Globe restaurant critic Devra First chats about food and dining out in the city at noon.
The James Beard Foundation today announced the finalists for its annual awards, which recognize excellence in the culinary world. This year, a number of area individuals are named.
On the national level, Barbara Lynch of No. 9 Park, Menton, B&G Oysters, and more is among the nominees for outstanding restaurateur. This award recognizes "a working restaurateur who sets high national standards in restaurant operations and entrepreneurship." Lynch is up against Donnie Madia of Chicago (Blackbird, Avec, The Publican), Cindy Pawlcyn of Napa Valley, Calif. (Mustards Grill, Cindy’s Back Street Kitchen), Caroline Styne of Los Angeles (Lucques, A.O.C., Tavern), and Phil Suarez of New York (ABC Kitchen, Jean-Georges, wd~50).
The Boston-area nominees for Best Chef: Northeast (a region that includes Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New York State outside of the city, Rhode Island, and Vermont) are Jamie Bissonnette for Coppa, Joanne Chang for her Flour bakery/cafes, Michael Leviton for Lumiere, and Barry Maiden for Hungry Mother. Also nominated: Gerry Hayden of the North Fork Table & Inn in Southold, N.Y., and Matt Jennings of Farmstead in Providence.
Providence gets further recognition in the America's Classics category, with Olneyville New York System, owned by Stephanie Stevens Turini and Greg Stevens, up for an award. The place is famed for a Rhode Island specialty, New York system wieners, a.k.a. hot wieners or gaggers, topped with a meat sauce and more.
In the journalism awards' "food and culture" category, Boston Magazine restaurant critic Corby Kummer is nominated for his feature “Can Starbucks Do for the Croissant What it Did for Coffee?” in Smithsonian. In the broadcast/new-media area, for "radio show/audio webcast," "Here & Now" with hosts Meghna Chakrabarti, Jeremy Hobson, and Robin Young gets a nod.
Two Vermont writers have also been inducted to the James Beard Foundation Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America, Edward Behr and Barry Estabrook.
Let's talk about food.
Looking for a last-minute suggestion for where to dine out this Valentine's Day in Greater Boston? Or planning ahead for a spectacular St. Patrick's Day feast? Whether you're thinking about the latest holidays or deciding where to meet friends after work, Globe restaurant critic Devra First will field your questions and comments on Tuesday, Feb. 11, at noon. Submit your comments in the box below during the chat.
Need suggestions about where and what to eat? Chat live with Boston Globe restaurant critic Devra First for her take on the best places to visit right now.
Need last minute dining advice before the holidays? Critic Devra First answers your questions today at noon.
Have a question about a local restaurant? Want to know where to eat for the holidays? Check in with Devra First on Tuesday at noon.
Who needs dining-out suggestions? Chat live with Globe restaurant critic Devra First for her take on where to eat out in the Hub.
Perhaps you have been following the reaction to Time's "Gods of Food" package, which outraged many for its failure to cite a single woman chef. Perhaps you are entirely tired of the subject. Sorry. I'm here to revisit it.
I responded to Time's content here. Many others responded, too, including food writer Alan Richman. After reading his reaction -- find it here -- I tweeted the link, with the message: "Alan Richman's alternately wrongheaded and obvious take on 'Gods of Food' concurs there are no worthy woman chefs."
Some felt my tweet was unprofessional and a cheap shot, that it didn't state what I took issue with and explain why. I'm not a fan of cheap shots, so let this stand as a clarification.
The main reason I found Richman's piece wrongheaded was the one I stated in my tweet: It concurs there are no worthy woman chefs. "No women chefs among the magazine’s Gods of Food? Outrageous but accurate and, for that matter, obvious. I can’t understand why this earnest but banal list caused an uproar," Richman writes. I disagree, as stated in my earlier blog about the matter. A "culinary family tree," traced from four sets of chefs, included Rene Redzepi, Alain Passard, Ferran and Albert Adria, and Thomas Keller. I argued that Alice Waters has been as influential in our food culture as any of them. And Time's tree didn't include a single woman among nearly 60 chefs. No Elena Arzak, no Suzanne Goin, even though both easily fit into the lineage portrayed.
A few smaller points I'd also take issue with as wrongheaded:
"The relevant issue is why women do not move up in the kitchens of major restaurants, the breeding grounds for chefs aspiring to be Gods of Food. I suspect it’s due to restaurant kitchens' militaristic command structure, and women tend not to thrive in such situations."
No? Women find success in the actual military, the ultimate example of a militaristic command structure. We are going on suspicion here rather than research, and I suspect many women welcome clear-cut command structures and tend not to thrive in a squishy-wishy egalitarian kumbaya world of affirmation and processing where nothing actually ever gets accomplished. Not that those are the only two options.
"Chefs have never been particularly worldly or astute. Their skill set involves the stove."
Chefs travel more than most people I know, and in the interest of learning; there's no real way to experience the flavors and techniques coming out of Spain, Japan, Denmark, wherever, aside from actually going there. Not astute? Talk about a job that meshes right brain/left brain skills: Assuming we are talking about high-level chefs, one has to manage a staff of diverse personalities and issues, crunch numbers and manage costs and juggle tiny details to break a profit, finesse guests and the media, oh, and envision creative flavor combinations and presentations and make it all feel like art. A skill set that involves the stove -- rather than a computer? a professor's lectern? what? -- has no reflection on one's intelligence or lack thereof. There are plenty of sharp, clever chefs; there are plenty of dumb people-who-work-not-at-a-stove.
As for obvious:
In an aside, Richman asks: "Why has modern food journalism become little else but lists?" This may be rhetorical; I suspect we all know some of the answer. It has to do with time and money, both resources short for all kinds of journalists these days, and it has to do with page views. Lists get a lot of them.
And: "Excessive manliness is widespread in restaurant kitchens. Given a choice of promoting a man or a woman, male chefs generally pick a man -- he will feel humiliated if passed over for a women." This doesn't seem news, in any field. Hey, I'll bet men in kitchens pull higher salaries than women, too.
Richman and I do come to similar conclusions, however.
He writes: "The old guard of chefs never thought about creating opportunities for women. That’s changing. That system is too feudal for this world. Women will become gods, probably soon. The lid can’t stay on the pot forever."
I don't believe the new guard is necessarily thinking explicitly about creating opportunities for women; I suspect it is happening more organically than that. But it is happening.
As I wrote in my original post on the subject:
"When a version of this chart is drawn up in 10 years (as it will be; the culinary family tree is a staple of publications food-themed and otherwise), it will look different. The number of women-run restaurants with Michelin stars is increasing. There are more opportunities for leadership and mentorship. Food television (the influence of which Time simply ignores), a medium that's been friendly to women since Julia Child, is launching many woman chefs at a high level of visibility. About this world one thing is certain: Change will come."
These luscious lilttle squares are from "Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Cookbook." They're brownies made with hazelnuts, pecans, and almonds and they knocked me out. Once they cooled, I packed them in two tins lined with foil, secured tightly with masses of clear tape, and enclosed in bubble wrap. They're going to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan to some soldiers from Massachusetts.
Last week I made chocolate ginger snaps, which are also memorable, from the Mast Brothers' book. The brothers are artisan chocolate makers based in Brooklyn. They will be in Boston on Tuesday. They have Red Sox beards, though doesn't everyone in Brooklyn?
Brownies with hazelnuts, almonds, and pecans
12 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut up
1 3/4 cups brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1. Set the oven at 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan.
2. In a saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate, butter, and brown sugar. Stir in the vanilla.
3. Beat in the eggs until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the flour, salt, baking powder, and nuts. Mix until blended. Transfer the batter to the pan.
4. Bake the brownies for 30 minutes or until they are firm to the touch. Cool completely. Cut into 16 squares. Adapted from “Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Cookbook”
On Friday evening, Boston University hosted Los Angeles resident and Korean-born chef Roy Choi who discussed his new memoir/cookbook, "L.A. Chef: My Life, My City, My Food." Choi is a forerunner of the now popular food truck movement with his Kogi BBQ trucks, which serve Korean tacos -- marinated short rib, cabbage, romaine, lime juice, cilantro, onion, and salsa roja. When the trucks debuted in 2008, they were an immediate hit and publishers were begging Choi to write a cookbook.
"For two-three years I flat out rejected it. I was in no place to write it. I didn't want to confront any of this stuff. All I wanted, to be honest, was for everything to just go away." The "everything" Choi is referring to is his partying past. If he was going to agree to be published, he says, he wanted to do it his way; a memoir that told a complete story through food.
His other stipulations were that he wanted it to be accessible to his family and friends who don't cook. He didn't just want to focus on the successes that have fueled his popularity.
"It's not a Kogi book. It's about how this flavor came about. It's not a book about what I can do as a chef or creating food porn pictures that you roll through and never cook. Sometimes in the food world we only talk about the beautiful things," he says.
"The book was written like Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side of the Moon.' It's just one long layout. It starts at one point and you go through a story that evolves and changes and leads you somewhere."
One recipe Choi demonstrated at BU was his "Ghetto Pillsbury Fried Doughnuts," his take on traditional Portuguese malasadas. The presentation was simple and delicious: hunks of store-bought Pillsbury biscuit dough fried in shortening and rolled in cinnamon, sugar, and crushed sesame seeds. Choi vacations frequently in Hawaii -- a state with a large Portuguese population -- but this dish means far more to him in the context of his troubled history.
Before the event, Choi relayed a story of having his heart broken by a girl in Providence, then driving to "pre-Giuliani New York," being swindled out of all his money, and bunking with a stranger at a YMCA, where he was introduced to crack cocaine. Choi went into what he calls a "rabbit hole" of addiction, where his only comfort was in simple, but decadent foods like his "Ghetto" malasadas. He explores this and other recipes, such as ketchup fried rice and instant ramen topped with butter and American cheese.
Later in the evening, Choi navigated the spiritual aspects of washing and preparing perfect rice. He also talked about his early life and his mother's cooking, including her braised short rib stew, which he likened to American meatloaf.
"Every person you meet in Korean culture says their mom's Galbi Jjim is the best. This is a really special dish because there are not many dishes that can permeate every square inch and every fabric of your home. Bacon does that. Chocolate chip cookies do that. And Korean short rib stew."FULL ENTRY
The cover package for the Nov. 18 international editions of Time magazine is headlined "The Gods of Food." If you happen to be a goddess, good luck to you.
Four of 13 so-called gods of food are women. The package includes a story with the headline "The Dudes of Food," about chefs Alex Atala (D.O.M., Sao Paulo), Rene Redzepi (Noma, Cophenhagen), and David Chang (the Momofuku restaurants, New York and beyond). The three are pictured on the cover, with the subhed: "Meet the people who influence what (and how) you eat." And -- this is the part that really burns -- there is a family tree of chefs that doesn't include a single woman. Out of nearly 60 chefs.
In an interview with Eater, editor Howard Chua-Eoan explains. "We did not want to fill a quota of a woman chef," he says. "We wanted to go with reputation and influence."
But what about Alice Waters? Reputation? Influence? If anyone is responsible for the spread of the farm-to-table movement, for the embrace of local, seasonal, sustainably raised food, it is the founder of Chez Panisse. Indeed, Chua-Eoan says, they considered using her as one of starting points of the culinary family tree. (And one can certainly argue plenty of deserving male chefs were passed over as well.) "But her chart ... the thing about Alice is she retains a lot of loyalty, the people who work in her kitchens stay. There are a couple of big names who came out her kitchen, April [Bloomfield] and Dan Barber, I think, but otherwise the tree was sort of thin. So we had to go with someone else at that point. Alice is, of course, iconic."
In other words, the appearance of the graphic triumphed over its content. It's an unusually frank admission regarding the making of the sausage. So to speak. Anyone who works in editorial or design has been in a situation where one was compromised by the needs of the other. As an editorial person, I'd say it's more important, in putting together a graphic about influential chefs, to include the people who ought to be included. If one branch on the tree is thin, pad it out with another element, like the sections on "influential outliers" -- none of whom, in Time's tree, is a woman. (Or, really, an outlier.) Also, in the unnecessarily confusing key, one finds the categories "offshoots" and "shared techniques and inspirations." There's a lot of wiggle room there.
Oh, there is plenty to quibble about and suggest. Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers's River Cafe in London spawned chefs such as Jamie Oliver and the aforementioned Bloomfield. Elena Arzak of Arzak (3 Michelin stars) worked at El Bulli but doesn't appear on the Adria family tree. (In 2012, she was named "Best Female Chef in the World." That this category exists as separate is galling, too.) LA's Suzanne Goin worked with Passard. One wonders what Chang thinks of the package. One of his right-hand men is a woman, Christina Tosi. And although women are found more frequently in the front of the house at his restaurants, there are a good number of women sous chefs on staff.
But there is some truth here about women at the top of the restaurant industry, and about whom we pay attention to as being influential. The salve on the wound is that it is a historical truth. When a version of this chart is drawn up in 10 years (as it will be; the culinary family tree is a staple of publications food-themed and otherwise), it will look different. The number of women-run restaurants with Michelin stars is increasing. There are more opportunities for leadership and mentorship. Food television (the influence of which Time simply ignores), a medium that's been friendly to women since Julia Child, is launching many woman chefs at a high level of visibility. About this world one thing is certain: Change will come.
Now where are the black chefs?
Who needs dining-out suggestions? Replay the chat below to read Devra First's take on where to eat out in the Hub.
The new book, "Elizabeth David on Vegetables," compiled by Jill Norman, with recipes from the well-regarded British cookery writer, has many interesting things, including this Mayorquina, from the Mediterranean island of Majorca. The soup is little besides cabbage, tomatoes, and leeks, which simmer with water for a couple of hours.
It's peasant cooking at its best, with characteristics of both the French and Spanish kitchens, writes Norman. It might have cooked in an earthenware marmite. At one time the soup would have been poured into a tureen over slices of dark bread. Today, says Norman, you can put the bread in individual bowls and ladle in the soup. For a bowl that costs a few cents, the flavors are wonderful.
Someone overheard me recently going on and on about the wonderful Elizabeth David (1913-1992). Who is Elizabeth David? she asked.
"God," I answered.
(Cabbage soup from Majorca)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, sliced
1 Spanish onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and black pepper
2 plum tomatoes, peeled and sliced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and sliced
3 quarts hot water, or more if needed
1 small whole cabbage, coarsely chopped
Few sprigs fresh thyme
1 whole clove
1 bay leaf
Extra olive oil (for serving)
Extra fresh thyme (for garnish)
1. In a soup pot, heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil. Cook the leeks, onion, garlic, salt, and black pepper, stirring often, for 10 minutes, or until soft but not brown.
2. Add the tomatoes and bell pepper and cook, stirring often, for 15 minutes.
3. Slow add the hot water and bring to a boil. Add the cabbage, thyme sprigs, clove, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Set on the cover askew. Cook the soup, stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the cabbage has almost melted.
4. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like. Ladle the soup over slices of whole-wheat bread into bowls. Sheryl Julian. Adapted from “Elizabeth David on Vegetables”
I can't remember when swordfish tasted as good as it does this year. I prefer broiling to grilling because the hardwood charcoals tend to dominate the dish. Under a hot broiler, the fish cooks quickly and you can keep a closer eye on it. Tomatoes are still fleshy. Chop up a couple, add lots of black and green olives, fresh parsley or whatever herbs you have growing, and you have an elegant meal.
Broiled swordfish steaks with tomato-olive relish
1 1/2 pounds thickly cut (1-inch) swordfish, cut into 4 pieces
Olive oil (for sprinkling)
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped
3/4 cup mixed pitted black and green olives, chopped
3 scallions, trimmed and chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1. Turn on the broiler.
2. Sprinkle the fish with olive oil, salt, and pepper; set aside for 5 minutes.
3. In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, pepper, olives, scallions, and 2 tablespoons of the parsley. Taste for seasoning and add salt, if you like.
4. Sprinkle a cast-iron skillet or heavy broiler pan with oil. Add the fish. Broil about 5-inches from the element for 6 minutes (do not turn) or until the fish is just cooked through.
5. Arrange a piece of fish on each of 4 dinner plates and add relish. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon parsley. Sheryl Julian
It's a weekend to celebrate food, with two festivals on opposite ends of the flavor spectrum.
Globe Staff File Photo/Suzanne Kreiter
At the Egleston Farmers' Market in JP, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday, check out the Fermentation Fest. Learn all about making pickles, sake, kombucha, tempeh, and more. Workshops include "Small Batch Vegetable Fermentation From a Vermont Expert," "Microbiology of Fermented Foods," and "Obliterating Stomach Issues & Cultivating Awesome Qi." Can't beat that.
File Photo Patrick D. Rosso/Your Town Correspondent
Then take your awesome qi over to Somerville for the eighth annual "What the Fluff?" festival, celebrating the invention of marshmallowy goodness in Union Square, Saturday 3-7 p.m. (Rain date is Sunday.) There will be free pedicab rides from the T and a designated parking area, food vendors, live performances, a cooking contest, and shenanigans ranging from Fluff jousting to blind man's Fluff. A new Pharaoh of Fluff will also be anointed. It could be you!
What's cooking in the world of food.
ContributorsSheryl Julian, the Globe's Food Editor, writes regularly for the Food section.
Devra First is the Globe's food reporter and restaurant critic. Her reviews appear weekly in the Food section.
Ellen Bhang reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe and writes about wine.