“As I was growing up, I lived in a culture of island food. I grew up in front of the sea, for fishing, then I’d go to the mountains and plant my own veggies. Everything was through me, from the land and sea. Everything,” said Chef Nicholas Poulmentis about his upbringing in the idyllic Greek island of Kythira. “It truly made me a traditional and simple chef.”
The executive chef of Oli.Vine in Astoria, Queens, and “Chopped” champion will be at the fifth annual Food Lab Conference at Stony Brook Southampton campus on the afternoon of Friday, September 13, cooking a new dish, Greek pizza: thin crust, fresh tomato sauce, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, green peppers, onions, topped with extra virgin olive oil and oregano. It’s anything but ordinary. “I’m very happy that I will share my love and passion and recipes to whoever comes to eat them. I’m very excited,” he said.
Poulmentis will join an impressive list of culinary experts during the two-day conference, which runs both Friday and Saturday. This year’s theme, “Cook, Eat, Drink: Taste the Terroir,” with keynote speaker Lidia Bastianich, the Emmy and James Beard Award-winning TV chef and author, and commonly known for her eateries like Eataly, Felidia, Del Posto, and Becco. She will be in conversation with The New Yorker contributor Adam Gopnik.
“Lidia is global and local. Her whole approach to food is hands on, kind of sensual,” said Geoffrey Drummond, executive director of The Food Lab. Drummond’s 40-plus years in film and television, largely focused on culinary programming, led him to work with kitchen creatives such as Julia Child, Bobby Flay, and Jacques Pépin. “Before we would shoot any of the TV shows in her house in Queens, she and her mother would go out into their little backyard garden and clip the different herbs and grains they were going to use in the dishes they were cooking,” Drummond recalled.
The focus of this year’s conference is on the local evolving “foodscape” and the ways to enjoy tastes from the ground up. One such experience is an interactive tasting session about “How We Taste.” It will be an immersive session led by culinary experts, paired with professionals in biology and anthropology, and mindful eating practitioners.
Additional speakers and panelists include James Beard Award-winner Claudia Fleming, Carissa Waechter of Carissa’s The Bakery, four-time James Beard Award-winner Rozanne Gold, former Martha Stewart Living editor Susan Spugen, Wölffer Vineyards partner and winemaker Roman Roth, Stony Brook University neurobiologist and taste expert Alfredo Fontanini, Eberhard Müller of Satur Farms, executive director of East End Food Institute Kate Fullam, and others. Each session allows attendees to be hands-on in their understanding of the terroir around them.
A luncheon on Saturday, complete with food demos by chefs, will be moderated by The Independent’s Bridget LeRoy.
Drummond concluded, “I came to see food as a means for sharing relationships with people around a conversation. The Food Lab is a laboratory in life, starting and sharing conversation with a community that’s interested in food. It’s a means to engage the world.”
Tickets are $150. Purchase and learn more at www.thefoodlab.org.