Chefs with Issues: Artisanal angst
October 31st, 2012
02:00 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. Emily Myers is the founder of Emily G's, a gourmet jam, sauce and relish line.

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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Chefs with Issues: Immigrants in the kitchen
June 20th, 2012
10:00 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. John Currence is the chef and owner of City Grocery Restaurant Group in Oxford, Mississippi. In 2006, he received the Southern Foodways Alliance "Guardian of Tradition" award, and in 2009, he was recognized by the James Beard Foundation as "Best Chef South."

I am an odd animal. I am a chef and restaurateur with conservative fiscal views and liberal social ones. I consider myself reasonable.

While one part of me is extremely happy with the executive order President Obama issued last week which will allow certain younger, "qualifying" immigrants to apply for work permits, without fear of reprisal, another part of me is entirely disappointed that this homogenized edict is as far as he was willing to go in, what amounts to, an attempt to grab a fistful of votes in the coming election.
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Chefs with Issues: Buying food is a political act
June 4th, 2012
04:00 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. Jay Pierce is the chef at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen in Greensboro and Cary, North Carolina and frequently contributes to Edible Piedmont Magazine and the restaurant's Farm-to-Fork blog.

As this year’s political season wends its way to Election Day, we voters will be implored to act, decide, stand up for what we believe in.  Our voice matters; as every child learns in school, one vote can make a difference.  No matter how disaffected or energized you are by rhetorical jousting about healthcare, debt ceilings or foreign aid, there is one topic that hits close to everyone’s home: buying and eating food. 
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Chefs with Issues: Food for the heart
May 15th, 2012
12:45 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. Michael Anthony is the chef-partner at New York City's Gramercy Tavern. Last week, he received the James Beard Award for Best Chef NYC - but he almost didn't live to see that day.

In late October of last year, I underwent open heart surgery. There was no warning, no history of disease, no serious abuse that led the inner lining of my ascending aorta to tear. Sometimes things just break.

While attending a signing for the Eleven Madison Park Cookbook, I began experiencing chest pain. As I think anyone else my age (early 40s) would feel in that moment, I was in complete disbelief. I was both embarrassed that I might pass out and concerned that whatever I was experiencing might keep me from celebrating my colleagues’ big moment. After a quick exit, I returned to Gramercy Tavern. I knew something was seriously wrong.
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Chefs with Issues: The Mexico I know
May 4th, 2012
10:00 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. Patricia Jinich is chef at the Mexican Cultural Institute. She also hosts "Pati’s Mexican Table" on National Public Television and blogs at Pati's Mexican Table. This story originally ran in May 2012, but we're sharing it again in celebration of Mexico's Independence Day.

I was born and raised in Mexico City, in a family where every taco happens to be, as my dad boasts, “the best taco you’ve ever had in your entire life." That is, until you eat the next one.

Living in the US, I am often dismayed at how my home country is portrayed in the media. For some, it’s easy to just write off the entire country as dangerous and riddled with cartel violence. As a former political analyst, I am not in denial about the hurdles my country faces, but the Mexico illustrated in some news reports is certainly not the Mexico I know and love - nor is it the Mexico experienced by the 22.67 million international tourists that visited last year.

Cooking, eating and sharing Mexican food has helped me and my Mexican-American boys connect with our heritage. Plus, I truly believe that its warm, generous, colorful cuisine has the power to make Americans fall in love with Mexico - one bite at a time.
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Filed under: Chefs with Issues • Cinco de Mayo • Cuisines • Mexican • Mexico • Think • Travel


The cook who picks cotton: reclaiming my roots
April 30th, 2012
07:45 PM ET
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Chefs with Issues is a platform for chefs, writers and farmers we love, fired up for causes about which they're passionate. Michael W. Twitty is a culinary historian, living history interpreter and Jewish educator from the Washington D.C. area. He blogs at Afroculinaria.com and thecookinggene.com. As the originator of the Cooking Gene Project, he seeks to trace his ancestry through food.

Edward Booker, Hattie Bellamy and Washington Twitty didn’t know what an organic farm was, but nearly everything they ate was organic. They enjoyed wild caught, sustainable fish; they were no strangers to free range chickens, and they ate with the seasons with almost nothing originating more than a mile or two away from their cabin door. They had gardens, composted, and ate no processed foods. Their food was fairly simple, often meatless; and it was a fusion cuisine, with ingredients drawn from five continents.

They were not culinary revolutionaries living out of the foodie playbook - they were three enslaved individuals living among the over 4 million held in bondage before the Civil War, and they were my ancestors.

In the upcoming months I will return to the fields, forests and waterways of the Old South in search of my culinary version of Roots, tracing my family tree through food from Africa to America and from slavery to freedom. The project is called The Cooking Gene: Southern Discomfort Tour.
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Chefs with Issues: The trouble with tuna
April 25th, 2012
04:30 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. 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."

I opened up a veritable bucket of bait, not a mere can of worms, back in January with my blog post titled "Wicked Tuna: A Deal with the Devil."

"Wicked Tuna" is a reality series that premiered April 1 on the National Geographic Channel. It follows the lives of bluefin tuna fishermen in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and is produced by the same folks that produce the hit TV shows "Dirty Jobs" and "Swamp Loggers."

By many accounts, including the National Geographic website, bluefin tuna are overfished. This is where I find a huge disconnect with the National Geographic channel hosting a show about Atlantic bluefin tuna fishing.
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Chefs with Issues: Making seafood sustainability palatable
February 23rd, 2012
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. Chef John Ash serves on the Board of Advisors of Seafood Watch, an educational initiative for sustainable seafood by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. He recently hosted a panel discussion about seafood sustainability as a practice. Among the participants were Chef Bun Lai, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Sustainability Leader of the Year, and Yousef Ghalaini, executive chef of New York’s sustainable seafood restaurant Imperial No. Nine.

Recently, nearly 30 thought leaders in the seafood, restaurant and sustainability worlds came together to have a conversation about how chefs can embrace seafood sustainability in a greater, more mainstream way.

“Thought for Food: A Discussion on Sustainable Seafood” was facilitated by James Beard award-winning chef and author John Ash, widely respected as a sustainability pioneer. Participants came from a variety of backgrounds: chefs, NGO leaders, journalists and other members of the food industry vanguard.
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Hugh Acheson: Southern food, beyond the butter
January 18th, 2012
09:30 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. 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." He has a very famous unibrow.

If you search "Paula Deen" on the Google, these are some of the search suggestions that appear: riding things, recipes, furniture, cookware, meatloaf, and diabetes. I strongly recommend researching the first and last on that list because both point to the decline of Western civilization.

Let me preface this with the wish that this piece not be about maligning a personality or calling out specific dishes in a repertoire. Hopefully it is about furthering a constructive discussion to rejoice in a better Southern food.

Southern food did not make the South unhealthy, rather a broken arrow of cookery did, one that is ultra-processed, trans fat laden, lard fried, and massively caloric. That’s not how I eat and I eat Southern food pretty much every day of my life.
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