Categories
Chefs Lifestyle

In and Out of Love With Food

Chef Michael Schulson—TV personality and head of a restaurant empire based in Philadelphia—started healing his damaged relationship with food during the pandemic.

And it helped him lose 35 pounds in less than three months.

It sounds delightful and delicious tasting food for high-end restaurants all day. But, Schulson said, “I don’t think I even like food anymore.”

“Yesterday, I think I tasted 12 to 13 dishes—and that’s before 3 p.m. That’s enough food for someone to eat for a day and a half.” He tried the same octopus dish three times to adjust the taste. “Who would want to eat an octopus dish three times in a row?”

“I love food, but the concept of how we have to eat on a day-to-day basis is the problem,” Schulson said. “I want to be able to choose what I eat.”

The pandemic was hard on the restaurant business, and Schulson did what he could to ease the impact on his employees. But the silver lining was a chance to clear his plate, literally and figuratively.

(Courtesy of Michael Schulson)

New Regimen

Schulson started fasting until 2 p.m. and after 8 p.m. each day. He finally got to choose what he was eating, and often enjoyed light meals of fish. He cut back on carbs, salt, and oil.

He started running everyday and exercising in his home gym, but he said “The exercise piece is kind of secondary. … It’s all about eating properly.”

His main advice to anyone looking to start a weight-loss journey is: “Cut back on portion size. First start with portion size. … You can assume if you’re in America, your portion sizes are slightly bigger than they should be.”

Yoga was also part of his new regimen. It got him to slow down and think about things.

He realized, “Anger and toxicity can only be included in your life if you choose it.” You can’t change the people who are toxic in your life, he said, so it’s best to distance yourself from them.

“When you realize where the main piece of anger or toxicity comes from, once that’s removed, the smallest piece of anger and toxicity really sticks out like a sore thumb,” he said.

“It’s almost like I found an emptiness within me. When you don’t have to deal with certain things anymore, you just have all this energy and time to deal with positivity. It feels like an emptiness, but it’s liberating.”

Schulson has reflected more upon what he enjoys and what’s important to him.

He seeks authenticity. When he’s sick of fancy food, he goes to “a dive,” he said. “Because it feels authentic and genuine and it’s not what I’m getting every single day.”

Though his relationship with food has been somewhat strained, he loves the design and operations side of the restaurant business—managing all the “widgets,” as he calls them (such as financing or the cost of goods).

Authentic Design

He studied architectural engineering in his youth, but dropped out because the classes were more about beam weights and building codes than design. He got a job at a pizza joint instead. That was almost 50 years ago and it took a lot of time and effort to work his way to the top.

Harp & Crown. (Courtesy of Michael Schulson)

Young hopefuls in the restaurant business seem to expect to open several restaurants at the beginning of their careers, he said. He pointed out that he spent a decade as a line cook, another decade as a sous chef, then started with a single restaurant.

Double Knot. (Courtesy of Michael Schulson)

He’s glad he got to come back to his interest in design. Authenticity is important to him in the design of his restaurants.

“I like to make people feel a transformative experience. Meaning, if they walk into a restaurant in New York, they feel like they could be in Japan or London or Italy,” Schulson said.

Alpen Rose. (Courtesy of Michael Schulson)

His attention to detail is great. He gave the example of a restaurant he’s working on right now, an Italian pizzeria called Prunella. Construction was almost finished when he walked in recently and spotted a column that didn’t look right. “It doesn’t make me feel spectacular,” he said, so he had it changed.

“I don’t want any one location or spot within the restaurant to feel like we missed it or we ran out of money.”

He’s careful to be true to the concept. If it’s a 1920s style, you won’t include a decor piece from the 1980s, he said. You might include a modernized version of something from the ‘20s, but you have to be well aware of your art history to achieve authenticity.

“Do what you love,” he said. He was only earning several dollars per hour right up into his 40s, but he stuck with his passion. His two sons, aged 11 and 14, are also interested in the business and the elder has spent much time with him learning the ropes.

Categories
Food Recipes

Swiss Chard Gratin

From “Fireside Food for Cold Winter Nights: More than 75 Comforting and Warming Recipes” by Lizzie Kamenetzky (Ryland Peters & Small)
Photography by Nassima Rothacker copyright Ryland Peters & Small, 2015, 2021

“Fireside Food for Cold Winter Nights” can be purchased on Amazon or through Bookshop.org.

SWISS CHARD GRATIN

My gratin is iron-rich and full of goodness, only somewhat negated by the cream and cheese! This gratin is great as a meal in itself with a little added bacon if you want a meaty hit.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 3⁄4 lb. (800g) Swiss chard
  • 3 1⁄2 tablespoons (50g) butter
  • 1⁄2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (75g) plain/all-purpose flour
  • scant 1 cup (200 ml) crème fraîche
  • 1 1⁄4 cups (300 ml) double/heavy cream
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup (50g) fresh breadcrumbs
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon and a good squeeze of juice
  • heaping 1⁄2 cup (50g) grated Gruyère cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • sea salt and ground black pepper

SERVES 6

Preheat the grill/broiler to medium. Bring a pan of water to a boil and blanch the chard for 2 to 3 minutes, then drain and refresh under cold running water. Squeeze out as much of the water as possible and set aside.

Melt the butter in a pan, add the flour and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the crème fraîche, cream, and a good grating of nutmeg. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Season.

Mix the breadcrumbs with the lemon zest, cheese, and olive oil.

Mix the chard and the sauce together. Spoon the chard into a large ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs, then put under the grill/broiler for a couple of minutes until golden brown and bubbling. (If you like, you can mix the sauce with the chard and leave until ready to cook. Heat through in a medium oven for 5 to 10 minutes before browning under the grill/broiler.)

Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Categories
Food Recipes

Hungarian Goulash Soup

From “Fireside Food for Cold Winter Nights: More than 75 Comforting and Warming Recipes” by Lizzie Kamenetzky (Ryland Peters & Small)
Photography by Nassima Rothacker copyright Ryland Peters & Small, 2015, 2021

“Fireside Food for Cold Winter Nights” can be purchased on Amazon or through Bookshop.org.

GOULASH SOUP

This Hungarian dish spread into the mountains, where it is always popular in the huts and cabins as a hearty meal on the slopes and trails. There is a healthy kick of paprika with the added richness of sour cream, which helps to make this one of the most warming and comforting dishes. This is also delicious made with pork instead of beef—use a slow-cook cut such as shoulder/butt and cut it into large chunks.

INGREDIENTS

  • olive oil, to fry
  • 3 3⁄4 oz. (100g) smoked streaky/fatty bacon, finely chopped
  • 2 1⁄4 lb. (1kg) braising steak or beef shin, cut into 1 inch (2.5cm) chunks
  • 2 heaped tablespoons plain/all-purpose flour
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 red peppers/bell peppers, deseeded and sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 5 juniper berries, crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika
  • 1⁄2 tablespoon hot paprika
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 2 tablespoons tomato purée/paste
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 5 cups (1.2 liters) beef stock
  • 11 oz. (300g) waxy potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 2 beetroot/beets, cut into chunks
  • sea salt and ground
  • black pepper
  • freshly chopped parsley and sour cream, to serve

SERVES 6

Heat a good layer of olive oil in a flameproof casserole or large saucepan and fry the bacon over medium heat until starting to color. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Dust the beef in the flour with plenty of seasoning, then brown in batches over high heat in the same pan, adding more oil if necessary. Remove and set aside with the bacon.

Add a little more oil to the pan and add the onions and peppers/bell peppers. Fry for 10 minutes until softened and the onions start to color. Add the garlic, juniper, bay, and spices, and fry for a few minutes before adding the tomato purée/paste, vinegar, and stock.

Return the beef and bacon to the pan and season well. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook for 2 to 2 1⁄2 hours until the beef is starting to become really tender.

Add the potatoes and beetroot/beets to the pan and simmer, with the lid off, until the vegetables are tender.

Stir in the parsley and serve in large warmed bowls with generous dollops of sour cream.

Categories
Food Recipes

Linzertorte

From “Fireside Food for Cold Winter Nights: More than 75 Comforting and Warming Recipes” by Lizzie Kamenetzky (Ryland Peters & Small)
Photography by Nassima Rothacker copyright Ryland Peters & Small, 2015, 2021

“Fireside Food for Cold Winter Nights” can be purchased on Amazon or through Bookshop.org.

LINZERTORTE

Said to be the oldest cake in the world, this torte is named after the Austrian city of Linz. The crust is delightfully crumbly and its spiced, jammy filling is just the thing to take the edge off a wintry chill. A useful piece of advice to grind hazelnuts without them turning oily is to put them in a food processor with half the flour, and pulse them together until the hazelnuts are finely ground into the flour.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1⁄2 cups (150g) mixed finely ground hazelnuts and almonds
  • 2 cups (275g) plain/all-purpose flour, plus extra to dust
  • 1 teaspoon ground mixed spice/apple pie spice
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup (225g) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1⁄2 cup plus 1 2⁄3 tablespoons (85g) icing/confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 egg yolks, plus 1 egg yolk beaten with a little water, to glaze
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon and a squeeze of juice
  • 3 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs
  • 10 tablespoons each of redcurrant jelly and raspberry jam/jelly, mixed together
  • 9-inch (23-cm) fluted, round, loose-bottomed tart pan, greased

SERVES 10 to 12

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) Gas 4.

Mix the ground nuts, flour, mixed spice/apple pie spice, and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and rub it into the flour mixture with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the icing/confectioners’ sugar, stir well, then quickly mix in the two egg yolks, lemon zest, and juice, so that the mixture starts to come together.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly until smooth. Remove one-third of the dough. Shape the smaller piece into a disc, wrap in cling film/plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Roll out the remaining dough on a lightly floured surface into a circle large enough to line the tart pan. Lift into the pan and press into an even layer over the base and sides, patching any gaps, as the dough is very crumbly. Add any trimmings to the pastry disc in the fridge. Chill the base for 10 minutes.

Put the base in the preheated oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes until it has barely begun to color, then set aside to cool. While the base is baking, roll out the remaining dough between 2 sheets of baking parchment into a circle about 10 inches (25cm), then return to the fridge for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle the cooked base of the torte with the breadcrumbs, then spoon the redcurrant jelly and raspberry jam/jelly evenly over the top (spoon on in blobs, and then use a palette knife/metal spatula to spread them out).

Remove the chilled pastry from the fridge and take off the sheets of baking parchment. Cut the pastry into strips, about 3⁄4 inches (2cm) wide, across the diagonal. Lay these, one at a time, over the jam/jelly, using a long spatula, as the pastry is crumbly, to make a criss-cross lattice pattern. Neaten the edges by pressing any excess pastry against the side of the pan.

Brush the pastry with the egg yolk glaze, then bake for 45 to 50 minutes until golden. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Categories
Chefs Food Lifestyle

“Fireside Food for Cold Winter Nights”

Lizzie Kamenetzky’s favorite holidays are those from her childhood years when she and her parents would travel to the Swiss Alps for ski trips. Staying in a small chalet in the village of La Fouly—home to just over 200 people—is where Kamenetzky experienced some of her dearest memories. Located on the border between Italy and France, La Fouly is one of the tiniest villages in the Alps, yet boasts some of the most culturally diverse cuisines on offer—a mixture of Italian, French, and Swiss. Her childhood ski trips allowed Kamenetzky to experience a range of different foods which greatly influenced her future passion for cooking.

As a young child, she remembers baking brioche bread with her mom for Christmas—an annual tradition in their family. She recalls a strong memory of herself punching down the dough and dotting it with sticky butter in the kitchen of their small farm in Kent, England. This experience sparked her love of cooking. Later, she went to university and would often prepare a range of delectable dishes for her friends on campus.

Fireside Comfort Food

“Fireside Food for Cold Winter Nights” by Lizzie Kamenetzky. Published by Ryland Peters & Small. (Courtesy of Ryland Peters & Small)

Kamenetzky carefully curated a collection of some of her favorite dishes in her latest cookbook: “Fireside Food for Cold Winter Nights.” The cookbook includes recipes for hearty soups like celeriac and parsnip velouté, rich, cheesy casseroles like tartiflette, and warm drinks like spiced apple cider—the perfect combination to warm up any red-cheeked skier in the Alps. But these recipes are also meant for anyone looking for something comforting and delicious this winter. Another favorite is the osso bucco with risotto—a dish both she and her father equally admire. “Especially if you add to that a lovely braise of veal, it’s just as delicious,” Kamenetzky said.

Her most treasured recipe is Käsespätzle and it was taught to her by her Jewish-Austrian grandmother-in-law who left her homeland of Austria when she was very young. Despite that, she always kept a strong affinity towards her heritage. “She just loved cooking and that’s sort of how we really bonded,” explained Kamenetzky. Her grandmother-in-law knew recipes handed down from her mother and even kept an old notebook with past recipes. Many of the dishes featured in Kamenetzky’s book carry a heavy Tyrolean influence inspired by her, particularly ones like the Germknödel—sweet steamed dumplings served with jam traditionally made from tiny mountain berries. “She tried several of the dishes and gave me the seal of approval and definitely told me when they weren’t right,” Kamenetzky chuckled. She is also proud to have her very own späetzle maker, made in the 1950s and donated from her grandmother-in-law—a gem in her collection of cooking tools.

Käsespätzle—An Austrian version of macaroni cheese that translates as ‘little cheese sparrows’. (Courtesy of Ryland Peters & Small)

During her research process, Kamenetzky utilized her friends and family’s distinct knowledge of hearty, alpine food. She also traveled to the Swiss Alps to shoot some photos for the book, as well as to prepare the recipes, adapting the traditional ingredients more readily available there, particularly the crozets—small, square-shaped buckwheat pasta. The pasta used to make Diot—a pork and cabbage sausage from the Savoie region of the French Alps is commonly served with a side of crozet pasta covered in Comté cheese and heavy cream.

Cherished Memories

The village of La Fouly in the Swiss Alps where Kamenetzky and her family regularly frequented. (Courtesy of Lizzie Kamenetzky)

As a young child, Kamenetzky’s favorite memory was returning to their chalet in La Fouly after a long day of skiing on the slopes. Her cheeks flushed from the cold, she would notice a lovely supper waiting for her next to a cozy fire. “I think that’s the perfect moment when you feel like you’ve really earned your supper,” she said. When discussing memorable dishes, Kamenetzky said she had many such favorites but the ones that have really stuck with her include fondue, raclette, and Morteau sausage served with creamy lentils.

Lizzie skiing in La Fouly as a young child. (Courtesy of Lizzie Kamenetzky)

The snowy, mountainous terrain of the Swiss Alps is home to many diverse species of wildlife; ranging from fiery red deer, golden eagles, snowy hares, and brown bears, to alpine marmots. As a young girl, Kamenetzky enjoyed going out on the deep snowy slopes to watch the red-black squirrels and white rabbits as the sound of church bells rang out from across the mountains. She even experienced a few avalanches. “One time, the whole other side of the village where we normally stayed was almost wiped out by a huge avalanche that came down,” said Kamenetzky. Often they would hear the rumbles and feel the ground starting to shake, which the children found exciting.

A red squirrel perched on a snowy window-sill. (Courtesy of Lizzie Kamenetzky)

Family and friends have always played a particularly important role in her life. After one of her mother’s oldest friends married a Frenchman, Kamenetzky’s family began visiting them often when she was young, during their regular trips to the Swiss Alps. The two families became very close and the children spent many happy times playing together. The father of the family, Blaise, “was just one of the most vivacious life-loving people,” she said. He taught her that anyone could get down any slope and this belief is something that she continues to cherish to this day, especially since he passed away.

Cooking Bold Flavors

When cooking for herself, Kamenetzky most enjoys making Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern-inspired dishes. “Cumin is one of my favorite spices. I also love dishes with chickpeas and lots of spice and warmth,” she said. When deciding on what to prepare for supper, she naturally gravitates towards “something that’s maybe a bit Italian or Greek with those lovely flavors of oregano, cumin, and chili would be my regular sort of cooking,” said Kamenetzky. Rather than favoring quick meals, she prefers dishes that require more time, such as slow braises, slow roasts, “things that require a lot of patient love,” Kamenetzky explained. She added that they don’t necessarily have to be complicated or hands-on. “For me, it’s like a kind of meditation to create something that takes a bit of time and a bit of patience so it’s something that I definitely enjoy doing.” She believes it’s one of the reasons she loves baking bread so much, especially sourdough. She views winter food in the same way, as the longer the dish is cooked, the richer the flavor becomes.

Lizzie dusting some powdered sugar over her cookies. (Courtesy of Lizzie Kamenetzky)

Aside from cooking comforting winter recipes, Kamenetzky enjoys spending time outside. She said, despite the lack of adequate daylight in the winter months, she actually likes it when the evening starts to draw in. “I love that feeling of having been outside and in the cold fresh air and then coming into somewhere warm and settling down to cook something delicious.” According to her, it is very important to get as much time as possible in the fresh air, particularly in the winter. “The sunlight in the UK is just so short that I think you have to make the most of it,” she said. Whether that means having to put on your warmest coat or step into a pair of tall winter boots—it’s really important to get out there and brave the elements for the sake of your mental and physical well-being, according to Kamenetzky. Spending more time with family during this time is equally as important. In the summer, it’s easy to host barbecues and family get-togethers—picnics, a trip to the beach, or sit in people’s gardens drinking rosé, she commented. “In winter, it’s more difficult—it almost feels like you have to try a bit harder to want to do things,” making it even more important to spend more time with family and friends for the sake of happiness and mental health.

Kamenetzky’s book, “Fireside Food for Cold Winter Nights” is currently available for purchase in Kindle format or as a hardcover from Amazon or Bookshop.org.

 

Categories
Recipes

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

Kabocha is also called the Japanese pumpkin. It is smaller, but more flavorful and sweeter compared to the North American pumpkin we so often see. The kabocha has dense flesh and becomes buttery liquid when cooked—perfect for this creamy soup. The squash is easily found in places like Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s, or Asian supermarkets.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 800g Kabocha   (about a half of the Kabocha)
  • 2 medium yellow onions (110 g)
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 4 cups or 32 fl oz./ 946ml of organic chicken stock
  • 10g butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 120ml heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon of Jane’s Krazy Original Salt Marinade & Seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon roasted pumpkin seeds for decoration
  • A hint of black pepper

 

Instructions

  1. Scrape out pumpkin seeds and remove skin.
  2. Cut the pumpkin into cubes.
    If the skin is difficult to remove, place the pumpkin on a plate skin side down, wrapped with plastic wrap. Microwave on 600w for 5 minutes. If the skin is still too hard to remove, add another 5 minutes with skin side up. Steaming is a good alternative for those who want to avoid using a microwave. Avoid cooking the pumpkin too much to preserve flavor.
  3. Heat butter and olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot over high heat, sauté the garlic and onion for about 10 minutes until the onion turns translucent.
  4. Place pumpkin into the same pot, sauté until very tender.
  5. Add the chicken stock.
  6. Add 1 teaspoon of Jane’s Krazy Original Salt Marinade & Seasoning.
  7. Bring the soup to boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, simmer for about 20 minutes.
  8. Move the pot off the heat.
  9. Use a hand blender to purée the soup till smooth.
  10. Change the setting to “whisk” and whisk the soup. By adding this extra step, your pumpkin soup will have a restaurant quality, silky smooth consistency.
  11. Add 110ml heavy cream to your soup for a richer flavor.
  12. Whisk the remaining 10ml of heavy cream until texture thickens.
  13. Ladle the soup into individual bowls. Add 1 teaspoon of whisked heavy cream on the top of the soup.
  14. Sprinkle pepper and roasted pumpkin seeds. Garnish with parsley if desired.
  15. Ready to serve.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Chefs Lifestyle

Bold Moves

A man that has revolutionized the culinary industry, Todd English has introduced new ways to interact with food from fusing entertainment and his upscale dishes to transporting viewers across the world on any of his travel food series. “It is truly the democratic way to interact in the world. Humans depend on food. Food defines us,” says the internationally-acclaimed chef. English’s ascent to culinary stardom began when he won his first award in 1991 as the Rising Star of the Year, from the James Beard Foundation. Today, English has built his iconic brand into an empire.

He was born in Amarillo, Texas, then grew up in Georgia. As a young athlete, English played baseball and soccer, won numerous awards, and was recruited to multiple Division 1 schools to play both sports. He went on to play baseball in college, but his career as a collegiate athlete eventually ended due to injury. “Being an athlete and growing up in a tough setting has always helped me in the kitchen: to endure long grueling hours, the heat, and the pressure to perform at a high level. I love it.” Soon after his injury, he began cooking and enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) to pursue his career as a chef. English fell in love with the profession and never looked back.

The chef’s past is as colorful and exciting as his new business ventures. In the ‘80s, English was able to craft his talent at CIA. “I knew back then I wanted to do this for the rest of my life—the energy, the ever-changing nature of the business—once I worked at La Côte Basque with Jean-Jacques Rachou, I loved it,” said English. He has opened over 50 remarkable restaurants, an artisanal bread bakery, and even a cupcake shop with his daughter—Curly Cakes. He is a proud family man and prioritizes his role as a father. “In the past, Andy Cohen from Bravo courted the family for an exceptionally long time to do a reality show. It could have changed our lives, but I did not want to sacrifice my family. My three children are everything to me,” explained English. The chef and busy father of three is constantly on the go and making new moves.

Todd English. (Mozes Ban)

Tireless

From TV accolades to theater on Broadway, Todd English holds an impressive list of accomplishments. English is a four-time James Beard Award winner and was named to the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who in Food and Beverage in America. English was also the first ever Iron Chef USA, honored with the title when the Iron Chef network brought the show from Japan over to the United States. He has hosted multiple food travel series himself, such as “Cooking With Todd English”, “Playing With Fire”, and the Emmy-nominated “Food Trip.” English has appeared on every major national talk show on television, he is a culinary icon that is hard to miss. As his brand skyrocketed, he began to produce his very own Todd English brand ceramic cookware for the Home Shopping Network.

“I enjoy cooking on a daily basis. My life revolves around food,” said English. “Be it the rustic style pizzas that my friends love, to a Spanish potato ‘tortilla’ with caviar and burrata inspired by my artist friend Domigo Zapata, to a delicate entrée with French flair. Wine is another pleasure I take my time to enjoy. The culinary experiences you can have from a local spot can be truly exciting. It’s what keeps it challenging and interesting. I’m a world connoisseur that wants to enjoy the world in a vibrant and ever-flowing way.”

Taking inspiration from his travels and experiences, he has opened more than 50 restaurants internationally, all instantly recognizable as his own due to their beautiful interiors and entertaining experience. He has successfully opened world-class restaurants in Tokyo, Manila, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai. English was one of the first chefs to establish signature restaurants on cruise ships, such as on the Cunard line Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth 2. In 1989, English opened his first restaurant, Olives in Boston, which was highly acclaimed soon after opening. By 1994, he had won the award for Best Chefs in America and in 2001, his commercial success was immortalized in print by being named one of the Most Beautiful People in People Magazine. While flattered, his reaction was humble, “I was in disbelief. I thought I was being pranked!” The chef opened the Todd English Food Hall in The Plaza Hotel in New York City, Dubai, and Manila. Simultaneously, English expanded with another location of his first-ever restaurant Olives in Abu Dhabi at the Ritz Carlton. In Florida, English opened “Todd English’s Blue Zoo” at Disney Orlando and has plans to expand in Miami and Palm Beach.

His new venture, the English Hotel in Vegas, is an example of elegance and edginess, and it’s an exact translation of English’s life. “It’s all the things I love about staying in hotels. We are planning to open five more hotels in the world. The one currently opened in Vegas is a testament of the changes the city has experienced in the last few years. It’s all about experience and it is in the Arts District near Downtown Vegas and the Strip”. The newly built four-story property at 921 S Main Street at Coolidge Avenue will open early 2022.

English partnered with The Marriott Tribute Portfolio hotel owned by Weina Zhang and Anna Olin’s Z Life Co. The new building hosts 74 rooms and 11 suites that open directly to the bright light of the pool area. The Pepper Club, a Japanese/Mediterranean restaurant, will have a spicy, jazzy, lounge-y vibe. Art will fill the hotel, and English has even considered using his own 1964 Rolls-Royce as the hotel’s shuttle.

Today, English continues to transform the traditional dining experience. English is taking Miami and Las Vegas by storm with exciting things for the upcoming year. Drawing inspiration from the psychedelic dystopian festival Burning Man, English’s latest project, AREA15, is a fairytale come to life featuring one-of-a-kind immersive art installations and dining experiences in the desert of Las Vegas. “The Beast” is an interactive food experience where diners can let go of their inhibitions and, “feast like a beast.” He’s also opened another Olives, at the Virgin Hotel in Las Vegas in March of 2021 and a “Todd English Pub & Market” at the Abu Dhabi Airport.

Asked about the future of food and dining, English candidly admitted he feels immense pressure. “We have adapted to safety measures and still the largest employer of people in the country is under siege. It is concerning. There are many aspects of the food world that are broken. As a professional chef who has been in the business for a long time, I continue to feel a great responsibility to improve the quality of food and the way it is being provided to the public. However, there are so many lessons to be learned after the pandemic. Something amazing that can come out of this is an incentive to focus on our health through the food we eat, and I look forward to continuing to be involved in communicating this to the world.” Optimistic about the future, English continues to explore beyond his culinary universe.

As English continues his product development ventures in the food and hospitality industry, the renowned chef plans to continue traveling the world and exploring new cuisines. “This year has been amazing. More changes are coming, more challenges and I will do my best to continue to grow the brand. Be it in the luxury market, as well as the avant-garde venues we are seeing emerge around the world,” English confidently stated. As a revolutionary of cooking experiences, Todd English has proven that food is not just about sustenance, but about experience, connection, and, most importantly, the grit and tenacity to be bold.

Rebecca Herrero is the publisher of Art Bodega magazine.

Categories
Food Lifestyle

Preparing for a Gathering

For me, creating a meaningful table is an intentional act of gathering, blessing, feasting, sharing, and serving. Taking time to prepare and think through a gathering allows me to bring to life exactly what I’ve envisioned, while also decreasing the stress involved with hosting. Sometimes, just the smallest amount of forethought can shift a gathering from ordinary to meaningful. On the following pages, I’ve compiled the several aspects of gatherings I think through, as I anticipate any event, small or large.

Consider the Senses

Memory-making involves experiencing life through the five senses: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. There are organs associated with each sense that send information to the brain to help us understand, perceive, and experience the world around us. Be sure to include them when you’re planning a gathering, especially if there will be young ones in attendance: They’re still forming neural pathways!

Consider the following:

  • What atmosphere will I create?
  • How will our gathering space smell?
  • What flavors and textures will our food have?
  • How do I want my family members and guests to feel when we gather?
  • What kind of atmosphere do I hope to create?
  • What do I want them to understand about themselves and their place within the family? Their place in the world?

The Menu

As you look forward to an event, pull out the family recipes, and flip through cookbooks to plan for the food you wish to have. Invite others, especially children, into the planning and decision making process. Working together to plan various aspects of the meal promotes a sense of unity and mutual satisfaction. It is always important to check with your guests beforehand to see if they have specific dietary requirements or preferences. This will make your guests feel honored and loved, even before they enter your home.

The Atmosphere

Few things set the stage for a special occasion better than a fresh, out of the ordinary, or unexpected decor. Thoughtfully curating and collecting special linens, dishes, candles, buntings and so on, to pull out for a special touch will offer a deeper meaningfulness to your guests. Decor need not be expensive, or cost anything at all. Some of my favorite items to decorate with are family heirlooms, or seasonal nature specimens. It could be as simple as purchasing a chalkboard and changing the message for the occasion.

Additionally, playing special music instantly enhances the mood of the environment. Some of our family favorites are instrumental pieces: they add depth to the ambiance and are also beneficial for brain function.

  • What items from nature can I bring into my home for a seasonal celebration?
  • Ask family members about linens or dishes that might be family heirlooms, that you could borrow and use for gatherings.
  • Check out local antique stores or thrift shops to acquire treasures that will foster your goals for your gatherings.
  • Consider planting cutting flowers in a garden plot or pot to bring fresh florals inside for special occasions. Some favorites that I cultivate on my property are peonies, zinnias, asters, cosmos and echinacea.
  • Choose uplifting music to match the occasion.

Get Organized

Once you have your menu and recipes decided upon, create a grocery list and timeline for your preparations. Consider what you have in your pantry, and what needs to be purchased fresh. Think through what can be made ahead of time, or even frozen. Many items can be prepared a couple of days in advance, including sauces, condiments, soups, casseroles, and many desserts.

  • Set the table and lay out the serving dishes ahead of time—either the day before or the morning of. This will allow you to focus on cooking, with this chore out of the way.
  • If you have children, involve them by giving them an age-appropriate task such as folding napkins or arranging the silverware in place. In my home, this not only eases the curiosity of little ones, but helps to teach them.
  • Plan your shopping based on what you already have. Ease stress by not waiting until the last minute to acquire all you need for the gathering.
  • Prepare, peel and chop vegetables a few days before your gathering. Store them in airtight containers in your refrigerator.

Invite Help

Invite your spouse, friends, family members and children into the work of preparation. Not only will this ease your load, but it will also provide a way for others to participate in, and take ownership of, their role in the occasion. In fact, working together to produce something lovely for others, unifies us in a deep way. Preparing for special occasions is a fantastic learning experience for children, who easily absorb the importance of loving others through service and hospitality. Additionally, if your guests offer to help, allow them to experience the joy of preparations with you. Working collectively stirs a greater anticipation for the time you will soon share together.

Your Heart Posture

Preparing for a gathering, large or small, takes great effort. It is easy to become overwhelmed and distracted by the various tasks involved in preparing for a meal or holiday. I encourage you to approach hospitality of any kind with a heart of gratitude and intention. Take a few deep breaths and be present with the people around you. Life is short, and the moments are fleeting. You will never regret disconnecting from the busyness to savor the moment and engage with the people around you. The dishes can wait.

Facilitate Proper Digestion

During my holistic health training, I learned that food is medicine. Supporting digestion of that medicinal food is foundational to health and well-being. Digestion, and the proper assimilation of food, starts even before food is consumed. The mindset and atmosphere in which we approach the table has a significant impact on proper digestion.

  • Sit down to eat, take a deep breath, and take a moment to express gratitude for your meal. Notice how your food looks on your plate and how it smells. Digestion starts with how you approach a meal before you ever take a bite of food.
  • Chew your food well. Digestion is a top-down, north to south, process. Adequately chewing each bite of food is crucial for the release of enzymes and digestive juices, and for the overall digestive process.
  • Focus on drinking water and other liquids away from meals, as this dilutes the stomach acid needed for proper digestion. Take small sips with food, if needed.
  • Enjoy your food and eat with intention. Pay attention to the texture, temperature, and taste of your food. This facilitates proper digestion.
  • Consider supplementing with quality digestive enzymes, or eating cultured food, such as sauerkraut or kimchi, with your meals to ensure proper digestion.
  • When dining with a group, open the meal by pausing to collectively give thanks.

Conversation

Food is just one aspect of a gathering. Even more important than the menu are the memories, beauty, love, and growth that arise as a result of the gathering. Conversation is the vehicle for this. The family culture, and perhaps the culture at large, is formed around the table. Do not underestimate the power of this. In my home, we emphasize meaningful conversation so much that I wrote “Cultivating the Restorative Table,” with 115 conversation starters, to facilitate this.

  • Listen. It is important not only to be heard, but for others to know they are heard.
  • Remember that no family, no gathering, and no conversation is perfect. Disagreements, awkward moments, or periods of silence are bound to happen from time to time. Hold your expectations loosely.
  • Put cell phones and other devices to the side and turn off the television to show the people you are dining with that they have your complete attention.
  • If you have guests dining with you, ask them to tell a story of a favorite memory. Invite them to ask a question or begin a discussion as well.
  • Have a small chalkboard, mounted craft paper roll, or dry erase board near your dining area, where you write down the discussion question a few hours beforehand. When people walk by, they can start to consider how they will answer.
  • Have someone keep a journal of notes from your conversations. This will be a cherished keepsake to look back on and treasure.
  • Be patient. Sowing consistent conversations will reap dividends in your relationships and well-being.

A Restorative Feast

When I was still a new mother, my family and I found ourselves facing many health challenges that called for noninflammatory and deeply nourishing foods. We were walking through a minefield of issues, including leaky gut, Lyme disease, mold illness, neurological concerns, skin irritations, and various autoimmune conditions.

While eliminating many common food triggers was important for my family’s health, eating this way also required a shift away from the familiar recipes that were essential to the traditions I grew up with. Not wanting my children to miss out on special foods that were a part of my childhood memories and celebrations, I recreated them to fit our dietary needs.

As a mother, cook, and a naturopathic doctor, it has been a significant goal of mine to create meaningful and memorable meals that restore health, not hinder it. It took many years for our family to collectively find healing and remission of autoimmune disease. Food was an important piece of our healing. Food is medicine, after all.

This is an excerpt from Dr. Turner’s of her book “Restorative Kitchen and Restorative Traditions,” released in 2021.

Dr. Ashley Turner is a traditionally trained naturopath and board-certified doctor of holistic health for Restorative Wellness Center. As an expert in functional medicine, Dr. Turner is the author of the gut-healing guide “Restorative Kitchen and Restorative Traditions,” a cookbook comprised of non-inflammatory holiday recipes.

Categories
Food Lifestyle Recipes

Vin Chaud (French Mulled Wine)

Vin chaud is a popular and traditional winter beverage that is usually made with red wine along with various spices. Similar to eggnog or hot cider in the States, vin chaud is the hot drink that you can find at Christmas markets in France and across various European countries during the Christmas season. It’s sweet and flavorful. Tastes like sunshine in a cup and a warm hug from Santa.

Note: You can use any wine for this recipe. Expensive wines are unnecessary since it will be cooked with fruits and spices. Personally, I prefer to use the wine from Burgundy that has strawberry, black cherry and spice. For this recipe I often use Beaujolais Villages (new wine of the year) from Louis Jadot. This wine uses Gemay Noir grapes, which is very light and has fruit-forward flavor that fits this recipe well. It is a good wine to pair with hors d’oeuvres and mild cheeses. The best of all, it is at a very reasonable price (around $10 a bottle) but is of high quality for cooking and making desserts.

4 Servings

3 Cups Red Wine

5 Cinnamon Sticks (4 for decorations)

6 Whole Cloves

1 Orange: (3-4mm round sliced)

1 Lemon: (3-4mm round sliced)

¼ Cup Cane Sugar

A handful fresh cranberries for decoration

Instructions:

  1. Combine wine, 3 slices of orange, 4 slices of lemon, 1 cinnamon stick, 6 whole cloves and sugar into a large saucepan. Heat over medium till boiled. (For those who dislike alcohol, heat wine on low heat for 30 minutes to evaporate the alcohol. Then, add the sugar, citrus, spices and simmer for 10 minutes).
  2. Remove from heat and cover with lid. Let it sit at least 30 minutes to allow the aroma from citrus and spices to transfer to the wine.
  3. Serve the wine with 1 slice of fresh orange,1 slice of fresh lemon, 1 cinnamon stick, and a few fresh cranberries.
  4. Vin chaud can be prepared in advance. Just remove the spices and citrus before storing in a container. Reheat before serving.

 

 

Categories
Chefs Food Lifestyle Trending

A Chef’s Love Letter to Crete

Author and poet Mary Ann Evens, under the pen name George Eliot, once wrote, “We could never have loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it.”

For chef and cookbook author Marianna Leivaditaki, the love she developed for the food of her culture as a child set the stage for who she became as an adult.

Ask Leivaditaki about her childhood in Chania on the Greek island of Crete, and she’ll paint a world of edible gardens and olive groves, of homemade cheese and wine, of running around the beach all day and fishing with whole anchovies as bait in the moonlight. It’s a world where family dinners could stretch to include 30 people, and food was never merely a biological need, but also a social one.

This is the world Leivaditaki shares in her debut cookbook, “Aegean: Recipes from the Mountains to the Sea.”

“Aegean: Recipes from the Mountains to the Sea” by Marianna Leivaditaki (Interlink Books, $35).

Born in Crete, now head chef of the well-known London restaurant Morito, Leivaditaki referred to the cookbook as above all, a journal. “It’s very personal, because it goes back into my growing up years,” she said.

Alongside recipes for fresh Mediterranean dishes that showcase the natural abundance of her home island, Leivaditaki weaves in the stories and traditions from her childhood that secured her love of good food. As a reader, I felt many times like she was right there in the kitchen with me, showing me how to grill a squid or prepare an octopus (in her childhood, they hung it on a clothesline to dry). I wanted to follow her, from her family taverna to the local market, to her dad’s fishing boat and the sea. Leivaditaki, through words and recipes, introduced me to a land I had never seen.

“It’s a gift, to put your stories on paper,” she said. “My family stories are not necessarily unique from [those of] other children growing up in Crete, but these are the experiences that shaped my career path. To me, they are the most pleasurable feelings—of warmth, love, creation.”

Fried anchovies with potatoes, chopped herbs, and lemon mayonnaise. (Elena Heatherwick)

Early Foundations

Leivaditaki’s dad was a fisherman, and her mother ran the family restaurant on the water. From an early age, Leivaditaki and her siblings helped at the restaurant, waiting tables, gutting fish, and peeling vegetables.

Below Leivaditaki’s family flat lived Theia Koula, a family friend who became like an aunt to Leivaditaki. Her home was surrounded by pomegranate trees, olive groves, artichoke plants, beehives, chickens, goats, and rabbits. She and her husband made everything from scratch: cheese, milk, wine.

“She was definitely the one who got me into everything about food,” said Leivaditaki. “Because my parents were really busy, fishing and with the restaurant, I had a lot of time to be downstairs to Theia Koula’s kitchen. I would drink Greek coffee in the morning, with biscuits.”

So many gastronomically interesting things were happening at Theia Koula’s house, and Leivaditaki was brought into it all. After their morning coffee together, they would check on the chickens and take care of other animals on the farm, and harvest vegetables in the field. What stands out the most in Leivaditaki’s memory is the tomatoes.

“Her tomatoes were just insane,” she recalled. “They were the ugliest tomatoes anyone had ever seen—bumpy, misshapen. But you would enter the field and just be hit by [their] sweet smell. She would be really careful which ones to pick—only the ones that were super ripe.”

“The whole square smelled of her tomatoes. I haven’t smelled tomatoes like that in years.”

Then they would go back to the house, sit around Theia Koula’s massive wooden table, and stuff vegetables, make a rabbit stew, or toss together a salad for lunch.

Leivaditaki’s experience with Theia Koula represents so much of what the food culture in Crete is truly about: community.

“Food is not just a biological need,” she said. “This is the time to chat, to spend time with friends and family, to bring up issues—and it all happens around the table. Meal time is all about food—but not as in a human need. It’s about sharing food and spending time together.”

Cretan summer salad. (Elena Heatherwick)

Finding Community Far From Home

As Leivaditaki grew, Crete began to feel small and boring. She needed to get off the island, so she left the beaches of Greece behind for university in Canterbury, England. When she arrived, she was shocked: “first, because I was entirely lonely, and then, because I just couldn’t understand what people ate,” she said.

Her housemates ate a typical college diet of pasta with tomato sauce from a tin. “I didn’t know you could make pasta and put it in a tin, and have it last for two years.”

She noticed that in England, eating together didn’t hold the same weight and importance as it did in Crete. Most of her friends ate alone, in their rooms. Homesick for her culture, Leivaditaki began inviting friends to share meals with her.

She cooked every day, and when she finally moved into her first house after university halls, she created an open door policy, where friends knew they were always welcome for dinner. Slowly, she created a culture amongst her friend group where eating good food together became a part of life. And there was no tinned pasta involved: “England has amazing food; you just have to know where to find it.”

(Elena Heatherwick)

Homecoming

Around this time, Leivaditaki began having doubts about her field of study, forensic psychology. She went traveling to clear her head, touring France and Spain on a bicycle.

While on the road, food, and the cooking of it, became a central theme of her life. At the end of that trip, Leivaditaki looked at the way she’d built her trip around the food. “I thought, this is it. I really need to investigate this more.”

Looking back over her years in England, she realized that cooking food and sharing it with others had become the central theme of her life. Deciding to explore that passion more, she returned to her family restaurant on Crete and took over the kitchen.

In her two years there, Leivaditaki realized how much joy cooking the foods of her childhood provided her. She fell in love with her island again: with its fresh, abundant food from the land and sea. Cooking, not psychology, was what Leivaditaki was made for. Giving people pleasure through food was her life’s passion.

Inspiration From Afar

With this newfound clarity, Leivaditaki returned to England, this time with the intent of working in a restaurant. She wanted to learn how to cook a range of food well. Beginning as a waitress, she worked her way up to become the head chef of Morito, where she continues to honor her heritage and build community through her food. She brings in traditional ingredients and recipes from her upbringing in Crete: grilled rabbit with romesco; cuttlefish, chickpea, and green pepper stew; and organic Cretan sausages.

With “Aegean,” Leivaditaki extends an invitation to readers far from London or Crete. The book is divided into three main sections: sea, land, and mountains, with seasonal recipes such as whole charcoal-grilled fish, summer salad with Cretan goat cheese and barley rusks, and fried rabbit with rosemary and vinegar. A final section, “For After,” includes such treats as semolina cake and loukoumades, traditional Greek doughnuts drenched in honey.

Leivaditaki is passionate about bringing people into the kitchen, encouraging readers to try the recipes for themselves. While some may first appear daunting for home cooks unfamiliar with octopus, mullet, or rabbit, they are so well explained and so deliciously photographed that one could feel brave enough to attempt them. More familiar dishes are in there, too. Reading the recipe for tomato and oregano fritters with whipped feta, I could almost smell Theia Koula’s tomatoes.

“What I’d like this book to be is inspirational,” Leivaditaki said. “You are allowed, as a reader in your own kitchen, to be and to explore.”

Rachael Dymski is an author, florist, and mom to two little girls. She is currently writing a novel about the German occupation of the Channel Islands and blogs on her website, RachaelDymski.com