Do it right every time: An interview with Josh Lewin of Beacon Hill Bistro

Over the past several weeks I’ve had the chance to get to know more about Josh Lewin of Beacon Hill Bistro. It started off like most of my interactions, with me exploring the opportunity to speak with a chef about their career. It spilled on to Twitter Then, unexpectedly, it found its way to the table, eating together at a lunch pop-up held by Future Chefs Boston. The easy take away: Josh is a cool cat!

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Over the past several weeks I’ve had the chance to get to know more about Josh Lewin, Executive Chef of Beacon Hill Bistro located in the Beacon Hill Hotel. It started off like most of my interactions, with me exploring the opportunity to speak with a chef about their career. It spilled on to Twitter (back and forth about za’atar and foraging). Then, unexpectedly, it found its way to the table, eating together at a lunch pop-up held by Future Chefs Boston. The easy take away: Josh is a cool cat!

Continue reading “Do it right every time: An interview with Josh Lewin of Beacon Hill Bistro”

American roots in Toronto: Getting to know Sam Gelman of Momofuku Toronto

It’s hard to take an interest in the culinary world and not be aware of the food empire known as Momofuku. Originally opened in New York City by David Change in 2004, Momofuku is now a dozen restaurants strong, with outposts in Australia and Toronto. But, conquering the world is hard work, and requires the effort of more than one man – enter the exceptional team the Chang has built, which includes the executive chef of Momofuku Toronto, Sam Gelman. 

It’s hard to take an interest in the culinary world and not be aware of the food empire known as Momofuku. Originally opened in New York City by David Change in 2004, Momofuku is now a dozen restaurants strong, with outposts in Australia and Toronto. But, conquering the world is hard work, and requires the effort of more than one man – enter the exceptional team the Chang has built, which includes the executive chef of Momofuku Toronto, Sam Gelman.

Continue reading “American roots in Toronto: Getting to know Sam Gelman of Momofuku Toronto”

Always try to improve on something: An interview with Chef Paul Turano of Tryst and Cook Newton

One thing that holds true in all aspects of life is that there is always room for improvement. This sentiment was clearly echoed during a conversation with Chef Paul Turano of Tryst (located in Arlington, MA), and Cook Newton

One thing that holds true in all aspects of life is that there is always room for improvement. This sentiment was clearly echoed during a conversation with Chef Paul Turano of Tryst (located in Arlington, MA), and Cook Newton. We talked about his passion for food, his path to becoming a chef, and a personal food memory.

Continue reading “Always try to improve on something: An interview with Chef Paul Turano of Tryst and Cook Newton”

Serious eats: Interviewing the author of The Food Lab, J. Kenji López-Alt

Every person on planet Earth views life through a glass tinted by what matters to them most. From food to faith, the tint can come from anywhere, really. For J. Kenji López-Alt, Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats, his tint comes from his love of science. Mix that with a passion for food and you get The Food Lab, a one-stop-shop for anyone looking not only for great recipes, but an understanding of what makes them so great.

Every person on planet Earth views life through a glass tinted by what matters to them most. From food to faith, the tint can come from anywhere, really. For J. Kenji López-Alt, Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats, his tint comes from his love of science. Mix that with a passion for food and you get The Food Lab, a one-stop-shop for anyone looking not only for great recipes, but an understanding of what makes them so great.

Continue reading “Serious eats: Interviewing the author of The Food Lab, J. Kenji López-Alt”

The story behind the bite: An interview with food and lifestyle photographer Huge Galdones

Part of what I love about the food world are the stories the exist behind each bite. It’s something I’m not alone in loving either. While I try to express those stories via the written word, Huge Galdones (hitherto referred to as “THE Man”) expresses those stories via photography. To put it plainly, he produces some of the best food porn you’ll ever see.

Part of what I love about the food world are the stories the exist behind each bite. It’s something I’m not alone in loving either. While I try to express those stories via the written word, Huge Galdones (hitherto referred to as “THE Man”) expresses those stories via photography. To put it plainly, he produces some of the best food porn you’ll ever see.

I had the chance to check in with THE Man and learn more about his love of food and photography, how he got involved in the food community (going to need to talk to him more about working the line at Joe Beef!), and his favorite food memories, both personal and work related.

Huge Galdones
Huge Galdones – Photo by Eric Kleinberg

Foodie Journal: Making a conscious decision to do a lot of photography of food, and the culinary world in general, would imply that you love food. Have you always been in to food?

Huge Galdones: I’ve always had a crush on food as I’ve never a picky eater, though If I was, I’d definitely be skinnier! I blame my obsession on three things: (1) PBS (Julia Child, Martin Yan, Jacques Pepin); (2) friends in the industry and (3) friends equally obsessed with eating out and cooking for others.

FJ: How did you come about choosing photography as a profession? When did food enter the picture? It’s an awful pun, I know… but it just fits too well to not use it.

HG: I basically turned my passion into my profession, letting everything fall into place. All through undergrad and grad school (and no, I wasn’t a major in Fine Arts, Journalism or Photography), I was finding any excuse to shoot— from the school newspaper, fashion shows, street festivals to eventually interning with the Montreal Canadiens, I learnt the craft shooting sports and events.

That being said, it was when I worked the line at Joe Beef (Montreal) and their sister restaurants that I connected my two passions. I don’t know how I got away with it but I would be peeling asparagus one minute then taking pictures of my mise en place the next. Working with that crew made me not only fall in love with photographing sexy food but capturing the untold stories of the back-of-house.

When I started noticing several opportunities made my business more sustainable like shooting for Cochon555 for instance, I decided to leave my day job and focus on building my portfolio and brand. As a Canadian operating out of Chicago, and all over the US, really, many have said that I’m living the ‘American Dream.’

FJ: How has the work you’ve done changed your perspective on food and cooking in general?

HG: My perspective really changed when I started working the line rather than shooting the line. Showcasing what goes into a finished dish— from the farmers, the purveyors and the cooks— is what motivates me to do what I do. It’s the story behind the bite that I find most compelling and I hope that my work highlights that just as much as the final product.

FJ: So everyone and their brother tries to take pictures of their food, more often than not in dimly lit restaurants while using the flash of their smartphones. Can you talk just a little bit, maybe from a high level, what goes in to making food photography seem so effortless?

HG: ‘Seem’ being the operative word. A lot of elements contribute to a successful photo shoot and effortless is the last thing that comes to mind. It likely sounds cliched but tons of practice and trusting your eye and gut has to take the cake.

FJ: Could you offer up a tip for people wanting to taking better pictures of their food, be it at home or in restaurants?

HG: When I shoot with my iPhone, I focus on two things: sharpness (no one likes a blurry picture) and composition (something as simple as the Rule of Thirds helps immensely!).

FJ: Having the opportunity to be so involved in the food world, and having as much exposure as you’ve had, I’m sure you’ve had some really cool experiences, and by extension, memories. So rather than just ask you for an individual food memory that is a favorite of yours, I’m going to ask you for two! Do you have a personal food memory that really stands out for you? How about a professional food memory? One related specifically to the work you’ve done.

HG: I have so many food memories that still resonate to this day. It’s really hard to pick just one but the first one that comes to mind was my bachelor party in NYC. Ten of us set ourselves up at Momofuku Ssam Bar (well before it was as bigtime as it is now) and proceeded to get killed, course after course after course, by the kitchen staff. Everything was on point and, given the special context, is still one of the most memorable meals that I’ve ever experienced.

Professionally, I still pinch myself every time I attend (or shoot, rather) the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen. There’s nothing like surrounding yourself with people that you admire and look up to. Like a cook in the heat of service, being in the the thick of it all reminds me how much I love my job!

Gallery

 

 

Huge Galdones is the awesomeness behind Galdones Photography. Check out his website for more information.

Lovin’ Spoonfuls Food Rescue: An interview with founder Ashley Stanley

It is something that many of us living in the United States likely take for granted; Knowing, without doubt or fear, where our next meal is coming from. This is, after all, the land of opportunity! Food security shouldn’t be an issue here. And, you’re right. Food security shouldn’t be an issue in the United States. But, just because it shouldn’t be an issue doesn’t mean that it isn’t.

Food security: The availability of food and one’s access to it. A household is considered food-secure when its occupants do not live in hunger or fear of starvation.

It is something that many of us living in the United States likely take for granted; Knowing, without doubt or fear, where our next meal is coming from. This is, after all, the land of opportunity! Food security shouldn’t be an issue here. And, you’re right. Food security shouldn’t be an issue in the United States. But, just because it shouldn’t be an issue doesn’t mean that it isn’t.

According to a report issued by the USDA’s Economic Research Service, “14.5 percent of American households were food insecure at least some time during the year in 2012, meaning they lacked access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.” That’s approximately 17.6 million households, comprised of 49 million Americans, 15.9 million of those being children.

Staggering.  

So what’s to be done in support of those who are struggling with food insecurity? In many major cities in the United States you’ll find organizations that are dedicated to help those in need, and in Boston, it’s no different. We have the privilege of a fantastic organization called Lovin’ Spoonfuls. I had the opportunity to speak with founder Ashley Stanley about the organization, the support that Lovin’ Spoonfuls gets from the restaurant community in Boston, and a personal food memory that represents just how important the work organizations like these do every day.

 Foodie Journal: So how did you come up
with the idea for Loving Spoonfuls?

Ashley Stanley: I kind of hate the
term “a-ha moment”, but something did click and while my background is athletics
and fashion and these things that my life has really focused on for such a long
time, food has been such a fundamental part of my life. It’s been a fundamental
part of my family, and my friends.  Really everything good has revolved
around food. A few years ago, I was looking for a career change.  I was looking for something else to do.  I wasn’t really sure what that was and it was
during the holidays.  I found myself
sitting in a restaurant with plates of uneaten food and tons of leftovers and I
started thinking about portion size and serving size.  During the holidays you always hear about
people in need, charity, and how there isn’t enough for everybody. That was
sort of in the back of my mind because on my table I had enough.  Not
just for me, but for probably five or six other people too.  

FJ: Right.

AS: All I thought about is I can’t be
the only person in the only restaurant at the only table with this much food
available. 

I woke up for a few days really
thinking, “Is that message really accurate that there’s not enough?”  Maybe we’re asking the wrong questions.  Maybe we’re responding to the wrong
statement.  So I googled the phrase “what
happens with the wasted food” and found the sites for City Harvest and Philabundance,
Food Runners, all of these established food rescues in different parts of the
country.  I called and that’s where
I learned about food rescue clinics.  Here we are a few years later!

FJ: That’s awesome! It’s true,
though. I think portion size is something many of us forget about.  Too many people are just looking for the most
food at the cheapest price and never really stop to think about what they’re
leaving on the plate. Plus, how many times do you really end up finishing a
full plate when you go out to eat at a restaurant?

AS: Yes, and it was just one of those
things and it probably wasn’t the first time I’d been in a restaurant with all
the leftovers and it wasn’t the first time there was an opportunity to maybe
see that that was happening, but it was the first time where it really made
sense to me.  

FJ: So what were the first steps for
you?  How did you actually get to the point of establishing this
organization?

AS: Well, they weren’t any linear
steps. First understanding the statistics about food production helped out. One
thing I did was I thought about our market, because I was
reading about waste and I wanted to know if it was food that was coming off of
people’s plates at the end of the night, which you can’t do too much with, or
if it was whole raw product that essentially should be getting used in some
manner.  I found it to be the latter, and
so much of it.  I was stunned. I saw
pallets of eggplants and potatoes and carrots, and sure some of it maybe had
lost some if its marketable or salable value, but not much. When I go
to buy food, if I’m grilling it or putting it in a stew or if I’m cooking it
down, the appearance is less important I think. 
The point is that I was shocked as to what was classified as
eligible for waste.

FJ: Yeah, it’s funny the view we have
of food quality. If we have a garden in our yard, we aren’t going to toss
things we grow ourselves just because they don’t look picture perfect, but in a
grocery store we avoid those items for some reason.

AS: It is a little strange, isn’t it?

FJ: For sure. So what kind of support
have you seen from the restaurant and culinary industry in Boston?

AS: We exist in large part because of
our friends in the restaurant industry. 
I think regardless of what a non-profit mission might be, whether it’s
trying to cure cancer, or something directly related to food, regardless of
what it is the culinary community and the restaurant community always are the
first to say yes.  There’s this seemingly
built in willingness to help your community and that is something we are
forever grateful for.  In terms of food rescue and in terms of Lovin’ Spoonfuls
in particular, I think this is something that chefs, restaurateurs, folks
who’ve been working in this space for a long time feel a particular connection
to because they see first hand the waste that can happen.

We have a culinary panel, which includes
folks like Christopher Meyers who has been in the food space for 30-plus years
in Boston, LA and New York. I remember when I was listing the pros and cons about
potentially starting a food rescue I asked him and Joanne [Chang], “Do you
think this is a good idea?” They said, “Oh my God, yes and you’ve got our
support!”  They’ve been just incredible
supporters and advocates and mentors to us in that space.  You’ve got folks like Jeremy Sewall who has really
helped us to see how to make a difference in our community.  Jaime Bissonnette from Toro is a great friend
of ours and is really committed to whole ingredient cooking which results in
little to no waste in his restaurants. 
Then nationally we have Andrew Zimmern, a great friend of mine, who does
Bizarre Foods and writes columns for Food and Wine and all that.  He’s a fierce advocate for food justice, and
stands behind what Lovin’ Spoonfuls is doing and he’s given me some the best
advice I’ve gotten along the way.  It really has just been an
unbelievable amount of support from people in the industry.

FJ: What type of impact do you think
Lovin’ Spoonfuls had so far?

AS: Well, we rescued, in just about
three and a half years, we’ve rescued just under three-quarters of a million pounds
of food.

FJ: Wow!

AS: Yeah!

FJ: So I usually end interviews
asking for a personal food memory.  For
you I’d like to know if you have a memory specific to the work that you’ve been
doing so far with Lovin’ Spoonfuls?

AS: I do.  It’s actually a
memory from when I was a kid, but then it clicked just after Spoonfuls
started.  My family loves food, we’ve always loved food, and we have
family in New York and we traveled to New York often when I was a kid.  We’d go into the city and when you’re staying
in a hotel, you usually don’t take your leftovers with you since you typically
don’t have a fridge. My family, we always packed up our leftovers no matter
what, something I thought that everybody did when they traveled. [LAUGHS] So we’d
pack up our leftovers and my parents taught us that we leave it by the side of
a trash can or by the side of something where you know it’s a high traffic area
and somebody’s going to see it. I never
thought too much of it.  I just did it because I thought that’s what everyone
did. 

When
I was maybe eight or nine, I remember eating at the Carnegie Deli, which for
most people is guaranteed leftovers. Corned beef hash in particular because
it’s a mountain of stuff in front of you and as much I tried, I could never
finish it.  My dad and I, it was just him
and me at this particular meal, and we took our leftovers and dropped it at the
side of trashcan on Fifth Avenue like usual. 
For whatever reason, I happened to just turn around and I saw somebody
pick it up and start to eat it.  It made
sense in that moment, not to the point where I grew up thinking about food
rescue or wanting to get into hunger relief or anything like that, but it was
just something that made sense to me and I said, “Oh! That’s why we do it  

I
don’t think I thought about it again until 2010 when Lovin’ Spoonfuls started,
but that was a real visceral memory for me because it was one of those rare
times where one experience helped make sense of so many other moments in my
life.

 Lovin’ Spoonfuls has rescued more that 841,345 pounds of food to date. That’s food that would otherwise have been disposed of, but was instead used to help those in need.

If you’d like to learn more about the organization, or are interested in supporting Lovin’ Spoonfuls by volunteering or donating, visit their website at www.lovinspoonfulsinc.org.

Slow and easy: Talking with Brooklyn Brewery house chef Andrew Gerson

A couple of months back I had the privilege of enjoying a supper put on by Brooklyn Brewery, in concert with the great guys at Brasstacks Boston. Not only was the meal itself out of this world, it was a great glimpse at the world of “slow food”, something that Brooklyn Brewery House Chef Andrew Gerson really takes to heart.

A couple of months back I had the privilege of enjoying a supper put on by Brooklyn Brewery, in concert with the great guys at Brasstacks Boston. Not only was the meal itself out of this world, it was a great glimpse at the world of “slow food”, something that Brooklyn Brewery House Chef Andrew Gerson really takes to heart. Chef Andrew was kind enough to offer up some of his time, despite being on the move, to talk a little about slow food, how he got in to cooking in the first place, and a couple of his personal food memories.

 Foodie Journal: How did you decide that working
with food was what you wanted to do as far as your career was concerned career?

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Andrew Gerson: I started cooking at a pretty young age,
just for my family. My mother was a single mom working evenings, so I would make
dinner for my sister and me. It started off reheating this, trying that, and
then slowly I really started cooking. I always was passionate about it. In high
school I used to work front of the house for a few places, and then was
intrigued by the kitchen. I sort of had this romantic notion of what I thought
cooking was. Cooking became a creative outlet for me. My junior year of college
I took some time off and went to the French Culinary Institute. I had assumed I
wanted to be in food to some degree, wasn’t sure if I wanted to be in a kitchen
or whatever else. I started working in restaurants in college, back of the
house. I really enjoyed it. As I was working over the years in restaurants I
started to get slightly disillusioned with my love for that, but my passion for
food was growing, and I realized that the restaurant scene wasn’t what I wanted
to be doing. I didn’t feel like it was valuing food in the same ways. At the
same time I started getting involved with local chapters of slow food in
Philly, in New York, really piquing my interest in the local sustainable food
movement.

FJ: What was it really that attracted you to that
local slow food movement?

AG: In one sense it’s just honoring your
ingredients. The idea, for me, about cooking and the value of it is utilizing
the best ingredients you can. The local ingredients that are available are
usually the highest quality ingredients, but also it’s a way to support our
food system. We live in a world that has a very unhealthy food system,
commercial farming, and all these processes really aren’t doing us justice,
aren’t doing the environment justice. We’ve shaped a very unhealthy food system
that looks a lot like any other commodity.

I don’t think food should be valued as simply a
commodity, especially since there are cultural components and other aspects of
it, which I think are really important. I feel like society over all, whether
nationally or internationally, we’ve lost touch with our food as well as each
other. This is a way to get back to that. There are a million chefs out there,
and a million people that are cooking food, and it’s almost unnecessary to be
working through these large purveyors and having such disconnected food
supplies. The passion that I felt, the amount of waste that goes into the
average restaurant kitchen just started to burden me, and I didn’t like it.

FJ: I think you part of a growing number of chefs
who feel that way. There seems to be so much more interest in utilizing the
best local ingredients available and finding ways to improve the whole food
system from seed to plate.

AG: For sure. And, it also boosts local economies.
I grew up in Philly where there’s a huge disparity socioeconomic-wise. There’s
tons of abandoned land and space, and it’s being under utilized. There’s a lot
of simple ways, through food and other initiatives, to do that. I work a lot
with local non-profits like the Food Trust, and Fair Food, and saw these
vibrant food communities that were dwarfed by US Foods and all of these other
corporate distribution channels that disconnect us from our food. It was a way
to embrace and connect communities through something that I had a passion for.

FJ: That’s awesome! Yeah, I think whenever you can
connect people more with where their food comes from, it’s always going to
improve the quality of life for everyone, really. Unfortunately sometimes the
dollar speaks a little bit louder than the will to make things right.

AG: True, but I think as these food systems grow
large companies are seeing the value of supporting this, whether it’s from a
purely economic standpoint, and that’s fine at this point, but there is value
in supporting your local food system. You can charge more, but I think also in
that same regard, the prices will start to come down as there’s more access, as
there’s better distribution for small scale producers. This whole system can
change and it can be utilized in ways … I’m backtracking a little, but I
wrote my thesis at university on how food trucks can be utilized to promote
sustainable agriculture in urban environments. If you cut out all the excess
costs of a restaurant, it’s not those ingredients that are making it inaccessible
to the majority of the public. It’s not the cost of the food itself. It’s all
the other amenities. It’s linens, it’s a huge staff, all these other things.

So
I started this pop up supper club and then founded the Philly Mobile Food Association, and was working to get my own truck off the ground to be able to
serve under developed neighborhoods, people in need of good food. I think a lot
of people are starting to embrace it. To tie this all into the brewery, these
are values that Brooklyn Brewery has had for twenty-five years, and the
founders had prior to that. Especially Garrett Oliver, being one of the
founding board members of Slow Food USA. I believe in the craft beer movement
and the real beer movement, and to find a brewery that embraces my food values,
community values … we support over two thousand non profits and different
initiatives each year, the brewery’s incredibly active in the community. I
never saw myself working for a big company, but this was the chance to have a
support structure and network that believed in what I want to do, and I believe
in what they want to do, and it makes sense.

FJ:  It
seems like a great fit between the two of you. Out of curiosity, how did you
come to work at Brooklyn Brewery?

AG: My girlfriend runs the Vendy Awards, which is
the biggest street vendor event in New York. She’s a native New Yorker, so I
moved up with her. Turns out that Brooklyn Brewery sponsors the Vendies. She
was in a meeting with them to go over the Vendies, and they mentioned they were
hiring for this position. She’s doing a food studies program at NYU, she’s very
involved in the food world in New York. They asked, “Do you know anyone
who might be good for this position?” She was like, “I think I know
someone.” That’s how I found out about the position. I went through a two
month hiring process, it was pretty nerve wracking, but it was fun. I
interviewed, I did food demos, and a bunch of different things for that. It was
a really interesting hiring process, I thought. It all came together in the
end.

FJ: Sounds like it worked out pretty well for
everyone. Okay, so now on to my favorite question. Pretty much everybody has
some sort of memory of some meal, or something that their mom used to make, or just
a favorite food related memory. Do you have a favorite food memory?

AG: I have two, and for different reasons. The
first would just be related to my family. We’re a pretty secular Jewish family,
but we had all of our holidays focused on food, and the table, and community.
Passover was huge, and it had nothing to do with the religious connotation, it
was just a sense of family, and coming together, and breaking bread together,
and that’s something that I used to love with the supper club in Philly I used
to do. Being able to bring people together and communicate through food, and have
food as the centerpiece. I would say it’s our family dinners over the Jewish
holidays that played a very big role in the way I view the ideal dinner setting,
so to speak.

I also remember one time at a little cottage
restaurant in Philly, the Valley Green Inn. I was pretty young, but I had a
chilled strawberry soup, and that was something that changed the way I felt
about food. I can remember it vividly, just the idea that you could do a
chilled soup. I must have been maybe ten years old, eleven years old, before I
had any indication that I would be moving to the food world or anything like
that. It was a transformative food moment for me.

Andrew Gerson is the house chef for Brooklyn Brewery, located at 79 North 11th Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The Brewery is open to the public Monday-Thursday from 5-7pm for reservation-only Small Batch tours, Friday evening for Happy Hour, and Saturdays and Sundays for Tours and Tastings.