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Science vs local vs chain......

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
Michael Ruhlman's lastest book, "The Reach of a Chef" was an interesting read about different directions the food industry is taking....essentially from 1980 there has been different avenues open that were not in the past.

Michael went into detail about Grant Achatz's food science approach to pretty much reinventing dining, Melissa Kelly's warm fuzzy raising her own pigs/vegetables and buying local.....

I'm on vacation in Santa Fe and got a call from the food editor telling me about a new 26 year old chef, John Cox who took over the helm of Baleen at Loretto Inn (3 meal a day, 7 days a week). He's buying local, shopping at the farmer's market and featuring products on his menu...putting up produce for the winter. I had a killer BLT with applewood bacon, heirloom tomatoes, avacado, lettuce, bread that held together but was thin slice....a homemade rootbeer float.....fun. Duck egg flan, choc sopapilla....
John's sous chef worked at El Bulli for 1 year and thus has a background that's very different. I asked how that worked and John said it comes out more in the dinner menu. It'll be interesting to hear and see what comes from that relationship.

I thought about putting this in the cookbook section and opted for Pro food service instead....thought you may have be interested in what's going on with the next generation. And tell us what you're seeing in your neck of the woods.....
Larry Forgione's new chef de cuisine is a 28 year old from LaPlace, Louisiana (right outside New Orleans) who is preserving, doing old world charcuterie.....boudin noir, boudin blanc, La. boudin, bacons, etc....as well as watermelon pickles, sous vide etc....we talked into the early morning a couple of weeks ago about Southern Louisiana and preserving. I've got a new source for Jersey milk fed Berkshire pigs! I can see some play in the future.
A couple of years ago a young chef was using spritzers, scents, various El Bulli adaptions (not agar nor calcium cloride) but he did not last long in the revolving door hotel restaurant in CWE, Mo.

How about it? CC are you catching a wave of interest in your students for the funky new ways of cooking? Pete?
Nicko, I know you made a trip to Ailena to check it out, have any others in Chicago started using Spainish science?
I ate at Atlantico Mini Bar last fall....2 cooks/1 assitant/ 6 customers.....$80 for 32 courses sans wine. 2 seatings a night 6 week waiting list.

Just curious.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #2 of 22
Shroom,

I would say 50% of my student body are in tune with the changing of the guard.The way I approach it with my upper classmen is this. By the time they are juniors they have learned all about Escoffier, Careme, Vital,Tirel, Bocuse, De Medici etc etc etc.When they are with me as juniors and seniors I dive into current events (a la culinary) and write a name on the board once a week and the student must research this chef and do a written/verbal report.

Andria, Mugirits,Bras,Gagniere,Achantz,Keller,Kinch,Wilie, Blumenthol et al are just some of the chefs I have students study.Our industry worldwide is so dynamic, and bursting at the seams with creative talent.I have to go and make brunch for some friends, but I would like to think a bit more about this and come back later.
Great Topic Shroom
Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
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Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
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post #3 of 22
Thread Starter 
Ruhlman wrote about Grant Achantz being turned on after a trip to El Bulli and working with Adrian for a stage....then coming back to French Laundry as a sous....that's when Grant left to find his own cooking voice. So to hear about a local sourcing warm-fuzzy paired with a science base deconstructor is facinating. Check out Loretto Inn's dinner menu, you can pick up some of the science tweeks.....there are a few that are more obvious especially after reading, "The Reach of a Chef". hmmmm....a different fusion?

Grant had stuffed fried artichokes on his menu that was a throw back to Escoffier, I found that interesting.

I've got Spainish peppers to pack and Hatch chilis to char prior to heading back to STL.... Santa Fe Farmer's Market is alive and well.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #4 of 22
Lately I have found fascinating the idea that I read somewhere recently, that 20 years ago restaurants were judged by how exotic and far-flung their ingredients were. Today more and more our excellence is judged more on what we buy locally.

I have a network of 32 growers I buy from, all within 100 miles of my restaurant (except my trout guy, he's in Wisconsin). not only does it make for better, fresher food, but its a heckuva marketing tool.:)
Peace,
kmf



Visit Edible Iowa River Valley"In the long view, no nation is healthier that its children, or more prosperous than its farmers." -President Harry Truman, at the signing of the School Lunch Act, 1946
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Peace,
kmf



Visit Edible Iowa River Valley"In the long view, no nation is healthier that its children, or more prosperous than its farmers." -President Harry Truman, at the signing of the School Lunch Act, 1946
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post #5 of 22
I finished "The Perfectionist", about Bernard Loiseau, last night. I was taken by the author's not to hidden negative opinion of molecular gastronemy and the new food trends promoted by Adria and Achatz to name a couple. The author's opinion seemed to stem from two things: 1. there are a limited number of restuarants which can really succeed at this kind of cuisine either for ability or want of clientele willing to pay the price, and 2. there is a limited time frame for the success of these restaurants before people want more, more, more. Etonnez-Moi!
post #6 of 22
The more I see of food like Grant's and Ferran's the more I become somewhat intrigued, but I still am not really a big fan of it. Just too much manipulation for me. I am more turned on and in tune with the guy who is sourcing locally, and creating his own products, from charcutiere to homemade cheeses and preserves. This is the food that excites me. When I comes down to it, I am a Midwestern boy and just don't understand the need to create jellied noodles that can be served warm because their chemical properties were changed by giving them a bath in some other chemical or enjoy dining on foams that are the "essence" of shrimp. Give me the shrimp, baby!!! I am not knocking this form of food, it is just not for me. As far as the whole "local" thing goes, while I agree that purchasing local can be great, what I find to be more important is buying "small". Meaning buying from small producers wherever they are found and making end runs around all those giant "industrial" farms. I have a great source for Texas pecans, from a guy who buys from small local farmers and then hauls them up to Wisconsin and MN a few times a year. They are awesome, but they are far from local. Yet I have no problems buying them from this guy. Same thing goes for fish purveyors. If I lived by a "local-only" philosophy then the only fish I would be getting is Great Lakes freshwater fish. That doesn't work, but I do try to source from smaller purveyors that buy direct from the fishermen themselves. I try to use the Syscos & US Foods as little as possible though I have never been able to cut them out completely.
post #7 of 22
Thread Starter 
interestingly Sysco is buying local and selling "good or real" food....whatever adjective you'd care to use, we all know it when we taste it. Not sure how that outreach is going but they've been selling some local products for a couple of years.....it's a work in progress.
The next step in STL is having a middleman that the hotels, country clubs can buy from and not have bookkeeping nightmares.....it's interesting to see how it all shakes out. The farmer's want more time on the farm, less time selling and delivering (generally)......but they also want the bigger bottom line.....it's another business decision in progress.

I enjoyed Atlantico Mini Bar, it would not be a place I drop in and grab dinner on a byweekly basis....nor even take the place of dining at An American Place...but it was fun and in most cases tasty, I'd go back....but 32 courses was a mere $80 not Ailena's prix fixe of $175.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #8 of 22
I'm still dubious about the Sysco program. I have high hopes but low expectations.

Y'all know I'm pathological about the local food arena, but I am concerned about the idea of "what if we succeed?" What if we actually get lots and lots of restaurants, schools, hospitals and other institutions to buy local? What then? Can my marvelous farmers actually provide the food needed for the university of Iowa foodservice? Not today, and not tomorrow. So while all us real food people are busy winning the war, somebody ought to start thinking about winning the peace.

So how do all these small producers meet the demand they (and we) are creating?
Peace,
kmf



Visit Edible Iowa River Valley"In the long view, no nation is healthier that its children, or more prosperous than its farmers." -President Harry Truman, at the signing of the School Lunch Act, 1946
Join Slow Food HereJoin Gather.com here
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Peace,
kmf



Visit Edible Iowa River Valley"In the long view, no nation is healthier that its children, or more prosperous than its farmers." -President Harry Truman, at the signing of the School Lunch Act, 1946
Join Slow Food HereJoin Gather.com here
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post #9 of 22
I'm a fan of some applications of molecular gastronomy. Sous-vide is very useful for alot of things, as are agar-agar, pectin, guar and xantham gums. And science can definitely be used in harmony with local and small-farm raised products (we did a sous-vide poussin with heirloom root vegetables all from local farms and a simple jus, or a bacon foam made from a locally produced artisanal bacon).

Of course, some guys take it too far IMO. But in the long run that's for the consumer to decide. And then theres the flavour sprays and artificial flavours - garbage...

The best thing about science though is the new tools it's given us. Thermomixes, pacojets, thermal water circulators are all very nice tools no matter what kind of food you're doing.
post #10 of 22
Thread Starter 
Y'all know I'm pathological about the local food arena, but I am concerned about the idea of "what if we succeed?" What if we actually get lots and lots of restaurants, schools, hospitals and other institutions to buy local? What then? Can my marvelous farmers actually provide the food needed for the university of Iowa foodservice? Not today, and not tomorrow. So while all us real food people are busy winning the war, somebody ought to start thinking about winning the peace.

So how do all these small producers meet the demand they (and we) are creating?


Kirk, there are many size farmers.....right now Whole Foods is on a local buying campaign, there are loads of locally grown foods in the store at this time. Many of the "small" farmers are now selling at multiple farmer's markets, selling to co-ops or CSA shares, they are wholesaling to restaurants including the food service at St. Louis University's Fresh Gathering Cafeteria.
I've been on the board of a sustainable community group based at the University of Mo in Columbia. They have a work in progress to get local food in the system.
From 1998 when I started working with farmers, chefs and schools there have been more opportunities for farmers.....it's been a slow growth process.
But now more restaurants/cc are buying local, there are 5 new growers markets other than the one I started.
I'm sure you've read about the small farms that grew in CA and Chicago area.
AS with us all there's a certain comfort level we all have with growth. You have multiple restaurants, I guess you grew organically when it felt right.
I too started a mid-week market when the time was right and a winter pantry when it was time to provide a space for the farmers to sell in the winter.

U of I can start selling local at one cafeteria, or source local proteins year round. They can have classes, special dinners, start the ball and the demand rolling. There are more than farmers growing on 15 acres or less. Some of the farmers at my market have hundreds of acres.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #11 of 22
Shroom,

I understand that, and UI and others are doing that. I'm talking about the next step. I work on the local school board's Wellness Policy committee, and after much cajoling we finally pursuaded them to buy their ground beef locally. Now we've run smack-into supply problems, since no one locally is ready to producer that much meat.

We'll come up with a solution for this one example, but what happens when it happens all over? How does a local food system succeed with becoming the industrialized system it endeavors to replace?
Peace,
kmf



Visit Edible Iowa River Valley"In the long view, no nation is healthier that its children, or more prosperous than its farmers." -President Harry Truman, at the signing of the School Lunch Act, 1946
Join Slow Food HereJoin Gather.com here
Reply
Peace,
kmf



Visit Edible Iowa River Valley"In the long view, no nation is healthier that its children, or more prosperous than its farmers." -President Harry Truman, at the signing of the School Lunch Act, 1946
Join Slow Food HereJoin Gather.com here
Reply
post #12 of 22
Thread Starter 
Co-ops work in some cases.

Beef is difficult because you have a 3 year turn around at a minimum between conception and slaughter. Pork, Chicken, fish are much easier to turn around and gear up more quickly. Dry beans, Rice, Corn (is there any GMO free corn in Iowa?).....of course lettuce greens can grow year round.
Look into freeze drying fruit/veg for snacks. 4-H having winter crops in HS.
Neiman is an example of how a corp. expands in pork. Line up small farmers that grow to your specs.
D'artangnon is buying Mo. pigs from "our" great co-op in Mountain Home for those NYC french chefs.

I peeled, sliced and froze a bushel of peaches....making loads of pesto.....300# of tomatoes (dry, jam and just sauce).....putting up for the winter is KEY. sous vide veg while it's the season.....SLU's cafeteria is doing the same thing right now, so they can take local through the winter....they were processing a bunch of sweet potatoes when I was buzzing through for meetings this afternoon. They've been putting up tomato sauce all week.
Andy White from Harvest is pickling cukes, drying peppers, drying tomatoes, making sauces. An American Place is putting up watermelon pickles, etc.


Ethics were lost somewhere along the industrial way. Animal husbandry was traded for a bunch of living commodities. There are examples of large non-monocropping farms producing.....Angelica (?) out of Chicago, there are several that are paving the way.

You could get bogged down in simantics...my paradigm is local organic, local, then lastly organic shipped in.....of course everything else is further down the pike.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #13 of 22
Mine too. the choice between local and organic is a false choice.
Peace,
kmf



Visit Edible Iowa River Valley"In the long view, no nation is healthier that its children, or more prosperous than its farmers." -President Harry Truman, at the signing of the School Lunch Act, 1946
Join Slow Food HereJoin Gather.com here
Reply
Peace,
kmf



Visit Edible Iowa River Valley"In the long view, no nation is healthier that its children, or more prosperous than its farmers." -President Harry Truman, at the signing of the School Lunch Act, 1946
Join Slow Food HereJoin Gather.com here
Reply
post #14 of 22
Thread Starter 
Those local farmers that choose to certify organic deserve the title. I've heard numerous farmers want to ride on the coattails of those that are actually paying in $/time/energy to certify.....and are not actually practicing biodiversity, or their field floods, or they will spray only if their crop is in danger....etc.....nope, those that certify deserve to call themselves organic.
It's a very hot button for me.

We have numerous conventional local small farmers that are raising great products.....it's funny how the farmers that are rotating crops, using beneficial bugs/plants/animals are actually raising the prettiest produce, have the tastiest eggs, raise healthy meat animals......each farm is it's own ecocenter. Like restaurants they have a recipe of what works on their land....it's facinating to watch them year after year adapt, modify and raise gorgeous products.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #15 of 22
Certified OG is a funny thing. The majority of my local guys are. The ones that aren't are basically hobby farmers. They grow a few things really well, and the sell to me a a couple of other restaurant's. I still consider tham organic though, if they give me their word. If they were to certify their small ops they
I'd be paying $2 for my wala walas and $2.50 for my fingerlings. On this small scale I'm willing to take the trade off. Now if their is a middle man, and not the farmer handing me the product it's either certified or it's not OG. Lastly 75% of the farms I grew up with are now gone. If I can do anything to help I'm there..............

Peace,
DF
post #16 of 22
Thread Starter 
DF,
as you probably know the term "organic" is owned by the US govt now. To use it without certifing is illegal. I founded and have run a growers' market for 7 years prior to that (and certainly during that time) I worked with alot of farmers and chefs in the area in educating the public on what was grown locally and in many cases how it was grown. Interesting shtuff came out through the years. Grocery stores wanted the organic certificate. The state of Mo had a cutting edge state organic certifing program that cost farmers $100 (of course all the paperwork and junk that goes along with that). But the certifier made it easier for small farmers with 300+ varities on their farms to certify. Nationally the system was set up for organic monocrops.....huge industrial farms that followed the rules they helped legislate.

In the mean time, there were farmers left and right jumping on the organic bandwagon and stating their produce/meats were just as good as the small farms that certified. I've been to a whole lotta farms and you can tell who is walking the walk the majority of the time. "sustainable" "biodynamic" "ecofriendly" all are bandied about with no set definitions. Knowing your farmer, visiting his/her farm and listening are key components to actually knowing about your food source. It's developing a relationship.

Farming is like a restaurant in many many ways. I'll elaborate later, gotta go sell some umbrellas I've had stored.
Good conversation. Vermont is doing some great things< I need to come visit.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #17 of 22

Learn the names....

Luis Andoni Aduriz at Mugaritz......Ferran Adriá. You/we need to get with the program and know these names. Juan Mari Arzak and Xaby Gutierrez, Comerc24 and Carles Abellan, Wylie Dufresne and Nathan Goldfarb. This train left the station years ago.....these young guys are decades ahead of the French and Germans. Super creative, super technical, super detailed and focussed. All my guys have worked in Spain, or trained with guys who worked in Spain.....and we are considered old school.

You mean you buy from somewhere other than farmers' markets? How does that work? Where else would you get purple basil and rocky sweet melons? Butter potatoes and limequats and little gem lettuce?
post #18 of 22
Not a chance. The French were cooking sous-vide before most people even knew what the word meant... The term "Molecular Gastronomy" was originally coined by Hervé This (a Frenchman) and Nicholas Kurti (Hungarian). Pierre Gagnaire is as creative and technical as any chef in the world, and still pushing the boundaries of cuisine everyday... France still has more top-level restaurants than anywhere else in the world. To say that the French are behind the times is ignorant.

Certainly Spain has it's share of talented, creative chefs, as does the U.S., U.K. and elsewhere. I would recommend young chefs go to any of these countries to learn.
post #19 of 22
Thread Starter 
Tonight was the 5th farmer-chef class in a series of six I'm coordinating as a benefit for Clayton Farmer's Market. Gerard Craft owner-chef of Niche made
searred scallop on almond broth with caramelized apple and apple air (really light foam from apple cider)

Braised pork belly with fresh corn, polenta and bacon foam (yum)

Matthew Rice, the pastry chef at Niche who owns Varucca's made caramelized apple crisp. He's so creative. I love talking to this guy so much.

They are buying alot of local, making relationships with farmers and twisting some of it to make it fun....still clear clean flavors of the great products coming through but it has play to it. Some of my favorite meals in STL have been in their small 45 seat restaurant.

Spain is where people are looking, I still enjoy Larry Forgiones food every chance I get.... twisting turning adulterating ingredients, turning them inside out and changing the textures is ok occasionally but day in day out I want "real food". Just my two cents.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #20 of 22

New Guy on the block

If its new and exiting food then the guy you want to watch is Heston Blumenthal from the Fat Duck in the Uk.

Heston is kind of a mad scientist. He analyses food components and if you get 5 or more matching compuonds then its a taste match.
(im not a scientist so dont ask)

eg snail porridge
caviar and chocolate

He also does things like bacon and egg ice cream

check out his website, pretty cool
post #21 of 22
Thread Starter 
he's been working with food scientists for several years, they were holding a symbosium in Europe several years ago and I picked up on the article in the NYTimes. Interesting shtuff.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #22 of 22
I'd love to start the ball rolling on buying locally. My boyfriend and I tend to be patrons of Slim's Market near Story City and also Wheatsfield Grocery in Ames. Local produce (and some non-local stuff that you can't really get anywhere else) at Slim's and local artisan cheese (including raw milk cheeses), milk, eggs, and meats at Wheatsfield. My love for cooking has become even greater since I tried some of these local things. I've never tasted cream or milk as good as the stuff coming out of Woodward. Slim's is the only place in Iowa to get a really good Missouri peach and other produce from Iowa and other parts of the midwest. In the winter, when Slim's is closed, I turn to Wheatsfield for seasonal organic produce.

I think the main reason why people turn away from this is that they think it's an ungodly expensive way to purchase food. It is a bit more expensive, usually, but if your food is better and, because of that, you feel better, who really loses?

It's kind of a sore subject for me. Too many people don't think it's worth it. The boom in the popularity of eating healthy has helped, but people still really aren't informed of the benefits of buying locally.

I actually think that this is why I want to become a chef so badly. Showing people that local ingredients and simple preparation can make incredible food is something I feel is important.
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