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 – Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

You know all that food you throw out every week because you buy ingredients to cook like the chefs on TV but end up eating take-out instead? Yeah, it adds up. [Today: Bites]

The US food media seems out of joint about Alton Brown’s “fanifesto” for his upcoming book tour, but go and read it. Not one word of it is even marginally unreasonable. [Eater]

Stock up while you can – there’s a pumpkin shortage down south, which could mean fistfights in the grocery aisle over the last cans of pumpkin pie filling, like we saw a couple of years back. [CBS Boston]

That joke about university students living on cheap ramen and beer is kind of true. Food bank usage on university campuses is way up. [Toronto Star]

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The Ghost of Careme

I’m not being haunted exactly, but in the past month or so, the number of references to Antonin Careme popping up in my life are really, well…beyond coincidence.

Careme was, of course, the world’s first celebrity chef. Know as the King of Chefs and the Chef of Kings, he began cooking as a teenager and worked his way out of poverty to eventually cook for Napoleon. He was, first and foremost, a pastry chef, and with his pièces montées (huge structures and centrepieces, often in the shape of buildings) is likely responsible for their ongoing popularity to this day – all of those crazy cake competitions on The Food Network – Careme started that trend.

It may just be that I watch far too much British food programming. In March, there were 4 different UK shows that mentioned Careme.

The most Careme-focused was a series called Glamour Puds in which pastry chef Eric Lanlard traces the history of Careme from his childhood home to some of the castles and estates where he worked, even cooking in the historic kitchen of Valencay Palace where Careme worked for Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, right-hand man to Napoleon. Lanlard also offered demos and recipes of some of Careme’s most famous pastries, from the Mont Blanc to the famous macaron tower.

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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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