In today's Weekly Media Mix, the best beer cans, plus vegetarian sushi
The Daily Meal brings you the biggest news from the food world.
Chefs and Personalities
That lawsuit against Ferran Adrià claiming he unethically bought out another partner's share in the restaurant? It's been dismissed. [Eater]
"Sriracha heels": Two words to get the attention of food fashionistas. [LA Weekly]
A Tokyo restaurant is making waves for actually delicious vegetarian sushi. We're intrigued. [Village Voice]
A brawl began in Dallas over an argument about Big Peach soda, involving a box of chicken, a glass jar, a tire iron, and a pillow. Yikes. [Dallas Morning News]
The best of the best of beer cans. You decide. [Paste]
Here are a couple of videos showing mushrooms operating iPhones. Just because. [Grub Street]
'Spherified' juice? Controversy among Spain's top chefs
MADRID — With inventions like Parmesan snow, chilled sauces that "boil" with dry ice and olive-shaped capsules of "spherified" juice, the avant-garde chefs of Spain have conquered the highest peaks of international culinary acclaim.
Delicate foams and gels have replaced gazpacho and paella as culinary hallmarks, and dozens of restaurants around the country boast stars from the revered Michelin guide. Glossy gourmet magazines routinely feature Spanish chefs, who many critics believe have replaced their French counterparts at the vanguard of culinary innovation.
But after several years in the spotlight, Spain's normally collegial star cooks have turned their knives on one another. Santi Santamaria, one of the country's most prominent chefs, this month launched a bruising public attack on his cutting-edge counterparts, accusing them of producing pretentious food they would not eat themselves - and potentially poisoning diners with chemicals that he said had no place in the kitchen.
"We have to decide, as chefs, if we want to continue to use the fresh products of our Mediterranean diet or opt for using additives," he said Monday in Madrid.
Santamaria, who currently boasts six Michelin stars among his various restaurants, fired his first salvo two weeks ago, when he called on Spanish authorities to investigate the use of substances like liquid nitrogen and methyl cellulose in restaurant kitchens.
"Some chefs are offering a media spectacle rather than concerning themselves with healthy eating," he said as he accepted a prize for his new book, "La Cocina al Desnudo," or The Kitchen Laid Bare. In it, the burly, outspoken chef, who trumpets his own dedication to natural ingredients, assails the proliferation of junk food as well as the effete creations of the Spanish avant-garde kitchen.
He singled out Ferran Adrià, godfather of modern Spanish cooking and the country's most celebrated chef, for criticism. Despite his "enormous respect" for Adrià, he said he felt "a huge divorce, both ethical and conceptual, with Ferran."
Santamaria's comments have unleashed a storm of recrimination from the Spanish fraternity of avant-garde chefs, whose startling creations use chemistry and technology to transform familiar ingredients: Adrià's "olive" is made by immersing a spoonful of olive purée in alginic acid, a derivative of algae, so that it forms a small sphere that explodes on the tongue. The controversy has opened the door to debate about technology versus tradition on a culinary scene that has acquired baffling monikers like "deconstructivist" and "techno-emotional."
Adrià and other avant-garde chefs have dismissed Santamaria's claims as ridiculous, arguing that many of the products they use are natural and that those that are not are harmless. A spokesman for the Spanish Food Safety Agency, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said additives used by Spanish chefs met European Union standards. Methyl cellulose, a jellifier extracted from vegetable cellulose and used by Adrià to create, for example, magenta films of "hibiscus paper," is not dangerous, he said. Liquid nitrogen, used to freeze ingredients at room temperature, is not ingested, he said.
In a statement issued last week, the Spanish Euro-Toques Association, which represents some 800 Spanish chefs, said Santamaria's comments "damaged the prestige Spain has earned on a world level thanks, in part, to its cuisine and chefs."
"We're really saddened by all this," Adrià said by telephone last week from his three-starred restaurant el Bulli in Roses, in northeastern Spain, which has topped the U.K.-based Restaurant Guide's prestigious list of best eateries in the world for three years. "What Santi said about our ingredients is completely untrue, and to lie about something so important is very serious."
Andoni Aduriz, whose restaurant Mugaritz in the Basque Country rose this year to the number four spot on the Restaurant Guide list, said Santamaria was simply trying to scare people.
"Santi is the Hugo Chávez of gastronomy. He loves to spark controversy with his populist talk," said Aduriz, a protégé of Adrià. Aduriz, who forages in the local countryside for nettles and unusual herbs, said he sees no conflict between a respect for natural produce and high-tech methods.
"It's a false debate," he said. "Santi is seeking the recognition that has eluded him professionally by creating a polemic," he added, suggesting that Santamaria resents the fame enjoyed by the likes of Adrià.
Santamaria's claims resonate for some. In a letter to the Spanish newspaper El País, one reader, Jorge Gutiérrez Berlinches, said Santamaria represented "all of us who like pasta with tomato, a nice plate of potatoes, a fried egg and blood sausage."
"We need to return to simple things, what's natural and what taste's good and what is affordable," he wrote.
Dan Barber, chef of the Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurant near Tarrytown, New York, and Blue Hill in New York City, said that the dispute was reminiscent of the storm over nouvelle cuisine in France after its advent in the 1970s and a more recent, nationalist debate over the use of non-French ingredients in haute cuisine. Barber, who cultivates much of the produce used at his restaurants on the Rockefeller estate near Tarrytown, said the controversy was a sign of maturity in the Spanish culinary movement.
"The fact that this debate is taking place is a sign of how far Spain has come - and that is a credit to both Santi and Ferran," Barber said by telephone. "Any kind of discussion about what goes into our food is a good thing. Whether this was the best way to go about it, is another question."
Chefs’ Favorite Cookbooks
Do chefs read cookbooks? Ask them and you&rsquore likely to get one of two answers: a rant about the sad state of cookbooks today (chefs are unhappy with all the hot sellers from Food Network personalities) or something to the effect that they don&rsquot need cookbooks&mdashthey already know how to cook.
But prod further and you&rsquoll find that cookbooks mean more to many than they first admit. Some have used them to master techniques. Many have produced literal renditions of crowd-pleasing dishes from their most cherished volumes. All confess to turning to a familiar voice for inspiration or reassurance.
We expected that Auguste Escoffier, the grandfather of French cuisine (his compendium of classical techniques, Le Guide Culinaire, is a culinary bible), would get lots of acclaim. So too the outpouring of affection for the matron saint of home cooks, Julia Child, and the interest in Ferran Adria , the avant-garde whiz whose $400 volumes detail the latest conjurings from his Barcelona food lab.
But what about the chef known for rich Southern food who harbors a secret love for Weight Watchers cookbooks? And who would have figured that well-thumbed editions of Time Life&rsquos The Good Cook series were in the libraries of two of the most respected chefs in town?
Here are eight chefs whose bookshelves are filled with titles of every kind imaginable. Well, almost. There&rsquos not a quickie-meal cookbook in sight.
David Jones, Zest
&ldquoI trade dinner for books&rdquo
How many books do you own? About 1,000. They&rsquore all here in the restaurant. People borrow them all the time. And I have a guy who I trade dinner for books with.
You must have quite the range. I have a lot of very specific books&mdasha smoking book, a beef book, one for corn, one for mushrooms. And a lot of old, quirky stuff&mdashnutrition manuals from the &rsquo50s, books on how to be a proper housewife.
What are some of your rare finds? Here&rsquos Mrs. Beeton&rsquos Cookery Book from 1923. It&rsquos even got coupons stuck in it&mdashfor bicarbonate of soda, baking powder in family canisters. It&rsquos got recipes for sheep kidneys, sheep&rsquos tongue, sheep&rsquos trotter stew, sheep&rsquos head dress, sheep&rsquos brains with parsley sauce, sheep&rsquos heart. It tells you how to cook everything.
What&rsquos your favorite book to cook with? Baking With Julia, based on Julia Child&rsquos recipes. People love her flourless chocolate torte.
Brendan Cox, Circle Bistro
&ldquoThe book my parents bought me&rdquo
What books do you keep in the restaurant? We always have a copy of Escoffier&rsquos Le Guide Culinaire. It&rsquos the codified basics of French cooking. Almost all classical flavor combinations are in there somewhere. And a book by James Peterson called Sauces. I don&rsquot know how well read he is outside culinary circles, but I and other cooks I know like to have his books around. He&rsquos done a lot of research&mdashhis recipes work.
How about at home? One of my favorites is a cookbook called Maryland&rsquos Way, which has food from the early 20th century. It sort of shows how food for the masses has gone the cheapest, easiest way, but it&rsquos nice to see that there was actually a time when people really cared about what they were eating.
Which book has the most personal meaning for you? It&rsquos The New Making of a Cook by Madeleine Kamman, who&rsquos a culinary teacher in Vermont. It&rsquos the book my parents bought me when I told them I wasn&rsquot going to college anymore and was going to be a chef. So it was a nice bit of tacit reenforcement.
Bob Kinkead, Kinkead&rsquos and Colvin Run Tavern
&ldquoI taught myself to cook by reading&rdquo
What&rsquos your collection like? I have about 1,500 books. I basically taught myself to cook by reading. I never went to culinary school.
Which ones did you learn the most from? Mostly Modern French Culinary Art by Henri-Paul Pellaprat and Louis DeGouy&rsquos The Gold Cookbook . Paul Bocuse&rsquos French Cooking has really great recipes for a lot of his classic dishes. And Lenotre&rsquos Desserts and Pastries by Gaston Lenotre&mdashhe&rsquos arguably the greatest pastry chef of the 20th century, or maybe ever. Michel Richard used to work for him. I still use his puff-pastry recipe.
Which books inspired you? Great Chefs of France by Anthony Blake and Quentin Crewe, which was stories about all the three-star chefs in France and how they ran their kitchens. Some were miserable pricks who made Gordon Ramsay&rsquos television show look like nothing. Others were lovely old gentlemen, and it was like working for your grandpa. It really inspired me to focus on my career.
What have you liked more recently? One of the big problems with cookbooks today is that everything&rsquos dumbed down. All you see is Rachael Ray and Giada De Laurentiis, essentially two actors acting the part of a cook.
Go back a few years&mdashis there anything you&rsquod call a modern classic? I consider Time Life&rsquos The Good Cook series the best cookbooks ever written. Jasper White&rsquos Cooking From New England is still sensationally good. I grew up there, and his stuff&rsquos very accurate. Paula Wolfert&rsquos not a professional cook, but she does her homework. The best of her books is The Cooking of Southwest France. And I like Marco Pierre White&rsquos The Mirabelle Cookbook and Wild Food From Land and Sea &mdashhe&rsquos a jerk in real life, but he writes a good cookbook.
Andrew Evans, The Inn at Easton
&ldquoThomas Keller&rsquos cookbook is really respected&rdquo
Which books have influenced you most? Definitely Gordon Ramsay&rsquos Passion for Flavour . He has great flavor combinations without there being 20 sauces on the plate. The basis for our sticky fig pudding is his steamed-pudding recipe. And Thomas Keller&rsquos The French Laundry Cookbook. It was meticulously put together, and it&rsquos really respected in the culinary community. I&rsquove picked up some of his sauces, like the artichoke nage, and his technique for making oils and powders.
Which of the classics do you use? I still use the Larousse Gastronomique for ideas because just as modern cuisine takes off, that&rsquos when really old techniques and flavor combinations come back into vogue. So you&rsquoll go to Larousse and it seems really fresh because nobody&rsquos cooking that food anymore.
You&rsquove spent time in Asia and Australia. Any favorites that focus on those cuisines? David Thompson has a restaurant in London, but he&rsquos the authority on Thai cuisine. The Thai government even had him teach their cooks. His Thai Food is like a bible, but the recipes are really labor-intensive. It&rsquos Thai restaurant cooking.
Jeff Buben, Vidalia and Bistro Bis
He uses Weight Watchers!
What cookbooks do you use in the restaurant? The ones we use most are on charcuterie and curing&mdash The Art of Charcuterie by Jane Grigson. Our chorizo recipes, the Lyon sausage, and all the sausages we make are from there. The newer Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman is also very good.
How about at home? I rarely cook at home. My wife, Sallie, loves the Best of Cooking Light series. I&rsquoll say, &lsquoHoly cow, this tastes good!&rsquo And she says, &lsquoWell, I used ten times less butter and oil than you would.&rsquo One of my favorite recipes, spaghetti with Gorgonzola and figs, is from the Weight Watchers Great Every Day Cooking cookbook.
What are the best books on Southern food? In the last few years, Frank Stitt&rsquos Southern Table . Edna Lewis is really the top in official Southern cuisine. Her books, like The Taste of Country Cooking, are authentic. The recipes are from her family. Junior League cookbooks&mdash The Southern Junior League Cookbook and Southern Elegance &mdashare great for inspiration. [Sallie Buben, in the background: &ldquoOur chess pie comes out of that!&rdquo] But it&rsquos more for ideas&mdashwe&rsquoll see a recipe for molasses cookies and think, &ldquoWhat if we did a bourbon mousse on a molasses sable?&rdquo
Barton Seaver, Cafe Saint-Ex
&ldquoI vowed to teach myself French so I could read Ducasse&rdquo
How do you use cookbooks? I have never, other than pastry, made an exact recipe out of a book. But I have dozens of little notebooks that I religiously keep, full of ideas from cookbooks. And on a Tuesday afternoon when I&rsquom hurting to come up with creative ideas, I flip through them.
What kind of books do you use the most? There&rsquos Julia Child, there&rsquos The Joy of Cooking , and then there&rsquos definitely that Ferran Adria category of, &ldquoThat&rsquos awesome! I&rsquom never gonna do that.&rdquo But in between are books that explain how to think about food, how to become fluent with a set of ingredients. Those are the ones I keep going back to.
Which ones fall into that category? I&rsquom thinking of Jeremiah Tower&rsquos books and Suzanne Goin&mdashher Sunday Suppers at Lucques just blew my mind&mdashand Judy Rogers&rsquos The Zuni Cafe Cookbook . You can tell they&rsquore emphatically in love with the food. It&rsquos not just about a recipe&mdashit&rsquos more of an artistic statement.
Where do you get your books? Some, like Adria&rsquos El Bulli books or my Alain Ducasse books, are investments. I got them cheaper in Europe, and I vowed to teach myself French to the point where I could read Ducasse. I found that recipes are recipes&mdashif you know how to cook in English, you know how to cook in French. Now I get them online at Abebooks.com. They have everything&mdash$250,000 ancient Roman texts or Elizabeth David books for four bucks.
Ris Lacoste, formerly of 1789
The joy of reading Julia Child
What&rsquos the first cookbook you owned? The Nitty Gritty Quiche and Souffle Cookbook . I got it when I was living in Berkeley around 1976, and quiches were my thing for friends coming over. I made two kinds: broccoli-cheddar and cauliflower-Swiss. Any quiche I make now still uses the batter from there.
You have a library piled with hundreds of cookbooks. Which ones do you use most? Richard Olney is someone I love. His Time Life The Good Cook series is fabulous, but what I use more is Provence. He&rsquos like Julia Child. They weren&rsquot restaurant chefs, but their passion for food is unrivaled, and the thoroughness with which they studied things. Read Olney&rsquos passage on persillade&mdashhe knows so well every little leaf of parsley.
What&rsquos your favorite Julia Child book? I don&rsquot think there&rsquos a book I know or like as much as Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Again, it&rsquos the thoroughness, the contemplative time-taking. She studied the French baguette to teach women in the United States to re-create it. And she worked it, worked it, worked it until she perfected it and gave it to us.
You do a lot of teaching. What do you tell beginning cooks to read? Anne Willan&rsquos La Varenne Pratique is a really good, basic cooking class.
Katsuya Fukushima, Cafe Atlantico and Minibar
&ldquoI love Alton Brown&rdquo
How do you use cookbooks? I look at the pictures, unless it&rsquos a recipe from a different culture&mdashlike Indian or Japanese or a tagine or curry&mdashand then I&rsquoll look at the ingredients.
What books have the coolest visuals? The El Bulli cookbooks by Ferran Adria&mdashthey&rsquore all pictures the recipes are on a DVD. Just the photography alone is beautiful. And I do use the recipes. I follow them to a T. At Minibar we do the liquid ravioli in calcium chloride and the liquid olive Ferran does.
Do you use any books for scientific explanation? I love Alton Brown&rsquos cookbooks. Harold McGee&rsquos On Food and Cooking is great, but you&rsquove gotta really be clear-headed to understand it. Alton&rsquos books describe things in ways that make sense and are easy to understand.
Cooking Live With Sara Moulton
Sara Moulton told KLCS in an interview that she never wanted to be on television. "I thought that was tacky, only people who needed attention did that."
Moulton graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1977 and when working in a restaurant in Boston, a co-worker, who had volunteered for Julia Child's show Julia Child and More Company, recommended Moulton to Child. The two hit it off, and Moulton was hired to test recipes. Moulton's mentorship with Child helped secure her the job as executive chef on Good Morning America, where, again, she worked behind the cameras. In 1993 Food Network hired Moulton to run the network's kitchen, and after she shot an episode of How To Boil Water, they offered her a show. "They were so desperate in the early days of Food Network," she said, "they were all news people, not food people."
Cooking Live premiered in 1997. Moulton usually prepared three recipes that highlighted particular ingredients, as reported by The Washington Post. A fierce multi-tasker, she managed to keep cooking, despite the occasional odd question from a viewer. A lesson she learned from Child: Smile always, and don't forget to make the food look delicious.
After 1,200 episodes, Food Network canceled the show in 2004. Moulton blames the network's switch in demographics. "It had been women of I don't know what age group. But they changed it to 15-35-year-old males," she told Eater with some bitterness. "They were more interested in really good looking people with really big personalities."
World's top chef doesn't want to go back to the kitchen
Ferran Adria, "the most influential chef in the world" is a man on a mission. Just not one that involves him having to run a restaurant.
The Catalan, whose elBulli restaurant was named the best on the planet a record five times is out to prove that the wildly experimental dishes he pioneered there still cut the mustard.
In the seven years since he unexpectedly shut the legendary Costa Brava restaurant, with 3,000 people still on the waiting list for a table, simpler more earthy cooking has come into vogue.
But the father of molecular cuisine, who brought the world the idea of "mandarin air", eating smoke, caramelised quails, trout egg tempura and any number of foams and emulsions, told AFP that he has not stood still.
"I have not stopped working" nor experimenting, he said, since he shuttered elBulli, which held the maximum three Michelin stars.
Back then Adria admitted that he was feeling a little jaded.
But as he explains in a new 15-part documentary series about his incredible rise from dishwasher to culinary superstar, "elBulli: Story of a Dream", which begins on Amazon Prime on Monday, he has well and truly got his mojo back.
It is just that he doesn't want to go back to cooking at the stove day and night.
"It makes no sense for me to open a restaurant," he told AFP. "Why would I do that?
"Almost all the greatest chefs in the world -- with a few exceptions -- no longer actually cook. They taste, direct and conceive," he said.
Adria has, however, helped his brother Albert to open six establishments in Barcelona, of which one, Enigma, he described as a "baby elBulli".
It came 95th in the latest "50 Best" world restaurants list.
Instead he teaches at Harvard university, gives advice, and runs the elBulli foundation, funded by 12 million euros of private capital from the Spanish giants Telefonica and CaixaBank and the Italian coffee company Lavazza.
A natural enthusiast every bit as whimsical and surprising in the flesh as his cooking, Adria is more concerned about bringing on the next generation of master chefs.
He had a big hand in forming the trio of talents who have replaced him at the top of the global gastronomic tree: fellow Catalan Joan Roca (of El Celler de Can Roca in Girona), Italian Massimo Bottura (of Osteria Francescana in Modena) and the Dane Rene Redzepi of Noma fame.
"I'd say 95 per cent of the restaurants I have helped have been successful," he added, acknowledging that he has worked with the Spanish chef Jose Andres of the Minibar in Washington DC, which has two Michelin stars.
Adria -- who is still only 56 -- is also working on a gastronomic innovation centre on the site of the old elBulli at Cala Montjoi, which is due to open five years behind schedule next year.
Rather than a molecular cuisine, he prefers to call his cooking "techno-emotional".
"They say that I am out of fashion, that no one makes 'espumas' anymore (his light-as-air mousses). But thousands of restaurants across the world now use siphons," said the "alchemist" The Guardian once called "the most imaginative generator of haute cuisine on the planet."
He said his mission at elBulli's was to discover "the limits of the gastronomic experience". In 17 years there he created 1,846 recipes, including a "crispy liquid", a mousse of white beans and sea urchins and powdered foie gras.
Adria said he hopes the new Amazon series -- based on a previous television series about his work -- will help demolish some of the myths about elBulli, which sparked controversy because of its use of chemical additives.
"Salt is a lot worse for the health than any stabiliser," he hit back.
Another of his new passions is a project he calls his "Bullipedia", an enormous gastronomic encyclopedia for which the autodidact has plunged himself into studying 400 years of French cuisine.
"It is one of my big sources of inspiration" at the moment, with Chinese, Mexican, Peruvian and Japanese cooking.
While the British and American press like to see Adria as a symbol of the new hegemony of Spanish haute cuisine over the French, he told AFP that he was a "child of French nouvelle cuisine", citing Michel Guerard, the Troisgros clan, Paul Bocuse and Alain Chapel as his main influences.
Adéu, El Bulli
A lot of much better writers and thinkers have covered the closing of Ferran Adria’s El Bulli in recent days. In fact, I’m writing this just after seeing Anthony Bourdain say farewell on his show “No Reservations”. For those of you who’ve never heard of Ferran Adria or El Bulli, look out for Bourdain’s show on the Travel Channel or read about it in his book “Nasty Bits”. Hell, just Google it.
That’s what I thought, lazy ass – you want me to summarize it. I’ve never been there nor met him, but I just recently finished a biography on him. Which makes me Wikipedia. Here the rundown… In most circles, Adria is considered a culinary god and El Bulli was considered the best and most important restaurant in the world. It was at a remote location on the coast of Spain, about an hour north of Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia and was only open for a few months out of the year. Reservations were near impossible to come by – millions of requests for one of 50 seats per night. Dinner there was a five hour affair that consisted of 30-50 bite-sized courses, each of which a challenge to your senses and your definition of what food is and should be. Adria has been labeled as a genius (a word he hates) and the leader of the Molecular Gastronomy movement (a designation he hates even more). This is the movement that uses scientific gadgets and non-traditional methods to prepare food. So what you got was probably something you’ve never had, nor ever will have again. Stuff like freeze-dried foie gras, foams, spherified olives, use of liquid nitrogen, etc.
There’s considerable debate on whether this constitutes cooking, as it doesn’t adhere to the time-honored methods in Escoffier’s book. This was a point that I mentioned in my post about Common Grill, where an annarbor.com writer and Craig Common dismissed what Adria’s doing as “Willy Wonka” or mad science. To me there’s no debate – it’s cooking. There’s no difference between what Adria’s doing and that seminal moment in culinary history when a caveman named Ogg decided that meat placed over an open fire tastes better than raw. Or when some genius decided to salt and age pork belly to get bacon, the fifth food group. Cooking is nothing more than converting food from one form to another Adria just had a cooler toolbox to do it with.
And he did succeed in developing new ways to excited people and heighten senses – taste, texture, smell, sight, even sound – all in a quest to get at the essence of eating. I think the main reason for the criticism is he’s doing it now and most people are averse to new things. It’s not a stretch to say that 50 years from now, everyone will consider Adria and his work to be a culinary game-changer. In fact, his influence is already being felt in more accessible restaurants. More on that in my next post…
I’ve been planning on writing about El Bulli since the beginning of this blog as I was in the midst of reading Colman Andrews’ biography of Adria, Ferran. I actually finished it on Friday, July 29 th , exactly one day before El Bulli’s last day.
My original concept was to just do a full book report like we did when we were kids, but I scrapped that because the book was a piece of shit. I had high hopes for it as Andrews is a well-respected food and wine authority and founder of Saveur, my favorite food magazine. Although he does succeed in giving some insight about Adria’s past, the history of the restaurant, and what makes the man tick, he fails on two points. First, you have a book that goes into great detail about food that thrills and manipulates your senses visually, that borders on art, and discusses at great length the surroundings of the restaurant and research facility – and it doesn’t have one frickin’ picture!
But to me, the bigger sin is that the book was a major fluff piece. Descriptions and stories of the man held him aloft as something very precious, almost infallible. It was chapter after chapter of people saying they witnessed Adria eat a watermelon and shit out a brick of pure 24 carat gold. I would have liked to have read more about the debates about his relevancy and about dissenting factions without them being dismissed as philistines. As my buddy The Architect put it – “Let go of the hard-on and write.”
But back to Adria himself… There’s an anecdote in Bourdain’s book and television show that really gets to the heart of the what Adria does. He took Bourdain to his favorite restaurant in the world, a hole-in-the-wall named Rafa’s in Roses, Spain. It’s run by Rafa on the grill and his wife at the register. All that’s served there is the freshest seafood, mostly prepared with just olive oil and salt. And if the day’s catch is not up to Rafa’s standards, he doesn’t even open the restaurant. It’s here that Adria gets his inspiration – all the research and all the techniques that he does are all in a quest to evoke the memory and soul of that food. You can’t get any more traditional or purer than that.
Adria closed the restaurant for good last Saturday. There are rumors that it was closed due to an impending lawsuit by heirs of its initial financier and that he closed due to hurt feelings caused by his critics. The truth is that, although it was the most sought after reservation in the world, it wasn’t a moneymaker. He plans on re-opening in a couple of years as El Bulli Institute, a think tank where chefs (and other artistic disciplines) share ideas and new techniques. Not exactly sure how he’s going to make money that way, but what do I know…
In a recent Sunday New York Times piece, Mark Bittman went to El Bulli and talked about the staff meals. At 99% of restaurants, they are the cheapest possible concoctions consisting of stuff that’s about to get thrown away. At El Bulli, there was an effort to actually put some thought into the meal, but it still had to be under 3 Euros ($4.50). Usually, the meal ended up being some thing very simple and traditional. Bittman provided three recipes and I decided to make two of them. I can now say I cooked something that was served at El Bulli. (Click on the name to get to the recipe)
I’ve actually made more or less the same exact thing several times before by just winging it. Little did I know I was making a traditional Catalan meal. I followed the recipe (cut in half) and it didn’t turn out so well due to my mess-up. It tasted fine, but the veggies were piled too close together under the fish. So the humidity coming up from the veggies ended up steaming the fish more than roasting it. If I were to do it again, I’d spread the veggies out more, using less than what the recipe called for.
In the book, this was listed as one of Adria’s favorites, an after-school snack enjoyed in his youth. It’s such a simple recipe, but sooooo good. The bittersweet chocolate shavings melt on the hot bread and the salt provides a nice contrast. The recipe called for heating the bread in the oven, but I found it didn’t toast to my liking. Using a toaster works just fine. Also, I did use a microplane as recommended. The one I have is made for parmesan and lemon zest and, when I used it on the chocolate, the result was almost a powder. I’m not sure if this was as intended. It still tasted great, but I think I’ll try a little coarser next time.
Ferran Adrià launches cooking app
Spanish chef Ferran Adrià has launched a mobile app based on his latest cookery book written for the home chef and inspired by staff meals served at his now defunct Catalan restaurant El Bulli.
In partnership with Telefonica, Adria has released a tablet app that contains all 31 three-course meals, with step-by-step instructions, shopping lists, an organizational guide, cooking tips and the ability to share photos of the meals on Facebook and Twitter.
The app is currently available in Spanish on Amazon and iTunes for €14.50 or $15.99, as well as on Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD and Android.
Recipes include simple, home cook-friendly dishes like fish soup and beans, spinach and egg.
Next restaurant chef Grant Achatz, meanwhile, bypassed the print medium altogether when he published the recipes for his inaugural pop-up menu of Paris in the time of Escoffier for the iPad.
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Europe is not an easy ally against China, former US trade representative Charlene Barshefsky says
The United States should realise that it is not going to be easy to get European allies on board to fight China because of the different priorities each country faces, a former top US trade negotiator said on Wednesday. “Europe might think of China differently from the United States, and therefore might be less capable of joining the United States’ effort” in its battle against China, said Charlene Barshefsky, former United States trade representative under the Clinton administration, at an event hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce. “As we look at the European picture, the constraints they are under, the general interests that we hold in common, Europe will end up doing a balancing act,” said Barshefsky, who had led the negotiation with China for its entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001. She is now chair at Parkside Global Advisors.Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team. And a balancing act “implies the US doesn’t get everything it wants”, said Barshefsky, referring to the difficulty the US is likely facing in convincing its European counterparts to curtail trades in technology, restrain business transactions and join in on sanctions against China. For one, Europe is highly dependent on China in its exports. In 2020, China overtook the US to become the top trading partner with the European Union, with goods and services traded reaching US$709 billion, compared to the US$671 billion traded between the EU and the US, according to Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office. “The US may want to retain its status as the sole superpower or as a superpower in the world. Europe is not going to fight with China in order to preserve America’s unique role in the world,” Barshefsky said. “That’s a US interest. It is not an interest Europe would necessarily fight China over.” Other considerations include the disagreement between northern Europe and southern Europe in their views about China, which could prevent the continent from speaking with one single voice when it comes to its stance against the Asian country. Breakthrough in chips materials could push back the ‘end’ of Moore’s Law Europe’s ambition to become strategically autonomous would also make the region less incentivised to follow the US. “If Europe wants to embrace strategical autonomy, how could it follow the United States?” Barshefsky asked. More importantly, many countries across the Atlantic have a different perception of threat regarding China, she said. “Europe does not feel a security risk from China,” she said. “Europe is not positioned in the Pacific the way the United States is. And the result is that Europe does not feel a sense of imminent threat, as the United States might be feeling. “Many Europeans believe, even indirectly, there is no threat from China.” Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo lobbied for years for European countries to exclude Chinese tech company Huawei from their 5G infrastructure for national security reasons. Germany held out for a long time, saying the right way to deal with China on 5G was to come up with new rules to ensure security. Even after Germany fell in line with the EU in April to pass stricter legislation on Huawei, critics doubted the rules would be fully implemented. Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel pushed for an investment agreement to be signed with Beijing in December, sending a signal to the Biden administration of strong economic ties between Europe and China shortly before the new president was sworn in. Barshefsky warned “the United States may find, even with the best of intention on the part of all parties, that cooperation falls short of achieving particular goals”. China’s investment deal with Europe set for the freezer “You can be close friends but have significant differences with respect to certain interests,” she said. “You’re under different pressures and every country has its politics.” Europe has made it clear, however, that it is disturbed by China’s behaviour on human rights related issues, Chinese distorted trade and economic policies, and on fundamental values. The leaders in Europe are growing increasingly torn between its economic interests and the obligations to hold up human rights. European Union lawmakers plan to vote on Thursday to formally halt the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment it signed in December, in response to China’s human rights issues related to Xinjiang.More from South China Morning Post:US Senate advances bill to fund tech development to counter ChinaChina backs IP waiver for coronavirus vaccinesChina’s WTO reform aspirations take centre stage at globalisation seminarUS urges WHO to invite Taiwan to annual meeting, a move opposed by ChinaThis article Europe is not an easy ally against China, former US trade representative Charlene Barshefsky says first appeared on South China Morning PostFor the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2021.
OG miss out on Major spot for second straight season
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US warship transits South China Sea to challenge ‘unlawful maritime claims’
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If You Invested S$10,000 in This Stock 10 Years Ago, this is How Much You’d End Up With
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According to data from the National Union of Statistics, 76.5% of professional chefs are male. This has decreased marginally from 2015, where 81.5% of professional chefs surveyed were male. However, when it comes to pastry chefs the stats tend to differ and this field is dominated by women (as demonstrated by this years James Beard Award nominees all being female reported in the Washington Post) making the decision to profile predominantly men in the new series of Chef's Table: Pastry a surprising move.
Christina Tosi is the only female
pastry chef to appear on the Netflix series
There has always been a gender disparity in the kitchen, however, the art of pastry has always been very much female dominated, so the decision to include just one woman in the new series of Chef's Table has caused some controversy.
The popular Netflix show is focusing on all things pastry for their fourth series and will launch on the TV platform on Friday, 13th April and despite pastry being overwhelmingly dominated by women, their choice of pastry chefs is drawing some criticism on social media.
At the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), 85 percent of those enrolled in the baking and pastry arts program are women, according to Food & Wine magazine.
Who will be appearing on Chef's Table: Pastry?
Chef&rsquos Table will profile four pastry chefs across three continents: Jordi Roca of the renowned Spanish restaurant El Celler de Can Roca which was voted third-best restaurant in the world in 2017 Sicilian gelato maker Corrado Assenza who has been described as &ldquoThe Ferran Adrià of pastry&rdquo Will Goldfarb chef patron of Room4Dessert in Bali and chef Christina Tosi, founder of the Momofuku Milk Bar empire.
All of these chefs are very worthy of their inclusion in the show, but many people have questioned the ratio of male to female chefs.
Three exceptional female French pastry chefs are (in Paris) Claire Damon of Des gâteaux et du pain and Claire Heitzler of Ladurée, as well as my favourite (in Alsace), the great Christine Ferber.
&mdash Lesley Chesterman (@lesleychestrman) March 19, 2018
Reaction on social media
The decision to feature three men to one woman in what is a female dominated field has perplexed many commentators such as Montreal restaurant critic Lesley Chesterman who expressed surprise at the absence of any French pastry chefs and tweeted ideas of whom should have been included. Senior food editor, Khushbu Shah tweeted:
this is a joke right? to only have one woman? https://t.co/42SgW91zA9&mdash Khushbu Shah (@KhushAndOJ) March 19, 2018
While Toronto-based restaurateur Jen Agg tweeted:
This is pretty insane. Pastry is OVERWHELMINGLY dominated by women. 1 woman 3 men?? Try inverting that. Holy shit https://t.co/unIabB6Nvr&mdash Jen Agg (@TheBlackHoof) March 19, 2018
What do the pastry chefs think?
Julien Thevenot, group executive pastry chef for Rhubarb Food Design in London says: "I would like to think that in 2018 Chefs are chosen on their skill and capability and not on their gender &ndash it seems this may not be the case for television. I think it is a shame there is not an equal mix of male and female chefs on Chef&rsquos Table."
He added: "I would have liked to have seen Christelle Brua and Janice Wong featured &ndash these are seriously talented female chefs doing some extraordinary things!
"The kitchen changed a long time ago &ndash there is no such thing as a women&rsquos place in the kitchen anymore, we have women in the main kitchen and in the pastry kitchen at rhubarb and they are all incredible. TV will hopefully catch up&hellip"
Sarah Frankland, head pastry chef at Pennyhill Park thinks it is 'wonderful' that Netflix has decided to produce a pastry specific version of their popular Chef's Table show.
She said: "Pastry is often an overlooked area within restaurants so it is great to see a targeted focus on this in a TV show. For the first 4 part series, they have without a doubt chosen 4 pastry chefs of high acclaim and skill.
"It is surprising to see only one female pastry chef, however, given the significant number of high-end female pastry chefs in the UK at the moment. an industry arguably dominated by female chefs."
She continued: "There are so many fabulous talented women pastry chefs globally but particularly in the UK, so perhaps itwas a missed opportunity to highlight this. In addition, so many questions are asked about why there not enough women in the main kitchen. The pastry kitchen has a significant female presence - their expertise, skill and drive alongside their male counterparts is one of the reasons UK pastry and chocolate is moving in such a positive direction.
"In summary, I'd have liked to have seen more focus on the contributions female pastry chefs have made to the industry but it's great to see a show highlighting the high end of pastry and the skill required. Hopefully next series we will see a more reflective mix."
The Director's response
In response to this criticism, Director David Gelb issued a statement, which he also posted on Twitter: &ldquoWe agree there should be a better representation of women across the board and we&rsquore committed to improving.
"There are many amazing chefs, from all walks of life, who inspire us and whose stories deserve to be told. We hope you enjoy the new season and the talented chefs behind it.&rdquo
Movie review: ‘El Bulli’ requires appetite for patience
The restaurant, El Bulli, was innovative. The movie, “El Bulli,” is not.
Consistently listed among the world’s finest restaurants, the Spanish El Bulli broke ground in the molecular gastronomy movement. What that means for the film is that El Bulli’s chefs usually look more like scientists, experimenting with gels and foams as they sit at their computers or work in immaculate, sterile rooms that resemble laboratories more than kitchens. What that means for vicarious eaters/moviegoers is that you may not see one dish that you’d want to eat, much less attempt to re-create at home.
El Bulli chef Ferran Adria, whose job appears more inspirational than hands-on, says his restaurant – which recently closed its doors and which served dinners that ran to 35 small courses – was an “avant garde” place. He intended it not for people who were hung up on taste but for adventurers who got into the idea of a ravioli dish in which the pasta disappeared in their mouths. It was clearly a rarefied room – “No one gets a table without a reservation, even if there’s a table available,” its servers are instructed – and the cooking/research done there has been influential throughout the restaurant world.
The somewhat poky documentary follows a year in the life of El Bulli, which was closed for about half of each year, while its researchers dreamed up dishes to feature vanilla chips and rabbit brain broths, and then served diners the other half of the year. It’s an unusual arrangement that “El Bulli” treats with perhaps too much reverence. Adria’s unchallenged pronouncements here seem like words passed down from the food gods and the observational style of “El Bulli” – no narration, no context, no interviews – doesn’t give us much of an “in” to the material.
For me, though, “El Bulli” finally made sense with its closing images, in which a photographer takes elaborate photos of the dishes the restaurant offered in its final season. This is food that is not meant to be savored, but to be admired.
“EL BULLI: COOKING IN PROGRESS”
Directed by: Gereon Wetzel
Rated: Not rated, but contains no objectionable material
Should you go? As it lingers over chefs chatting and organizing, it requires more patience than, say, an episode of “Top Chef.” But I bet adventurous eaters will be intrigued. **1/2
A farmer to chefs reveals his deep vegetable knowledge
This cover image released by shows "The Chef’s Garden: A Modern Guide to Common and Unusual Vegetables — with Recipes" by Farmer Lee Jones. The 640-page handsome book is equal parts vegetable reference bible, family memoir and recipe collection. (Avery via AP) AP
NEW YORK (AP) &mdash Despite thousands of years of humans working the soil, there are still things to learn. Just ask Farmer Lee Jones about the beet leaves.
The Ohio-based farmer had planted too many beets and the surplus was dumped in a pile in a cooler. He returned later to find that when he dug below the first layer, to where the beets got no light exposure, beautiful leaves were growing out of the vegetable in the dark.
&ldquoIt&rsquos a yellow leaf with red veins. And it&rsquos one of the sexiest things that you can imagine,&rdquo he says. &ldquoWe&rsquore like, &lsquoHoly smokes, this is nicer than anything we grew on purpose!'&rdquo
You might not find plants particularly sexy until you speak to Jones and catch his infectious enthusiasm for farming. He's a relentless experimenter, willing to try new techniques, new ideas and new flavors.
&ldquoThere are literally thousands of plants and vegetables to be explored,&rdquo he says. &ldquoWe have a saying that we try and work in harmony with Mother Nature rather than trying to outsmart her.&rdquo
Jones' deep knowledge about vegetables and growing them is soon available via &ldquoThe Chef&rsquos Garden: A Modern Guide to Common and Unusual Vegetables &mdash with Recipes.&rdquo The 640-page handsome book is equal parts vegetable reference bible, family memoir and recipe collection. It comes out April 27.
&ldquoWe try in the book to really look for different ways to be able to utilize plants in America. We kind of think one-dimensionally,&rdquo he says. "We do bone marrow. Why can&rsquot we do vegetable marrow?&rdquo
Jones is the face of The Chef&rsquos Garden, a sustainable, 350-acre family farm in Huron that provides chefs worldwide with seasonal specialty vegetables, microgreens, herbs and edible flowers.
Name a starry chef and there's a good chance they've done business with The Chef&rsquos Garden: José Andrés, Alain Ducasse, Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller and Ferran Adrià, among them. With his welcoming air and signature denim bib overalls and red bow tie, Jones has become something of a celebrity, too.
The Chef&rsquos Garden grows 700 kinds of vegetables, with 150 to 200 more in trials. There's a lab where scientists analyze the soil and seeds, and there's also the Culinary Vegetable Institute, which attracts 600 visiting chefs a year to share their knowledge and cook together.
Readers of the book will find new ways to prepare vegetables, from celery root to cauliflower, and learn about more unusual ingredients like carrot seeds, knotweed and radish seed pods.
&ldquoFor several thousand years, we always ate only the top of the carrot plant. It&rsquos only been in the last few hundred years that we started eating the bottom of the carrot. Now nobody eats the top,&rdquo Jones says.
Jones' farm is surrounded by 5,000-acre commercial farms, and he does things differently: Instead of chemicals, he uses 15 species of cover crop to replenish the soil. He argues that American farmers have lost their way regarding food and health.
&ldquoI don&rsquot knock the other farmers. They&rsquore following the model that exists and that&rsquos to keep the costs as low as possible and the tons per acre as high as possible. It&rsquos not about the integrity of the plant. It&rsquos about the tons per acre,&rdquo he says. &ldquoWe&rsquore a bunch of odd ducks out here, for sure.&rdquo
Above all, Jones emphasizes taste and minimizing waste. He looks to Europeans, who learned over centuries of struggle with food insecurity to use every part of their animals.
Take oxtail, a peasant food for years. &ldquoThey figured out great ways to make good dishes with the flavor of the oxtail. And then Thomas Keller comes over here and puts an oxtail on a plate and it&rsquos 90 bucks.&rdquo
Jones wants to showcase vegetables, and the book offers attractive and tasty options, from Butter-Poached Squash with Hemp Seed and Coriander to Potato Pierogi with Caramelized Onion Chips.
The book has a forward written by Andres and is co-written with Kristin Donnelly, with recipes by Jamie Simpson. Lucia Watson, the book's editor for Avery, says it is timely.
&ldquoVegetables are the center of our plate more and more. And it is kind of where all of the exciting cooking is coming from &mdash experimenting with vegetables," she says.
"This gives home cooks an incredible window into that and an incredible resource. It introduces them to vegetables that they may not have heard of before, but they see at their farmer&rsquos market and think, 'What if I brought that home? What would I do with it?' And it also makes them look at vegetables that they&rsquove taken for granted.&rdquo
Jones got his love of farming from his dad and keeps a foot in the past &mdash he admires what farmers before him accomplished and reveres old farm machinery &mdash as well as embracing modern technology for things like crop analysis and distribution.
&ldquoMy dad had a saying that the only thing we&rsquore trying to do is get as good as the growers were 100 years ago. It was pre-chemical, pre-synthetic fertilizer, rotating the land, rebuilding the soil,&rdquo he says.
COVID-19 was a wake-up call for Jones to diversify since The Chef's Kitchen found its links to chefs and cruise lines severed when those business shuttered. The farm has since pivoted to nationwide home delivery and opened a farmer's market while it waits for restaurants to rebound.
But Jones, ever the optimist, sees a silver lining even in a pandemic: There has been a surge of people interested in growing their own food and planting vegetables.
&ldquoKids emulate parents behavior. And guess what? Parents planted gardens and kids wanted to go help. And when a kid grows a carrot and they pull it out, even if they didn&rsquot like it before, they&rsquore more interested in trying a carrot," he says. "So I think out of the ashes of this we have to find those good things.&rdquo