Top US chefs to discuss future of American dining at #50BestTalks event in New York

Laura Price - 06/10/2014

On Saturday 11th October 2014, The World’s 50 Best Restaurants is holding an informal, invitation-only discussion forum in New York City with a select group of America’s leading chefs, restaurateurs and food journalists. You can share your views on ‘The future of American dining: US gastronomy in a global context’ by posting questions and comments on social media with the hashtag #50BestTalks

In the lead up to this exclusive event, we spoke to Mitchell Davis (above), Academy Chair for East USA & East Canada and Executive Vice President of the James Beard Foundation, to find out his views on US gastronomy

Hi Mitchell. As Academy Chair for East USA and East Canada, what do you look for in a “World’s 50 Best”-calibre restaurant?

Something that stands out as unique, whether because of the vision and creativity of the chef, a sense of place, a new perspective on food and dining, a sense of comfort and caring in the service. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does have to be memorable.

Away from fine dining, where are your favourite places in New York for a low-key burger, casual dinner or a coffee?

I love the burger served at lunch at Peter Luger’s Steak House in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. For a casual dinner, Bar Primi. My favourite coffee shop is at Abraçao in the East Village.

You’re running the USA Pavilion (above) at next year’s Expo Milano. What image of American cuisine are you aiming to project?

We want to surprise people with the breadth and diversity of American cuisine. From food trucks to fine dining restaurants, American chefs are creating exciting dishes using unexpected combinations of ingredients and traditions. Also, many people will be surprised at the growing trend of sustainable sourcing and other practices that are sweeping across the nation. It’s an exciting time here and you can feel the passion and taste the success as you travel from coast to coast

What’s the current international perception of American cuisine and is that changing?

Many people don’t think there is an American cuisine and if they think of it at all, they think of hamburgers, hot dogs, fast food, and soda. Of course we have plenty of those things, but many of our chefs, our food writers, our culinary artisans are on par with the best in the world. Many people would be surprised to realise we’ve had as many restaurants on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list as France.

How do you think the American fine dining scene has changed over the last decade?

The popularity of casual restaurants—counters, bistros, sandwich shops—with elevated, sophisticated food began in America and has become a norm around the world. The gastronomic ethos of a Momofuku restaurant, where you see the passion of cooks and the music blares while you sit on stools and wonder how anything could be so flavourful and delicious, is something that we have exported. And the focus on the food, and less on the tablecloths and service, while perhaps a loss for some, has made quality, delicious food available to more people than ever before. And that’s really exciting to me. The same people wait in line at food trucks, hit redial or refresh to try to get reservations at top places. I think good food here has moved from a fad to a fashion and is on its way to becoming the norm.

How would you describe American cuisine in three words?

Creative. Ambitious. Abundant.

If you were an ingredient, which one would you be?

Flour. I know that’s weird, and it’s not exactly what you think of when you think of me, but it’s the ingredient at the base of so many of the things I love: bread, pastry, pasta etc. Apologies to my gluten-intolerant friends.

Want to be part of the event? Connect with @TheWorlds50Best on Twitter from 12-2pm EDT on Saturday 11th October and join in the conversation #50BestTalks

With thanks to our partners, S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna, Lavazza and LesConcierges