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Renowned Chicago chef Homaro Cantu found dead

Innovative chef Homaro Cantu was found dead Tuesday afternoon on Chicago's Northwest Side, according to authorities. Police are investigating the death as apparent suicide by the 38-year-old chef and part owner of the Michelin-starred restaurant Moto. 

Cantu was know for his avant-garde cuisine that feature edible menus and carbonated fruit, but he had ambtions that extended beyond being a renowned chef. Motivated by his family's homelessness when he was a child, "Cantu presented food and science as a way to solve the world's problems, particularly hunger."

The Miracle BerryHis former restaurant iNG and recently opened coffee shop Berrista prominently featured the miracle berry, a fruit that makes sour foods taste sweet. Cantu felt the fruit could eliminate the need for sugar and in 2013 he wrote a cookbook touting the miracle berry's benefits.

Cantu worked in acclaimed chef Charlie Trotter's kitchen for four years before becoming Moto's chef in 2004. He later became an owner of Moto, which has been honored with one Michelin star since the 2012 guide. After Trotter died in 2013, Cantu served on the board of the foundation established in the famed chef's name.

In March Cantu was sued by a former investor in Moto and iNG, Alexander Espalin, who claimed Cantu improperly used Moto's business bank account for personal use, including trips, meals and personal business. Espalin also alleged that Cantu was using profits from Moto to prop up other failing businesses. 

Thinking outside the schnitzel

roasted parsnip salad

When you think of German food, sausages, schnitzel, and sauerkraut probably leap to mind. Husband-and-wife team Jeremy and Jessican Nolen, authors of New German Cooking, want to change that perception. Owners of Philadelphia restaurant Brauhaus Schmitz, the Nolens recently spoke with Lynn Rosetta Casper of The Splendid Table on how they are challenging the stereotypes of German cuisine.

When discussing the impetus behind the cookbook, Jeremy notes, "We were trying to show Americans that there's a different side to German food, that it's not all sausage, sauerkraut, schnitzel, and meat and potatoes. There are a lot more vegetables and lighter, cleaner flavors. I think our goal was to make people aware that there's much more to German food." Recipes from New German Cooking that highlight vegetables include a radish and orange salad, kohlrabi salad with a black radish and garlic dressing, and a roasted parsnip salad with wheat beer vinaigrette.

Traditional German ingredients like sauerkraut make appearances in the book, but are often used in unusual ways, like in a sauerkraut potato gratin. Says Nolen, "Potato gratin is such a warm, comforting dish. I just wanted to change it up a little bit. Sauerkraut, being such a German ingredient, made sense. We put it together and the results were really great. It has that little bit of acidity, it cut the fat and the cream, and it came out really nice."

Photo of Roasted parsnip salad with hazelnuts, blue cheese, and wheat beer vinaigrette from Saveur Magazine by Jeremy Nolen and Jessica Nolen

 

Ramsay-Oliver feud reignites

Jamie Oliver & Gordon RamsayJamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay's long-running feud had been quiet for a few years, but recent remarks by both men have brought the tensions back to the surface.

According to The Telegraph, Oliver recently commented that "Gordon will do anything to try and take the p*** out of me because he is deeply jealous and can't quite work out why I do what I do and why he can't do that. He is too busy shouting and screaming and making our industry look like a bunch of shouters and screamers."

The chefs' bickering traces back to 2009, when Oliver criticised Ramsay for his disparaging comments about an Australian TV presenter. Ramsay responded by calling Oliver a "one-pot wonder." The back-and-forth exchange of insults continued for a time but seemed to be over until recently, when Ramsay called Oliver out on not attending the opening of one of Oliver's own restaurants in Hong Kong. Ramsay told CNBC: "Two British chefs, Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay, rubbing shoulders together in Hong Kong. At least I'm here, I came to my opening, right? If you're going to open a restaurant in Hong Kong at least turn up."

Oliver has since told an Australian news agency that he regretted his recent remarks about Ramsay. Both chefs are popular with EYB Members, but Oliver is on more Bookshelves by a wide margin. The online poll at The Telegraph, which asked who readers thought was the more successful chef, has Oliver up by 20 points on Ramsay. How would you respond to the survey?

Keeping Julia Child's legacy alive

Julia ChildIt's almost impossible to overstate the influence that Julia Child has had on cooking in the United States. Going against the tide of convenience food, she tirelessly promoted cooking at home and inspired countless people to get into the kitchen and make wonderful food.

Therefore it was exciting to read the news that the foundation Child established in the 1990s is establishing an annual award in her honor to help keep her legacy alive. The foundation it hopes the award will rival existing culinary accolades such as those bestowed by IACP and the James Beard Foundation. The first Julia Child Award will be given this August to "one person whose work in the culinary realm is, to put it succinctly, uniquely Julia-like." 

Child established nonprofit Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts in the mid 1990s to "carry on the kind of culinary work she spent the last half of her life championing." It will be a tall order to find someone who fits the criteria for the award, as the person must be a a culinary leader, "educator, a skilled communicator, a mentor and an innovator, someone who's charting a gastronomic course to greatness and bringing the American public along." The winner must possess integrity and have contributed to American cooking in way to change how people in the US approach food and drink.

The winner will be honored at a gala at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, DC. In lieu of a cash award, the winner will receive a $50,000 grant to "pay it forward" to a food-related nonprofit group. The October event will kick off the first American Food History Weekend at the Smithsonian, where Child's kitchen has been on display since 2002.

How does a famous chef cook at home?

Daniel Boulud

You might imagine that a top chef's kitchen features loads of equipment and a pantry stocked with exotic ingredients. That's not the case, at least for Daniel Boulud. The storied chef recently spoke with Yahoo! Food about what's always in his kitchen, and how he cooks at home.

He starts by listing the ingredients that he always has on hand: "Sea salt. Different oils - olive, walnut, hazelnut, grape seed. There are always vinegars. Different kinds of mustards. Spice from La Boîte à Epice. I always have saucisson, charcuterie - dry ham, salami, things like that, which I bring back from France. And then canned fish in my refrigerator-sardine, anchovy, tuna, octopus, mackerel. I love canned fish. "

Boulud prepares these simple ingredients, well, simply. His kitchen in France has a wood stove,  so he can't get too fancy. In New York he has access to a much more sophisticated kitchen (he lives above his restaurant), but when he's cooking for family he doesn't use it much. Boulud's favorite cooking experiences are those where he can "make delicious food with humble, simple ingredients and create an emotional moment with it."

When asked if he owned many cookbooks, he was quick to respond in the affirmative: "Are you kidding? I have thousands. I continue to buy them at auction as well. Old French cookbooks. I think they are part of what I am." Boulud recalls that his first cookbook was La Repertoire de la Cuisine by Louis Salnier, which he purchased at age 14 as he began his first kitchen apprenticeship In France.   

The interview delves into Boulud's formative years, and he also discusses the cuisine he would most like to conquer (Indian). 

Little known facts about the Nutella empire

Nutella cake

You may have heard that Michele Ferrero, the man at the head of the family behind Nutella and Ferrero Rocher, died on Valentine's Day. Reporting on Ferrero's passing, The Telegraph provides 14 facts that you may not know about Ferrero and the Nutella empire he leaves behind.

We first learn that the company has always been family owned. It was started by Michele's parents who had a small cafe in Alba, a hilly town in northern Italy. That is where Pietro (Michele's father) "would tinker with new products for pastry shop to sell." Giovanni Ferrero, Michele's son and Pietro's grandson, is now at the helm of the company.

The incredibly successful Nutella empire had humble roots. Pietro got the idea for Nutella when he wanted to make a cheaper alternative to chocolate, which was very expensive and hard to come by during and after WWII. He combined hazelnuts, which were easily available locally, with a little cocoa to form a sliceable block called pasta gianduja. The brick was meant to be sliced and eaten with bread. The product was reformulated to be more easily spreadable, but the Nutella name itself is newer than the spread. Ferrero renamed the paste when it was introduced in the UK in 1964.

Hazelnut are still very important to the company. Ferrero is the world's largest consumer of hazelnuts, using a whopping 25 percent of the entire world supply, the bulk of which come from Turkey. Bad weather in 2014 drove up the cost of the nuts, but Ferrero has buffered itself from price spikes by purchasing a major producer of Turkish hazelnuts. 

Nutella is now more popular than Marmite, another product with a loyal (some might say fanatical) following. Nutella outsells its "saltier friend in the UK, selling one jar every 2.5 seconds worldwide." While sales of Marmite are sagging, Nutella increased its sales by nearly 20 percent in 2013. Find out more interesting tidbits in the full article.

Photo of Torta alla gianduia (Nutella cake) from How To Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson

'White Heat' turns 25

White Heat 25Anyone who's been paying attention to in the last few decades knows about the fiery Marco Pierre White. He came into the limelight over 25 years ago, when he became the youngest person at the time to win first two, and then three, Michelin stars. His cookbook White Heat was a game-changer, and it's now set to be released as a 25th-anniversary edition, complete with previously unpublished photographs.

On the eve of the book's release, Rachel Cooke of The Guardian caught up with the enigmatic White. He provides insight on why he walked away from this three-starred restaurant at the height of its popularity. On the day he won his third star, White recalls the Michelin inspector told him to "'never forget what made you great.' What he was saying was: 'Stay behind your stove.' I respected that. The day I no longer wanted to be behind my stove, I put my hands up and said: 'I'm out of here.' It's all or nothing with me. I could not live a lie."

When asked his thoughts on his seminal cookbook, White is circumspect: "It doesn't mean much to me," he says. "It's not important. It's a part of my life that's been and gone...When I see those pictures [in White Heat], I just see that I was very unhappy and in great pain. That's the only emotional impact it has on me today. Work was a painkiller; it was where I hid."

Even though the fine dining world was where White made his mark, he has never visited a Michelin-starred restaurant in France and doesn't frequent new talked-about establishments: "They serve what I call conveyor belt cuisine: 18 courses, and all of them tepid. I want my food to be hot. I want to smell food when I walk into a restaurant...It's not about sitting there for three hours. I get bored after an hour. I want to go home to bed at ten."

Read more and discover other interesting tidbits, including White's thoughts on the Knorr stock cubes he promotes.

A stellar year for women in food

Barbara LynchIn 2013, TIME Magazine published an article titled The Gods of Food, which attracted notice for its glaring omission of women. Time took some heat for the article and 2014 began with low expectations for the treatment of women in the food industry. However, The Braiser reports that despite the dismal outlook, the year proved great for women as they dominated the James Beard Awards and received many other accolades.

The Braiser lists twelve women who "owned" 2014, and EYB members will recognize many of the names. First on the list was restaurateur Barbara Lynch. To say she was busy in 2014 would be a grave understatement. In addition to running her restaurant empire, Ms. Lynch earned a James Beard Foundation award for Outstanding Restaurateur, appeared on Top Chef, and is preparing to compete in the Bocuse D'Or in January.

A Lynch protégé, Kristen Kish, is also on the list. This year the Top Chef winner competed in Top Chef Duels and landed on the cover of Cherry Bombe magazine. Speaking of that publication, founders Kerry Diamond and Claudia Wu were heralded for their pioneering magazine that highlights not just big-name chefs, but also "the gals in the industry we may not have heard of before."

April BloomfieldAnother woman from the publishing field, Dana Cowin, makes the Braiser list as well. The editor of Food & Wine was lauded for leading the way in giving female chefs their due. In January, Food & Wine will publish an entire issue dedicated to female chefs. Other familiar names mentioned in The Brazier article include chef/authors April Bloomfield, Gabrielle Hamilton, and Nancy Silverton.

Some less familiar names include Katie Button, a James Beard-nominated chef from North Carolina who took "her chops on the road for the most dramatic chef show to come out this year, World's Best Chefs, to interview some of her former bosses, like Adria and José Andrés." Another newcomer is Rosio Sanchez, who worked with Rene Redzepi at Noma. Redzepi selected Sanchez to open a Mexican taqueria, Hija de Sánchez, in Copenhagen next year. 

Gil Marks, Jewish food historian, dies at 62

Encyclopedia of Jewish FoodOlive trees and honey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gil Marks, a culinary historian who wrote about Jewish food and culture, has died at the age of 62. Marks authored several books on Jewish food and in 2005 won a James Beard Award for his book Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes From Jewish Communities Around the World. He is probably better known, however, for his more recent Encyclopedia of Jewish Food.

Marks' books "not only provided a recipe-by-recipe chronicle of kosher menus through the centuries but also examined the role of food in the establishment and growth of cultural traditions," according to his obituary in the NY Times. At the time of his death, he was working on a new book called American Cakes. Portions of that work have appeared on the website The History Kitchen. 

In addition to being a culinary historian who focused on the relationship between Jewish food and culture, Marks was previously a guidance counselor and history teacher at Yeshiva University High School for Boys in New York. He also worked in Philadelphia as a social worker before returning to New York, where he lived for most of his life. Marks had recently moved to the West Bank near Jerusalem.

 

Chef Sean Brock brings history to Heritage

HeritageChef Sean Brock's recently released cookbook, Heritage, is sure to be on many "best of" lists for 2014. What began as a book about cooking in the Lowcountry (Brock's two restaurants are located in Charleston, South Carolina) transformed into a self-described documentary with "personal anecdotes and reflections on the significance of seed-saving, home-gardening and keeping culinary traditions alive."

The James-Beard Award winning chef found this change to a full-disclosure approach to be "terrifying." Making his personal history public was scary enough, but he also strived to make sure no recipes were shortchanged. He notes that "if the food that you're serving while you're telling a story isn't delicious, nobody cares about the story."

Brock, who grew up in Appalachia, takes a conservationist approach to food. He recalls eating at his grandmother's house, where the food was vibrant and flavorful, and contrasts those memories to the first time he ate Hoppin' John at a restaurant. Brock found it tasteless compared to his family's food, and he attributes the difference to the quality of the heirloom vegetables his family raised. "I'd go back to my grandmother's house, have dinner and everything would be bursting with flavour because my family saved seeds, and they're very in love with specific varieties of plants that they've been growing and eating forever," he says.

Brock would like to open another restaurantm this one based on the cuisine of the Appalachians, but he feels that he wouldn't be able to get enough of the quality food that he wants to use. Read more about Brock's story and why he thinks winter is the best time to cook at the National Post.

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