Le Chef releases its list of the top 100 chefs in the world

 best chefs 2018

Yesterday, Le Chef magazine announced its annual compilation of the 100 best chefs in the world for 2018. Chef Michel Troisgros from Maison Troisgros restaurant in Ouches, France, was named as the  best chef in the world for 2018 The list also includes names you know and might expect, like Alain Ducasse, René Redzepi, Massimo Bottura, Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, Corey Lee, and Grant Achatz. Not surprisingly for an organization based in France, the Le Chef rankings skew heavily toward European chefs.

There are a handful of Japanese and Australian chefs, but only one - Alex Atala of D.O.M in Brazil - to represent all of South America. Also glaringly absent are names from India, the entire African continent, and China. There are only five women in the rankings - one of whom, Elena Arzak, shares the honor with her father Juan Mari. The other four women are Dominique Crenn, Anne-Sophie Pic, Nadia Santini, and Carme Ruscalleda.

Without taking anything away from the tremendous accomplishments of the 100 chefs - many of whom have upended longstanding culinary conventions and have contributed greatly to the field - it is disappointing to see such entrenchment in this listing, and the companion list of the world's best restaurants. Comments on several social media posts about the rankings echo this sentiment. 

One reason the list is tilted in favor of European chefs is that it is compiled from recommendations given by two- and three-starred Michelin chefs, making it a very cozy club. Additionally, we don't know which of those chefs are actually doing the nominating, because Le Chef doesn't release the names of who it solicits for the recommendations. Unless and until the nomination process is changed, we can expect to see similar results in the future. 

A cookbook editor's take on the Food & Wine move

Food & Wine magazineIn June we learned that Food & Wine magazine was moving the bulk of its operation to Birmingham, Alabama. Even though it came as a bit of a surprise, most people like food writer Ruth Reichl understood the reasons for the relocation and viewed it in a positive light - at least the publication wasn't shuttering like many others. James Beard Award-winning cookbook editor Shaun Chavis doesn't share this optimism, however, She writes that the move is not good for America

Chavis' main argument is that the cultural attitudes in the magazine's new location do not reflect the growing diversity in the United States. She notes that while Food & Wine's sister publications have made small moves toward representing a broader range of people, magazines like Southern Living still don't feature many people of color in its pages. This is despite the fact the 55 percent of black Americans live in the South, and both Hispanic and Asian-American populations are growing rapidly there. 

The lack of diversity is reflected in Birmingham's food scene, which is not remotely comparable to cities like New York, the magazine's former home. Says Chavis, not only will Food & Wine be produced in an area where specialty ingredients are difficult to find - making it harder to do testing and development of recipes from a broad range of cultures - the region's attitudes will also stifle diverse voices. Says Chavis, "The restaurant concepts, flavors, and dishes found in a city of immigrants like New York aren't present in an environment that has produced one of the nation's most unfriendly environments toward people who aren't wealthy WASP men."

Although she does not view this move favorably, Chavis thinks that Time, Inc. (Food & Wine's parent company) can move the magazine in a positive direction. She implores the company to "Show America's diversity as its strength in more ways than one. Use food to help lead our culture to a better place."

Is black going to be the new black in 2018?

 black sesame biscuit

We've already seen the Waitrose food trend predictions for 2018, and now the Trendspotter Panel of the Specialty Foods Association has weighed in with its own prognostication. If they are right, expect a lot of black-hued products in the coming year.

The panel said they think plant-based foods will continue to grow in popularity, with more algae and other products intended to reduce food waste. They also predict "growth in the use of functional ingredients like activated charcoal, which is a base for the so-called goth foods," said Denise Purcell of the Specialty Foods Association. The move to black-colored foods is seen as a reaction to the unicorn and rainbow trends of the past few years, although the panel thinks consumers will demand a health benefit to accompany the dark color (hence activated charcoal, which is being touted as a superfood).

Filipino food will also see increased interest according to the panel (Anthony Bourdain agrees). While other Asian cuisines have long been popular with people in the U.S., the complex flavors and sour notes of Filipino foods may have scared off consumers in the past. However, with eaters becoming more and more adventurous, the time may be right for Filipino cuisine to its stride. 

Photo of  Black sesame biscuit, nasturtium ice cream from Food Arts magazine

Cook Real Food Every Day

Over the years, I have veered away from food magazines except when it comes to Bake from Scratch. Each issue is gorgeous, filled with innovative twists on traditional favorites and have roughly 45 to 90 recipes - that's a lot of bang for your buck.

Last year, I parted with my 2015 and 2016 issues so that Eat Your Books could index the magazines but only after the Bake from Scratch: Artisan Recipes for Home Bakers, a compilation of all the recipes from the magazines, was in my hands. I went as far as to seek confirmation from Brian Hart Hoffmann, the publisher, that indeed all the recipes from the issues were in the cookbook.  Even then, sending them away made me a little twitchy (the things I do for our members). Next Spring, their second cookbook, Bake from Scratch 2: Artisan Recipes for Home Bakers is slated for release in March and can be pre-ordered now.

The premiere issue of Cook Real Food Every Day was published this week and I'm seriously considering a relationship. The same quality and lovely photographs of Bake from Scratch and 67 recipes including desserts! The magazine includes Main Dishes (Proteins, Seafood, Vegetarian), Sides, Baked Goods (Bread and Desserts) and All the Rest (Sauces, Snacks and Cocktails). There is a morning prep icon throughout the issue that provides tips to get a quick headstart on meals with five minutes in the morning. This issue shares Sheet Pan Supper ideas, Grain Bowls, Refrigerator Door Recipes (using up those sauces and condiments) and a section on Easy and Almost Effortless Entertaining. 

I will reserve my final opinion until Issue 2 is published. However, for now, there is enough in the Premeiere Issue to make me happy. Future issues, I hope add some international dishes and less roast chicken and veggies - teach me something new just as Bake From Scratch has. 

Chef John Besh steps down amidst controversy

Chef John BeshOn Saturday the New Orleans Times-Picayune published a shocking account of sexual harassment allegations against lauded New Orleans chef and restaurateur John Besh. Two days after the story broke, Besh resigned as head of Besh Restaurant Group (BRG), the company he founded. BRG executive Shannon White will assume the duties of chief executive officer. Besh has not said what he will do with his ownership stake in the company. 

Twenty-five women told The Times-Picayune their stories, which included vulgar comments made by male coworkers, unwanted sexual advances, and claims of retaliation. The women's accounts pointed to a culture of harassment "where several male co-workers and bosses touched female employees without consent, made suggestive comments about their appearance and - in a few cases - tried to leverage positions of authority for sex."

Another celebrity chef connected to Besh's restaurant empire, Alon Shaya, says he was fired after coming forward in support of the women. "I do feel like I was fired for talking … and for standing up," he said. Shaya was in the midst of a contentious split with Besh. In September, the chefs made a surprise announcement that their James Beard Award-winning partnership was coming to an end. At the time, there was no suggestion that the split had anything to do with claims of harassment. 

Shaya claims that he frequently asked Besh and BRG managing partner Octavio Mantilla to set up a human resources department to handle personnel matters including sexual harassment claims. Until October 11, BRG had no such department, making it a challenge for workers to report harassment or for management to appropriately respond to it. 

In addition to his restaurant empire, Besh was a bestselling author with five cookbooks under his belt. Shaya's first cookbook, Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel, is named after his eponymous restaurant. In July, Eater reported that the book's anticpated release date is March, 2018. Whether this controversy will hinder or help the book's sales remains to be seen. 

Saveur Blog Award winners announced

 Saveur blog awards

The 8th Annual Saveur Blog Awards were announced last evening in Charleston, South Carolina. In each category, awards were given to the choices made by the editors at Saveur and by readers in the online polling. A heartfelt thank you to everyone who voted for the EYB blog during the nomination process; your support means the world to us. 

Now on to the winners. The Blog of the Year award went to StrangerTalka photographic journal by Eloise Basuki and Leigh Griffiths, which "aims to tell the travel stories that aren't being told - the stories of locals passionately fostering their history and traditions, of recipes and crafts being passed down from generation to generation, and capturing the day-to-day moments that exist within any community." Griffiths and Basuki gave up their jobs in Sydney to travel around the world to search for "real experiences with real people."

StrangerTalk also nabbed the Editors' Choice award for Best Travel Blog. Readers selected the blog potato chips are not dinner, written by food-loving flight attendant Paulina Farro. Paula shares recipes, illustrations, and stories about the people, places (and, of course, food) she encounters in her travels. 

Blogs Cardamom and Tea and Chicano Eats nabbed Best New Voice awards by the editors and readers, respectively. Cardamom and Tea, helmed by Kathryn Pauline is dedicated to Assyrian food. With recipes like Crispy lentil and carrot salad with quick-pickled lemon and Sheetpan kirtopie, it's easy to see why her blog rose to the top of the rankings. Esteban Castillo created Chicano Eats after noticing a dearth of Latino representation food blogging.  Esteban "strives to create visibility, educate and provide context behind authentic dishes, and also strives to redefine how people in the U.S view Mexican food, presenting dishes with a very vibrant and minimalistic treatment."

In the Obsessives category (which we were vying for), the Editors' Choice award went to Let's Taco Bout It, which is a blog "for people who love literature and creative meals." Every month, the blog features a book used for inspiration to create delicious recipes. The readers chose The Necro-Nom-Nom-Nomicon, all about "putting the "gore" in gourmet." The dark website includes plenty of foods that fool the eye, resembling things like spiders, skulls, worms and more. If you are planning a frightful Halloween party, you should definitely check out this site. 

Other categories included Baking, Style and Design, Food Instagram, Podcasts, Food & Culture, Inspired Weeknight Dinners, Food Blog Photography, Drinks, and Food Video. See a complete list of winners here, and learn more about all of the finalists and winners at Saveur

The books that shape a career

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony BourdainWhen Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly burst onto the scene seventeen years ago, it ushered in boom times for celebrity chefdom and a golden age for food television. J. Kenji López-Alt is one of many chefs and culinary professionals who credit the book with inspiring their career choice. On Facebook, López-Alt posted a missive about how the book  launched his culinary aspirations

The chef and author of the smash cookbook The Food Lab was studying architecture when he first read the book after his father loaned him his copy. The gritty descriptions of kitchen life intrigued López-Alt, "After flying through the last macho, drug-fueled, exhillerating page," he says he told his then-girlfriend "I think I want to be a cook." She and others encouraged him to continue his pursuit of architecture, but thankfully for us, he did not heed their advice. 

This post is the beginning of a daily series for López-Alt, who will recommend books that had a major impact on his cooking career. He plans to do this for the next thirty days, which may mean more books to add to your Amazon wish list. In the comments are hints of what other books might appear in this series. Some people recalled López-Alt discussing how The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pépin influenced his career, so watch to see if that tome makes the list. 

Food & Wine's surprising benefactor

Food & Wine magazine 

You may have seen the news that Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy magazine, died yesterday at the age of 91. "What's that got to do with food?" you may wonder. As it turns out, a great deal: Hefner was instrumental in launching Food & Wine Magazine

Food & Wine was first published as a "preview issue" tucked inside the March 1978 issue of Playboy. Two months later, the first stand-alone edition hit newsstands. The founders of Food & Wine, Robert and Lindy Kenyon, Michael and Ariane Batterberry (who would later go on to run the much beloved Food Arts), and Peter Jones convinced Hefner that "there was an opportunity to create a magazine for an emerging passion group: Epicureans."

The magazine's founders had found it difficult to raise funds to launch their new publication. Investors were not convinced that Americans would care enough about food to support such a venture, and it took the group seven years to pull together enough money to begin operations. One of the entities the founders approached to back their idea was Playboy. Ariane Batterberry recalls working with Hefner, whom she says "was wonderful to work with. He was really an editor, he really loved the editorial. And he respected that it was our magazine and left us alone-he really liked Food & Wine." 

That preview issue included a quote from James Beard on the cover: "At last, a magazine about food in all its aspects." The inside was no less impressive, featuring writing by top food writers and journalists. Articles included essays by George Plimpton and others, tips on souffles from Jacques Pépin (who at the time was a personal chef), and a rating of canned tuna. 

Barry Callebaut announces a new kind of chocolate

Ruby chocolate 

Move over dark, milk, and white chocolates, there's a new kid in town: ruby chocolate. Last week chocolate giant Barry Callebaut announced that after 10 years of research and development, it is releasing a new type of chocolate that boasts a naturally reddish hue.

This new variety of chocolate - the first since the development of white chocolate 80 years ago - is said to offer 'a totally new taste experience, which is not bitter, milky or sweet, but a tension between berry-fruitiness and luscious smoothness," according to the Barry Callebaut press release. 

The naturally reddish/pinkish color will allegedly appeal to millenials, who apparently love all things pink. The color may be a gimmick, but it's all natural. Again according to the press release, "Ruby chocolate is made from the Ruby cocoa bean; through a unique processing Barry Callebaut unlocks the flavor and color tone naturally present in the Ruby bean. No berries or berry flavor is added. No color is added."

Ruby chocolate made its international debut at an exclusive launch event in Shanghai, China, on September 5. You can't purchase Ruby chocolate quite yet, although Barry Callebaut is planning to work with chocolate manufacturers to make the product available to consumers around the world. 

Photo courtesy Barry Callebaut

At My Table - Nigella Lawson - UK Tour Dates and BBC Six Part Series

The domestic goddess, Nigella Lawson's At My Table: A Celebration of Home Cooking is slated for publication on September 21st in the UK. It seems in our book loving universe, we are always longing or anticipating publication dates. Here in the US, At My Table will be available in the Spring of 2018. Those of us who are not keen on waiting can order from UK book sellers using our BUY BOOK button (Book Depository typically has free shipping and Amazon UK has a minimal charge).

Nigella has scheduled a number of events to celebrate her book in the UK which have been added to our calendar. As things are planned for the US release, I will update you.

Today's Sunday Times published Nigella Lawson: so long as it tastes good, I'm happy where she states "Home cooking is not about impressing people, it's about enjoyment and making memories". In this piece, she shares how certain dishes bring back memories of either her children, family or friends and states that she doesn't feel that anyone should jump through hoops in the kitchen to impress anyone. Her comment about not wanting to hate people that are invited to dinner due to the unnecessary stress we have burdened ourself with - really hit home. All anyone ever wants is a lovely meal and good conversation - I need to remember that. Nigella helps us with that by providing simple recipes with complex flavour - all dread free in this cookbook.

Eight recipes were also excerpted from her cookbook in The Times. I have an account wherein I can view two free articles a week - so for those interested in reading the entire piece you are able to go this route as well. Also, for those members in the UK, the paper has a contest going giving away ten copies of At My Table

More good news, Nigella fans, she will be returning to the BBC with a six part series based on this cookbook this Fall.

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