Culinary Luminaries Will Convene at Stony Brook Southampton

The Stony Brook Southampton Food Lab will hold its second annual confab at the Southampton campus
Carla Hall will be the featured speaker at this year's Food Lab conference.

While the culinary world’s emphasis on locally sourced ingredients shows no sign of abating, the ingredients and techniques of global cuisine are increasingly important to the chef community, as exemplified by the presence at the Stony Brook Southampton Food Lab’s upcoming conference of Deuki Hong, a 25-year-old chef at one of New York’s hottest Korean restaurants. 

The Food Lab, launched in the fall of 2014 as a center for food-related information, education, and business development, with a particular focus on the East End’s burgeoning culinary community, will hold its second annual confab at the Southampton campus from Friday, June 3, through June 5.

The keynote speaker at the conference, titled “Future of Food — Trends, Tastes, and Directions: Who’s Shaping Them and Where They’re Heading,” will be Carla Hall, co-host of ABC-TV’s “The Chew,” former “Top Chef” and “Top Chef All-Stars” competitor, and soon-to-be proprietor of Carla Hall’s Southern Kitchen, which will open in Brooklyn next month.

“Last year’s conference was predominantly about growing a food business,” said Geoffrey Drummond, executive director of the lab and producer-director of culinary programs for television for some 30 years. “This year’s is about trends and tastes — where are they going, who’s driving them, and what things are happening now and in the future.”

The conference’s seven panels will include chefs, food writers, journalists, professors, and food and beverage industry executives, among them the East End culinary luminaries Kathleen King of Tate’s Bake Shop, Brian Halweil, editor of Edible East End, Michael Cinque, owner of Amagansett Wines and Spirits, Colin Ambrose, chef/owner of Estia’s Little Kitchen in Sag Harbor, John Liegey, founder of Greenport Harbor Brewing Co., and Laura Donnelly, food writer for The Star, who will interview Ms. Hall.

“I want to talk about some of the expectations I think were placed on me unknowingly, and what I have learned, and the importance of authenticity,” said Ms. Hall. “Sometimes you look at other people and think, I need to be like that, and you forget to look at yourself and why you are here and what you’re supposed to be doing. I’m going to talk about that, and some of the challenges I have faced matriculating through this path.”

While the conference, with participants such as Eric Ripert, Le Bernardin’s chef; Jeffrey Zurofsky, founder and C.E.O. of Witchcraft and Riverpark restaurants; Andy Arons, founder and C.E.O. of Gourmet Garage, and Susan Spungen, culinary consultant and former food editor of Martha Stewart Living, is perhaps the Food Lab’s most visible component, much more is percolating on the campus.

In partnership with the Amagansett Food Institute and its South Fork Kitchens incubator program, the Food Lab provides small-batch food production space, entrepreneurial training, and technical assistance to food businesses and food-related enterprises. 

“The kitchen facility is a tremendous asset and resource,” said Mr. Drummond. “We have this amazing, health department-certified back kitchen, which functions primarily as an incubator for new business, and we hope to bring more people in.”

The front kitchen is a food service operation for Stony Brook Southampton students and faculty. “We’d like to give it a much broader reach, to really elevate the restaurant to make it an attractive place people from off campus will want to come to for lunch.”

Another initiative, which Mr. Halweil has been pursuing, is teaching courses in basic food literacy, nutrition, and even shopping skills to different groups, such as health care workers. “What I foresee is ultimately creating a media resource,” said Mr. Drummond, “because I come from decades of doing food media. We’ve been doing stage one of the logistics of putting together ideas about how to take Food Lab and make it go beyond the conference to become a hub of communication and conversation for distributing information about food education issues.”

One of the panels in this year’s conference is titled “What’s Next? Trends in Food Tech and Service.” One panelist, Jonah Rider, is a recent graduate of Columbia University who opened a supper club in university housing, with long waiting lists for reservations. “He’s approaching food from a kind of social side, he’s almost treating it as performance.” 

Mr. Drummond also cited the increasing importance of global influences on the culinary community. Mr. Hong will be one of the chef panelists,  along with Matt Rodbard, a food journalist and co-author with Mr. Hong of “Koreatown: A Cookbook.”

“There are new ingredients, new techniques, new tastes,” said Mr. Drummond. “These things all cross over. When you go to an incubator, there’s always someone making kim chi. So, global influence is one of the big topics.”

Ms. Hall said of the conference, “Sometimes we’re really isolated in terms of the things we go through. That’s why when I do things like this conference, I try to be as honest as possible about the experiences that I’ve had, the ups as 

well as the downs. Sometimes people think it’s all roses. So, I love hearing other people’s stories. I think, ‘Oh, I’m not by myself!’ ”

Admission to the conference is $150. Students and farmers can attend for $75. Tickets to Saturday night’s dinner only, which will be prepared by Mr. Ambrose, are $75. Complete information can be found at thefoodlab.org/conference.