Friday, April 29, 2011

Effort Underway To Improve School Nutrition

April 29, 2011
Written By: Travis Brown

SNOW HILL -- After spending more than a month working with local elementary school cafeterias as part of a Team Nutrition Grant program, Chef Paul Suplee called the effort to improve school nutrition a success. He did admit, however, that it was a small step but expressed hope that it would lead to similar efforts in the future.

Suplee, culinary arts instructor for the Worcester County Technical High School, and his students teamed up with cafeteria workers at five local elementary schools to design sets of easy-to-make yet nutritious meals that could then become part of the school’s regular menu. Suplee and his students spent one week cooking and planning with each school. At the end of the five-week period, the schools will share all of the meal ideas that had been generated with their counterparts, resulting in a widely expanded cafeteria menu for all of Worcester County.

“We’re just trying to educate the kids,” said Suplee. “So far we’ve had good results.”

He stressed the fact that the perceived worry over lack of nutrition in schools isn’t as dramatic as many believe and praised the cafeteria employees his team worked with as having done an incredible job, especially since they are always working with limited resources.

In response to that scarcity of funds and resources, Suplee used a portion of the $30,000 Team Nutrition Grant to outfit some of the more underequipped kitchens with new chef’s knives and other small-ware.

“They need to have the tools to do their jobs,” said Suplee of the cafeteria workers.

Read the complete story here.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Chefs' Recipe for Recycling - Repurpose, Reinvent

Remember the stereotypically lavish chef of kitchen lore who would roast an olive inside a little bird inside a bigger bird on up to an ostrich, and then throw away everything but the olive? That guy wouldn't last too long in Bay Area kitchens.

Driven both by thrift and the desire to keep the planet cleaner, chefs are finding new uses for items that once would have been flung in the garbage, recycling and reusing just about everything but the squeak.

"Everything we use has value. Someone harvested it, someone grew it, someone cared about it," says Russell Moore, chef-owner of Camino in Oakland.

At Camino, Moore reuses fruit cores to infuse brandy, candies citrus peel for garnishes and sautes the outer leaves of greens with oil and olives to make herb jam for the cheese board.

Water is served in old gin bottles; wood for the dining room fireplace comes from orchard prunings; and the restaurant's seats are reused church chairs and pews. Leftover wine is turned into vinegar.

At San Francisco's Zuni Cafe, chef and co-owner Gilbert Pilgram also makes vinegar from leftover wine. And the kitchen sees the appeal of peelings, too. Pea shells flavor fish stocks, and in the summer, the liquid generated by making tomato concasse (peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes) is used to thin the organic tomato juice for Bloody Marys. In winter, the juice drained from organic canned tomatoes is used in pizza sauce.

Sometimes reducing waste is about convenience as much as conscience.

Read about more ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Teen Chefs Whisk Their Way Toward Scholarships

NEW YORK — The stakes were high Tuesday as 19 young chefs from New York City high schools whisked crepe batter, chopped herbs and seared chicken breasts in a competition for scholarships worth up to $100,000.

The two-hour cooking challenge at the Institute for Culinary Education in Manhattan was part of the Careers through Culinary Arts Program, or C-CAP, which has awarded nearly 5,000 scholarships since it began in 1990.

The program started in New York and has expanded to seven locations including Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. It has helped to train hundreds of culinary professionals, a couple of whom were back Tuesday as judges.

"It made all the difference in being where I am today in my career," said Kelvin Fernandez, 25, a graduate of the program who is now chef de cuisine at the Strand Hotel in Manhattan. "It gives you the opportunity to network."

The atmosphere in the two adjoining kitchens where the students wielded knives and sauté pans was intense. The students were required to prepare two recipes: a classic French chicken dish and dessert crepes with pastry cream and chocolate sauce.

Each student carefully laid out his or her mise en place — salt, pepper, butter, mushrooms, eggs. They yelled "Behind, behind!" as they rushed around the crowded kitchens.

Hansel Serra from the High School for Hospitality Management was the picture of concentration as he placed a towel under his cutting board to steady it, then began dicing shallots.

Serra's shallots ended up chopped so finely they could have been mistaken for grains of rice. His parsley and tarragon were tiny specks of green.

"It's in the wrist, really," he said afterward.

Read the complete story here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sixty Great Chefs + Versailles = An AVERAGE Meal?

VERSAILLES – The generals in crisp white uniforms plotted their strategy in the grand Hall of Battles in the Palace of Versailles. They were there not to recall the military victories of France’s past depicted in the graphic paintings lining the walls, but to celebrate the ritual of dining.

Inspired by the United Nations designation last year of the French meal as part of the "intangible cultural heritage of humanity", 60 of the world’s big-name chefs gathered at Versailles on Wednesday to help prepare a $1,270-a-head dinner for 650 guests in black tie, fancy dress and a fair amount of fur and feathers.

The dinner was a public relations extravaganza for the Relais & Chateaux hotel and restaurant group, which brought in its own chefs and paid $114,000 to rent Versailles for the night. (The cost of electricity, water, security and staff members was extra.) Les Grands Tables du Monde sent several chefs of its own.

Versailles is the most glorious chateau in the world, the place where Louis XIV raised fine dining to an art. But it is also a museum without a kitchen. A long, white marble corridor with sculptures of kings and noblemen had to be lined with 17 portable work stations, each consisting of one table, one oven and one electric burner, but no gas or running water.

“Let’s be honest,” said Patrick Henriroux, chef of the two-star Michelin La Pyramide in Vienne near Lyon. “This is not about creating in a kitchen. It’s more like cooking on a camping trip.”

As vice-president in charge of the grand chefs for the group, Mr. Henriroux was camp director. He organized his high-profile and potentially high-maintenance gastronomic greats in teams of three before deploying them to their humble work stations. With so many knives, “I had to make sure they got along,” he said.

Daniel Humm of New York’s Eleven Madison Park paced up and down the long corridor. Hélène Darroze, one of only two women among the five dozen chefs, was hugged and kissed a lot. Marc Meurin of Le Château de Beaulieu bonded quickly with his kitchen-mate, Philippe Mille of Les Crayères in Reims. “We’ve been great friends for an hour already,” Mr. Mille said. For their brief time together, three-star Michelin chefs Marc Haeberlin, Michel Troisgros, Jean-Michel Lorain, Annie Féolde, Jean-Georges Klein, Patrick Bertron, Régis Marcon and Eric Pras and all the two-stars, one-stars and no-stars worked as equals.

By most accounts, even their collective talent could not overcome the logistical hurdles. Most of the raw materials had to be pre-cooked and prepared off-site by the caterer Potel et Chabot. The chefs were asked to offer inspiration from their signature dishes, but their task was less to cook than to slice, dice, heat and accessorize food wheeled in on metal racks or stacked in white boxes.

Adding to the complexity of the meal, each chef prepared one course for about forty people. The cold appetizer chefs chose scallops or lobster; the hot appetizer chefs sea bass or morels, and the hot main course chefs duck or saddle of lamb.

One chef ranted that the 2002 Dom Pérignon Millésime Champagne was insufficiently chilled. Another searched fruitlessly for more squares of Savoy cabbage.

Guests muttered that the caviar dollops on the lightly smoked sea bass were too cold, the gelled Breton lobster claws too bland and the canard de Challans too naked. “Where were the great sauces to celebrate history and tradition?” said Jean-Claude Ribaut, the food critic for Le Monde. “Everything was a little flat, just average.”

Louis XIV might not have been entirely surprised.

Read the complete story here.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Chefs: Is There Gold in Going Gluten-Free?

If Lyndhurst resident Melissa Van Riper wants a night out to eat with her husband, friends or family, her options aren't very plentiful locally. It's not that Lyndhurst doesn't have any good restaurants; you could throw a stone and probably hit one decent eatery or another offering everything from Chinese and Italian to Portuguese fare and Turkish cuisine. The problem is Van Riper has Celiac disease and unless a restaurant has a gluten-free menu, she doesn't dare go near it.

"I travel for gluten-free," said Van Riper, who is 27 weeks pregnant with her first child and fears her daughter will also have Celiac disease, which is a genetic disorder. "We go to Boonton, we go to Pompton Lakes, we go to all these places that have gluten-free food."

Celiac disease is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food. When Celiac sufferers eat foods containing gluten, a protein in wheat, rye and barley, it destroys the intestine's nutrient absorbing lining, or villi. If a person with Celiac eats gluten he or she suffers severe stomach pains, and prolonged gluten intake can cause malnutrition, no matter how much someone eats.

Adhering to a gluten-free diet is essentially the only way to tame Celiac disease's effects, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. About one in 133 people have it and many don't know it. Van Riper was diagnosed just over a year ago, having been through about 10 doctors before one actually performed a genetic blood test and colonoscopy to give her the proper diagnosis after years of suffering from severe stomach woes.

"I could have had it my whole life. I was gastrointestinal sick for seven years," said Van Riper. "Because I was so young, no one ever did a colonoscopy. People can have bloating, eat something and it doesn't agree with them; you keep getting stomachaches and may not know that you may have a genetic disease."

Lyndhurst's Health Administrator Joyce Jacobson, after hearing Van Riper's story, wants to do something about the problem. When Van Riper called about a month ago asking how she could obtain her marriage license, she also wanted to talk to someone about gluten-free awareness. Jacobson answered the call and found the issue confounding, but noteworthy, because the health department was in the midst of holding food handling courses. In her two previous classes with 42 attendees, not one, she said, offered anything gluten-free at their eateries. She had Van Riper come in and speak to the third class of 15 to inform them about the benefits of offering a gluten-free menu option. The two are now going to embark on an awareness campaign starting with an open community support group in May to any residents of Lyndhurst and surrounding communities that have Celiac or want to know more about it. Then they want to bring evidence to restaurants that Celiac is more common than thought and restaurants would benefit from offering gluten-free menu options.

Read the complete story here.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Does the "Mediterranean Diet" Really Exist?

Every Saturday, a fleet of cars and trucks pulls into a windswept parking lot just off the Mediterranean. Under flapping white awnings, women slit open eggplants the size of a large man’s thumb and stuff them with a mix of chopped garlic, red peppers and walnuts. This is Souk el Tayeb, the farmers’ market that has helped make Beirut a hot destination for globe-trotting foodies. But if you want to see how the new generation of Lebanese really wants to eat, you have to go somewhere else. You have to go to Roadster Diner.

Roadster is a chain of 1950s-Americana restaurants. Its original motto, “There goes my heart,” evokes both Elvis and his artery-clogging diet. The Roadster in my Beirut neighborhood had a life-size statue of a grinning black man with huge white teeth singing into a microphone. Unlike the strenuously authentic Lebanese restaurants beloved by tourists and visiting food writers, Roadster’s nine retail franchises across Lebanon are always packed with locals.

In Europe and the United States, the so-called Mediterranean diet — rich in olive oil, whole grains, fish, fruits and vegetables and wine — is a multibillion-dollar global brand, encompassing everything from hummus to package trips to Italy, where “enogastronomic tourism” rakes in as much as five billion euros a year. Studies at Harvard and elsewhere correlate the Mediterranean diet with lower rates of heart disease, diabetes and depression. In America, health gurus like Mehmet Oz exhort followers to “eat like a Greek.” But according to data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Mediterranean people have some of the worst diets in Europe, and the Greeks are the fattest: about 75 percent of the Greek population is overweight.

So if the Mediterranean diet is not what people in the Mediterranean eat, then what is it?

Find out by reading the rest of the article here.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Charlie Trotter, a Leader Left Behind?

Charlie Trotter stood in his chef’s whites before an audience of high school students in the Studio Kitchen, the private-dining annex to his eponymous restaurant here. The students, dressed to the nines and seated at a banquet table, were from Providence-St. Mel, an academically rigorous Catholic school in the city’s rough East Garfield Park neighborhood.

They were there as Mr. Trotter’s guests, part of what he calls his excellence program, wherein, three nights a week, 50 weeks a year, youths from disadvantaged backgrounds are treated to an elaborate multicourse tasting menu, a tour of the restaurant and a succession of inspirational speakers, often including the chef himself.

As waiters whirled around the students, removing empty plates and filling Champagne flutes with sparkling organic grape juice from Germany, Mr. Trotter listened approvingly as a commis named James Caputo expounded upon the importance of discipline and teamwork. When he was done, Mr. Trotter thanked him and asked him to hang on for a moment. “Chef, ” Mr. Trotter said, “on a scale of 1 to 10 -- 1 being, oh, I don’t know, a Russian gulag, and 10 being nirvana -- how would you rate what it’s like to work for me?”

“Ten, easily,” Mr. Caputo said.

At this, Mr. Trotter pretended to look affronted. “Ten? That’s all?” he said.

This was obviously shtick, but it was also a sly acknowledgement of his reputation as fearsome autocrat. Though he can be genial and very funny, he has never been able to shake his label as a tyrant of fine dining.
In fact, it’s the main way his name has been coming up of late. Grant Achatz, the chef and an owner of the Chicago restaurant Alinea, devotes an entire chapter to Mr. Trotter’s scariness in his new memoir, “Life, on the Line.”

Otherwise, Mr. Trotter hardly seems to figure in the national food conversation anymore. In the very years when Chicago has gloried in newfound recognition as a major restaurant destination, with the spotlight trained upon alumni of Mr. Trotter’s kitchen like Mr. Achatz, Homaro Cantu (of Moto), Giuseppe Tentori (of Boka), and Graham Elliot (of Graham Elliot), the man who put the city on the fine-dining map has somehow fallen below the radar.

November’s inaugural Michelin guide to Chicago restaurants was telling. Alinea, the standard-bearer of technologically forward cuisine, got three stars, the guide’s highest rating, as did the modernist seafood restaurant L2O. The one-star tier was rife with relative newcomers of gonzo-hipster bent like Longman & Eagle, where the menu features a wild-boar sloppy Joe. In between, at a dutiful but unsexy two stars, was Charlie Trotter’s.

“I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel sad about that,” Mr. Elliot said. “I mean, I wanted to quit every day I worked there, but I’m proud that I got through it, and in some ways I look at Charlie as my father. To see him getting two stars instead of three, and not getting any articles or anything, it makes you feel bad — like seeing your dad lose his job.”

 Read the complete story here.