ST. HELENA, Calif. — Southern regional cuisine is getting a resurgence on menus across the country in part because of the concurrent resurgence of comfort food on menus.

That resurgence is one of the reasons the Culinary Institute of America’s executive director of strategic initiatives, Greg Drescher, chose to highlight the cuisine at its latest conference, Flavor, Quality and American Menus Sept. 8-11.

The culinary institute brought four chefs from the South to speak, lead culinary demonstrations and work with restaurant operators, corporate chefs and produce suppliers hands-on in the institute’s teaching kitchen.

In lieu of pimento peppers, Linton Hopkins, executive chef of Restaurant Eugene, Atlanta, one of the featured chefs, used a roasted red bell pepper for a pimento cheese recipe during a culinary demonstration at the conference.

Hopkins said it was important not to rinse the pepper after roasting it because a little bit of char on the outside of the pepper is important for the flavor of the cheese. He also said the recipe’s sweetness was meant to come from the pepper, so it had minimal sugar.

In another demonstration, Hopkins highlighted a few of the produce items his region is known for — sweet onions and peaches — in a Charred Sweet Onion, Peach and Chevre Salad with Spiced Peanut Bacon Vinaigrette.

He started by sweating Vidalia onions and charring them, and layered those with sliced fresh peaches to build a small tower on the plate. He added pieces of cheese, and topped the peach-onion salad with the vinaigrette.

Part of the beauty of this salad is the sense of irregularity,” Hopkins said. “Sometimes the most beautiful things are not symmetrical.”

Hopkins worked with a group during a collaborative in-the-kitchen cooking exercise called Market Basket on a compressed watermelon dish using cryovac technology. The preparation method takes the water out of the fruit, leaving intact cell structure and all the flavor, he said.

“Normally, if you take the water out it just crumbles, but this actually compresses it,” Hopkins said.

Also presenting at the conference were Sean Brock, executive chef of McCrady’s restaurant, Charleston, S.C.; John Currence, chef and owner of City Grocery Restaurant Group based in Oxford, Miss., and David Guas, chef and owner of the soon to open Bayou Bakery in McLean, Va.

“One of the takeaways from these demonstrations is just when you think you know regional American cuisine, it’s really good to talk to the chefs who are reinterpreting the cuisine in the region,” said Greg Drescher, executive director of strategic initiatives for the culinary institute.

These chefs think about the flavors in a different way, he said.