Shopping for Chefs: Trends + Numbers from the Pebble Beach Food and Wine 2016 #PBFW

Pebble Beach Food and Wine 2016 kicks off on March 31 and runs through April 3, and offers guests the chance to take part in enjoy once-in-a-lifetime tasting opportunities, cooking demonstrations, wine-paired luncheons and intimate dinners, elite wine seminars, and more. Continuing its reign as the premier food and wine event in the world, the festival will play host to 8,500 guests and feature 124 chefs, including Daniel Boulud (Daniel), Matthew Peters (Per Se), Joshua Skenes (Saison), Bryce Shuman (Betony), Stuart Brioza and Nicola Krasinkey (State Bird Provisions), Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood), and 250 distinguished winemakers. The Ment’Or Cooking Demo and Dinner alone will count 13 Michelin stars among participating chefs.

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As we look forward to this delicious event, we wondered about all the ingredients it takes to create these experiences. Enter Dorothy Maras, senior culinary event manager for both Pebble Beach Food and Wine and Los Angeles Food and Wine. Her job, in a nutshell, is to get the chefs there — and then get them whatever they want to ensure they can put out wow-worthy dishes and drink. From chef coats and credentials to itineraries and food equipment and disposables, Maras helps make it all happen. She and her team also source every ingredient, which is no small task when you’re talking about feeding almost 10,000 people. “It can be scary,” notes Maras. “Whatever you provide from growers has to be impeccable.”

This year alone, her team will stock up on a whopping seven to eight tons of food. That includes:

  • Two pallets, or 1,200 pounds, of octopus
  • 1,100 pounds of butter (900 salted, 200 unsalted, if you were wondering)
  • 480 pounds of cheese, 20% of which is of the blue or Roquefort variety
  • 300 pounds of berries
  • 300 pounds of carrots
  • 60 cases of Little Gem lettuce
  • 40 gallons of fish sauce
  • 22 cases of cauliflower

Before worrying about the quality and quantity of ingredients, however, she and her staff must be sure they understand what the ingredients are. With 35 years in the culinary industry, she’s no stranger to virtually anything, but with a roster of chefs from around the globe, there can often be language barriers. “What people call certain ingredients varies around the world. — as do measurements. Thank god for Google!,” she laughs. There are also at first-sight-misunderstandings, like the time a chef from the Caribbean put “1 kid” on a shopping list. “We all knew he meant a goat, but it was definitely funny upon first read.”

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Or when another asked for(ahemmerken, which turns out to be a spice, ICMYI. After a chuckle and striking at through their usual network of local growers and purveyors, they turned to Amazon. We typically source from within a 100-mile radius, but when a random request comes in, Maras admits, “Amazon is our friend.” Extreme requests can inspire growers to go to somewhat extreme measures. “We had a chef request cherry blossoms — only there weren’t any to be found on this coast.” She called a grower down south to make an inquiry and while he didn’t have any, he was able to clip them from a neighbor’s trees and overnight them, saving the day (or at least that chef’s dish).

As she’s been a part of the festival’s evolution over nearly a decade, Maras has had a front seat to the evolution of cooking. “It’s been fun to watch,” she says. “Everything old is new again.” Some hot trends Maras is seeing for 2016 include:

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Chefs are 86ing molecular gastronomy and too much fuss. “We’re seeing chefs utilizing a lot more heritage techniques, such as pickling and preserving.” Tweezers, too, are scarce. “Chefs are recognizing that people want food that is satisfying and substantial that doesn’t look like it was assembled with surgical tools.”

Good news for pigs. “Goat is the new pig! It’s turning up in dishes across the board,” says Maras.

The use of bittersweet chocolate in savory dishes. “It’s crossing over from sweet dishes and being used more in savory dishes beyond a mole.

Desserts are becoming less sweet and more savory. “There’s a melding of these two when it comes to the final course. They are trending toward less sweet.”

Sous vide is popular but under the radar. “Many of the chefs will be using sous vide, but they’re not calling it out anymore because it’s become so commonplace.” Here, chefs cryovac and sous vide ingredients in large batches as part of their prep.

Asian influences transcend Asian cuisine. “Ingredients like fish sauce, lemongrass, and ginger are showing up on so many shopping lists, but it’s not about fusion, or as it’s often called confusion food. These ingredients are being used for their flavor profiles where it makes sense. I like to see that because it broadens the American palate and diet.”

Let’s get small. Mini and petite vegetables and microgreens are popular for providing big flavor without dominating a plate. Maras says, “Micro celery is like celery on steroids.”

Mum’s the word. Or chrysanthemums to be precise. “Chrysanthemums are very popular!  They are included in eight dishes for eight different chefs from eight different states.”

Luxe ingredients are always on the menu. “From caviar to truffles, Pebble Beach Food and Wine is an epicurean delight zone.”

Brussels sprouts are not. Sorry, sprouts, but you’re out like Tom Hagen. When asked how many pounds of the once du jour veggie chefs requested this year, Maras answers, “Zero.”

No tickets? No problem. You can purchase them here today!

Are you headed to Pebble Beach Food and Wine 2016? Share your experiences with us here or tag us on FacebookG+InstagramPinterest, or Twitter and use the hashtag #PBFW.

Photo credits: Robert Ellis (1 + 2); Gina Sinotte (3).