James Beard Chef & Restaurant Awards semifinalists

Earlier today, the James Beard Foundation announced the semifinalists for its 2019 Restaurant and Chef Awards. This list includes categories both national awards such as Best New Restaurant, Outstanding Baker, Outstanding Chef, Outstanding Pastry Chef, Outstanding Restaurateur, and Rising Star Chef of the Year, plus regional categories for chefs. 


Not surprisingly, a fair number of the chefs and restaurateurs landing on this esteemed list have written cookbooks - these are among the best chefs in the country, and because of the all the categories, it's a really long list. These chefs and/or restaurateurs have all written well-regarded books:

Whew! The JBF will announce the final Restaurant and Chef Award nominees, plus the nominees for its cookbook awards, on Wednesday, March 27. The nominee announcement will be announced in real time via Twitter. We'll have the list of nominees up as soon as possible after the announcement. 

Hyperlocal eating gains traction in smaller cities

There's no doubt that if you follow food or restaurant trends at all, you've heard about the movement of restaurants to source ingredients locally (and tell you about it on their menus). The latest iteration of this movement is hyperlocal, meaning that the restaurants source virtually every food they sell from within a small radius of the restaurant, including growing items on premises. While most food trends begin in large cities and work their way to smaller towns, this particular movement has some smaller cities and towns are leading the way.

Among the six cities listed are a few surprises, including Des Moines, Iowa, where HoQ Restaurant, a farm-to-table establishment, claims to use 90% local ingredients. Other towns with hyperlocal restaurants include Salt Lake City, Virginia Beach, and (naturally) Portland, Oregon. 

fresh pineapple

I find it interesting that restaurants now promote the locavore badge when not that long ago, it was rather the other way around. Before the advent of interstate highways, gigantic semi-trailers, and enormous factory farms, eating locally was de rigueur. It was a matter of necessity when you couldn't rely on daily shipments of fresh produce from far away places. It wasn't practical to ship items halfway across the world. 

It's amazing how quickly this scenario changed, and even in the very small town where I grew up you can now find produce that would have been unheard of in my grandparents' time, such as pineapples, avocados, and fresh berries year-round. People relied first on cured or fermented foods, then on canned goods, and finally on frozen items before our current system was in place. Selection was limited at best, and this is what the term 'eating locally' conjures in my mind. 

Because of this perception, I find the prospect of dining only on items grown here in the upper Midwest a bit daunting as I stare out the window at 8-foot-high snow drifts. There are only so many root vegetable gratins one can enjoy in a winter. However, I can now purchase - in the dead of winter - fresh greens grown only a couple of miles away in a modern aquaculture system. Even if we return to eating 'hyper locally', new technologies mean it won't be as dreary as it was once upon a time. That said, I still delight in being able to buy fresh pineapple in the winter.

Photo of Fresh pineapple with crème fraîche and mint from Delicious Magazine (UK) by Jamie Oliver

This new strain of wheat could be a game-changer

Millions people suffer from celiac disease or have gluten intolerance. For most of them, this means they cannot enjoy delicious things the rest of us take for granted like bread and pasta. While gluten-free recipes have improved drastically in the last few decades, some items just don't measure up to the real deal. However, that may soon change, as scientists have created a strain of wheat that is safe for those with gluten sensitivities

wheat field

Scientists from Washington State University and Clemson University have just developed this new genotype of wheat, which is  not only safe for celiacs, it also help treat the disease. The difference between this strain and conventional wheat is that it contains "built-in enzymes designed to break down disease-provoking gluten proteins in the body" according to the scientists. 

The enzymes come from barley, another gluten-containing grain. Not only do to enzymes work in this wheat, they help break down enzymes someone might encounter from another source, reducing the potential for cross-contamination issues in facilities that process many types of grain. The new wheat still has to undergo some testing, so it isn't available to purchase. Let's hope this clears all the safety hurdles and can be introduced soon. 

Food & Wine's new feature highlights how pros cook at home

America has a fascination with celebrities, and we love to see how they act when the camera is not rolling. One of the most popular features in a supermarket tabloid that shall remain nameless is one called "Celebrities - they're just like us!" It features photos of Hollywood stars shopping at grocery stores, buying bed linens, or walking their dog - scenes from their everyday lives. It makes them more relatable and connects us to them. 

Andrea Nguyen, Amy Thielen, Justin Chapple

In a similar vein, but much more in tune with what EYB Members enjoy, Food & Wine has developed a new feature they are calling FWCooks. The intro to the new section of their website describes a "network of food pros delivering the most cookable recipes and delicious ideas online...as award-winning contributors welcome us into their home kitchens, show us how they cook, and how an increasingly diverse and food-obsessed America eats in every region in the country." 

Even better than mere tabloid voyeurism, F&W's new space gives us recipes and ideas that we can use in our every day cooking. You'll recognize the names linked to the stories and recipes as you head into the home kitchens of food writers, chefs, and food personalities including Gail Simmons, Andrea Nguyen, Amy Thielen, Paula Disbrowe, Ruth Reichl, Ben Mims, and Justin Chapple. I can't wait to dig in to this new resource. 

A bright spot in culinary print media

The past several years have been rough in the newspaper industry. Mergers, mass layoffs, and shrinking sections have been the order of the day, precipitated by falling revenues. Stand-alone food sections were among the many casualties of this decline, with prominent papers reducing staff or eliminating the food section altogether, especially in the print edition. Today we learned a bit of good news on this front, as The L.A. Times announced that after a nearly eight-year hiatus, its stand-alone food section would be returning to print.


The paper said it has also hired new personnel and made editorial changes to help keep these new pages filled. The section's staff includes veterans like Peter Meehan and Ben Mims (both of the late Lucky Peach), and Genevieve Ko, who has co-authored several cookbooks in addition to her editing work for major publications. 

The move is part of a series of changes at the Times, which was purchased last year by billionaire surgeon and entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Siong. Recently installed executive editor Normal Pearlstine commented on the change. "We view Los Angeles as the nation's food capital, and the print section, which will serve as a weekly digest of our daily coverage, is an expression of our determination to provide the world's best, most authoritative and comprehensive coverage of it," he said in a statement. 

The new section, which will appear in the Thursday paper, is set to debut in April. Here's to hoping that this becomes a trend.

Denmark wins the 2019 Bocuse d'Or

Earlier today chefs wrapped up the two-day Bocuse d'Or competition in Lyon, France. This year's event resulted in a Scandinavian sweep, as top honors went to the team from Denmark, with Sweden and Norway finishing second and third respectively. Held every other year, the Bocuse d'Or is considered the most prestigious culinary competition in the world.


Teams earn their spot among the 24 finalists by competing in continental selection events (Bocuse d'Or Europe, Bocuse d'Or Asia Pacific, Bocuse d'Or Latin America. and for the first time Bocuse d'Or Africa). There are also two wildcard spots available, claimed this year by China and Italy. The finalists for 2019 came from across the globe, from Australia to Iceland and Brazil to Singapore. All continents (save Antarctica) were represented in the competition. 

Most countries sponsor a national team, but the United States team does not receive any governmental support, which is why celebrated chefs Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, and Jérôme Bocuse founded The Ment'or BKB Foundation in 2008. In 2017, their hard work paid off with the American team winning for the first time in history. 

Rachael Ray's '30 Minutes Meals' is coming back to Food Network

Rachael Ray's Food Network program '30 Minute Meals' aired on Food Network for an impressive 11 seasons, from 2001 to 2012. Ray continued to cook on her daytime talk show, which is syndicated worldwide, and has published several cookbooks including a new title coming this October: Rachael Ray 50: Memories and Meals from a Sweet and Savory Life: A Cookbook. In an Instagram post a few days ago, Ray announced that '30 Minute Meals' would be returning to Food Network this April.

Rachael Ray cookbook cover

In her announcement, Ray said that the revamped program would "have all the cool vibe that we had back in the day, but it's going to be for a whole new generation." She promised fans that the recipes would be ones that they haven't seen before on either the previous Food Network series or on her daytime talk show. 

Not only do we get to see an all-new '30 Minute Meals', which will return on April 1, but Food Network plans to add a streaming companion show also hosted by Ray. In an interview with Variety she said, "We are rolling deep this time around, proving to everyone that, yes, these are really meals you can cook in 30 minutes or less." Since the digital show will be on-demand, you could theoretically cook along in real time. 

IKEA's food lab set to release a new cookbook

When you think about food and IKEA, what probably springs to mind are visions of Swedish meatballs and possibly lingonberry jam. However, since 2015 the global housewares giant has been taking a look at food. Space10, IKEA's global research and design lab, has been working diligently at identifying ways to make food more sustainable. This May, Space10 is coming out with a cookbook on the subject

Swedish meatballs

Because Space10 is free to work on issues that have nothing to do with profitability, the cookbook - titled Future Food Today - will function "as inspirational and attainable culinary research" rather than as a peek into possible new menu items for the IKEA cafeteria. That's probably a good thing, because a lot of the book revolves around concepts like bug burgers and an algae-based hot dog. 

Back to the meatballs. As befitting a free-thinking design lab, the first recipe focused on reimagining the iconic dish. The lab "created a visual exploration of what a more sustainable meatball would look like," and that dish (called Tomorrow's Meatball) includes a lab grown beef ball, a food waste ball and a green algae ball. I think I will stick to the Swedish ones for now. 

Photo of Swedish meatballs from Food Network by Alton Brown

Big change is coming to the World's 50 Best Restaurants awards

Each year we post the listing for the San Pellegrino listing of the 50 best restaurants in the world, highlighting cookbooks from the chefs that helm these fine dining establishments. The list of winners was starting to sound like a broken record - Noma landed at the top five different times, and the top five contained many of the same names year after year. The parent organization of the awards must have felt the same way, because this year they announced huge changes to who is able to be on the list

cookbook covers

Beginning with this year's awards, former winners are no longer eligible to win or even to be recognized as one of the World's 50 Best. This elite group is getting its own list called "Best of the Best", with the 2019 winner added to that list and unable to be in the top 50 again. In addition to this big shift, the organization announced that it would include a 50/50 gender balance in its voting academy, and will encourage those voters to "explore a diverse mix of restaurants." 

All of these changes are responses to criticism leveled at the World's 50 Best for being focused solely on incredibly expensive, male-dominated Eurocentric restaurants. While no one expects the list to be populated with unknown mom-and-pop joints, people are hopeful that the list will expand beyond its current confines. One interesting thing to note is that while the former Noma is not eligible to win, René Redzepi's new incarnation of his award-winning estalishment is technically a new restaurant. 

Is this the ultimate "Cake-Off"?

If you are a fan of either (or both) Cake Boss Buddy Valastro or Ace of Cakes star Duff Goldman, you are in for a treat. We just discovered that the two are set to face off against one another in a new six-episode Food Network series. The show premieres Sunday, March 10 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network. 

cookbook covers

Simply titled 'Buddy vs. Duff', the program features the two cake artists competing in a series of challenges that will test both their baking skills and decorating prowess. Judges include Food Network regulars Sherry Yard and Keegan Gerhard, who will appear in all episodes, alongside guests judges ranging from magicians Penn & Teller to baking expert and Cupcake Wars judge Florian Bellanger.

The premiere episode will feature the two bakers creating family recipes in the "Bake-Off" round and showcasing their decorating chops in a car-themed challenge in the "Cake-Off" round. If you enjoy seeing elaborate and towering cake creations, be sure to tune in to this new program. 

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