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. 

Something is amiss with the Hershey's Kiss

In what could be described as the most first-world problem ever, bakers across the US were dismayed by a problem with Hershey's Kisses this December. The iconic drop-shaped chocolate buttons are a favorite of cookie bakers, millions of whom made a version of the Peanut butter blossom cookies that feature a Kiss in the middle for their holiday cookie tray.

As bakers unwrapped their Kisses for their cookies earlier this month, many of them noticed a problem - the tips were missing. The issue was first brought to light in the Facebook group  The Wedding Cookie Table, when a user posted a photo of the Kisses, asking  "Do this year's kisses look like this for you? Or are the tops broken off?" It turns out that the problem was not a one-off issue, as several others chimed in that their Kisses were also affected. 

Hershey's Kisses

Soon the problem was spread across social media and the story was picked up by several news outlets. The outcry prompted Hershey's to issue a statement. "We make more than 70 million Kisses a day here in Hershey, Pa., and we want each of them looking as great as they taste," the statement read. "The iconic, conical shape is one of the reasons families have loved Kisses for generations...[and] while there has always been some variability in that process, we are working to improve the appearance because it's as important to us as it is to our fans."

No explanations were offered about why the problem happened or if it has been fixed. The photo above came from a bag of holiday Kisses purchased last week, and you can see that the tips are broken. Almost all of the Kisses I unwrapped were damaged (I put them into Ovenly's easy and gluten-free Peanut butter cookies.) Were your Kisses affected in this way? 

Pinterest names its food trends for 2019

Every website that tracks data (which is most websites these days) is releasing its list of predictions for the coming year. Pinterest is no exception, and they keep tabs on almost everything you can think of, including food. There are some items on Pinterest's 2019 food trend list that echo other site's lists, but a few items might be surprising. 

The list begins with a familiar subject - mushrooms. The versatile fungi "are springing up everywhere from coffee drinks to chocolate bars," with searches up 64% over last year. The EYB Library is chock full of mushroom recipes, including the Mushroom and herb polenta by Yotam Ottolenghi shown below. While almond milk and soy milk have dominated the dairy substitute market, there's a new game in town. Oat milk searches are up 186% according to Pinterest.

mushroom and herb polenta

Echoing the trend we reported on a few days ago, bread baking is on the rise, especially when it comes to fermented loaves like sourdough. Going in the completely opposite direction, the Pegan diet is a hot commodity right now. What's pegan? Good question - the diet is supposed to be part paleo and part vegan (it doesn't have to make sense). For people who love to entertain, here's a heads-up on a new way to serve a crowd - have a "grazing table". Think meat, cheese and veggie board on steroids. You might want to add a homemade jam to the spread, since making preserves from scratch is also predicted to be a huge trend, with searches up a whopping 829%. 

In the everything-old-is-new-again area, oxtails are on the rise. People are searching for oxtail recipes, especially ones that can be made in a slow-cooker (probably in an Instant Pot too). As for as unusual ingredients, keep your eyes peeled for more references to chayote ("chocho"), a 'superfood' that complements all kinds of cuisines. Try one of the online recipes for chayote in the EYB Library, including the Pickled chayote salad from Pati Jinich shown below. 

pickled chayote

You can see all of the food trends, along with many other categories, over at the Pinterest newsroom

Startups that are transforming the cookware world

If you haven't upgraded your cookware in years because of the sticker shock of brands like Le Creuset, All Clad and Staub, you might want to investigate the cookware startups that have sprung up over the past few years. A bevy of companies are taking aim at the venerated but costly giants in the industry with new lines of cookware that aim to compete on quality but cut out the middlemen to offer prices that won't break your bank account.

cookware

Some of the new companies offer value propositions based mainly on quality and price, while others up the ante by also touting sustainability, ethical treatment of workers, ergonomic design, and local sourcing of raw materials. The bulk of these new startups are marketing to millenials, who find that Le Creuset Dutch ovens and similar cookware are priced out of reach, and who are comfortable with the direct-to-consumer models for home goods that have proliferated in the past few years. 

Taking their cues from startups like Casper (which sells mattresses) and Brooklinen (which features luxury bedding), these entrepreneurs offer kitchenware online without investing in brick-and-mortar stores. Companies that have made inroads in the field include Made In, which touts that its five-layer stainless cookware is made in the USA; Great Jones (named after cookbook editor Judith Jones), which produces enameled cast iron Dutch ovens among other products; and Field, which manufactures US-made cast iron skillets that are allegedly lighter and easier to season than competitors' products.

As they say, the proof is in the pudding (or in this case, the roasts and braises). So how do these products stack up against titans like All-Clad and Le Creuset? It's probably too soon to know if they are durable enough to be passed down from generation to generation, but judging by online reviews, much of the new cookware will give the old guard a run for its money in performance and aesthetics. 

I was an early backer of The Field Company's Kickstarter because I loved my hand-me-down vintage cast iron skillet and wanted another like it, but couldn't find anything comparable in stores. The promotional materials looked promising, so I plunked down a pledge for two No. 8 skillets in the first production run. After a few development delays, Field shipped the skillets several weeks behind initial estimates. The pans (one of which is shown at right in the above photo) were worth the wait. The finish was ultra-smooth and seasoned beautifully, and now these skillets match the performance of my vintage cast iron while weighing slightly less. 

The online cookware space is increasing at a rapid pace. While most of these companies sell directly to the consumer via a website, some are venturing into partnerships with restaurants, brick-and-mortar stores, and online aggregating websites. You can buy Smithey skillets on Food52, for example. Companies that employed a traditional venture capital route may find themselves under pressure to quickly expand their product lines or number of sales outlets, while those who chose a crowd-funded approach often move more deliberately. 

Bridal registries will probably still include the old guard like Le Creuset and All-Clad for the foreseeable future, but in a few years' time that might not be the case. Some online bridal registries are already offering products from some of these startups. This unexpected competition has also pushed some of the big names into producing new lines with lower price points.

Have you tried any of these or other similar products from new cookware purveyors? If so, please share your experience in the comments. 

Cookbook sales continue to climb

Good news for cookbook lovers - despite concerns that we might have achieved 'peak cookbook', sales of cookbooks are still going strong. Sales are up 25% over last year, with offerings from big names like Ina Garten and Yotam Ottolenghi boosting sales. As popular as those authors are, they are not solely responsible for the uptick in sales. According to Allison Risbridger, a book industry analyst, two other big trends also contributed to increased sales.

One is a renewed interest in health and wellness, and the other is booming home goods industry, of which cooking is a part. Although it's difficult to quantify, Risbridger also believes that consumer sentiment plays a role. "You know, politics and also just the world in the news," she said. "It's a scary place right now and people are attracted to the comfort of their own home."

open books

Pundits often say that cookbook sales are robust despite apps and online content, but I posit that the apps and websites are not competitions, but rather they encourage people to purchase books. Social media is filled with "aspirational" blogs and websites. But unlike video bloggers who traipse about in countries we can't afford to visit, or decorating sites featuring astronomically priced furniture, gorgeous food we see on Instagram is within our reach, and the cookbooks that guide us in making those dishes are eminently affordable. 

Increased cookbook sales are not the only success story in the world of recipes. Even though many people were disappointed when NYT Cooking began charging a subscription for access to the site's recipes, the number of subscribers they are racking up is impressive. The success of the service is due to the hard work and savvy of the Cooking staff, who developed a product that people feel is worth the monthly fee. They started with a large base of well-tested and well-loved recipes, but it didn't hurt that people have become accustomed to this type of monthly payment through streaming services such as Netflix.

NYT Cooking is not content to rest on its laurels. Editor Sam Sifton says they plan on enhancing their video content. To that end, this year they have hired two new staff members, both of whom used to work at Tasty, the division of BuzzFeed made popular by its overhead view cooking videos.

New cookbook store to open in Brooklyn

We've got another exciting cookbook store announcement to share with you, especially if you live in or near New York City. A small cookbook store called Cooking, Cocktails, and Culture is set to open soon in 212 Degraw Street in Cobble Hill (south Brooklyn), according to GrubStreet. The store is owned by rare bookseller Elizabeth Young. 

open books

Young believes there is a market for another cookbook store in the city and plans to set hers apart from the others with a slightly different focus. As the name of her store suggests, she will offer a good selection of cocktail books. In addition, CCC will have a section devoted to food memoirs and historically significant works, plus other books people might remember from their childhood. New books will also be on the shelves, as will part of Young's collection of memorabilia such as vintage restaurant menus. 

"I'm trying to bring people who are already interested, to have authors doing their signings and talks for new books, and then introduce them to the older stuff," Young says. She's already lined up an author event in late November - make sure to check the World Calendar of Cookbook Events in the coming weeks to see what other events are happening. 

Are you ready to 'Cook Like a Pro'?

Ina Garten has been a go-to resource for cooking advice and recipes for nearly 20 years, ever since the publication of her first cookbook, The Barefoot Contessa. A string of wildly successful books and a television series followed in short order. Tomorrow marks the debut of the third series of her latest show, 'Cook Like a Pro.' 

Cook Like a Pro

While her first show,  Barefoot Contessa, mainly showed Ina cooking and entertaining in the posh neighborhoods of East Hampton, New York, 'Cook Like a Pro' focused on specific ingredients in its first two seasons. The show is expanding on that theme in the third season, engaging in broader topics throughout its run. One episode is even themed around Mary Poppins - an intriguing concept that also includes special guest stars. 

To coincide with the new season, Ina's latest cookbook is also being released this  Tuesday. Also titled Cook Like a Pro, the book features some of Ina's most irresistible recipes and very best "pro tips," from the secret to making her custardy, slow-cooked Truffled Scrambled Eggs to the key to the crispiest and juiciest Fried Chicken Sandwiches. 

For Ina, cooking like a pro also means hosting like a pro, and the book is replete with ideas to boost your cooking and entertaining skills such as how to set up an elegant home bar. Tune in tomorrow to catch Ina at her best, and don't forget to check the World Calendar of Cookbook Events to see if her current tour is bringing her to your city. 

2018 Observer Food Monthly Awards

The 2018 Observer Food Monthly Awards were presented last evening at a gala held at the Freemasons' Hall in London. The awards celebrate the best in food across the UK, highlighting the work of celebrity chefs as well as local producers and eateries. There are 10 categories of reader awards, plus six other categories judged by a professional panel.

Without further ado, let's turn to the evening's winners. We'll begin with the awards and people who are near and dear to the hearts of EYB Members. Anna Jones took home the prize for Best New Cookbook for her latest, The Modern Cook's Year. The Best Instagram Feed winner was Julie Jones of Soulful Baker, and food writer Jack Monroe went home with the Best Food Personality award. Chef and cookery writer Simon Hopkinson received a well-earned Lifetime Achievement award.

cookbook collage

Some of the awards honored those who used food as a medium for doing good works. Randeep Singh and Manpreet Lall from Nishkam Swat, were winners of the Outstanding Achievement award for their work feeding the homeless. Ryan Riley (who we profiled earlier this year), took home the prize for Best Ethical Food Project for his organization Life Kitchen. Hannah McAdam and Janine Waters of the Dressing Room Cafe in Chorlton, were winners of the Local Food Hero award for their work with adults with learning disabilities.

You can see the complete list of winners, including the Best Restaurant, Best Producer, and Best Independent Retailer, at The Guardian's Observer Food Monthly website.

Is The Great American Baking Show coming back?

Although ABC is being coy and hasn't yet confirmed it, word on the street is that The Great American Baking Show will return to the airwaves. As one would expect, disgraced host Johnny Iuzzini is out, and talented pastry chef Sherry Yard, who has made several appearances on other cooking shows, will be taking his place.

Sherry Yard

Also out for the alleged reboot is Ayesha Curry, who has moved on to do her own show called 'Family Food Fight'. Her replacement is rumoured to be Spice Girl Emma Bunton, a.k.a. Baby Spice, who will join remaining judges Paul Hollywood and Anthony "Spice" Adams.  Since no official announcement has been made, we're left guessing as to when the program will return.

Will the program be able to overcome its tarnished reputation? Will it ever catch on with US audiences in the same way that GBBO did? Will Season 3 winner Vallery Lomas take part in the relaunch? Are they ever going to release great cookbooks like GBBO? These questions remain unanswered, and we'll just have to patiently wait for an announcement from ABC to find out. 

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