I’m doing a LIVE Blogcast this Friday, January 23rd 7am PST / 10am EST!!!

THE_Next_Food_TV_Network_Star edited (500x375)OK, I must admit I’m a little scared and a bit nervous. I’ve been dipping my toe in the pool for much of my life, and now I’m taking the plunge towards embracing my passion – – food and people. Live online this Friday, January 23rd 7am PST /10am EST, I’m going to share my own story: my experience as a kid growing up with ‪#‎wild‬ ‪#‎food‬ ‪#‎foraging‬ and eating weird food before Travel Channel & Andrew Zimmern made it acceptable, and more.

Wild-mustard-lush-patch Wild mustard bloom

I have met many fun, great people in the food industry. They each have a great story on how they found their passion, and I’m looking forward to sharing their stories in future podcasts! I hope you tune in and let me know what you think!

October 27 is National Potato Day

Here are today’s five thing to know about Potato:

  1. Despite being delicious fried, baked, or boiled, the root vegetable rarely gets the praise it deserves. The environmentally friendly food crop has played a huge role in our development, but rarely do we give our starchy friend a second thought.
  2. They’re cheap and ridiculously easy to grow, and don’t require massive amounts of fertilizer and chemical additives to thrive (although some growers still use them anyway). They’re also super cheap and good for you, providing you’re not eating them in fried form all the time.
  3. In 1995, potato plants were taken into space with the space shuttle Columbia. This marked the first time any food was ever grown in space.
  4. The world’s largest potato weighed in at 18 pounds, 4 ounces according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
  5. While potatoes may be synonymous with the Irish these days, they were grown in the Andes mountains centuries before Europeans ever set foot in the new world.

October 27 is National Potato Day. via Foodimentary

Anthony Bourdain’s Series Finale: His Last Layover with No Reservations at Travel Channel

For those foodies who haven’t seen or heard, Anthony Bourdain, author of New York Times Bestseller “Kitchen Confidential” and Paula Deen gadfly, has been featured in countless ads for “The Final Tour,” his series finale as host of Travel Channel’s “The Layover” & “No Reservations.”
This past May he announced that he accepted an offer from CNN to bring his Emmy-winning Zero Point Zero production team to CNN as part of CNN’s effort to bolster their lower viewership on weekends. This move comes as no surprise since the much sensationalized so-called “feud” between him and Paula Deen.  This trumped-up “feud” began over his (in my opinion spot on) remarks, regarding her touting over-the-top grossly unhealthy food to the American public on The Food Network.  He had often referred to her as “the most dangerous person in America,” for her potential to kill more Americans than the terrorists with her recipes. When Paula Deen finally revealed her Type 2 diabetes three years after her diagnosis to say she was now a spokesperson for a diabetes drug, many people felt it was disingenuous that she had continued promoting her cookbooks’ recipes during those years of silence. Rumors of a feud were refueled when Bourdain famously tweeted, “Thinking of getting into the leg-breaking business, so I can profitably sell crutches later.”
I’ve heard his snarky comments firsthand, and I speculate that there was a tiny bit of truth hidden in his comments about playing “Paula Deen’s bitch” after the Travel Channel had been acquired by The Food Network. I’m sure The Food Network tends to favor those personalities who can earn them additional income streams by pitching a line of magazines, cookbooks, cookware, tableware and other items bearing The Food Network logo.
Travel Channel depends on contacts or “fixers” abroad to help in making the arrangements for places to do their location shots.  Bourdain has expressed excitement at the resources at his disposal by joining the CNN family. He’s definitely looking forward to traveling to some places that have been more difficult to attempt a visit in the past. So, coupled with the fact that he will have the same production team, expect his show to be as good if not better. If anything, he may become even more snarky in this food commentary. Because now, he won’t be restrained with having to “play nice” with certain celebrity chefs since they are no longer working for the same network. Let’s see how well CNN deals with his bad boy forays into illegal substances (absinthe in Paris, ganja in Jamaica, happy pizza in Cambodia, etc.) and frequent smattering of bleeped out F-bombs.

August 2 – National Ice Cream Sandwich Day

I think I need to go to Cool Haus to celebrate!

National Food Days in New York City

I’ve got some fond memories of the ice cream sandwich in my childhood. Who doesn’t remember the generic sandwiches in wax paper from the Good Humor truck, the soft, chewy chocolate cookies housing creamy, cold vanilla ice cream? The simplicity of the original ice cream sandwich was only bested by the purchase of a ChipWich, the ice cream sandwich that replaced the chocolate wafers with chocolate chip cookies. How awesome was that when you were eight?! The modern version of the ice cream sandwich was conceived in 1945 at Forbes Field, Pittsburgh–it kind of amazes me that it took that long for the idea of putting ice cream in between two cookies like a sandwich took that long!

Nowadays, you’ll find almost all of your favorite flavors at any given ice cream shop to be offered in sandwich form, from Carvel’s soft-serve to the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck’s famous…

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Is being a “Foodie” becoming a badge of shame?

I had been seriously considering the changing of my moniker from the “Frugal Foodie” to the “Gonzo Gourmand.”  For several years, there has been a lot of discussion online and in print about the term “foodies” becoming a slur.  The same goes for the term “celebrity chef.”  At first, I viewed it like Anthony Bourdain‘s “Kitchen Confidential” Les Halles crew calling the outer boroughs and NJ patrons the “bridge and tunnel crowd.”  Not so much being disdainful, but rather a time-tested categorization for a certain type of patron with a predictable set of preferences.

I assumed that the majority of people casting these aspersions were wealthy culinary elitist snobs. I could easily understand why some people in the industry were inwardly bristling at self-proclaimed “foodies” who thought they knew it all because they watched the Food Network, Bravo’s Top Chef, or bought all the best home kitchen equipment at Macy’s.  Heck, these people make me wince!  The vast majority of people in the industry are truly appreciative of the booming interest in great food and the spotlight shining more on the “back of house” more than the “front of house” staff.

But still, I see the word “foodie” is quietly becoming a condescending slur for uninformed food faddists or celebrity chef chasers who rely on mass market branding and expensive prices as a measure of quality.  And no, it’s not some snobbish pronouncement by the upper echelon of the wealthy culinary elite.  If anything, it’s the exasperated sigh of sweaty, sleep-deprived chefs in the trenches without a TV show, book tour, or chain of restaurants.  At the mere utterance of the word “foodie,” I’ve seen industry people  make eye contact with each other and roll their eyes.  But don’t get offended. What I had at first perceived as a sardonic smirk and dismissive air, should have been more accurately  interpreted as a grimace of exasperated resignation.

Really great food is tirelessly being crafted by passionate, hard-working chefs in small neighborhood restaurants all over this country.  And keep in mind that many of them do it out of love for their craft, and not for the money.  U.S. Dept. of Labor statistics show that the median wage for a head cook or chef in May 2010 was less than $41,000 per year.* Let that be a warning to teens who think they are going into the culinary field for the big bucks.

Like in professional sports, reaching that top percentage of income earners takes a lot of extraordinary work and dedication. Wolfgang Puck and Mario Batali did not rise to culinary heights by going from culinary school to a TV show competition. Unless you are prepared to totally commit to long nights, weekends and holidays, then I wouldn’t sign up for one of those culinary programs to rack up a debt of up to $70,000.  Especially when most entry-level jobs will run $10 – $15 per hour!

So, to distance myself from the foodie herd, I have coined the term “Gonzo Gourmands.”  I don’t mean “gourmand” in a gluttonous sense, but to mean someone who has a hearty interest in food.  And as much as for the alliteration, I added “gonzo” to mean an adventurous person, or someone who is not shy in their appreciation for all kinds of food.  Gonzo Gourmands are not squeamish about their food being attached to bones or having a face.  If anything, they are even interested in the breed and quality of life of the animal before it came to the dinner table. Gonzo Gourmands are frugal, but not necessarily cheap. Meaning they are against waste, they advocate nose-to-tail eating, and strive to find use or recycle all food.

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on the subject at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Gonzo-Gourmands-Social-Media/101724446541356

* http://www.bls.gov/ooh/food-preparation-and-serving/chefs-and-head-cooks.htm

Confessions of a Closet Forager

Wild Mustard Greens A

It’s a great feeling to see stuff about people hunting for wild mushrooms, gathering fiddleheads, and cooking up wild greens. As a kid I learned from my grandparents and parents to pick young, tender wild mustard greens and enjoy them sauted with garlic in olive oil. Of course normal people in LA/OC didn’t wander through undeveloped lots to gather wild greens to eat, so this was an entirely undercover enterprise. At times, I felt that we should be wearing disguises while we foraged. God forbid should any of the neighbors or my classmates from my elementary (and eventually), high school recognize us. But I do find it amusing when I see items I’ve gorged on for free, featured as side dishes on trendy, expensive menus.

Currently, it’s the wrong time of year to get tender wild greens, but I’ll write about them again in the spring. I’ll share where to find them, how to pick them, my favorite recipes, and I’ll make sure to include pictures.

Things They Don’t Tell You at Culinary School!

There are many very reputable culinary programs at really great colleges and universities all over the U.S.  And I totally respect the venerable C.I.A. (Culinary Institute of America) as the Harvard of culinary programs.  In fact, I’m proud to have a relative who graduated from a C.I.A.-Cornell combined program for a B.S. in Hotel & Restaurant Management.

However, I find it appalling that some of these private school chains work more like over-priced basic training facilities than institutions of higher learning.  Many of these schools are charging exorbitant tuition by feeding off of people’s love of food along with their star-struck excitement of seeing superstar chefs competing at the top of their game each week on television.

What they don’t tell these students is their 4 year degree means they know enough of the basics for salad prep, or garde manger at best.  No matter what great grades they got in ice carving or meat deboning, no great restaurant is going to risk putting them on the line when the restaurant needs to quickly bang out consistent quality dishes for the dinner rush.  No matter what accolades they got at school, nobody wants their opinion, and don’t even think about suggesting any changes on the menu.  The students really need to have an incredible passion for food, to learn to work precisely with a great sense of urgency, and think quickly on their feet.

And finally the worst disservice, is neglecting to tell these students that they’re going to have to work lower wage jobs to pay off their student loans.  By lower, I mean lower on average than students graduating with degrees in other disciplines like teaching, business, and computers.  In 2010, restaurant chefs on average, made less than $24,000, and head chefs made less than $45,000.  And worse yet, they will work 10 – 14 hour days on their feet, including weekends and holidays towards student loans for up to $70,000.  Sure there are chefs out there who go on to open great restaurants, cookbooks, TV shows, etc., but they are the exception.  Becoming a star chef is as difficult as moving from high school to pro sports – – it can be done, but very few make it.  To get to that star chef level requires a lot of very long hard hours of not making it.

For those who have not been swayed by these Dept. of Labor statistics, I would advise you to look into the culinary programs of various community colleges.  You may be surprised to know that several community colleges have actually put in respectable showings and beaten teams from nationally acclaimed culinary schools at national American Culinary Federation (ACF) competitions.  So at the very least, you don’t have to start your culinary career with a huge debt looming over your head.

Much of the this article’s information was courtesy of Leah A. Zeldes a freelance writer featured in the Chicago Sun Times.  http://www.suntimes.com/lifestyles/food/11424848-423/what-i-didnt-learn-in-culinary-school.html

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