The Japanese term shokunin is more than a foreign word. It is a foreign concept in America, a land of instant gratification. This is arguably even more pronounced in the culinary world, where diners use Instagram to snap photos of their meals, every culinary school graduate fancies himself a ready-made chef, 30-minute meal cookbooks sell like hot cakes, and cupcakes are a national treasure.
David Gelb’s classically scored documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2012) peels back a few of the proverbial onion layers to show us what it means to be a shokunin, which loosely translates to “master artisan.” Jiro Ono is the celebrated octogenarian and subject of the film. He earned a coveted three Michelin stars for his 10-seat, toilet-free sushi bar in the Ginza shopping district. (The Michelin Guide of yesteryear was infamous for rewarding chefs for expensive restaurant upgrades, including toilets.)
Here’s a list for you:
I bet most people who own a television, read the lifestyle sections of online publications, or have some interest in food would be able to tell me that these are all critically acclaimed chefs–indeed, the elite of American fine dining. Some may not even stop to question what characteristics the aforementioned have in common. (The elephant in the room? They are all, let’s say it together, white men. Some of my best friends are . . . )
What if I gave you another list of names? For example, the following:
Stumped? What if I added one more? Marcus Samuelsson should make it easy for you. Or, if you are a Top Chef fan, how about Kevin Sbraga?
Got it now? We are talking black chefs heading kitchens of high-end establishments.
This blog post was prompted by a piece in The Chicago Tribune provocatively entitled, “Where are the Black Chefs?”
The last few months, I’ve been playing catch-up via Netflix on some great cable dramas. I have a particular fondness for dark comedy, so I decided to give the Alan Ball series Six Feet Under a shot. It took me a while to get accustomed to seeing Parenthood‘s Adam Braverman in a more three-dimensional (read: troubled and brooding) light, but I’ve come to adore the Fisher clan in all of its repressed glory.
The heart of the series, at least for me, is the rekindled relationship between brothers David and Nate, who inherit their father’s funeral home after his untimely passing. David initially resents Nate as the free-spirited, prodigal son; Nate can’t tolerate David’s judgmental carping.
The scene I have selected for this Friday’s clip is from the opener of Season 2. Ruth, the clan’s matriarch, invites her new Russian florist boyfriend and her children’s significant others to dinner. Instead of the usual painfully awkward and pregnant silences they all anticipate, the dinner table conversation is fueled by Nate’s inane ramblings. Nate thinks he’s high on life. Turns out, he’s just plain high:
Today’s Food Clip is from one of my favorite period films. Milos Forman’s Amadeus is most assuredly not a biopic, but rather a fictionalized account of enmity between classical composers Mozart and Salieri. In this lush production filled with shrill operatic notes, sky-high wigs, lustrous silks and brocades, and of course, one abominable giggle (see clip below), we witness Salieri’s descent into darkness as he attempts to bring a dissolute, spendthrift-of-a-genius Mozart to his heels.
In homage to Friday, and weekend movie-goers everywhere, I will be publishing monthly short and sweet posts on my favorite food scenes from movie and television. I’ll also continue to post my longer Food in Film reviews.
The Friday clips series came to me as a result of a weekly giveaway question that I posed on America’s Test Kitchen Feed. I was so entertained by the diversity of responses we received, that I thought, why not put this on Tortefeaster’s regular rotation?
To kick things off, I am going to start with scenes from classic 1980s films that I count as two of my absolute favorites. These are both films that I have watched countless times; no matter what I’m doing, if I turn on the television and they happen to be on, I’ll usually stop mid-task and start watching intently.
(Image: Johnisha M. Levi)
Although this is not my first time around the proverbial block in this city, I’m still trying to get my sea legs as a D.C. native and recent transplant to Boston.
So what better way to feel like a Bostonian than to spend a morning down the street from Fenway–the ballpark that needs no introduction–followed by an afternoon cheering on the Pats against the Ravens with my rabid fan of a husband? (I have occasionally witnessed foam coming out of his mouth during particularly tense game moments. And maybe his nostrils, come to think of it.)
Outdoor portion of Brookline Winter Marketplace (Image: Johnisha M. Levi)
Saturday’s Brookline Winter Marketplace caught me by surprise. When I arrived early for my 11:00 gym class, I noticed that folks were setting up a few outdoor tables with produce and that one side of the parking lot was barricaded. Faced with the prospect of losing out on getting my butt kicked in cardio boxing (because isn’t that what everyone looks forward to on the weekend?), I didn’t have time to investigate right away, but I definitely intended to do so on my walk home.
January is traditionally a month for new adventures and hijinks. (Isn’t that one of those words you want to find an excuse to use sometime even it makes you feel like a cartoon super hero?) Last week, I started back at America’s Test Kitchen as a Social Media Intern with the Test Kitchen Feed. Moving from the buzz of the test kitchen to a primarily editorial role certainly constitutes change.
Another new venture? I had heard about a group of food bloggers in the city that call themselves, appropriately enough, the Boston Brunchers. I’d wanted to join in previously, and now seemed the perfect time to get involved. So when I saw the latest announcement posted on the Brunchers site, I promptly entered for a chance to win a FREE brunch at Newburyport’s Ceia Kitchen + Bar. NEWbury: yeah, see. It is a sign.
Welcome back to the few but faithful readers who have followed the adventures of Tortefeaster, and welcome to any new readers that 2012 may bring to my door! Besides this constituting the year’s inaugural post, I’m writing on a particularly significant day for me. It is an anniversary of sorts, although not in the typical sense. Three years ago today is the day that I was laid off and the first day in a long process of rediscovering who I am and what I was meant to be “when I grow up.” At the time, believe me, I felt as if my world was crumbling, but after having made some rather unconventional decisions, I couldn’t be happier with how I have redirected my career. I’m having so much fun now: I am living life, life is not living me.
It was a practially “balmy” 50 degrees in Portland on New Year’s Day (Image: Johnisha M. Levi)
New Year’s has always been a special time for me and my husband. We don’t celebrate Christmas (usually we end up spending a quiet day at the movies and either making dinner as normal, or grabbing some Thai or Chinese food at one of the few open establishments). Maybe for this reason, we love a good New Year’s eve celebration.
This year, we decided to head to Portland, Maine–a city that I had previously only spent a few hours in one night in September when we were staying in Ogunquit and made a brief dinner excursion.
Un, deux, trois étoiles. The (in)famous Michelin Guide with its opaque network of inspectors can give its starry blessings, and it can just as easily take them away.
Lutz Hachmeister’s documentary Three Stars underscores this message nicely through an assemblage of interviews with nine very different chefs who achieved the honor–and some would say the curse–of a three star rating. Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts has been screening the documentary, along with El Bulli: Cooking in Progress, for the last two weeks. This evening is the last screening for both films.