Kids in the Kitchen

October 22nd, 2013

by Kyra Martin

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A friend of mine mentioned that I should check out MasterChef Junior the other day. Having some time to kill I pulled up an episode OnDemand, thinking it might be fun to see what crazy concoctions these kids would come up with. About 20 minutes in, I was seriously beginning to question my own culinary ability, and I'm a professional chef.  These home cook kids were putting out dishes and flavor combinations that I'd be willing to bet the average adult would be struggling to put together.

While most kids aren't the next cooking prodigy, this show made me fondly remember my days as a young budding “chef”. I use the term “chef” very lightly because essentially what would happen was my mom would open all the cabinet doors and say, “Go for it!” Our crowning achievement was garlic cookies. But despite the almost always inedibleness of the final product, my mom had succeeded in getting us interested in food. A feat that is increasingly difficult in our ever busy lives, where convenience often gives way to home cooking and exploration.  This is leading to an increase in picky eaters. Now children have been picky since the beginning of time, but when they're becoming accustomed to burgers, bean burritos and the like, it's even harder to get them to try new and healthier options.

Here are a few ideas that might help to start getting your children interested in food:

  1. Make it a family affair. While grocery shopping might be your sacred weekly alone time, maybe once a week make a special trip where you take the kids with you. Plan a meal and have them help you pick out all the ingredients. This is a great way to try new recipes and have them start learning where the food they eat comes from. It also gives you a great opportunity to showcase your own knowledge of how to pick out the best fruits and veggies and other things.
  2. Menu planning. By planning a menu kids know what to expect so they won't be sitting down to a surprise meal every night. It might help ease some tension if they can prepare for the impending Thursday night broccoli.  It's also incredibly helpful for you as a cook to know what you're making, make sure you have everything on hand ahead of time and to help with budgeting. Make sure to check out our menu planner tool here: http://cookeatshare.com/menu_planner .  It also allows you to add recipes you have saved so you don't have to start from scratch every week.
  3. Let them help you! Set aside one night a week where the kids make you dinner, or at least help. Make sure it's not a night where you are in a hurry so that you can really and truly enjoy your time in the kitchen together. Start sharing family recipes. Teach them the secret ingredient in your famous cookies. Not only will your kids be more willing to try something they helped to make, it might even help you get extra things done! It's always nice to have an extra set of hands in the kitchen.  Do make sure that you stress kitchen safety. Teach them the proper way to hold a knife, how to approach the stove and sanitation basics like always washing your hands.
  4. Be the example. Your kids look up to you. The best way for them to start being healthy and/or adventurous is to follow your example.
  5. Don't force it. Kids are skeptical. When introducing something new give them a small amount and accompany it with something you know they love. Let them try it their way, which might include microscopic bites a little at a time, and eventually they will decide for themselves if they like it or not. Don't force them to eat all of it or you might have the opposite effect of immediately putting them off something they otherwise would have grown to love. And remember that even though they are young and developing, not every palette is the same. Just because you absolutely LOVE something doesn't mean your kid will. If you really want them to try and like it, re-introduce it every so often and see if they develop a taste for it.

These are just a few of the examples I found online and in practice with my nieces. Try doing your own research and experimenting with different things to find out what works best for you and your family. Maybe watching MasterChef Junior or other kid centered cooking shows will help. Seeing their peers being daring and making and trying amazing food is a good motivator.  And most of all have fun with it! Cooking is such a wonderful experience. Enjoy being together and passing on a love of all food to the next generation.

**Disclaimer: Before making an major dietary or health changes you should always consult a trained, licensed professional. And never let your kids cook unsupervised.

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Chipotle Cultivate Festival. Part 4: Minh Tsai of Hodo Soy

July 3rd, 2013

by Kyra Martin

My final interview of the day was with Chef Minh Tsai of Hodo Soy here in San Francisco. I had seen part of his demo, where he was showing how to make homemade tofu, and I was very excited to talk with him.  He has been working with Chipotle for some time, as his company provides Chipotle with tofu and has been involved in the development of their new line of Asian inspired stores Shophouse.

He took the time to explain how he became involved with Chipotle and Cultivate, “I think the main reason is because we make this exceptional tofu that Steve Ells [the founder of Chipotle] and all the chefs really love. And we make it with integrity. We make it with the best ingredients,” explained Chef Minh. “Mission alignment, we align really well with what Chipotle’s all about. So that’s one of the reasons. The other one is we believe in educating people about the food. I spent the last 8 years really just becoming sort of an educator and ambassador of tofu and I think that drives really well with Cultivate in particular and Steve Ells mission to really highlight where food comes from, how it’s made, classic cooking techniques and all that. So I think all those reasons really add up to them working with us.”

His knowledge and love for tofu was immediately apparent and vast. I’d tried in the past to prepare tofu, with little to no success. Luckily, I was able to get some great tips from Chef Minh and I’m looking forward to trying again. “We make several assumptions. We assume it’s healthy. We assume people want to eat it. But the thing we don’t assume is that tofu is tasty, because it’s not. People don’t make it tasty enough. So that’s what we do at Hodo, the most important thing is make really tasty products,” said Chef Minh. And like all the businesses and chefs that had been featured that day, all products used by Hodo Soy are sustainable and local.

But how do you make tasty tofu? Generally when I think of tofu, flavor is not the first thing that comes to my mind. “I give several tips. First of all use our tofu, because our tofu uses a thicker soy milk. So it’s kinda like skim milk versus thick rich milk. So that’s key,” explains Chef Minh. “Secondly, if you can’t access our tofu think about tofu as a product where you want as much texture as possible. So if you use firm tofu crumble it so there’s more texture to absorb sauce, or fry it lightly to get some nooks and crannies. The more surface areas you have on the tofu the more sauce you can add to it. So that’s a simple but effective way to add flavors.”

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If you’re new to tofu or not sure where to start Chef Minh recommends finding the best tofu wherever you live, “…they’re usually mom and pop shops that can do it. Secondly, use a softer tofu because it absorbs flavors better. Avoid chalky tofu because when tofu becomes chalky, you can tell when you break a piece of tofu apart if it crumbles like chalk, then it’s probably not made well. You want tofu to have some elasticity, kinda bendy. So that’s a sign of a good tofu,” continues Chef Minh. “Try to eat it as fresh as possible. If you store tofu make sure you store it in water and change the water daily. Treat it like flowers, change the water daily to ensure freshness.”

As with all the chefs I was curious to find out what he made on his day off. And that was when I learned about yooba. Something I’d never heard of before, but need to go explore now. “My kids love a silken tofu. So if I make tofu at all it’s generally a silken tofu or a soup that uses yooba which is a tofu skin that we make exclusively in the US. It’s kinda like a sheet or a noodle that you can use as like a wrap or a noodle. It’s kinda like phyllo dough before you fry it,” explained Chef Minh. Buy Flomax online here. Cheap Flomax generic.

The thing that surprised me most about our interview was the one thing he said he couldn’t live without. Being a tofu master I expected something along those lines, but his answer was simple, “One thing is hard. But I always want to have an exceptional olive oil. Just find good extra virgin olive oil, because that makes everything taste better.”

I learned a lot from Chef Minh and I’m excited to try tofu again and see if I can’t make it better than I did when I was younger. And they have some interesting things in the works at Hodo Soy, “We’re going to continue educating people about tofu and recipe development. I’m hoping to get a book started, a recipe book,” said Chef Minh.

Overall my time at the Chipotle Cultivate Fest was amazing. I got the incredible chance to talk with some absolutely amazing chefs. So I want to say thank you again to Jon Shook, Vinny Dotolo, Ludo Lefebvre of Trois Mec, Evan and Sarah Rich of Rich Table, Evan Bloom and Leo Beckerman of Wise Sons Deli and Minh Tsai of Hodo Soy.

If you are interested in checking out Cultivate, go to their website for more details. You still have a chance to see it in Chicago. And I highly recommend stopping by when they come back next year to San Francisco.

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Chipotle Cultivate Festival. Part 3: Wise Sons Deli

June 26th, 2013

by Kyra Martin

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After my interview with Chefs Evan and Sarah Rich of Rich Table, I had a break and was able to walk around the festival more. By this time, the crowd had swelled and things were really starting to take off. I wandered over to one of the chef tents and was able to catch part of a demo from Amanda Freitag. You might recognize her from the Food Network’s series Chopped.  I watched her for a few minutes and then walked to the other chefs tent and caught a little of Minh Tsai’s demo making tofu. I interview him in part four and you won’t want to miss it.

I passed the time sampling food and some of the local breweries before heading back to start my third interview with Chefs Evan Bloom and Leo Beckerman from Wise Sons Deli here in San Francisco. After a successful run at the Ferry Plaza farmers market, Wise Sons Deli opened its standalone shop in 2012 and things seem to just keep going up. It’s the duos first year with Cultivate and they are “extremely excited to be here with all these awesome personalities and chefs supporting what Chipotle does,” said Chef Evan.

And since the festival is all about sustainability, and like I had asked everyone, I wanted to know how they felt about sustainable and local ingredients when determining their menus. “Oh they’re incredibly important. We’re at the farmers market every Tuesday, we have a booth. Whenever we can buy direct from the farmer and see how that impacts them on a daily basis,” said Chef Evan. “Also there’s amazing products here. We’ve got amazing produce, amazing meat, fish. We get better products. It makes our life easier. We can make everything taste better because we start with the best product possible.” He goes on to say, “And of course, it’s what we should be doing. Let’s also talk about the fact that it’s good for the consumer, it’s good for everybody. Why should I be eating something when I didn’t know where it came from? I’m putting into my body, I need to know what I’m eating. In the middle of the summer that’s a strawberry, that’s what it should taste like. It’s juicy. It’s incredible. It tastes like a strawberry. The rest of the year, maybe not so much or maybe it comes from half way around the world. It’s important for us that our customers really know that this is how we cook our food and a big reason of why our food tastes the way it does.”

But buying local or organic or making sure the ecosystem is saved isn’t the only factor that goes into sustainability. Chef Leo broke it down farther saying, “I mean there are so many factors to sustainably for us. We’re looking for something where we’re building relationships with the people who are directly growing the food. That’s what Evan mentioned when he talks about working directly with farmers. And there are a number of levels to that.” He continued giving an example of how the cycle works, “While we’re looking for sort of raw products and ingredients and to get to know as much as possible the people who are either growing or raising those products. And then there’s another level where we take our own products and we’re making everything from scratch. Although I didn’t harvest the grain that turned into flour, we take the flour and we make the bread. Or although we weren’t the ones who raise the cow, we’re getting it from a place where we feel there’s a sustainable element as well as people who are caring for the products.” And to the Wise Sons sustainability is also about supporting the local economy by supporting employees with livable wages and opportunities. “It all falls under that umbrella of sustainability,” said Chef Evan.

That theme of keeping up the sustainability circle came back into play when I asked for tips for our readers. Chef Evan’s first piece of advice was to buy the best product available. And the best way to do that is “… going to the farmers market and saying Joe farmer, what’s good today. What should I be eating? And most the time, they’re gonna tell you what you should buy, why you should buy it and what you should make with it. Because that’s what they’re exciting about selling.” By engaging with and talking direct to the farmers, chances are you’re going to get the absolute best product out there. Which as Chef Evan already mentioned, makes your job even easier.  The other piece of advice he gave is one he feels gets forgotten when you’re cooking at home. “The number one thing I would say is tasting. I mean for me, something that is hammered again and again in the kitchen is you have to taste everything, every step of the way. And make sure that it tastes good. And that might be tasting the raw tomato that you’re gonna throw into a stew. Everything should taste good on its own raw. And then as you’re cooking things how’s the seasoning. How’s it taste now? Start thing about how’s it gonna taste in an hour. How’s it gonna taste in 2 hours. When I take it out again, is it done? I don’t know I haven’t tasted it. How’s the seasoning? These are things that in a professional kitchen, everybody does, but I think at home people forget these things and how important that is.”

That sentiment of tasting and tasting also ties back into the sentiment given by Chef Sarah in Part 2 about patience in the kitchen. If you start with the absolute best ingredients, then take your time and really learn what you’re cooking. There is nothing bad that can come of that.

So how do two hard working deli owners relax on their days off? What do they like to make? “Reservations,” joked Chef Leo. A common theme I noticed among some of the chefs I talked too. Whereas Chef Evan likes to cook almost the exact opposite food that he cooks in the restaurant every day. “…Really on my day off I want something that is not heavy, and fatty. I want spicy flavors, bright flavors. So you might find me cooking Chinese food, Thai food, Korean food. Things that I don’t get to play with in the restaurant are the things that I want to cook.  I have a Korean girlfriend, and I actually cook a lot of Korean food at home.”

Since they had talked so much about how good products and good relationships had made their lives easier, I was curious what they would say was the one thing they couldn’t live without. What one thing made their lives so much easier they wouldn’t be able to go on without it. I wasn’t terribly surprised when they both answered salt. Not one person I talked to that day had said anything different. Chef Evan also jokingly added his prep guys were a must have, but also said “Sharp knives. You cut yourself less with a sharp knife. You’re less likely to slip. With a sharp knife you can cut everything uniform and everything the way it needs to be for whatever it is you’re cooking.” Having cut myself just a few days prior to our interview, this was a piece of advice I could fully get behind.

Our interview was drawing to a close and I wanted to know what was next for Wise Sons. They have quite a bit on their plate coming up so make sure and keep a look out for them. “We are going to be opening a sandwich shop in the contemporary Jewish museum in downtown San Francisco. Mission and 3rd. That should be opening this summer. We’re gonna be expanding our sandwich menu, salads and soups. Having a full line of bagels which we get from the east bay from Beauty’s bagel shop. Every morning we’re gonna have a number of different bagel sandwiches and schmears and really looking forward to all that. So that’s the next step to for us,” explained Chef Evan.

After our interview, it was Chef Evan and Leo’s turn to take the stage and they demo’d how to make matzo ball soup. I wasn’t able to see it because I had another interview, but I heard it was fantastic. I’m sure it was a huge hit with the crowd also since the clouds had started to settle in by now and the temperature was dropping. Although no one seemed to tell the line for the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, which continued to stretch the entire length of the field.

In the fourth and final part of my series, I talk with Chef Minh Tsai of Hodo Soy whose knowledge of tofu was astounding. I learned a lot from him and I’m excited to share it.

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Chipotle Cultivate Festival. Part 2: Rich Table

June 19th, 2013

by Kyra Martin

I was still buzzing from my first interview while I waited for my second. Matt Costa had taken the stage and the crowd was starting to swell. The vibe of the festival was starting to get electric and jovial. The clouds were slowly starting to creep in; despite the forecast that had called for 100 degree weather; when I had the chance to talk with Chefs Evan and Sarah Rich of Rich Table here in San Francisco.

Immediately upon meeting them, you can’t help but feel at ease. They give off such a warm and welcoming aura. I can’t wait to go to their restaurant to have that kind of dining experience. Love is often the most important ingredient in food and these two definitely have it. Best deal for cheap sildenafil purchase online without prescription here sildenafilfamily.com

This is their first year with Chipotle Cultivate and they demo’d an olive oil cake with strawberries and cream cheese icing, which I will forever be upset about missing. Good news is it makes regular appearances on their menu. Add that to the list of reasons to check out Rich Table!

“Some people involved came in and ate and kind of…hounded us to do,” joked Chef Evan. “We looked into what the festival was about and felt like it was something good.” Chef Sarah elaborated saying, “I think something that peaked our interest about it was they asked us if we wanted to do a demo and they asked us if we wanted to include a farmer that we liked to work with and include one of their products. And that was what really sold it to us. We are only able to do what we do because of the products we use. The farmers out here are amazing, I cannot say enough about them and the products that we can get from them.  …We chose Tomatero farms, and used their strawberries. And so the chance to really highlight them and what they do and give them a platform as well to talk about their farm and their product.”

And the farmers are in the front of their minds when they are planning their menus. “We get everything, pretty much all of our produce and a lot of meat from the farmers market,” said Chef Evan. “Our menu planning is done at the market when we look at what they have, what’s good and what’s around that week so it kinda just evolves that way.” “And it’s so easy to do that here, and when you can do it, why not?” explained Chef Sarah, “We’re not in the middle of nowheresville, you can do it here. And I’d imagine in places where you don’t have the access to that it’s a lot harder, so why not take advantage of what’s so great about being here.”

Again with the main focus of the festival being sustainability, I was wondering how they would define sustainable.  What types of factors did they look for in farms and vendors when they were thinking of working with them? “I think we found that the people who are really passionate and have the love for what they do make good choices in going down that path…naturally,” said Chef Sarah.  “Sustainable to me is someone who has a lot of passion for what they do, and is in it for the long haul,” explained Chef Evan. “Isn’t in it to make a million dollars. This is their lifestyle, this is what they do. So obviously they have to be sustainable. They’re passionate enough about it, and know what the right steps are to do it right, so that there will be future in it and it will recreate and not ruin things or have to cash in and call it quits.” These passionate cooks look for the passionate farmers, and obviously it’s working. Sustainability is a circle and with chefs working directly with farms, it’s easy to keep it going.

Chef Evan and Sarah had a knowledge of food and ingredients that I was lucky to be able to tap in to. And like in all my interviews, I wanted to know what tips they would share with home cooks.  Chef Sarah had this piece of advice, “One thing, I don’t know this is an obvious thing, but I think patience in an extremely important part of cooking that people don’t really tap into.” I laughed and told her I was terrible with patience. This is definitely something I personally could use some work on. “I do it too,” she continued, “I’m so excited to see how it’s gonna work out that I take it out too quickly, or I did that cake [in our demo] that you really have to beat the eggs and sugar for a long time to get to this nice really ribbony, full volume stage and if just don’t do that, it’s just not gonna be the same cake. For me I think that’s the most important thing, just have patience.”  Chef Evan added another great piece of advice that is often over looked, “Repetiveness. You gotta be patient, you gotta do things a bunch of times before you get it. You can understand how things work so that you can make them better and different.”

It’s harder to do things over and over and over at home then it is in culinary school because you’re providing your own ingredients and then have to find out something to do with them. But if you’re making mashed potatoes, practice your knife skills before you put them in the pot. You’re going to mash them up anyway, so what’s it matter if you julien them, or dice them, or mince them. It’s a great way to practice and not be wasteful. Also do some research and see if your food can be frozen. I’m always surprised to find things I was going to throw away, I can freeze and save for later.

So what does this power culinary couple like to make on their day off? “Reservations!” laughed Chef Evan. “Umm, a dent in my pillow,” joked Chef Sarah. “Actually, to be honest,” continued Chef Evan, “we keep things really simple. Obviously we go to the farmers market a lot, and we just bring home some good produce. Grill a steak and saute up some nice fresh vegetables. Really out here it’s easy to make things taste good because the products are so good. You don’t have to try very hard and it can be very quick and easy.” Chef Sarah offered this really easy, and absolutely amazing sounding recipe, “I say my favorite thing in the summertime is get a whole bunch of early girl tomatoes and marinate them with olive oil and vinegar and salt and pepper and then I put buratta [a mixture of fresh mozzarella and cream] on top. And then I roast a bunch of padron peppers, like char them, and then put the warm charred padron peppers on top of the tomatoes. It’s so good.”

What’s the one thing in their kitchen they can’t live without? “My hands,” said Chef Sarah looking down with a smile. They both agreed that salt was a must have. They use sea salt at the restaurant. “It’s got a nice flavor,” explained Chef Evan. “I’d also say butter,” added Chef Sarah. “I use a lot of butter. More butter, more better. That’s what I learned in culinary school from my French chef.” The other thing they can’t live without is a definite must have in all professional kitchens “Sharpie! Sharpie!” exclaimed Chef Evan. “[You] Should always have a sharpie. For labeling.” “Evan has 3,000 Sharpies on his nightstand. It’s crazy,” joked Chef Sarah.

I was curious what was next for Rich Table and for them. They obviously are having blast doing what they are doing. “You know, with success comes a lot of opportunities,” said Chef Evan. “And to be honest, our focus at this point is just making Rich Table the most special and exciting place that we can make it. …We have a lot of people coming and we wanna make sure that everyone that comes in has a great experience. For the future, there’s no plans. We’re still focusing on Rich Table. We wanna make sure that it’s special. Then who knows what the future will bring.”

It was so great to be able to talk with this couple who seem to honestly and genuinely love where they are and what they do.  I can’t wait to check out their restaurant in San Francisco, and if you’re in the area I recommend you look it up too.

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In part 3, I talk with Chefs Evan Bloom and Leo Beckerman of Wise Sons Deli about how they use local products to make Jewish comfort food.

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Chiptole Cultivate Festival. Part 1: Trois Mec

June 14th, 2013

by Kyra Martin

Now in its third year, the Chipotle Cultivate Festival travels to several cities around the country educating people on sustainability and the food we eat. It highlights local farms and offers cooking demonstrations from local and celebrity chefs alike. Cultivate seeks to bring healthy, local, and sustainable food into the forefront of everyone’s mind.

Golden Gate Park was the site of this year’s Cultivate Festival; its first time in San Francisco. The festival had three main stages: two showcasing chef demos and one for live music. Local breweries sponsored a tasting hall with samples of choice local brews; including one made exclusively for the festival. There was also an artisan’s hall featuring local specialty food makers of everything from cookies to meats.

Oh, the food! There were several stands offering Chipotle favorites like tacos and gorditas, as well as offerings from Chipotle’s new Shophouse Southeast Asian Kitchen venture. Currently only offered back east but hopefully making its way westward soon. The biggest draw for the crowd seemed to be The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck. Despite the chilly weather, their line was, and remained, the longest of the festival. Based on what I saw walking around, I wish I had time to try it.

At the press tent I was greeted by the friendly face of my festival organizer contact. She gave me my schedule and I was able to explore while I waited for my first interview. One of the more jarring displays at the festival exposed the vast array of chemicals that go into processed foods. It was eye-opening and left you with a feeling of trying to pay more attention to what you’re really eating.

The turnout was amazing and I was lucky enough to speak with Chefs Jon Shook, Vinny Dotolo, and Ludo Lefebvre from Trois Mec in Los Angeles. Opened by the “three dudes” (trois mec means “three dudes” in French) just 2 months ago, it’s quickly gained a following in L.A. This is the first standalone restaurant for Chef Ludo who rose to fame with his pop-up restaurants Ludo Bites. This is the third venture for Chef Jon Shook and Chef Vinny Dotolo, who also own Animal and Son of a Gun.

Being surrounded by three such accomplished chefs was humbling to say the least. Their love and passion for what they do was almost palpable. Hopefully my star struck-ness was not…

This was Chef Jon and Chef Vinny’s second year with Cultivate, but their first in San Francisco.  Chef Jon explained to me how they got involved, “Chipotle called us, told us they were planning on doing these Cultivate events and explained to us what they were about. They were, like, right in line with what we were about and we were like, ‘man sounds like fun let’s do.’ And we had such a good time last year that when it came back around this year, we said ‘Ludo you gotta do this event its super fun, people are good and it’s a good time’ and here we are year two”

Since the festival is all about sustainability and local, and with three restaurants between the group, I was curious how big a role that played when they were creating their menus. “They’re of the upmost importance,” said Chef Vinny, “We shop the farmers markets for all the restaurants and for Trois Mec, heavily, three times a week. Almost all of the produce is sourced from the farmers markets, local farms and people we know. There’s a great connection there. We’re lucky here in California to have farmers markets be such a huge part of our culture and know that a lot of the farms practice sustainability and they treat the earth and the ground and the vegetables the way they should be. And I think that’s important for us.”

Chef Ludo explained further what they really look for when they go “hunting for ingredients,” “It’s like all good ingredients, its taste. When we go shopping for ingredients, hunting for ingredients, that’s what we do, that’s our job. 80 percent of my job is to go find ingredients. We are looking for good taste, ingredients that taste [like] what it’s supposed to taste like. You want a tomato that tastes like a tomato. A peach like a peach.” It was wonderful to see chefs care so much not only about the end dishes they put out, but the ingredients that go into them. All of the chefs at the festival really had a love and passion for food in all its forms.

Being that our website has many home cooks that look to us for advice and tips, I was able to get some awesome ideas from three of California’s best chefs!  Chef Vinny had this to say about an easy way to elevate your day to day meals, “Have good ingredients in your house, a few good condiments, few good vinegars, a few good oils on hand that you can always just grab, a good spice cabinet. You know keep things simple, don’t over think it. A few good things, 3-4 things on a plate or in a dish, keep it simple and make it easy. Have fun with it and love what you’re doing. You can make anything delicious, even peanut butter and jelly.” “Don’t complicate,” added Chef Ludo.

But what’s the one thing a professional chef can’t live without in their kitchen. The answer was unanimous and an overwhelming “SALT!” “[I prefer] Kosher salt, personally. But there’s so many out there,” explained Chef Jon. “Butter,” added Chef Vinny. And French born and raised Chef Ludo can’t live without his “Salt and mustard. French. Dijon.” “And he’s not talking about ‘French’s’!!” Chef Jon added laughing. And he definitely wasn’t. I don’t know where to find the mustards he was talking about, but they definitely sounded worth looking in to.

I concluded our interview with the question I was most curious about, what does a person who cooks all day, every day make on their day off? “Something for the kids,” answered Chef Vinny. “Roasted chicken and potato,” said Chef Ludo. He stuffs the chicken with, “Lemon, garlic, thyme, butter and oil. That’s it. And potato. I love it, I grew up with it. My grandma was always cooking roasted chicken and potato on Sunday. So I do the same thing for my kid. You know, its memory.”

And that statement, “Its memory,” is what stands out the most to me from our whole interview. Food builds memories, triggers memories, brings the ones you love together. It was such a pleasure being able to talk with three chefs who care so much about what they do.

In part 2, I talk with Evan and Sarah Rich of Rich Table in San Francisco, about their experience with the festival and how they work with farmers on a daily basis. And make sure to check out our Facebook page for a photo album from the event!!

If you’re curious about Cultivate, you still have two chances left this year to get in on the action. Check out the schedule for Denver and Chicago here: http://chipotle.com/cultivate/

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And in case you missed it, here is our blog post about salt (hint: this was a common answer among all my interviews!!): http://blog.cookeatshare.com/index.php/2013/06/05/tis-the-seasoning/

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Tis the Seasoning

June 5th, 2013

by Kyra Martin

Seasoning is what makes or breaks your food. Any type of food. Savory, baking, candy, anything. And the best way to add and enhance flavor is salt. But if you've been to the store lately, you've probably noticed that it's not just Morton's anymore. Salt is taking on a life of it's own.  You might find yourself wondering, “Is there a really a difference between all these options, I thought salt was salt?!” The truth is there really is a difference. While the flavor is generally similar, their uses vary greatly and can actually make a difference in your cooking.

Iodized Salt

Good ol' Morton's. Also known as table salt, this is the salt most people use on a daily basis and what you find at restaurants. When in doubt, this salt is your best option.

Kosher Salt

With a grain slightly larger then iodized, this is the go to salt when cooking. It melts into the food without having to use as much. If you've ever been in a professional kitchen you've probably seen the giant red boxes hanging out on every shelf. The easiest way to elevate your cooking quickly is to switch out iodized for Kosher.

Rock Salt

Rock salt is best used when trying to keep food cold or make ice cream. You sprinkle it on the ice to increase the chemical reaction. It's not used for cooking.

Sea salt and Fleur de sel

While there is a difference in sea salt and fleur de sel (it has mostly to do with how they're harvested or place of origin) their use is the same. Most sea salts are best used as finishing salts.  If your sea salt is course and not flaked, use it in cooking and not at the table. The course texture can be assertive on your palette.

Finishing Salt

Finishing salts are the salt you sprinkle on the meal after it's finished cooking as the final seasoning. Sea salt is best used in place of table salt. Finishing salts are best used in flake form, so that they easy melt into your food. And they don't have to be fancy, it's great on popcorn!

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Himalayan Rock Salt

Generally pink in color, this salt seems to have bust on to the scene lately. Or maybe I've just started noticing it. It's harvested in huge slabs and is used in a lot of restaurants as a serving vessel for food due to it's ability to hold high temperatures for extended periods.  It can also be found ground and used in cooking or finishing. Up until now, the general flavor of the salts mentioned is, well, salty, but I've noticed Himalayan has a slight smoky flavor in addition. Which brings us to our next salt…

Smoked Salts

The name is pretty self explanatory. Smoked salts are salts that have been smoked low and slow over different types of wood. And just like good barbeque, the wood imparts it's flavor onto the salt. Smoked salts are best used as finishing salts, although they are awesome in candy. Check out smoked salt caramels. So good!

Flavored Salt

Generally it's kosher salt that has been mixed with different seasonings. Different smoking woods, dried herbs, citrus zests, all mixed together to create different flavor profiles. These are great to use while cooking, but make sure if you're using salt mixed with herbs that it blends well with what you're cooking. I think they are best used as finishing salts so the flavors stay fresh and don't cook out.

I have some citrus salt in my cabinet I'm looking forward to using soon. As if this didn't seem like enough options, a few of these categories can be broken down even farther, based on region and flake v. course ground.  So next time you're looking to add a little more pop to your cooking, try using a new type of salt. It's an inexpensive way to add a twist to your favorite dishes. Try a few types and see if you can't spot the differences in flavor. Make sure to check out CookEatShare for recipe ideas!!

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So You Wanna Be A Food Writer?

May 14th, 2013

by Kyra Martin

When I was in culinary school I expressed to my chefs that I was interested in becoming a food critic. They all told me similar things: learn the basics, work in a kitchen for several years to develop your knowledge and skills and then try writing about it. But they forgot a basic element, writing ability. “In my opinion you have to be able to write first–about anything.” You can’t be a writer without knowing how to write, as pointed out by food writer Michael Ruhlman.

I recently had a chance to interview Mr. Ruhlman about his career.  “I wanted to be a novelist and a journalist. When I turned to the topic of food and cooking …the work suddenly flourished.”

Originally intending to write non-fiction narratives, Ruhlman had proposed an idea for a book to his publishers. He wanted to infiltrate the Culinary Institute of America, one of the most prestigious culinary schools in the country if not the world, and write about what they taught the next generation of chefs. What did it really take to become a culinary titan?  After several months of waiting with little back and forth, the green light was given and in 1997, his book The Making of a Chef was published.  From there one thing led to another and soon enough, Ruhlman had established a known and respected name in the food world.

One of the first big breaks Ruhlman had was when he was hired to help Chef Thomas Keller write The French Laundry Cookbook. Already an established icon in the culinary world, Keller was doing things in California’s Napa Valley that were gathering worldwide attention. It was an incredible opportunity that lead to a long, and continuing, relationship with Chef Keller.  After successfully completing the French Laundry book, other chefs began to take notice and soon, some of the biggest names in the culinary circle were seeking the Cleveland native to assist in writing their cookbooks.

Though he may not officially be a chef, Ruhlman certainly counts as a culinary authority and has developed his own culinary style. “My style is casual and easy with strong flavors and very little visual design in terms of plating…” Something his wife, Donna, the food photographer, has had to learn to overcome when snapping pictures of his food. “I’ve adopted a variety of techniques taken from other chefs and put them to use in my own cooking.”  Ruhlman also has the rare experience that many food writers don’t have: working the hot line at a busy restaurant. “It was 150 degrees at my grill station, literally. As soon as I got the French Laundry gig and Making of a Chef was about to come out I gave my two weeks. I wouldn't last 2 consecutive nights on the line at my age.” It’s an intense and humbling experience to work the line.

Overtime, Ruhlman began to compile his own recipes despite it all. “I hate recipes,” he admitted to me in our interview.  Soon enough his first cookbook was published and several more have followed.  His most recent book, due out in August, is an ode to that most loved of cooking ingredients- Fat. The Book of Schmaltz: Love Song to a Forgotten Fat is all about the love of rendered chicken fat and how it can impart flavor to so many things in so many ways. “This country loves fat. Eating fat is not what makes us fat. …The idea that fat is in fact good for you in small doses has called attention to [the] fact that if you avoid processed food and cook your own food you get skinnier and healthier.”  Ruhlman also writes about his love of cured meats in Charcuterie, a book dedicated to fat and salt, and with an updated version soon to published. A love shared with close Cleveland friend, Chef Michael Symon, well known for his love of the stuff.

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So what does a prominent food writer keep in his fridge, something we all can relate too. “My fridge is a nightmare I have clean out when I get home, packed with food … cooked for photography for [the] new book. But I would be seriously bummed if there weren't some good parmigiano reggiano in it. Fave not in the fridge…red boat fish sauce.” Having myself worked in kitchens for a few years, there is an unspoken love between all culinarians and their fish sauce. They put it in everything. Chances are you love fish sauce and just don’t know it yet.

And what books would an award winning cookbook author recommend: “New Pro Chef 5th Ed, my CIA text book. That and Pepin’s La Technique. What it all comes down to.” When I was in school this was something my chefs couldn’t reiterate enough to us. You have to know the basics before you can embellish. And if you really look at your recipes, you will start to find that they all have the same basic qualities. Do those right, and you’re well on your way to becoming an excellent cook.

As a final farewell, I concluded by asking what advice he would give to people thinking of becoming food writers or chefs. He said, “Don't do anything for money until you know what the fuck you're talking about. Second, know what the fuck you're talking about. Which is very rare.”

I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to speak with someone who has worked with so many people I look up to. Someone who has done so much in their career and looks to be only climbing higher. I highly recommend looking into Mr. Ruhlman’s writings, especially Main Dish; a short and heartwarming essay about how it all started.  Ruhlman’s books can be found on Amazon or on his website www.ruhlman.com.

Despite his disdain for recipes, Mr. Ruhlman was kind enough to let me re-publish one here. The original can be found here: http://ruhlman.com/2010/01/america-too-stupid-to-cook/

The World’s Most Difficult Roasted Chicken Recipe

Turn your oven on high (450 if you have ventilation, 425 if not).  Coat a 3- or 4-pound chicken with coarse kosher salt so that you have an appealing crust of salt (a tablespoon or so).  Put the chicken in a pan, stick a lemon or some onion or any fruit or vegetable you have on hand into the cavity.  Put the chicken in the oven.  Go away for an hour.  Watch some TV, play with the kids, read, have a cocktail, have sex.  When an hour has passed, take the chicken out of the oven and put it on the stove top or on a trivet for 15 more minutes.  Finito.

About the Author: Kyra was trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Seattle and graduated highest honors with her diploma in Patisserie and Baking. She is currently working as a personal chef and is also the Community Manager for CookEatShare.com.

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Veggies for Carnivores by Lora Krulak

December 5th, 2012

Lora Krulak sent me a copy of her cookbook “Veggies for Carnivores” early this Fall and Nancy and I have been trying various recipes from it. It's relatively small for a cookbook and refreshingly informal. It reads like you're standing in Lora's kitchen and she's telling you what she likes to make and why. In many cases she'll give you options for various ingredients to use. She doesn't assume you'll have exactly her taste, so she gives you guidelines and let's you explore.

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If you feel that you don't get enough vegetables in your diet because they usually aren't cooked with enough flavor, this is a great book for you. Lora does not shy away from bold spices and flavors, and the dishes we've tried have been bursting with flavor. To try a sample recipe from the book and see if you like it, try this Chopped Salad with Sweet Basil Dressing Recipe. You can view some of the pages of Veggies for Carnivores on Amazon.com.  Thanks for sharing it with us, Lora!

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What's Happening in the Culinary World This July

July 3rd, 2012

2012 ACF National Convention

ACF is heading south to the Sunshine State for the 2012 National Convention, July 14–17. We are returning to sunny Orlando, Fla., for another unforgettable convention. The Orlando World Center Marriott Resort will host this jam-packed, four-day convention, offering exceptional educational programming and networking opportunities.

For more details, visit ACF’s Website.

Central Coast Wine Classic

A hallmark of the 28th annual four-day event on California's Central Coast is the popular Dinner at Hearst Castle in San Simeon during which guests are seated at a terrace in view of La Casa Grande, the Greco-Roman swimming pool and the Santa Lucia Mountain Range. Other events will include winery dinners and tastings, a cheese tasting symposium, live and silent auctions, cooking demonstrations and a concert featuring stellar percussionists. Ancient Peaks, Center of Effort and Sinor-LaVallee are a few of the 50 California wineries that will be providing their finest Chardonnay.

Visit Central Coast Wine Classic's site for more information.

Festival del Sole

Napa Valley Festival del Sole returns for a seventh season of world-class music, dance, food & wine. Highlights include performances by Joshua Bell, Danielle de Niese, Susan Graham, Nathan Gunn, Hélène Grimaud, the Russian National Orchestra, and members of the Bolshoi Ballet, plus the Napa premiere of the innovative 24 Hour Plays.

Details can be found at Festival del Sole.

Bastille Day

Bastille Day is the French national holiday that celebrates independence and freedom and commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison on July 14, 1789. Angelenos will join in the celebration of Bastille Day and the spirit of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité on Sunday, July 15th, 2012, at the Kenneth Hahn SRA  (4100 S. La Cienega Blvd) just south of Jefferson. with French gastronomic delicacies and live entertainment.

Visit Bastille Day Los Angeles for more info.

L'Eté du Vin

Summer welcomes the return of America's oldest wine charity event, which traditionally entails bidding and imbibing, with wine and dinner complementing the live auctions. For its 33rd year, the charity at the luxury Loews Vanderbilt Hotel in midtown Nashville is scheduled to feature “a new and exciting format.” This year, wine will be paired with six courses prepared by Loews restaurant executive chef Elaine Taubin.

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For more information, visit Nashville Wine Auction.

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CookEatShare Launches iPad Cook View

July 2nd, 2012

In March, CookEatShare.com released its Cook View for the iPad and other tablets. It utilizes HTML5 to create a remarkable experience that’s exclusive to tablet users. All you need to do is find a recipe you like on CookEatShare, click the iPad Cook View link below the recipe summary.

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The HTML Cook View is a great tool if you like cooking with a recipe open on your iPad. It places the ingredients and directions side by side in separate scrolling boxes so the user never has to scroll up and down the page itself.

There is a slide to help keep track of what step you are on. When you touch any step in the recipe, the slider automatically moves and highlights that step. You can also increase or decrease the font size with a touch.

The Cook View is available for all recipes, over 500,000, found on CookEatShare.com.

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