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.
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.
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.
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.
I hate the word “artisan." Its use is so prolific that it means little anymore. Now, it is often used to judge the authenticity of food and, admittedly, I spoke this word quite frequently in the early days of Emily G’s. I felt like an "artisan” as I struggled to produce, market, deliver and manage our budding jam company. I was true to my craft as I picked the berries I canned, labeled jars late into the night and, consequently, missed entire soccer seasons. It was brutal but fulfilling at the same time.
This was unsustainable. It became apparent that I could either make the products or manage the company, but not both. However, I was convinced that the authenticity of our food depended on my hands making the jams. Isn’t that what makes me an “artisan” and our jams “authentic”? The reality was that we could not produce enough fast enough to keep up with sales. We were working hard enough to kill ourselves, but making little money. We weren’t returning phone calls. We hadn’t seen our children. We were a company on the edge of implosion.
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