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Michel Nischan

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  1. Rick Bayless and Burger King - Part 2

    This leads to a much more complex and [unfortunately] perpetual societal problem. It is the wages that large fast food companies pay that result in people living in housing that has either no stove or a stove that doesn't work. Strange that the econimics of their product is designed to support a treshold that allows these low wage earners to afford a junior whopper, yet they can't afford to pay rent.
  2. Rick Bayless and Burger King - Part 2

    QUOTE (hillbill @ Oct 15 2003, 12:47 PM) Is it possible to find a soda with cane sugar in a supermarket? I've been looking in my local supermarkets since I read about cane sugar vs. corn syurp here and haven't found any. I thought that perhaps one of the specialty or ethnic sodas would have cane sugar but so far everything I've checked (even the pretentious uppity-looking brands) has corn syrup. Try Steap green tea sodas. They have flavors ranging including cola, root beer, orange, respberry, key lime and lemon dew. All are based with green tea as the liquid and all are sweetened with organic evaporated cane juice. Cheers!
  3. Rick Bayless and Burger King - Part 2

    Yea... I found a couple of things a bit disingenuous: Better yet, why didn't Rick just have BK make the check out to the Frontera Foundation directly? It's not uncommon for spokespeople to do work in exchange for a donation to a worthy cause.
  4. Rick Bayless and Burger King - Part 1

    I hear you on the over-expounding of some culinarians. And there are those who use the banner for their own personal image enhancement, however, there are dozens, if not hundreds of chefs who wolk the talk in restaurants ranging from white tablecloth to diners. Chefs like Dan Barber, Wylie Dufresne, Peter Hoffman, Peter Davis, Diane Forely-Otsuka, Nora Pouillon, Floyd Cardoz, Michael Romano, etc. None of these mentioned wax overly poetic. They just do their thing. They do the normal stuff like market it on their menu, take customers on green market tours and do farmer dinners. There's nothing wrong in getting excited about or loving and celebrating food that's been prepared as close to nature as possible -- as long as you really mean it. I believe the original intent of fast food was good and spoke to the points of access you mention. It is unfortunate that this good intent, much like the original intent of harnessing the power of the split atom which now has resulted in neuclear weapons, has been used by large comapnies, governement and agribusiness to turn that access into guaranteed markets. I disagree that this change was so difficult that it transformed world business and politics. I believe that the opportunity to change to the current model proved too temptingly lucrative. There is much truth in the saying: "He who holds the food, holds the power." The current system has been acheived through a variety of well know tactics like eliminating competition (therefore choice), over-saturated marketing techniques, the ability to offer cheap food by paying un-livable wages (thus inadvertantly creating more bordeline poverty -- the kind that can afford a happy meal but can't afford an apartment with a working stove), owning agricultural trade commissions via volume purchasing presssure to ensure unsustainably low pricing, and so on. This doesn't take into account the poverty created by turning food into a global export comodity (much in support of international fast food franchising). Most poor people throughout the globe once at least squatted on some land, had chickens or goats and grew their own food. They were poor but not hungry. Enter global food politics and peasants are removed from land for corporate mining, corporate-conventional labor efficient farming, etc. Some of the result is seen in the slums of Rio, Brazilia and coutless other cities in developing nations, East and West; not to mention the elimination of millions of entry level agricultural jobs (farm hand work) which once supported areas like Apalacia. Corporate farming produces cheap french fries because the planting, growing, pest control and harvesting practices are mechanized with the sole intent of eliminating labor costs. Rotating crops, introducing predatory insects, composting are all labor intensive yet kind to the environment. It's interesting how we have taken billions out of the labor pool, only to spend the same money on water diversion, toxic waste clean-up and health care costs. All of this leaves us with the ever widening gap between rich and poor, and the poor, many of whom were once just poor, are now poor and hungry. Those who are locked into the "cheap, accessable" fast food model can afford the value meals but can't afford the health care costs that result from having no alternatives other than chips and soda. Rampant type 2 diabetes among Blacks, Native Americans, and Latinos -- especially in their children -- will soon be affecting one-in-two of these combined polulations as opposed to one-in-five of whites (real statistics). Is this worth being able to say that the poor have equal access to the quarter pounder? A messy scene brought on by what was once originally good intent. There's no question that we're all going to have to work together to see meaningful change. Groups like Chefs Collaborative, Environmental Working Group, Eco Trust, Earthpledge, The Center for Health and the Global Environment, will have to work with companies like McDondalds and BK and they eventually will feel they need to work with us. However the work needs to be pursued through meaningful threads of discussion over longer periods of time with much give and take -- all of this in an atmosphere devoid of personal financial incentive. Profits do need to be protected and it's no secret that these fast food laviathans can only survive a few changes at a time. Everyone needs to survive here. It's also no sectret that BK and McDonalds are experiencing significant backlash because of the healthcare crisis and have tried to react by cutting calories. This is useless if the calories are empty as a result of over processing. When they actually start producing a 350 calrie sandwich that's larger than four bites and will actually sustain someone for a few hours, that might be considered a step in the right direction.
  5. Rick Bayless and Burger King - Part 1

    Hello all, You may remember me from my visit as a guest on e-gullet when I was Chef at Heartbeat Restaurant at the W in NYC. I'm now writing to you as a Board Member of Chef Collaborative in response to the excellent string of discussion that's been engaged here on e-gullet regarding Chez BK and Rick Bayless. I couldn't help but notice that there are some folks who wonder where the organization stands on this issue. Chefs Collaborative is preparing a statement regarding our position on these types of endorsements and we'll have something out soon. As your discussion string indicates, this is a very complicated issue. That said; here is how I personally feel regarding this subject. My personal beliefs are: When an individual founds and/or accepts a board or other leadership position for any public organization with a set charter -- code of ethics, if you will -- I believe that individual is obligated to conduct public business both within and outside of the organization according to the standards of the charter. This holds especially true when the charter is focused on pledging support to things like small-scale local farming, organics, sustainability, and the environment; or supporting other groups with similar beliefs. Issues like the environment, supporting small farmers (most of whom struggle and desperately need support), artisan food production (there are some exceptional artisan burgers, though they are not found at BK), and wholesome food supply (again, not to be found at BK) are complex and charged with debate, however one thing is clear; nothing that BK is doing with its new sandwich program has anything to do with environmentally beneficial, wholesome, sustainable, artisanal food supply, which is what Chefs Collaborative is all about. I must say that, regardless of Rick's taking the BK gig, he remains committed to supporting small local farmers and artisan producers through a foundation he has set-up which grants tens of thousands of dollars to small, local farmers and artisan producers in the Midwest so they can afford to build greenhouses, improve field facilities, etc. What he has done and continues to do to support artisan producers and their communities in Mexico is significant and inspirational. All of this he was doing before BK and continues to do now. This unfortunate incident is a solemn example of the effects of a high-profile person's public decisions on the public who knows him, his colleagues, his peers, and even his own work. Here are my own best-guess answers to some of the questions I've seen in this thread. Will Rick's work with small, local artisans continue? Yes. Will his restaurants continue to do well? Yes. Has this damaged his credibility as a chef? Not sure. Has it damaged his credibility as a voice in the world of sustainability? Yes. Was this a mistake? For Rick, only he knows and only time will tell. I personally believe his decision to take the assignment has injured his professional credibility in a small, crucially important and growing part of the culinary world and, as a result, is distracting attention from the good things he's done and continues to do. I think it's damaging for him and, to me, makes little sense. While it's easy to be a Monday morning QB, I would have felt the same if I knew before it actually happened. The outcome of this match-up would have been an easy one to predict. It is unfortunate that Rick's good works will be perceptively lessened by this endorsement. I can also say, with exceptional personal confidence, that there is no relationship between the ideals of Chefs Collaborative and the ongoing realities of our Fast Food Nation. Thanks for the time and the excellent forum. Michel Nischan
  6. At long last. Sorry this took a while, but the questions for my session were of such great quality, it took longer to respond than originally anticipated. Thanks for your patience, Liza. The New American Farmer Initiative, or NAFI, was begun as an effort to build collaboratives of immigrant and non-immigrant farmers within a given farming community, then introduce the collaboratives to groups of chefs in nearby urban communities who then commit to buying from the farmers. There are 70K to 80K immigrant farmers currently farming land throughout the US that would have gone dormant if not for the efforts of Gus Schumacher, former Undersecretary of Agriculture during the Clinton Administration. Gus began a program that placed immigrants, with backgrounds in agronomy in their counties of origin, on the land in an effort to help stop the decline of small farms. These farmers have been working largely to provide the produce of their heritage to their ethnic communities. NAFI introduces these farmer's goods to more lucrative markets. Here's how it works to date. A "mentor" organic (preferably) farmer agrees to coordinate incoming orders from upscale restaurants. This farmer also coordinates/trains the picking, handling, packaging and timing standards to the other collaborative farmers. Orders from chefs are placed Wednesday for Friday delivery. The mentor farmer collects and consolidates the orders, then calls or faxes the orders to the other farmers. On Thursday, the farmers pick, package and deliver the products to the mentor farmer. On Friday, the mentor farmer loads the truck and delivers the produce. The result for the chefs is Greenmarket fresh, picked-to-order produce delivered to their door. Because there is a variety of farmers involved, the combined list of products available rivals the product lists of many large scale distributors. The difference is that distributors warehouse produce in order to accommodate the needs of hundreds - sometimes thousands -- of customers, while NAFI produce is picked to order. Another difference is that the full case price the chefs pay (minus a fee to the mentor farmer) goes directly to the farmers, rather than the rent, salaries and other overhead expenses incurred by large distributorships. NAFI is a small scale grass roots initiative. In a typical NAFI Chapter, 8 to 10 farmers might supply 12 to 20 restaurant accounts. This allows the chefs and farmers to establish relationships. The benefits of these relationships are custom growing opportunities, complete product traceability and authenticity, and the chefs have an opportunity to influence the growing practices of the farmers regarding organics and sustainability.
  7. Hi Steve, sorry it took so long to respond. As I mentioned, desserts are not my strong point (to put it mildly). Wendy is in the weeds and I can't nail her down (she's two bodies down). We do a half/half dessert menu. Because so many people watch what they eat to splurge on desserts, we offer half the menu as conventional - butter, cream, etc. For the others we do use the PacoJet - a real liberator, though we've never pushed it as far as figuring out how to make ice cream without dairy. We have largely featured gelati using goat's milk and cook over-ripe fruits for many of our ice creams and gelati. I have never encountered 0% fat fromage blanc (and can't wait to do so). Also do not know what lebne is. Love honeys. We use Mario Bianco rhododendron honey, tupelo honey, Hawaiian white honey, chestnut honey etc. One of my desserts (yes, mine) is freshly sliced ripe peaches or figs (slightly over-ripe actually) served on semolina bread that has been pan-toasted with great EVO, then drizzled with warm rhododendron honey. We use gelatin and, for the occasional vegan, agar-agar. All of our fruits and syrups are hand juiced. We slip every once in a while and welcome the occasional and rare hand-slap from a guest or colleague. We have yet to use coconut. We use some tropicals in the winter because our hotel mandates year-round fresh fruit. We do champagne mango, mangosteen, lychee and a few others. We also ascribe to the belief that we have a duty as culinarians to continue to express and celebrate other cultures. Sometimes I get flack from a few colleagues about using imported ingredients like our premium sushi rice from Japan, the Kumai Harvest Koshihikari. The rice comes from a co-op of family farmers and is so meticulously raised and processed, that there is nothing in our country that compares (this is true largely because our culture sees rice as a side or garnish unworthy of much attention or a higher price). The same colleagues, who criticize my rice choice as fossil fuel-intensive, will not hesitate to fly a fossil fuel propelled jet liner to Japan to experience the culture. My feeling is that there are many who do not have the luxury of time or money (or sponsor-endorsed tickets), to experience another culture. While we should be obligated to buy and cook as locally as possible, I believe we should continue to express and explore other cultures. Fruit is included in this, as there are some things that will never grow here.
  8. Did you cook for Drew?

    Drew, unfortunately, was not able to enjoy food and still shed pounds. He was in such dire straights, he had to go on a 1000 calorie a day diet. After a couple of months, he went to 1500 cals. He ate no starch of any kind. Lots of raw tuna, asparagus, sashimi, etc. He now eats at Hearbeat more regularly. He did start Heartbeat as part of an effort to change his lifestyle, but didn't start partaking until he ran into trouble. I recommend people try not to get to the point of "loose weight or die soon" to make the change. While the motivation under such circumstance is exceptional, the risks are potentially catastrophic. I say start now. Go the Atkin approach (no carbs with your protein) to drop initial pounds and definitely drop calorie consumption. Also, find something you love to do and format it to help you get more excercise. Even photography, for example, can apply. Get a good camera, put on a 20 pound pack and walk the bridges of NY to get some great pictures. The key is to burn more calories than one consumes. Hanging-out or working busily behind a desk doesn't burn calories. All the while, regardless of how many calories you cut, but excellent quality (preferably organic) foods. The stuff you do eat should be enjoyacble.
  9. Is Your Approach a Luxury?

    Is my approach luxury: As presented at the restaurant, yes – as are the cuisines of my colleagues. Cooking any upscale cuisine is generally not something the public at large can regularly afford. For those who can cook from the books of Thomas Keller, Alfred Portale, Larry Forgione, etc., my cuisine is as accessible and affordable. The spirit and basic methods are doable for many within the public at large. If someone can afford $125 for a food processor, they can surely spend $65 on a Juice Man juicer. Juicing fresh celery to finish a fish soup is not an expensive endeavor, nor is juicing a sweet potato for a sauce that would traditionally require the sweet potato along with reduced heavy cream. In short, the answer is yes and no – depending on how far you take the methodology. Genetically modified products: I see the greater yields argument as a joke when considering the well documented fact that the world is currently producing eight pounds of food per day for every living person. Poor distribution, power-mongering, corrupt regimes, and government greed are keeping these well-proven surpluses from reaching those who need it most. Our current agricultural system, which has now been adopted by developing countries, has driven peasants, who once worked the land to raise their own food, into urban slums. All this because it is profitable for corporate farms and taxing governments to evict peasants from these lands in order to produce volume crops for lucrative export. Life is cheap in many areas of our world, and the suffering of these peoples has absolutely nothing to do with agricultural yields. Give Somali peasants seeds, a small plot of land and access to water, and they will no longer be hungry nor reliant on countries half way around the world to airlift genetically engineered rice to people who have no access to the water needed to cook it. Rather than spending tens of millions on research to add beta keratin to rice, why not give the Somali peasants land, water and carrots to plant? Interestingly, Somali peasant farmers are now settling in areas like Maine and starting farms to raise the food of their heritage, sans genetic engineering. I believe some mass production models are here to stay, like convenience foods. I also believe that corporate farms will always be there. The hope lies in making the smell of the coffee strong enough to get them to change the way they treat farmers, original land owners, and the environment. For the organic movement to benefit our food system at large, corporate farming will likely have to play a role. Still, I believe our world’s governments made a mistake when they turned food into an export commodity. Problems of food supply should be solved through local agriculture with up-scale specialty products becoming the darlings of import/export. We need to be able to share our cultures without requiring people to have to travel great distances. However, this is not the current reason for mass exporting and maximizing yields. We have turned food into international currency and political clout, rather than preserving and respecting it as a basic human right to which every world citizen is entitled. We’ve turned a basic staple of life into a powerful weapon. Shame on us.
  10. I believe the method of termination or slaughter of an animal definitely has an impact on the quality of the meat. When animals are terminated under extremely stressful conditions, their bodies are loaded with adrenaline and other fiber-stressing compounds. The presence of these compounds is debated to change the process of rigor mortis in a way that negatively impacts the flavor and texture qualities of the meat. Blind taste tests have indicated distinct flavor differences favoring humanely terminated animals. Aside from this, there is the aspect of respect for the life that is taken in order to sustain the life of the taker. While the termination of an antelope by a mountain lion might be a horrific death for the antelope, humans will consume many more antelope than mountain lions. When we show mercy and respect for the life taken by choosing a more humane method, we validate our obligation as intelligent beings. I believe it should be disturbing to any human who take any life. When I was nine, I begged my grandfather and uncles to allow me to kill a chicken by ringing its neck. I had watched them do it countless times and thought it would be “cool” to do it myself. They asked me if I was sure about wanting to kill a chicken, and I didn’t hesitate to say yes. When they caught and handed me the chicken and explained the method I was to use, I was amazed at how very alive the chicken felt in my hands. Then I tried to wring its neck. No matter how hard I tried, I could not wring the chicken’s neck. It made terrible noises of suffering and flailed to the point where I could no longer hold on. My uncle or grandfather (can’t remember which) grabbed the chicken and ended its suffering. This experience profoundly effected me in a way for which I was unprepared. I was deeply disturbed and saddened that I had caused a living thing so much suffering. I never thought of anything other than humans as being truly alive until I felt the life of that chicken. I think anyone who eats meat regularly should have to personally take the life of an animal. This might result in a less cavalier attitude toward the suffering of animals under current agricultural practices. Capons: I used to love capons until I found out they were gelded. Just like castration for a capella singers or African tribal women, removing an essential part of the passionate life force of any being to increase our own pleasure is greed motivated. This is only my opinion. While humans may chose personal castration or rearrangement of their sexual life force out of vanity or sexual greed, I seriously doubt that any animal (all of which are strongly driven by true instinct) would ever agree to being castrated. A good quality whole chicken should be good enough for any of us. Fish: Like many chefs, I am struggling to catch up on issues of fish. The ocean is so large and mysterious, it will be decades before we truly understand how we have impacted the seas. If the history of our effect on everything else holds true, I bet my lottery winnings on the realization that we’ve probably done far more harm than we are aware of. I defer to Seafood Choices Alliance as they have put together a consortia of marine biologists, chefs and other experts who are far more qualified than I to determine what species are best for consumption with limited impact. I also am proud of the work of Chef’s Collaborative for taking the issue to our members and offering real solutions to the many dilemmas through the Seafood Solutions campaign. I will always favor methods of harvest that limit the destruction of habitat crucial to other species in the ocean’s food chain. I look forward to learning more about this subject. History teaches us that indigenous people of many lands successfully harvested many species that today are endangered by modern harvesting practices, which, while providing cheap seafood to the public, actually provide more profit for the trawler companies because of harvest volumes. Farmed Fish: Fish farms use the same environmentally and human health destructive techniques as factory meat farms. Fish feeds are laced with growth hormones, antibiotics, meat coloring compounds, etc., in order to achieve maximum growth yields and tonnage per acre -- just like land based factory farms. Instead of slowly leeching in to our waterways through runoff, these unnatural compounds are being directly applied to waterways, severely damaging these ecosystems and preventing the eggs of wild fish from hatching because of the silt caused by the countless tons of feed that isn’t even consumed by the fish. Whale meat: I don’t know enough about this practice to comment. Method of capture of seafood: I have only recently become aware of some of this. I understand how the dredging of scallops can be very destructive to the environment form which the scallops are harvested. Line-caught is not as indiscriminate as trawl netting. Nets don’t care what they catch and kill and, therefore, have a greater negative impact on oceanic environments. As far as the effect of harvesting methods on quality, I believe all methods of commercial fishing are violent to the fish (excluding true dive catching and spearing) and will not make a difference in eventual quality. I do believe the amount of time a boat remains on the water effects the end quality because of freshness.
  11. Thanks for asking the question ! I'm in the weekend weeds and will answer you by Tuesday.
  12. Blue Hill

    I've been using Sunnyside meats. I would love info on Skate Creek if they are more local than Virginia. Following are come long answers to your exceptional questions of yestrday. I am still getting to a few more. I'll have to post them next week as I am slammed for this weekend.
  13. Steve and Bux: I'll get back to Steve's dessert questions over the weekend as I'm gearing for a killer weekend. Regular business plus high profile events. Duckendaise sounds spectacular! In short, I suck at desserts so I have a pastry chef . We also have half of our menu as Heartbeat desserts (sans butter and cream) and the other half is titled Indulgences. We found that many people watch their diets, work-out, and follow their meds so they can reward themselves with dessert. For more specifics to Steve's great questions, I'll have to pass them on to Wendy Israel, my pasrtry chef. Have a great weekend.
  14. Fish/clam chowder

    I use corn juice. The corn juice thickens itself to choweder consistency simply by heating it. I shuk live clams into the thickened corn chowder, off the fire, being careful to see that all juice from the shell goes into the chowder. Because there is no butter or bacon fat roux masking the flavors, the small amount of clam juice from the shells and fresh clams show through. Corn and clams like each other so it;s a good match. Dice and roast the veggies you would like to add and fold them into the chowder (grill corn on the cob and slice the grilled corn off as well). Freshen it with lemon juice and tarragon.
  15. Curry

    The South Asian flavors blended with ginger.
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