Three cheers for Taste

We always work hard to make our food section the best. So it’s very gratifying when our peers take note, as they did in the recent awards competition held by the Association of Food Journalists. When pitted against the largest newspapers in the country, the Taste section won second place for Best Newspaper Food Coverage, following the Washington Post. And that’s not all. Freelancer Steve Hoffman won third place in the AFJ competition for Best Newspaper Food Feature, for his Star Tribune story on Yia Vang of Union Kitchen: “Learn how to cook Hmong from the Twin Cities master.”

Nominations open for Charlie Awards

Have a favorite chef or restaurant? Consider making a nomination for the 2019 Charlie Awards, which recognizes the local food and beverage community with 15 awards. But hurry. The deadline is Oct. 17; nominate at charliesexceptionale.com/charlies-nominations. The winners will be announced on Jan. 27, 2019.

Sam Kass visits Minneapolis

Former White House senior policy adviser and personal chef to the Obama family Sam Kass will be in Minneapolis next week for the MANOVA Global Health Summit, a health and wellness conference from the Medical Alley Association. Kass — who helped First Lady Michelle Obama with the White House kitchen garden — will be talking about healthy eating, food trends and nutrition policy. He’s also created the organic menu for Monday’s luncheon, a meal that will include pomegranate/thyme-marinated chicken breast, roasted root vegetables and butternut squash couscous over romaine and wild greens.

“Food is the intersection of some of the most pressing issues we face,” said Kass in an interview. “If we want to solve the challenges of climate change and illness, we have to change what we eat and what we grow.

“Consumers have a lot of power. They shape what companies are doing, but they are also shaped by their environment. But if you ask people to do too much too fast, it’s not practical.” He prefers the pragmatic approach: providing tools and strategies for people to be successful.

Today Kass is the founder of Trove, a company focused on transforming the health and sustainability of the food system, and he is part of Acre Venture Partners, which invests in the future of food.

Kass is the author of a new cookbook, “Eat a Little Better: Great Flavor, Good Health, Better World” (Clarkson Potter, 288 pages, $32.50), where he provides a lengthy discussion on how to improve your daily diet. He’s a big proponent of small changes that will make a difference: adding one more vegetable a day to your routine, adding whole grains and beans once more during the week, limiting beef to one fewer time per week. Incremental changes, in other words.

“Eat a little better,” he said in an interview. “So often people who talk about food and are trying to create a better food system take a very idealistic and elitist approach; it’s very utopian. Not only can they not live up to it themselves, but it also doesn’t match the reality of how people live. Therefore they feel like they can’t be successful and we lose them.

“The title of the book signals an approachable, welcoming movement. It accepts you where you are and celebrates progress, and says it’s OK to have a Twinkie. It’s to help make better choices.”

LEE SVITAK DEAN