Chefs in the Woods

The New York Times published an article last month on an interesting new culinary conference, Cook It Raw. The focus of the conference is not the raw foods movement but rather introducing chefs to a variety of traditional agricultural skills and local foods, both protein and vegetable, in the field.  A select group of chefs from around the world are invited to to the prestigious, yearly event and flown out to various locales.

“Its guiding idea is to strip cooking to its raw elements: foraging, hunting, fishing, farming and low-tech skills like butchery and cooking over fire. A taste of the wild — hunting deer, gathering mushrooms, pulling wasabi from creek beds — is part of each carefully orchestrated and extensively documented program.”

Each year’s location provides a new set of skills and foods:

“In Lapland, they witnessed the slaughter of a reindeer; on the west coast of Japan, they tried to catch ducks in midair, using traditional nets strung on long poles; here in the Lowcountry, they foraged for yaopon, the only plant native to North America that contains caffeine (Native Americans and early settlers made tea from its leaves). The final event is a grand experimental dinner, with each chef improvising a single course inspired by the local terrain — usually with names like Earth and Sea or Strange Fruit or even Frustrated Mackerel.”


Check out the article for more discussion on the conference, the focus on regional and seasonal cooking, and about this year’s location, Charleston, SC.

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