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Eric Ripert on how his mother's cooking kept them close

Eric Ripert

Eric Ripert is the chef and part-owner of Le Bernardin, a Michelin three-starred restaurnt in New York City. He is a frequent guest on such national shows as Bravo's Top Chef, Today, Charlie Rose, and more. Chef Ripert's new memoir, 32 Yolks, hits bookstores this month. 32 Yolks follows in the tradition of Jacques Pépin's The Apprentice and Marcus Samuelsson's Yes, Chef, as a coming-of-age story of a true French chef and international culinary icon.

Before he earned those Michelin stars, won the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Chef, or became a regular guest judge on Top Chef, and even before he knew how to make a proper omelet, Eric Ripert was a young boy in the South of France who felt that his world had come to an end. The only place Eric felt at home was in the kitchen. His desire to not only cook, but to become the best would lead him into some of the most celebrated and demanding restaurants in Paris.

Ripert shared an excerpt from his book on Oprah.com about how dining with his mother and watching her cook was the salve that helped to heal the wounds caused when his parents divorced. Ripert's mother never told him about his father's philandering, instead allowing the young boy to hold his father in high esteem. Because he didn't know the truth, Ripert blamed his mother for his father leaving.

But as he explains in the essay, dinnertime with his maman helped to repair their relationship. "As soon as she got home from work, she put a white apron over her silk designer blouse and slacks. That apron was like a superhero's costume; the minute she put it on, she was no longer the evil witch who'd cast my father out, destroying our family and my happiness in the process. She was just Maman. Lovely, capable, loving Maman. And although I would not allow myself to hug and kiss her with abandon as I had before, my anger melted and I let her feel my love," he says. 

Mark Bittman departs Purple Carrot after less than a year

 Mark Bittman

Mark Bittman made waves last year when he made two big announcements: first, that he was stepping down from his position at The NY Times, and then a few months later, that he was joining forces with vegan meal-kit delivery service Purple Carrot. Now, less than a year after he started, he is no longer working for the company.

He is retaining an ownership stake in Purple Carrot, but he's not an employee. In a phone conversation with Tom Philpott of Mother Jones, he was circumspect about his departure: "I wish the company nothing but the best," he said. "I did everything I could do to help [with its recent West Coast expansion], and now I'm ready for something new." Bittman told Philpott that he's still deciding what to do next.

The future for meal-kit delivery services is unclear. Venture capital firms have invested boatloads of cash into several startups like Purple Carrot, which sets itself apart by delivery vegan meals. Brita Rosenheim, founder of a consulting firm focused on food-related tech companies, reports that nearly half a billion dollars were invested in meal-kit companies in 2015. But few - if any - of these companies have turned a profit so far.

Has Tartine Bread turned into a culinary movement?

 Rye bread

It's fair to say that country-style breads, enriched with whole grains, are a hot trend in bread baking. Today you can walk into almost any US grocery store and find a "craggy-edged bread with a custardy crumb tinged the color of a plank of walnut by the presence of whole-wheat flour." According to the San Francisco Chronicle, this trend is no less than a culinary movement and can be traced to Chad Robertson of SF's Tartine Bakery.

The story offers anecdotes from several up-and-coming bakers who say they were inspired by Robertson and his books, 2010's Tartine Bread and 2013's Tartine Book No. 3. The latter book came out "just as interest was spiking in local heirloom wheats and ancient grains, many of which lack the right gluten to produce high and delicate-crumbed breads on their own. Tartine Book No. 3 suggested ways of folding in grain porridges, or blending small amounts of alternate flours, to capture their flavor without sacrificing texture."

But is it fair to credit Robertson for this movement toward high-hydration, low-knead breads with long fermentation times? After all, many other cookbooks in the same vein predated his books, as wonderful as they are. For example, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François was released in 2007. Two years after that, Jim Lahey published My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method and baking veteran Peter Reinhart released Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day. (I would be remiss not to include Reinhart's 2001 opus The Bread Baker's Apprentice in a list of influential baking books.) Nancy Silverton came out with her groundbreaking book Nancy Silverton's Breads from the La Brea Bakery in 1996. This short list just scratches the surface of the many respected books in the genre.

Perhaps we can forgive the Chronicle for a bit of home-town pride, and Robertson's focus on incorporating ancient grains does set his more recent work apart. But he builds on a long tradition that should not be overlooked. As Peter Reinhart told the newspaper, there are no real secrets in the baking world. "It's more about execution than it is about formula," he said.

Photo of René's rye from Tartine Book No. 3 by  Chad Robertson

Women win big at Beard Foundation restaurant awards


Although it's been a long, slow journey, women have made inroads in the mainly male-dominated restaurant chef sphere. This progress was illustrated at Monday's James Beard Foundation awards ceremony, where women topped several categories.

Chef Suzanne Goin of Lucques in Los Angeles won the title of Outstanding Chef. Dahlia Narvaez, also based in Los Angeles, took home the prize for Outstanding Pastry Chef for her work at Osteria Mozza. Daniela Soto-Innes, of Enrique Olvera's New York City restaurant Cosme was named Rising Star Chef. 

JBF representatives said that the last time all three of those awards had gone to women was over 10 years ago, in 2004. This year more women took home more awards than ever, showing that the restaurant scene is slowly but surely changing. Other women taking home prizes include Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery & Cafe in Boston, who was named Outstanding Baker. Renee Erickson of the Seattle restaurants the Whale Wins and the Walrus and the Carpenter was named Best Chef in the Northwest. 93-year-old Leah Chase, one of the founders of Dooky Chase's Restaurant in New Orlean, received a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Other notable winners include veteran chef Jonathan Waxman, who took home the title of Best Chef in New York City. Chicago restaurant Alinea won the coveted Outstanding Restaurant honor, and the New Orleans restaurant Shaya was named Best New Restaurant. You can find a complete list of winners at the JBF website.

Jacques Pepin on when not to follow the recipe

 caramelized pear custard

Have you ever followed a recipe to the letter only to have the dish turn out terribly? It might not be the recipe's fault, says veteran chef and television host Jacques Pépin. He recently spoke to Judy Woodruff of the PBS Newshour on why following a recipe exactly can lead to disaster.

Pépin notes the contradiction between writing a recipe and cooking from it. "When writing a recipe, one records a moment in time which can never be duplicated exactly again," he says. "The paradox is that the recipe tells the reader, this must be done this way, when, in fact, to get the result you're looking for, the recipe has to be modified each time."

The example he provides is a recipes for pears in caramel sauce that he has made many different times with different pears in varying stages of ripeness. "When I first created this recipe, the pears were done in 30 minutes. That amount of time only reflects the unique set of circumstances I faced, ripeness of the pear, type of roasting pan I used. This is what happened on that particular day," Pépin notes. But on subsequent occasions, the pears took different amounts of time to cook, and once actually needed a bit of water to help them along. Had he followed the 30 minute instruction to the letter, he would have had mushy pears or rock hard, scorched pears.

You might wonder what is the point of a recipe if it's always in flux. Pépin believes recipes are important, however. "A recipe is a teaching tool, a guide, a point of departure. You have to follow it exactly the first time you make the dish. But as you make it again and again, you will change it, you will massage it to fit your own taste, your own sense of aesthetic," he says.

Photo of Caramelized pear custard from from Jacques Pépin Heart & Soul in the Kitchen by Jacques Pépin

Sara Moulton's most personal cookbook yet

Sara Moulton's Home CookingSara Moulton has been involved in cooking shows for three decades. A protégé of Julia Child, she appeared on Food Network beginning in the 1990s and culminating with six years of the highly-rated "Cooking Live". She was also a regular on ABC's "Good Morning America" from 1997 through 2012, and now stars in the American Public Television series "Sara's Weeknight Meals." Despite this, a recent poll of millennials found that they didn't realize she was still on TV. That could be due to her nearly non-existent social media presence, all-important to that demographic. But even though she might not be trending on Twitter, she's still plugging away in the kitchen, and has recently released her most personal cookbook to date. 

"Cooking, to me, is about sharing and family dining - not competition," Moulton says, responding to losing a JBF award to the cooking program Chopped. "It's about nurturing, context. A life." That viewpoint is echoed throughout Sara Moulton's Home Cooking 101, in which Moulton shares tips and techniques through 150 recipes. Breaking with tradition, for this book Moulton worked by herself for a year. She notes that it was especially difficult because with her previous cookbooks, she always had help to do all of the shopping, testing and editing.

The first chapter of Home Cooking 101 contains a list of Moulton's key home-cooking basics and reflects concepts she has learned over her long career. "Dispense with mise en place" ranks fifth on that list. "The rule is to prep and measure all your ingredients before you start cooking," she writes. "I don't bother with it anymore, except in a few rare cases. . . . I realized that I was spending a lot of time preparing all the ingredients in advance instead of taking advantage of lulls in the cooking time of one ingredient to prep the next ingredient."

Moulton will soon embark on a tour in support of Home Cooking 101 (watch the World Calendar of Cookbook Events for details), and season five of Sara's Weeknight Meals is now airing on public television stations across the country. Moulton is comfortable in her current, more relaxed television role. When asked if she would consider a reprise of "Cooking Live," she demurs. "I would never do it now," she says. "I've been replaced by Google. Everybody would call me and tell me what I was doing wrong."

Writing for the radio


You may have heard Kathy Gunst on National Public Radio's Here and Now, a live news magazine show broadcast to over 500 public radio stations in the US. Recently Gunst spoke with Dianne Jacob to explain how writing for the popular radio program differs from writing for print

Gunst knows a thing or two about food writing: she's the author of over a dozen cookbooks, including the popular Stonewall Kitchen series. While writing for print or radio involves similar research, the output is quite different. Says Gunst, "I know that if I have to speak for 6-14 minutes I need enough info to speak for an hour, to feel safe and confident. Then we have a conversation. That's completely different from writing for magazines, because this is a 2-way often live conversation where one or two hosts interview me. I bring food in so they're always tasting and eating and we're always laughing." The goal for each pieces is to have the audience listening at home or in the car think "I could make that, I could cook that tonight."

When asked what the most challenging part of doing a radio show, Gunst replied: "Making food come alive through sound. It's the sense that's rarely discussed." She describes an interview she once conducted with Jacques Pepin where he was talking about training young chefs. Pepin remarked that "he could walk into the kitchen and tell if the meat was overcooked by the sound of the searing in the kitchen." Gunst strivies to use sound to make the other senses "come alive for people." 

Read the complete interview on Dianne Jacob's blog.

Top Chef winners: where are they now?

 Top Chef cookbooks

Top Chef is nearing the end of its 13th season on the Bravo network and shows no signs of slowing down. It's hard to believe that the first winner was crowned nearly a decade ago. If you've ever wondered what happened to the winners of each season, Yahoo! Food has the answers.

The first season saw Harold Dieterle best Tiffani (you love her or you hate her) Faison. Dieterle has stayed busy since 2006, opening three New York restaurants, but now he is "taking a break" from day-to-day restaurant operations. He has started a consulting firm which allows him to spend more time with his newborn son. Dieterle's fondest memory from Top Chef (other than winning, of course) was about the people he met while filming. "Some of the relationships I made on the show are pretty special and I still think fondly of a lot of the people that I met through that experience," he says.

It wasn't until Season 4 that the show had its first female winner, Stephanie Izard. I can still recall how nervous she was during the show's finale - her hands were literally shaking. Izard overcame her nervousness to win the competition, and afterward opened several highly acclaimed establishments in the Chicago area: Girl & the Goat, Little Goat, Goat Group Catering, and the soon-to-open Duck Duck Goat, her take on Chinese food. The author of The Girl in the Kitchen is working on a second cookbook, but no publication date has been announced. When asked what she learned from the show that she still uses today, Izard responded with a shoutout to one of her competitors: "Lisa made a Vietnamese salted caramel for one challenge. It inspired me to make a salted/spiced goat milk caramel cajeta when I got home, which we still use on our Goat menus."

Both Top Chef winners mentioned above have written cookbooks, as has fan favorite Kevin Gillespie and Season 6 winner Michael Voltaggio and his brother/runner-up Bryan Voltaggio. If the Yahoo! article isn't enough to satiate your curiosity, you can also watch a video on BravoTV.com to find out more about each season's winners.

A day in the life

 Wolfert books

In late 2015, Nathalie Christian was hired to work as a recipe tester and project assistant for Emily Kaiser Thelin, author of the forthcoming biographical cookbook about Paula Wolfert titled UNFORGETTABLE: Bold Flavors from Paula Wolfert's Renegade Life. [We previously discussed this project and its Kickstarter backing on the EYB blog.] In a recent blog post for the San Francisco Culinary School, Nathalie provided us a glimpse of what she did on the project in the form of a one-day diary

As you might expect, the day starts early and is chock full of activity. On this particular day the crew is doing a photo shoot for one of Paula's most iconic dishes. Says Nathalie, "Out of all of the dishes that have garnered Paula icon status, her Cassoulet in the Style of Toulouse, in my opinion, most reveals her penchant for exactitude. After a great deal of research, testing, rewriting, and tinkering, her cassoulet recipe is counted among the best ever committed to print. It required very little updating, but it's a doozy."

Paula Wolfert was on hand for the photo shoot, and Nathalie's description of her probably fits what you imagine she would be like. "Paula is a whirlwind of energy and excitement, and her positivity and optimism even following her diagnosis [of Alzheimers'] are incredibly inspiring. She greets us all with hugs and we kick into high gear, galvanized by her dynamism," writes Nathalie. 

A recent update from the Kickstarter project said that the book is still on track to be released in spring 2017. The cookbook is currently in final draft form and is "already deep into revises," according to the Unforgettable team.

Sam Beall of Blackberry Farm Restaurant dies at age 39

Blackberry Farm CookbookFarm-to-table promoting chef and author Sam Beall of Blackberry Farm located in Walland, Tennessee, has died at age 39 in a skiing accident in Colorado. Beall grew up in Tennesse, attended the California Culinary Academy, and apprenticed at the French Laundry, the Ritz-Carlton, Cowgirl Creamery, and Chateau Potelle.

After working at these prestigious restaurants, Beall returned to Blackberry Farm, which was founded by his parents, Kreis and Sandy Beall, where he revitalized the country inn into a national destination for fine dining and a leader in the farm-to-table movement.  In 2011, Travel and Leisure magazine readers voted Blackberry Farm as the top resort in the continental U.S. and Canada. Bon Appétit rated it the best food lover's hotel in the United States in 2013. 

Beall also authored two popular cookbooks, The Blackberry Farm Cookbook: Four Seasons of Great Food and the Good Life, and The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farm: Recipes and Wisdom from Our Artisans, Chefs, and Smoky Mountain Ancestors.

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