6 Cool Things You Can Learn at Cook. Craft. Create.

by Jocelyn Tolbert

There’s so much going on at Cook. Craft. Create. ACF National Convention and Show this year, it can be hard to choose what to do each day. We were honestly hard-pressed to pick just six activities for this article. But we think the following list illustrates the broad selection of really awesome stuff you can learn in New Orleans July 15-19.

1. How to take a decent photo of your food.

On Thursday, Susan Bourgoin of Visual Cuisines Inc. shares the golden rule of food photography (“Never front-light your food,” she says) and more tips for taking a good shot for your restaurant’s Instagram feed. She’ll also teach attendees how to know when to hire a professional food photographer — like, when this photo is going to go on a billboard. Don’t DIY that one.

French Quarter by Paul Broussard
French Quarter, by Paul Broussard

2. The culinary (and cocktail) history of New Orleans’ famous French Quarter.

Two offsite walking tours, one on Sunday and one on Tuesday, reveal the culinary and cocktail history of the French Quarter. Belly up to the oldest stand-up bar in the country, find out where the Grasshopper was invented, get the real scoop on absinthe, hear the stories of various restaurant family dynasties, learn recipes old and new, visit restaurants that pre-date the American Civil War and discover hidden gems where locals have been imbibing for centuries. Samples are provided along the way, of course.

Mississippi River Delta and sediment plume, NASA images
Mississippi River Delta and sediment plume

3. The parallels between the Mississippi and Mekong Deltas.

Chef David Chang pointed out the parallels between the Mississippi and Mekong Deltas in the “Shrimp and Crawfish” episode of his Netflix show Ugly Delicious. It’s no wonder the culinary history of these two places so far apart has intertwined. In his talk “Curry and Courtbouillon,” Michael Gulotta, Chef/Partner of MOPHO Group/Delta Group, delves into these fascinating parallels, touching on hand ground shellfish curries and roux-based spicy fish stews.

4. How to follow the flow without losing who you are.

Incorporating new culinary techniques and trends while still holding on to your roots can be tough. In Chef Toya Boudy’s Thursday talk, she discusses how to stay true to yourself while at the same time adapting to the current food landscape. Attendees will learn how to deal with change and ways to market themselves more effectively, too.

Truffles, by David Leggett

5. How to hand-roll a truffle.

Making a truffle — a seemingly simple dessert of chocolate and cream — can be tricky. Chef Jacquelyn Lopez, Executive Pastry Chef at Royal Sonesta, hosts a demo on the Art of Chocolate to teach attendees how to put together a small show-stopping showpiece and hand-roll the perfect chocolate truffles.

Pterois antennata, by Christian Mehlführer
Pterois antennata, by Christian Mehlführer

6. How chefs can help solve the problem of invasive species.

Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific, but are currently thriving along the southeast coast of the United States, in the Caribbean and parts of the Gulf of Mexico. Though they’re not sure how it happened exactly, experts speculate that people have been dumping them from home aquariums into the Atlantic for decades. Chef Tenney Flynn, a vocal advocate for the eradication of lionfish, provides a history of the invasive species and some culinary solutions to eradicate the issue. He’ll teach attendees how to butcher the spiny fish and prepare it in several different recipes.