Let's talk food, from restaurants and recipes to farmers markets, food issues and wine. Lee Svitak Dean, Rick Nelson, Kim Ode and Bill Ward will start the conversation.

Posts about Chefs

A culinary song-and-dance from Alton Brown

Posted by: Lee Svitak Dean Updated: February 11, 2014 - 10:24 AM
Photo by David Allen, from Alton Brown Live!

Photo by David Allen, from Alton Brown Live!

Have to say it was the first time I've seen burping and farting take center stage at any theater.

And hopefully the last.

The sounds, as presented by sock puppets on a large monitor, opened Alton Brown's "Edible Inedible Tour" at the State Theatre last Friday, an event that played to a multi-age full house who was clearly enthusiastic about his long-running "Good Eats" TV show, now in reruns on the Cooking Channel. (The sound effects, repeated during the intermission and at the close of the show, depicted the action of yeast molecules releasing gas.)

Alton Brown was his madcap self, a grand storyteller with a sly sense of humor, during the 2 hour, 45 minute culinary variety show, which celebrated what he said were "things you're not allowed to do on TV -- you can't rant, rave or pontificate or you'll piss off advertisers." (The excess "sound effects" reflected him thumbing his nose at the Food Network, which he said enforced a burp-to-fart ratio on "Good Eats.")

The puppets that provided the sound effects. Photo by Lee Svitak Dean.

The puppets that provided the sound effects. Photo by Lee Svitak Dean.


No sponsors, no advertisers means all fun, right? Well, as we say in the news biz, everyone needs an editor. And this show could have used a scalpel at times, starting with the interminable burping and farting. You know the little kid in kindergarten who would do that and get a laugh, and then wouldn't stop doing it? Well....

The show ran 45 minutes longer than expected, in part because Alton got chatty (often commenting snarkily, in good fun, on the cold weather and other Minnesota-related tangents) and, at the end, because he chose a volunteer in the audience who liked being center stage (she talked almost as much as he did).

But the unwieldy length was more than someone not watching the clock: His musical trio (with Alton on both electric and acoustic guitar, then saxophone) really didn't add much to the evening with food songs that were, well, half-baked, worth a smile but not much more. And some of his TV antics didn't hold up on a theater stage (breezing through a science lesson, for example, had to cross more eyes than just mine).

Two cooking "demos" were delightfully quirky, though took far too long to complete. In one he makes carbonated ice cream using a fire extinguisher (the only single-use piece of kitchen equipment that has his approval).

Making ice cream with a volunteer from the audience. Photo by Lee Svitak Dean

Making ice cream with a volunteer from the audience. Photo by Lee Svitak Dean

The other was what turned out to be a long-winded demonstration of his Mega-Bake Oven, a variation on the girls-only Easy Bake Oven of his youth. Though the store version uses a single 100-watt bulb, his monstrous variation, presumably built in his garage or so he implied, gathers power from 54,000 watts of stage lights. "You can see this from space," he chortled as the blinding lights were turned on.

From this powerhouse of light, he and a volunteer (the Chatty Kathy aforementioned), cooked a pizza topped with (what else?) lutefisk and pepperoni.

What 54,000 watts looks like. Hot enough to cook a pizza. Photo by Lee Svitak Dean

What 54,000 watts looks like. Hot enough to cook a pizza. Photo by Lee Svitak Dean

The best part of the show was his rant on "10 Things I'm Pretty Sure That I'm Sure About Food," an eclectic list that apparently changes from time to time, Here's the Minnesota version:

1. Chickens don't have fingers (where he tells the tale of shocking his daughter's friends with chicken feet).

2. The most critical cooking skill is to use salt (from here he goes on to talk about the bakery dough he discarded in an outdoor dumpster on a very hot day, resulting in an oozing Son-of-Blob scenario that needed commercial trucks to remedy). 

Alton Brown's high-tech version of Power Point, illustrating the trout ice cream. Photo by Lee Svitak Dean.

Alton Brown's high-tech version of Power Point, illustrating the trout ice cream. Photo by Lee Svitak Dean.

3. Trout doesn't belong in ice cream (he tells the story of chef Sakai who did just that on "Iron Chef America").

4. The best cook on Earth is your wife, and the sooner you accept it, the happier you'll be (as he relates a story on making the mistake of "correcting" the seasoning in his wife's dish).3. Trout doesn't belong in ice cream (he relates an episode of "Iron Chef America" in which chef Sakai does just that).

5. The best ingredient to learn to cook is eggs. ("It's liquid meat, premeasured, cheap, and even if you mess them up you can eat them. Conquer eggs and the rest of the culinary world follows.")

6. The most important tool in the kitchen is the dinner table. This follows his comments in an earlier interview that, "The most magical thing about food is its ability to connect human beings to one another. That's the real miracle of food." As for the food? "In 12 hours, it's poo." 

7. Wash mushrooms.( "That's not dirt they're grown in; it's horse poop.") 

8. Buy American. ("We have the best farmers, the best fish, the best laws overseeing food. Odds are you can't do worse than that.")

9. Raisins are always optional. (Who can disagree with that, says this writer?)

10. Never eat a shrimp cocktail in an airport. (Enough said. Though that led to a very long song about what happens when food poisoning hits.)

For more on Alton, see my earlier interview with him in the Star Tribune.

Follow Lee Svitak Dean on Twitter: @StribTaste

The State Theatre audience. Photo by Alton Brown.

The State Theatre audience. Photo by Alton Brown.


 

Jack Riebel departs the Butcher & the Boar

Posted by: Rick Nelson Updated: January 3, 2014 - 8:57 AM

Chef Jack Riebel has left the Butcher & the Boar.

“It’s time to do something new,” he said from Charleston, S.C., where he is vacationing. “Butcher & the Boar was great for me, and I feel so fortunate to have had that experience. It was my first opportunity to do my own thing, and it was really rewarding. But I’m ready for the next episode.”

Riebel, one of the hardest-working chefs in the business, said that the long-term plan is to open his own place, in partnership with his wife. “It’ll take me a year to put it together,” he said. “But, hey, it’s January 2nd. Who knows what the next phone call will bring?”

Butcher & the Boar opened in March 2012 to rave reviews, including four stars from this critic. B&TB went on to be named the Star Tribune’s 2012 Restaurant of the Year, and was a James Beard Foundation’s Best New Restaurant semifinalist. Riebel was also a 2013 James Beard nominee for Best Chef: Midwest.

Riebel has sold his ownership interest back to his B&TB partners. In the meantime, Riebel is consulting with B&TB partner Tim Rooney and Joe Kaplan of the former Joe’s Garage on a casual restaurant and bar project, slated to open later this year in the former Joe’s space on Loring Park.

No name yet (“We were originally calling it ‘Triton,’ but now we’re just calling it the ‘Joe’s Garage Project,’” he said with a laugh) but Riebel did say that they’re aiming for a June 1st opening and that they hope to have a chef on board by March or April.

Don't expect to encounter a lot of changes at meat-centric Butcher & the Boar. Riebel’s gifted colleague Peter Botcher will be running the kitchen. “And obviously the whole crew that I hired and trained is still there,” Riebel said.

As for his immediate plans, Riebel has a full calendar. “I’m going to take it easy for a couple of weeks,” he said. “We’re going to spend a few months traveling. My wife has more than earned my free time.”

Charlie Awards winners announced

Posted by: Rick Nelson Updated: November 18, 2013 - 1:06 PM

Winners in 13 categories were announced Sunday afternoon at the third-annual Charlie Awards. The awards, which celebrate the Twin Cities food and drink community (and are named for the late, great Charlie's Cafe Exceptionale, pictured above), were held at the Pantages Theatre in downtown Minneapolis.

Lucia Watson (pictured, above), the force behind 28-year-old Lucia's Restaurant and the adjacent Lucia's Wine Bar and Lucia's To Go, was handed the Lifetime Achievement award.

Butcher & the Boar (pictured above, with chef/co-owner Jack Riebel, left) was named Outstanding Restaurant.

Sameh Wadi of Saffron Restaurant & Lounge and World Street Kitchen was named Outstanding Chef.

The Emerging Food Professional award went to Tyler Shipton, co/chef-co/owner of Borough.

Diane Yang of La Belle Vie was named Outstanding Pastry Chef. La Belle Vie also won top honors in the Outstanding Restaurant Service category.

St. Paul's sole Charlie went to the Strip Club, with Dan Oskey winning the Outstanding Bartender honor.

Julie Snow Architects won Outstanding Restaurant Design for the firm's work on Burch Steak and Pizza Bar (pictured, above).

Birchwood Cafe owner Tracy Singleton (pictured, above, with daughter Lily Singleton-Hill) walked away with two honors: the Community Hero and Outstanding Neighbor awards.

Three food and drink items were placed in the klieg lights: Newcomer Hot Indian Foods won the year's Outstanding Food Truck Item with its Indi Frites. Lift Bridge Brewing Co.'s Hop Dish IPA won the Outstanding Local Craft Brew award and Corner Table won Outstanding Menu Item with chef Thomas Boemer's version of crispy pork belly.

Awards for individuals and businesses are determined by a vote of all participating Charlie Awards restaurants. Food and beverage awards are determined by an online public vote and a panel of experts.

Heidi's Minneapolis restaurant closes its doors

Posted by: Lee Svitak Dean Updated: October 23, 2013 - 5:04 PM

Last week Stewart and Heidi Woodman announced they were closing their six-year-old restaurant Heidi's at the end of December. But last night's sign on their door indicated a change of plans.

Today, via a press release, they announced that the restaurant was closed immediately and gave the reason: the end of their marriage.

The press release:

After 12 years of marriage, Heidi and Stewart Woodman have mutually come to the decision to divorce. With this news, they announce today that Heidi's Minneapolis, the restaurant they created and co-owned for six years, has closed its doors.

In a statement from the Woodmans: “We kindly ask that our privacy be respected. While we’ve made the decision to end our marriage, we share the same love and commitment to our two children. Our focus is on them at this time."

Last night a flurry of tweets indicated that something was amiss given the sign that was posted on their door (see photo above), which hungry participants in Restaurant Week had stumbled upon.

A little history: Heidi's Minneapolis was an instant hit when it opened in 2007 at 50th Street and Bryant Av. in Minneapolis. After its building was destroyed by fire in 2010, the Woodmans moved the restaurant to 2903 Lyndale Av.S., where it earned a four-star review from Star Tribune critic Rick Nelson.

The culinary couple -- she's an accomplished pastry chef -- landed in Minneapolis, Heidi's hometown, in 2003, where Stewart became the first chef at Levain, which earned a four-star review under Stewart's cooking. 

The husband-wife team went on to open Five Restaurant & Street Lounge, an ambitious but short-lived effort. Their next venture together was Heidi's. They had also opened Birdhouse on Hennepin Av. S., which closed over the summer.

Heidi and Stewart Woodman in 2011 at Heidi's on Lyndale. Photo Star Tribune

Heidi and Stewart Woodman in 2011 at Heidi's on Lyndale. Photo Star Tribune

Top 25 best food memoirs

Posted by: Lee Svitak Dean Updated: October 17, 2013 - 4:23 PM

 

 

Grub Street (New York magazine's online food presence) offers its list of Top 25 food memoirs,prompted by the large number of that genre to be published this fall.

Missing from the list are the books I would put at #1 and #2. "A Day of Honey: A memoir of food, love, and war," by Annia Ciezadlo and the very recent "Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking," by Anya von Bremzen (reviewed in this week's Taste section).

What would be on your list? Remember that these are food memoirs and not cookbooks.

Here is the Grub Street list:

25. Fresh Off the Boat by Eddie Huang

24. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

23. The Devil in the Kitchen by Marco Pierre White

22. The Telling Room by Michael Paterniti

21. A Tiger in the Kitchen by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

20. The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz

19. Born Round by Frank Bruni

18. Blue Plate Special by Kate Christensen

17. The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pépin

16. Climbing the Mango Trees by Madhur Jaffrey

15. Shark's Fin & Sichuan Pepper by Fuschia Dunlop

14. Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin

13. The Raw and the Cooked by Jim Harrison

12. The Man who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten

11. Alice, Let's Eat by Calvin Trillin

10. California Dish by Jeremiah Tower

9. When French Women Cook by Madeleine Kamman

8. Heat by Bill Buford

7. Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl

6. Between Meals by A.J. Liebling

5. My Life in France by Julia Child

4. The Gastronomical Me by M.F.K. Fisher

3. Toast by Nigel Slater

2. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

1. Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT