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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Chefs

Michel Nischan on Jamie Oliver's "Food Revolution"

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Tonight* is the finale of Jamie Oliver’s "Food Revolution," and it’s been fascinating to see how challenging it is to change the American food system. I recently chatted with Michel Nischan about the show. He's the chef at Dressing Room, the late Paul Newman’s restaurant in Connecticut, and founder of Wholesome Wave, an organization that helps bring local foods to underserved neighborhoods. He said that while he loves Jamie, he thinks that Jamie's goal of getting schools to make fresh food from scratch every day is unrealistic. “If what he is doing triples the school lunch budget, it’s not sustainable. Schools have even deeper problems than food, and they all require more funds.”

Nischan’s proposed solution lies somewhere in between the current situation—in which schools get highly processed foods from big centralized companies—and Jamie’s ideal. He says that right now, there is a dearth of mid-size food-processing centers, which could turn local ingredients into preservative-free sauces, soups and other foods for school cafeterias. (It’s actually quite like the shortage of slaughterhouses, which has been a setback for the burgeoning local meat industry.) Nischan’s solution would benefit small farmers, who could sell their “field seconds”—the perfectly edible fruits and vegetables that don’t look good enough to take to market. (“You don’t need a pristine heirloom tomato to make a good sauce,” he says.) It would also be great for schools because they could buy better food within their budget that would come to them in an easy-to-prepare format. And of course, it would be a boon for the students, who would eat healthier, most likely tastier food.

 

*CORRECTION: This Friday, April 23, is the finale of Jamie's show. Can't wait!

Cookbooks

Kim Severson's New Food Memoir

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Spoon Fed by Kim Severson

© Riverhead Books
Spoon Fed by Kim Severson

A reliable test of a book for New Yorkers is whether it makes them miss any subway stops. Kim Severson's honest, engaging and funny new food memoir Spoon Fed is so absorbing, I missed my stop on three occasions. Severson, who writes about food for the New York Times, recounts her struggles with alcohol and other demons, while profiling eight women in food whom she says saved her, from Edna Lewis to Rachael Ray. Since she knows most of them personally, the profiles are refreshing in their candor (she describes helping Alice Waters rig a microphone onto her underwear for an interview at the Union Square Greenmarket). But along with some hilarious stories, Severson has created a moving, modern canon of women in food. After the jump, F&W recipes from four of the women in the book.

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Chefs

Laurent Gras: World’s Fittest Chef

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Laurent Gras. Body fat 2 (t-w-o) percent.

You wouldn’t expect to find any chefs on a list entitled "The Fittest Guys in the World for 2010" from Men's Fitness magazine (although a lot of them would do really well on the corollary list of least-fit guys). The names run towards athletes like the Real Madrid soccer star Christiano Ronaldo and Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, Jr., and actors like Sam Worthington. But there is one chef: Laurent Gras of the super-fantastic Chicago restaurant, L20. Gras says he balances his 90-hour weeks in the kitchen by cycling at least one 100-miler on his day off. Here’s what else Men’s Fitness reports: “To maintain his 2-percent body fat (that’s right: T-W-O), Gras heads to the gym five days a week for 30 minutes of jumping rope, an hour of spinning and some lower-body resistance training.” W-O-W. (My only reference for 2 percent involves milk.) For anyone who wants to at least eat like Gras, some of his terrific healthy recipes are at foodandwine.com.

Cocktails

Mumbai Nightlife

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Aer

© Red Lion
Aer at the Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai.

Thursday is the night to go out in Mumbai and I had India’s top fashion photographer, Farrokh Chothia (he shot the striking photos hanging in Vermillion restaurant, escorting me past the ropes of the city’s newest bars.

Farrokh met me at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, which will be reopened in its entirety this July, once the tower wings have been restored (they suffered damage in the 2008 terrorist attacks). The hotel’s legendary Harbour Bar (it became Mumbai’s first licensed bar when it opened in 1933) just reopened at the end of March with a great list of Prohibition-era cocktails that are theatrically mixed and poured, plus there's also an extensive selection of single malts and whiskeys.

After watching a night polo gam at Mahalaxmi raccourse, we checked out Tote on the Turf next door. Malini and Rahul Akerkar, the couple behind Indigo, opened this enormous new restaurant and bar last September. Up-and-coming architect Kapil Gupta is responsible for the space, which has 40-foot vaulted ceilings designed to look like tree branches. Its lineup of DJs and a smart drink list that includes the signature Tote Mary (a Bloody Mary with balsamic vinegar and crushed cucumbers) has made midtown suddenly cool.

For the best view of the city, we went to Aer, the posh new bar on the roof of the Four Seasons Hotel. Elsie Nanji is responsible for the futuristic design and great accents like Ross Lovegrove’s Love bench as well as chairs and stools from Driade’s Tokyo-Pop series.

After three supertrendy spots full of beautiful people, I was ready for something more laid-back. Farrokh took me to Blue Frog,  an awesome live-music venue in an old warehouse in Lower Parel that’s been brilliantly redesigned. We ended our night there, rocking out to a Pearl Jam tribute band with some of Farrok's friends from Vogue India.

News

Video Update: Torrisi Italian Specialties

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Torrisi's interior (not a scene from the video)

I have to admit, I watch the video on the Torrisi Italian Specialties site the way some people watch the three-year-old-crying-over-Justin-Bieber clip. It’s a genius alternative from owners Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone to the blah-blahy bios so many chefs have on their websites, and the video shows everything from one of the owners' grandmother’s 103-year-old lasagna to the inspiration they get from Mama Leone and Thomas Keller. Now, Torrisi and Carbone have added new videos, in which they explain their philosophy of using only American-made products for their outstanding deli lunches and new four-course dinners. (Specifically, the video shows them trying to sell their Italian architect on the virtues of Progresso bread crumbs.) If it doesn’t quite have the symmetry of the Bieber-meets-that-crying-three-year-old segment, it’s still fantastically watchable, and it also features one of the Torrisi guys singing "God Bless America."

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Congratulations to Nicholas Elmi, winner of Top Chef: New Orleans, the 11th season of Bravo's Emmy-Award winning, hit reality series.

Already looking forward to next year (June 19-21, 2015)? Relive your favorite moments from the culinary world's most sensational weekend in the Rocky Mountains.