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Tofu Disrupt in New York City was Truly an Amazing Night

Tofu Disrupt in New York City was Truly an Amazing Night

If you follow the technology industry, you are probably familiar with TechCrunch Disrupt, an event that showcases the most revolutionary and disruptive start-ups. Well, the organic food industry now has its own version of this event called Tofu Disrupt. While Tofu Disrupt does not put the spotlight on emerging tofu brands, its goal is to […]

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tofu-disrupt-nyc-2016-panel-discussion

(The panelists and the chefs talking about the dishes that they were presenting for the night.)

If you follow the technology industry, you are probably familiar with TechCrunch Disrupt, an event that showcases the most revolutionary and disruptive start-ups.

Well, the organic food industry now has its own version of this event called Tofu Disrupt.

While Tofu Disrupt does not put the spotlight on emerging tofu brands, its goal is to disrupt our preconceived notions of what tofu is and to make this a much more mainstream ingredient.

Hosted and conceived by Minh Tsai, my good friend and founder of Hodo Soy Beanery, the country’s leading artisinal organic tofu brand, Tofu Disrupt was first held last year in San Francisco. On Monday night, it hosted its second event, this time in New York City at the International Culinary Center, and I had the very good fortune of being able to attend.

Over the past six years writing about the organic food industry, I have gone to my fair share of food events but I must say that Tofu Disrupt was one of the best that I have ever been to. Quite possibly, the best.

The night started off with a fascinating panel discussion called Changing the Way We Experience Tofu, which was moderated by the former Gastronomica editor-in-chief, Darra Goldstein. Other panelists included Minh Tsai; Jim Dodge, Director of Specialty Culinary Programs at Bon Appetit Management Company; and Kim Alter, Chef at Nightbird & The Linden Room in San Francisco.

Two very interesting pieces of information emerged from the panel discussion:

1) Hodo Soy Beanery has worked with Revolution Foods to introduce tofu guidelines to the USDA.  So, what does this mean exactly?

This means that schools across the country now have the option to offer tofu and soy yogurt products as a meat/meat alternative component in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP), as long as the purchased soy products meet specified nutritional and profile qualifications.

2) As a result of Hodo Soy Beanery’s work with the International Culinary Center (ICC), the school is now offering a tofu program for the very first time. Minh Tsai hopes that other schools, such as the Culinary Institute of America, will soon have tofu programs as well.

The reality is that very few chefs have had much exposure to tofu and were never trained using this ingredient in school. Through the work of Minh Tsai and Hodo Soy Beanery, this is now changing.

tofu-disrupt-nyc-2016-audience

After the panel discussion, six chefs from New York and California made various tofu dishes, all of which incorporated Hodo Soy Beanery’s organic tofu products.

Needless to say, the food was out of this world, and I had a lot of troubling controlling myself.

Here is a sampling of what was served.

braised-tofu-chinese-sausage

Chef Chris Cheung of East Wind Snack Shop created this masterpiece, which was made with braised tofu, Chinese sausage relish, bao, and tofu gratinee. Without question, it was my favorite dish of the night. Almost like a “doughy” English muffin with phenomenal flavor.

 

soy-nama-yuba-custard

Chef Jansen Chan from the ICC came up with a Tofu “Mont Blanc” made with soy-nama yuba custard, strawberries and Earl Grey tea cream. The texture of the custard was ridiculously airy and fluffy.

 

yuba-noodles

Chef Lien Lin of Bricolage created a spicy lemongrass yuba noodle dish with jelly fish, peanuts, and celery hearts. Outstanding lemongrass flavor, perfect texture, so satiating.

 

miso-cured-tofu-kim-alter

Chef Kim Alter of Nightbird & Linden Room in San Francisco unveiled a miso-cured firm tofu with California spring vegetables, smoked nama yuba, ramp vinaigrette, and fried yuba-okara tuile. Light, refreshing, and very balanced.

 

soy-pudding-vaviar-nick-pfannerstill

Chef Nick Pfannerstill of Dovetail created this soy pudding with caviar, spring onion, and bonito butter. Rich, delicious, and and the saltiness of the caviar worked so well with the contrasting flavor of the soy pudding.

 

assorted-soy-desserts-michael-recchiuti

Chef Michael Recchiuti from the Recchiuti Confections & theLab treated us to an assortment of desserts including a horchata, geodesic dome bonbon, tofu biscotti, dragees, yuba crisp, and coconut husk charcoal-soy alfajores. My favorite of the bunch was the horchata, which provided a perfect ending to the night.

When you have phenomenal food from a variety of super-talented chefs, stimulating conversation, and an interesting and eclectic crowd, all in a beautiful loft-space in Soho, how can you beat that? The truth is that it is very difficult to do so.

But this night would not have happened without the tremendous effort and vision of Minh Tsai.

What he is doing with Hodo Soy Beanery is so impressive. Not only has he built the leading organic tofu company in the country, supplying Chipotle and Sweetgreen all of their organic tofu, but he is pushing tofu to a place where it has yet to go – into the consciousness of the broader food world.

Having watched him over the past five years, I can easily and confidently say that Minh Tsai is a veritable star in the organic industry.

If you ever have the opportunity to attend a Tofu Disrupt, do what you can to get there. This was a special night.

max-goldberg-minh-tsai-hodo-soy-beanery
(with Minh Tsai, founder of Hodo Soy Beanery)

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13 Comments

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  • Joe Toth says:

    Wow. Thanks Max. That was perhaps one of your most intriguing, if not provocative, reports yet.

  • Hi Minh:

    Great effort at elevating tofu into the world of professional chefs and the plates of discerning up scale consumers.

    Congratulations

    Jeremiah Risenour
    Tofu Master

  • marge201 says:

    So incredibly interesting and wonderful, Max. Thanks for the dirt! Would be totally clueless about what a “disrupt” event is but I’ve got Silicon Valley to keep me up to date!

  • Marcie says:

    I thought soy was an endocrine disrupter and should be avoided. Are ORGANIC edamame and soy products disrupters? Thanks, Marcie

    • Donna says:

      My limited knowledge and research has led me to the same conclusions. Always interested to hear other’s opinions on this issue.

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Marcie and Donna,

      The issue of tofu being a phytoestrogen was discussed during the night. Minh said that no food — tofu, meat or spinach – should be eaten every single day because doing so will cause health problems. He said that tofu has been around for thousands of years and he doesn’t have an issue with it.

      Nevertheless, there is a lot of controversy around soy products. Some people think they are bad, while others think they are fine.

      In Asia, they eat plenty of soy products, tofu in particular, and don’t seem to have a problem with them. It is probably because they eat small amounts of them and do so in moderation.

      Live well,
      Max

  • I’m floored by your review! I must try some of these restaurants and would love to attend the next event. Please keep me posted of the next one

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