Chef Academy's Leo and Suzanne

Several weeks ago (just before I got a job and still had time to do these sorts of things on a Tuesday afternoon, let alone write about them in a timely fashion), I went to a cooking demonstration by two stars of Bravo's Chef Academy: Suzanne Winn and Leo Goodloe.

I meant to watch an episode or two before the demo, and ended up watching the whole series in three days or so. It's easy to become addicted to any reality show, but when the people you're watching are likable and deserving of the spotlight (Jersey Shore crew, I'm not talking about you), you don't even feel guilty about it.

Leo was focused and professional throughout the show. He rarely had anything bad to say about anyone, and though he was always at the head of the class, he wasn't cocky. Suzanne, love her, has a Real Housewives of Orange County look (because she's a mother in the real OC), but the woman didn't go that route. Instead, she enrolled in an intensive culinary program and subjected herself to some rigorous kitchen work. Ok, yeah, she got in trouble for wearing too much lip gloss and for meeting with a tailor in the middle of a lesson…but how much of that is orchestrated by producers anyway? She didn't seem like a ditz to me. She seemed smart and funny and incredibly charismatic. I really wanted this woman to do well.

And you know what? Leo and Suzanne made an even better impression in person. After the demo, I waited to talk to Suzanne, who was talking to a group of women already. “Come join the circle, sweetie,” she said, motioning me over. Then she hugged me and thanked me for coming. Leo was equally gracious and easy to talk to. Both were so encouraging and forthcoming with stories and advice for me.

The food didn't disappoint, either. Dark chocolate pots de cremes with rock-your-socks butterscotch sauce and vanilla bean whipped cream. French bread slices layered with goat cheese, freshly made tomato sauce and melted fontina. Either of which I could die happy after. (Some recipes from the demo are here.)

My point is, I don't want this to be the last I see of Leo or Suzanne. Give them a book, a TV show, a catering/party-planning company…I'd support any of it.

You can find Chef Academy reruns on Bravo, iTunes or here. Check out Suzanne's Meals in Heels demonstrations on YouTube.

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And watch my favorite clip of Suzanne on Chef Academy here at the 6:08 mark.


Ruth Reichl and the Legacy of Gourmet Magazine

Ruth Reichl has achieved first-name-only status with a few friends and me. Not because we personally know her, but we had read and adored her memoirs (my reviews here and here), seen some of her magazine work and even followed her tweets. The former LA Times and NY Times restaurant critic and sadly now-former Gourmet editor in chief is an icon to those who know and love food. I mean, the Reichl part is just unnecessary at this point.
So imagine how excited I am to tell you, I talked to Ruth!

Evan Kleiman, Ruth Reichl, Jonathan Gold and Laurie Ochoa.

I went up to her after she spoke as part of a panel including Jonathan Gold (first food critic to win a Pulitzer) and his wife Laurie Ochoa, another editor of Gourmet. KCRW’s Good Food host Evan Kleiman led the discussion about the magazine, which Conde Nast folded in November.

During the event, Ruth talked about the changes she, Jonathan and Laurie made to the publication. (Ruth had one condition for accepting the job: that she could bring Jonathan and Laurie, who she had worked with at the LA Times, on board too.)
“It (Gourmet) had become very polite and old fashioned,” Ruth said. “I thought of it as a publication for about a thousand very wealthy people to give to their travel agents and say these are the trips I want to take. There was no fun. There was no sense of the food revolution we had been through.” Continue reading “Ruth Reichl and the Legacy of Gourmet Magazine”

Dan Perlman — Chef, Sommelier and Owner of Casa SaltShaker

Dan Perlman talks to students about removing skins from roasted peppers

While I was in Buenos Aires, chef Dan Perlman was kind enough to let me observe one of his cooking classes and talk to him about his in-home restaurant and other enterprises.

Casa SaltShaker is a restaurant in Buenos Aires popular among in-the-know tourists. It’s a cooking school for many expatriates. It’s the office of writer Dan Perlman. And it’s the one-bedroom apartment he shares with his partner Henry Tapia.

Casa SaltShaker is the place Perlman dons his many hats. In 2005, the American chef/sommelier/writer moved from New York City to Buenos Aires, where he added a few more slashes to his title: restaurateur/instructor/food blogger/author.

Tired of working restaurant hours, Perlman focused on freelance writing for Time Out Buenos Aires and other publications but kept cooking as a hobby. On weekends he had friends over for multi-course dinners as he had been doing in New York since 1994. In 2006, Perlman decided to turn his dinner parties into a business. Friends invited friends and so on until Casa SaltShaker became a destination for hip porteños, expats and tourists.

Dan Perlman and students in Casa SaltShaker's kitchen

The media has since described Casa SaltShaker as part of a new trend of “restaurantes a puertas cerradas” (“closed door restaurants”). Perlman says there’s nothing secret or underground about his or most other in-home restaurants in Buenos Aires.

“People forget that restaurants started in homes,” Perlman said. “We just stopped doing that as things became commercialized. But it continued that way here (in South America).” Continue reading “Dan Perlman — Chef, Sommelier and Owner of Casa SaltShaker”

Food Network Recipe Developer Sarah Copeland

Ex Says Never Getting Back Together Lyricsalign: left;”>Sarah Copeland, a fellow graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, was kind enough to take a break from her fabulous Food Network job to talk to me and offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse of our favorite cable network. (Photos courtesy of Sarah Copeland)


On the opening day of Julie and Julia, Sarah Copeland tried to make clear why her husband needed to buy tickets in the morning. He just laughed.

“But everyone is talking about it,” she said, worried the movie would sell out and ruin date night.

“You just think everyone is talking about it because you work at the Food Network,” he said. It isn't Star Wars, he reasoned.

For Copeland, whose 9-5 job and greatest passion is food — both cooking and growing it — it's easy to get caught up in the culinary world. Professionally trained by the Institute for Culinary Education, Copeland worked as a personal chef in France and has experience in the famed kitchens of Savoy and Café Boulud. But as a recipe developer for the Food Network, she has to cater to a broader demographic. Continue reading “Food Network Recipe Developer Sarah Copeland”

Farmer Portraits: Pierpont Farms

Rob and Angela, while still new to the farming scene, have built quite a reputation for themselves.  Growing vegetables mostly, with some poultry too, they provide CSA shares as well as supply restaurants like Sycamore with ingredients.  They live just south of Columbia, on some really old land.  They’ve implemented these Haygrove tunnels, that allow them to extend their season with the sheltering and refraction properties of the plastic shell.  I had a hard time not taking the picture in their awesome old barn, even though it had nothing to do with their business, haha.

Farmer Portraits: HWL Meats

Mark, the manager of the place, and Austin, the grandson of Harry (who owns the farm), pose for me here.  Harry was busy fixing up a tractor, and these two seemed more than happy to be in the photo.  After rounding up the buffalo with some feed and the big red pickup they seemed to love, I started shooting.  I think I like this one best.  The 1000+ acre farm is out by Kingdom City.