Posts tagged ‘unique’

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 10, 2012

Black Pepper Cranberry-Walnut Oatmeal Cookies

I have an influx of oatmeal in my pantry…  every time I go to the store I seem to think I’m out so I buy more.  And of course when I get home I realize I have pounds of it!  (I’ve had the same experience with foil and butter…. )  So I needed to find some ways to get through it apart from my morning breakfast.

Black pepper oatmeal cookies with cranberries and walnuts

Thankfully, oatmeal can be used for a variety of healthy and tasty treats… granola and cookies being two of my favorites.  The change of seasons also makes me warm up to those heartier breakfasts and the cold harsh winter in Houston.  OK, harsh is probably overdoing it but we did get snow my first winter in Houston!  After a few not-so-subtle hints from my husband I finally had a free evening to bake up some goodies.

Home-baked cookies seem to be the perfect vehicle for little warm nuggets of heavenly pecan, walnut and macadamia.  It’s the perfect amount of crunch to balance the chewy exterior, and helps level out the sugary sweetness of plain cookies.  These are buttery, chewy and indulgent, and the hints of black pepper and nutmeg give this traditional recipe an interesting twist.  The tart cranberries contrast well with the black pepper and allow both flavors to spark while not overpowering one another.  You’ll friends will know they’re different, but they won’t know why…


  • 3/4 cup butter, melted (1½ sticks)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 cups traditional Quaker Oats (not quick cook)
  • 1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts (or your favorite nut)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries


  1. Remove butter from fridge and let warm to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  3. Place chopped pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8-10 mins.  When you kitchen smells like heaven they’re ready.
  4. Remove from oven and let cool on the side.
  5. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Your cookies turn out so much better with parchment paper. I don’t know why but it works and then there is less to clean up!
  6. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and black pepper; set aside.
  7. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until it becomes a light cream color and fluffy in texture.  The color should significantly change from when you start, so just turn up that mixer and let it go!
  8. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk for 2-3 minutes until light and creamy.
  9. Mix in the flour mixture until just blended.
  10. Add the oats, walnuts and cranberries and mix with a wooden spoon. Mix until just blended.
  11. Use a tablespoon and scoop out small balls of dough onto parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 13-15 minutes. Do not over bake. The edges should turn very light brown, which is sometimes hard to see in the oven light, so I think I over baked these the first few times I made them.  The centers should still be slightly soft.
  12. Let the cookies rest on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes before transferring to a cooling rack (I usually try to eat one right off the tray and always burn myself… but it’s so worth it!
  13. Repeat and enjoy!
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