Chef and restaurateur Nora Pouillon is Washington, DC’s- and the nation’s – Forever First Lady in the world of organic food and sustainability. When she arrived in the U.S. in the 1970s from her native Austria, our country was on a diet of processed foods and agricultural products treated with chemicals -and in too many communities still is. Determined to feed both her family and her customers healthy, farm fresh food like she grew up eating in Europe, Nora set out to find local farmers to supply her food. It wasn’t easy but Nora was committed to finding a better and healthier solution to serve
local, seasonally prepared meals. Restaurant Nora opened in its 19th century red brick building in 1979 (the same year McDonald’s introduced the Happy Meal just to give you an idea of what many Americans were eating). Twenty years later in 1999, Restaurant Nora became the first certified organic restaurant, which means 95% of all ingredients must be produced by certified organic farmers, growers and suppliers. Thank goodness Nora stuck to her guns; many restaurants don’t even last 20 years.
Nora has received countless awards, too many to list here. But what struck me at the panel discussion where she spoke about Chef-Activism is how she cultivated farmers and helped nurture their businesses by organizing bus tours to introduce DC area chefs to the farmers. In the process she sustained both their businesses and hers by helping ensure the viability of their farms. Nora also initiated DC’s first producer-only farmer’s market, FRESHFARM Markets, which now includes eleven markets in the metropolitan area.
These days “Farm-To-Table” is a frequent phrase in restaurants around the nation. Sustainability and ethical cooking are top of mind. We all have Nora Pouillon to thank for leading the way. She recently announced plans to pass the torch at Restaurant Nora. Somehow we know there’s an interesting new chapter to be written. If you haven’t read Nora’s full story, check out this book. And listen to our show here:
While many Americans may be gnashing their teeth and biting their nails as we head into the last week of the Presidential campaign, I’m ready to cast my vote for the most impressive women-as-culinary-activists after attending last week’s Les Dames d’Escoffier International Conference in Washington, DC. Not intending to sound political, but just proud of my tribe: “If you want to get something done, ask a woman to do it.” Hats off to the Dames of the Washington DC Chapter who made this annual conference a fabulous success. The conference speakers addressed some very substantial topics that had everyone thinking about the role of food, its cultural significance in history and diplomacy and why activism and advocacy are critical to sustainability.
James Beard Foundation President Susan Ungaro’s keynote speech addressed the importance of embracing more diversity at every level of the food- and drink- chain of command. Lauren Bernstein, Director of the Diplomatic Culinary Partnership in the Office of Protocol at the U.S. Department of State, illustrated how top chefs are serving the nation in the role of culinary diplomat beyond Presidential State Dinners.
Native Americans may have worked out treaties with our country’s early settlers over a peace pipe, but today’s global relations are warmed up over a peace plate. Gastro-diplomacy takes knowledge, skill, good taste and an appreciation of cultural and culinary traditions.
Pass the plate of peace, please!
Founded by New York based Food Writer and Editor Carol Brock Les Dames d’Escoffier is an invitational organization of women leaders in food, beverage and hospitality whose mission is education and philanthropy. www.ldei.org
A sunset stroll on a warm September evening in lower Manhattan while watching party boats cruise the Hudson River had us reminiscing about the New York restaurants we’d loved and lost. The occasion that prompted this was a dinner at Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) with Chef David Waltuck who was recently named Director of Culinary Programs.
David prepared five signature dishes from his landmark restaurant, Chanterelle, which closed in 2009 after 30 years in business. It was lovely to see David in action and catch up with his wife and partner at Chanterelle, Karen, as well as Andrew Friedman who collaborated with David on the book, “Chanterelle: The Story and Recipes of a Restaurant Classic.”
I could write a memoir based around restaurants that played an important role in my life. Some were clients. Others were host venues for my events. Many participated in programs I produced such as New York Restaurant Week, The James Beard Foundation Awards and the Bon Appétit Wine & Spirits Focus. Many took good care of me when I paid a visit either as a solo diner or when I dined with good friends or my parents when they paid me a visit from Tennessee. Many owners became close friends.
We made a list sitting on a bench watching the sunset. We named it “the restaurants we loved and lost.” The sun may have set on these restaurants, but they each left a special imprint in various aspects of our life in Manhattan. The reason why some of them are included is another story for another time!
Our list: An American Place, Arizona 206, Beppe, Bolo, Capsouto Frerès, Chanterelle, Cité, Danube, Hudson River Club, Lespinasse, Lola,The Four Seasons, Giovanni’s Atrium, La Caravelle, La Cote Basque, La Fourchette, Les Célébrités, Le Madri, Les Halles, Lutece, March, Mesa Grill, Nosmo King, The Oak Room, Pastis, Peacock Alley, Princess Pamela’s Little Kitchen, Picholine, Pipa, Quilted Giraffe, Rainbow Room, Restaurant Florent, San Domenico, SD26, Sign of the Dove, Tabla, Union Pacific, WD50, Windows on the World, Verbena, Veritas, Zarela. And then there are the original locations no more: Bouley, Le Cirque and Union Square Cafe. More recently it was announced that Carnegie Deli will close the end of 2016; its rival, Stage Deli, already shuttered.
I know you have more to add to this list based on your own personal experience. We found list on Gayot.com.
The above photo is of the late Giovanni Natalucci of Giovanni’s Atrium in Lower Manhattan. (Credit: Downtown Express file photo by Maria Yoo). Our back story: A small group of us tried to “save” Giovanni’s Atrium after the September 11th terrorist attacks by hosting events there. At a dinner party in 2003 I reconnected with David after not seeing him for more than a decade. Both the restaurant and its owner left us in 2008, a year after David and I were married.
Chef David Waltuck and his wife Karen ran Chanterelle restaurant for 30 years, first in Soho and then in Tribeca.
Each menu was a work of art as was each dish. Seasonal, locally sourced cooking was David’s style long before “farm to table” became embedded in our culinary lingo.
Gael Greene referred to David in a cover story in New York Magazine as “The Daring Young Man on Grand Street.” Back in the those early days many considered traveling below 14th Street “daring.” And it was a long way from The Bronx, where David was raised. He caught the restaurant bug early, enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America, traveled and worked different jobs. He was just 24 when he opened Chanterelle.
David’s food was artistic yet approachable. It was nouvelle cuisine with his special twist. A personal favorite was the seafood sausage which recently enjoyed at a special dinner at Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) with David cooking a selection of Chanterelle’s signature dishes. The evening commemorated David’s appointment as ICE’s Director of Culinary Programs where he will develop curricula, teach and mentor.
David joined us September 28th on The Connected Table LIVE! to share his story and talk about his new role at the school.
Listen hear on iHeart.com and the free iHeart App. Pleas give it a “thumbs up” and share.
Purchase “Chanterelle: The Stories and Recipes from a Restaurant Classic” here.
We love celebrating America’s Independence Day and hope you enjoyed as well. We wondered what the Founding Fathers drank to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence. We’ve seen a number of references to Madeira. Founding Father and First President George Washington owned a large distillery.Patrick Henry owned a tavern. Thomas Jefferson collected fine wines. And according this articlein Modern Drunkard they all enjoyed imbibing. Surfing the internet we stumbled upon the Founding Fathers Bar in Buffalo, named one ofEsquire Magazine’s “Best Bars in America.” These days some high end whiskies are as difficult to find as tickets to “Hamilton.” We’ll leave you with this thought from BFFF – Benjamin -Founding Father -Franklin:
July 6 2pmET on The Connected Table LIVE! at W4CY Radio
He’s been called the “Founding Father of New World Cuisine.”
The late Charlie Trotter called him “The Walt Whitman of American Cuisine.”
Smithsonian Magazine said about him, “Before the celebrity chef craze and before the start of Food Network, Norman Van Aken was starting a revolution.
He was doing something unheard of at the time, taking local ethnic flavors, merging them together at restaurants where he worked.”
He started a movement that led to mainstream. Now “fusion cooking” is part of our everyday culinary vernacular. Chef, Restaurateur, Mentor and Poet of New World fusion cooking Norman Van Aken joins us July 6, 2pm ET. We’ll discuss his career, his books and his many next chapters which include a cooking school in Miami (In the Kitchen with Norman Van Aken), a new restaurant in Mount Dora outside Orlando (1921 by Norman Van Aken), a sixth cookbook, “My Florida Kitchen,” with wife, Janet, plus his weekly NPR radio show, “A Word on Food.”
Norman Van Aken joins The Connected Table LIVE! July 6
First tasting Norman’s food was more than a revolution; it was a revelation for Melanie who says, “Until Norman Van Aken, my only memories of dining out in Florida were limited to awful early bird specials while visiting my grandparents in the late 1970s and early 80s. It was, indeed, a New World for me to taste his food and it opened my world to new flavors and an appreciation for a type of fusion cooking that I had never experienced before.”
To be honest, we had to look up Tutka Bay on the map. FYI: it’s in Alaska.
That said, it was with pleasure that we did so. For when “The Tutka Bay Lodge Cookbook” came across our desk and we started flipping through the pages of this wonderful tome, we knew that not only did we want to know more about it, but we also needed to find a way to get its authors, the mother/daughter culinary team of Kirsten and Mandy Dixon, on our show.
Daniel Boulud may not know it, but he is responsible for our marriage. Well, at least in part. Here’s the skinny:
After meeting Melanie at a dinner party thrown by my ex-girlfriend (long story) and vowing to stay in touch, we got together for our first date in February 2003. It went something like this:
Melanie: “I have to go to an event at the Gourmet Magazine Kitchen for a wine client, why don’t you meet me there and we’ll go out to dinner afterwards?”
Me: “OK, sounds like a plan”
So, I met her at the event and while she worked her magic with her clients I proceeded to taste some wines (FYI: they were Spanish wines) and meet some of her colleagues, all of which was new to me, as I, at that point, didn’t really have any idea about what she did or who any of these folks were.
Eventually, the event wound down, and our time to go to dinner arrived. Melanie asked what I’d like to do, and since I had been at a wine event in a food magazine’s corporate kitchen (no lack of beverages and hors d’oeuvres there), I responded that “since we’d been already eating and drinking, why don’t we do something easy, like go grab a burger somewhere and talk.”
Well, Melanie thought that was a great idea. “I have just the place in mind,” she said, “and it’s right around the corner.”
She then proceeded to lead me to a place on 44th Street called DB Bistro, owned by a chef named Daniel Boulud, someone I’d never heard of. “He makes a great burger,” she said, “you’ll just love it.”
On a frosty March weekend we visited the tiny college town of Brunswick, Maine, for a family gathering that included one of the best and most creative Asian dinners we’d experienced in a long time. And, I thought I’d be eating just lobster and chowder all weekend!
Cara Stadler‘s Tao-Yuan blends local ingredients, Chinese flavors and the chef’s French training into creative dishes that are light in spirit (and on the stomach) and heavy on crisp, balanced flavors, from spicy, salty and savory to delicately sweet. Cara was inspired by her Chinese mother, Cecile. who runs Tao-Yuan with her as well as Cara’s local dumpling bar Bao Bao. Cara and her mother also ran the successful Gourmet Underground dining club in Beijing.
Cara recalls her mother’s extensive Asian dinners at home, an early influence that inspired her to pursue cooking versus a traditional college degree. At 16 she presented her parents a 10 year business plan that convinced them to let her follow her dream. She enrolled in the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris and trained in top rated restaurants in France and China.
Now in her late 20s Cara has met and exceeded her 10 year plan, with Tao Yuan and Bao Bao, as well as recognition in 2014 as a Food & Wine magazine Best New Chef, a James Beard Foundation Award 2015 Semi-Finalist and a major feature in the November 2015 issue of Saveurmagazine. Yet, her growing fame has grounded her even more. Cara’s focus is on her next 10 year plan including a hydroponic garden and aquaculture. –Melanie Young
There are many well-known chefs in television thanks to the proliferation of cooking shows and culinary competitions. But Jacques Pépin, stands in a league of his own.
He’s an Emmy Award and James Beard-winning host of 14 cooking shows series on PBS-TV and is author of dozens of acclaimed books, including his newest, Jacques Pépin Heart & Soul in the Kitchen, (Rux Martin Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Oct 6, 2015).
He teaches on cruise lines, and makes guest appearances at many industry and charitable events, but his teaching “home” is the International Culinary Center (formerly French Culinary Institute) where he serves as Dean of Special Programs.
Jacques has taught and inspired many on the techniques and pleasures of cooking. I swear by his method for cooking omelets. In fact his book, La Technique, is still used today as a textbook for teaching the fundamentals of French cooking and also launched the PBS series and companion DVD”The Complete Pépin”
Born in Bourg-en-Bresse near Lyon, in 1935, Jacques grew up in a restaurant family. His parents, Jeanette and Jean-Victor Pépin, owned the restaurant Le Pélican, where Jacques worked before furthering his training in France at establishments that included the Plaza Athénée. He served as the personal chef to three French heads of state including Charles de Gaulle. In 1959 he came to the U.S. to work at Le Pavillon restaurant. One of the restaurant’s regular customers, Howard Johnson, took notice of Jacques and recruited him to work alongside fellow fellow French Chef Pierre Franey, to develop the food line for his Howard Johnson’s restaurant chain.
Since then, Jacques has gone on to be one of our nation’s- and world’s- most influential and inspiring teachers and chefs. While his toque may stand tall, his kindness has the common touch. You always feel welcome in Jacques’ presence; there are no PR shields or security detail surrounding him. He is approachable. He often travels to events with longtime pal, Jean-Claude Szurdak, or daughter Claudine, who has both co-hosted shows and co-written books with her father, including KQED’s “Jacques Pépin’s Kitchen: Cooking with Claudine” (1998) “Jacques Pépin’s Kitchen: Encore with Claudine “(1998).
Of course some of our most beloved shows are those with his friend, the late Julia Child. The twenty-two episode series, “Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home,” was the winner of The James Beard Foundation’s award for Best National Cooking Show — 2001, and the duo received a 2001 Daytime Emmy Award from The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Julia may be gone but the books and videos remain.
Some of my earliest memories of Jacques are working with The James Beard Foundation. He oversaw the Celebration of French Cooking reception theme for the 1993 James Beard Foundation Awards. Jacques was the consummate perfectionist, calling me frequently to check in and to weigh in on the menu and progress. He was a guest presenter every year of the awards, and many of his books and TV shows have received award medallions. He was given the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.
When I served as President of Les Dames d’Escoffier New York we honored Jacques at a lavish dinner to fund raise for the organization’s scholarship program for women. Jacques also taught me to saber a bottle of champagne during the Food & Wine Classic years ago.
Jacques is also a talented artist, and his work has graced many special event menus and been donated to raise funds for several worthy causes.
You can also see Jacques’ illustrations in Claudine’s, book “Kids Cook French.” For more on Claudine listen to my June 8th edition of Fearless Fabulous You! here.
While his wall of awards and drawer of medallions mark the milestones of his career, it’s the milestones in his close knit family that matter most to this dedicated husband and father: Claudine’s marriage to Chef Rollie Wesen, the birth of granddaughter Shorey, and the recent 49th wedding anniversary with wife Gloria.
He credits cooking with his mother and grandmother for fueling his career in food and the Culinary Institute of America for giving him his formal education. Alon was working as an intern at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas when he met Octavio Mantilla, a co-owner of Besh Restaurant Group. Octavia recruited him to New Orleans, and Chef /Restaurateur John Besh took him under his wing. Alon credits John as the most influential non-familial influence in his culinary life.
Located in the historic Roosevelt Hotel Domenica is recognized for its straightforward family-style Italian cooking. The name “Domenica” means “Sunday” in Italian, a day when families in Italy gather for a festive meal overflowing with good food and wine. Alon spent a year cooking and traveling in Italy to learn from both home and professional kitchens. Uptown, Shaya’s Restaurant serves Alon’s take on Modern Israeli cuisine while utilizing local and seasonal Louisiana ingredients. He went back to Israel in 2014 to immerse himself in the culture and cuisine of his homeland.
I dined at Shaya’s in May. The words “fertile crescent” came to mind. The dishes I tasted conjured a caravan of flavors from a region of the world I long to visit again some day. Fortunately, we have restaurants like Shaya’s that just require a quick trip to OpenTable to snag a coveted table.
It’s been a few good years for Alon: 2015 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Southeast Chef, 2014 Hottest Restaurant (Gayot), 2012 Chef of the Year (New Orleans Magazine).
Chef Alon Shaya visited with Melanie and David July 8 on The Connected Table LIVE. You can listen to show anytime on iHeart.com and the iHeartApp. Or cut and paste here:
Strolling West 58th Street recently I peeked into Loi Estiatorio, a sliver of a restaurant owned by renowned Greek chef, Maria Loi. “Peeked” is an understatement. Maria was at the entrance and welcomed me in for a visit with her at the bar. It was pre-service, so the restaurant was quiet (for a short time). Maria offered me a selection of Greek wine plus a delicious Feta-Greek yogurt dip with hard crackers. When I told her I wanted to learn how to make yogurt she went back to her kitchen and brought me a printout of her recipe plus a small bowl of the most luscious yogurt I’ve ever tasted. And more wine.
Greeks are known for their hospitality and passion for their culture and food. Maria is no exception. The global Chef’s Club of Greece has recognized Maria as the official Ambassador of Greek Gastronomy. In addition to Loi Estiatorio in Manhattan, Maria owns an exquisite gourmet restaurant in idyllic Nafpaktos, is a popular television chef and has a line of dinnerware and kitchen appliances. She’s author of dozens of books including The Greek Diet(with veteran health journalist,Sarah Toland) which was the official cookbook of the 2004 Greek Olympics. The Greek Diet outlines Maria’s 12 Food Pillars for a healthy diet. It’s a simple diet based around fresh vegetables, fruits, seafood, chicken and eggs, whole grains, beans and plenty of olive oil and yogurt,herbs and spices. And wine – Greek of course!
I’ve been in a “Greek state of mind” for quite some time since olive oil, yogurt, beans and steamed greens (akin to Cretan style horta) are my dietary staples along with water, coffee and tea (she discusses the benefits of Greek coffee and mountain tea)…..and wine. Maybe it stems from my years as a young girl devouring stories from Greek mythology (Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, was my personal favorite.) It’s no myth that the Greek diet is among the healthiest, and Maria’s glow and energy are a testament.
Listen to our May 13 show with Chef Maria Loi Here
May 4, 2015 – David Ransom and I have a special place in our hearts for New Orleans, the city where we were married in 2007. That’s why it’s a treat to have native New Orleanian David Guason our May 6th show.
This Harley-riding southern chef brought his love for New Orleans up the road North to Arlington, VA, where he owns and operates the Bayou Bakery Coffee Bar & Eatery. A second location opened this month in an historic carriage house on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Both offer discerning eaters a range of comforting options in a leisurely, rustic, counter-service hangout.
It’s grilling – or should we say grilling chefs behind the grill- where many of David’s fans around the country know him best. He’s host of the high stakes grilling competition television show, American Grilled (Travel Channel).