Friday, August 31, 2007

If you cook it you should eat it

This article by Marryam H Reshii in Banking & Finance about Chef Steven Liu who is apparently doing a great job of teaching the native Indian (gora) cooks to prepare western style food at Graze, Taj Residency in Bangalore, took me back to the good old days when I used to argue to my staff (and later, my students) that anyone with the will and the fundamental technical skills could cook any cuisine well if they would only take the time to eat it. Reshi writes

"As any chef from a Western country will tell you, that is the biggest hurdle in India: Indian nationals working in Western kitchens never eat the food they cook, so the nuances of their adopted cuisine are entirely lost on them. It is the reason why many middle-rung European restaurants across India suffer from over-seasoned food."

While I have never been to India and so cannot comment on the truthfulness of Reshi's allegation about the state of western food there, I am painfully familiar with the phenomenon she describes. If I had a dollar for each time one of my cooks chose to eat a hamburger or pizza when they could have cooked and eaten almost anything in the walkin, I'd have that Porsche turbo Carrera in my garage now. (I know it dammit.)

At the CIA the whining by some A-Blockers (new students) about having to eat French Food for lunch everyday used to make my ears bleed. In the face of this moaning and groaning my colleagues and I were always like "WTF? You are paying 26 thousand dollars to learn how to make haute cusine and you don't want to eat it! You want to be chefs but you can't bring your Cocoa Pebbles poisoned palates to learn what sweetbreads taste like?" And don't even try to get me going about the complaints by children who seemed to think that since the CIA and haute cuisine had developed in a mobile home, the multiple changes of silver and courses were an unnecessary affectation foisted on them by snobs whose sole intent was to intimidate them or piss them off.

Of course, not all of my cooks and not all -not even most- CIA students were knuckleheaded infantalized anti-fine-dining-and-food-snobs, but I've seen enough of this type to know that there are plenty of cooks who don't actually like what they are putting on your plate. And I'll go one step further and say that if the person cooking the food doesn't like what he's cooking, he may be able to cobble it into something edible, but it'll never be great.

I'm running out of time now. But remind me to tell you the one about the CIA grad poissonier who hated fish, got promoted to chef then quit after two years to open an auto body shop.

Caviar Ramble

The recent news that Georgia and Florida may soon be producing caviar is good news for those of us who love the stuff. I've been bonkers for caviar for as long as I can remember. But the moment that sealed my love for the salty impossibly unctuous zygotes of the sturgeon can be traced to the day that my videographer brother, recently returned from a trip shooting artist Peter Max's tour of the USSR, appeared at our parent's house with 10 6 1/4 ounce tins of primo Beluga that he had bought from an allegedly perfidious waiter in Leningrad (St. Petersburg) for 10 dollars a piece. Now that's what I'm talking about.

My experience with caviar produced in North America has not yielded anything even close to the best Russian or Iranian varieties. The best American caviar thus far has been American Paddlefish Caviar but as good as it can be , and it can be very good, it cannot compete with the best stuff out of the Caspian sea. But it's illegal to import caviar from Russia and, ahem, the only stuff we seem to be importing from Iran is anti-semitic tirades and stories of draconian measures to prevent women from infecting the male pedestrian population with the virus for priapism.

Of course the truly crazy thing is that the United States used to own the caviar market for much of the 19th and early 20th century. Until American fishermen, pollution and boat propellers virtually wiped out populations of Atlantic and other river sturgeon, the United States was the principal supplier of caviar to Europe and the stuff was so abundant that it was given away as bar food. So it's kind of cool that sturgeon and caviar are making a bit of a comeback here although I would much prefer to it happening to native species in the wild and not imported stock in fish ponds.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

More Food News

Some interesting stories came across the wire this morning that I thought were worth sharing:

Famous Houston Greek Restaurant gets set to close its doors after 27 years. Seems the owners biggest concern is finding his soon to be former employees employment. Anyone in the Houston area looking for restaurant staff?!

A decent article about the revival of some New Orleans restaurants.

and finally, last but not nearly least:

McD's worker tries to flush newborn baby down toilet, in establishments bathroom... ..after giving birth right then and there... Guess they dont give enough time on breaks to make it to the hospital.... ok bad joke I know

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Cats Away

While the boss is away on "Scientific study of sea life on the New Jersey Coast" hes left me in charge of keeping you ravenous dogs fed.

Not really much to report at the moment but I do have stuff to throw out there.

RamsAy may be near his end, Reports Harden's London Restaurants


The AVMA makes offical stance on Foie Gras, and its.... not taking a stance.

Monday, August 27, 2007


Bob del Grosso (that's me) will be off line for a few days whilst studying the feeding behavior of the aquatic and terrestrial inhabitants in and around the littoral region of the New Jersey coast
(not left). In the interregnum The Foodist is to be blamed for all subsequent posts on this site. :-)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Smithfield Foods Announces Agreement for Pork Exports to China

Smithfield Foods Announces Agreement for Pork Exports to China

I'm not sure what's more exciting: the fact that China might be getting a visit from Smithfield snout-piece Paula Deen along with 60 million pounds of pork, or that we have a new term to add to our list of unfortunate culinary neologisms
in the form of Paylean-free pork! (Paylean is the brand name of roctopamine.)

Suffer the Orthorexics

Well, who knew that there was a polite term that refers to people who eat so much of small number of things that end up suffering from malnutrition? From Wikipedia

Orthorexia, or orthorexia nervosa is a term coined by Dr. Steven Bratman, a Colorado MD, to denote an eating disorder characterized by a fixation on eating what the sufferer considers to be healthful food, which can ultimately lead to early death.

Bratman coined the term in 1997 from the Greek orthos, "correct or right", and orexis for "appetite". Literally "correct appetite", the word is modeled on anorexia, "without appetite". Bratman describes orthorexia as an unhealthy obsession (as in obsessive-compulsive disorder) with what the sufferer considers to be healthy eating. The subject may avoid certain foods, such as those containing fats, preservatives, or animal products, and suffer malnutrition. Dr. Bratman asserts that "emaciation is common among followers of health food diets."

Suffer the orthorexics, for they must not inherit our mirth. Qualms v. 1

Thanks to Gary Allen for leading us to this refreshing intermezzo of contemporary psycho-speak.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Good Cooks Never Die

By The Foodist

One of the sadder sides to Culinary School is when one of its body falls to the wayside.
Like a contestant cut from one of America's oh-so-beloved reality cooking shows, it seems that one minute they are there and in another, their bags are packed and they disappear.

I returned from class yesterday to find a classmate of my stream (Stream being all the students who embody the group set to graduate at the same time, Bakers and Culinary) standing by the window next to the elevator in my dorm hall.

She turned and saw me and gave me a little smile "I’m leaving " she said.



I had talked with Jac(kie) about leaving before. After returning from extern she was uncertain if culinary school, heck, cooking in general was right for her. I didn’t know her all that well, as the group I returned to school with following extern was not my original group, so I tried to offer the best unbiased advice I could.

I told her then that she was almost done, just 5 months left, and she was probably better off sticking it out and finishing. She would then at least have a degree and a foot in the door.

I saw her a few days after that and she told me she was going to try to stick it out. A month later I saw her again, She mentioned how relieved she was to be in the kitchen classes and out of the classrooms, and how her group made her experience bearable. I was glad to see her stick it out, hopeful that in the end it was the right choice for her.

So now I was taken aback by her decision to leave. I asked what had changed and if something had happened to change her mind and so drastically. Her response was that it took her 30 minutes of convincing herself to get out bed that morning to go to class, and then never made it out the door to do so. She just wasn’t happy.

It happens, it happens at all colleges. The choice to leave, I hope, never comes easy but from what I could see she was making the one that was best for her.

I talked with her for a short while as she packed her things. She asked me if I thought she was making the right choice.

"Jac, I can’t tell you if your making the right choice or not. It’s your life and your choice to make. If it takes you 30 minutes to convince yourself to get out of bed and do something that doesn’t make you happy, then hell don’t do it. In the end life is far too short to not do what you love"

Then she said she was worried about her parent’s reaction and what she was going to tell them.

I tried my best to reassure her that if she talked to them they would eventually understand (I hoped). And I told her to just keep in mind that even though she may be leaving now, there was nothing saying she could never come back.

This is something I knew to be true personally. I left my first culinary school in much the same way she was leaving now. Frustrated, stressed, worried sick, and generally unhappy. It was some time later while I was laying lines for an electrical company that I realized how much I missed the kitchen. Soon I couldn’t get the thought out of my head. That’s when I knew where I really belonged. Kitchen life makes me happy. That's it.

I told her she had to find something that made her happy and to do that. It may not be cooking and she may never have the same realization that I had, but I hope that one day she does realize what’s going to make her happy and goes for it.

Like the old saying about soldiers goes, so it goes for cooks.
When you’re a cook, you’ll always be a cook. If you love food, that love never fades. Burnout and stress happen to the best of the best, but if you’re a cook at heart you will always be a cook.

I wished her luck and left her to her packing. She said she would stop my room before she left to say one last goodbye.

Later that night I was walking with my roommate overheard her roommate talking to two guys in the hall. "Yeah she just packed all her stuff and took off." she said.

The three seemed confused, and almost disgusted. It was like hearing all the talk that happens when someone walks out on a shift.

I smiled a little, because I was the only one standing there right then to know why she left, and I know she left to be happy. And I smiled because I knew that years from now the ideals and lessons she learned here won't just fade away, but remain with her in the years to come. My hope is that they serve her well in whatever she chooses to do.

It’s in that thought that I believe good cooks exist inside and outside professional kitchens. Whether she returns to a professional kitchen at some point or just enjoys cooking at home for family and friends, the time she has spent at school and in a kitchen will never leave her. I know Jac loves good food, we’ve talked about it before, and I know that some part of her still loves the kitchen but doing it professionally isn’t the path for her.

Still, I can’t help but hope she does finish at some point, -if for no other reason than to say she did it- and that maybe good cooks never die -they just leave quietly.

Monkey Raiders say 'Eat This'

As if it isn't bad enough that a gang of ververt monkeys has been looting the crops of the central Kenyan village of Nachu, they are acting like a bunch of 9th grade boys who have just discovered that the back door of the girl's locker room is unlocked.

"[But] the monkeys can tell the difference [between women and men]and they don't run away from us and point at our breasts. They just ignore us and continue to steal the crops."

'In addition to stealing their crops, the monkeys also make sexually explicit gestures at the women, they claim.'

The monkeys grab their[own] breasts, and gesture at us while pointing at their private parts. We are afraid that they will sexually harass us,'said Mrs Njeri."

Monkey misery for Kenyan women villagers

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Amateur Epidemiologist: Porkonic Plague Vector Identified

Behold the bond formula of Ractopamine, the chemical that is partially responsible for the plague of tasteless pork that has infected our food supply since the evil fleas behind "The Other White Meat" campaign first bit the hapless American swineherd.

According to this Wikipedia entry
Ractopamine in feed for animals is responsible for dramatic muscle growth, yet it is not a steroid or hormone, but rather a compound known as a beta agonist. Only a trace amount of ractopamine need be added for a marked increase in protein and decrease in fat accretion in animals, in particular swine. For the last 90 pounds of live weight gain, a mere 18.5 grams of ractopamine added to a ton of feed (20 ppm) will increase protein by 24% and decrease fat by 34%.
To its credit, China does not allow the importation of pork that contains ractopamine, and is currently engaged in talks with Sino-pork importer wannbe Smithfield Foods to limit it's exposure to porkonic plague via assurances that the mega-pork merchant will not allow it's suppliers to use ractopamine.

For the record: The "epidemiological algorithm" of porkonic plague is

Flea-brained idea + Swineherds> roctopamine +Pigs> The Other White Meat> Our long- suffering palates

Just Too Peculiar to Overlook

Sorry, I simply could not let this one slip by. This picture from the LiVEJOURNAL page of someone who is opposed to foie gras is about the oddest bit of agitprop I've ever seen. On the left is supposed to be a normal duck liver and to it's right: a lobe of foie gras! Looks more like a the fossilized turd of a Pteranadon I think.
There page also shows this funny picture of ducks that have been debeaked and a some lively prose about rats eating ducks who have died from choking on vomit.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

News Snacks

Got Foam? Got Molecular Gastromomy

Russians want state owned cavair monopoly

Coming to a theather (not) near you! Foie Gras the Movie

Letter to Mark Bittman from A Hunger Artist

Dear Mr. Bittman,

I'm writing to you in response to something you said about gas grills in your most recent video All Things Steak* at The New York Times's web site. While I don't disagree with your assertion that gas grills cannot get as hot as charcoal grills, I am a bit disappointed that you did not point out how easy it is to compensate for the typically cooler grilling temperatures associated with backyard propane or natural gas grills.

My method for raising the grilling temperature of my gas grill is via a process I call "flamethrower grill broiling" and employs a Red Dragon Vapor Torch, which produces a flame over 2000 degrees F of direct heat and 500,000 BTU/Hr! I originally purchased my Red Dragon for killing weeds and entertaining my children, but quickly realized it's culinary applications. Since then I've used it for grilling steak (see me at work below), browning baked Alaska and (you guess it!) burning creme brulee.

In closing, I invite you to write to me for advice and counsel whenever you feel that the cooking task you wish to teach would benefit from a little professional advice. Goodness knows, I've got plenty to burn.

Click for a Larger Image

*For reasons unknown to the author the All Things Steak video does not auto-play in his browser (Firefox) but works fine in IE.

Would you like some fresh Kashrut on your salad?

Longtime readers of my blog will probably not be surprised to hear me say that I don't take a very serious approach to ethical questions relating to cooking and eating at A Hunger Artist. It's not that I do not believe there are serious questions to be addressed or ponder them with a serious mien from time to time -far from it. But my treatment of them here is usually salted with irony and -okay, I'll admit it- sometimes puerile humor, because I see this blog as more of a form of entertainment than a serious forum for discussion. (I am also very much an Italian-American, which means that my psyche is ofttimes powerfully motivated by either pragmatic-fatalism or prudish-utopianism. More on that later perhaps.)

Still, there are moments like now when I like to toss in something into the blog-pot without following it with a joke or an ironic aside.

Yesterday, I discovered the blog of a remarkable group of people who write The Jew & The Carrot. The blog was linked in a story in The New York Times about eating religiously (Sorry!) and my post-click impression left me impressed.

The skinny on The Jew & The Carrot is that it is run by people who engaged in trying to reconcile Jewish dietary laws and ethical guidelines to contemporary environmental concerns while having a good time in the process. I'm not going to pretend that I understand much of anything about Kosher dietary laws (Kashrut) other than what I have read and indirectly learned from watching my grandmother's orthodox neighbors in Flushing, NY, and during a brief tenure as a teenaged cook at a kosher catering hall in 1970. But my sense of the Kashrut is that they are as much about the need to eat in a manner that minimizes the act's impact on the self and others, as they are a device designed to define the envelope of and essence of Jewish identity.

I also know that following Kashrut in the spirit in which it was promulgated is not a trivial pursuit. Especially in a globalized culture where the appetite for once arcane or inaccessible foods and drink is being increasingly supplemented with difficult to digest questions about how all this neo-fodder is being produced. So my hat's off to the minds behind The Jew&The Carrot for their cheerfully serious attempt to make sense of it all.

If you decide to click through to The Jew & The Carrot you might also want to check out the precis for the upcoming 2nd annual Hazon Food Conference to be held at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Falls Village, CT (Holy Mollie! I used to live in Falls Village!) where, among other activities, they will slaughter and cook a lamb.

The Jew & the Carrot

My Refrigerator 2

I'm not sure why so many of you have not been able to see my refrigerator. I have my suspicions about the nature of the problem but I'm not going to make the mistake of attempting to explain something that I know next to nothing about. Anywho, here's another shot. Please let me know if you still cannot view it. I don't want anyone to go hungry. LO-not quite-L
It's too early for belly laughs. (Is it ever!) I just got home from spending the night chaperoning a bunch of teenagers at marching band camp. Think a night in a bunk house with a bunch of drummers who wanted to stay up and listen to Cream and Allman Bros...)

BTW: I also reloaded the photo in the earlier post.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My Refrigerator

I got a new digital camera (Nikon D40 SLR) yesterday and I'm already resigned to the fact that it's going to be a while before my photos look much better than what I used to shoot with my 6 year old 2 megapixel point and shoot. Case in point: this shot of my kitchen refrigerator (I've got another in the garage) where the image is so lousy that you can hardly make out how dirty it is and what's inside. For the record there is no foie gras and it contains mostly

Top shelf (l-r)
Instant yeast, 2% and whole milk, maple syrup, mixed cured olives, glazed ginger

2nd Shelf
sliced tomatoes with basil and vinaigrette (probably compost to be) , homemade butter, pancake batter, leftover spaghetti di filetto di pomodoro and rigatoni with broccoli rabe and sausage,
tomato sauce, julienned loin of pork with ginger

3rd Shelf
half a red onion, Smart Balance fake butter, roast chicken, chicken stock, roasted onion stock,

1st Drawer

pancetta, Gorgonzola piccante, Canadian bacon, bacon, unsalted butter, sopressata

4th Shelf

3 ears of corn and Smoked Salmon

Vegetable drawer
Read and yellow peppers, arugula, endive, Boston lettuce,

The Meat drawer is empty

Coming Soon: My refrigerator door

Hydrocolloid recipe collection

Are your kids sick and tired of beet caviar? Does your spouse yawn at the sight of yet another row of laser cut spoons bearing quivering orbs of liquid ravioli? Then scoot over to where Martin Lersch has posted a collection of 111 recipes of hydrocolloids for cooks of the molecular gastronomic persuasion. They are fully downloadable as a pdf. file. Pretty damned generous of him I think.

Although my own cooking habits are mostly pretty conventional, I'm a big fan of and love reading it for it's thought provoking discussions of unconventional flavor pairings (White chocolate and caviar anyone?). » Blog Archive » Hydrocolloid recipe collection

Of Hot Dogs Pot Heads and Why some TV Pilots Crash

Anyone who can tell me why this 1970 TV pilot by Woody Allen is named "Hot Dog" is probably familiar with what can sometimes happen when the psychoactive agents in cannabis take hold of the mind and cause otherwise sensible people to believe they have something to say.

Tragedy is on the plate

This morning whilst making the coffee we discovered that our beloved instant read thermometer had committed suicide in the garbage disposal. Let the horror of this event serve as a warning to all cooks to never leave our tools to play in the sink when they are depressed or have neglected to take their medication. Moreover, we should never forget that no matter how tired, drunken or frightened of the Insinkerator's cruel maw we may be, to always put a hand in before we turn it on. Goodbye dear IRT, you served us well these fifteen years. Our sorrow of your demise is made much the worse by the knowledge that we will not live to see you marry and give us grandchildren.
Posted by Picasa

Unsavory practice

I think that this letter by a reader of the Orlando Sentinel complaining about a restaurant critics' praise of a dish of foie gras, stopped a bit short of expressing the ethical problems associated with this dish. So I thought we could do a little writing today and fix it up a bit. I'll fix the first two lines and you cover the rest by selecting a line of text, pasting it into a comment box and inserting your improving text into the sentence. Please use all-caps for your insertion.

I am deeply disturbed AND SUFFERING THE FIRES OF HELL by the recommendation of foie gras in the recent review of K's restaurant by Sentinel restaurant critic Scott Joseph.

Foie gras, considered by some to be a delicacy, is REALLY BAD TASTING POISON produced by forcing a SIXTY-FOUR-FOOT long metal pipe down the PAPER THIN throats of FATALLY CUTE ducks and geese and force-feeding them massive amounts of TONS OF grain, resulting in their livers swelling to up to 10 TIMES ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY TWO times their normal ITTY-BITTY BABY size.

The vast amounts of feed pumped down the ducks' throats cause enormous internal pressure. The pipe sometimes punctures the esophagus, causing many to die from choking on the blood that fills their lungs. Some birds literally burst, choke to death on their own vomit, or become so weak that they are unable to fend off rats that will eat them alive. Other ducks die a slow, painful and premature death from suffocation by inhaling regurgitated feed.

The birds' livers become so enlarged that, according to documentation by veterinarians, the animals experience unspeakable pain and suffering, eventually being sent to a violent death by slaughter.

All this for an overpriced, unhealthy appetizer that we all can do without. It is outrageous that anyone would promote foie gras and, by extension, the unspeakable torture that produces it.

Unsavory practice --

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Next Grand Marshall

From the New York Times:

"The Columbus Day parade on Oct. 8 will be led by Lidia Bastianich, a partner in Felidia, Del Posto, Esca and Becco. She will be the third woman named grand marshal, following Sophia Loren and Susan Lucci, and the first restaurateur and chef. Reached by phone in Italy, Ms. Bastianich said that her selection sends “a message about the importance of food culturally, and it really elevates Italian food.”

Here are some two photos of the only other women to be chosen to be Grand Marshall of the Columbus Day parade: Sophia Loren (L) and Susan Lucci (R). Seeing all of these together raises some compelling questions not the least of which is "Which of the three is probably the best cook?" -BdG :-)

Czechs set for next wave in fast food invasion

In the mid-1970's Georg and Yortuk Festrunk, two brothers from the former Soviet Satellite nation of Czechoslovakia, immigrated to the United States of NYC in search of a party and big-breasted American foxes.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent division of Czechoslovakia into Czech and Slovak (Why the Slovaks could not bear to keep the ia ending is beyond me.) in 1993, Georg and Yortuk returned to Czech Republic and opened a KFC franchise to capitalize on the world's apparent obsession with fried big breasted American chickens.

Well, not only did their KFC operation take off like a fox from a nightclub full of swingers, but according to this article it appears that the fast food market in the Czech Republic is hot to trot for more tripe.

For those of you who are too young to remember (or were too stoned at the time to recall) Georg and Yortuk Festrunk I offer you this video for your tuition.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Whats a Culinary Grad got on you?!

By The Foodist

Sometimes the conversations that echo the hallowed halls of the CIA aren’t always the most positive ones. Sometimes they hiss of disgust and mistrust. But a lot of times they are of great importance and should be brought into a greater spectrum of discussion.

This afternoon at lunch I heard two B Blockers (B block is the first block you take upon arriving at the CIA. It’s an intro and basics to get you used to the campus) talking about a topic I myself have discussed and debated a million times over. I like to think I should be as tired of talking about it as I am talking about what constitutes "Food Art", but for a very important reason I am not.

Culinary School vs. School of Hard Knocks. Which is better?

It’s impossible to say I think. It depends heavily on what you want in the field. There are success stories and horror tales from both sides. You have your Bourdains, your Achatzs: the graduates of culinary schools who have staked out their place in the history books of modern food. Then you have your pan slinging, cursing, tough as nails cooks who have worked themselves to the bone but have created remarkable cuisine and even more remarkable stories.

So standing at the crossroads, what do you choose and how do you choose it?

Neither path is really easy. Some would say Culinary School is the "child's way out", while others would say the school of hard knocks would be a "dead-end".

I really got into it on my blog and created a poll which I invite you all the vote on.

The debate I overheard raged and continued past my allowed lunch time, so I never got to hear the end of it, but I can imagine what the outcome was. Neither side agreed and neither side felt any better about the opposing stance.

But the argument got me thinking about about the whole situation. I began to wonder if the majority of culinary students were even aware of the impact that we have on the industry and on the food world in general.

I also wonder if the old vanguard is finally going to die out. The time of screaming old world chefs has been at its twilight for some time. But now, in the face of increasing pressure to attend culinary schools for the chance at prosperity in a kitchen I wonder if the sun is finally going to set on the tried and true, the old and firm pillar on which the industry was so slowly and uneasily built.

Brand This Martha!

I think I'm going to rename my shiny metal ass MarThaStewArt and apply for a trademark. At least that's how I felt after reading that Martha Stewart's company Omnimedia has applied for a license to trademark the name of del Grosso's old home town of Katonah.

I don't personally dislike Martha Stewart who seems to be about as fine and honest as any convicted felon that I have ever known. But it ticks me off that she seems to think that she can own the name of a town and use it to brand what, tote bags, bed sheets and glue guns?

Of course, what she's trying to do is part of a larger and even more annoying trend in American culture to commodify and brand and sell everything that used to be free or merely generic and without a distinct brand identity.

Does anyone remember when a bottle of water was merely a bottle of water and not a lifestyle enhancing adjunct with names that evoke the slopes of Kilimanjaro or a sibilant spring in the garden of Bathsheba? (Who, by the way, looks pretty hot!) And when was the last time you saw a lemon or a banana without a brand name on it?

It's bad enough that all media is polluted with lifestyle experts and celebrity chefs who try to stamp their brands on everything from home decorating tips to recipes for bananas Foster (BAM!) but Martha Stewart's Katonah? I don't think so.

Of Interest
Aerial view of Martha's property in Katonah taken from The Planet Express.

Bears Eat Man at Beer Festival

In Franz Kafka's story "A Hunger Artist" the hunger artist is a caged man whose art is starvation. Was the unfortunate Serbian found naked and partially eaten in a cage inhabited by hungry bears a Kafka fan eager to learn the bears' art?
I'm sure we will never know.
Bears eat man at beer festival -

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Cooking with My Rat

Spaghetti con salsa di filletto di pomodoro

The sauce is made with half-cooked and half-raw tomatoes. The basil is not cooked either, just tossed in with the linguine (tongues) of tomato fillets at the end, and warmed up a bit.

At this moment I would like to say something snide about a certain species of cook who likes to insist that anyone can cook great food very quickly. But since today is the Lord's day for some of them, I'll eschew the snark and simply say that even with the help of Remy -who is perhaps the greatest chef in the western world- this dinner took 90 minutes to prepare. Of course this does not include the time it took to make the bread and grow the tomatoes and basil etc.

Monkey Business

This news article discussing the potential lifting of a ban on the export of macaques from Kuala Lumpur for food, pet and medical experiments got me thinking that people who want to extinguish the meat industry in the industrial and post industrial economies of the world should consider the potential impact of success on global populations of wild animals.

Historically, underproduction of meat in emerging economies coupled with the need to protect populations of domestic animals and game from predators has had disastrous impacts on wild populations. From precolonial times onwards populations of wild and delicious North American fishes, game birds and mammals were decimated by meat loving aboriginal and post- colonial hunters. Wild salmon in the Pacific Northwest were speared and netted by the millions and passenger pigeons, who numbered in the billions, were driven into extinction by hungry farmers who blasted them from the sky with huge fowling pieces or clubbed them to death with sticks as they perched in trees. Predators did not fare much better as wolves, bobcat, eagles, hawks, bears and mountain lions were killed to protect stocks of wild and later, domestic animals for human consumption.

I suspect that if all animal farming and meat production stopped tomorrow, millions would pick up guns, fishing rods and nets and begin harvesting wild animals at an unprecedented rate. There's a lot more people around now than there was when native Americans allegedly ate up the North American horse, or when 19th and early 20th century Americans converted most of the buffalo population into rugs and pickled tongue. Large animals would disappear very quickly forcing humans to compete with predators like house cats who already take an estimated 60 million birds and small mammals each year in N. America alone.

One could argue that large scale production of meat has been a boon for wildlife. It certainly seems that the opposite is true. In many parts of Africa where the hunger for meat is not being met by farmers, wild game is disappearing at an alarming rate. Of course, production of all farmed products in these areas is low relative to the west. So perhaps a large increase in efficiency of the production of plant based foods would mute the appetite for bush meat in these areas.

It's fair to say that the market for imported monkey meat in China and Taiwan is not being driven by people who cannot get access to farm products. My sense is that the only thing that is going to dissuade these folks from eating wild and often endangered species is cultural pressure coupled with the desire of the Chinese to be perceived as modern and overtly conforming to western cultural norms. Something like this happened in South Korea where until recently dog-eating was very popular (It still is in isolationist and impoverished North Korea.).

In the end, I think it's a lot easier for me to imagine a world in which animals are no longer raised for food, than it is to believe that all humans will lose their appetite for meat and their lust to hunt it. For that to happen something truly remarkable is going to have to occur; something profound and completely transforming of human consciousnesses. And that, I'm sad to say, is beyond my imagining.

Possible Open Season on Monkeys?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Man on Fire: Shola Olunloyo

After he left a comment this morning on another post at A Hunger Artist it jolted awake the memory of the thrill of having visited his blog several times over the past couple of months. A Studio Kitchen is a visually stunning record of some of the work of Haute Cuisine chef-for-hire Shola Olunloyo who, I imagine, either lives with a camera taped to his head (Although I admit there's no evidence of that in the photo.) or has an extra set of hands to free up the obviously gifted pair that he uses to create the extraordinary looking dishes he shows on his site.

Of course there is also a good deal of writing on the site, mostly in the form of musings about life and work, human nature, the nature of his-self and so on. It's all very amusing and thought provoking, but I think of special value to serious cooks are the technical tips and some of the more science-oriented assertions. (As regular readers of A Hunger Artist may know I have more than a passing interest in food science and so can say with confidence that Chef Olunloyo appears to take this latter matter pretty seriously.) And forget the photos, they are too beautiful.

So check out A Studio Kitchen, it's fly! (Aren't I so not-gully or whatever?)

Friday, August 17, 2007

How To Make Simple Fast Tomato Sauce

This is something del Grosso has posted on here before, but it is now in a new form and on another blog. He'll be contributing to from today forward. He would like to post more recipes on A Hunger Artist, but feels that the site needs a major upgrade in order to accommodate that kind of content. So for the time being he will remain content to continue to annoy and amuse readers of A Hunger Artist with his myopic focus on the subject of appetite and its objects.

How To Make Simple Fast Tomato Sauce | How To Do

del Grosso also promises to stop writing about himself in the 3rd singular person after he finds a better way to distinguish his writing from his colleague The Foodist.

Fun Stuff 4 A Friday Afternoon a la Andy Singer

We are sure that most women will agree that most- if not all- men have not done a very good job of refining their sense of humor beyond what it was immediately following the first time they laughed at the sound of flatulence or the sight of Moe Howard administering a haircut to Curly with a crosscut saw. But while some might see this as evidence of an atavistic trait for idiocy (located, of course, on the Y chromosome) or the action of a neurologically degenerative prion (such as the one responsible for mad cow disease), A Hunger Artist celebrates it as a gift from the gods or, perhaps, the metaphysical entity that designed this simulation that we refer to as "life on earth" and the bounding universe.

So it is with thanks to whatever the heck it was that prompted the first knucklehead to make the first satirical remark or drawing that we give you the comic art of Andy Singer. Not that we know who he beyond what he's posted at his site along with the comics that you see here.

Our thanks to Gary Allen for the tip off to Andy's site.

Hungry Moneys Want to Eat People!

Villagers fight off animals in flood-hit S.Asia | Environment | Reuters

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Simple Things: A Lean Monkey

by The Foodist

Often while at the CIA you’re instructed to go above and beyond, to take things to the next level. But sometimes it is the very simple things that can give a foodie the most hope in the world.

As Baking and Pastry Fundamentals winds down to a close and our time with Chef Higgins comes to an end we have just two days left to grasp the basics. Today’s focus was on bagels, donuts, and much to my zealous surprise, monkeybread!

There are very few things in the world that get me as excited and nostalgic as monkeybread.

When I was a little my mother used to make monkeybread from time to time. I thought it was the downright neatest cake or bread I had ever seen or eaten. For those who don’t know, monkeybread is usually a lean white bread dough (think of soft dinner rolls) pulled and rolled into small pieces, dipped in butter then cinnamon sugar, then stacked up inside a bunt pan. It’s baked off, cooled and served as is. It retains the shape of the pan but looks like its been pieced together by tiny pebbles of dough. You eat it piece by piece, tearing off parts, well, like a monkey would.

I have been known to finish off whole cake pans of monkeybread by my lonesome, it is that good.

So here I am at the Culinary Institute of America and I’m making monkeybread. Seems a little off don’t you think? But it isn't really, let me explain (and NO, I'm not in Special Ed!)

Before Chef Higgins dismissed us to lunch we were all standing around sampling the items we made in class that day. He stopped us and said:

"You all know who Mozart was right? a composer. Well do you know what he’s doing now? De-composing. But really, Mozart spent so much time created and perfecting very complex and tough compositions, but is quoted as saying "Sometimes it’s the simplest things that are the hardest to do". It’s in that spirit that we spend so much time in this class learning the basics. I could show you pulled sugar and spend days working on chocolate , but if you can’t have the basics mastered, then how can you expect to do the complicated things?"
Chef Higgins is so very right. It wasn't the finished product (the glazed and stacked monkeybread) that he was teaching us; we were reviewing basic lean bread dough. And we did it well I think.

Finally, sometimes when you manage to do a good job with the small stuff, you get an unexpected reward.

Upon returning from lunch Chef Higgins greeted us with an old Sugar Pull lamp station. He commented that he hasn’t pulled sugar, thought about pulling sugar, or even remembered pulling sugar in the last 5 years. But today he was going to.

"I’m doing this now, after 5 years, because I think you all deserve this. You get me. I ask you to do something in a simple manner, and you do it. You pay attention and you’re interested. So you deserve this."

I’s a good feeling knowing that you’ve done well at the basics. Now, to just get over my paralyzing fear of tests and Ill be all set. Would that every challenge be as simple as monkeybread.

A Cook's Tale: Firehouse Dinner with Crash Truck

This first person account of a woman's experiences around cooking dinner for a bunch of firemen in Santa Barbara was sent to me via email by Jennie Cesario* -the narrator and writer of the story. Jennie is a trained chef and an emergency services worker describes some of her experiences while on duty at the Zaca Fire in Santa Barbara. As of today, the fire has burned over 127,ooo acres, injured 27 people and, thankfully, killed no one.

I've edited this a bit, but not much for fear that my intrinsically dour nature would sully its gleeful tone.

Last Sunday our shelter team was sitting around with absolutely nothing to do. Apparently, nobody in the Santa Barbara area actually NEEDS to be in a shelter right now, so that left us with a LOT of free time on our hands. I decided to go to the Starbuck's close to
our dorm building to start my day and ran smack-dab into a fire Captain from local firehouse no. 8 (above left) who was handing out updates for the local Zaca fire to anybody who wanted them.

Since I didn't have any fires to fight I decided to chat him up and ask him how it was going. While we were talking Frances, our shelter manager and the world's greatest wingman, came by and told Captain P. that I have a standing deal with any firehouse that if they let me
ride on a fire engine (with lights & siren on) for two whole blocks I'd make them a prime rib dinner. The Captain agreed to the deal and asked me to show up at the firehouse by 3 p.m. to begin making dinner!!

Now there just so happens to be a Farmer's Market going on right outside of this Starbucks, so I begin gathering some mighty-fine produce, local olive oil and artisinal butter, for this meal I'm going to put on the firehouse table. Then it's one additional stop at a local Gelson's and my menu is complete.

I arrive on time at the firehouse and begin the evening's meal. On the menu for a grand total of 3 firefighters is:

  • Prime rib with homemade horseradish sauce and Cabernet/veal sauce.
  • Roasted Vegetables Provencal
  • Roasted herbed Yukon Gold and Baby Red Potatoes with shallot butter
  • Fresh French bread w/shallot butter
  • Dessert of Puff Pastry Tart with locally grown Pluots, Raspberries, and Blackberries and freshly made whipped cream.

Now, while all this is in the oven cooking, I get to go out and play!

Ya see, this firehouse turns out to be at the Santa Barbara airport, and I not only get to ride on a fire engine - I get to take a ride on a real CRASH TRUCK!! A crash truck is roughly twice the size of a local, in-town, structure protection type fire engine. So up we go into this firefighting behemoth (with an equally big firefighter named Jerome) and we proceed to tour the airport.

And then it got fun!!

Jerome was kind enough to allow us the privilege of using the water cannons on the crash truck. These water guns put out about 500 gallons of water in about two minutes. With a couple of
joysticks to control it all we shot water all over the distant part of the airport (I've got the pictures to prove it!)

Back we came for our dinner together, which was crowned with some of the funniest conversation I have had in a very long while. Firefighters have some GREAT stories to tell. A great time was had by all.....but WAIT, there's MORE!

I asked if I could get one more picture of the crash trucks before we left. The answer was yes, but wouldn't you much rather like to dress up in the turnouts instead?

So off we trundled loaded into a full set of airport crash team turnouts, complete with helmet, and breathing apparatus ! I looked RIDICULOUS!!

Though I could barely hear what was happening around me, I still managed to hear 5 people literally howling with laughter as they watched me try to walk! I toddled down the length of the fire truck all the while hearing things like, "JEN - HURRY UP, THERE ARE PEOPLE ON FIRE, YOU'RE LOSING THE BUILDING, HURRY!!"

While I did my level best to move faster than a tenth of a mile an hour!! I gave it my valiant best to try to get my foot up to the first step to get into the crash truck but fell short by about, oh - 18 inches or so!!!! I gave up and tried some action poses instead!

For all my trouble they gave me a Santa Barbara City Fire t-shirt (the same that the guys themselves wear) that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

I had a GREAT time and made 3 new friends that I love dearly.

Best of luck to you guys - Junior, Jerome, and Paul (from Station1)! Good luck Jerome for your two weeks up at the Zaca fire - I'll be thinking about you! Stay safe, Captain Pitney! You guys will never know how grateful I am that you let me see what its like to be you guys for just a little while. My respect for what you guys do and the conditions you do it under has DOUBLED.

Hope to see the guys at Station 8, Santa Barbara airport some day soon and have another dinner with them!

*Jennie Cesario is a Disaster (Action) Team Leader, Public Information Officer(Media Relations/Public Affairs), Sub-Chair for Mass Care/Mass Feeding operations, and Chef for Special Events at the San Gabriel Pomona Valley American Red Cross Chapter in Pasadena, California.

Fake Foie Gras: A Ripped Culinary Condom

As has been previously reported in our internationally famous blog and in the lesser known Wall Street Journal (from which one of us lifted the story) some chefs have responded to public unease over the alleged mistreatment of force-fed ducks and geese by concocting foie-gras facsimiles.

On it's face, making fake foie gras from chicken livers with copious amounts of butter or duck livers from conventionally husbanded ducks seems like a reasonable -if gastronomically bogus- response to wobbly consumers who only want to eat animals that experts tell them are happy before they are slaughtered. But A Hunger Artist avers that while these chefs may appease the troubled consciences of some meat eating customers, the prime movers behind the anti-foie gras movement will never be satisfied with this kind of trickery. Nor should they be.

The anti-foie gras movement is spearheaded by vegans who believe that it is morally wrong to use animals for food, labor, entertainment, clothing -in short anything other than pets (maybe) and aesthetic enjoyment in their natural habitat. Why would anyone with such an ethos be satisfied to stop people from producing, cooking and eating foie-gras yet let them get away with cooking chicken liver? If A Hunger Artist (AHA) knows anything about animal rights activists and vegans, we know that many of the most vociferous are highly principled people who are motivated by a profound empathy for non-human animals. AHA cannot imagine why such people would or should be satisfied with anything short of a complete ban on their consumption by humans.

Of course, there are more moderate types in the anti-foie and animal rights movement who vegan or not, seem to suggest that they would be okay with eliminating gavage and the use of cages and but we doubt that these type have much credibility with the core leadership of any animal rights organization. So it seems to us that unless the vegans who act as the moral center of animal rights organizations like PETA suddenly decide that there's nothing wrong with the concept of non-human animal consumption, there is no reason to expect that they are going to settle for eliminating the foie-gras industry and then stand idly by while chefs make fake foie gras from chicken liver.

If fake foie gras is intended to be a prophylactic against the demands of animal rights groups and sympathetic consumers it's a leaky one at best.

On The Record

A Hunger Artist is not opposed to veganism. Rather AHA admires vegans as principled folks who are trying to lead a morally-centered and consistent lives and supports them in their efforts to do so as long as they do not attempt to impose their choice on other people.

Likewise AHA is not opposed to meat eating and admires meat eaters who do not attempt to impose their choice on other people. Moreover AHA admires meat eaters who understand that
that meat eating must result in some suffering by animals, and are mature enough to recognize their culpability in the series of events that occur from the farmyard to the human gullet.

Separated at Birth?

It should be beneath my dignity to post something like this but alas, it appears that it is not.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sad but Seemingly True: Garlic Chocolate Chip Cookies

After teaching a class (Advanced Culinary Principles) that encouraged hundreds of CIA students to explore fundamental cooking techniques in part by switching out common ingredients for analogous substitutes and having some come up with combinations such as chicken fried in 10W30 motor oil, I suppose I should not be shocked by something as comparatively benign as chocolate chip cookies with blanched garlic. But alas, I find myself gagging and more than a little annoyed by this offering at Accidental Hedonist.
Accidental Hedonist - Garlic Chip Cookies

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

How the Other Half Eats

This is amazing.

Humane Society Targets Wendy's

The Humane Society is trying to encourage Wendy's to switch to cage-free eggs behind an advertising blitz in Wendy's Corp. hometown of Columbus, Ohio.
That's cool, I suppose. But then I'm more concerned with how eggs taste than how their mothers live. Happily, it turns out that if you demand flavorful eggs with richly colored yolks you will do more for the "happiness" of chickens than the Humane Society could ever hope to accomplish.

The way that the Federal guidelines are written all that a farmer has to do too claim that his chickens are cage free is to not cage them. The birds can still be confined indoors eating funky chicken feed made from stuff like cookie crumbs and other chickens and never see the light of day or a bug for that matter. So if the Humane Society get's it's way all it gets for the chickens is a bigger cage.

However, if you demand that your eggs must fragrant of grass and have yolks whose rich color is a function of a hen who eats lots of pigmented bugs, then you promote the chicken farms where chickens run around outside in the dirt all day long.

I'm not sure that the Humane Society would like this very much though. The barnyard is a pretty dangerous place for chickens who need to be on guard against the hawks, foxes, coyotes, feral dogs et al who like to eat them. But who knows? These animal rights activists are pretty resourceful and dedicated people. Perhaps they could form a special divison that would train and provide "chicken police" to farmers to protect the chickens from abuse by animal predators who have no notion of animal rights.

Humane Society Wants a Cage-Free Wendy's

China sentences reporter who faked cardboard buns story to 1 year in jail - International Herald Tribune

Zi Beijia was so hungry for fame that he faked a story about a street vendor who made dumplings from cardboard. At least that's what the Chinese court decided before it slapped him with a one year prison term. I suppose the sentence could have been much worse but my gut tells me that the only thing the guy was guilty of was creating more bad PR for the Chinese food machine.
China sentences reporter who faked cardboard buns story to 1 year in jail - International Herald Tribune

Monday, August 13, 2007

My Enemy Has Shown Itself

And its name is Cake.

Well, more specifically, the act of frosting cakes.

During my time as a Culinary major at the CIA, I like the other students take a three week course that covers the essential basics of Baking and Pastry. Now I’m no baker, but I do love bread and do respect the skill needed to do a lot of what’s expested in pastry kitchens today.

For the last two weeks the class, instructed by Chef George Higgins, the time has passed very smoothly. We are a small class comprised of only 10 students so there is plenty of work to be had. As Culinary students most of us (my self included) really don’t take the time to be as precise as we need to be in the bake shop.

This past Friday our weakness became painfully obvios when one of our carrot cakes came out a little smaller then the rest when it appeared as a simpering halfling.

Fast forward to today, Frosting Day. After spending the morning preparing our stations, gathering mise en place, and preparing cream cheese icing (Which by the way would put Betty Crocker out her fancy pants house if I was able to bottle and sell the stuff!) we were all set to frost away.

A short demo ensued and my partner and I were told to pick a cake and begin work. Being on the other side of the very large wooden tables at the time I got last pick.

Anyone see where I’m going with this? Yeah, that’s right.. I got Tiny Cake.

I wanted so badly to get it right. I took my time trimming, cutting and "Crumbing". Crumbing is the act of laying down a thin layer of frosting first to keep crumbs from appearing on your finished frosted cake.

Halfway through my project I thought to myself:
"Hey I’m not doing to badly here..."

Little did I know that Tiny Cake had plans for me yet unseen.

The second to last step was to frost the sides in a manner that leaves a "lip" of frosting above the top line of the cake. Upon finishing laying the lip I was suposed to fold the lip over the top of the cake gently smoothing it out to create a nice bend in the frosting, to give the appearance that the frosting was simply laid over the cake and tucked in like a crisply ironed bed sheet.

A fresh bed sheet I could not make. Matter of fact, it ended up looking like the deflated dome of Space Mountain at Disney World. Chef came by and told me to redo the lip and sides.

I spent another 20 minutes trying to perfect that hateful lip.

There I was, Last man doing his cake. The whole kitchen cleaned, and Chef preparing to demo the piping decor for our cake.. and my cake was looking worse the more I tried to fix it.

Its not often that I get discouraged in a kitchen. I save that for my personal life. But today I wanted nothing more then to pick that cake up and smack myself in the face with it ala Three Stooges.

I finally managed to render an acceptable cake. I piped the decor, and left the kitchen for lunch feeling aggravated at my morning’s failure.

When I arrived at the lunch room I saw a baker friend of mine, Heidi, sitting enjoying her usual 11 am waffle. I sat down and immediately began to complain how the very bane of my existence had just reared its head in the form of the process of frosting cakes.

To which she replied:

"Its ok, we all have bad days. So you can’t frost a cake, whoopee, its just flour, eggs, sugar, and water...You can try again another day"

And she was right. It was just a cake, and I would have another chance. But the exchange got me thinking about how little upsets can be so frustrating. How we can spend so much time working so carefully to get something right only to have it fall apart on us.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how badly we want it to work, sometimes the kitchen gods demand we fail.

So it's better we fail here at school then on a wedding cake for the only daughter of a US Senator, right?

So watch your back Tiny Cake. Next time I see hanging out in a dark alley, I’m gonna frost the hell out of you.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Suddenly, the Hunt Is On for Cage-Free Eggs - New York Times

Hmmm...perhaps I should sell the eggs I trade for bread instead of eating them?

Suddenly, the Hunt Is On for Cage-Free Eggs - New York Times

A Mid Summer Night's Eve

Yesterday I took the family to a summer social at Vollmecke Family Orchard where I occasionally barter my bread for (slamming!) eggs and other stuff produced by farmer Karen Vollmecke and her mother Jan. Although Vollemecke Family Orchard is a Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) farm that provides fabulous organic produce etc. to people who pay a modest fee and agree to take whatever is available, I don't belong to it because, alas, it's too far away for me to drive for regular pick-ups.

Whatever. The crowd was made of of about 1/3 of the sponsors and who brought most of the food and Thank heaven!! beer including this stuff. (On an off note: While I was queuing up at the tap to refill my cup before dashing back to my post at the VEGAN GRILL station (LOL) I has the misfortune of finding myself in the company of several beer fanatics. Wow, was that ever scary. I can't go into details now, but suffice it to say it was a bit like being in a professional cook in a room full of people who don't know how to cook but think they know everything there is to know about cooking. INSUFFERABLY TEDIOUS!!!!! It's fricking beer for god-sakes.)

I did not take any food shots because my camera is a piece of crap that's mostly only good for snapshot type pics. Have a look if you will.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

This stew may have too much snark

When did cooking become about this?

Joey, Latest ‘Top Chef’ Non-Winner, on Why Rocco Is a Douche Bag - Grub Street - New York Magazine

Eating Horn will Not Make you Horny

Consider this a public service announcement.
Top 10 Aphrodisiacs

Odering! 10 Million Dollars, Hold the cheese

So a guy orders two quarter-pounders from a McDonald's in Star City, Va and tells them to hold the cheese because he is allergic to cheese. They don't hold the cheese, he takes a bite and goes into anaphylactic shock, survives and sues for 10 million dollars.

I'm of two minds on this sort of thing. In one mind I think the guy should have opened the burger and checked to make sure that there was no cheese before he bit the thing. He's an adult (early 20's) and should know better. But my other mind, the one that has a close relative with serious allergy to peanuts that could express itself in exactly the same way says, teach McDonald's a lesson. No cheese, should mean no cheese.

Charleston Daily Mail

Star City, SC has been changed to Star City, Va thanks to a gentle chiding from a proud citizen of SC named surprisingly, CarolinaGirl. Who'da thunk she's from SC?

Hunger Art Video

Check out this bit of performance/hunger art masquerading a s a news story about a zany lady feeding 100+ street cats . I know for a fact that the woman in the video is a performance artist who stages incidents with starving cats in an effort to provoke art. I'm not sure if she knows this but I'm willing to accept my self delusion and hope that you will too. Enjoy!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Fresh Meat for Hunger Artists

Today I would like to welcome The Foodist to A Hunger Artist. I first became aware of The Foodist when I was guest blogging over at and was impressed by the tenor of the comments he left. They were earnest, humorous and seemed to convey the mind of someone who was sincerely serious about food and chef-culture. Later when I discovered that he was a student at The Culinary Institute of America where I taught for the better part of 7 years I thought,
Hmmm...would it not be cool have him blogging about what life is like there?

I could go on to cite dozens of reasons why an inside look at the CIA is worth the effort (C'mon, Ruhlman wrote a book about it.) but the point is made -I think. Please welcome The Foodist and his first post about the life at the CIA.

Enter The Foodist: The Question

First I'd like to thank chef Bob del Grosso for his gracious invitation to join him on this blog. The invite was a surprise and a very welcome one. (For those who don’t know who I am you can read up a little on what I do on my own food blog Here.)

I am a culinary student currently enrolled at The Culinary Institute of America. My writings are in no way sanctioned or censored by the school and are solely my own opinion. I'll be blogging about Basic Techniques, Basic Food Knowledge, as well as some of the tips and tricks I've picked up at school and elsewhere. However, the main focus of the majority of my posts will be my experiences and views of the life of a culinary student. My intention is to enlighten the course for future students and give a glimpse of what it’s like to be a student to the curious.

With that I present to you "The Question".

There is one question that constantly burns in my brain whenever I meet a brand new student who seeks a career in the food service industry. It's one I’ve asked a million times and probably will continue to ask till the day I die. It encompasses the very essence (at least in my eye) of what makes that first step toward this giant lumbering beast we call the food service industry.

So, why culinary school?

The answers are as varied and sometimes strange as the students who answer. Some of my favorites and not-so-favorites have been:

"I saw chefs on the food network and thought 'hey, that’s cool'"

"My parents wanted me to do it"

"I have no idea."

"I like to eat."

Now some of these have made me cringe in the past, but as the years have gone by my skin has thickened to the answers. But honestly , not thick enough to withstand the pain of hearing the most frequent replies of "I like to eat"'s and "..blah blah Food Network Blah Blah.."'

This has caused me great concern as the numbers of these answers seem to only increase along with the enrollment numbers at culinary schools across the country.

Do these students really have any idea what’s in store for them?! Do they have any clue of the hours, the sacrifices, the life they are choosing to lead?!

After digging and digging I find more and more students have a general idea yes.. thank god. Thanks to books like "The Making of a Chef" and even "Kitchen Confidential" (two books I guarantee you will find on almost every student's desk on move in day) have shed a small light on what awaits them in these hallowed halls.

But I feel the need to remind those students of what awaits outside the walls.

A friend once gave me the best possible analogy for the industry I have ever heard, and probably ever will hear ever again

"You know Little Shop of Horrors right? you know the plant.. Feed me Seymour Feed me!.. that’s the business. It starts by taking drops of blood from your finger, and before you know it your feeding it whole bodies just to shut it up!"

He couldn’t be more right, its a beast.. a monster of many heads that would sooner eat you and an army of small children then bend to anyone’s will.

But if your thinking about attending culinary school, and thinking about a career in a professional kitchen I will tell you this.

There is no job that I have done or found that has given me more joy, more happiness, and a sense of accomplishment then this job. There are days when I debate leaving my knives rolled up forever and never stepping foot in the kitchen again, there are weeks when I wish the chef who seemed hell bent on making my life a living hell would die a horrible death just so I could sleep better that night. But I will tell you, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

The culinary field is changing dramatically; it has already in the last 10 years. The old school of sauté forks in your thigh and boiling hot pans being tossed at you down a line from a chef who speaks a totally different language is beginning to disappear altogether.

In its wake stand the next generation of food service professionals. Trained in culinary schools and weaned from the Food Network and Top Chef to drive the next phase in culinary evolution.

If you’re debating coming here and doing this, the best suggestion I could give you is. Think about that question So why culinary school? And think about it long and hard and honestly.

If you can honestly say "Because I love what I do" then you come prepared, you come humble, and you come ready to be beaten to a pulp. And you come ready to stand up the next day, look that chef with hunger and, like Oliver Twist say

"Please sir, may I have some more?"

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Xtreme Comfort Food:Fluffer Nutter Cake

This may sound gross, but I bet that the cook's rationale for making it will give you pause.

Foodaphilia: FlufferNutter Cake

This has been changed to more accurately reflect what I was thinking when I first wrote it.

Junk Food Paradise

Hankering for a bubble gum cigar, Bosco or Sloppy Joe sauce (YUM!) but can't find it in your local market? Then check out Hometown Favorites, a kind of meta-junk food store. You can be sure that I won't be ordering anything from them any time soon. But then I'm scared of this kind of stuff, and prefer to cook most of my own food anyway. However, it's fun to look at (check out the Candy store and note the selection of candies from the 1950's thru the '80's.) and reminisce about all the crap I used to eat before the hunger for real food eclipsed my baser appetite.

Hometown Favorites

Food Fact

Not one species of domestic animal appears on any list of endangered or extinct species. The reason for this is that because they are propagated for food their continued existence is virtually guaranteed.

La Caille Quails over Duck Liver

So the anti-meat police are in Salt Lake City this week cudgeling the credulous with their anti-foie agit-prop. It seems that thus far only one restaurant, La Caille, has caved and dropped foie gras from the menu. Here's an explanation for the move as told by the restaurant's manager

"But after learning about foie gras production, says restaurant manager Laura Horton, "we started thinking about it and it wasn't worth it." Geese, she notes, actually live on the restaurant's premises, "and we couldn't support being mean to their cousins."

Fair enough, who in their right mind could live with themsleves to know that the poor little baby geese outside their window might be upset to see duck liver being cooked by the bad cooks in the kitchen? But read how they used to prepare it to discover the more likely reason they dropped it

"Soaked in orange liqueur and seared with veal juice, the foie gras on La Caille's appetizer menu used to sell for $17.50."

From this admittedly extremely brief explanation, it appears that nobody at La Caille knew how to cook foie gras if they actually think you can sear something in veal juice.

Hold on, veal juice? Never mind that I've never heard of such a thing, but if La Caille doesn't get rid of veal too, their troubles with the meat police are far from over. And let's hope for the manager's sake their are no cows on the premises who might be upset that the wealthy chefs inside are cynically turning their cousins into juice to fill the coffers of their treasuries with gilders.

Prius+Fame+Bleeding Heart= PETA Puppet

According to this

[Anaheim Duck Scott] Niedermayer was contacted recently to point-man PETA's foie gras power play after the organization learned he drove a Toyota Prius – a hybrid car – and was very environmentally conscious.

So they asked him to write a slanderous letter to Chicago Alderman John Pope, that accused chefs that serve foie gras of being wealthy (i.e. capitalist pigs who cynically exploit animals for personal gain). As if most chefs don't earn well under the mean salary for professionals with similar hours and years of training...

A Duck's plea: Leave our livers alone

Don't Travel To NYC for Steak

There isn't enough...

Where's the Beef, Indeed: A Steak Shortage Hits N.Y. - August 8, 2007 - The New York Sun


Flash! Scientists reveal that diet food may promote obesity, high cholesterol and insulin resistance and heart disease! Do Diet Foods Lead to Weight Gain? - TIME

So eat diet food to gain not lose weight. On second thought don't eat it all, it's garbage and not proper food for humans. Now where's my Slimfast?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

This is Not a Joke

So why can't I stop laughing?

Smirnoff Source™, the new premium malt beverage offering from Diageo North America that combines pure spring water [emphasis mine] with alcohol is now on beer retailers' shelves and high-end bars throughout the Northeast. LINK

These people are so shameless in the way they spin their cheesy products. What possible value can there be to using spring water in a drink that, like lite beer, is obviously designed to be over- consumed? Besides, any spring that produces enough water for commercial application such as this, is going to indistinguishable from a well -and filtered to boot. But would any marketer in his or her right mind use the term "filtered well water" in a brand statement, or am I missing something here?

It is entirely possible that the spring water used in this product is from a prolific and pure natural spring that has been found in the lost continent of Atlantis. Moreover, it may be water that scientists have proven contains heretofore unknown elements that stop the process of aging. But why, if this is the case, is it only being offered in high-end bars? Shouldn't such a healthful product be available to everyone including the low-income denizens of low-end bars?

Thanks to The Foodist, who posted on this at his blog, for sending me the link to this story.

The PETA Files: Scott Niedermayer, Duck Defender

It's usually pretty difficult to make the case that PETA and other animal rights groups play on class divisions and bigotry in pursuit of their goal to make meat illegal. But every once in a while they let something slip out that gives it all away. Check out this excerpt of a letter (dated 8/1/07) from Anaheim Duck NHL player Scott Niedermeyer requesting Chicago City Alderman John Pope to vote to uphold the city's ban on the sale of foie gras

"As an Anaheim Duck, I hate to see real ducks tortured so that a handful of wealthy chefs [emphasis mine] can serve their diseased organs. Please uphold this compassionate law."

If PETA had asked Niedermayer to write "wealthy chefs and their capitalist, industrialist, prole-pimping customers," I might be only a little more shocked by their use of classic Marxist agitation propaganda.
Here is a LINK to a pdf version of the entire letter and a link to the blog post that announced the scrivener's enlightening script The PETA Files: Scott Niedermayer, Duck Defender.