Saturday, February 20, 2010

Another Cable Helping for Food Lovers


FOR the upfront season of advance television advertising sales, Scripps Networks has something new to share with clients: a second 24-hour cable channel for food lovers and the advertisers who love them.

Scripps, the owner of the Food Network, plans to turn on the Cooking Channel on Memorial Day, May 31, this year, enhancing its position in the category of kitchen programming. Before meetings with advertisers, the company is announcing half a dozen series for the channel on Friday, including new ones starring Bobby Flay and Rachael Ray. It might as well be called Food Network, the Sequel.

About two years ago, when the company started considering a second culinary channel, “the advertiser demand for Food was outstripping the audience growth,” Jon Steinlauf, the senior vice president for ad sales for Scripps Networks, said this week. “Therefore, creating a second channel started making more sense.”

The Cooking Channel, which is a replacement for Fine Living Network, FLN, a low-rated lifestyle channel, was announced last fall. At that time, Scripps said the channel would focus on information and instructional programming, much as the Food Network did before it gravitated toward higher-rated reality competitions like “The Next Food Network Star.” In recent months, Scripps has altered its plans for the second channel to include more entertaining fare.

“We listened to the audience and realized they weren’t necessarily saying they just wanted more instruction or more reality or more travel shows. They just wanted more,” said Michael Smith, the general manager of the Cooking Channel.

The craving for food programming is insatiable, Scripps executives like to say. (They rarely pass up opportunities for food puns; the first press release for the Cooking Channel said that “the time has come for us to have our cake and eat it, too.”) The ratings were up markedly for the Food Network last year, and shows set in kitchens have flourished on other channels.

“When you see Fox lining up its third Gordon Ramsay cooking show in prime time, I think food’s arrived as a mainstream genre,” Mr. Steinlauf said.

Naturally, Scripps wants to capture as much market share as it can. “If there are 1.2 rating points available for food programming, we want to be able to get the 0.9 on Food and the 0.3 on the Cooking Channel,” he said. “For this to be a good business for Scripps, we have to be able to grow the combined audience for these channels.”

Mirrored channels are not unprecedented on cable, where further fragmentation seems certain. ESPN has ESPN2, MTV has MTV2, and CNN has HLN, formerly called Headline News. Mr. Smith says he expects the Cooking Channel’s core viewers will be the ones he calls “hyper-passionate fans” of Food — the recipe bloggers, the Yelp reviewers, the amateur chefs.

Read the rest of the story here.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Congratulations to Class #57

Congratulations to the graduates of Class #57 of the Second Helpings Culinary Job Training Program. The largest class in the history of the program graduated on Friday, February 12, 2009.
Pictured above (front row, left to right) Isabella Barahona, Ellen Funk, Irene Jenna, Breann Brown, Aeshia Tichenor, Laurin Kinney (Second row) Ross Eggers, Brandon Frew, Jesse Chisolm, Brenen Head, Christopher Holton, Judie Sloan, Chef Conway (Back row) David Newson, Kenneth Klimkiewicz, Charles Thompson, Norman Patterson, Jamari Jones.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Alton Brown's favorite Cookbooks


1. The Joy of Cooking

By Irma S. Rombauer
Bobbs-Merrill, 1936

Maybe it's because I inherited "The Joy of Cooking" from my paternal grandmother, a true witch of the baking world, or because her edition, the sixth, was published in 1962, the year I was born. Or maybe it's because even this 1960s "Joy" was still packed with old-fashioned tips like the carefully laid out instructions for skinning a squirrel. As the diagrams show, the skinning process is easy once you get the tail under your foot. Whatever the reason for my attachment to the particular volume on my shelf, I'm also a "Joy" fan no matter the edition: Every recipe is written in the book's unmistakable style, with ingredients and amounts seamlessly integrated into the instructions. For me this is still the quintessential American cookbook. Try the baked herring and potatoes or sourdough rye. Or perhaps the roast squirrel with walnut ketchup.

2. The Frugal Gourmet

By Jeff Smith
Morrow, 1984

Jeff Smith was the Julia Child of my generation. When his television show, "The Frugal Gourmet," made its debut on PBS in the 1980s, it conveyed such genuine enthusiasm for cooking that I was moved for the first time to slap down cold cash for a collection of recipes. Since it was my only cookbook at the time—I had yet to inherit "The Joy of Cooking" mentioned above—I made every recipe in it, several times. All these years later I still cook the chicken piccata, the pea salad with bacon, and the lamb with beans, not making a single substitution. Unfortunately Smith became embroiled in a sex-abuse scandal in the mid-1990s involving young men who had worked for him. Not only did his career screech to a halt, but his earlier work was also tainted in the process. And that's a real shame, because were it not for Smith, I know of at least one would-be cook who'd still be on the sofa ordering takeout.

See the rest of his list here

Friday, February 5, 2010

Super Bowl Food Fight: Indy Vs. Big Easy

Football fans are looking forward to this Sunday's Super Bowl — and a day full of good food. But the menu doesn't have to be limited to pizza and nachos. We asked two chefs from the Colts' and Saints' hometowns about what they'd be cooking this weekend.

From New Orleans, Donald Link is chef and owner of the restaurants Herbsaint and Cochon. His Super Bowl party continues a tradition he inherited from his parents.

This year, the party will include sausage and salami from Link's butcher shop. But those are just for snacking, he told NPR's Linda Wertheimer. "The main dish that I always cook is the seafood gumbo," Link said — like the one featured in his cookbook, Real Cajun.

Link's party will be at his home, which he repaired after Hurricane Katrina. In those renovations, he said, he made sure to include clear sightlines from the kitchen to the TV.

"We actually stood where the stove was going to go and lined it up to where the TV would be, just to make sure that we had the broadest view of the TV," he said.

And from Indianapolis, Regina Mehallick is chef and owner of R Bistro. Her restaurant is decked out for the big game, she said, complete with blue flowers and cadet-blue napkins to match the Colts' uniforms.

Mehallick, author of Regina's Seasonal Table, also emphasizes locally grown produce and meats.

"We should definitely have blue popcorn," Mehallick said, "because corn is popular here in Indiana."

Her main dish will reflect another local favorite: a breaded pork tenderloin sandwich. The R Bistro version will be crusted in panko flakes. And since Indiana is a large producer of duck meat, Mehallick is considering serving duck wings — "done the classic way that chicken wings would be done," she said.

Both cities have been abuzz for nearly two weeks, as fans dream of an NFL title.

But Link says his Saints party will be a bit tamer than past versions — partly because he wants to be sure to have time to sit down and watch the game.

"I'm getting kind of chills, just about to say it," he said. "But with Mardi Gras this weekend and the Saints in the Super Bowl — I mean, this is a fantastic time to be here."

In Indianapolis, the lingering effects of the economic recession aren't putting a damper on the excitement, either.

The city has been a scene for pep rallies and parties — and people dressed in all blue and white, Mehallick said. She admitted to wearing a Colts jersey as she spoke to NPR.

"This is a big sports city," she said. "This is just a happy time, it's bringing people together. Lots of people on the street are saying hello — and go Colts."

The interview ended on a civil note — up to a point.

"Donald, good luck — but I hope we win," Mehallick said.

"Who dat?" Link replied.

Listen to the full story and download the recipes here.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Career Options Expand for Culinarians

Into the frying pan


Jerome Darby was a successful fashion designer whose clothing sold in

Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. But he never gave up his dream of working in a restaurant.

So he enrolled at the French Culinary Institute in SoHo, and after graduating last June, he went to work as a pastry chef at Mario Batali’s trattoria Lupa.

So how does he feel about trading in a six-figure salary for toiling in a kitchen?

“It’s been awesome,” he says.

As America’s interest in food continues to rise like a well-timed soufflĂ©, more and more people are setting their sights on culinary careers.

“There’s been a huge, huge interest in cooking schools,” says Irena Chalmers, an instructor at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in upstate Hyde Park, and author of “Food Jobs: 150 Great Jobs for Culinary Students, Career Changers and Food Lovers.”

In the past six years, applications spiked nearly 50 percent at CIA, which added a satellite campus to cope with the demand. At the Institute for Culinary Education in Chelsea, the surge in interest has been “staggering,” says admissions director Brian Aronowitz. Meanwhile, after a decade when enrollment doubled, the French Culinary Institute just had “our best year ever,” says founder Dorothy Hamilton.

The weak economy has actually boosted interest, in part because people often return to school during slowdowns, and in part because food careers are popular with career changers — including those motivated by a layoff. And to some extent, the food business is recession-proof.

“There will always be jobs in the culinary field,” says Hamilton, who’s written a new book, “Love What You Do: Building a Career in the Culinary Industry.”

One big change, however, is the sheer range of jobs falling under that umbrella. That range has grown a lot wider in recent years, notes Chalmers, who was inspired to write her book by all her students who “had no idea there were so many jobs outside of working in a restaurant.”

From food historian to recipe tester, “There are so many things you can do,” she says.

With that in mind, here’s a look at a few of the food world’s growing niches.

Click here to read the rest of the story.