Just like most people in the food world, I am taken in by the car wrecks and the killers of the culinary arts world. I’m speaking of the competition cooking shows. It doesn’t really matter which one specifically, just any of them that contains a screaming british guy or chefs without hair.
It may be a bold statement but I have my reasons. I will be the first to admit that I had a major hard-on when the first Top Chef show was aired way back in the day. It had everything. Hack cooks, great cooks, Padma, challenges, real cooking situations, new ideas and some really bad ones. I remember you could sit and watch the show and actually say “I’ve worked with a dude like that” or, in my case ,”I’ve work with that dude” and claim rightly, “and he sucks!”. I wanted to be a contestant. But now the purity has turned on these shows.
I was watching TV the other night in a hotel and Master Chef or something like that was on and Gordon Ramsey was, as always, involved. The contestants were given the challenge of recreating a dish from another chef restaurant. OK, not a bad test but here is the rub. The dish was described as “this is the dish President Obama ordered ” as if it gave the dish more credibility. WHO GIVES A SHIT?! This is nothing about Obama, it’s about name dropping and creating pointless self promotion for a chef to feel good about himself because someone of importance ate his or her dish.
Call me old school, but isn’t presenting a perfect dish reserved for ALL of your customers? Really, do you change how you cook or put more effort into a dish that you are serving to a celebrity than you would for your tried and true clientele? If you do, you’re a dick and a suck up.
I have never been a big fan of the restaurants that put up pictures of the famous people that they fed. It seems…..cliche’. The ONLY restaurants that can get away with it are 60 years old or older with an owner that looks like he belongs on the Sopranos or Goodfellas and that’s about it. That’s when it’s cool…period.
I was reading our local Alt mag the other day which comes out weekly called The Westword. They cover all of the happenings in music, culture, entertainment and food. I grab it every week to see what’s up and to read the food section. They usually do restaurant reviews, which is pretty much always the same (hated it, loved it, I slept with the chef, would have tasted better if it was free) and then a short Q and A with a local chef. It can be interesting (until the terms ‘fresh’ and ‘local’ get used too much) but it always bugs the hell out of me when they ask ” So…what celebrities have you cooked for?” or something along those lines. Why? What if he said Geets Romo? Would you care? I bet not.
My question is simple. What makes any celebrity endorsement a key to a chef’s ability? Does Brad Pitt have a more sophisticated palette than you? Is VP Joe Biden more educated in how a piece of Ahi should be sliced? Why should they get preferential treatment because they made a good movie or that one hit on the radio? I would love to hear Mr. Ramsey say once, “This dish is the exact dish chef fill in the blank has built his reputation on. Can you duplicate this?”
This will never happen so I now placate my TV addiction with The Walking Dead…at least it’s realistic.
“I know..stop it..I KNOW!”*
Butter is bad for us-We need to eat better-stay away from fatty foods, I know, enough already ! But it is so delicious and we know that fat is flavor.
Many of you may be aware that I am not shy, not shy in personality, not shy with my opinions nor am I shy when it come to using butter. I like butter, plate the texture the versatility, I like the silkiness that it adds to sauces, I like it at room temperature on a really good baguette. There is nothing really that much better. (there is, tons of other things but I’m keeping this one PG rated). I want to take a moment to that the pro-debate side of the consumption of butter.
A) It is proven that fat is a necessary part of a persons diet. We all have the choice of how we get that fat. A touch of butter in addition to olive oil adds is great way of adding a touch more flavor to whatever you are cooking and also cutting down the intensity of just using whole butter.
B) Everything in moderation, Enjoy butter, not a 1/4 pound of butter but enough to finish a soup or sauce.
C) Do the math. I have made a gallon of Butternut squash soup and have ‘finished’ it with a stick of butter. I have witnessed people gasp audibly at the amount of creamy deliciousness I whisked into soup. Put this in your pipe and smoke it, with the total volume of liquid (the soup) and the percentage of butter I added, it come down to a matter of grams, if that, of fat per portion. Truth be told, it will probably less than your morning latte has.
D) For the record, if it is going to be recklessness or being run over by a truck, second-hand smoke or Crossfit, something is going to kill me. If butter is the thing that takes me out, so be it, I can truly think of much worse ways to go.
So on that note, Here is a great compound butter recipe to make up, put in the freezer and use when you are cooking up a steak or some fish, do it for your health, do it for me
*Denotes common statement made by the author
4 tablespoons whole butter, room temp.
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped scallions
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Pinch of cracked black pepper
Pinch of kosher salt
Process in food processor until smooth. Refrigerate until service.
Food critics make me want to scream for YELP!
I am not a fan of food critics nor a fan of any critics for that matter, I find them counter-productive. I have always questioned the motive of a critic, what exactly is their master plan and what are they hoping to achieve? Truth be told, they all rub the wrong way, like a Glenn Beck or a Bill O’Reilly – quick to judge, strongly opinionated and can say anything they want because they can, not at all caring about the longterm ramifications of their words. They have nothing to lose.
Case in point, Yelp has become a major hub for the food industry and a must for any restaurant to compete in this 10 restaurants on every block world. Say you have a hankering for a Northern Thai food because you happened to have a memorable time in the Golden Triangle and want to relive that by a big plate of Chang Mai noodles and a thai coffee. Fair enough, Yelp can help here, a couple clicks, hit send and baby your living that college trip all over again. Awesome.
Problem is, some other uninformed customer decided that despite the near authentic style of cooking, his meal doesn’t taste like any “Chinese” he had before, he gets on Yelp and writes a scathing critique about his expectations that were not met, all his food smelled like fish and he believed that the other contributors got it wrong! Now he is going back to P.F Chang’s where “I know what I’m get’n”. He gives the Thai place 1 star, “just because I thought the server was cute and exotic looking”. It knocks their overall rating down to a 1.5 and good customers looking for exactly what they are offering make their judgement based on an lengthy poorly written revue, if the inquiring diner even makes it past the star rating or whatever the site uses.
This is exactly why I take exception to critics.
I have been cooking a very long time, I have had my give and take with newspaper, magazine and TV food critics. I felt at the time that I needed to go above and beyond with them to get their approval for good ink. It was good for business. How else do you drum up business, filter through bad restaurants and avoid spending your hard earned money on a horrible dining experience? Also, why should I bend backwards and offer more to the critic then what I would give my guest on any other day of the week? Sure, professional critics like to be unidentifiable and undercover, but any restauranteur knows what they look like or astute servers picks up on what they order or how they are eating it.
I think if critics pride themselves on being honest and transparant, they should:
A: Announce proudly who they are.
B: State what they do for a living.
C: For whom they are writing the article for?
D: Submit a resume to prove they have an ounce of credibility.
Then maybe I would feel like I should care about their opinion.
I remember watching Top Chef and listening to the judges slam a chef for making a curry for a family meal. They said he missed the mark, it was not family friendly. The winner made chicken. The losing chef by the way was a Kiwi guy and in NZ, curry is a very common meal. That is when I stopped watching that show completely. Bullshit for not taking heritage into account and only what some arrogant judge/critic thinks is a family meal.
I just have to ask you this; When you had that most memorable meal, was it discovered because someone wrote a revue of that experience? I bet not, I bet it was when you were walking down some side street, saw a door and a menu, something appealed to you. You went in and had the experience of a lifetime. This was not because of a 1 paragraph synopsis on any food site, I promise you that.
We all have opinions and are guilty of critiquing things that we have no training in or expertise. I have a voice, I know what’s good, it’s America, we can comment on anything. My only wish is that we use our power of the words carefully and thoughtfully, knowing that there will be someone that will take your opinion seriously.
I felt compelled to pen this because I was thinking about how entitled we have become and how easy it is to be dickish for no real reason. I have been doing my best to be much more excepting of everything, a little less critical and realizing that, all in all, I am really very lucky. So if your penne pasta has a bit too much sauce, think about the your response. I’m sure if you let the chef know, he’ll fix it, and if he doesn’t, don’t go back. It’s that easy
Let’s see, how can I sum up this weekend? I’m exhausted, pleased to be a bit hungover, inspired and feeling like I am on the right track.
So here is the dealeo, I was involved in a fundraising event that took place in Vail, called Love Hope Strength- Vail Rocks. It was billed as a hike up Vail mountain, music celebrities, lunch and impromptu concerts. Ok, sounds good, but I was a bit skeptical. I have been involved in the past with a number of events that promised all kinds of things and when you’re actually there, it turns into a, us and them situation with private events for the “celebrities”, ten minutes of entertainment, a boxed lunch and a hike that is more like a scenic overlook off a highway.
NOT THIS ONE BABY! First of all, the event was organized and ran like a pro. It could of been for a 100 people or 10,000 people without missing a beat. Well done Shannon Foley Henn and crew!
The hike in short, kicked our asses, it was the real deal! Steep, long, difficult and beautiful. I would give you a time on how long it took us to summit, but I can’t, because of the amazing musicians playing sets halfway up the mountain.
Here is Brett Dennen and I, if you don’t know this dude, hit this link. To be honest, I didn’t have a clue and I have been missing out. This guy is a very talented song writer with an amazing singing style. I am now a big fan! Plus, he’s a Persol Fan, what’s not to like…
Then, The musical rock of Love Hope Strength is Cy Curnin of The Fixx. I have had the pleasure to get to know this guy, I like him a lot. Truth be told, any rocker wearing a kilt on a hike you know will be a friend of mine.
Then on top, a great lunch and the musical stylings of G. Love and Miles Zuniga of Fastball. Despite the rain, god know we need it, Garret and Miles were amazing as well, no one was complaining about being wet.
The best part is these musicians didn’t pussy out. They weathered the weather, hiked the shit out of that mountain and played liked they cared. Good on them
All of this happened before noon. Our day has just begun.
So, my beautiful bride to be Serena, Ryan Sutter of The Bachelor fame, James Chippendale, founder of LJS and I decided to hike back down the mountain instead of taking “ganja-la” down . Best idea ever. See, we went the extra mile for cancer bitches!
We hit the bottom of the hill in about an hour or so. Beat up and exhausted, we needed to get ready for the closing event that was happening in 2 hours. Serena and I headed back to home base to get ready. A 1 hour nap and my purple jeans ready to go dancing , we head out.
Not knowing what to expect- I wasn’t expecting what we walked into. LHS had a full on festival staging in the town center right outside of the Solaris Hotel with food provided by the Hard Rock, some very dangerous tea vodka company forcing me to drink this lemonade tea drink of trouble…(I will link you up to it when I remember the brands name. I am sure my brain and body are both intentionally forgetting that delicious evil beverage on purpose). The place, the venue and the look was ‘big time’..
An hour and half concert with the amazing kids of School Of Rock Denver, kicking ass and taking prisoners, then backing up Cy, Brett, G. Love and Miles, flawlessly. All I can say is “Man…Where was this program when I was a kid”.
All in all, This is how any non-profit should operate, no ego’s (well maybe a touch), professional, with focus. More importantly, LHS is an organization built on the joy of helping and getting results; Not pulling on my heart-strings and guilt trips.
Good going Love Hope Strength. You have set the bar. Glenn
Summer is in full swing and the Farmers markets are out on every street. THANK GOD! I could not be more happy to see all the great locally* grown produce filling the streets. *I have noticed that some of the purveyors are selling items with inventory stickers, I call bullshit on that noise.
With that aside, It’s good to see framers markets with farmers participating. The produce in in full glory, the booths are full and we are knee-high in green beans! Yea…
But there is a dark side. For the first half of this year, I have seen more communities hosting Farmers Markets with the hope of cashing in on the baby stroller, latte drinking, golden retriever demographic by promoting the quaintness of choosing their own organic produce and doing the world a favor by not buying at Safeway, because you know their commies! Early in the year, all that these markets are selling is art, caramel and jewelry! That’s not farmed. It kills me.
In the Spring I was at a “market” and found NOTHING to eat. I found a caner to fix a chair I have but I don’t think he was a farmer. This, I believe is false and misleading. I feel that a spade should be called a spade. It’s a craft fair not a farmers market. These wonderful weekly events have become another outdoor mall and the promotors should be ashamed of themselves.
I am not against any person creating something wonderful or beautiful or useful, I’m against be mislead. How many time have you been to a talk or seminar of something that you find very interesting but halfway into it, they start selling you something. Doesn’t that piss you off? Well it should.
As a chef, It is important to use the best ingredients possible, as well for the best price available, hence the love for any Food market. That is what makes cooking even more joyful. Know that the tomato and the corn you are eating came for someone you met at a farm nearby. Everything tastes that much better, don’t you think?
So if you are craving a sculpture or a shiny bobble on your Sunday morning outing, please purchase away, I will wait until I see greens and dirt before I will venture out in any market.
If you are looking for something fun to do this September around the 15th and 16th? Do I have an idea for you!
Join me and celebrate food and wine in Grand Valley. I am the Guest Celebrity Chef. I will be doing two demonstrations and a limited seating dinner. I will be using all local ingredients and working side by side with the best local GV Chefs!
Follow the link below and get your tickets. For more info click the link below.
I have been a chef in the Aspen valley for more years than I would like to count. I have been involved in the Food and Wine Classic for most of that time as well. There are so many things to take away from this event; drinking great wine, seeing chefs that you have grown to love, eating food (I say it this way because it can be really good food AND really bad food) and best of all, the people watching.
What I have gained over all these years is great friends. This opportunity would not exist if this event wasn’t created.
In the photo to the left, I am with one of my favorite chefs, as well as my culinary hero Michel Nischan. This guy, to me, is everything the current food world is not. His world is not about cook-offs or super egos (insert the name Tom C. here), it is about FOOD, the love of the craft, doing the right thing. Most of all about giving back.
We have all seen the shows of chefs yelling, judging, acting holier than thou with comments like, “I’m sorry, you’re not moving on… you used just a little too much chive”. Bullshit. This is the benchmark now used to grade chefs and their talent. This is wrong! The only people that are profiting are the show network execs, sarcastic hosts and not so creative product placement departments implying that I could never cook well if I don’t use X tool or Y butter.
Trust me, I know I sound a bit bitter about this but I am really not. There are some great cooks out there doing their best and there are also some really horrible ‘chefs’ out there that cook terrible food. Died in the wool hacks. It is those guys that seem to possess an ego that is completely unjustified, feel that they should be the next big thing-whatever that is, not work hard and make “fuck you” amounts of money. These punks will have an entry level hotel kitchen job in the next few years or never speak about their history again, unless it slips out when they feel they are close to selling that flat screen TV at Best Buy and they find out that the buyer really enjoys watching the cooking shows. He thinks they might be interested in his amazing chemical cooking skills and his olive oil ice cream that was killer. “….you know, that should of been me, that Fabio dude is a douche.”
“See that, that’s the rain” is a short but important sentence that Michel once said in a cooking class we were teaching together at the Cooking School of Aspen. He said this whilst cutting through a cucumber, the moisture beaded up on the fresh cut end and then a small drip on the cutting board. This is the part of cooking that is forgotten. Like looking at a cut of meat, recognizing that it was a living creature once or even thanking the animal in which it came from. It’s knowing that it takes months for a vegetables to grow, ripen and become something that can feed and nourish 6 people, not something that just comes from the store and what do you mean your out of Fiddle Ferns, they’re on my menu.
The reason I am such a fan of this guy, Michel, is that he has the clout and the pedigree to be a total dick, but he is not. He travels the world, been to the White House, helps immigrant farmers, educates and is diligently trying to fill the mouths of our youth and the homeless with food that is REAL, prepared with care and not modified. Did I mention prepared with care.
This is why I love F&W Classic, It is a shit show with little gems that outshine the buzzed up, liquor fueled main tent with a great lunch with a friend that is really making a difference. This industry is built by hard work and dedication, not 1 hour food competitions of selfishness against vainglory.
So here is a link to one of Michel’s projects and I urge all of you to get involved wholesomewave.org