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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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Rain or Shine: The Boston Local Food Festival Delivers Both the Goods and the Good

2 Oct

This Saturday, the threatening rain couldn’t keep me away from the Boston Local Food Festival. A glowering sky and morning showers gave way and while the sun only broke through in brief patches, the morning chill did dissipate.

I hopped on the Red Line and got off at South Station, and then promptly proceeded to the Children’s Museum, site of the Food Festival. From afar, I glimpsed a white sea of dots–the vendor and demonstration tents–but it wasn’t until I entered the festival grounds that I realized the (impressive) magnitude of the event.

One Wing of Saturday’s Boston Local Food Festival (Image: Johnisha M. Levi)

The Food Festival, in its second year, is one of the SBN Local Food Committee’s seven initiatives aimed at growing the local and regional food system.  Upwards of one hundred vendors were offering samples and selling their products; local chefs and butchers gave culinary demonstrations; nonprofit organizations disseminated materials and information; local bands serenaded.

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I’m Shipping Up to Boston

1 Oct

Okay, so let’s dispense with the elephant in the room. Obviously a good chunk of time has passed since I last posted on Tortefeaster. Apologies to my two loyal readers (LOL). Before you start judging me, it is not as bad as it looks. After finishing up very intense sophomore level pastry labs (including the particularly taxing specialty cakes that was a brutal–rather than beautiful–struggle) this May, I moved back home from Charlotte and almost immediately began my internship with the Dining Editor of Northern Virginia Magazine.

Anniversary Cake I Made as Part of My Specialty Cake Lab (Image: Johnisha M. Levi)

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Minis, Memoirs, King Cake and Kinship: What I’m Reading

7 Mar

The good news is…I’m back! The bad news is that this is going to be a posting sans photographs. I am hoping in any event that you like me more for my brains than my beauty, LOL, since my photography sometimes leaves much to be desired. It has been some time since my last post (at least it feels that way), but not because of a dearth of ideas on my part. The last couple of weeks were awash in practicals and projects, papers and recipe testing, and then I spent 7 days reunited with my husband on vacation in a Saint Lucian paradise. Now I’m back in Charlotte, about to begin the last term of my pastry arts program. It is 39 degrees–sometimes reality is a cold wind after all. And of course, I am always ready to write….

I had some different threads of thought floating around today as I sat down to write, but I soon realized (happily) that all my ideas  relate cooking and baking to my other favorite hobby…reading.

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Ten Things That Surprised Me about Culinary School

23 Jan

I get asked a lot of questions from curious friends and colleagues about my decision to belatedly attend culinary school. Of course, the most FAQ I get, from those who did not witness the process I went through beforehand,  is” How did you make up your mind?” I’ve written about my deliberations previously in my inaugural blog post, Linzer to Litigator. I am writing this posting to give you a glimpse of my world as student in the baking and pastry program at Johnson & Wales, and specifically to highlight a few things, both serious and trivial, that surprised me, and may surprise you, about my current undertaking.

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Heaven Can Wait, I’ll Take Entenmann’s: Confessions of Forbidden Food

8 Jan

IlovechocolatecoveredEntenmann’sdonuts…. There, I finally said it. It is a secret I have held for perhaps 10 years, as it has been at least that long since I held one in hand. I walk by them in the Harris Teeter with my head down. I spy them out of the corner of my eye, piled high on tables with coffee and crumb cakes (meh), poundcake (bleh), and chocolate chip cookies (hmmm) as I make my way to the dairy section to buy guilt-free cottage cheese with fruit or soy milk. But every time I take that stroll of shame, I end up fantasizing. Fantasizing about me face down in  a box of chocolate donuts, yellow cake crumbs flying out of both corners of my mouth, my face smudged (or fudged) dark with the evidence. Think Paul Giamatti in Sideways but with donuts instead. Why don’t I just give in, you say? Because with Entenmann’s chocolate donuts, there is no such thing as eating one. You’ll eat five before the box lid closes and you throw it away. Really, the Cracklin’ Oat Bran slogan works better here.

What suddenly made me confess my forbidden love for a product Krispy Kreme and other donut aficionados would deem wasted calories? This week, I have been enjoying my new subscription to the food literature journal Alimentum. Upon perusing its website, I came across a very intriguing  posting about “Secret Foods.” For confessing your food sins, you could get an additional issue free.

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Someone Left the Cake Out in the Rain

26 Dec

MacArthur’s Park is melting in the darkAll the sweet, green icing flowing down.Someone left the cake out in the rain.I don’t think that I can take it.’Cause it took so long to make it.And I’ll never have that recipe again, oh no! –MacArthur Park (lyrics by Jimmy Webb)

I know that when Richard Harris recorded the song MacArthur Park, he was singing metaphorically about the end of a relationship, not about baking a cake. Back in the 1970s, when people owned record players (and even 8-track tapes) , my parents used to play the Irish actor’s recording of the song humorist Dave Barry deemed the Worst Ever Written. It was always a puzzle for me trying to figure out why anyone would be so upset about a cake with green icing. Who eats a cake with green icing anyway? Maybe Jimmy Webb’s metaphor was ill-chosen, but the lyrics resonate on a literal level with anyone who has ever spent time baking only to discover that his/her end product is not what he/she had envisioned.And let’s be honest, that’s everybody who has ever baked, from novice up through the professional ranks.

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