Old Ways, New Orleans

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

Guest Blogger: Eliza Loehr

New Orleans is a city surrounded by expectations. Visitors from around the world arrive expecting to see a city devastated by a storm, overwhelmed with revelers on Bourbon St., or bursting at the seams with its acclaimed cuisine.

On a recent visit, while harboring all of these expectations, I became fixated on one; what is the true New Orleans cuisine? I naively asked my aunt, a native of the Crescent City, this question. Raising her eyebrows, she paused before answering, “What do you think New Orleans food is?” What did I think New Orleans food was? Is it a refined etouffée? A rustic crawfish boil? What about the famous Po-Boy that can be filled with anything from meatballs to fried oysters? The truth, of course, is that it’s all of these things. It also happens to be very divided. Although an outsider has a hard time telling the difference between Cajun and Creole, the rift runs deep in southern Louisiana. While Creole was born in the city and Cajun in the country, the distinction seemed (to a New Yorker like me) to have more to do with the difference in dining experience than the difference in ingredients.

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The deep history is clear from the moment you walk up to the teal blue and white striped awning of Commander’s Palace set in the quintessentially southern Garden District. We are guided through multiple, stunning dining rooms and ultimately land in what feels like the most elegant tree house in the world. The floor-to-ceiling glass walls showcase the deeply established trees that surround you. “Turtle Soup (takes three days to make!)”, reads the menu. Yup, we’ll take one of those! A seafood gumbo with an unparalleled depth of flavor is up next, followed by a perfectly caramelized crème brûlée topped with a powdered sugar fleur-de-lys that brought us back to the Creole youth we never had. While the 25-cent martinis initially felt out of place, the price seemed to suit the timeless feeling of the place. Out of the window to our right, chefs sit in the garden to plan the next day’s specials. To our left, three generations of a New Orleanian family dine on Creole Crawfish and Succotash. In the kitchen, the James Beard Award-winning chef, Tory McPhail, is teaching young chefs the lessons he’s learned over twenty years spent in this palace. Time stops here. Expectations are exceeded here. This is New Orleans, I think to myself.

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Cajun

Time does not stop in Cajun country. In fact, you can’t even count on the ground you’re standing on to be there in a few weeks. Katrina hit hard in this area, but global warming is hitting much harder. The Louisiana coastline is disappearing at the rate of a football field per hour. What you can count on, thankfully, is finding a crawfish boil within a mile of anywhere. Just outside of New Orleans’ city center, we found ourselves a roadside crawfish boil served straight out of a canoe. The carnal pleasure of twisting open spicy, tangy crawfish after crawfish is invigorating. The $1.25 beer doesn’t hurt, either. What do you do with the massive pile of shells? Toss them in the bayou, of course. The alligators will eat them. You think, ‘This is New Orleans’. But then you remember you just had that same thought, during a wildly different experience. New Orleans is, it turns out, whatever you expect to find there.

The Many Reasons to Love Dining in Philadelphia

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

By Guest Blogger, Keri Fisher, C-CAP Program Coordinator, Philadelphia Region

Last year, The New York Times published a list of “52 Places to Go in 2015.” There at number three, just after Milan and Cuba but before Yellowstone National Park, was Philadelphia.

Philadelphia, whose own tourism ad features a giant cheesesteak battling a giant Ben Franklin.

Philadelphia, where the statue erected on the steps of the Art Museum was not a Rodin or Da Vinci, but a life-size replica of Rocky Balboa.

Philadelphia, where sports fans allegedly steal prosthetic legs from visiting fans and pelt Santa Claus with snowballs.

But Philadelphia is so much more than passionate sports fans and cheesesteaks. And if locals rally behind a fictional character who literally fought his way to the top, who can blame them? For too long Philadelphia sat in New York City’s shadow, and nowhere was this more apparent than in the food scene.

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It used to be that the only foods associated with Philadelphia were cheesesteaks and soft pretzels. But today, Philadelphia is a melting pot of cooking styles and cuisines that would make the most diehard foodies salivate. In fact, when Tom Sietsema, food critic for The Washington Post, set out to find the top ten food cities in America, he ranked Philadelphia number 6, three spots above his beloved D.C. New York didn’t even make the list.

Not that it’s a competition. Philadelphia’s thriving food truck scene and liberal BYOB policies make good food and fine dining within reach.

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Last fall C-CAP was fortunate to be able to partner with a Philadelphia foodie institution, Reading Terminal Market, for an after-school job training program. There you will find not only the real sandwich star of Philly – DiNic’s roast pork with broccoli rabe and provolone – you’ll also find handmade cheese and ice cream and donuts, fill-to-order cannoli and, rather unfortunately, Flying Monkey’s Pumpple Cake, featuring a chocolate cake layer with a pumpkin pie baked inside and a vanilla cake layer filled with apple pie.

Pumpple aside, we are thrilled to be able to expose our students to such a varied and vibrant culinary scene, from the iconic French Jean Marie Lacroix to the cutting edge Christopher Kearse of Will BYOB. And as our students and alumni work their way up the ranks with chefs like Jose Garces and Kevin Sbraga, we are confident that they will continue to keep Philadelphia on top. (Cue the Rocky theme.)

 

Top Ways to Reduce Waste in YOUR Kitchen

Monday, April 4th, 2016

The average household wastes up to $2,200 each year in discarded food. With an average income of around $50,000 in the U.S., this means 4% of our income is going directly into our trashcans. Globally, we waste 1.3 billion tons of food every single year. That’s equal to an astounding one-third of all food that is produced. What makes this even more shocking is that one in seven Americans and nearly 800 million people globally have food insecurity. Food waste is one of the biggest issues facing our planet, and one of the biggest opportunities for change. If we can reduce food waste by just one quarter, we would be able to feed every single one of the seven billion people who live on this earth. Whether looking at it from an economic, environmental, political or ethical standpoint, we can all come together around the fact that something needs to change. The good news is, in about five minutes you can learn how to drastically reduce your personal contribution to global food waste.

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Expiration Date

As connections with farms and local sources of meat and produce began to disappear in the 1950s due to industrialization , consumers wanted to know how fresh was their food. Thus, the expiration date was born. These dates are not meant to be a statement about food safety. The safeness of a food is much more dependent on how that food is stored than on its expiration date. Food not kept properly can easily go bad before an expiration date, and far too often food is completely safe to eat beyond its expiration date.

The Power of the Freezer

Freezers aren’t just for frozen pizzas. If you have leftover milk, bread or hard cheeses, put them in the freezer before they turn. Leftover herbs, garlic and ginger can be popped in an ice tray with olive oil or butter. The next time you start cooking, toss one of the herb cubes in the pan for extra flavor. Making large batches of meals and freezing them in single portions can be a great way to have a healthier, cheaper and waste-free quick meal on the ready. Your freezer can also be a great storage space for that extra squash from your Community Share Agriculture allotment you couldn’t quite finish or those half-full jars of pesto or curry paste.

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Be Realistic When Shopping

A great rule of thumb to ask yourself before you hit the check out line is when exactly you’ll be using all of the ingredients in your cart. If you can’t think of a time, and it’s a perishable item, hold off on that purchase. Bulk non-perishable items such as rice and dried beans are always a good thing to keep around. If you know you have a busy week and won’t be able to cook much, factor that into how many perishable items you buy.

Storage Is Everything

To maximize the time before your food turns, use these tips:

  • Do not leave meat or dairy products out (between 40 -140 degrees) for more than four hours.
  • Store your eggs in the fridge. If you’re not sure an egg is still good, put it in a bowl with water. If it sinks, it’s good. If it sinks but stands on its point, use it soon. If it floats, throw it out.
  • Many vegetables, including all alliums (onions, garlic, shallots) as well as all types of squash and potatoes last much longer in a cool, dry place.
  • Certain fruits such as bananas, citrus and melons should be left out on the counter.
  • Bread should be left out for two days before putting in the freezer.
  • For dry goods, keep them away from light, heat and air as best as possible.

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Here’s to reducing your personal food waste!

 

Mix it up LA!

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

By guest blogger Lorri Wressell, Career Advisor and Event Planner, C-CAP Los Angeles

On March 14th, C-CAP presented a screening of City of Gold in Los Angeles. Laura Gabbert’s documentary about the Pulitzer Prize-winning LA Times food critic, Jonathan Gold, shows us the rich and ethnically diverse textures, colors and flavors of the food and people in Los Angeles.

A reception was held before the screening, which included amazing and diverse delights such as Pork Tostaditas from Border Grill, six different types of perfect oysters from Michael Cimarusti’s new restaurant Cape Seafood and Provisions (Fun fact: Chef Cimarusti’s other restaurant, Providence, is Jonathan Gold‘s FAVORITE in LA according to his annual 101 top restaurants guide), and West Coast Prime Meats grilled filet mignon sliders with blue cheese and caramelized onions on a brioche bun. Melissa’s Produce provided the fruit and crudité, and Spago Beverly Hills created an Asian-inspired dessert. Our amazing food was perfectly paired with local beers from El Segundo and Smog City and wines from Wine Exchange!

City of Gold Blog Collage

Some of the proceeds of the benefit will go to the City of Gold special scholarship, which will be presented on May 2nd at our awards ceremony at the Downtown Jonathan Club by Mr. Gold himself!

Evan Kleiman treated us to a Q&A with Mr. Gold and Ms. Gabbert after the movie screening, and C-CAP students excitedly thanked our guests by giving each of them a copy of the documentary Pressure Cooker!

Check out our social media links below to see more and to join the non-stop excitement in Los Angeles!

https://www.facebook.com/CCAPLA/

https://twitter.com/ccaplosangeles

THANK YOU!

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

A HUGE thanks to everyone who made this year’s C-CAP Annual Benefit such a fantastic evening!!

Against a backdrop of the Hudson River at Pier Sixty, we rounded up over forty of New York’s finest chefs, assisted for the evening by our very own C-CAP students and alumni serving up the best cuisine this fine city has to offer! This year, we honored Chef Daniel Humm of highly regarded Eleven Madison Park and the NoMad for his dedication to culinary excellence and his commitment to mentoring and educating the next generation of culinary professionals.

Highlights of the evening included dishes like Chantrelle, Sencha, and Dashi by Bryce Shuman of Betony; Verjus marinated Diver Scallops, Fresno Chili, Daikon and Buddha Hand by Gabriel Kreuther of Gabriel Kreuther; Peekytoe Crab Dumpling with Gae Jang sauce by Cedric Vongerichten of Perry Street; and Warm Poached Egg with Black Truffle by Abram Bissell of The Modern. Cooking alongside these all-star chefs were more than 60 New York City C-CAP high school culinary students and alumni.

As an exciting update, the night after the benefit, alumni speaker Amar Santana fought his way back into the Top Chef finale!

The evening raised over $1.2 M for our programs, for which we are truly grateful. Once again, thank you, to all of our amazing students, past and present, the hugely talented chefs who took part and to everyone who gave their time and generous contributions to ensure C-CAP can continue its work of transforming lives through the culinary arts! If you missed the benefit and want to contribute to our mission, click here.

Daniel.RG

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C-CAP Chicago shows its stuff!

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

By C-CAP Guest blogger Nicola Copeland, Chicago Program Coordinator

This last week C-CAP Chicago 2016 Scholarship Finalists participated in the International Home and Housewares Show in partnership with Harold Import Company. For the last 9 years (with the help of Christopher Williams, 2006 C-CAP Alumni and his mother Stephanie McBlackwell), Chicago finalists and program alumni have demoed omelets, pasta and stir-fry’s featuring recipes from Chef Helen Chen and smallwares from the Harold Import Company product line.

UntitledL to R: Daneka Kelley, Dechant Kemp, Jennifer Ramirez, Francisco Santiago, Christopher Williams (back), Unique Parker

The finalists had a great time sharing their culinary and education goals with the show’s attendees, wowing them with their French Omelet skills and sharing how C-CAP has changed their lives!

UntitledL to R: Devlon James, Josephine Dyer (Harold Import Company), Chloe Gould, Symphony Palmore

Stay tuned!

The Blue Story of the Green Holiday

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

Guest Poster: Eliza Loehr, C-CAP’s Office Manager

When I think of St. Patrick’s Day, I think of green tinted beer and bagels, corned beef and cabbage, and parades. But are these things Irish? Not quite. The history of this divide begins with the infamous Irish Potato Famine of the mid-1800s. While the Irish were producing tons of food for their neighboring country, their own access to food was extremely limited. Over the course of just six years of the famine, at least 1 million Irish people died. This is in a country with a population of under 5 million today. Another 1.5 to 2 million were forced to flee, and a large portion of them ended up in the United States. Unfortunately, those that stayed behind were forced to turn to desperate measures in order to survive. “People were so deprived of food that they resorted to eating grass,” Irish historian Christine Kinealy explained to NPR’s The Salt. “In Irish folk memory, they talk about people’s mouths being green as they died.” It’s not hard to imagine why the image of green-tinged mouths that come from green-dyed cookies and beer may make some Irish cringe.

Green tinted food, however, is not the only St. Patrick’s day tradition that doesn’t quite hail from the motherland. Corned beef and cabbage only became popular among the Irish once those who landed in NYC picked up the flavors from Jewish cuisine.

As more and more American tourists have made their way over to the Emerald Isle for the holiday, the Irish-American traditions have followed. Many pubs in Ireland will now serve the green tinted beer and corned beef and cabbage so dear to the hearts of stateside St. Patrick’s day lovers.

For a more authentic holiday, we’ve included a true Irish Lamb Stew recipe that is simple to create and absolutely delicious.

Irish Lamb Stew
Serves 6-8
In this recipe, lamb shoulder is simmered and then slowly baked to produce perfect, falling apart pieces. Aromatic herbs and mirepoix give the stew a great depth of flavor and sweetness.

Ingredients
3 lb. boneless lamb stew meat (preferably from the neck and shoulder), cut into 1″ pieces
2 tbsp. canola oil
2 lb. russet or red potatoes, peeled and cut crosswise into thirds
2 tbsp. parsley – roughly chopped
4 carrots, halved crosswise and then cut into large pieces
3 parsnips, halved crosswise and then cut into large pieces
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 1⁄2 cups fresh or frozen peas
2 cups stock (beef or lamb preferable) or water

Instructions
Heat oven to 250°. In a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium-high until the oil is dancing in the pan. While you wait for the pan to heat up, toss the lamb in salt and pepper. Once hot, add the lamb to the pan and brown on all sides.

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Remove and set aside. In the same pan, add the carrots, parsnips, onions, salt, pepper. Sauté the vegetables until slightly soft then transfer to an 8-qt. Dutch oven along with the lamb.

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Add the potatoes to the pot along with 2 cups of stock or water and bring to a simmer. Transfer to oven and bake, covered, until lamb is just tender, about 2 hours. Stir in peas; continue to bake, covered, until lamb is very tender, about 30 minutes more. Let sit 20 minutes before serving. Add parsley just before serving.

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Pressure Cooker and Competition Season

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

It’s that time of year again…C-CAP students across the country are working diligently to prepare for the final round of our Competition for Scholarships.

From now until the end of May, students in all seven C-CAP locations will be perfecting their knife cuts, honing their tourne skills and practicing their recipes in hopes of winning a coveted scholarship to continue their culinary education. The competition is fierce, but our students are up for the challenge!

Ever since Pressure Cooker was released in 2008, C-CAP teachers have been showing the film to their students at the beginning of each year, to motivate them and give them a roadmap for success in the competitions for scholarships. Students and alumni tell us that seeing the film, which was directed by Jennifer Grausman and Mark Becker, makes them understand that they are in similar circumstances. They say: “I am like the students in the film and I can do it too.” Knowing what you have to do to succeed in the demanding competitions gives many students the confidence to enter.

What a thrill it was for Jennifer and Mark to be invited to screen their film for an international audience at last year’s Expo Milan in Milan, Italy, whose theme was Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life. And it was a special honor for the film’s screening to coincide with the visit of Secretary of State John Kerry.

Pressure Cooker Collage

Leave it to our founder, Richard Grausman, not to miss an opportunity to spread the word about C-CAP. Richard joined the directors of the film to participate in a Q&A after the screening. Jennifer and Richard also spoke to visitors at the US Pavilion the next day about C-CAP and how this U.S program, since its founding, has affected the lives of over two hundred thousand high school students across the country.

For more advice and inspiration for students going into competition, check out last year’s blog post here with words of wisdom from past scholarship recipients.

An End to Rubber Chicken Events!

Thursday, February 18th, 2016

Guest blogger: Eliza Loehr, C-CAP’s Office Manager

The windowless ballroom filled with hundreds of bored executives pushing their too-firm-to-cut chicken breast around on their plate…we’ve all been there. From a kitchen perspective, we get it. It’s nearly impossible to churn out hundreds of the same dish and keep them all fresh, hot and delicious. So why do it? We know that our supporters care about good food and having a good time, so we’ve invited 43 of New York City’s finest chefs to come to beautiful Pier Sixty and show off their best dishes at this walk-around event that has been called the best food event in New York. This year will be a fabulous evening, starting with a chef list that will make you drool (see below). Our illustrious honoree is chef, restaurateur and author Daniel Humm, of Eleven Madison Park and The NoMad. His elegant cuisine has received some of the highest praise there is, including three Michelin stars, a Zagat rating of 28 and a no. 5 rank in the San Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurant list!

Our live and silent auctions are amazing this year. We will be auctioning off a unique tasting dinner for 32 prepared by Chef Daniel Humm (EMP and The NoMad), Chef Chris Flint (EMP), Chef James Kent (The NoMad), Chef Bryce Shuman (Betony), Chef Lee Wolen (Boka), Chef Abram Bissell (The Modern) and Chef Mark Welker (EMP and The NoMad), paired with fine wines in the private room at Eleven Madison Park. We’ll give you a second to let that sink in…

Next up, our Board Co-Chair and beloved internationally acclaimed chef, restaurateur and author Marcus Samuelsson will be cooking an incredible private dinner for you and thirteen guests in your home! For our travel-loving guests, we’re offering an extravagant trip to Switzerland, curated by Chef Daniel Humm, and a premier trip to India’s famous Taj Resorts and Hotelswww.tajhotels.com. For the true culinarians, a lucky couple will have the chance to share a meal at Café Boulud with the legendary Jacques Pepin prepared by C-CAP alum Executive Sous Chef Cesar Gutierrez and Executive Chef Aaron Bludorn.

The C-CAP Benefit is open to the public but is filling up very quickly! Click here for tickets. For more information visit www.ccapinc.org or call 212-974-7111. Read on for our unbelievable chef list!

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Kudos to Kajitsu’s Kaiseki Cuisine

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

By guest blogger: Jill Turner Lloyd, C-CAP’s Director of Development

The new year brings a renewed commitment to health and fitness, but once we get to February 9th, a.k.a. “the fitness cliff” so many people lose focus. Well, I took it upon myself to re-focus my attention on healthy eating on February 10th when I had the good fortune of attending a fundraising evening hosted by the C-CAP Junior Board at Kajitsu. Kajitsu Executive Chef, Hiroki Odo (who happens to be a Michelin-starred chef) provided a Kaiseki Tasting Dinner that was a feast for the senses.

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Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. The style of cuisine is derived from cha-kaiseki cuisine, which is a simple meal that the host of a tea ceremony serves to guests before a ceremonial tea. The eight-course vegetarian meal was not at all simple in my book. It was incredible and introduced me to kanpyo, mitsuba, konnyaku, mizuna, kurochichimi and so many other ingredients. The experience certainly piqued my interest in this flavorful, aromatic and beautiful Japanese cuisine that is prepared using the freshest seasonal ingredients.

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While enjoying the sumptuous courses, I was also sipping sakes generously donated from the Hakkaisan Sake Brewery that had been paired with the courses by Sake Samurai Timothy Sullivan. The Hakkaisan Brewery is situated at the foot of Mount Hakkai in Niigata, and the spring water that flows from the mountain is used to produce the sake. The Brewery produces in small batches, using water, yeast, sake rise and koji.

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Our group was served four kinds of sake: Tokubetsu Junmai; Junmai Ginjo; Tokubetsu Honjozo; and Sparkling Nigori. Our knowledgeable Sake Samurai, Timothy Sullivan, explained each sake pairing to the group, and helpfully floated around each table throughout the night to answer any and all questions we had about sake. I learned to look for four things: rice milling percentage; acidity; alcohol content; and sake meter value, which denotes sweetness or dryness (higher is drier and less sweet). Who knew that this “drink of the gods” could be so delicious and so varied! By the way, our guests who enjoyed the very generous pours are reporting that they do not have a headache the next day!

The folks at Korin helped make this fabulous tasting happen, and donated generous gift cards to each guest and an incredible knife to a lucky raffle winner. I am really grateful that I had this wonderful experience with such a lively, fun group of people! Don’t believe me? Check out the photos from the evening!

 

Stay tuned…

 

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