Caryl Chinn is a true culinary powerhouse. Having worked as Senior Special Events Director for Bon Appetit, Executive Director for Los Angeles Food & Wine and helping to establish Food Network's New York City Wine & Food Festival she has rubbed elbows with most of the globe's applauded chefs, building a reputation as one of the most intelligent and influential personalities in our industry. As Vice President of the Culinary division at Octagon, Caryl brings her expertise in creating and activating unique events with the first, BITE Silicon Valley, launching this June. We were lucky to chat with Caryl recently about her illustrious career and exciting thoughts on small-batch goods, seasonal ingredients, and craziest food memories.
Tell us a little about your culinary journey leading to the creation of BITE Silicon Valley!
I’ve been producing events with celebrity chefs for nearly 20 years. I’ve seen them evolve from the early basic festivals, to the mega-events, and then to hyper-curated events i.e. featuring a single ingredient, or type of cuisine. I started asking myself – what’s next?
At the same time, I couldn’t help but notice how many different ways technology and innovation are changing our food system – from social media and to food “on demand”, to all the gadgets in the kitchen and the way some heroic pioneers are using innovation to address global issues with our food system. BITE Silicon Valley will explore and celebrate all of these, but at the same time, with so many celebrity chefs and so much delicious food. If you just want to come and take pictures of food, that’s OK too!
Dream food vacation? Where would you go, who would you bring, and what would you eat?
Morocco! I have never been, but I love Moroccan food and have been longing to go for years. I’m dying to explore the markets and souks, but I have always been told the best food is in private homes. I have a Moroccan friend who is chef of the Imperial Fez in Atlanta, and he has promised to set me up with his family so I eat well. I would bring that special someone and we would eat couscous and tagine, b’stilla, briouats… everything!
It’s May! What are some of your favorite seasonal ingredients and preparations?
Right now the lemon tree in backyard is bursting with lemons, so I make tarte citron, or lemon bars and last year I made limoncello! I love soft shell crab, but I’m too squeamish to cook those at home, so I order them every chance I get at restaurants!
What’s the most important thing to throw a perfect dinner party?
I always make sure I have snacks out for my guests when they arrive. A great cheese board, some charcuterie, Marcona almonds and olives – no cooking required, just some smart shopping. Have some wine out so guests can help themselves. If people can graze and sip some wine, then you don’t have to rush to get dinner on the table and it takes the pressure off.
You’re lucky to call a lot of amazing chefs, close friends. What’s one of the craziest spur of the moment meals or memories you have?
A friend was lucky enough to score real Russian caviar from a client. A group of 6 of us got together for brunch and made buckwheat blini, capellini with butter and lemon, toasted brioche from Bouchon and soft scrambled eggs. We went through about 2 pounds of caviar. It was obscene.
It’s Happy Hour. What’s your drink of choice?
Any cocktail with Amaro in it. My crew also drinks a lot of rosé – all year ‘round.
Do you have a favorite local artisanal treat?
Skillet Street Food Bacon Jam – on a cracker, or just by the spoon.
If you could choose one of May’s featured ingredients to cook with, what would you choose and what would you make?
I’d choose Bee Local Honey Willamette Valley. I make a vinaigrette with apple cider, extra virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, minced shallots and honey. If you have a salad with fruit in it, the honey picks up the sweetness without overwhelming.
Midnight snack of choice?
What’s the number one thing you’ve learned working in food? What advice would you give yourself when you were starting out if you could?
Food has opened so many doors for me, and when I’m traveling, food is my lens on the world. You can learn so much about a culture by experiencing their cuisine.
What’s up next for you? Any exciting culinary travels or adventures to share?
We’re already contemplating doing BITE in another city – so if you can think of any locales with an emerging tech community and a kick-ass food scene, let me know!
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