Archive | April, 2012

Food in Films: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

18 Apr

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.)

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Thoughts on “Where are the Black Chefs?”

13 Apr

Here’s a list for you:

Charlie Trotter
Thomas Keller
Grant Achatz
Mario Batali

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:

Morou Ouattara
Leon Baker
Patrick Clark
Richard James

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?”


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Friday Food Clips: The Agony and the Ecstasy Edition

6 Apr

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: