Lucky Dip – Monday, October 31st, 2011

Uh… how much candy are your kids eating after Halloween that they’re getting cavities  and “weakening” their teeth? Sure, taffy and the like is probably not a good pairing with expensive dental work, but if your kids are eating enough Halloween swag to get a cavity, there are other issues at play. [Globe and Mail]

And so you know the value of what your neighbours have shelled out – the candy hierarchy. [Boing Boing]

Groupon usually gets you cheap deals for cheap food – but they’re expanding into upscale restaurants. Could we soon see Groupon deals for Scaramouche and Pangaea?? [Nation’s Restaurant News]

The difference between food allergies and food sensitivities. (Although, as an allergy sufferer, the bit about the scratch test being the gold standard is laughable. We really need to update allergy testing beyond a 100-year-old system that is famously inaccurate.) [Toronto Sun]

Batali does Fieri for Halloween. [Eater]

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Lucky Dip – Monday, June 13th, 2011

If nothing else, the policing of children’s weight and eating habits in schools will at least create plenty of jobs for therapists and psychiatrists as these children become adults and come to terms with how messed up they are because their teachers kept track of their body mass index. This one wins a big “what the fuck”. [National Post]

Chocolate milk is just soda in drag. Stop giving it to your kids. [Civil Eats]

Quebec or Ontario – who makes the better beer? You’d be surprised. [Toronto Star]

The old KISS adage (keep it simple, stupid) seems to have bypassed a lot of chefs lately. Or at least the ones who write dinner menus that read like Anne Rice novels. [Daily Mail]

They may be the cockroaches of the sea, but lobsters sure are tasty. [Toronto Sun]

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If you Can’t Stand the Heat

Bill Buford hurts my head. That’s really my first thought when I try to size up the book Heat, An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany.

He hurts my head because he may well be obsessive-compulsive, and the book is really the literary equivalent of a man obsessed, grabbing the reader by the hand and dragging them off on some wild goose chase in search of knowledge that no one cares about. Well, except Bill Buford.

I’m guessing that most people picked this book up because of Buford’s links to celebrity chef Mario Batali. Buford convinces the chef to give him what is basically an apprenticeship (Bill works for free to learn the ropes) in his flagship restaurant Babbo, and the writer documents his journey through the back of house. There are a few dirt-digging scenes to keep the Batali fans amused; one describes Batali digging through the garbage bin and pulling up celery tops and peelings, insisting they can be used for a soup; but the story is ultimately about Buford himself.

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Chefs Are the New Rock Stars

Imagine for a moment that you’re walking down the street and you pass a punk-looking kid wearing a black t-shirt with Anthony Bourdain’s face on the front. Or you’re in the mall and the gaggle of girls outside of Old Navy are all wearing sparkly pink shirts emblazoned with the Rachael Ray logo. Or maybe you’re watching the news to see thousands of women mobbing the airport when Jamie Oliver deplanes and races to a limo to be whisked away before someone gets injured.

To people in the industry, the concept of chefs as celebrities seems vaguely uncomfortable. The people who cook the food for restaurants, events, and hotels are meant to be behind the scenes. They’re part of the great machine that makes a dinner or an event happen seamlessly and beautifully; the kitchen is called “back of house” for a reason. Most dedicated cooks don’t want the attention – they want to do their jobs and do it well, and don’t much care for the cameras and interviews and face time.

But most is not all, and as more and more of the celebrity chefs we watch on TV sign endorsement deals or create product lines of their own, the desire – we’ll even call it a “need” to be seen, to be out there promoting the gadgets, the cookbook, the product lines and oh, yeah, the restaurant – becomes overwhelming.

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