“B! Don’t Play with your food”

4 May

Today was an interesting day!  I was out for my morning Quad Venti Non-Fat Three Splenda Latte and my cup of what my barista friends call “Star-meal” (Starbucks Oatmeal) and as I was enjoying my Lincon Park, Metallica, Mechanisms of a False Reality mix, I saw something I have yet to see here at Johnson & Wales.  SPRING!  Well, kind of.  I ran across this cute little guy.

And I got curious.  I wanted to know just how close he’d let me get. So I put my things on the sidewalk and I got down low and I walked over to him.  As you can see from the picture, he let me get pretty close. maybe…10 feet. This is gonna sound weird and some of you are gonna call me names but he stopped from his snack and just as I was taking a picture…he looked up and posed (see above).  I snapped a couple pictures for Instagram and FaceBook and then…like he knew what I was doing…he just looked straight at me…call it what you want…the touch of God, nature and I sharing a moment, a chemical imbalance…whatever it was…for an instant, he and I were on the same page…Then he went back to munching. shot a little video and he and I both went on about our day.

All day long I was thinking about my new friend.  How those few moments had real significance in my life.  How amazing it felt to be reminded that the things we harvest from the Earth are living and breathing things.  I can’t tell you how many rabbits I’ve hunted or how many Rabbit Ragus I’ve cooked and eaten here at JWU. It made me thing about how so very badly I want to dive for scallops and experience them in their natural habitat.  How humbling it is to break down a live lobster and see it’s heart beating on the cutting board and how much it pisses me off when people play games with them, standing them on their heads poking them, flipping them over and such.  Or how much I want to cram a carrot up someone’s ass when I see them throw them boxes and bags of veg across the cooler.

I’m not becoming a tree hugging hippy, and I’m certainly NOT turning vegetarian!  But when I was growing up, my mama taught me not to play with my food.  I know that’s not QUITE what she meant but it’s important that we teach others and that we learn for ourselves, that those things have lives of their own and that even the carrots are living things and someone put hard work into harvesting them from the Earth.  Someone had to clean them, trim them, put them on a truck, drive them to the store.   Someone had to shelve them and make them available for me to purchase and consume.  When we disrespect the food…we disrespect those people as well!

It’s not being soft. It’s not being a pansy. It’s respect.  Just like that rabbit had respect for me in the flower garden and he let me get close and take his picture.  We as culinarians should…no…MUST HAVE respect for the things we harvest from the earth and respect for the labor that other humans put into bringing those things to the market or our table.  Because the day is going to come that those things are not going to be around anymore if we neglect them.

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WTF!?

28 Apr

I know I’ve been MIA but hey…I AM in culinary school.  ANYWAY….today I want to talk about a site, blog, vlog…I guess it’s appropriately called a podcast, that I’ve been hooked on for quite some time called WTF?! So…WTF is WTF?! Well There is a guy in New York City named Daniel Delaney, who is a food producer there in New York.

To quote his website (http://www.danliedelaney.com) “In 2011, Dan made his New Year’s resolution to learn about new foods through a daily web series called WTF: “What’s This Food?” Consequently, Dan re-launched his website, DanielDelaney.com, to organize all his recent food projects, including his new food blog, Delaney Eats.”

He’s taking sponsorships for as little as $1 and I highly recommend you check him out.  He’s available on youtube, Itunes, and I believe he’s on Ustream now as well. Make sure you follow him on twitter: @danieldelaney and tell him @BsBigBite said hi!

Got a Green Thumb?

13 Apr

Ya me neither. Lucky for me…and you, I learned of a place for people like you and I.  A few Saturdays ago, I was volunteering at the Cuisinart Center for Culinary Excellence as I do from time to time, and this particular weekend I was playing “prep monkey” for the ACF Competition Team.  One of the chefs pulls out this plastic container from a place called “The Chef’s Garden”.  Actually he had a few of them. I was curious, so I snapped a pic on the iPhone and decided to do a little research!

The Chef’s Garden, is located in the Great Lakes area, just off the shores of lake Erie.  Owned and operated by a father and his two sons, The Chef’s Garden has a great story!  I won’t give it all away because I want you to go check them out yourselves, but the concept is pretty awesome.  They grow seasonal and sustainable produce, herbs, garnishs, greens, and anything else you can think of, and they make it available to chefs!

How it works?  Simple! Go to the website, see whats in season, call them up, make your order, and they go pick it from the garden! They trim it, wash it, pack it and ship it.  Products can literally go from the garden to your kitchen, 24 hours from the time you hang up the phone!  AMAZING Concept!

I’m a fan! Make sure you guys visit them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and of course their website, Chefs-Garden.com

I ate what?

5 Apr

I know my last few blogs have been on the topic of nutrition. And I don’t want to sound like a bible-banging health freak (no offense to any bible-bangers or health freaks) but keep in mind, I “am” in a culinary nutrition class, who’s purpose is to teach us techniques we can use to make the food we make more nutritious as well as teach us that we have a responsibility to the people we cook for to not only make things taste good, but NOT kill them in the process.  Also keep in mind that I used to be a HUGE guy. 356 pounds to be exact. I’ve put my in my time in the nutrition ring.  However, I also LOVE bacon, and steak, and fat, and chocolate. Our bodies are wired for it!  The key is balance.

But that’s not what I’m writing about today.

You see, here at JWU I am what’s called a “campus resident” I live in the culinary dormitories on the Harborside campus.  With that comes lots of perks. Smelly roommates, loud neighbors, parties till 3am, rolling out of bed and being 300 feet from class, Oh yea…and MEAL SWIPES!  As a campus resident, you are REQUIRED to purchase a meal plan.  With this meal plan we have a few options meals.  One can travel via shuttle to a cafeteria style place where they serve from a variety of “stations” It’s a lot like you’d find in a large office building. The food is just about as good…and about as healthy. If you work, you can put a decently healthy meal together…I think. I’ll explain that later.  Option number two, is a convenience store called Campus Corner.  While this might “seem” ok, the selections are no better than you’d find at your larger Shell Station or Texaco.  Option tois is a pasta place called Red Sauce. Here they have, obviously, pasta with various toppings, Alfredo, putanescia, broccoli, ect.  They also have the american staple, pizza, and some mediocre salads that you can get with protein on them. By far the healthiest choice…barely.  And of course finally, my personal favorite Starbucks, where one can spend 6.50 for a meal credit or “swipe”.

So that doesn’t sound too bad right?  Whats the big deal?

After my surgery….I find that I question the nutritional content of things a LOT more often.  And this class has made it that much worse.  But most places here just don’t have that information available.  It’s probably one of the reasons I’m at Starbucks as much as I am. I can at least look that information up on the corporate site and build meals that meat my nutritional requirements and then get what I’m lacking elsewhere…usually at the convenience store.  But what the hell kind of diet is that!??!?!  Really!  Let me answer that…a SHITTY one!  My other option…eat at the “cafiterias” or at Red Sauce.  Which I do sometimes, but then I dont know what the hell I’m eating and on a diet that restricts me to 900cal a day < 20% fat and 60-80g Protein….Um….I kinda need to know what I’m stickin in my mouth. Not a lot of room to guess…

I “thought” it was required by law that companies make this information available….HAHAHAHAHAHAH!  So my question…Why don’t we practice what we preach! I had to build an entire menu based on some SERIOUSLY strict nutritional parameters for my class….but we as an institution cant seem to come up with one single “healthy” eating option…Unacceptable…

That’s it for now.

I promise next time I wont talk about nutrition….much!  🙂

Ciao

B

Seasonal Ingredients (Rant)

2 Apr

Ok, so I work at this place that I wont mention…for now…and I saw something the other day that straight up PISSED ME OFF!

So I’m not a huge activist for things like sustainability and seasonal food sources….yet…but I think I’m getting there…

Anyway. We have several eggplant items on out menu. and the other day I was on the line and a check came in for an eggplant rollatini and on the bottom it said “additional food charge: $3.00”. And I’m thinking to myself…ok what am I supposed to add to this entree that the server forgot to put on the check, so I asked like any good cook should do. Her response? “We’ve been told that we have to add a 3.00 surcharge for eggplant.”

Now I already knew what the deal was…but I wanted to find out what was going on…so I played dumb, waited until the right time…and I asked the GM about it. Sure enough because “the price of eggplant had skyrocketed” we’re adding a 3 bucks to the check in ALL of our restaurants for every eggplant item.

My immediate, and I didn’t realize out loud, response was “Well no F’king $h!t dumma$$ they are almost 8 months out of season!”

Really?!?! What the hell?! Not only are we serving items that far out of season we’re turning the cost over to our customers? Ok, I know the customer has to pay the profit. I get it. But if WE’RE gonna be assanine enough to sell ingredients that are almost BACK in season again…we shouldn’t be able to just tack on 3 bucks per entree because a customer wants it…

What are your thoughts? Is this a sign of the times? Is this just the way “franchises” work? Is our exec a retard? I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts.

Fat is flavor! Or is it…

30 Mar

So I’m in this nutrition and sensory analysis class and the purpose of this segment is to teach poaching and steaming and the nutritional benefits of these preperations. We also study alternatives to fat, salt, and things like that. It’s a great class and, as are most of our classes, we’ve got an awesome and passionate instructor.  Chef Kevin Crawley’s been on the Food Network, he taught at Boston College, he has built some of the best restaurants in New England, put on all sorts of events…the guy’s got a CV a mile long!  I shouldn’t really write this, but I am gonna try to speak my mind at all times…I think he may be fairly new to the curriculum, but he’s VERY passionate about healthy eating and that makes him a perfect instructor for the course.

I had a conversation with him after class yesterday about career paths and a few other random thing.  We ended up talking about nutrition as a career choice.  I THINK he tried to sell me on getting into nutrition!!  Not that I mind.  Lets face it. It’s reality.  Believe me, having at once time weighed almost 400 pounds, I know!  But it really weighed on me heavy!  Even as I write this I’m considering the challenge I’m going to propose.  See, it goes a little something like this:

Anyone who’s watched cooking television has heard the words “Fat is Flavor” or “Bacon makes anything better”.  Go watch Paula Deen on The Food Network and I challenge you to find something she doesn’t put at least half a stick of butter in. Then I go back to nutrition class and I read about how there are all these alternatives to foods and if you put them in a side by side they are clearly different but on their own they taste amazing. Hell we even make some of them in class.  So my question is this.  If there are all these great food alternatives out there WHERE ARE THEY?  How come the average restaurant meal is 3000 calories.  Why, when I go out to eat, they label the “healthy” choices? And why in the HELL are we not teaching our chefs to think the other way around!?

Maybe it’s me.  I’m an outside the box thinker so I will admit I don’t always have the “mainstream” focus, but from the outside looking in, it seems to me that these nutritionists and nutrition activists have it ALL wrong.  We don’t need to be telling people what they should be eating.  We just need to feed them!  People run from nutritious food like the plague because they see tofu and taste cardboard and as nutrition minded people we try to analyze why.  It’s really simple. We make healthy eating appear to be something one should DO.  Well here’s a little hint that most people already know…people as a whole are lazy. It’s how we became the fattest nation in the world! They don’t want to DO anything.

I’m no entrepreneur and I’m no business genius, but as stated before…I love food!  And it seams to me that if we just stick these thing in the menu instead of making them seem “healthy” we’d be much more successful. Just like sex…FLAVOR sells…not nutrition.

I guarantee we’ll talk about this again.  I have a lot of thinking on this topic to do still.

Until next time…ciao

B

I Love Food!!!

29 Mar

I guess being the first post in my blog, I should probably do a decent job of telling the world a little about me.  This will all be covered in my Bio but for now I have a few things I want to talk about.  But first…the disclaimer.  I’m not a trained chef…yet, I’m not a doctor and I’m FAR from a writer. This is just my opinions…that’s IT! Now…on to the show.

Where was I, AH Yes!  I love food! Man do I ever!  I love the way food tastes, when it’s good. I love the way a great dish can wake up senses we never knew we had. I love the way it makes us feel when we eat things that we had as a kid…You know what I’m talking about. Those “Comfort Foods”.  The ones that we just put in our mouths and the texture alone is enough to bring a tear to our face…ahhh.  But I digress…

I love to cook!  It’s the one thing that’s remotely creative that I do well. I mean, I try to play guitar, I can play drums well enough to do pretty good on Rockband and after a few shots of tequila, I’m a Karaoke MASTER!  But none of those things are at the level that one could call them a creative “outlet”.  A place that I can channel my emotion, my feeling, my desires, and my whole being…take that and put it into a dish.  Then when I see the look on someones face, when they bite into it and they get that “AH” look…it makes it all the more exciting.  I love how I get excited when I cook new things like the ostrich that I hope I am going to get in my mystery basket on day 9 in my Nutrition final here at JWU.  Or the fresh hand dived scallops that I’m aching to get my hands on from New England.  I can’t describe how it makes me feel, I get “gheddy” like I’m in the 3rd grade and were about go to to recess.  I live for that excitement!

I love to teach! One of the things I enjoy as an older student, is having a little life, and kitchen, experience and being called upon to share that with the 16, 17, 18, and 19 year old students in my class (if it’s wanted or not) really makes me feel good!  Like I can contribute something back to the great circle of life.

As I progress through my classes here at Johnson & Wales I am constantly searching for things that catch my eye.  See, as culinary students, we’re supposed to be focusing on techniques, learning things like braising, stewing, deep-fat frying, poaching, and things like that. Then when we get out of here, we are “supposed” to spend the next 5-7 years developing a mastery of those techniques and developing, what is called, our “style”.  I think that’s all fine and good if you’re 17 and you have 35-40 years in the kitchen ahead of you.  I was reading Daniel Boulud’s book, Letters to a Young Chef, in which Chef Boulud talks about this very topic.  It’s very rare for a great chef to start so late in life because it takes that kind of time to develop those skills.  And for the most part…I agree!  As much as it pains me to say it.  I’m old!  I don’t have 40 years left in me…I don’t think I do anyway.  But I have all that ground to cover.  Now dont get me wrong.  I’m not trying to be famous.  But I WANT to be a great chef! I WANT a Michelin star! I WANT to be the kind of chef people see and they just know…Hey this guy is capable of great things.  But to do so…I know it’s going to take accepting nothing less that excellence.  Notice I didn’t say perfect. That’s another thing it’s going to take…knowing the difference.  It’s going to take doing right. Right by the my chef(s), right by the customer, and doing right by me!  I’ve got to do in 5 years what most young chefs do in 7-10.  I know this…and it makes me love food even MORE!

I think that’s enough for now.  I could go on forever and I have a nutrition practical exam to practice for tomorrow.

Ciao,

B