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Dispatches from IFT 2014

Merging industries: Top chefs and the food companies can learn a lot from each other, says chef

By Nathan Gray+

07-Jul-2014
Last updated on 07-Jul-2014 at 13:35 GMT

While there are some differences between high end catering and the large scale manufacturing of food, there is a lot of scope for both groups to learn from each other, says executive chef Gui Alinat.

Alinat was invited to present at the IFT show in New Orleans as part of the innovation programme at the event, where he demonstrated a number of techniques that he uses to feed high end clients on a daily basis. The twist being that almost all of the equipment and ingredients used were ones used by many large scale food producers.

Speaking to FoodNavigator, the executive chef explained that he has drawn a lot of inspiration from the large scale food manufacturing industry in the past few decades, and that he now sees the two areas of 'food production' moving closer together.

"The two industries kind of, like, merge together for the purpose of feeding people. The only difference with my company is that with my company we feed high-end diners in a setting that is made for a party and the lavish taste of food."

"But of course, I am very interested in the techniques, products and equipment that has been developed by the larger firms for the food business, because that has been a source of inspiration," said Alinat, who is executive chef and owner of Artisan Boutique Catering.

The executive chef said that a lot of high-end catering work with hydrocolloids has been inspired by recent developments in the wider food production industry.

"We are very interested in changing the texture of something, for example taking a sauce and turning it in to a foam. We are interested in taking liquids and to turn them in to a sphere using a process known as spherification."

However Alinat suggested that it is a two way street. Just as chefs have learned new techniques taken ideas from the industry, manufactures can, and should be, looking to top chefs for inspiration and help with new products, he said.

"It's important to remember that I'm not an R&D chef ... I'm not a food scientist. I'm just a chef cooking for people."

"I came here not having any kind of expectations, I just wanted to show the techniques that we use ... and what I've found is it's a very captive audience of food tech and food scientists who I could tell, in every one of these people, there was a little light going on - they were getting a little idea."

"For whatever their work is, whatever their company, it seems like they took away something."

"It's merging our ideas together, merging our techniques, for feeding people whatever the setting. That's the interesting part."

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