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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Books

BOOK: Thinking About A Culinary Career?

With all the media attention on superstar chefs, prime-time cooking shows and the evolved view of a gourmet chef from a behind-the-scenes craftsman to a lauded artist, many people dream of entering the culinary field.

But as with everything else, behind the perceived glamor is a lot of grunt work.

The authors of the new book, Culinary Careers For Dummies, provide the insights needed to enter and excel in the food service industry. Authors Michele Thomas, Annette Tomei and Tracey Biscontini shared these 10 insider tips:

1. Be ready to start at the bottom. No matter how lofty your goals might be, be prepared to start at square one. Even celebrity chefs started there. Your first job may not be what you want (in fact, it might feel frustrating and difficult), but it will give you the chance to prove your skill and dedication. Remind yourself that while you’re “only” washing dishes and prepping salads, in a year or so you’ll be moving up the ranks. Take this opportunity to observe, to hone your skills and interests and to learn as much as you can.

 


A welcome gift for anyone considering a culinary career. Photo courtesy Wiley & Sons.

 

2. Take courses related to your interests. If you don’t want to complete a degree or certification, taking classes can help hone your skills and keep you abreast of industry trends and advances. Also consider non- food-related courses: A writing class might give you the skills you need to become a food writer, a chemistry course might help you to become a food scientist.

3. Find a mentor in your field of interest. If you meet someone in your field who shows a willingness to befriend and help you, take advantage of this tremendous resource. A mentor might or might not work directly with you (these days, you might converse online from across the country), but he or she will have your best interests at heart and will give you honest advice to help you improve. Check chef-oriented websites and online professional groups, and don’t be shy about asking for advice.

4. Work well with others. Forget the bad attitudes and behavior displayed on Hell’s Kitchen and other reality TV shows: It’s encouraged because it attracts higher ratings. Don’t underestimate the value of interacting efficiently and respectfully with others: An inability to work harmoniously as part of a team can stop your career in its tracks. Also keep in mind that while you may think you know what you’re doing, you need to remain open to constructive criticism.

5. Make time to read. The culinary industry is far from static; on the contrary, it’s constantly changing. To remain cutting-edge and competitive, it’s important to stay abreast of current and rising trends. You don’t have to devote every spare moment to scouring industry magazines and journals, but it is a good idea to look through these types of publications—as well as credible blogs, cookbooks, and even the food section of the newspaper—on a regular basis.

6. Choose a specialization. Just as with a college major, it’s important to select a specialization. Otherwise, you can drift from job to job with no clear goal in mind. This can be as simple as deciding whether you want to work with a specific cuisine, such as Italian food, or that you want to work with traditionally prepared foods as opposed to modern cuisine. Take extra courses, read the appropriate literature and perfect your skills before telling employers that you have a specialty. And as with a major, you can always switch.

7. Learn to manage time skillfully. If you’re not already a good time manager, study up on good techniques. Time management is especially important in the food industry, since food can lose texture, temperature or taste easily if not timed perfectly.

8. Be open to new ideas. You don’t need to incorporate every new product, idea, or technique into your work, but do consider those that come your way. If you don’t try new options, you’ll soon find yourself stuck in the past, losing your colleagues’ respect.

9. Stay fit.
At first glance, this industry might not seem like one that would require physical fitness. However, the reality is that you’ll probably be on your feet in a hot kitchen for 40 to 60 hours a week. And that’s not even taking into account all of the lifting, chopping, stirring, washing, etc. that needs to be done.

10. Broaden your skill set. You may come across some great opportunities if you choose to specialize in a particular area of the culinary industry. But you may find even better jobs if you keep your eyes and ears open and continue to learn new skills. The more you can do, the more marketable you will be. For example, a company might want to hire a chef who’s a computer whiz, because that person can help design food-purchasing software.

As a next step, anyone with a love of cooking—and dreams to turn it into a career—should get a copy of Culinary Careers For Dummies.

And don’t be offended by the name, “For Dummies.” It has more pizzazz than “For Those Seeking Enlightenment.”

  

Comments

BOOK REVIEW: The Cuisine Of Escoffier

When looking for a copy of August Escoffier’s Le Guide Culinaire on Amazon.com, we found an elucidating customer review by Charlene Vickers of Winnepeg, Canada.

The great Escoffier (1846-1935) was a was a French chef, restaurateur and culinary writer who updated and codified traditional French cooking techniques. In 1903, he published what instantly became the culinary bible. One hundred and eight years later, it is still the classic reference source for professional chefs.

An abridged English-language version, The Escoffier Cookbook and Guide to the Fine Art of Cookery: For Connoisseurs, Chefs, Epicures, Complete With 2973 Recipes, is half the cost of the original.

Ms. Vickers responded to another customer’s complaints about this abridged edition with such depth, that we asked her permission to reprint her comments. We hope you enjoy this glimpse into culinary history.

 

August Escoffier. Photo from The Gourmet’s Guide to London (1914) by Nathaniel Newnham-Davis. Photo in the public domain.

 

“The Escoffier Cookbook,” writes Ms. Vickers, “is a heavily abridged American version of Auguste Escoffier’s 1903 book, “Guide Culinaire.” It is a fascinating look at the art of professional European cookery at the beginning of the 20th century.

“However, to appreciate this book fully, it’s important to understand exactly for whom it was written. Escoffier’s original guide was never for a second intended for the home cook. Escoffier was a pioneer with respect to the education of professional chefs, and originally wrote this book for the use of those working in grand houses, in hotels, on ocean liners, and in restaurants, who might not have had access to contemporary recipes.

“Accordingly, the original book does not attempt to teach basic cooking or food preparation techniques. The American translation does include some details on cooking utensils and techniques unfamiliar to the average American chef (such as poeleing,* worth the cost of the book alone, and the old French form of braising), but even in the translation it is assumed that the reader is a trained, experienced chef.

*Editor’s Note: Braising calls for liquids to be added to the meat. Poeleing uses just butter and the meat’s own juices, with no added liquids.

“The recipes themselves are clear and simple to follow, but represent only a small subset of French cooking of the early 20th century. An earlier reviewer mentioned that there was no recipe for onion soup. This is true, but it should be understood that onion soup would never have been accepted by the class of restaurant patron for whom Escoffier cooked.

“Much of what has arrived on this side of the Atlantic as ”French cooking”—dishes such as pot-au-feu, onion soup, and steak frites—is distinctly middle-class fare, and consequently would have been rejected by the clientele of quality restaurants of the time as being unspeakably boorish. Escoffier personally enjoyed bourgeois cooking, but as an astute, intelligent businessman, he provided the haute cuisine his clients demanded.

“One interesting difference between modern cooking and the cooking featured in this book is that Escoffier uses few spices, and indeed declaims on the foolishness of using large amounts of spices in meat dishes. This appears bizarre from our vantage point, but Escoffier had sound economic reasons for his proscriptions.

“Most diners of the time grew up in the days before refrigeration, when old, deteriorating meat was heavily spiced to make it palatable. Fresh, unspiced meat was a sign of the highest quality. The association between strong spices and poor quality was powerful enough to survive long into the 20th century, as any reader of a 1950s American cookbook can attest.

“As for the recipes themselves, I doubt that many of them could be prepared by the North American home cook. Most of us cannot afford (if we can even find) foie gras, truffles, or capons, and few have espagnole sauce or fish fumet available at all times. However, many recipes can be adapted for the modern cook—using cepes or porcini mushrooms instead of truffles, for instance—and those that can be prepared really are delicious.”

Thanks so much, Ms. Vickers. If we ever get to Winnepeg, we would love to take you to dinner—although it sounds as if we might enjoy even better fare in your kitchen.

  

Comments

BOOK: What You Should & Shouldn’t Make From Scratch

When Jennifer Reese lost her job as a book editor for Entertainment Weekly, she looked for ways to economize. She began with the family’s food bill. Is it cheaper to buy or make your own bagels, cream cheese, jam, crackers, yogurt and granola, she wondered.

She began a cost-benefit analysis on how much she might save by making from scratch six of the everyday foods she typically purchased from the supermarket and the bakery. Her initial experience gave way to Make The Bread, Buy The Butter, a delightful book with 120 recipes.

The author priced everything down to the last grain of salt as well as the cost of the utilities (in her city, 32 cents per hour to run an electric oven, 9 cents per hour to melt on a gas burner, 14 cents per hour to boil water). She did not include the cost of her labor.

 

You’ll laugh, you’ll ponder, you just might buy a goat. Photo courtesy Free Press.

 

Ms. Reese found some cost efficiencies that were worth it, and some that weren’t. The bagel recipe she used—the best bagel she’s ever had—costs 15¢ per bagel. A Thomas’ bagel is 45¢; a fresh bagel from Noah’s in San Francisco is 75¢.

Cream cheese, on the other hand, is something better bought—no matter what the savings. Home-made cream cheese just doesn’t approximate the thick brick we all know and love.

This energetic woman not only made her own jerky and Worcestershire sauce, but she also raised chickens in her backyard and attempted to raise goats to make cheese. (They ended up as beloved pets but have contributed no milk.)

You’ll chuckle at the adventures of this executive-turned-farmer as she lacto-ferments pickles on the kitchen counter, ripens cheese in the closet and tends to chickens, ducks, baby goats and a beehive in a suburban back yard. As for buying a pair of turkeys to join the menagerie in advance of Thanksgiving (to butcher and clean), “…the mountain of gore was chilling to behold…It felt more like cleaning up a crime scene.” The experience cost more than buying turkey at the supermarket—and the meat was much drier.

Jennifer Reese will entertain you. She will inform you. She may even convince you to try your own hand at “make it or buy it.” And you just might want to get your own baby goat.

Order a copy.

Read Jennifer’s further adventures at TheTipsyBaker.com.

  

Comments

TIP OF THE DAY: Pick Up A Food History Book

Ever wonder where our foods came from? Fascinated by facts?

  • The tomato originated in Peru as a yellow cherry tomato, and was brought back to Europe by the Conquistadors. But Europeans refused to eat it, thinking it was poisonous, so it was used as an ornamental houseplant for centuries until a famine drove desperate peasants to eat it—and live to tell about it.
  • The lemon originated in the Assam region of northern India and northern Burma, then traveled through China and Persia to become an ornamental plant in the Arab world. It arrived in Rome in the first century C.E.
  • The original macaroni and cheese comprised sheets of pasta dough cut into two-inch squares, boiled and tossed with grated cheese (probably Parmesan).
  • The dog was the first domesticated animal, used for work and companionship, but the first food animal to be domesticated was the sheep (as far back as 11,000 B.C.E.), followed by the pig (9000 B.C.E.), goat and cow (both about 8000 B.C.E.).
  •  

    Lemons originated in Assam, but arrived in the Middle East around 600 C.E. as ornamental plants. Eggplant is also native to India, cultivated from prehistoric times, but it didn’t reach Europe until about 1500 C.E. This book tells all.

     

    Any food lover who wants to know where our foods originated—including the how and the why—should pick up a book or two on the history of food. While Michael Pollan’s books, such as The Omnivore’s Dilemma, are very popular (and very worthwhile reads), they just touch on the fascinating history of our food.

    Numerous books on food history can be more academic—which is to say, dry—than others. But two we like very much—and often give as gifts—are from authors who are not just expert in their topics, but gifted storytellers as well. They’re page-turners that provide many a happy hour of exploring our food history:

  • A History Of Food by Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat. First published in France in 1987 and now in its second edition, this is the go-to tome for people who want the facts. The information is staggering: not just how bread came to be, but the social history of who was able or allowed to eat what.
  • Moveable Feasts: From Ancient Rome to the 21st Century, the Incredible Journeys of the Food We Eat, by Sarah Murray. Journey through the fascinating history of food. Even with rickety boats, peppercorns from India were delivered to demanding ancient Romans. The invention of the barrel in third-century Rome revolutionized transcontinental trading and vastly improved the art of winemaking, which previously relied on clay amphorae. And yes, there’s a lot that takes place in Rome—there’s nowhere else like it.
  •  
    If you’d like to browse, head to your nearest bookseller or to Amazon.com.

      

    Comments

    BOOK: Allergic Girl

    Sloane Miller lives in the foodie capital of America. Yet, amid all the temptation, she’s had severe food allergies since childhood: tree nuts, salmon, eggplant and many types of fruit.

    After years of blogging on the topic as a food allergy advocate, Sloane has turned her challenges into a helpful book: Allergic Girl: Adventures in Living Well with Food Allergies.

    As an LMSW (Licensed Master Social Worker), Sloane advises others on how to move beyond the fear of food allergies and live a full and enjoyable life while dining out, dating, attending work functions and traveling.

    Anyone who has food allergies—or a loved one with food allergies—will find this book very valuable.

    Have a gluten allergy? Check out our reviews of delicious gluten-free foods.

     

    People with severe food allergies can still
    enjoy great food. Read the book!

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Beyond Greens, Healthy Salad Recipes

    Switch a green salad for a bean salad, beet
    salad or hundreds of other options.
    Photo by Sarsmis | IST.

     

    Salad is more than a bowl of dressed greens, served as a first course.

    Leafy greens make up only one of seven categories in Chef Joyce Goldstein’s book, Mediterranean Fresh: A Compendium of One-Plate Salad Meals and Mix-and-Match Dressings.

    In the Mediterranean, “salad” includes everything from tabbouleh to white beans and prawns in a lemon dressing, to small plates of mezze, antipasti and tapas.

    Other salad categories are based on beans, fruits, grains and proteins, such as meat, poultry, seafood (and although not part of Mediterranean cuisine or this book, tofu).

    Vegetables need not be green: Think Beets and Greens with Yogurt Dressing and Moroccan Salad of Raw Carrots with Citrus Cinnamon Dressing.

    Alternative dressings change the nature of the dish. Substitute walnut vinaigrette with the beet salad and it goes from Greek to French. Substitute tahini dressing and it becomes Middle Eastern.

     

    From panzanella to parsley salad, some 140 mostly easy, healthy recipes (including 30 different salad dressings) will give new excitement to your daily “salad course.” You don’t need to buy a book, of course; you can find plenty of recipes online.

    MINT VINAIGRETTE RECIPE

    Here’s Chef Goldstein’s recipe for mint vinaigrette. Toss it with matchstick-sliced zucchini and carrots; use it with asparagus, bean salad, beet salad, carrot salad, citrus salad, grain salad (bulghur or quinoa, for example), seafood salad and spinach salad.

    Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1-1/4 cup mild olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint, tightly packed
  • 1 teaspoon honey (for low-glycemic recipe, omit or substitute with 1/4 teaspoon agave nectar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  •  
    Preparation
    1. Combine lemon juice and chopped mint in a small saucepan. Bring up to a boil and remove from heat. Let steep for about 10 minutes. Strain into a mixing bowl. You will have about 1/4 cup.
    2. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk together. Toss with salad ingredients and serve.

    More about Chef Joyce Goldstein.

      

    Comments

    BOOK REVIEW: Zombie Cupcakes

    We look at a lot of different cookbooks. No surprise, over the past couple of years we’ve seen a number of cookbooks riding the cupcake wave.

    The most memorable is Zombie Cupcakes: From the Grave to the Table with 16 Cupcake Corpses, by Zilly Rosen, a professional cake designer based in Buffalo, New York.

    Cooked up in Dr. Rosen-Frankenstein’s lab, the cookbook introduces you to a ghoulish (but delicious!) army of creatures of the night—or their various body parts. (We love the hand reaching up through the “earth” frosting, Carrie-style.)

    Each recipe has a color photo of a stunning zombie-inspired design. In addition to the undead, concepts include crows tearing up the icing to reveal “blood” underneath, and a graveyard with rats. The photos make us want to start a zombie cupcake bakery and turn out these delights every day.

    But even if we never bake a thing, we like Zombie Cupcakes as a fantasy picture book that makes us smile. Ms. Rosen: How are you going to top this?

    Beyond us grown-ups, we think the book represents a great opportunity to teach kids and teens the joy of baking.

     

    This cupcake is called “On The Loose.”
    Photo © Ivy Press 2010. Styling by James Lawrence.

     
    Anyone can get a box of cake mix and a can of stuffing to produce ordinary cupcakes. With Zombie Cupcakes, you can work your way up to being a cupcake star.

    Fondant is the key. Fondant is a smooth paste made of sugar, glycerine and cornstarch. It is rolled like dough to a 1/8″ – 1/16″ thickness and then draped over a cake instead of a traditional frosting. It can be flavored. To decorate, shapes can be molded, then colored, and painted. Think of it as edible Play-Doh or modeling clay.

    Fondant also seals in moistness, enabling cakes and cupcakes to stay fresher longer than with conventional types of frosting. That’s why it’s so often used on wedding cakes, which can take a couple of days to build and decorate.

    If you’ve seen cakes that look like handbags, wrapped gift boxes, race cars, etc.: that’s fondant (check out these fondant-covered cakes from Elegant Cheesecakes).

    You don’t have to make fondant from scratch: It can be purchased at a baking supply store. Having said that, we must underscore that fresh, homemade fondant tends to taste better—like marshmallow.

  • Get the book.
  • If you need more hands-on instruction than the book provides, you should be able to find a “Working With Fondant” course at a local baking supplies store or cooking school.
  • Start now, and by Halloween your fondant skills should be party-perfect—or at least, good enough to raise the dead.
  •  
    Watch out: We’ll be back for Halloween with the crows and the graveyard.

      

    Comments

    GOURMET GIVEAWAY #2 ~ Cookbook From Patsy’s Italian Restaurant

    Make the delicious recipes from Patsy’s
    Italian restaurant at home.

     

    Only one New York City restaurant can claim to be Frank Sinatra’s favorite: Patsy’s Italian restaurant on West 56th Street, featuring Neapolitan cuisine.

    Five lucky winners will win the cookbook from the restaurant, to cook the cuisine that Sinatra loved.

    Patsy’s Cookbook: Classic Italian Recipes From A New York City Landmark Restaurant, by Salvatore Scognamillo, presents 100 recipes from the classic southern Italian cuisine that’s become American comfort food.

    Plan a buffet dinner of Mussels Arreganata, Fettuccine Alfredo, Rigatoni Sorrentino, Chicken Parmigiana, Veal Marsala and Shrimp Scampi, with Tiramisù for dessert.

    Directions for the 100 recipes are simple and well adapted to home cooking; the book will please both old and new fans alike.

  • To Enter This Gourmet Giveaway: Go to the box at the bottom of our Italian Cookbooks Page and click to enter your email address for the prize drawing. Approximate Retail Value Of Prize: $27.50. This contest closes on Monday, January 17th at noon, Eastern Time. Good luck!
  • Comments

    GOURMET GIVEAWAY #2 ~ Three-Month Subscription To BookSwim

    Choose from a wide variety of books, including
    My Life In France by Julia Child.

     

    Do you have books spilling out of your bookcase? No time to visit the local library whenever you want to borrow a book? Want to make sure you love a cookbook before you commit to actually purchasing it?

    BookSwim may be your answer. With a Netflix-like subscription to the online book rental program, you can create a pool of books to read from an extensive catalogue, and then have the books shipped straight to your door. When you’re finished enjoying the books, you just ship them back in a pre-paid envelope.

    BookSwim is giving one lucky Nibble reader a three-month subscription to its three-books-at-a-time plan. Choose books from Cooking, Food & Wine and nonfood categories. Read them yourself or share with a friend.

    Approximate retail value: $72.00.

    To find out more about the online book rental program, visit BookSwim.com.

  • To Enter This Gourmet Giveaway: Go to the box at the bottom of our Best Books For Healthy Eating Gifts Page and click to enter your email address for the prize drawing. This contest closes on Monday, December 6th at noon, Eastern Time. Good luck!
  • Comments

    Gourmet Giveaway #2 ~ Customized Book From Picaboo Books

    Get creative and personalize your own
    book for yourself or for a gift. Photo
    courtesy Picaboo Books.

     

    Have you always wanted to create your own recipe book?

    Do you want to create a memorable volume of recipes from different generations of your family?

    Do you want to create a memorial to Grandma by publishing her recipes?

    Do you have a special group of family members and friends who would treasure copies of a professionally bound, great-looking book of recipes, photos, memoirs and anything else you’d like to add?

    Picaboo could be the answer! Picaboo is a fun and easy way to create a customized book of photos with captions, essays and more. You can create your own cookbook of family recipes, vacation journals, wedding albums, family photos for the grandparents—just about anything.

    Three lucky winners will each receive a $30 gift certificate to use however they choose on Picaboo.com.

  • To Enter This Gourmet Giveaway: Go to the box at the bottom of our 2010 Best Food & Drink Book Gifts Page and click to enter your email address for the prize drawing. This contest closes on Monday, November 29th at noon, Eastern Time. Good luck!
  • For more information about Picaboo Books, visit Picaboo.com.
  • Comments

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