March 6th, 2014
01:00 PM ET
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Chefs with Issues is a platform for chefs and farmers we love, fired up for causes about which they're passionate. Josh Grinker is the executive chef at Stone Park restaurant in Brooklyn, New York. He has previously written about five things chefs don't want you to know.

The New York City Department of Health has outdone itself by giving a "C" health inspection grade to Per Se, one of the finest - and most expensive - restaurants in the world, because of violations of the department's arbitrary and punitive letter-grading program.

The grading system and presence of grade cards in the window, required since July 2010, “provides diners with easily interpretable information" and "gives restaurants the incentive to maintain the highest food safety practices," according to Thomas Farley, the former Commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

While clarity and food safety are certainly laudable goals, consumers should realize that these "A," "B" and "C" letters are poor indicators of a restaurant’s cleanliness and the quality of its operation.
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Opinion: SNAP isn't about a 'free lunch'
November 11th, 2013
04:00 PM ET
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On November 12, Dr. Sanjay Gupta hosts CNN Dialogues, focusing on the issues of food security and food deserts in the United States, with a particular emphasis on the nearly 16 million children who spend their days and nights hungry. Learn more about the series here. Panelist Hugh Acheson is the chef/partner of Five & Ten and The National in Athens, Georgia and Empire State South in Atlanta, Georgia as well as a judge on the current season on Top Chef, and author of "A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen."

Today is Veterans Day and I would like to thank my grandfather for his sacrifice. I don’t think he was fighting for his individual rights when he lost his life during World War II, riding in a jeep far into enemy territory in Occupied France. He was fighting for a greater idea of freedom that defines modern democracies, a collective freedom that allows us individual liberty. First we succeed together, which gives us the allowance to succeed as individuals.

When we build a society, as we continue to do every day, we need to think of everyone. Success for the lower and middle class in recent years has been made difficult to attain as the American dream has become an elusive goal. Stacked against success are many pitfalls that seem to keep the poor, well, poor. High interest rate loans, lack of viable employment, housing-market collapses: all of these things have not only kept people from rising out of poverty but have driven more people into it.

The poverty rate for children in my state of Georgia is 26%, a figure that makes me queasy. Cuts to programs to assist those in need make me angry. It’s a divisive issue but I prefer to be on the side of trying to help those in need. I just firmly believe in this statement: We are better off as a country when all of our kids have access to nutritious food.
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So you want to marry a chef...
August 7th, 2013
06:45 PM ET
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Editor's note: Amelia Zatik Sawyer blogs at ChefsWidow.com and runs #teamsawyer with her husband, chef Jonathon Sawyer, their two children, plenty of animals and a slew of restaurants in Cleveland, Ohio. She'd like to clear up a few myths about dating - and marrying - a chef.

When most people learn that I am married to a chef, they automatically assume that I eat well and spend my nights alone. This is almost accurate.

When The Chef is home, he has a special talent of taking half-eaten food and turning it into a masterpiece. Due to his enormous work schedule, I only get to experience the beauty of his talent once a month.

Some also assume chefs are notorious cheaters, binge drinkers, or worse. While I have met a few chefs who have "festival girlfriends" and know more than my fair share of partying cooks, the reality of working in a real kitchen weeds out this behavior pretty quickly. Working 90-hour weeks with a hangover doesn’t cut it in a kitchen.
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Chefs with Issues: The politics of restaurant reservations
July 8th, 2013
08:00 AM ET
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Editor's Note: Kelly English is the chef/owner of Restaurant Iris in Memphis, Tennessee. English was named one of Food & Wine magazine's Best New Chefs in 2009. In 2010, he was named a James Beard Award Semifinalist for Best Chef: Southeast.

At three o'clock on a Friday afternoon, like clockwork, my phone starts to ring. It is one of my friends from college; he forgot his anniversary and needs a table tonight. I am forced to tell him one of my least favorite things: No. It's not in a chef's DNA to tell people "no" - we hire front-of-house people for that.

“We have known each other for years, you must be able to put me somewhere,” he said.

I really wish I could.
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Change: It's not all on chefs' plates
June 12th, 2013
05:00 PM ET
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Editor's Note: Greg Drescher is the Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at The Culinary Institute of America. Drescher is also an inductee of the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America. He is a speaker at the Menus of Change summit in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from June 10-12. The conference is hosted by The Culinary Institute of America and the Harvard School of Public Health's Department of Nutrition.

If there’s one group of people who are best positioned to reshape America’s appetites, it’s chefs.

At The Culinary Institute of America, we educate the next generation of the nation’s culinary leaders about the techniques of their craft and the principles of flavor.

Increasingly though, our students must understand that, to be successful, they must also think about the health and wellness of their patrons - and that buzzword sustainability.

The food industry is changing across many dimensions, and chefs and culinary professionals must keep pace.
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Chefs with Issues: 'People hurt, we feed.'
May 22nd, 2013
11:15 AM ET
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Chefs with Issues is a platform for chefs and farmers we love, fired up for causes about which they're passionate. Allison Robicelli is the co-owner (with her husband Matt) of Robicelli's, an award-winning cupcake business in New York City, and author of the upcoming "Robicelli's: A Love Story, with Cupcakes." Follow her on Twitter @robicellis.

My husband and I lost our first business in the fall of 2009. There were a billion contributing factors: a collapsing economy, a rent hike, a horrific family tragedy and a crumbling marriage that needed to be saved. Talking about it four years later seems like a trivial footnote in our story - some sort of inciting plot device that occurred offstage, scarcely remembered by the time the curtains closed. They hustled, they persevered, they became Q-list food celebrities and they all lived happily ever after.

No matter how far into the story we get, like a broken bone that never quite heals, I can still feel those initial moments of fallout as if they were yesterday: the fear of truly having lost it all; the jarring realization that in an instant, everything we had built may be gone forever and we might not not be strong enough to rebuild. I recall looking at my children and wondering how we let this happen, if we could have prevented it and how we can protect them when we couldn’t even protect ourselves.

It was worse than terror; it was a life without hope. A life I thought of ending more than once.

While we survived, I have been unable to purge the memory of what I felt in those months. The feeling rose again and turned into empathy in the days after Superstorm Sandy, and again this week watching a tornado destroy Moore, Oklahoma.
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Serving up comfort food after a tragedy
April 18th, 2013
03:30 PM ET
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Chefs with Issues is a platform for chefs and farmers we love, fired up for causes about which they're passionate. Jason Bond is the chef at Bondir in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Follow him on Twitter @jwadebond.

The day started with the Boston Marathon and a state holiday. It ended in tragedy and left residents, like me, with so many unanswered questions.

Why would someone attack an event that was about celebration, one where many of the thousands of participants were raising money for over two thousand charities? Why would they use such a ferocious method as bombs packed with ball bearings and nails?

In the span of 15 seconds, three people lost their lives. Hundreds of others, from the injured and their families to those who witnessed the blast firsthand, were cruelly ripped from the lives they'd always known and forced into a darker view of the world. The residents of Boston were shocked, sickened and even pissed off.

Most of us felt helpless, but wanted to be of use. The city and its people quickly mobilized to help each other. Boston is tight and takes care of its own.

We realized that we each help by doing what we do; medics medicate, journalists report, the police protect. As a restaurateur I did what I do, which is care for people and provide sustenance and healing.
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Chefs with Issues: Farm-to-table should still be on the table
February 4th, 2013
01:00 PM ET
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Editor's Note: Chris Hastings is the James Beard Award-winning chef of the acclaimed Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham, Alabama.

The first time I heard a prominent chef bemoan the phrase "farm-to-table," I was in New York meeting with a group of chefs to discuss topics in and around our industry.

I cocked my head in that direction as if to say, “Did I just hear what I think I did?”

Another chef quickly chimed in that he was also "so tired of the farm-to-table movement," like it was no longer a legitimate or important way of thinking.

Seriously? That moment was neither the time nor place to have a debate so I chose, uncharacteristically, to make a note and keep my mouth shut - until now.
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Opinion: Chick-fil-A controversy leaves a bitter taste for some longtime fans
January 31st, 2013
03:00 PM ET
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Chefs with Issues is a platform for chefs and farmers we love, fired up for causes about which they're passionate. Virginia Willis, a graduate of L'Academie de Cuisine and Ecole de Cuisine LaVarenne, is the author of "Bon Appétit, Y’all" and "Basic to Brilliant, Y'all."

As a chef and food writer, I rarely eat fast food. The quality is generally atrocious and much of it is radically unhealthy. The menu offerings are the polar opposite of local and seasonal. There are dire implications concerning worker’s rights and wages, as well as animal welfare and factory farms.

It doesn’t matter where you are in the country, every interstate exit is identical with the same usual suspects offering the same sad sacks of chemically laced, artificially flavored fare, all swimming in high-fructose corn syrup. Cheap, fast food is at the core of what is wrong with our food system.

Yet, there’s one thing that trumps my French-training and chef sensibilities; I love Chick-fil-A.
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