I was asked on Twitter what I thought of the latest movie on the chef world, really the first authentic movie on the work of professional cooking since Ratatouille (one of the best on the subject). So here comes a formidable writer, director, and marquee cast (Scarlett, Dustin, Robert {D. Jr.}, Sofia V., the compelling Bobby Cannavale, and writer/director/lead Jon Favreau) to try to tell a story and also get right what really hasn’t been done well in American film ever, animation excepted: the life of the chef. Spanglish, and No Reservations being two hopefuls that did not get it right. As a narrative, Chef is predictable (I’d seen the previews, all you need to know), almost tired, father-son road movie, guilty hard-working dad, cute kid, likable (ex) wife—worked for Elf, right? My writing mentor said, “No Read On »

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Cleveland Clinic Preventative Medicine Physician Roxanne Sukol (photos by Donna). I injured my knee this spring during my travels and, home for just two days in April, was able to make an appointment; my usual doctor was out, but another internist had an opening. She entered and I introduced myself. She said, “I know who you are.” Why? She is medical director of the Wellness Enterprise at The Cleveland Clinic and has her own well-trafficked food blog, Your Health Is on Your Plate, which addresses how to eat well. I, a Fat-Is-Good-For-You-Eat-More-Pork-Well-Salted proselytizer, well aware that the august Cleveland Clinic hews to the old-school fat-and-salt-are-evil party line, went on guard. Yet within moments Dr. Sukol was rattling away excitedly about stripped and intact carbs and fiber matrixes, riveting me. With what seemed near despair, she said, “We Read On »

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Michael's-whole-grain-bread

I was thrilled by Kim Severson’s piece on the gluten-free trend because it points a light, yet again, on … but god, aren’t there enough klieg lights on American’s stupidity, gullibility, and laziness already? And yet even Severson herself quotes a chef, thereby giving the piece its own kind of reporter’s credibility, saying that the gluten-free fad is here to stay. This, despite noting that only 1% of the population is actually badly affected by gluten, and that there is scant evidence that there’s anything wrong with this wonderful protein combination. A grocer I know said he didn’t know if it was a good or a bad thing, the gluten-free fad, but he was loving the hell out of it. If Americans’ lack of self-awareness, or even awareness generally, weren’t already on painful display almost everywhere, Read On »

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I had the great good fortune to interview Dan Barber before a sold-out crowd at Cleveland’s MOCA last night, talking to him about his fine book, The Third Plate (NYTimes review here). Barber, chef and owner of New York’s Blue Hill restaurant and maestro of Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, is the most vocal and articulate chef soap-boxing for a sustainable food future. The problem has long been that, while he’s been very good at articulating the problems, he’s never had a realistic solution. Americans can’t completely opt out of the industrial food system by relying exclusively on CSAs and farmers’ markets (much as we cherish them). And chefs must cherry-pick the best ingredients if they are to keep their restaurants filled. Until this book, that is. Barber, through excellent reporting (how many chefs record interviews Read On »

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I want to call attention today to Dan Barber’s New York Times opinion piece from a week and a half ago, “What Farm-to-Table Got Wrong,” and his new book The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food. Both address the “odd duality” of our country’s embrace of sustainable agriculture, local food, organic food, farmers’ markets, and the farm-to-table movement with the fact that Big Food is getting bigger. Corn and soy account for 50% of the farmed land in this country (mainly a variety of corn that’s not edible until processed, I’m guessing). The current agricultural situation seems untenable in the long haul. In the short term, it’s created a population so sick we currently rack up a billion dollars a day in health care costs. On the other hand, do I really Read On »

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