Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Long View: French Gourmand Jacques Pepin

Chef Jacques Pepin — or, as Julia Child called him, "the best chef in America" — has spent more than six decades in the kitchen savoring food.  Even now at 75, he still swears that "the greatest thing of all is bread and butter."  "If you have extraordinary bread and extraordinary butter, it's hard to beat bread and butter," Pepin tells NPR's Renee Montagne.

During World War II, food was scarce. The family didn't have much to eat at their home near Lyon, in Bourg-en-Bresse. Ever resourceful, Pepin's mother sent the young boy and his brother to live on a farm during the summers. There, he would have milk and whatever produce grew on the farm.

That farm is where Pepin first came so close to cows — and what he remembers most was their warm milk. "It was really lukewarm and very creamy and delicious. That was probably one of my first memories of food," he says.

 Back at home, his mother worked hard to conjure up meals out of practically nothing. Even today, Pepin says his mother "is very miserly in the kitchen. She can cook anything."
Listen to the interview and read excerpts from Pepin's autobiography: The Apprentice: My Life In The Kitchen here.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A New Cookbook for Food Geeks

"Cooking for Geeks" Gets into the Science of Cooking 
Steve Cavendish, Tribune Newspapers
December 8, 2010

For most cooks, food is a question of how. How many teaspoons? How many pounds? How many degrees?

For geeks, food is fundamentally a question of why.

Instead of "How do I brine a turkey?" it's "Why does osmosis push moisture back into the bird?"

Instead of "How should I brown these potatoes?" it's "Why does a Maillard reaction make food tasty?"

Food geek Jeff Potter delves into these questions and more in his book "Cooking for Geeks" (O'Reilly, $34.99), an excellent walk through the science of food and the basic techniques to turn that knowledge into flavor.

Now, to be sure, Harold McGee (who appears in an interview in the book) traveled down the science portion of this path already in his seminal "On Food and Cooking." But Potter taps into the trend of food experimentation and gadgetry that has invaded our kitchens.

"Overly intellectual. Obsessed with details. Going beyond the point where a mainstream user would stop," Potter writes. "A geek is anyone who dwells with some obsession on why something works and how to make that something better. And it's become a badge of honor to be a geek."

Read the entire story here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hospital Chefs Cook From Scratch to Offer Wellness Meals

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Sous Chef Shelly Herndon pointed to a green plate holding grilled salmon topped with pineapple chutney, rice pilaf and mixed vegetables that she proudly put on display in the Bristol Regional Medical Center’s cafeteria line.

“Everything here is made from scratch,” the hospital’s assistant chef said before the lunch rush started pouring in. “We’re doing this so people can eat healthier.”

Herndon and her colleagues started preparing low-fat, low sodium entrées like the grilled salmon plate and serving them to the hospital’s 800 to 900 daily customers as part of a new wellness program the hospital launched Oct. 25.

“We are a hospital and we provide wellness,” said Carol Fleenor, the hospital’s director of food and nutrition services. “It just fits in with our mission to provide healthy options for our customers.”

The cafeteria’s staff cooks the wellness meals using special recipes developed by Sodexho, the hospital’s food services company, that contain less than 800 milligrams of sodium, 100 milligrams of cholesterol and almost no saturated or trans fats.

By meeting those nutrition goals, the wellness meals are designed to help people fight two major health problems – heart disease and obesity – that affect a rapidly growing segment of the population both in the region and across the country.

Fleenor said the hospital cafeteria started offering wellness meals six weeks ago because customers regularly asked for healthier menu options when they filled out surveys evaluating their dining experiences.

The cafeteria prepared only 30 to 40 wellness meals each day when the program started, she said, but quickly increased to 80 meals a day. Now, she said, the cafeteria is serving the special menu items to about 10 percent of its daily customers.

“We still have French fries and other things like that available,” Fleenor said.

She also said many customers are picking the wellness menu items over the hospital’s regular menu items, which might not be as healthy as the special meals.

Still, Fleenor said, the cafeteria has no plans to do away with any of its regular menu items and is instead relying on an aggressive marketing campaign and pricing structure to get its customers to pick the wellness items.

When the hospital signed up for the wellness program, Fleenor said, staff decorated the facility’s hallways with signs and posters that provide information on healthy eating and a link to a Sodexho-managed website that gives them more information about nutrition.

They also sell the wellness meals, such as Herndon’s salmon plate, for prices that are about 10 to 20 cents cheaper than regular menu items: The new grilled chicken meal costs less than fried chicken and turkey burgers are sold for less than hamburgers.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle the hospital faced when rolling out the new menu was retraining its cafeteria staff to follow the recipes to the letter and not add things here or there as they cooked the food, Chef John McGiboney said.

Read the complete story here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner Rules

Thanks to Monica Mingo for sharing this.
Print and give a copy to each guest that enters your home.


1. Don't get in line asking  questions about the food. "Who made the potato salad? Is it egg in there? Are  the greens fresh? Is the meat in the greens turkey or pork? Who made the  macaroni and cheese? What kind of pie is that? Who made it?  Ask one more  question and I will punch you in your mouth, knocking out all your fronts so  you won't be able to eat anything.

2. If you can't walk or are  missing any limbs, sit your ass down until someone makes your plate for you.  Dinner time is not the time for you to be independent. Nibble on them damn  pecans and walnuts to hold you over until someone makes you a plate.

3. If you have kids under the age  of twelve, I will escort the little moochers to the basement and bring their  food down to them. They are not gonna tear my damn house up this year. Tell  them that they are not allowed upstairs until it's time for Uncle Butchie to  start telling family stories about their mommas and papas. If they come  upstairs for any reason except for that they are bleeding to death, I will  break a foot off in their asses!

4. There is going to be one prayer  for Thanksgiving dinner! JUST ONE! We do not care that you are thankful that  your 13 year old daughter gave birth to a healthy baby or your nephew just got  out of jail. Save that talk for somebody who gives a damn. The time limit for  the prayer is one minute. If you are still talking after that one minute is  up, you will feel something hard come across your lips and they will be  swollen for approximately 20 minutes.

5. Finish everything on your plate  before you go up for seconds! If you don't, you will be cursed out and asked  to stay your greedy ass home next year!

6. BRING YOUR OWN TUPPERWARE!!  Don't let me catch you fixing yourself a plate in my good Tupperware knowing  damn well that I will never see it again! Furthermore, if you didn't bring  anything over, don't let me catch you making a plate period or there will be a  “misunderstanding”.

7. What you came with is what you  should leave with!! Do not leave my house with anything that doesn't belong to  you. EVERYBODY WILL BE SUBJECTED TO A BODY SEARCH COMING IN AND LEAVING MY  PROPERTY!!!

8. Do not leave your kids so you  can go hopping from house to house. This is NOT a DAYCARE CENTER! There will be a kid-parent roll  call every ten minutes. Any parent that is not present at the time of roll  call, your child will be put outside until you come and get him or her. After  24 hours, I will call DSS on your ignorant ass!!

9. BOOK YOUR HOTEL ROOM BEFORE YOU  COME INTO TOWN!! There will be no sleeping over at my house! You are to come  and eat dinner and take your ass home or to your hotel room. EVERYBODY GETS  THE HELL OUT AT 11:00 pm. You will get a 15
minute warning bell ring.

10. Last but not least! ONE PLATE  PER PERSON!!! This is not a soup kitchen. I am not trying to feed your family  until Christmas dinner! You will be supervised when you fix your plate. Anything over the  appropriate amount will be charged to you before you leave. There will be a  cash register at the door. Thanks to Cousin Alfred and his greedy ass family,  we now have a credit card machine! So VISA and MASTERCARD are now being  accepted. NO FOOD STAMPS OR ACCESS CARDS YET!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Chef with Big Heart Directs Action Every Day in Colts Dining Hall

Local chef DeWitt Jackson is thankful -- and not just at Thanksgiving.
 Jackson, executive chef for the Indianapolis Colts, said that after seven seasons with the team, he's still grateful for the Second Helpings program and resulting opportunity to serve up three meals a day to hungry NFL football players.
 "I just take care of them," Jackson said.
 It's a job that doesn't go unnoticed -- even by the front office.  Colts president Bill Polian said the team appreciates Jackson's daily efforts.  "DeWitt has served the club for years," said Polian, "and our players and staff value and appreciate his contributions."
 Taking care of the nutritional needs of elite NFL players is a long way from the dish room of a local hospital, where Jackson started his culinary career more than 15 years ago. He still marvels about where his work has taken him and hopes his experience will encourage others.
 "If it can happen for me," said Jackson, "it can happen for anybody."
 The 49-year-old Indianapolis native had always been interested in cooking -- in fact his father was a chef -- and his ambition and ability soon took him out of the dish room at Riley Hospital for Children to the position of cook's assistant and then onto the line as a grill cook.
But he was married with a family, and the position simply didn't pay enough, said Jackson, so he took a job outside the food industry.
"A job opportunity came along at Carrier," said Jackson. "I wasn't liking it very much, but it was paying the bills."
One night, Jackson recalled, he saw a TV commercial for Second Helpings, the local food rescue organization that also has a culinary training program for unemployed and underemployed adults.
"I said to my wife, 'I'm going there tomorrow,' " Jackson said. "I had a good job, but it wasn't the job I wanted."
To advance in the food industry, Jackson knew he needed training. He persuaded local chef Sam Brown, director of training at the time and a Second Helpings graduate himself, to let him into the program.
"I liked cooking, but I needed to have more confidence, to have the right foundation," Jackson said.
 Brown, who is now executive chef and director of nutritional services at Fairbanks Hospital, said he knew Jackson would succeed.  "It was apparent right from the beginning that he had the skills he needed to be successful," said Brown. "He just needed the opportunity."
 Jackson's experience offers the perfect example of what Second Helpings graduates can achieve, said Ben Shine, the organization's communications and development manager. "He's one of our big shining stars," he said.
After graduating from Second Helpings, Jackson was working at the former Adam's Mark hotel when a call came from the Colts.

Read the rest of Chef Jackson's story here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

No Meat, No Dairy, No Problem.

Or at least that can be the case if you know what you’re doing, according to nutrition experts.

The vegan lifestyle requires people to avoid consuming animal products in their diets. That means no meat, no eggs, no cheese and no milk. For many vegans, it also means not using anything made with leather or other animal products.

With Vegan Awareness Month taking place through November, animal rights proponents and vegans around the country are campaigning on the positive aspects of a diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, beans and grains.
Health and nutrition experts say it’s certainly possible to keep a proper diet and take in all the required nutrients and vitamins to stay healthy without eating meat or dairy. Studies show that vegetarians and vegans tend to have a lower-than-average risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other preventable conditions.

But it does take a little more work to keep a proper diet, especially in some specific areas.

“If someone is going to decide to be a vegan, it can’t just be taken lightly, that decision,” said Hannah Richter, a dietitian with Auburn Memorial Hospital. “One would hope they’re making it because they’re choosing a healthier lifestyle, and therefore making smart decisions about the foods they choose.”

Those two don’t inherently go hand-in-hand, Richter pointed out. Avoiding meat doesn’t necessarily mean avoiding processed and unhealthy food.

“In any eating plan, it’s important to choose and focus on whole foods,” Richter said. “You can be a vegan and still eat a lot of sugars and high-fat things that aren’t good for you.”

Read the complete story here.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Chef Loses Sense of Taste But Still Loves To Cook

In the pint-size kitchen of his San Francisco home, chef, restaurateur and cookbook author Carlo Middione hunches over a counter, methodically rolling veal meatballs as tiny as necklace beads to add to a pot of simmering chicken broth.

At the dining table, he ladles the soup into bowls, adding a shower of freshly grated Parmigiano to each. Then he digs in, lifting a spoonful to his mouth.

The soup, a favorite recipe of his mother's, is one he's made countless times. But these days, he can no longer taste it. The distinctive flavors of garlic, parsley, sage and rosemary in the meatballs are elusive. The savoriness of the broth is undetectable. If he concentrates, he can he pick up a trace of salt. That's it.

Three years ago, Middione's palate went from Technicolor to black. After a car accident in which his small sedan was rear-ended by a Toyota Tundra, Middione lost his ability to smell and taste.

For a man whose senses were once so acute he could sniff a vinaigrette and tell if it was balanced, or determine whether a pot of boiling pasta water was salted just by smelling it, the loss was devastating.
It led to him closing his 29-year-old Fillmore Street restaurant, Vivande Porta Via, on New Year's Eve 2009, and to relearning how to cook and eat when the senses he once relied on could no longer be fully trusted.

"When I see a strawberry now, I can verbally describe what it tastes like," he says. "But if I tasted it, I might not taste anything. I get phantom tastes and smells now. Some people think that's a good sign. It's like if the phone rings, and it turns out to be a wrong number. At least you know the phone is working."

Middione has some company in the professional chef world. Most notably, chef Grant Achatz of Alinea in Chicago lost his sense of taste after undergoing chemotherapy for tongue cancer. And Kirk Webber, chef-owner of Cafe Kati in San Francisco, lost his sense of taste after suffering two concussions in a mugging in 2003.

These chefs eventually regained their ability to taste, although they are considerably younger than Middione, who's in his mid-70s.

When taste disappears, it's often because of the loss of the sense of smell, says Barb Stuckey, an executive at Mattson, a large food-development firm in Foster City, who is writing a book on the subject that features Middione. Anyone who's ever tried to figure out the flavor of a jelly bean while chewing it with pinched nostrils knows that all too well.

Loss of smell, and thus taste, also occurs naturally with age, but Middione suffered head trauma. The impact not only cracked Middione's sternum, ribs and several teeth, but he says it also jostled his brain so severely that it sheared the neurons that connect to his olfactory nerve, which is instrumental in the sense of smell.
Generally, those neurons regrow and reconnect. Sometimes they reconnect perfectly; sometimes they don't ever rejoin; and other times they form wrong connections that result in phantom smells.

Read the rest of the story here .

Friday, October 29, 2010

Grocers Flocking to the Inner Cities

Wal-Mart Stores is gearing up to open small outlets next year in U.S. cities, where it hopes to sell a lot of groceries. Trouble is, at least a half-dozen others are also seeking accelerated growth in urban America. CVS Caremark, Walgreen, Supervalu, and Family Dollar Stores all are offering more fresh food at their urban outlets or opening small stores in neighborhoods with limited access to nutritious grub.

 While selling food is a mature business, 23.5 million Americans live in underserved urban areas—a market potentially worth $100 billion a year, says Jim Hertel, managing partner with retail consultant Willard Bishop. "It's easy to go into a liquor or convenience store and find potato chips," he says. "But in terms of something you would feel good serving your family, not so much."

The big grocery store chains largely abandoned the cities in the 1970s and followed their customers to the suburbs. There they found abundant, cheap land and built superstores and parking lots large enough for 1,000 cars. Now they have saturated that market and are turning their attention back to urban neighborhoods that have long been served by mom-and-pop stores—or not at all.

About five years ago, Family Dollar began selling a limited selection of mostly packaged and frozen food in New York, Chicago, and Detroit. As the concept caught on, the company began carrying staples such as bread, eggs, and milk. "We have a bulkhead in many major urban areas, and we'll continue to build on [that]," Chief Operating Officer R. James Kelly said in October.

Now other retailers that traditionally haven't carried groceries are moving in. Pharmacy chain CVS Caremark is adding fruit, salads, sandwiches, and other prepared meals at a growing number of its city locations. The second-largest U.S. drugstore chain, behind Walgreen, plans this year to remodel about 300 urban stores to carry food items in Boston, New York, Washington, Detroit, and Philadelphia. Eventually one-fifth of its 7,000 stores could be reconfigured, CVS says.

While CVS is aiming at a cross-section of consumers, Save-A-Lot, a no-frills grocer owned by Supervalu, targets households with incomes below $45,000 in neighborhoods where supermarkets are scarce. The U.S. government is offering $400 million a year in loans and tax incentives to lure stores offering better quality food to these underserved areas by 2017, part of First Lady Michelle Obama's campaign to reduce childhood obesity.

Read the complete story here.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Survey Says: Diners Love Local and Hate Texting

A new Zagat survey tracks American dining out trends and behaviors
October 27, 2010 | By Bret Thorn
New Orleans diners tip the best, Hawaiians the worst, diners think that texting at the table is rude and that food should be locally sourced, organic or sustainably raised.

Those were among the findings of Zagat's survey of 153,000 diners as it compiled its 2011 America’s Top Restaurants guide, which was released Wednesday.

Sixty-eight percent of participants in the survey said they thought it was important for the food they eat to be locally sourced, organic or sustainably raised, and 60 percent said they would even pay more for such food. Nearly a third, 31 percent, said they sought out restaurants specializing in such “green” cuisine.

Most diners — 85 percent — said it was fine to take pictures of food and each other at restaurants, but 63 percent said texting, tweeting and talking on cell phones was rude and inappropriate. 
Diners are eating out a little less than before the recession — 3.1 times per week, compared with 3.3 percent. Thirty-nine percent said they are paying more attention to price, 33 percent said they’re eating in less expensive places, 17 percent said they were cutting back on alcohol, and 21 percent said they were ordering fewer appetizers and desserts.

Still, the national average price of a meal rose 2.2 percent in the past year to $35.37. New Orleans, where the average tip is 19.7 percent, has the lowest average meal cost among Zagat survey participants — of $28.36.

Right behind New Orleans diners in tipping are Denver, Detroit, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Ohio, where tippers leave an average gratuity of 19.6 percent

On the low end, Hawaiians tip 18.4 percent on average, and diners in Sacramento and San Francisco tip an average of 18.6 percent.

Las Vegas is the most expensive city to eat in, with an average meal price of $44.44.

Read the entire article here.

See the complete Zagat survey results here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Throwing Away Our Food

The U.S. produces about 591 billion pounds of food each year, and up to half of it goes to waste, costing farmers, consumers and businesses hundreds of billions of dollars.

In his new book, "American Wasteland" (Da Capo Press, 2010), Jonathan Bloom examines the story of discarded food, from vegetables left to rot in the field to unsold hamburgers shovelled into restaurant trash bins.

He also offers potential remedies, such as taxes on landfills, expanded composting programs and incentives for farmers to harvest all that they grow and to donate what they can't sell.


Food waste begins at farms. With lettuce, for example, the average harvest rate has been estimated at 85% to 90%. The rest of the lettuce—heads that don't look or feel perfect on quick inspection—are left in the field. One cucumber grower said that at least half of the cucumbers on his farms aren't harvested,mostly because they are too curved (making them hard to pack) or have white spots or small cracks. Farm losses are generally higher for hand-picked fruit and perishable vegetables than for machine-harvested commodity crops like corn and wheat; about 9% of commodity crops planted in the U.S. aren't harvested.

Look at the rest of the cycle of food waste here.

Charities in Trouble

Donations to top charities nationwide are dropping.  Central Indiana is not escaping the trend.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Chefs See Double-edge Sword in Reality TV Shows

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Chefs acknowledge cooking on television is an effective way to promote their restaurants and cookbooks but some of them do not savor the frenzy and demands of reality competition shows.

In the United States, cooking competition shows are part of a growing genre, which garners advertising support from the food industry.

These series, such as "Top Chef Masters" and "The Next Iron Chef," are known as much for their emotional exchanges between contestants and judges as their cooking challenges.

Some of New York's top chefs said appearing on television has become part of their job as chefs emerge from their kitchens as celebrities.

"It's a marketing tool," Jimmy Bradley, head chef and owner of the Red Cat in West Chelsea, said during the New York City Wine & Food Festival that ended on Sunday.

Many chefs who have appeared on these competition shows have become celebrities with attendees at the festival lining up to see their cooking demonstrations or to be photographed with them.

Chefs who have competed said these shows were powerful as they reached a nationwide audience of potential diners or buyers of their cookbooks.

"To win is to have a successful business," said Bradley, who sees the financial rewards stemming from appearing on these shows as possibly more important than winning the competition.

At the same time, these chefs feel the shows' grueling filming schedule, scrambling for ingredients and their use of appliances are less than ideal to showcase their talents.

"It's a bit of humiliation," said Gabrielle Hamilton, chef and proprietor of Prune in Manhattan's East Village.

Read the complete story here.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Oysters Rockefeller

One of my favorite (and most requested) recipes:

Oysters Rockefeller
(Serves 8)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
2 shallots, chopped
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
1/4 cup Pernod (Anise flavored liqueur)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Dash red pepper sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 dozen oysters, on the half shell
Rock salt
Lemon wedges, for garnish

Preheat oven to 450°F.
Melt butter in a sauté pan over medium high heat.
Sauté the garlic for 2 minutes to infuse the butter.
Place the bread crumbs in a mixing bowl and add half the garlic butter, set aside.
To the remaining garlic butter in the sauté pan, add shallots and spinach, cook for 3 minutes until the spinach wilts.
Deglaze the pan with Pernod.   
Season with salt and pepper and a dash of red pepper sauce. 
Allow the mixture to cook down for a few minutes.
Finish the bread crumbs by mixing in olive oil, Parmesan and parsley, and season with salt and pepper.
Spoon 1 heaping teaspoon of the spinach mixture on each oyster, followed by a spoonful of the bread crumb mixture.
Sprinkle a baking pan liberally with rock salt and arrange the oysters in the salt to steady them. 
Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes until golden.
Serve with lemon wedges and red pepper sauce.
Serves 8.

Oysters Come Back in Vogue

In Falmouth, October marks the beginning of the oyster season. For centuries, this small fishing village on the southwest coast of England has welcomed seafarers and fisherman to dredge its wild oyster beds, which lay dotted along the silt flats of the Fal estuary. Their prize is the native or flat oyster—a sweet, delicate, saucer-shaped mollusk much sought after by the Romans, whose historian Pliny the Elder recommended them for improving the complexion.

Today, it is their taste—an experience that lays somewhere between the sea bed and the salty water—that attracts thousands of visitors to the Cornish village of Falmouth. 

Next weekend, the rivers around the Fal estuary will be flooded with small oyster boats, known as Falmouth working boats, powered by sail or hand-pulled, looking to dredge the many oyster beds that lie beneath the waters. (For oystermen fishing in the Port of Truro Oyster Fishery, engines are prohibited, by decree of ancient laws put in place to protect the natural ecology of the river beds and the oysters.) Once the fishermen have collected their haul, the oysters will be purified for 36 hours before they are sold to customers across Europe, a practice that will continue until the end of the season in March.

It is part of a renaissance of the British oyster, says Nick Hodges, executive head chef at the Flying Fish restaurant at St. Michaels Hotel in Falmouth. "Oysters are back in vogue. We've gone through times when their popularity has dwindled, but now they are very much a prize possession again," says Mr. Hodges, whose grandparents farmed oysters. "Even on a local basis, they are on a lot more Cornish menus now. We now export much more to the European market, something we were not doing a few years ago."

There are two main kinds of oysters found in the British Isles: the flat, or native, oyster (Ostrea edulis), most famously grown among the beds in Whitstable, Colchester and Helford; and the rock, or Pacific, oyster (Crassostrea gigas), which was introduced commercially into Britain in the 1960s.

Although they are smaller, the native oysters are widely regarded as tasting superior, with a more delicate, metallic note. Rock oysters, meanwhile, are characterized as having a rough shell and a tear-dropped shaped. They tend to have a sweeter, more salty flavor and are meatier in texture. According to Drew Smith, author of "Oyster: A World History," oyster fossils can be found in England's Portland stone, which dates back to the Jurassic period, making them one of the oldest foodstuffs in the world.

Read the rest of the story here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Irvington Bakery Started With Just a Little Dough

Corey Rutland is a graduate of Second Helpings culinary Job Training Class #14.

Last fall, Corey Rutland and Tess Ireland started out with just $400 and a dream.

Now, they own the bustling Roll With It Bakery at 5539 E. Washington St., one of the latest additions to Irvington's up-and-coming streetscape.

Although the couple -- who met while working as chefs at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown -- didn't have much money, Rutland tapped into an Individual Development Account program he learned about while earning his general educational development certificate at John H. Boner Community Center on the Near Eastside.

Under the program, the Boner Center agrees to a match of 3-to-1 for every dollar that individuals who can meet certain income guidelines invest toward their education, home or business ownership. The program is a joint venture of the Boner Center and Community Choice Federal Credit Union.

"We always wanted our own place," Rutland said. "(Tess) pushed me, and then everything just started falling into place."

Rutland put $400 into an IDA and walked away with $2,000, which the couple immediately invested in kitchen equipment.

After noticing a "for rent" sign at a Washington Street retail space, Rutland and Ireland approached the owners, who agreed to let them set up shop rent-free until Jan. 1. They signed the lease by October and were in business by December.

They've added lunch items to their bakery menu, hired three staff members, and watched their business grow to 70 or 80 customers per day.

Amandula Henry, director of the Irvington Development Organization, said Roll With It is one of the more successful storefronts to enter the Irvington business district.

"They're finally starting to pay themselves, which is really nice for a small business, because it's almost unheard of in the food-service industry," she said.

Read the complete story here.

Congratulations to Class 60!!

Congratulations to Class #60 of the Second Helpings Culinary Job Training Program who graduated on Friday, October 01, 2010.

Pictured above (Front row, left to right): Vincent R. Layne, Andrea M. Moore, Lorraine Stout (Case Manager), Jennifer Elizabeth Lloyd, Kevin Keith Chapman, (Back row, left to right): Chef Carl G. Conway, Donovan Eugene Gehle, Jesse B. Hendricks III, Aubrey Dale Smith, Stephen N. Deputy, Anthony W. Perry, and Kent Bledsoe.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Are We Raising A Generation of "Nincompoops"?

NEW YORK --Second-graders who can't tie shoes or zip jackets. Four-year-olds in Pull-Ups diapers. Five-year-olds in strollers. Teens and preteens befuddled by can openers and ice-cube trays. College kids who've never done laundry, taken a bus alone or addressed an envelope.

Are we raising a generation of nincompoops? And do we have only ourselves to blame? Or are some of these things simply the result of kids growing up with push-button technology in an era when mechanical devices are gradually being replaced by electronics?

Susan Maushart, a mother of three, says her teenage daughter "literally does not know how to use a can opener. Most cans come with pull-tops these days. I see her reaching for a can that requires a can opener, and her shoulders slump and she goes for something else."

Teenagers are so accustomed to either throwing their clothes on the floor or hanging them on hooks that Maushart says her "kids actually struggle with the mechanics of a clothes hanger."

Many kids never learn to do ordinary household tasks. They have no chores. Take-out and drive-through meals have replaced home cooking. And busy families who can afford it often outsource house-cleaning and lawn care.

"It's so all laid out for them," said Maushart, author of the forthcoming book "The Winter of Our Disconnect," about her efforts to wean her family from its dependence on technology. "Having so much comfort and ease is what has led to this situation -- the Velcro sneakers, the Pull-Ups generation. You can pee in your pants and we'll take care of it for you!"

The issue hit home for me when a visiting 12-year-old took an ice-cube tray out of my freezer, then stared at it helplessly. Raised in a world where refrigerators have push-button ice-makers, he'd never had to get cubes out of a tray -- in the same way that kids growing up with pull-tab cans don't understand can openers.
But his passivity was what bothered me most. Come on, kid! If your life depended on it, couldn't you wrestle that ice-cube tray to the ground? It's not that complicated!

Mark Bauerlein, author of the best-selling book "The Dumbest Generation," which contends that cyberculture is turning young people into know-nothings, says "the absence of technology" confuses kids faced with simple mechanical tasks.

But Bauerlein says there's a second factor: "a loss of independence and a loss of initiative." He says that growing up with cell phones and Google means kids don't have to figure things out or solve problems any more. They can look up what they need online or call mom or dad for step-by-step instructions. And today's helicopter parents are more than happy to oblige, whether their kids are 12 or 22.

Read the complete story here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Why is "Food Security" Sparking Unrest?

Hong Kong, China (CNN) -- While nations debate what to do about long-term problems such as climate change and dwindling water supplies, two words send immediate shivers down the spines of government officials across the world: Food security.

A series of environmental disasters fueling a wave of food price volatility has given governments, "a much needed wakeup call," said Abdolreza Abbassian, an economist for the United Nation's Security of Intergovernmental Group on Grains.

The UN's Food and Agricultural Organization will be holding a special meeting to discuss the issue and the recent volatility in Rome on September 24.

The meeting was called after Russia decided to ban wheat exports after a punishing drought wiped out 25 percent of its crop. Moscow's decision pushed food prices up about 5 percent worldwide. Bread prices surged in some countries and triggered the deadly riots in Mozambique.

Massive floods in Pakistan also caused huge losses to the country's crops, adding to the uncertainty in the markets.

"The pace in which prices went up, nobody predicted markets could turn so fast," said Abbassian. "It's been two months and we're still struggling with it."

Food security, in simple terms, is defined by the United Nations as food being available in sufficient quantities to reliably feed a nation's population.

Market volatility is nothing new, especially when it comes to commodities. During the food crisis of 2007-2008, prices spiked dramatically: Rice surged more than 200 percent; wheat and corn jumped more than 100 percent. The cause continues to be debated, but the effects led to protests and deadly riots from Haiti to Mogadishu.

But the current market conditions are very different from a few years ago, said Hafez Ghanem, the FAO's assistant director-general for economic and social development.

"(I)n the years ahead we'll probably be seeing more of the turbulence we're experiencing now because markets are set to become more volatile in the medium term for at least three reasons: a) the growing importance as a cereal producer of the Black Sea region, where yields fluctuate greatly from one season to the next; b) the expected increase of extreme weather events linked to climate change; and c) the growing importance of non-commercial actors in commodities markets," Ghanem said in an interview posted on the UN Food and Agricultural Organization website.

If the next few years could be more volatile, the next few decades could be downright frightening.

"The most urgent issue confronting humanity in the next 50 years is not climate change or the financial crisis, it is whether we can achieve and sustain such a harvest," said Julian Cribb, scientist and author of "The Coming Famine."

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