smorgasbord by Susanna Krizo.
The hands-on presentation on baking for chefs by Chef Jim Krieg was the best of the conference. Chef Jim demonstrated three basic doughs that chefs can use to enhance any operation, including pain ordinaire, rum buba and pate a choux. Chef Jim is a former Le Cordon Bleu baking chef-instructor.
Informative sessions aside, the food was the best aspect of the conference. When he organized the second annual conference for Christian Chefs Fellowship, Chef Ira Krizo had a small dilemma to resolve. As the new chef for the Canby Grove Camp and Conference Center, he didn't have trained staff in place to cook meals for the conference. The camp was recently sold to new owners.
To resolve the issue, Ira placed a "kitchen social" on the agenda each day of the conference. Starting Monday morning, several attendees, including two from the South, joined Ira in the kitchen. Over the three-day conference seven or eight cooks helped Ira prepare the meals.
I enjoyed the opportunity to work along other chefs. We talked shop and shared ideas and new recipes with each other. I scribed over six pages of culinary ideas in my notebook.
I've already served Ira's Roasted Butternut Squash Soup to the residents at work. (I'll post the recipe tomorrow.)
I'm looking forward to the conference next year. Ira and I discussed the possibility of a session on Dutch oven cooking. Since each conference meal is designed to introduce a new ideas to the chefs, my session idea will teach them how to incorporate cast iron cooking into their respective operations.
If my idea comes to fruition, I'll introduce the basics in a Tuesday afternoon session PowerPoint presentation. The class will then move outside and cook dinner in cast iron Dutch ovens. If the other chefs are like me, they'll go home with valuable information, reinforced by hands-on experience.
It's going to be a long year waiting to return to Canby!