Thursday, November 7, 2013

IdeaFest Chicago Interview with Truffleberry

Asparagus as it is meant to be with Truffleberry.

The Future of Food in Catering and Events is a very big topic and after talking with Brittany Ferrin today I long to be in her session in Chicago and share ideas!  Her energy, passion and sheer enthusiasm for elevating food was infectious, and while I am writing this before 7am, I wish I could fly to Chicago for lunch. I mean seriously - above they are picking the asparagus they turned into dinner - hello this is what food is all about!

Five and a half years ago, Brittany and her husband and business partner Vaidotas Karsokas met while working together and three months into dating started Truffleberry Market.  As she said, “It was never a question if it was the right thing to do, we knew it was!”

They are Chefs and artists who are continually exploring options, and below are the tough questions I was interested in asking, and Brittany’s thoughtful responses.

  1. Your food influences are from far and wide – how do you think the ability for many to travel, the influence of TV and the internet on our ability to see what the “world” is doing is impacting how our guests expectations have changed?  Ie. Do your clients want globally influenced food or do they want familiar food?
The influence is HUGE! Before people when they thought of global wanted French or Italian but now there are so many accessible and interesting influences coming into our living rooms every day, and they make the food look really good, whether they are in Central Europe or deepest Asia, chefs like Anthony Bourdain are going deep into food culture around the world and presenting them in a way that you cannot help but be absorbed by the possibilities of these different cultures – suddenly even frog or cricket seems interesting. It is really fun because we get to bring people’s remembered cuisine alive, for example they may have traveled to Croatia or South Africa and want us to create some influences in the menus we are preparing.

  1. I am a huge fan of FLOSS thinking in food for meetings in particular – do you see fresh, local, organic, seasonal, sustainable being part of the future?  (knowing you can have 2 or 3 out of the 5 at any one time)
Again, HUGE. Ideally everyone could operate their food business on these principles and as people become more aware of the source of our food, and how that impacts the flavour profiles, they begin to see the inherent value in this sourcing.  It can be more expensive but do you want your food to be “on sale” or do you really want nourishing and flavourful meals?  For example, if you have a fresh seasonal tomato entirely on its own, vs an out of season mass produced tomato, you immediately know the difference in one slice of each.  Imagine then when you begin to combine flavour profiles if you have started with the freshest ingredients…

We don’t want to see this as a trend, in then out, but rather we see this as a shift – a higher population of people are moving this way. For a while there was a priority to make food faster, cheaper, increase margins and we are definitely moving to how do we make it more fabulous, interesting, tasty and in season.  People are more willing to look for alternatives in their food choices and catering that reflect this shift.

  1. What do you want people to feel when they eat your food at an event?
The question that will keep me up as I think about this.  In one word. “Layers”, we want people to feel these.

At Truffleberry, we really emphasize the processes and complexity of what we create.  Something as seemingly simple as a vinaigrette, at its heart for example a balsamic vinaigrette… oil, vinegar, salt, sugar.  We consider this a good start and then we begin perhaps with slowly making a confit of shallots and then add this and that to make it a layered and complex taste – it is not a single ingredient or component we want people to recognize and say “ah ha this ____ makes it delicious” – it is about an overall sensation of complex deliciousness that slaps your senses awake.  Going above and beyond – no cutting corners, slowly and deliberately.  It really gives you the right end result.  Foundation building, which applies to houses, events and each dish on a menu is critical. We believe that we must begin with the highest quality components and methods and then we create with sincerity. 

  1. If you had one wish for how people would want food / catering to evolve based on your knowledge, experience and passion – what would you wish for?
I believe it is evolving in the way I wish – what we want to do ideally as a catering company is to continue to bring people’s food memories alive and help them create options for their guests. We all have special, succulent memories of shared meals that have remained unforgettable and which we would love to share with friends. For example, taking Thanksgiving dinner – a guest calls and they don’t want ‘same old same old’ – but we know we want to keep in line with flavours and sentiment and then update it.  The process begins with the fun part – brainstorming, researching flavour ideas and concepts and coming up with alternatives. An example would be taking sweet potatoes with marshmallow fluff – you can’t ignore this dish but you can alter it to sweet potatoes roasted with maple glaze, topped with toasted pine nuts and fried sage, reminiscent of the original but elevated. 

5. Why should someone attend your session – which to me would be fascinating? 

 It is really fun to be in a creative and innovative space, and while we create that in our store, we will also bring it to our session. We love getting many brains in one place and creating an experience where we embrace creative ideas with creative people and feed off of each other.  Those who share this philosophy will want to come.

How to get there
Brittany Ferrin will be speaking on "The Future of Food & Catering in Events" in the Event Innovation Forum conference at BizBash IdeaFest Chicago on November 13 at the Merchandise Mart. For more information, and to register, please visit

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