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Jacques Pépin wins first Julia Child Foundation Award

Pepin cookbook collage

On Thursday evening, the Julia Child Foundation presented its first award, honoring Jacques Pépin for "the influence he has had on the way America cooks, eats, and drinks." The Foundation is named after the American chef, author and television personality who was a long-time friend and cooking partner of Pépin.

Child and Pépin co-authored cookbooks and often appeared on television programs together.  In presenting the award, the Foundation cited Pépin's "mastery in the kitchen and long career teaching and writing about the culinary world." Eric Spivey, Foundation chairman, said "He is someone who deeply believes in teaching others about food and wine. He has also invested time in helping others."

A five-person jury comprised of chefs and culinary experts selected Pépin for the first annual award. Despite suffering a minor stroke in March, Pépin is still going strong. In October, his latest (and what he has indicated is his final) television series debuts along with a companion cookbook, Jacques Pépin: Heart & Soul in the Kitchen.

The Great British Bake Off returns

Great British Bakeoff

It might be hard to believe, but the Great British Bake Off returns on 1 August for another season. The show has spawned several new stars and at least 20 cookbooks, some by contestants and some from hosts Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. The Guardian caught up with the show's presenters, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, to discuss the show as it approaches the premiere of its sixth season.

When asked how they retain their "famous normalness" when working on the biggest show on TV, Sue replies "We're the same people we were when we met as teenagers. We've had lots of ups and downs, so we don't link our career success to our personal happiness. You learn how to do that when you lose everything and become very badly unemployed, as we did." Mel chimes in, saying "It helps having extremely grounded families."

The pair discuss what they think the future holds and reply in their trademark off-the-cuff manner. They get a bit more serious when discussing the contestants, however. Says Sue ""A lot of people, women particularly, have come to this programme to find out who they are. They've spent a life doing things for other people, they're mothers, daughters, and now it's time for them. To see that spark of independence and self-worth is really something. I don't want to be too meta about it, because it is just a show about cakes, but..." and this is where Mel chimes in, "...it means a lot to people."

When talking with Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, the focus of the conversation changes a bit. They discuss their relationship, which is described as "most similar to that of a stubborn son and his long suffering mother." Mainly, though, they talk about the contestants. When asked why he thinks they want to be on the show, Paul states "It's about the challenge. To push themselves. Where's your benchmark? You want to be the best. It takes a certain type of person. A strong person. Confident. You have to be a pretty good baker as well." Mary notes that over the seasons, "the bakers have really changed. Now they're savvy, and they know what's expected of them. The standard has gone up. Paul and I are trying to get it back to basics."

Are you planning to watch the sixth season of the show? Which of the show's many cookbooks is your favourite?

The ultimate kitchen swap

cookbook collage

Last week, 37 of the world's top chefs did something a little bit crazy: they all switched restaurants for one day. Sponsored by S. Pellegrino, the Grand Gelinaz! Shuffle featured top chefs ranging from Noma's René Redzepi to McCrady's Sean Brock, who "not only cooked in an entirely new restaurant (and in some cases an entirely new country), but...also lived in their host chef's home while preparing an eight-course dinner that would show off their culinary skills."

GELINAZ! is an acronym created by a collective of international chefs and the Grand Gelinaz! Shuffle a project wherein the chefs try to continually challenge themselves to stay at the top of their game. Each chef had but four days to scope out the new kitchen, create a menu, and get the hosting team in tune so ticket-holding diners would be wowed by the food. 

Diners purchased tickets in advance of the event without knowing who was going to cook in their chosen restaurant. Naturally people tried to discover which chef was going where (even analyzing airline schedules), but for the most part, the surprises held and diners didn't know who was cooking until the day of the event.

Once the swap took place, the chefs shared their experiences with various news outlets and websites, often participating in Q&A sessions. Grub Street spoke with Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana (ranked No.2 in the World's 50 Best Restaurants) after his stint at David Chang's Momofuku Ko restaurant in New York City. Bottura told Grub Street what it was like to step into another chef's kitchen, how he felt about Sean Brock taking over his kitchen in Modena, Italy, and about the evening's menu.

Meanwhile, diners at Blanca in Brooklyn dined on a meal created by Alex Atala of D.O.M. in São Paulo, No. 9 on the World's Best Restaurants list. Bon Appetit interviewed Atala after his stint in Blanca's kitchen. Atala brought many ingredients with him, but "after hanging out in the Blanca kitchen for a couple of days, he incorporated house-made ingredients, like beef lardo and 'nduja (and that crazy dry-aged steak)" into the menu.

You can read how Paul Cunningham, formerly from the UK but now located in Denmark, loosened up the formality usually found in Sean Brock's McCrady's in Charleston, South Carolina, by turning up the lights, swapping out the music, and serving bread without any plates.

Switching to the West Coast, you can discover what Australian chef Jock Zonfrillo, who foraged in forests and on beaches in California, served to guests at David Kinch's Manresa, located in Los Gatos. Meanwhile, Kinch had hopped over the Pacific to Narisawa in Tokyo and Narisawa owner Yoshihiro Narisawa was cooking at Attica in Melbourne, Australia. You can see a full list of swaps here.

What inspires a pastry chef?

celery sorbet

Do you ever look at a recipe and wonder how the chef came up with the idea for it? An article from indexed magazine Bon Appetit answers that question, at least for Brooks Headley, James Beard Award-winning chef, formerly of New York's Del Posto. Headley, whose recent cookbook received excellent reviews, spoke with BA about how - and when - he gets inspired.  

First, he dispels the notion that he has a glamorous space in which to endlessly tinker with exotic ingredients. Headley notes that very few restaurants have their own experimental "laboratories." One that did was El Bulli, which had something called a taller, or workshop. Headley proposed that concept to Del Posto owners (Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali) several years ago. The reaction wasn't exactly what he wanted. Says Headley, "Have you ever seen one of those YOU WANT IT WHEN? desk tchotchkes with a series of characters clutching their guts, paralyzed with laughter? Really didn't take."

Instead, Headley has to wait to be inspired, which often occurs at the most inopportune times. He notes that inspiration "usually strikes in the middle of dinner service, when we are getting bludgeoned with orders. So I forget a lot of my ideas. I try writing them down on scraps of printer paper, which get tacked to an adjacent bulletin board in the finest serial-killer style. The tinier the chance of my having time to grab a Sharpie, the huger the awesomeness of the lightbulb moment."

Headley also gets ideas from inspirational books which he keeps near his workstation. They're not all dessert books nor even all cookbooks. He explains, "There is something magical and humbling about skimming a Sherry Yard book during a lull and getting reminded that you know absolutely nothing about meringues, and you should switch careers ASAP."

Photo of Sfera di caprino, celery and fig agrodolce and celery sorbet from The New York Times by Brooks Headley

"Project Smoke" aims to elevate your barbecue

brisket

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

Kisir

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

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