Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pépin Sees World of Change for Chefs

By Gail Ciampa

Journal Food Editor

When culinary icon Jacques Pépin is honored at a gala Friday by the Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival, it acknowledges a career that mirrors so many of the changes in the food world.

When he first arrived in New York from France he thought he’d stay a few years and then return home. He wasn’t seeking political or religious freedom or even a better world. He wanted to see the New World. But when he took his suitcase off the train from Montreal at Grand Central Station, he felt something special.

That was 50 years ago.

Back then, a professional cook was, while not at the bottom of the social strata, not very high, he said.

“Any good mother would want her daughter to marry a lawyer or a doctor. Anyone but a cook,” Pépin said.

Today chefs have rock star status and those who don’t, aspire to.

“Now I’m a genius,” he laughed.

When he came to America, he went to the grocery and found no shallots, no leeks, no different types of oil or vinegar and one kind of lettuce.

He couldn’t even find fresh mushrooms. He asked where they were and a clerk sent him to an aisle with cans on the shelf. He had to go to a specialty store to get a white button mushroom.

Today, where selection and food are concerned, the world is your oyster and you can find those anywhere, too.

Read the rest of the story here.

What Are You Craving...and WHY?

Research up in the air over whether there is a direct connection between cravings and nutritional deficiencies

It’s 4:27, and you suddenly want Cheez-Its but you don’t know why. Many a craver has puzzled over why they want the foods they suddenly can’t live without. While many studies have been done to discover why we crave the things we do, most have had inconclusive results.

“The reason for cravings is really unknown and poorly understood,” says registered dietician and nutrition professor at Boston University, Joan Salge Blake. “Some may have biological underpinnings, [or are tied to] behavioral habits.”

Read the entire story here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Happy Birthday To Pearl Bistro

Another of my favorite restaurants is the Pearl Bistro, located at 1475 West 86th Street, just west of Ditch Road. Chef and owner Susan Eichholtz and her staff will be serving a special wine dinner in celebration of their one year anniversary on Wednesday, September 23rd.

Chef Susan has been a supporter of Second Helpings since even BEFORE she opened Pearl Bistro. One of her first staff hires was Chef Mia Nolcox, a rising culinary star who, at the time, was a student in the Second Helpings Culinary Job Training Program. Chef Susan and Chef Mia have participated in two of our major events this year, and have always wowed and delighted the crowds with their outstanding food offerings.

During the day, Pearl is a casual café, offering healthy food choices, particularly during lunch hour. In the evening, Pearl transforms into an eclectic bistro, providing a relaxing and unique dining experience with healthy choices and good flavor in mind.

I took Mama Chef there for dinner a couple of Saturday nights ago, and it was all I could do to get her to leave. We both had the Pork Chop with cheese grits and the sauteed spinach. The pork was cooked perfectly, and the pan sauce that accompanied it was to die for. Unfortunately, we did both have one complaint - there just wasn't enough spinach on the plate.

For dessert, Mama had the fruit cobbler, and I had the chocolate mocha cake. Both were delicious, but the highlight for us was the coffee. We were pleasantly surprised to find out that Pearl Bistro gets its coffee from another one of my favorite places, Harvest Cafe Coffee Company.

Owner Dave Darga and his company pride themselves on roasting every batch to order for each customer. You can read about their philosophy and learn about their products on their website.

One of my other favorites on the menu at Pearl Bistro is the Pasta Rustica - penne pasta in a rich, meaty tomato sauce with Italian sausage. Another not-to-be-missed item is Mia's Tilapia - breaded and accompanied by grilled veggies and pineapple.

The desserts are first rate and always prepared in house and they have small but very inclusive wine list, as well as beers. For first rate food that's healthy and won't bust your budget, I highly, highly recommend Pearl Bistro. When you go, tell 'em I sent you.

Pictured Above: Pearl Bistro's Chocolate Mocha Cake

Thursday, September 10, 2009

El Sol De Tala

Check out the website of my favorite Mexican restaurant. Not only is the food fantastic and AUTHENTIC, Javier and his family are great supporters of Second Helpings.

Mama Chef loved the place. She even ate the rice!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Why Don't Employers Call You Back?

(This is great advice, BUT, whatever you do, don't give up hope. I didn't get a call back the first time I applied for my job at Second Helpings.)

By Anthony Balderrama writer

Is there any worse confidence killer than rejection?

I think it goes back to childhood, when you want a new bike for your birthday but you end up getting a pack of tube socks instead. You immediately wonder if you did something wrong and that's why you didn't get what you wanted.

Go forward a few years when you end up taking your cousin to the prom because everyone else turned you down. And the college years? Basically a parade of rejection that feels like an endless line of Rockette kicks to your confidence.

Or maybe that was just my experience.

Still, that same game of "Is it me or them?" continues well into adulthood as you begin searching for a job. You make a list of your best qualities, send them to employers, get dressed up and try to woo them in an interview. Then you wait. And wait. And wait. The phone never rings.

Job seekers want to know why they can seemingly do everything right, and yet, still they don't hear back from employers. We're not talking about getting turned down for the job -- we're talking about not even hearing a "Sorry, but the position has been filled." So we went to the source to find out.

Submitting the application

For a job seeker, the application process is full of anxiety and excitement. When you're looking for a job, each available position represents a possible new beginning.

Before you've submitted an application, you've already daydreamed about your first day on the job. The problem is that to some employers, you're just one in a dozen. Or in some cases, one in 500.

"In the current market, if you post a job, you will get buried with résumés," says Matthew McMahon, partner at staffing firm McMahon Partners LLC. "Maybe 5 percent are in the ballpark."

This means plenty of hiring managers spend their time reading irrelevant applications that don't help them find the right candidate. As a result, they have less time for you. "You simply don't have time to respond to [all applicants]."

To many job seekers this attitude may sound cold and impersonal. After all, behind each of these applications is a person waiting for a return call. McMahon cannot possibly respond to each one individually, but he does take the time to reach out to applicants who show promise.

"If somebody is close, but slightly off target, I will usually take the time to give them a call, learn about what they are looking for, tell them about the sort of roles I fill, and keep the notes for future use," he says.

How about the ones who miss the mark completely?

"If the person isn't even close (or has not read the description), I don't bother spending the time because they are obviously applying for everything," he says. Take that as further proof that throwing your application at every open position and hoping to have some success is not the way to conduct a job search.

Read the rest of the story here.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Harvest A Great Success

Read Cathy Kightlinger's report on THE wine and food event of the year here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Oysters Rockefeller

This is the recipe for the oysters we served at Harvest. Since there have been so many requests for the recipe I'm posting it here. This is as close to the taste of the original as I've ever had. The secret is the Pernod. Good luck finding that in Indy.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
2 shallots, minced
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
2 Tablespoons Pernod
Kosher salt, to taste

Black Pepper, to taste
Tabasco red pepper sauce, a dash
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
2 dozen oysters, on the half shell
Rock salt
Lemon wedges, for garnish

Preheat oven to 450º F. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium high heat.

Place the bread crumbs in a mixing bowl and add half the garlic-infused butter and set aside. To the remaining butter in the pan, add the shallots and spinach and cook until the spinach wilts, about three minutes. Deglaze the pan with Pernod and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add a dash of Tabasco sauce and allow the mixture to cook down for a few minutes.

To the bread crumbs, add the olive oil, Parmesan and parsley. Spoon 1 heaping teaspoon of the spinach mixture on each oyster, followed by a spoonful of the bread crumb mixture.

Sprinkle a baking pan with rock salt and arrange the oysters in the salt to steady them. Bake in a preheated 450º F oven for 10 to 15 minutes until golden.

Serve with lemon wedges and Tabasco sauce.