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 tops 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

Lemon Meringue and Laughter

This morning I received an e-mail from IACP asking me to contribute a tribute to Bert Greene. Bert died in 1988 but he lives on through the annual Bert Greene awards for journalism excellence. I thought you might add your own memory of this beautiful guy too? Here’s mine.

Bert Greene was an enormous mountain of a man.  When he hugged you, you almost lost your bearings in the vast expanse of his chest. His arms were as thick as a tree.

When I think of Bert, he is always laughing.  His laugh is so loud, so overflowing with unrestrained joy and happiness. There is such a roaring of delight that folks in the street turn round to see what’s going on. He just throws back his head and bursts forth like Pavarotti.  His laughter rollicks over the orchestra seats to way past the traffic lights.

Bert looked a lot like Tweedledum. Stephen was the opposite. He was thin and silent: a kind of Alice B. Toklas to Bert in the guise of Gertrude Stein. Stephen shadowed Bert and made all the important decisions. Bert was the front man, the accomplished writer, and the ringmaster in a world he viewed as a circus. He lived large in a big tent with all the seats filled with his admirers. We all loved Bert.

The first time I was invited for dinner at their home, he opened the door wearing a paisley floor length robe and slippers. I can see the entire space of the living room in a microsecond.

It is a miniscule; a teeny — teeny-tiny doll’s house with dark walls and crowded to the gills with miniature, fragile, furniture. I feel like Alice in Wonderland who gulps the bottle that says, “Drink Me.” My head is touching in the ceiling and I squish between the walls. I am a giant in the land of the Lilliputians.

Bert laughs.

“Here’s the kitchen,” booms Bert. It isn’t really a kitchen.  It’s a narrow two-sided closet without a door. There is a handkerchief-size cluttered counter with a refrigerator about the size of those that hold drinks in a hotel room and a surface with two burners. There’s a kettle boiling on one of them. It sends forth a billowing cloud of steam. Bert says the vapor helps his alleviate his allergies.

The other burner is for testing the recipes for his book, Greene on Greens.  When he needs ingredients, Stephen runs round the corner to grab them from Balducci’s.

The dining table faces the “kitchen.”  It is so small there is only enough surface for two plates and two wine glasses. The two chairs are the size of bicycle seats so our buttocks overflow them. There isn’t a space for Stephen so, like the Cheshire cat, he slowly recedes and either vanishes completely or goes out.

Bert unapologetically explains it is too hot to cook. He reaches under that table — and behold — like a rabbit out of a hat, he produces — a lemon meringue pie!

We eat the whole thing and drink all the wine.

Bert is still living there in that magical clearing in the forest in downtown Manhattan.

Tomorrow, I’ll post a few suggestions about writing your own memoir. This is quite enough reading for you for today. Have a good one.

FOOD JOBS Workshop: Part Three

When I ask my culinary and pastry arts students what they would like to do, the most popular answer is: travel — preferably to Italy. (I wonder if this is because they have grown up with families who love to eat.)

Fancy Food Show, NYC 6/27-6/29, 2010

I suggest instead that they explore NASFT, the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade. It is an association of independent, innovative businesses committed to bringing great new foods to market; a diverse community of passionate and creative entrepreneurs, who fuel the innovation and authenticity found in food today.

Since 1954, NASFT has sponsored trade shows like the Fancy Food Show, the premier marketplace for reaching the specialty food trade. These shows attract from 19,000 to 32,000 attendees, who are owners of specialty food stores, and those working in wine, gift and departments stores; supermarket purchasing personnel; restaurant people; mail-order food and cookware, and other related businesses.

The expected 24,000 attendees of the upcoming New York Fancy Food Show (June 27-29) will come to buy from 180,000 products including: confections, cheese, coffee, snacks, spices, ethnic, natural, organic and more from 2,500 exhibitors representing 81 countries.

Many forget that the FMI Show, All Things Organic, United Produce Expo and Conference and U.S. Food Export Showcase joined the Fancy Food Show to make it five shows in one.

Many of the exhibitors are entrepreneurs who created their own recipes and started their own companies–after going culinary school or on a hunch.

Within this vast sector are many opportunities to network, to job connect, to find work with importers and exporters, buyers and sellers.

NASFT also is an organization that tries to nurture and support small and emerging food businesses by providing educational forums, business builder 1 to 1 networking opportunities, even the Sofi awards, which as one judge pointed out, are: “A great way to see what’s next.”

I say to my students, “check the website to find job listings.” Every new product needs help getting to market, from the start in the kitchen to the finish line presentation. Better yet, I tell the students to simply go experience this incredible marketplace of sights and smells, and get inspired.

Next Monday I’ll write about opportunities in eco- and culinary tourism. In coming weeks, I’ll suggest finding employment as a chef in a U.S. embassy or consulate,  as a teacher in a culinary schools in another country or as a food travel writer.

There is always a FOOD JOB to explore.

Paul Bocuse Is a Ham

Bocuse d'Or Award

Bocuse d'Or Award

This past weekend, a most important culinary competition was held at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, NY. Twelve finalists–five of whom are CIA alumni–competed for the honor of representing the U.S. in the prestigious Bocuse d’Or World Cuisine Contest, that will be held January, 2011 in Lyon, France.

The competition takes place only every two years, and was established in 1987 by world-renowned French Chef Paul Bocuse. It is the preeminent international culinary competition in which teams of one chef and one commis from 24 countries compete for top honors and international acclaim. (It is the equivalent of winning the gold medal at the 2010 Olympics-winter or summer.)

These 12 finalists had a mere three hours to do the early preparation work on Friday prior to the final contest that was held Saturday. They had five-and-a-half hours to complete one Scottish wild salmon platter and one American lamb platter. The chefs were required to make a total of 12 servings for each platter, which also had to have three garnishes.

At the competition’s end, James Kent, 30, was chosen as winner. He is currently employed as the sous chef at Eleven Madison Park in New York City.

Jérôme Bocuse, the son of Paul, is a chef and a CIA graduate. He serves as a judge for the cooking contest along with other chef luminaries including Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud.

Yet, I think I am safe in saying that none of the 800 spectators at the CIA knew about a (prior) dinner that was staged at a rented villa in the south of France.

The hosts were a couple of wealthy New Yorkers. The guests included the legendary Paul Bocuse and nine famous multi-starred French chefs. The hosts had dined in the various chefs’ restaurants for many years. They would leave generous tips at the conclusion of each meal. Thus they were remembered — vividly.

One year, the New Yorkers decided to turn the tables and invite the illustrious chefs to a “home-cooked” dinner at their rented villa. The main course was roast lamb.

Paul Bocuse was invited to carve the lamb. He walked slowly to the head of the table. He grasped the carving knife. He rested the fork on the surface of the lamb. A moment passed. Then another…

Sadly, he shook his head. “Madame,” he murmurred, “C’est terrible.”

“What?!,” wailed the hostess. “What’s terrible?”

“Ah, Madame…,” replied Bocuse mournfully. “You see, when the little lambs are in the field, the flies come. The lamb uses his right hind leg to brush away the flies. The right leg therefore gets more exercise than the left leg so it is more muscular. The left leg is more tender…”

“Madame,” he explained (with a twinkle in his eye), “you have chosen the wrong leg.”

The assembled chefs roared with convivial laughter.

The dinner was a huge success.

Paul Bocuse, (now 84?), lives on while all who know him tell stories of his genius, and his legendary sense of humor.

I Found a New Friend

Rick Berger's dog, Cody FOOD JOB: Truffle Taster

Rick Barger's dog, Cody FOOD JOB: Truffle Taster

A funny thing just happened.

I wrote a little note on Facebook in which I said I was looking for some (any) information about unusual (or weird or interesting) FOOD JOBS.

Right away, I got a response from a friend who suggested a truffle taster. I wrote back, asking him if he knew anyone who tasted truffles. “Yes,” he said, “His dog, but he was open for the job.”

I promised to give him a “Woof” if I heard of anything.

He–”Rick” Barger–answered immediately by sending me a copy of his breathtakingly, brilliant CV (Curriculum Vita). I called him and introduced myself.

We had a super chat, and I suggested he send his resume to the CIA (Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park) where I work. I noticed he belongs to the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals), and we plan now to meet there at the Conference in April in Portland. I’m hoping to he might give me some advice about how to market my FOOD  JOBS book to other culinary schools.

So, today, I say, Hooray for Facebook and Twitter and Google and all the great opportunities we have to network and shake hands and make new friends.

I feel so good, I’m going to make myself a bacon and egg sandwich with lots of ketchup!

Pumpkin King – A Farmer Of Giants

It’s that time of year. Just before we turn back the clocks, the weather turns colder. The apples taste crispier. And farming the great squash, pumpkin, transforms into a competitive extreme sport of sumo pumpkin against pumpkin. The job of the farmer and pumpkin grower turns into Cinderella’s ‘coach’.

Others simply stand by and watch in amazement as the next mighty pumpkin tips the scales — 900 pounds, 1,000 pounds, 1,500 pounds, more!

Pumpkin King, Howard Dill

Pumpkin King, Howard Dill

Dairyman Howard Dill was the grand master of the pumpkin, regularly beating out competitors at growing the world’s largest pumpkin. He held onto his crown from 1979 – 1982. He’s even patented his giant pumpkin seeds, called Atlantic giant hybrid, and wrote his autobiography, The Pumpkin King. For his contributions to the competitive sport of giant pumpkin growing, Dill, who lived in Windsor, Nova Scotia,  won a spot in the World Pumpkin Confederation’s (WPC) Hall of Fame.

The first champion giant pumpkin grower was William Warnock, of Ontario, Canada, who entered a 400-pound pumpkin at the World’s Fair in 1900. Since then, pumpkins have hit the 800-pound mark, some bruisers putting on 10 to 15 pounds a day. (When Howard Dill sent a 616-pound pumpkin to the United States for a competition, customs officials, skeptical that such a large crate could contain one pumpkin, called the drug squad.)

For Dill, winning world championship competitions brought more substantial rewards as well. He won $11,500 from a California restaurant that wanted to display the squash, and $3,000 from the World Pumpkin Confederation. The confederation, located in Collins, New York, has 3,000 members in 30 countries, including Japan, Australia, and Zimbabwe. Quite simply, editorialized the pumpkin growers’ journal, Esprit de Corps, Howard is part and parcel of our raison d’etre.”

Growing the next giant pumpkin takes steely commitment and a competitive edge; the globes must come off. As Elizabeth Royte reported about  Pumpkin v. Pumpkin in Outside magazine:

“Giant pumpkins are nursed on a rarefied diet of manure, composted vegetable matter, and vast quantities of water. For plants that seem to advertise their own robustness, giant pumpkins can be astonishingly fragile. If exposed to the summer sun, their skin burns and blisters. If they go thirsty, they wilt. Neglect to remove a stone from the soil under the fruit, and you lose five pounds as the pumpkin grows around it. A thumbnail dent can cost several ounces.”

Christy Harp, a 27 year old mathematics teacher from Jackson Township, Ohio has just set a 2009 record of this extreme sport, and possibly a new Guinness World Record,  with her 1,725 pound “Atlantic Giant” pumpkin grown from seeds. Harp took first place at the Ohio Valley Giant Pumpkin Growers annual weigh-off Saturday in Canfield, Ohio as sanctioned by the equally competitive Great Pumpkin Commonwealth (GPC).

The Daily News reported that Harp has been growing pumpkins since she was in the eighth grade, yet seemed to be spurred on by the competition with her husband, to be the best in the pumpkin patch.

Peanuts' Linus Waiting for the Great Pumpkin

Peanuts' Linus Waiting for the Great Pumpkin

Soon all eyes will currently be peeled for the sighting of the Great Pumpkin.

In the meantime, KEEP THE SEEDS – to eat! The recipe for success follows.

Separate the fresh pumpkin seeds from the pumpkin fibers, and spread them on a baking sheet to dry overnight.  Drizzle them with a little olive oil and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until the seeds have lightly browned. Pat with paper towels, sprinkle with coarse salt, or with curry or chili powder or grated Parmesan cheese and a touch of paprika.