David Lebovitz on the evolution of blogs

L'Appart by David LebovitzYou might call David Lebovitz the godfather of bloggers. He launched his website in 1999, years before Facebook or blogging platforms like Wordpress even existed. Since then, the former pastry chef of Chez Panisse and Zuni Cafe has garnered a devoted following. Lebovitz has just released a cookbook/memoir titled L'Appart, in which he uses his experiences in purchasing and renovating his Paris apartment as a launching point for stories about French culture, food, and what it means to revamp one's life. 

Lebovitz has been on a whirlwind tour promoting his new book, but took a few minutes to discuss a variety of topics with the website The Six Fifty. The chef talks about his early days in the bustling Chez Panisse kitchen, and what it was like to be at the forefront of a culinary movement. Not surprisingly, the discussion soon turned to the topic of blogging, which Lebovitz says has changed a lot since he began publishing close to 20 years ago. 

Back then, there were only a handful of people writing about food on the internet. Now, he thinks the field is a bit oversaturated. He believes that "it got a little bit out of hand in the last few years. People were so overly concerned with monetizing and getting search engine traffic, which is fine but that's a different perspective. That's not why I blog."  It's easy to see from reading Lebovitz's work that he loves what he does. 

He encourages would-be bloggers to write about what they love, but not to give up their day jobs. It has become a lot more difficult to break out or make money writing about food, he says. Other advice he provides to aspiring writers is to write a lot, and expect to spend at least as much time editing as writing. Lebovitz also encourages writers to get to the point. You only have a few minutes to capture someone's attention, and you don't want to waste their time. "You want to make sure when they come to your site or reading your recipes or even a book, that you've got their interest, and that's really hard to do," he says. 

Food writer Molly O'Neill starts a GoFundMe to help with her medical bills

A Well-Seasoned AppetiteCookbook author and food writer Molly O'Neill's books reside on hundreds of EYB Members' bookshelves. Molly's work includes writing a food column for the New York Times, writing several cookbooks, including the best-selling New York Cookbook and A Well-Seasoned Appetite. In addition, she hosted the PBS series Great Food and is the editor of the critically-acclaimed "American Food Writing". Twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, she has won the Julia Child/IACP Award for cookbooks and was awarded three James Beard awards.

Currently the bestselling author is facing a health crisis, and she has started a GoFundMe page to raise money for her ongoing medical needs. Last July, Molly became seriously ill and had to have a liver transplant. A biopsy of her liver showed that she had cancer, which has metastisized to her adrenal glands, which required chemotherapy as well as another surgery. 

Molly plans to spend the next year recovering and writing a new book, which she describes as "the book of my life." She hopes to raise $100,000 so she can finish the book and pay for another year of medical bills and living expenses. So far she has raised almost $40,000 of her goal. We wish the best to Molly in her recovery and look forward to seeing her new book.

Beloved Italian cookery writer Antonio Carluccio has died

Antonio CarluccioWe have sad news to report today, as the much-loved and respected Antonio Carluccio has died at the age of 80. Known as a master of Italian food, Carluccio cooked, ate, and championed the cuisine for over 50 years. Born on the Amalfi Coast in the South and raised in the wooded North-West, Carluccio moved to London in 1957.

In 1981 he opened the Neal Street Restaurant in Covent Garden, which remained for 26 years. In 1991, he opened a deli next to the restaurant and in 1998 started the first Carluccio's Caffe in Market Place, London. After developing the Carluccio's caffe business for a decade, Antonio stepped back from day-to-day management but continued to work with the Carluccio's team on menu development and chef training while continuing to develop new projects.

In 1983 Carluccio made his first appearance on BBC2, discussing Mediterranean food and in the same year he was asked to write his first book, An Invitation to Italian Cooking, which was updated and re-released in 2002. He wrote over a dozen books that were published worldwide, and was a popular television personality, hosting the highly-regarded 'Antonio Carluccio's Northern Italian Feast' and 'Southern Italian Feast'.

Carluccio was appointed Commendatore by the Italian Government in 1998 for services rendered to Italy, the equivalent of a British knighthood. He also received an OBE from The Queen in 2007 for services to the catering industry.

How six ex-pats changed the way Americans eat

The Gourmands' WayPrior to the middle of the 20th century, the American food scene was stagnant. A post-war boom led to increased availability of canned and processed foods, and less and less food was made at home, from scratch. That trend began to reverse when the likes of Julia Child and Richard Olney brought French influences back with them from extended stays in France. 

The Gourmands' Way: Six Americans in Paris and the Birth of a New Gastronomy, released last month, explores the outsized influence a small group of individual ex-pats had on American food culture. The six people discussed in The Gourmands' Way  are:  war correspondent A. J. Liebling; Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein's life partner, who reinvented herself at seventy as a cookbook author; M.F.K. Fisher, a sensualist and fabulist storyteller; Julia Child, a television celebrity and cookbook author; Alexis Lichine, an ambitious wine merchant; and Richard Olney, a reclusive artist who reluctantly evolved into a brilliant writer on French food and wine. 

The book  explores the lives and writings of this select group, paying particular attention to their individual struggles as writers, to their life circumstances, and, ultimately, to their particular genius at sharing awareness of French food with everyday Americans. In doing so, this group biography also tells the story of an era when America adored all things French.

NPR's The Salt recently interviewed author Justin Spring, who explains more about the unique contributions of each of these individuals, and how their legacy continues to this day.  

Lidia's American Dream

My American DreamLidia Bastianich helped create a food empire -  in addition to owning six restaurants with her son, Joe, she is part owner of the New York and Chicago Eataly locations. As if this weren't enough, she has two Emmy Award-winning PBS programs,  Lidia's Italy and Lidia's Kitchen, and several successful cookbooks.

While you may already know all of this, you might not know about Lidia's struggles as a refugee and immigrant. She tells her story in an upcoming memoir titled My American Dream: A Life of Love, Family, and Food. After fleeing communism in what is now Croatia, Lidia's family spent two years in a refugee camp in Trieste, Italy. Eventually they landed in the United States, when Lidia was just 12 years old. She soon began working in restaurants, the first step toward the creation of her own American dream.

In My American Dream Lidia tells in great, vivid detail the fulfillment of that dream: her close-knit family, her dedication and endless passion for food that ultimately leads to multiple restaurants, many cookbooks, and twenty years on public television as the host of her own cooking show. You can get a flavor of what will be in the book in Lidia's interview with Feast Magazine

Lidia is originally from Istria, a region that is now part of Croatia but which was part of Italty prior to World War II. Her family lived under communist dictator Tito until 1956, when her family felt that for the sake of their children's and family's future, they had to escape. Lidia, her siblings and her mother went to Italy, telling authorities that they were going to visit an ill relative. Lidia's father eventually managed to join them in Trieste. Lidia was only ten and was crushed when she realized that she would never see her friends and family again. She explained to Feast, "I think that melancholy, that unfinished business, the way I maintained was with the smells of the food, and the flavors that reminded me of Grandma."

Lidia explains how her immigrant status led her to embrace the foods and flavors of her homeland, even as she was excited to become part of the American fabric. "This is what [my] success story, my commitment and my passion is all about," she says. "I want to share what I love and who I was with who I am, and all my new family that is American."

My American Dream will be released in April, 2018 and is available for preorder now. 

The Galloping Gourmet's cookbook is updated and reissued

The Graham Kerr CookbookOne of the first food television personalities, Graham Kerr figuratively and literally leapt into the public eye in the late 1960s in his television shown called The Galloping Gourmet. Known for his boundless energy, Kerr introduced the world to the idea that watching someone cook could be highly entertaining. Publishing house Rizzoli has updated Kerr's popular cookbook, The Graham Kerr Cookbook: The Galloping Gourmet, set for release next April. The revised edition of the book features new commentary from Kerr and an introduction by brothers Matt Lee and Ted Lee.  

Kerr's television series was short-lived, running only two years from 1969 to 1971, but the impact that Kerr had on a generation of cooks was surpassed only by that of Julia Child. These days, Kerr leads a quiet life in Washington state. Earlier this year, The New York Times caught up with the star to see what he is doing now

While the television show relied heavy on meat, fat, and dairy, relegating vegetables to an afterthought, Kerr's own cooking bounced between hedonism and austerity. After his wife had a stroke and heart attack at an early age, Kerr blamed his decadent cooking and completely changed the way he looked at food. As his wife recovered, he began to rail against food additives, large portion sizes, and even Alfredo sauce. "I used to call doughnuts 'edible pornography,' and I'd think I was doing the world a favor," Kerr said. "And I'm sorry about that, I really am. That was a bad time in my life." 

Kerr's wife passed away in 2015, just shy of their 60th wedding anniversary. Now aged 83, Kerr still cooks and has moderated his style, striking a balance between the two extremes he once embraced. Although he's stepped away from the cameras and even his website, Kerr still offers fans a glimpse into what he's doing through a monthly newsletter

Kerr's cookbook has matured nearly as well as the iconic personality who created it. His fun-loving approach to cooking was decades ahead of its time, and you can see his influence in today's stars like Mario Batali and Jamie Oliver. The book's encyclopedic range of recipes - starting with basics such as how to brew coffee and continuing to sophisticated preparations of fish and poultry - open up a world of lost classics for today's home cook.

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. 

How to be Fearless in Culinary Writing


While I am buried literally and figuratively in about 200 October cookbooks (preparing a roundup which I hope will be informative and helpful to our members), I spotted a post by Crescent Dragonwagon in my newsfeed. To be honest, Julia Child's iconic face caught my attention first. When I am swamped with work, I seldom give my newsfeed a second look. This piece, however, was about Julia, or so I thought, and I had to take a break. Crescent's article from this summer is worth a read for not only is it entertaining, it is uplifting.

I love my work at Eat Your Books, I try very hard to put a little of myself in each review but sometimes when roundup time sneaks up on me - I feel overwhelmed. The roundup is my favorite post of the month, but at the same time I feel at a loss on how to describe each book to give it the attention it deserves without being stale and repetitive. There are so many books this month that are glorious in my opinion, but how does one convey that adequately without sounding as if every book is a must have - many are, some aren't. Those books that don't blow up my skirt, might be just the one a member has been looking for.

The piece at Rouses, ignited a spark in me - if Julia Child at the age of 85 felt the need to take course during an IACP conference entitled, Finding Your Voice, Vitality, and Vibrancy in Culinary Writing, who am I to feel lost. Writing is personal and one of the hardest, yet easiest tasks for me. I needed the reminder that even the best of the best need to be uplifted by the people around her. Crescent is a brilliant writer who gave me the boost I need today.  I am excited to take her class in Feburary at the IACP conference in New York - please tell me there is room for one more. 

Crescent writes weekly posts on grieving, celebrating, eating, and writing that you can subscribe to here. The Widowhood Wednesdays are reaching many and may be helpful to those who are grieving or knows someone who is.

Read about Crescent's student Julia, enjoy your family and friends this weekend, get lost in a book and have fun.  I, for one, will enjoy my time mulling through these beautiful books and sharing my thoughts with you next week.

 

 

This chef is tired of over-the-top food

Night+Market cookbookWhen food crazes include rainbows, unicorns, and mash ups of foods, it's safe to say that over-the-top is definitely in style. However, that's no longer the philosophy of Los Angeles chef Kris Yenbangroom, who is set to open his third restaurant. When he first opened his place, called Night+Market, he admits he had a "heavy hand" when it came to flavors. Over time, he says he has become more confident in his cooking, and now opts for more restraint. "I don't want to blow people's minds every second," he says. "Especially these days, a lot of attention is given to how over-the-top and crazy stuff is. Honestly, I'm just interested in being a good neighborhood spot."

The chef, who was born in the US but who spent a significant portion of his childhood in Thailand, is known for creating spicy, sharp Thai party food. Yenbamroong strips down traditional recipes to wring maximum flavor out of minimum hassle. He is releasing his first cookbook, which is named after his restaurant (watch this blog for an upcoming promotion and review). Night+Market is the story of his journey from the Thai-American restaurant classics he grew eating at his family's restaurant, to the rural cooking of Northern Thailand he fell for traveling the countryside. Despite its inspiration, the book is not about cooking in Thailand; rather it's about making Thai food where you live. Most of the ingredients can be found in regular supermarkets. 

All the recipes in the cookbook are the actual ones used at the restaurant. "We have 400 covers a day, and we only have like 45 seats," Yenbamroong says. "That's a lot of turns. So in order to do that with a small kitchen, you have to make it pretty simple and as efficient as possible. And we put it in the book that way."

Melissa Clark on how to create the perfect recipe

Melissa ClarkPopular food writer Melissa Clark is no stranger to recipe development. She creates recipes for her column in The New York Times and other publications, plus she's written or co-written nearly 40 cookbooks. In a recent interview with The Cut, she explains her process for creating the perfect recipe

The first step involves inspiration. Clark says she she sometimes begins with a thought like, "Oh, wouldn't it be fun to add pancetta to gougères?" She'll think about the ways that adding bacon to cheese puffs might make it more delicious, asking questions such as, "do you stuff bacon in the middle, do you chop it up really finely, or do you use bacon fat instead of some of the butter?"

Once the idea is firmly in place, the hard labor begins. Clark says she relies heavily on her recipe tester, although she also pitches in to make and re-make the dish. She admits that she rarely gets something right on the first try, and that the recipe usually requires tweaking along the way. Clark says that she averages four tests per recipe, and that she writes about 65 recipes per year for the newspaper column.

When she goes to restaurants, Clark likes to choose the dish that seems least likely to be successful, theorizing that if the dish works, she will learn more from that than by ordering a more traditional menu item. As for her favorite food indulgences, Clark admits to liking a decidedly non-gourmet food. "I really do love Cheetos, like really badly," she says.

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