Road Trip: The 2017 IACP Conference in Louisville

ICE President Rick Smilow’s Recap

The weekend of March 4th, I had the pleasure of attending the annual IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) conference in Louisville, KY. ICE has been a part of IACP for over 20 years. The group’s membership is particularly focused in the food media and culinary communications arena.

If you’re looking for an annual gathering of food editors, authors, recipe developers, food bloggers, test kitchen executives, culinary entrepreneurs, journalists and culinary experts, this is your place. I attended — for the 17th time in 20 years — with Maureen Drum Fagin, ICE’s Director of Career Services. We counted at least 24 ICE alumni or former ICE team members in attendance, several of whom were leading educational sessions at the conference.

IACP Conference
Maureen and Rick with Jenna Helwig and Kristin Donnelly

That included SeeFood Media President and founder Jamie Tiampo (Culinary Management, 2006) with the workshop “How to Bid, Plan and Distribute Digital Food Videos,” and food journalist and cookbook author Jody Eddy (Culinary Arts, 2007) was part of a panel discussion entitled “Is What’s Mine Yours? How to Avoid Cultural Appropriation in Your Writing.”

One of the highlights of the conference was the awards ceremony (primarily for cookbooks), which was held Sunday night at the Louisville Palace Theatre. I am happy to announce that Chef Vivian Howard’s (Culinary Arts, 2003) book Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South won in four categories, including Cookbook of the Year. Vivian is the Head Chef and Co-Owner of Chef & the Farmer in North Carolina, as well as the host/star of the PBS series, A Chef’s Life, for which she has won a James Beard Foundation award and a Peabody Award. 

chef restaurateur TV personality Vivian Howard
chef/restaurateur/TV personality Vivian Howard

Other ICE alumni we caught up with include Jenna Helwig (food editor, Parents Magazine), David Bonom (recipe developer/food writer), Alison Tozzi Liu (editorial director, James Beard Foundation), Adeena Sussman (author/journalist), Kristin Donnelly (author of Modern Potluck: Beautiful Food to Share and formerly Editor at Food &Wine), Emily Peterson (instructor in NYU’s Food Studies program), Trish Lobenfeld (food writer/recipe developer), Juli Roberts (test kitchen manager, Rodale), Diana Andrews (food editor/test kitchen manager for Fine Cooking Magazine) and Julie Hartigan (writer/recipe developer).

Of course, when you are in Louisville, you are in bourbon country. Friday, as a supplement to the main conference, I attended a special one-day class called “Moonshine University” at the Distilled Spirits Epicenter, which has a small-scale yet sophisticated spirits production operation on-site.

I now have a general understanding of how bourbon is made: the significance of heat and alcohol boiling points and a grasp of terms like “mash bill,” “congeners,” “sweet vs. sour mash” and a “number 3 char.” Typically, their classes run for several weeks and attract prospective artisan-spirits makers from around the world. 

Moonshine University
Moonshine University

While I was at Moonshine University, Maureen was on a moving bourbon tour of Louisville. On her tour, Maureen chatted with two ICE alumni that hadn’t been on our radar: Tess Bosher, the Culinary Specialist in Hamilton Beach’s test kitchen, and Stacy Basko, a freelance recipe developer.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the food. Several of our meals were walk-around tastings and so we got to try bites from notable Louisville restaurants such as Milkwood, Decca and Proof on Main. It’s a matter of debate whether Louisville is in the northern part of the South, or the southern part of the Midwest, but either way, there are menu items — like grits, pickled vegetables and rabbit – that you’d be less likely to find in New York City.

A tasty example was the sandwich served at the Sunday brunch at Harvest: house-smoked bologna, pimento cheese, a sunny-side-up egg and arugula. One memorable meal inspired by another country’s fare was ICE alum Gina Stipo’s (Culinary, 1998) pop-up dinner “At the Italian Table.”

We enjoyed Gina’s Italian dinner on Thursday night with David Bonom and his wife, Newsday columnist and visiting ICE instructor Marge Perry. Gina’s spent much of the last 12 years in Italy, teaching and leading food tours. When she came back to the US, her goal was to open an intimate and delicious Italian restaurant —The Italian Table achieves that goal.

Eating there is like being invited to a warm and friendly Italian dinner party — where you don’t know most of the other guests! With just two large tables for 20 or so guests, her restaurant is open four nights a week and has a four-course pre-fixe menu that changes daily. The first (and only) seating of the night starts promptly at 7:00pm.


Gina Stipo's "At the Italian Table" Dinner
Gina Stipo's "At the Italian Table" Dinner

Some former ICE team members were present as well. I enjoyed spending time with Anne McBride and Todd Coleman, who both held communications or marketing positions at ICE in the past decade. Anne and I co-wrote the book, Culinary Careers: How to Get Your Dream Job in Food. She also has collaborated with ICE Pastry & Baking Arts Chef Instructor Kathryn Gordon on her cookbooks Les Petits Macarons and Les Petit Sweets.

After ICE, Todd took a position at Saveur magazine, where he eventually became Executive Food Editor. Beyond all the ICE names, one of the most interesting speakers at the conference was Ali Bouzari, who recently published a new book, Ingredient: Unveiling the Essential Elements of Food. His book focuses on the concept that there are eight “mother ingredients” (proteins, water, minerals, etc.) and that if a cook understands these concepts, their intuition and ability to execute any recipe or technique will be enhanced.

I’m told Ali has done a TEDTalk on this subject and the book, and based on what I heard in Louisville, I bet it’s great! All in all, it was a terrific conference. We caught up with ICE alums, explored delicious domestic foods and drinks (with some foreign flavors thrown in too), and were inspired by great culinary conversations.

Click here for more information about IACP.