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"Project Smoke" aims to elevate your barbecue


Are you just getting into barbecue or do you consider yourself a seasoned pitmaster? Either way, grilling guru Steven Raichlen's new PBS series called "Project Smoke," which debuted last weekend, aims to boost your barbecue IQ. Thirteen 30-minute episodes feature "recipes, ingredients, tools, tricks and techniques that aim to lead the audience on a smoke-filled journey to new flavors."

"I call smoke the umami of BBQ," Raichlen told Yahoo! Food. "It enhances the intrinsic flavor of beef, pork, fish and vegetables the way umami does. Smoke has the ability to give food such a depth of flavor without denaturizing the original product." The show is aimed at both novices and experts. "If you're a beginner, you'll learn how to smoke on every smoker and how to use every ingredient. If you're more advanced, you'll learn some tricks and dishes that aren't part of your repertoire," he said.

In addition to behind-the-scenes footage of how food programs are put together, Raichlen will emphasize ethical eating by encouraging cooks to use grass-fed beef, heritage pork, organic poultry, and wild seafood, as well as locally sourced produce. The show will cover many different techniques, such as cold smoking (salmon), smoke roasting, rotisserie smoking,  and hay smoking. He'll also offer advice on the best smokers to buy - and for the dedicated, instructions on how to build your own.

Photo of Coffee-rubbed Texas-style brisket  from  Cooking Light Magazine by Steven Raichlen


Martha Stewart Living has a new owner

Martha StewartMartha Stewart, who pioneered lifestyle branding in the late 1990s, has sold her empire to Sequential Brands, Inc. in a deal announced yesterday. When Stewart took her company public in 1999, it was valued at $1.8 billion USD. The recent sale indicates how much more crowded the fields of cooking and decorating have become, as the Sequential Brands deal is valued at only $353 million, a fraction of the brand's former worth.

Once the most dominant name in cooking and decorating, in recent years Stewart has faced stiff competition from new "domestic divas like Rachael Ray and everyday bloggers who write about home decorating, cake baking and the like." The internet has contributed to this shift, as people have embraced getting advice, recipes, and ideas from multiple sources instead of one dominant brand.

Whether this transaction will revive the flagging company is unclear. Despite making major changes, Martha Stewart Living has reported annual losses every year since 2003 with only one exception (2007). But Sequential Brands thinks the brand still has life in it. Yehuda Shmidman, CEO of Sequential, points to "research that shows the Martha Stewart name has 96 percent awareness among women in the U.S." He also notes that 70% of women say that Stewart has or continues to influence them. The company also has a wide base, reaching about 100 million people. 

Do you think this sale can revive the brand or is it destined to continue its decline? Is Martha Stewart Living still a go-to source for you?

Kickstarter for new book about Paula Wolfert

Wolfert collageFans of Paula Wolfert take note: an all-star cast of authors has launched a Kickstarter for a new book about Wolfert, known as the Queen of Mediterranean cooking. As Michael Rulhman reports, the Kickstarter achieved its initial modest goal, but is now expanding to a stretch goal of $80,000.

In the introductory video to the Kickstarter, Wolfert says "I live in the now. I live for today and I make it work for me." She is referring to adjustments she's made since her Alzheimer's diagnosis several years ago. Andrea Nguyen, who is leading the project, says part of the upcoming book's goal is to help Wolfert "bust the stigma against Alzheimer's by exploring the relationship between memory and food."

Nguyen is collaborating with Emily Thelin (formerly an editor at Food & Wine) on the new book. Says Nguyen, "By presenting Paula's incredible story along with a collection of her brilliant recipes, we aim to honor her legacy." Since the initial Kickstarter goal was met in just a few days, they are expanding the project and hope to double the print run to 3,000 books. There is still time to back the Unforgettable Kickstarter project if you are interested.  

Christina Tosi on bringing Milk Bar to the masses

crack pie

Home baking has surged in popularity recently, and some of surge can be attributed to James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Christina Tosi of Momufuku Milk Bar fame. Her cookbook of the same name was a huge success, and she's followed up with a second book that is part cookbook and part memoir. She recently spoke with Emma Bazilian about Masterchef, endorsement deals, and her famous crack pie.

Tosi discusses why, after pursuing a degree in mathematics, she chose to be a pastry chef. One her hobbies during college was baking. Says Tosi, "I started baking two or three recipes a night, every night-that was my happy place. And when I was nearing the end of college, I knew that I didn't want a real job - I didn't want to really be a grown-up - so I decided to move to New York and go to culinary school."

The article delves into how Tosi came to work for David Chang, and how she's been growing her bakery empire - in addition to her bestselling cookbooks, she has several bakeries in the U.S. and Canada, plus a line of mixes at Target. Tosi also talks about her excitement for being a judge on MasterChef and now on MasterChef Junior. Speaking about the latter program, she says: "… It was one of those things where the next day I went into work and said, 'Every single person needs to go home and watch this show.' It completely restores your faith in humanity."

Photo of Crack pie from Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi

Culinary icon Roger Vergé passes away

cookbooks of Roger VergeLegendary French chef Roger Vergé died on June 5 at age 85. Verge led the culinary movement that became known as nouvelle cuisine, where lighter and fresher fare replaced the heavy, fat- and cream-based sauces of traditional French cooking. Vergé's particular brand of nouvelle cuisine came to be called cuisine du soleil, or cuisine of the sun, which consisted of mainly Mediterranean foods enhanced with vegetable essences and fruit reductions.

Vergé opened several restaurants, and in the 1970s he held the most number of Michelin stars of any single chef in France. Chefs that trained in his kitchens include giants like Daniel Boulud, Alain Ducasse, and Hubert Keller. In the following decades, Vergé opened or consulted on many restaurants and wrote dozens of cookbooks in both French and in English.

Unlike many chefs of his era, who were reluctant to share recipes with others, Vergé freely shared his skill set as he felt it would benefit other cooks. Vergé once said [translated], "The more knowledge we share, the more the cuisine is enriched; we succeed if we make what we love popular."

Inside Ottolenghi's test kitchen


Yotam Ottolenghi's cookbooks are among the most popular books in the EYB Library. The recipes are vibrant, fresh, and visually stunning. If you've ever wondered what it takes to come up with these wonderful recipes, you can now satiate your curiosity, as NPR's The Salt gives you a backstage pass into the Ottolenghi test kitchen.

You might think the kitchen would be a large, gleaming space stuffed to the rafters with the newest equipment, but the truth is that the kitchen is quite humble. "This is completely a replication of a home kitchen," recipe developer Esme Robinson tells NPR. It even has an average electric range, much to the staff's chagrin. 

The produce used to create those stunning photographs that adorn the cookbooks is likewise ordinary. The staff purchases ingredients at supermarkets on their way to work. Ottolenghi explains: "We really try to emulate what people would do at home," he says. "We could use restaurant suppliers easily, but the whole idea is not to." Instead, he says, he wants to "try to get it tasting and looking like it would if people are using normal ingredients. Because I know 80 percent of people would not go to specialty shops. They'll shop in their local supermarket."

There are many more interesting tidbits to learn about the Ottolenghi test kitchen in the article, including an explanation of why some recipes are very exacting about equipment features like pan size.

Photo of Kisir from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Highlights of the 2015 Ballymaloe LitFest

Ballymaloe grounds

For the second year running we spent a most glorious weekend at Ballymaloe (pronounced Bally-mal-loo), which hosted the third Kerrygold Cooking Literary Festival of Food & Wine (LitFest for short). The venue for the festival is split between the Ballymaloe House grounds and the nearby Ballymaloe Cookery School, which is helmed by Darina Allen and numerous members of the Allen family. Both the house and school are located in County Cork, Ireland.

The literary festival grew out of a suggestion by Geoffrey Dobbs, founder of Galle Literary Festival, that Ballymaloe celebrate its literary tradition, which includes publishing three generations of cookery books. The festival celebrates food and wine writing and draws authors, chefs, educators, wine experts, gardeners, publishers, and others for a weekend filled with stories, discussions,  music, dancing and of course, delicious food and drinks.

Allegra McEvedyFaced with a difficult decision about which cooking demonstration to attend - talented presenters included April Bloomfield and Fuchsia Dunlop - we ended up seeing the wonderful Allegra McEvedy, who amused us for three hours. Her demonstration concluded with a wonderful feast of seven dishes. The weekend also included talks, tours, interviews, discussions and even foraging - the hard part is choosing which events to attend. As if there weren't enough to keep you busy from morning 'til night, between events you can visit the Big Shed, which transforms every year into a stunning mecca of entertainment and food stalls featuring delicious local food and beverages.

Other highlights of the weekend were:                                                      

April BloomfieldAn interview with April Bloomfield, who told us her girlhood dream was to join the police force, and that she only went into cooking because she missed the police application deadline. Her goal in culinary school was to come out knowing how to cook a lamb chop - she never thought cooking would be a serious career. April has worked in some of the most famous London restaurants including Rowley Leigh's Kensington Place, Bibendum (where she worked with Simon Hopkinson), Roscoff, the Brackenbury, and 4 years at the River Café. It was there that she realised cooking was her life, and she credits two dishes from River Café as being life changers: Walnut sauce and Kale puree. She thinks she'd still be at River Café if she hadn't received an amazing offer to open a restaurant in New York. In addition to that restaurant, The Spotted Pig, she has also helped revamp Tosca Cafe in San Francisco, and has opened three other NYC locations: The John Dory Oyster Bar, The Breslin Bar & Dining Room, and Salvation Taco. April's discussion was an amazing story of someone who started from humble beginnings and whose passion for food and cooking grew slowly. In recognition of her persistent hard work, intelligence, and drive to continue to learn and improve, the Beard Foundation named her the top chef in New York in 2014.

David LebovitzDavid Lebovitz's entertaining talk, where we learned that he was turned down in his first attempt to get a job at Chez Panisse. But in a later interview with Alice Waters, when she discovered he shared her love of eating lettuce out of the bowl with his fingers, he got the job - although I suspect there was more to it than that! He loved his 14 years at Chez Panisse, where he worked mainly as the pastry chef. But it was his discussion of his time in Paris that was the most interesting. It tells a lot about him that he relocated to a country which he knew little about and where he didn't speak the language - he has little sympathy for people who tell him he's lucky and they wish they could do what he did! Fourteen years later, he's the author of a highly successful food blog (indexed on EYB), which is used by thousands of Americans and others as their personal guide to Paris (and a few great cookbooks, too!). Despite the frustrations of living in a culture that is so obviously different to his own, Lebovitz doesn't see himself leaving in the short or long term. It's obvious that he's incredibly hard working and his success is as much a result of his work ethic as it is his talent as a writer.

Sam ClarkA discussion by Sam Clark: It is always interesting to hear how successful chefs arrived at cooking as a career and we heard very diverse stories over the weekend. Sam Clark claims his inspiration was being the child of a single working mother which meant he spent time in the kitchen as a means of survival! Unlike other kids who might not have ventured beyond pot noodles, he explored different cuisines and often his cupboards were bulging with ethnic foods. Sam feels that because there is no distinct food culture in England, chefs aren't constrained by tradition. You can definitely see that in his two hugely successful restaurants, Moro and Morito.

Chez Panisse reunion: Since several Chez Panisse alumni were present at Ballymaloe it seems only fitting that they got together to reminisce. Alice Waters - restaurateur, Chez Panisse alumnifood activist, and pioneer of the American organic and local food movements - was a delight. David Lebovitz reflected on his time at Chez Panisse where he became a perfectionist, particularly concerning dressings and flavours. This now means he can rarely go out to eat without being disappointed. David Tanis spent many years as the Chez Panisse chef, and his appreciation of what a great green salad is means he always has to make his own! April Bloomfield was only there for a short time before she went off to create her successful restaurants, but the restaurant made a lasting impression on her and took her to a new level of appreciation for the fresh, simple cooking championed there.

Alice was asked if Chez Panisse could have started anywhere else besides Berkeley, California. She noted that a combination of the rich and fertile soil, people who were open to trying new things, and the area's winemaking industry that was just beginning to take off, together created the perfect storm that allowed Chez Panisse to thrive. She told us that the open kitchen at the restaurant was created because she wanted to see the sunsets from the windows. Another interesting tidbit we learned was that most of the restaurant's staff at the time hadn't gone to cooking school  and operated under the philosophy of "fake it until you make it."

BallycottonAfter reading about our wonderful weekend, I'm sure you feel tempted to attend next year (the dates are May 20-22).  If you need any further encouragement, this was the view from our hotel window in the morning.  

A big name returns with a new cookbook

Anthony BourdainIt's been over a decade since Anthony Bourdain has written a cookbook. His last was 2004's Les Halles Cookbook. But that's about to change as HarperCollins imprint Ecco has signed Bourdain for a new cookbook titled Appetites, currently slated for a release in fall 2016. The book will be coauthored with Laurie Woolever. According to the publisher, the book will distill 40 years of "professional cooking and world traveling to a tight repertoire of personal favorites."

MamushkaOther cookbooks on the horizon include one from blogger professional chef and blogger Theresa Carle-Sanders. Her cookbook, Outlander Kitchen, which is not due out until summer 2016, is based on her blog of the same name. The book will feature historical and character-inspired recipes from Diana Gabaldon's bestselling Outlander series (the cookbook and series are both published by Bantam).

Arriving a bit sooner is Mamushka by Olia Hercules. Hercules formerly worked with Yotam Ottolenghi and was named the Rising Star of Food 2015 by the Observer in the U.K. Mamushka,  a celebration of the food and flavours of the "Wild East" - from the Black Sea to Baku and Armenia to Azerbaijan, arrives in October.

Sarah Leah Chase breaks long hiatus to write a new cookbook

Sarah Leah ChaseAfter a two-decade hiatus, Sarah Leah Chase is back with a new cookbook, New England Open-House Cookbook: 300 Recipes Inspired by the Bounty of New England, which will be released later this summer. Chase is a caterer, cooking teacher, and prolific writer who is best known for co authoring The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook. Her other cookbooks, all highly regarded, include Nantucket Open-House Cookbook, Pedaling through Burgundy Cookbook, and Pedaling through Provence Cookbook.

After publishing the latter two books in 1995, Chase hadn't planned to write another cookbook, according to an article in Publishers Weekly. "Writing more cookbooks just wasn't part of my mindset," said Chase, who writes a weekly food column for Nantucket's Inquirer & Mirror newspaper. But in 2010, Peter Workman, the late founder of Workman Publishing, came up with the idea for a regional cookbook. He suggested to Chase that she write about New England. At first, she resisted.

She relented, however, after being inspired by the regional foods she has enjoyed. "In order to make the project feasible I chose to highlight people and places throughout New England that have been of special significance to me," said Chase. For New England Open-House Cookbook she draws from her memories of growing up in Connecticut and Maine; her experience living and cooking on Cape Cod; and her extensive travels meeting farmers, fishermen, and chefs. 

Food writer Josh Ozersky dies at 47

Josh OzerskyFood writer and founding editor of Grub Street Josh Ozersky died on May 4 in Chicago. He was in the city for the James Beard Foundation Awards ceremony which took place Monday evening. Ozersky served on the awards committee for the JBF.

Known for his passionate and often snarky diatribes, Ozersky was a food writer for Esquire magazine and frequent contributor to other publications including The Wall Street Journal and Food & Wine. A passionate carnivore, Ozersky authored a book on the history of the hamburger (simply titled The Hamburger.)

In addition writing about food, Ozersky founded Meatopia, a festival celebrating meat and the chefs who cook it that The New York Times once called a "bacchanal of pork, beef, lamb, chicken, duck, turkey and quail." He frequently got into spats with chefs and other authors, most famously with David Chang.

Ozersky's former Grub Street colleague Adam Platt penned an eloquent tribute to the late writer, in which he noted that Ozersky "had the metabolism of a great internet writer, but also the talent and voice of a great long-form essayist. In this topsy-turvy writing age, you usually get one or the other, but you don't get both. Josh was both. He did a lot of great writing about food, and about his beloved hamburgers, but he wrote beautifully and with great feeling about all sorts of topics."

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