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Looking at the Future of Food with Dustin Valette

Time. It’s a precious commodity in today’s society. Food. It’s a staple of life. We all have to eat.

At Harvest Summit we think it’s about time to recognize our always on, mobile way of life has changed how we look at food. Shopping, cooking and sharing a meal has changed dramatically. What will the future of food look like?

We sat down with Harvest Council Member Dustin Valette, Chef/Proprietor of Valette Restaurant here in Healdsburg, to get his thoughts.

What’s the big picture?

I find people today care more than ever about where their food comes from. It’s not only exciting but a societal shift. Farm-to-table is no longer a rural country practice, it’s a global movement. We’re all more mindful of what we put into our bodies.

Much of what I do is getting back to basics and sharing that with my customers. I’m about building relationships with farmers, sourcing produce without pesticides, finding heirloom varieties, supporting small carbon footprint farming, offering farm-to-table conceptual cooking and keeping it simple – dishes don’t have to be over complicated.

What does the future of food look like?

The future of food, wow! That’s big. I think that’s what I’m looking forward to about Harvest Summit. We get to share ideas and concepts with people from different industries, different mindsets, different views of the world and mix them with our industry and from there see what the future may look like.

It’s important we work together as a culinary community to help people in their own homes. I think offerings like Blue Apron and Munchery represent the future. I see a similar custom approach for people stopping at their local grocery store on the way home from work emerging as well.

How important is innovation in today’s food world?

Food is the common thread that connects everyone in the world. Food has a unique way of bringing people together through a shared experience no matter what your religion, beliefs or social status. When people are talking about food there is passion they want to share, insight they want to receive, new discoveries they can’t wait to tell you about – food is excitement!

As the world changes at a faster rate than ever imagined, food is at the forefront of that change  – be it global warming and how that affects food production or the scarcity of water in California changing how crops are grown. Food is one of the three necessities for survival and we have the ability to change how it’s grown, shared, and shape a future that is both exciting and beneficial to our planet and our society.  Most importantly –  it’s delicious!

What has been a game changing innovation in the kitchen?

Sous vide was a game changer in my early career.  I remember reading about it in ’04 while I was the Sous Chef of Aqua in San Francisco and loving the idea so much I converted the deep fat fryer into one of the first sous vide machines. Now you can buy the machines on Amazon for $100. The biggest change that sous vide had was flipping what we knew as standard and asking why? Why do I need to overcook a protein on the outside to cook it correctly on the inside? Once we realized we could cook a steak to the exact preferred temperature,  in submerged water no less, it made us question every other ’standard’ or ’traditional’ method we were taught. Basically, for me sous vide opened a Pandora’s box for a whole slew of chef’s creativity and allowed us to question everything we’ve been taught. It was transformative.

Is being a chef in California’s wine country different than anywhere else?

I’ve been very fortunate to travel all over the world and have always found people look at what we are doing here in the wine country as a model for food and wine experiences. I really believe we are innovative. When I create a new dish I walk out to the garden a few yards from my restaurant and see what’s in season, what’s at its peak. The natural cycle of the garden provides inspiration. We’re lucky to have the access by design to such fresh inspiration.

Has social media made dining more about entertainment than nourishment?

I think social media has magnified what we’ve always done, sharing our passion for making people happy. Food makes people happy and they like to share that. We had a good debate about providing wifi at our restaurant. We listened to our customers and provided it and we find people of all ages sharing their dining experiences on social media platforms.

When you cook dinner for someone it’s not just nourishment. Instead eating is about entertainment, about being fully immersed in the sensual experience of tasting new flavors. Eating brings out such a strong emotional attachment we can’t help ourselves from sharing it with the world. If we weren’t hardwired to share our experiences we would never have evolved, would never have never been able to teach our fellow man how to cure, cook and transform raw ingredients into food. It’s this desire to share that allows us to learn and grow!

Is there another industry or profession where you draw inspiration from? why?

Wine! I Love wine! It’s amazing how much wine can elevate the flavor and complexity of a dish.  When you have a sip of wine your palate is completely changed, the acid, tannins and alcohol all greatly affect how you will taste the next bite of food. Sometimes we use this to our advantage. For example when you’re eating a fatty steak, if you have a glass of Cabernet the acid and tannins will cut through the steak and allow the secondary flavors of the steak to shine through. The same can happen in reverse. If you have the Cabernet then eat a salad the two acids will clash with the greens and taste bitter. Neither will shine. The beauty of wine is its ability add a totally different dimension to food, thus creating a food and wine experience. You’re creating balance. If you add preserved lemon to a dish it can either enhance or destroy, its all about balance!

Dustin is the Chef & Proprietor of award-winning Valette in Healdsburg, a business he runs with his brother Aaron Garzini.  Dustin began his career at some of the most celebrated restaurants on the West Coast, including the Michelin-starred Aqua in San Francisco, and Napa Valley’s Bouchon.  He spent 6 years as the Executive Chef of Dry Creek Kitchen, Chef Valette was celebrated at Dry Creek Kitchen for his exceptional ability to pair Sonoma’s best wines with his intense, flavorful, and dynamic cuisine.

Dustin will be a featured speaker at Harvest Summit on November 4, 2016.  Learn more about our agenda, see our speaker roster and request an invitation.

 

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