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April 29, 2010

Some Things For You To Read and Think About and Help With

Congratulations to Alinea for coming in at #7 on the S.Pellegrino Top 50 World's Best Restaurants list (and #1 in the U.S.).  So well deserved.  I love that this list focuses on and rewards innovation and creativity.  I don't know about you, but I'm grateful for chefs who take risks, try unconventional things, and push the envelope... chefs who take us outside our comfort zone and make us think about what we're eating and why.  Do I want this in every meal?  No.  But, am I damn thankful for chefs and cooks who mix it up and make me think about food differently than I had before.  I love artists who challenge my way of thinking about painting or sculpture, actors who take risks and do bold things in their medium, and musicians who innovate... and when it comes to food, I so appreciate the amazing group of chefs in the top ten on that list who shake things up and unabashedly try new things to keep the industry on its toes.  That takes courage and guts and gumption, and it's awesome.

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Speaking of creativity, check out this video of the Alinea team brainstorming some ideas for the Spring 2010 menu:


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Last week, the International Association of Culinary Professionals hosted their annual meeting in Portland, OR, during which time Michael Ruhlman took part in a panel discussion that discussed the death of recipes.  Check out his piece in the Huffington Post's new Food Section that goes further into why he called bullshit on the notion that people don't have time to cook.  Michael and I see eye-to-eye on this issue.  What do you think?

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On Monday, I'll post the URL for the James Beard Awards live blog.  Hope you'll come check it out.  And, a special thanks to James Beard Award nominee Tim Carman from the Washington City Paper for his Q&A with me on the awards.  I'll be in New York Sunday and Monday hanging with some of my favorite chefs and food folks, so if you're not following me on Twitter (@carolblymire), you should... 'cause I'll tweet updates and photos as the festivities get underway.  And, if you have a minute, check out the list of nominees, and let me know (in the comments) what questions YOU think I should ask these folks.  Any chefs from your cities or towns in the running?  Any restaurants or chefs you think are the ones to watch?  Let me know.

See you Monday!

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To my chagrin, I didn't do a great job of cooking when I was working - long days, long commute, excuses, excuses. I really think the key is planning ahead. I now plan menus a week at a time, base my shopping list on the menus and have everything in the refrigerator/pantry and ready to go. No blank stares at the refrigerator trying to figure it out - just pull the ingredients and go. Works really well. I only wish I had started doing this centuries ago when the kids were little and life was crazy.

Way to go, Carol! Best of luck on Monday - I'm sure you'll have a blast. We'll be reading!

When my kids were babies, I had a hard time pulling off a real meal more than three times a week. (On those off nights, we ate pasta more times than I care to remember.) Now that they are 5 and 6, I have plenty of time to plan our weekly menus ... sometimes I make really simple meals that honestly don't take more than 15 minutes of hands-on work ... other times they might take me all morning to prepare. Either way, I'm cooking for my family 5-6 nights a week. When I go back to work I'll have to get more creative with my meals - more doubling and freezing of meals for later use - but we still won't be going the processed route. (Alinea meals aren't in our future either. But I still love reading about your forays into his cookbook!!!) :o))))

Chef Tony Maws from Craigie on Main in Cambridge, MA (where I work part time) has been nominated for Best Chef in the Northeast. Looking forward to watching the festivities through your eyes!

Ruhlman's right. It might take extra time on a Sunday, prior planning, chopping and shopping, but the notion that people don't have time to cook is bullshit. Slow cookers are a great tool for busy people. Roasts, soups and casseroles can be dinner and lunches. And, in the end, it's cheaper to buy fresh food and cook it at home than to buy prepared or processed stuff.

So for years I was all about cooking at home, but it seemed more expensive than eating out. Then I realized it was because I was making these complicated recipes for every meal. I'd make dinner and spend 70 bucks on ingredients. I have no kids, and usually I'm just cooking for myself or friends. So now I've had to make a serious effort to cook only basics, to stretch my food budget. Everyone always talks about how its automatically cheaper to cook for yourself, but it's really not, unless you teach yourself to eat cheap. That's the important part of the formula everyone always leaves out.

Congratulations on your Beard Awards inclusion, it's well deserved, so bask in that honor!! I read your City Paper Q&A and I had to crack up, somehow I knew you'd stay light-hearted and fun. Fortune favors the bold, and sometimes the boldest move is remaining down to earth in spite of continued success. So, take a little bow, and good luck Monday :)

In the vid, Michael took on "quick" cooking, I think it's not quite accurate to denigrate quick cooking. Many delicious dishes using real food can be prepared in minutes. Or, they can be prepped in mintues and left to do their own thing, like the roast chicken he described. We don't want to throw those dishes under the bus. More accurately, the issue is use of processed foods--which often are used because they're perceived to be shortcuts, but they aren't really, and they put bad stuff into us and take the goodness out of our food. It's processed, fake food that's the issue, not quick food, in my view.

Carol, I'm thrilled you got the Beard Awards gig. I can't wait to read your reports. Enjoy!

I agree that yes, we should make time to cook, and not rely on processed junk. HOWEVER, I do have a problem with him stating that 30 (or 20) minute meals aren't good enough. If I'm making a meal from fresh ingredients, why should it matter that it takes less than an hour to cook?

My take: Some prep time on Sunday, and 20 minutes to cook during the week is as fast as sitting in the drive through at Wendy's.

Congrats on the Beard award gig, but can the chef at French Laundry and Johnny Monis really be considered rising stars?

I still continue to take exception to Rachel Ray being thrown under the bus whenever food discussions come up. Rachel ray is passionate about the same ideas that you are...that you ALWAYS have time to cook. Anyone can believe that they are just as capable as she is, and they cook! Sometimes for the first time in their lives. Then they begin to see a whole new world open up before them....and when they are in the store and see a veggie, or a new cut of meat they think to themselves, "I can do this!" and they are off....suddenly taking on new ideas and challenges. And all because a warm, passionate woman told them that it was no big deal. I think she has started a revolution, and that more people than ever are in their kitchens...and one day, they too may cook from the French Laundry Cookbook.

[Carey, I totally agree with you! RR gets thrown under the bus way too quickly. I actually admire the fact that she uses far less processed food than her compatriots on FN. She has inspired a ton of people to get (back) into their kitchens, and that's awesome. The one thing that bugs me is the "30-minute" notion. But, I'm willing to give her a pass on that. -- CB]

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