Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Chef Jeff is Coming to Indy

Families and individuals of all ages are invited for an afternoon of inspiration and cultural entertainment when the African-American History Committee of the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library presents the “Family Fall Fest” on Saturday, November 7 from 1 – 5 p.m. at Central Library in the Clowes Auditorium, 40 E. St. Clair Street.

Highlighting the afternoon will be a lecture (at 3 p.m.) by Chef Jeff Henderson, star chef on the Food Network and author of Cooked: From the Streets to the Stove, From Cocaine to Foie Gras. While imprisoned for 10 years following conviction on cocaine dealing, Henderson discovered a culinary passion and became committed to turning his life around. He became Executive Chef of Café Bellagio in Las Vegas and started The Chef Jeff Project, in which he takes at-risk young adults and provides them the knowledge and skills to start a new life in the culinary arts.

Henderson’s lecture is intended to inspire, educate and motivate individuals to reach their potential by extolling the virtues of hard work, determination, and passion. Henderson will sign copies of his books at 4:30 p.m.

The afternoon also will feature the Slammin Rhymes Poetry Challenge and awards presentation (3:45 p.m.).

There will also be performances by the Mt. Olive Choir (1 p.m.), the Indy Steppers (an interactive dance troupe – 1:20 p.m.), the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra (2 p.m.), Fighting Words (a poetry troupe that performs to hip-hop, soul and R&B music – 2:35 p.m.), and the Barry Dixon Reflections of Worship Choir (4:10 p.m.).

Book sales will be provided by Donna Stokes-Lucas.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mike and Andrea's Wedding

Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Michael Strong.

Here are pictures of the happy couple, as well as my crew who helped cater the wedding reception:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Michigan Chef Schools Packed Despite Lack of Jobs

The Detroit News

Warren -- After 22 years as a contract employee at the General Motors Tech Center, Tim Jarrell found himself laid off and looking for another career about four years ago.

Instead of hunting for a new job in his field, Jarrell followed his passion.

He went back to school -- cooking school. He signed up for the two-year culinary program at Macomb Community College. Now, 46, he serves as a sous-chef, handling orders and food preparation at his alma mater.

"I had a personal interest in food," Jarrell said. "When I went into this field, I thought, 'You can go anywhere with it.' The program here is not just learning to stand behind a stove. It's a well-rounded education."

He's not alone in turning to culinary arts for a second career, even as the restaurant industry statewide simmers down due to the economy and chef jobs are tough to find. Cooking schools throughout the state are at capacity. Many have waiting lists of a year or longer. Instructors say the programs have never been more popular. Students of all ages jam the 60-odd schools in the state. New culinary schools have opened and existing ones are expanding.

The new Culinary Institute of Michigan in Muskegon began classes Sept. 28. The program, part of Baker College, saw enrollment swell to 500 from 300 students last year with the completion of the $11-million, three-story, 39,000-square-foot institute.

"We started the program in 1997, and we outgrew our old space," said Mary Ann Herbst, president of Baker College of Muskegon. "Students looking to come to culinary school knew we were opening, and they followed us." Officials predict enrollment will grow. The institute can accommodate up to 750 students a day, six days a week.

Locally, Dorsey Schools -- career training centers offering courses at six Metro Detroit locations -- opened a culinary arts school at its Roseville campus last year. The 12,000-square-foot building boasts three production kitchens, cooking equipment and classrooms and has about 175 students.

And at Macomb Community College's Culinary Institute, David Schneider, the department coordinator, said: "In every single program where enrollment starts at midnight, within an hour, everything is jammed. We've had students waiting for a year and half."

"The schools are absolutely packed," he added.

But as students flock to cooking schools, the restaurant industry struggles statewide.

Well-known eateries have changed menus, lowered prices or simply closed. This summer, for instance, Milford's Five Lakes Grill became Cinco Lagos, a Mexican-themed restaurant with lower prices. Less than a month ago, Seldom Blues in Detroit filed voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy. And on Sept. 29, Tribute Restaurant in Farmington Hills closed its doors.

Schneider said he has seen an uptick of students like Jarrell -- people without employment looking for a second career. A small percentage -- about 3-4 percent of new students -- are receiving tuition aid from the federal No Worker Left Behind act.

Schneider also has seen people who always have loved food, and now with time on their hands, are looking to sharpen their cooking skills.

The Food Network also has contributed to the crush of students. But it's a mixed blessing, Schneider said.

"It's misleading," he said. "This is leading to a rock star chef theory. They believe they're going to be the next big thing. It's sort of like playing the lottery."

Read the complete story here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

On NPR - Alton Brown Celebrates Ten Years of "Good Eats"

Good Eats has become a staple on the Food Network, but it's not a typical cooking show. Alton Brown created the Peabody Award-winning program to be a mix of MacGyver, Mr. Wizard and History Rocks.

When Brown last appeared on Weekend Edition, he had just finished his motorcycle tour of America's road food. Now, as his show celebrates its 10th year on the air, he has a new book out this month. Good Eats: The Early Years is the first of a three-volume set.

Brown tells NPR's Liane Hansen that it was painful in some ways to look back on his show's early years. "When you're just starting out, you make a lot of mistakes," he says. "I think one of the whole points of waiting 10 years to do a book — which I always said I was going to wait, the show's got to make it a decade before I would do a book — is you get that space required for retrospection."

But he says it was also a "valuable, cathartic" experience. "You get to kind of pay for your sins — or at least make a few small repairs."

Brown launched the quirky program to break out of the staid cooking show format featuring people behind a cooktop. The camera chases Brown from scene to scene as he encounters oddball characters and explains the science behind baking, roasting and other kitchen mysteries. He credits '90s-era kids show Pee-wee's Playhouse as one of his inspirations. "Laughing brains are more absorbent," he says.

"I think a lot of food shows, especially when we started Good Eats back in the late '90s, they were still really about food. Good Eats isn't about food, it's about entertainment. If, however, we can virally infect you with knowledge or interest, then all the better."

But after 10 years and 200-plus episodes, Brown says he isn't really looking for new material anymore. "I think in the end there are only 20 or 30 tenets of basic cooking." Teachers he's talked to tell him the way to really get things to stick in peoples' minds is to master artful repetition. "It's going at perhaps the same issue from different angles, from different points of view, from different presentation styles, that really makes things sink in and become embedded," he says.

Read the rest of the story and listen to to the complete interview here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

"Digital Dirt" Can Haunt Your Job Search

Just like Vegas, what happens on the Internet, stays on the Internet. How that affects your job search is up to you.

Gone are the days when all you were concerned with was whether or not your résumé and cover letter were error-free.

Now, you've got bigger things to worry about -- like what kind of personal information is floating around online.

Job seekers should not only manage how they come across in person, but on the Web, too.

We often forget that everything you post online, from your Facebook profile to your Amazon book reviews, is out there for others to see and judge.

"Most employers nowadays hop on Google to search a name as a preliminary step, either before or right after the interview," says Monique Tatum, author of "Jumping Off the Curb and Into SEO Traffic." "A positive and strong online presence can play a tremendous part in the employer's first impression."

In 2009, 45 percent of employers used social networking sites to research candidates, according to a CareerBuilder survey, a 23 percent increase from last year.

Thirty-five percent of employers said that what they found caused them not to hire a candidate.

"Hiring someone is scary," says Zack Grossbart, a virtual team coach and author of "The One Minute Commute."

"You're paying them to represent your company, and your reputation affects theirs. No company wants a newspaper headline with their name in it because of an embarrassing employee."

Times have changed

Not only has the use of the Internet, social networking sites, blogs and other new media skyrocketed in recent years; all of these things have revolutionized the job search.

It used to be that if a hiring manager dug around online and couldn't find anything, it was a good thing. Today, however, if you have no online presence, it could be more of a career killer than if an employer found some digital dirt.

"If you have an established career and no online presence, it is a big red flag for employers," Grossbart says.

"Employers expect to find blogs, forum posts, LinkedIn profiles and many other sources of information about you. If you haven't been mentioned by other people in a professional context, employers will wonder why not."

Read the complete story here.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Cost-cutting Secrets of Chefs Who Cook for the Needy

LINDA Christianson knows that if she feeds them, they will come.

Christianson, a cook at Cathedral Kitchen, in Camden, works with a team that serves dinner and delivers meals to an average of 300 disadvantaged people every day. "Our numbers are definitely growing," she said, as more locals lose their jobs.

Then there are clients that fit into the category of the working poor - families who, despite multiple low-paying jobs, can't always afford to feed their kids. Cooking for a crowd on a budget is second nature to Christianson, a mission not all that different from the rest of us.

"Everybody is watching their pennies," she said.

Cooking from raw ingredients is key to a balanced diet and a balanced food budget, according to Christianson. "We don't use processed foods. People think they save time and money - but they don't. Take a grocery store rotisserie chicken, for example. You pay $6 and maybe get two cups of edible meat. Buy your own chicken - the parts you like - add a little spice and bake it. How long does that take? And you have enough for two meals, not just one."

While the kitchen does receive donated food - including steak ends from Capital Grill, which have been a popular addition to the menu in dishes such as stir fries and pepper steak - everything from salad dressing to soup is made from scratch. A new green building and kitchen, designed by local DAS Architects, provides more storage for bulk ingredients, another money saver.

Karen Talarico, the kitchen's executive director, recommends shopping at a place like Produce Junction, which offers rock bottom price on fresh vegetables. "Farmers' markets can be expensive," she said. "Everybody can't always buy local. But at least you can buy fresh. Asian supermarkets are another place that offers great deals on produce, meats and fish."

Chef Keith Lucas oversees the production of more than 65,000 meals a month for MANNA, which delivers to individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes or other life-threatening illnesses. Growing up as one of 11 in a single-parent, North Philly household, Lucas is a good man to know when it comes to stretching a buck.

"It starts with menu planning," said the chef. "Figure out what you want to make ahead of time so you can stretch leftovers into another meal. But be flexible with ingredients, depending on what's on sale."

Lucas is big on using every last scrap of product, often in dishes like fishcakes made from scratch, or tuna or salmon croquettes. "We don't cut any corners nutritionally or use any fillers, but we may use more celery or onion than chicken in a stew to stretch it.

"And we also make vegetarian meals with a protein source like beans, tofu and seitan," he said. "Whole grains are another way to stretch a meal without compromising nutrition."

MANNA meals average $1.28 each, due in part to donations and discounts afforded an acute-care facility. Lucas' challenge is making inexpensive food that is both nutritious and tasty.

"If people don't like how it tastes, it's not going to do them any good," he said.

Read the complete story here.

Scripps Networks to Launch Cooking Channel Next Year


Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. said it plans to launch a cooking-focused TV channel next year, the company's chief executive, Ken Lowe, said in an interview Thursday.

The move comes as Scripps Networks is investing more heavily in food-related content. Earlier this week, the company announced a joint venture to launch international versions of its Food Network channel in Europe and other markets, as it looks to capitalize on a growing appetite for culinary TV programs.

The new network will be dubbed the Cooking Channel.

Read the complete story here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Calorie Postings Don’t Change Habits, Study Finds


A study of New York City’s pioneering law on posting calories in restaurant chains suggests that when it comes to deciding what to order, people’s stomachs are more powerful than their brains.

The study, by several professors at New York University and Yale, tracked customers at four fast-food chains — McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken — in poor neighborhoods of New York City where there are high rates of obesity.

It found that about half the customers noticed the calorie counts, which were prominently posted on menu boards. About 28 percent of those who noticed them said the information had influenced their ordering, and 9 out of 10 of those said they had made healthier choices as a result.

But when the researchers checked receipts afterward, they found that people had, in fact, ordered slightly more calories than the typical customer had before the labeling law went into effect, in July 2008.

The findings, to be published Tuesday in the online version of the journal Health Affairs come amid the spreading popularity of calorie-counting proposals as a way to improve public health across the country.

Read the rest of the story here.