Food Story About Joe Baum

I’d like to tell you Joe Baum who created 167 restaurants in his lifetime. Among them were the four highest grossing eateries in the United States. They were Windows on the World, The Rainbow Room, The Four Seasons and Tavern on the Green.

Joe’s philosophy was simple: “Our product,” he said, “the measure of our success, is pleasure. We are in the pleasure business.  We are organized, equipped and staffed to supply pleasure, at a profit, which means that any threats to pleasure are bad for business. We must constantly ask ourselves, “What more can we give?” What will it cost you to give ‘em a glass of champagne or an extra oyster? The more pleasure you give, the more you will receive along with at least temporary job security and higher fees.”

To illustrate the lengths Joe would go to provide his guests with a memorable occasion, I’ll tell you a little story. One evening Joe hosted a dinner for the elite Confrerie des Chevaliers du Testevin at The Four Seasons restaurant in New York City. The Chevaliers were lifelong gourmets and wine  connoisseurs without peer and this would be the ultimate test, even for the greatest of restaurateurs.

Joe planned and planned, and planned some more, and finally, the day before the dinner was to be held, the entire staff of the restaurant staged a full dress rehearsal of the exact meal.

The menu was extraordinarily complicated. Custom-made pyramid-shaped molds were manufactured.  They were designed to enable the chefs to fill them with pyramid-shaped triangles of veal loin that were then inserted int the center of the fillets of beef…foie gras was placed inside the veal, truffles were positioned inside the foie gras…The entire presentation was created out of a progression of pyramid shapes.  Everything was what we would now call —over the top.  (The dessert of Pears en Chemise, the chemises (nightgowns) were made of gold leaf).

Never one to miss an opportunity to turn simple abundance into wild excess, Joe hung Chevaliers’ ribbons from the ceiling enfolding each table as though it was a small pavilion. As a final coup, he built a platform into the restaurant’s famous 20 foot-square marble reflecting pool in the center of the room so the waiters appeared to be walking on water.

Mercifully the actual feast went off perfectly but early the next morning, after a sleepless night, Baum grabbed the publicity man by his lapels, demanding to know the Chevaliers’ reaction to his extravaganza.

“Well, Joe,” said the cornered P.R. man, “The Chevaliers where so overwhelmed that they met at their hotel last night, after the dinner, to pass an extraordinary resolution — and here’s what they said: We, the Chevaliers of the elite Confrerie, resolve unanimously that your was the finest meal every served in the history of the world!?

Baum let go of the man’s (Roger Martin’s) lapels and reflected for a full 10 seconds; then Joe blurted out, his face red with rage, “Goddamit, that just not good enough. Get me the chef. GoddamitGODDAMIT!!!

Perfection is only rarely achieved. Striving, though, is a worthwhile endeavor…

 

 

Food Job: TV Star

Today, one hundred million households can tune into the Food Network. There are stations in New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, and Knoxville. There are viewers in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Philippines, Monaco, Polynesia, and Great Britain. More people watch the Food Network than CNN. It no longer aims to teach cooking techniques or kitchen skills. Instead, it has lurched into the production of cooking shows featuring the assembly of store-bought components, and of cooking-competition shows that choose winners and losers. It also has an unfathomable addiction to cup cakes.

What is turning this huge audience on to all of it’s culinary idols, as featured on the Food Network though my impression is that Guy Fieri takes up 23 of the 24 hours a day. (Maybe many people like him?) Vast swaths of people appear to have the time to watch others cook and eat, and exclaim how good it all smells—but to have no time to cook for themselves.

Everything smells fabulous on the television screen. This phenomenon is frequently noted by Ina Garten, the “Barefoot Contessa,” who cooks for her well-heeled pals and punctuates every divine, “how easy is that?” moment with mirthless laughter. “Smells great” and the words “quick” and “easy” are well-known to the perpetually smiling and cleavage-revealing Giada and the lovely folk who come and go promising dinners that cost mere pennies and are quick and easy…and Oh Yes! Smells Great!!!

 

Breaking into the Food Media

The Emmy-nominated food-show producer and director Irene Wong offers some sound advice:

“If you want to be in front of the camera, my advice is to watch a lot of food programs. Get an idea of why each show works. Why is Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives among the most popular shows on the Food Network? Why is Rachael Ray so appealing? They’re giving the audience something they want. Figure out how you are going to deliver what you want to say about food, but also what the audience wants to hear. Find out what your food identity is, what your food voice is. Your brand. Make it stand out from everyone else. If you’re the only person who can deliver your brand, that will make you more attractive to television executives, because you will be irreplaceable.”

It also helps a lot to take a media training course.  Performing in front of a camera is a lot harder than it looks.

 

Food Job: Food Truck Owner

Chef movieKeep on trucking has acquired entirely a new meaning these days.

Rice pudding, exotic ice cream, cupcakes, flavored popcorn, french fries, and Korean tacos are just a few among the dozens of street foods on the menus of flourishing food trucks now offering ‘meals on wheels’.

Today, there are regional food truck festivals, food truck awards, even a Chef movie worthy of a truck stop.

A proprietor of a small operation in a busy location can make a fortune providing healthy, hearty, home-made, hand-held sandwiches, comfort food, crepes, lobster rolls, hot soup, or bowls of noodles with which to entice the lunch crowds.

Fido To Go food truck

Fido To Go food truck

An enterprising food trucker named his vehicle K9 while another called her’s Fido To Go. Both cater to dogs. While K9 is known for crushing dog biscuits into what is essentially a canine ice cream cone and topping it with a chili burger, Fido to Go offers premier gourmutt hand-crafted, gluten and allergen-free canine cookies and doggy ice creams/frozen yogurts. There’s no telling who loved the idea more, the dog or its owner. Continue reading

How to Be a Personal Chef

personal-chef-in-kitchen-vertThe role of personal chef was virtually unknown a few years ago. Today more than 7,000 are registered as active members of the American Personal Chef Association. Industry leaders estimate this number will swell to more than 25,000 within the next 10 years. They will be serving nearly 300,000 clients and contributing nearly $1.2 billion to the U.S. economy.

A personal chef plans menus, shops for food, and cooks it in a client’s home. He may pack it in neatly labeled containers with heating directions, store it in the refrigerator or freezer and, then leave the kitchen in pristine condition. He or she customarily is employed by several clients. Continue reading

Prayer for New Diet

I dare not taste one drop of  oil

For if I do, my health I’ll spoil

I’d spread my bread with gobs of butter

But that would set my doc aflutter.

Don’t serve me poultry, pork or beef

Or I will surely come to grief,

            And that fine fish just from the sea

            Would, fried, become the death of me.

 At breakfast I must never poke

My fork at any golden yolk,

            And salt, to which I was a slave

             Now lures me to an early grave.

            Sugar, friend of childhood, sweet,

            Is now a rare, forbidden treat.

A shot of gin, a glass of wine,

Add up to sins times nine,

            For Julia is no more my guide

            ‘Tis to the Pyramid’s rules I must abide

Farewell to all the eats I love

Farewell, so long, to all the above.

             But as I chomp through fields of green

            And shrink each day to sinewy lean,

                        Teach me, dear Lord,

                                    Not to wish each course

                                                Was rare roast beef

                                                    With béarnaise sauce

 

Food Job: Making a Difference

Relief Work, Lobbying, Advocacy

 

If you think you are too small to be effective,
you have never been in the dark with a mosquito.

—Betty Reese

The consequences of hunger are infinitely greater than the immediate= problems of not having enough to eat. Being unable to find adequate amounts of food quickly leads to irreversible deterioration of mental as well as physical health.

            A. A. Milne, the beloved author of Winnie the Pooh said, “In the quiet hours when we are alone and there is nobody to tell us what fine fellows we are, we come sometimes upon a moment in which we wonder, not how much money we are earning, not how famous we have become, but what good we are doing.”

            Many chefs these days are fine fellows: they do well by being good neighbors. They volunteer at local food banks, the Feeding America hunger-relief charity, and with other organizations. Mario Batali is one among many who have created their own philanthropies. His is called the Mario Batali Foundation. As Batali has said, “Those of us who are fortunate enough to make a living feeding people have a very clear view of those who cannot afford to eat.”

            Cat Cora’s foundation, Chefs for Humanity, is an alliance of culinary professionals and educators working with US and global organizations. It provides nutrition education, hunger relief, and emergency and humanitarian aid to reduce hunger across the world. She and her coworkers personify President Ronald Reagan’s philosophy when he said, “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”

            Share Our Strength is a national organization whose mission is to make sure that no child in America grows up hungry. The country’s leading hunger-fighting organizations—Meals on Wheels, City Harvest, Feeding America Entertainment Council, and Food Banks—weave together networks of community groups, activists, and food programs in hundreds of communities in order to supply children and adults facing hunger with nutritious food where they live, learn, and play.

            Chefs and restaurateurs Charlie Trotter and Marcus Samuelsson are two more among the fine fellows I mentioned. They have spent innumerable hours supporting nutrition education and hunger relief organizations.

            Almost all major fast food chains have established charitable foundations as well. One of the most visible programs is the Ronald McDonald House for parents of children in hospitals. The PepsiCo Foundation, too, focuses on health and wellness, youth development, and higher education.

            Other soft drink companies have established company foundations as well. The Coca-Cola Foundation, for instance, also concentrates its energies on education. Its programs include a scholars program that gives two-year college scholarships to high school seniors and provides extensive funding for many other causes. Most large fast food chains, junk food manufacturers, and soda makers give to or have started philanthropies.

            The Arby’s Foundation, established in 1986, has focused on Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, which has helped children from primarily single-parent homes by matching them with adult volunteers. Domino’s Pizza supports the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants the wishes of children with terminal medical conditions. The Ingram- White Castle Foundation gives scholarships to college students.

            In the soft drink world, Claude A. Hatcher, founder of Royal Crown Cola, established the Pichett-Hatcher Education Fund in 1933. By 1968, this fund had assets of almost $5 million and was one of the largest student loan funds of its kind in America.

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield were trailblazers in the food industry. They funded their foundation in 1985, with an endowment of Ben & Jerry’s stock. Their employee-based community action teams lead the foundation and distribute grants to surrounding communities.

            Ben & Jerry’s has always held certain values, and these have permeated every aspect of their business. Their brilliant Heifer International Foundation enables even those who have little to give to offer a living gift that truly keeps on giving. The gift of a cow costs $500, but anyone can contribute just $50.00 for a cow share. The foundation helps children and families around the world receive the nutrients, training, and supplies they need to live more self-reliant lives. When, for example, a family receives a heifer, every morning there’s a glass of fresh, rich milk for the children to drink before heading off to school.

            Likewise through Heifer International, one can buy a whole goat for $120 or contribute $10 for a share. Goats provide up to a gallon of rich, nutritious milk each day and don’t need large tracts of land for grazing. Sheep as well can be gifted for $120 each. Their wool can be used to make clothes and their manure turned into fertilizer. Finally, their mutton may provide a good dinner, while two sheep will produce even more little lambs.

            There are still more animals available through Heifer International. Chickens require little, but give a lot. They don’t take up much space and can thrive on food scraps. A flock of little chicks costs just twenty dollars. Three rabbits cost sixty dollars, or ten dollars a share—and they breed, well, like rabbits. A pig too, might make a perfect present. And it is also possible to donate funds for a pair of ducks, a beehive, or the “Noah’s Ark” gift package ($5,000), which is a true farmyard of fifteen lady and gentleman pairs of food-producing animals and a hive of bees. Heifer International’s animals are like living savings accounts for struggling families.

All these organizations welcome full and part-time paid workers and volunteers to help with marketing, event planning, accounting, and other management skills. Learning about the many opportunities to help those in need is like discovering a Hansel and Gretel trail of crumbs; a foodie fairy tale with a happy ending. Small crumbs are transformed into loaves and fishes that feed many thousands.

Food Job: Advocate/Volunteer

Food for Thought

“FoodCorps places motivated leaders in limited-resource communities for a year of public service.” Explore the possibilities at FoodCorps.org.

 

Success Story

As a 21-year-old, Wendy Kopp raised $2.5 million of start-up funding, hired a skeleton staff, and launched a grass-roots recruitment campaign. During Teach For America’s first year in 1990, 500 men and women began teaching in six low-income communities across the country. TeachForAmerica.org.

 

We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.

—Winston Churchill

This is an extract from Food Jobs 2