Food Time Line Begins


M.F.K. Fisher writes Here Let Us Feast

Mrs. Paul’s Kitchens launches fish sticks

Brennan’s Restaurant opens. Creates competition for

Dinner at Antoine’s with Breakfast at Brennan’s

Arthur Bryant opens Bar-B-Cue restaurant in Kansas City

Taillevent opens in Paris.

1947          Reuben sandwich huge hit

1948          Frank Perdue, age 28 ruffles feathers when he takes control of Perdue Farms and its 40 employees

1948          Balducci’s opens

1948          J.I. Rodale says organically grown fruit and vegetables are good for you. Brand new idea

1950          Legal Seafoods opens

1950          The Coach House opens to fanfare

1950          The Rainbow Room blazes back on restaurant scene after wartime closing

1950 Diners Club is founded. Patrons carded

1950 Dunkin’ Donuts opens. Hole in one

1951 Parks Sausage is introduced in Baltimore

1951 Duncan Hines Cake Mix introduced. Sales rise

1951 Louis Zabar leaves business to sons, Saul, 22; Stanley, 18 and  Eli, 7

1951 L’Ecole des Trois Gourmandes opens in Paris with Julia one of the Trois

1953 Cheez Whiz introduced. Gee!

1953 “TV Dinner” appears on the market. Customers take news lying down

1953 Irish coffee is introduced at San Francisco’s Buena Vista Café

1953 Joe Baum, 33 opens The Newarker restaurant at Newark Airport, NJ

1955 Ray Kroc opens his first McDonald’s hamburger stand

1955 Kentucky Fried Chicken opens, Harland Sanders, 65 wings it

1955 Lum’s opens the first of its 390 restaurants in Miami Beach

1955 Ferdinand Point of Restaurant de la Pyramide at Vienne dies at age 58

1955 Owen Brennan dies at age 45, leaving sister Ella, 30 in charge

1956 Lever Brothers introduces Imperial margarine

1956 Paul Bocuse, 50 leaves La Pyramide to join his father at Collonges-au-Mont d’Or

1958 Williams-Sonoma opens in San Francisco. No pans.  Many pots

1958 Pizza Hut opens in Wichita Kansas. Delivers fast service

1958 International House of Pancakes opens in California. Sales not flat as…

1958 Henri Soulé opens La Côte Basque on the former site of Le Pavillon

1958 American Express Card founded

1959 Gaston Lenôtre, 44  opens a petit pâtisserie  in Paris

1959The James Beard Cookbook  is published

1959 Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream factory opened in the Bronx by Polish born Reuben Mattus

1959 Four Seasons opens for all

Please add more lines to this beginning.

(Ant)Arctic Chef

The following was an actual posting for a chef position by the British Antarctic Survey Natural Environment Research Council:

“Antarctica is the coldest and most isolated continent in the world. It’s also the exhilarating, providing a unique and spectacular setting for our vital scientific research.

Antony Dubber, Antarctic Chef

Antony Dubber, Antarctic Chef

The successful chef candidate must have proven experience in kitchen management, including inventory control and producing quality menus for up to 100 people. You’ll also have basic computer literacy, good communication skills and the ability to  work under pressure with limited time and resources. You must be willing to Continue reading

Food Job: Airport Chef (Height Haute)

There is no more pie in the sky…pie

Restaurant SmartBrief reports the following:

“Airport restaurants run much like traditional eateries, with a few additional challenges: they benefit from delays and flight cancellations but all too often the seats are filled with hungry, grumpy passengers who are unwilling guests. It is not surprising that among the many rules and regulations is the requirement for sharp kitchen knives to be tethered at all times. Metal knives on restaurant tables are not permitted.”

In addition to this, all food deliveries are carefully scrutinized for lethal bugs of all kinds. Every new employee must first undergo security clearance. Servers are required to have the patience of a saint. So this is an occupation that has to cope with more than the customary challenges. Continue reading

Holy Culinary Triumverate

chef-paul-farmers-market-02It was so oppressively hot this past weekend that I escaped from the outdoors to ‘do research’–that is, watch more television cooking shows than I can remember with little more than a cool drink by my side.

As I watched, I tried to fathom whether viewers would actually make what I saw if they didn’t precisely have all the (very expensive, extraneous) equipment at hand. And, who actually make duck confit at home these days?

As an admired group, celebrity chefs exert an extraordinary influence over a large sector of the food universe that is quite disproportionate to their relatively small numbers. They forge alliances with local farmers, who supply them with superior ingredients. The chefs become betrothed to the food media, who in return adore them and provide them with favorable press coverage and shower them with awards.

This powerful triumvirate—chef, farmer, and the media—influences the opinions and purchasing decisions of millions of consumers.

Perhaps there should be a new food job: TV food media critic.

Farm-to-Table Concept Is Growing

Among the most powerful little words in our language are: Guilty!Not Guilty!; I’m Pregnant; It’s a Boy!; We won!; Thank you;  Yes and NO!

Celebrated Chef Larry Forgione

Celebrated Chef Larry Forgione

Celebrated Chef Larry Forgione said, NO!

He said, “NO,” while standing at the podium in front of 350 of the top-flight food folk in the nation. He spoke at The First Symposium on American Cuisine convened by Phillip S. Cooke and Daniel Maye in Louisville, Kentucky in 1982.

Larry Forgione was the keynote speaker. He was chosen because he was, and remains to this day, a pioneer of farm-to-table local ingredient sourcing.

Chef Forgione talked in poetic, inspirational words, describing the joys of farm-fresh ingredients, grass-fed pork and beef, handmade berry and cherry preserves, honey and local dairy, artisanal cheeses.

At the end of his speech, he was asked if he would provide the audience with a list of his suppliers.

He said, “No” because  he couldn’t say, “Yes.’”

Why Not?

Forgione said NO but failed to explain to the audience that small farms and cottage industries that supplied his restaurant couldn’t possibly handle the huge volume that would be needed for deliveries to giant enterprises.

A view from Windows on the World restaurant

A view from Windows on the World restaurant

For example, the Windows on the World restaurant in the World Trade Center, was actually two acres of restaurants, serving hundreds of guests every day at breakfast, lunch and dinner. The management also dreamed of saving the environment and serving fruits and vegetables filled with sunshine, but their desire for quality always had to be tempered with practicality, and the need for large quantities of supplies.

Not incidentally, it was far too great a hassle for small farmers to drive many miles into downtown Manhattan and wrestle with security guards and crowded elevators in order to deliver their small batches of newly plucked peaches, live lobsters, bunches of fragrant herbs, small batches of smoked salmon, a few dozen new laid eggs and some“free-range” chickens. (“Free-range” is a term Forgione himself coined.)

An American Place

Larry Forgione’s restaurant, An American Place, named by food legend, James Beard, his mentor and friend, had room only for 45 seats. Similarly Alice Waters’ trail-blazing, tiny Chez Panisse restaurant, founded in 1971, served only a handful of guests, though with the highest quality, organically-grown and in-season ingredients on its prix fixe, limited menu.

The New American Cuisine

Larry Forgione provided his long-ago audience with a vision of a New American Cuisine; a table for two with every element in perfect balance. On one plate, a perfectly roasted quail; on another, a perfect breast of duck with a simple sauce and combined tastes that were coaxed and nurtured until they explode into a symphony of flavors. And everything — fresh, fresh, fresh!

Back then he was sharing a philosophy — not a shopping list. His listeners didn’t understand then.  Now they do.

Larry’s great, great uncle was Francesco Forgione from Pietrelcina Italy, otherwise known to practicing Catholics as “Padre Pio” — or ever since Pope Paul Canonized him in 2002, “Saint Pio.” Following in his ancestor’s saintly footsteps, Chef Forgione is universally acknowledged as the Godfather of American food.  (Alice Waters seems to have similarly been awarded a sort of honorary culinary sainthood.)

Forgione’s long journey began at the Culinary Institute of America. He graduated in 1974 and continues to preach to the choir — He was named “Chef Of the Year” at the 1993 James Beard Awards. Now the CIA has just launched a new program that allows students to study farm-to-table cuisine with him as their guide and mentor at the college’s California campus, the CIA at Greystone.

Chef Forgione glimpsed the future: it is Mensana in Corpore Sano, meaning “A sound mind in a healthy body.”

Thanks to Larry’s vision, today there also is such a food job as farm-to-table chef, and folks are hiring.

What’s Up?

The pendulum is still swinging between sumptuous and the sublime, the stark and austere and these contrasts of style are found not only in the restaurants but also in the food itself.  In some places styles overlap while at others they are more clearly defined.

The revolution in the ways we are eating today is still evolving, and it is a wondrously intriguing game to try to sample it all and all at once.  There are instant gratifications of new pleasures paired with old indulgences. We are seeing everything on the same menu — from duck with fresh foie gras and cornmeal pancakes with caviar to almost instant ice cream fabricated with liquid nitrogen.

Here’s Chef Larry Forgione’s recipe for :

Cornmeal Pancakes
from An American Place
Makes about 24 9-inch pancakes

1 cup flour

1 cup stone-ground cornmeal

¼ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

2 large eggs

2 egg yolks

2 cups milk

4 tablespoons salted butter, melted

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Corn oil for frying the pancakes

Mix the flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper, eggs and egg yolks.  Gradually whisk in the milk and continue stirring until the batter is smooth. Stir in the melted butter.

Let the batter rest for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Lightly brush a 9-inch non-stick frying pan with oil.  Heat the pan and pour in about 2 tablespoons of batter to coat the bottom.  If the batter does no easily cover the bottom of the pan, thin it with a little milk.

Cook each pancake over medium heat for about one minute or until lightly browned.

Flip the pancake and cook the other side, for just a few seconds.

Repeat until you have used all the batter.



Michael Pollan Votes for Home Cookin’

Michael Pollan, author of Cooked

Michael Pollan, author of Cooked

I add my voice to the rousing chorus of fans singing the praises of Michael Pollan. He is the crème of the crèmes. His recent masterpiece is Cooked: A Natural History of Tranformation. In the introduction he states:

“The premise of this book is that cooking — defined broadly enough to take in the whole spectrum of techniques people have devised for transforming the raw stuff into nutritious and appealing things for us to eat and drink — is one of the most interesting and worthwhile things we humans have done.”

So. He suggests we all return to home cooking. Hmmm! Really?

Once upon a time we had to cook to survive.

Imagine, we wanted a bacon cheeseburger in the 19th Century. We would need to know how to raise cattle and hogs, how to bake bread and light a fire. (No lettuce, pickles, onion, sesame seeds, ketchup or fries on the side available).

Today we complain when we’re forced to stand and wait in line for a burger for more than three minutes.

We have surrendered our ability to cook into the hands of others. We are the willing accomplices of armies of food processing companies and their technologies. Sensors use refracted light to test the sweetness of preserves. Machines measure ingredients with uncompromising accuracy and mix, stir and knead a dough or batter to achieve the correct texture every time.

Radio waves detect the crispness of cookies before they burn. Hands of steel weave breakfast cereals from oats, wheat, corn and rice or engineer blends of multi-grains, and extrude them in a triumph of physics and technology married to food chemistry.

We may confess we actually prefer Kraft mayonnaise rather than homemade mayonnaise. We’d rather have V-8 than make juice from our own home grown kale, spinach and other worthy greens. Give us our daily bread (from the store) and Ben & Jerry’s instead of the pale slush we “make” in our very own electric ice cream maker.

For generations, we have been persuaded to believe we have the freedom NOT to cook.

A visit to Whole Foods or Wegmans or any supermarket is as thrilling as going to the Museum of Modern Art. We love to look.

But cooking is a far, far different thing. For some it is a joy — a creative, satisfying endeavor. For many, it is a chore. For the inexperienced, cooking is fraught with stress and fear of failure. It is not an indoor sport, though it’s certainly competitive. Timing is a mystery unless you understand the why as well as the how-to of preparing a meal for “friends and family.”

It is hard to understand why HGTV home buyers always insist on expansive space, stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops to entertain. Hardly anybody entertains at home any more.

A recent study reveals: “The average person spends less than an hour for both food and fitness in one day.” A young mother sighs, “I work all day, go to the gym and all I feel is — tired.”  Too tired to cook. Almost too tired to toss a “square meal” into the microwave, but not too exhausted to spend hours watching the Food Network; a sensational trial; the super bowl; opening night of the Olympics; Dancing with the Stars or checking e-mails.

Of course, this turn of events is really good news for the restaurant business. Mr. Pollan, cook your goose if you wish. We’ll go out to eat and “have what she’s having…”

Food Job: Personal Chef