Posts tagged ‘New York’

November 1, 2013

Tell a Story. Be Yourself. Take Risks. The Culinary Business.

Invest in a restaurant.  Write your first cookbook.  Develop a line of vegetable based candy.  Are these things you’ve considered but never actually had the guts to go out and try?  Seems pretty daunting, especially when there are thousands of award-winning chefs, mixologists and home cooks trying to do the exact same thing. I won’t say I will never do any of these, but I will admit the thought of embarking on one of these journeys is quite discouraging.  At this year’s New York City Wine and Food Festival I had the opportunity to sit in on a discussion with some of the most notable culinary authorities in today’s world, in a seminar called “Pitch me”.   The name says it all.  How do you go about pitching your idea to culinary decisions makers? And then how can you make a profit doing it?

Tyler Florence, Luke Ostrom, Ben Kaufman (Quirky) Steve Dolinsky (ABC 7 NEWS) Rachael Ray, Bob Tuschman (Food Network)

In this business focused food seminar, culinary experts from the television, publishing, marketing and retail worlds provided insights on how you can turn your passion and ideas for food into a successful career.  After two days of non-stop eating at various tasting events, I was happy to sit in a comfy theater and give my stomach a moment to rest.

Rachel Ray and Tyler Florence kicked off the seminar by sharing their experiences growing up in the food industry.  Both hard work and luck played a bog role in both of their careers.  While their stories of entering into the business were drastically different, their underlying theme was exactly the same.  Tell a story.  It’s that simple.

“You need to tell a story around your food and your products… It’s what helps people connect to you and what you’re selling,” claimed Rachel.  “Brands that grow are the ones that have a story behind it, it’s what makes it genuine.”

After much success and failure in Tyler’s 15-year career, he finally settled on a passion of his own, bringing wholesome, organic baby food products that tasted like no others to the market. Becoming a father changed his life in many ways and set him on a new course within the food world.  Tyler shared that “Sprout Baby Food is the result of many years of research, development and most importantly, fatherhood.  It’s something I really felt passionate about, and I wanted to bring something to the market that moms and dads would feel good about feeding their kids.”  It wasn’t just the product itself that made it a success; it was Tyler’s determination to develop something he felt truly passionate about.  Let’s be honest, you could put Tyler’s name on any generic pot or pan in Macy’s and it would immediately fly off the shelves.  But that isn’t what he did; he genuinely believes in what he’s selling and that comes through to consumers.

Similarly, what makes Rachel Ray successful isn’t just her warm, vibrant personality; it’s her ability to put her personal touch on products she puts in the market. Rachel is adamant about making every product she puts into the market something that solves a problem in the kitchen and is both affordable and accessible.  When asked about her product line, Rachel stated, “I developed an oval-shaped spaghetti pot because spaghetti is long.”

A huge influence in both Rachel and Tyler’s career is the well-known face on The Next Food Network Star, Bob Tuschman.  Bob has spent the past 15 years cultivating fresh culinary talent and overseeing the development, programming, production and scheduling for Food Network and Cooking Channel cable TV networks.  He offered some great advice to those who want to get in the television business, and surprisingly it has little to do with television.  His tip: make a brand for yourself, because TV will only take you so far. TV is great for exposure, but after that you need a lot more to rest your name on.

So, are you sitting there sketching out your idea for the next hit TV show, an innovative kitchen gadget, or a new headphone case (please, someone help me here, I spend far too much of my time untangling my ear buds)!  I’ll admit I was doing the same thing half way through the forum.  Well… I have good news; keep those ideas coming because the opportunity to turn that product into a reality isn’t that far out of reach.  Let me introduce you to Ben Kaufman, the 24-year-old founder and CEO of Quirky, a social product development site that’s built on a collaborative decision-making platform.  Ben believes that, “The best ideas in the world aren’t actually in the world… they’re locked inside people’s heads. Quirky exists to solve that problem.”  Quirky helps consumers bring their new product designs to the marketplace through interaction between the online global community and Quirky’s product design staff.  “Any of Quirky’s community members can become an inventor or influencer by submitting ideas and helping to decide which products Quirky will design, manufacture, and sell. Inventors who submit ideas that are then created, and influencers who contribute to those ideas, share in royalties based on product sales,” states Ben.  It’s a true collaboration between those that have the ideas and the people that can make it happen, and Quirky brings this to your fingertips.  No need to search for that perfect business investor or financial backer, you can simply hop online and make it happen on your own.  You probably want to know what the secret is to developing the next new product… well, if I knew that I would have invested it by now.  But I challenge you to submit your own designs… who knows what’s possible?

To round off the line up of incredible talent, Luke Ostrom weighed in on the opportunities and challenges of being a restaurateur in one of the most competitive cities in the world.  As the owner and operator of The Dutch and Locanda Verde in Manhattan, Ostrom, chef-turned-restaurateur, presides over two of the city’s hottest spots.  Ostrom’s most important piece of advice – CARE.  Care about everything.  Care about all the small details you don’t think matter, because when you add it all up it creates a very specific experience.  He also warns that opening a restaurant is expensive.  “Don’t think you’re going to make a profit in the first year, or even in the first 10,” stated Ostrom.  It’s an investment, but if you have the right partners and a strong idea anything is possible.  Good luck to all you budding restaurateurs, I’ll come visit when you open!

October 30, 2013

Burger Bash NYCWFF 2013

A juicy, medium rare Pat LeFrieda blend burger with caramelized onions, toasted sourdough bread, and finished with a creamy béchamel and emmental cheese.  This was both my first and last taste at this years Burger Bash, and it wasn’t because it was the only burger I tried.  As I maneuvered my way from station to station I took in the view of the Hudson River and New York’s Upper West side.  Pier 92 was a stunning location to house some of the country’s best chef’s burger creations.  About half way through the event I think I went through a burger haze/coma, but it didn’t stop me from making the necessary rounds.

I’ve always enjoyed a very traditional burger.  Load it up with garden fresh tomato, crisp greens and a healthy spread of ketchup and I’m in burger heaven.  I can see the BBQ heating up by the lawn while my dad blares Annie Lenox out of the loud-speaker and maneuvers his way around the pool in an awkward, dance like fashion.  Warm days of summer are crowded with memories of long  days swimming and tennis followed by evenings by the pool chowing down on burgers and homemade fries.  Harold Moore, chef and owner of Commerce Restaurant in New York City’s Greenwich Village, captured these summer moments with his American burger.  To me, a traditional American burger is all about the meat, and the toppings are merely there for decoration.  Tasty decoration, but decoration nonetheless.  If the meat isn’t good then forget the rest of it, you can add as much bacon as you like it’s not going to help.  Harold didn’t mess with tradition; he delivered a perfect burger, grilled to a moist medium rare with fresh toppings found at your local farmers market.  On first glace you might pass this one up – but let me remind you that the classics and still around for a reason.

Next on my hit list was Ai Firoi’s White Label burger by PJ Calapa.  Fresh, spicy pickles, American cheese and bacon marmalade with a side of crispy cacio e pepe tater tots. The bacon marmalade added a delicate smokiness and hint of sweetness, while the pickles added tang and freshness.  Let’s just say I was sold at bacon marmalade and I also have a soft spot for tater tots… I may be guilty of still making them on Saturday mornings when no ones home and inevitably end up being both my breakfast and lunch.

Burger Bash Ai Fiori White Label burger

My second helping of tater tots came courtesy of Cast Iron’s executive chef Franklin Becker.  Before I tell you what’s in this burger, I must ask that you try to hold off judgment.  Don’t immediately dismiss this… are you ready?  Cheeze whiz.  Yes, I said it, cheese whiz.  But this is not your grocery store, neon-yellow cheese pump you had in your college dorm.  This is cheese whiz on CRACK.  Joe Wildmer’s Wisco cheese whiz burger with jalapeño pickles, Nueske bacon and special sauce was a balanced combination of charred beef, buttery cheese and smoky bacon.  If that wasn’t enough, the tater tots were also lucky enough to get a stream of melty goodness.  I never thought I would crave cheese whiz in my adult years but this burger took it to a whole other level, thank you Chef Becker.

Burger Bash Cast Iron The Wisco Bacon Burger

My next victim was a creation from Shane Lyons, executive chef at Distilled, who opted for poblano relish and crispy fried onions on his beef burger.  Fried onions you say? Sign me up! Lyons was able to create a seamless combination of heat and charred beefy flavor; the sour, brine of the pickle cut the richness of the burger and offered up a “healthy snack” among all the French fries and potato chips.  In case the burger wasn’t enough, it was topped with a crispy tater tot rectangle.  I was beginning to see a trend with tater tots, not just your average Sonic version (while I do love those too) but unique versions with truffle oil, sweet potato, corn and cheese toppings.

Burger Bash Distilled Burger 2

But the highlight of the night was the French Onion Soup Burger concepted and presented by Le Rivage’s executive chef and owner, Paul Denamiel.  I have a warm space in my heart for creamy, rich French onion soup – its transcendent aroma engulfs you as you dive into the deeply dark and flavorful broth. Toasted baguette and bubbly cheese on top of the caramelized onions are the ultimate in flavor. While I never imagined it would translate into anything more that a beautiful soup, Chef Paul was able to bridge two seemly unconnected dishes into something extremely unique.  The sweet caramelized onion flavor perfumed the burger, while the toasted English muffin offered a contrasting, chewy texture.  I couldn’t get enough, which is why I ended up having three servings throughout the night.  Le Rivage’s burger took home the Judge’s choice award for best burger, a clear winner against some very honorable competitors.

French Onion Soup Burger concepted and presented by Le Rivage’s executive chef and owner, Paul Denamiel

A week later I’m still in recovery mode.  It was an unforgettable night with great food and even better company.  With over 30 outstanding burgers on the menu I’m looking forward to next years Burger Bash.  Who’s coming with me?

September 30, 2013

Christina Tosi, Momofuko Milk Bar, New York NY

I slowly wake up to the sound of the pantry doors opening and closing and the clatter of breakfast bowls as the kitchen begins to come to life.  The warm light peeking out over Mt Diablo gives just enough light to guide me as I scamper out of bed and head downstairs.  I slide my bar stool close to the counter so I can kneel on the seat and get a good view of our morning treats.  Ice cold milk, Honey Nut Cheerios and a topping of fresh banana for Dad. As I intensely study the puzzles on the back of the cereal box my Dad casually flips through the morning paper.

Cereal Milk Soft Serve

Cereal Milk Soft Serve

On a recent trip to New York I was instantly transported back to this sweet moment.  I place in time that I never thought could be replicated in my years as an adult.  Christina Tosi’s cereal milk soft serve with a delicately, crunchy corn flake topping instantly took me back to those mornings with my Dad.  What took me by surprise was Christina’s ability to conjure up such emotion, and bring back a past time that felt as if it had happened just yesterday.  Her ice cream confection reminded me of those mornings I shared with my Dad as picked up our bowls to savor the last drop of sugary milk at the bottom of our breakfast bowls.

The idea behind cereal milk is so obvious it make you want to smack yourself and go, duh, why didn’t I think of that.  When I met with Christina she explained her inspiration behind this dessert.

“I was in the grocery store going up and down the aisle looking for something to flavor my panna cotta.  I couldn’t just serve any old panna cotta, it has to be one that no one had tried before.  I was in the cereal aisle and thought… hm… this is either a really good idea or a really bad one. It’s either going to be really well received of they are going to be like, this is dumb,” she explained when she was asked to prepare a memorable dessert for Momofuko Milk Bar.  But once they tried her cereal milk panna cotta they knew Christina had stumbled on something extraordinary.

I was lucky to spend an evening at her warehouse in Williamsburg, Brooklyn where she greeted us with an energy and happiness that was intoxicating.  With her strawberry blonde hair pulled back with a cherry printed bandana, I felt like I had walked into a family owned farm kitchen in the Midwest.  After sampling her compost cookie, crack pie and famous cereal milk ice cream she shared her inspiration and love for baking.  For her, it’s not about recreating a classic, but constructing something new that draws on a memory or an emotion.

“Everyone has their relationship with chocolate chip cookies, they know what their favorite is, what they like in them, what they don’t like in them… there is this range.  So for me it’s about tapping into that feeling, flavor, emotion and nostalgia that makes you love your grandma’s chocolate chip cookie but sharing it in a new and exciting way that doesn’t compete with the original.”

Christina doesn’t take herself too seriously, she just wants to have fun and experiment in the kitchen and lucky for us her experiments more often than not turn out incredible.

Christina Tosi Momofuko Milk Bar Williamsburg, NY

Christina Tosi Momofuko Milk Bar Williamsburg, NY

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