James Beard Foundation

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Firstly, let me apologize for such a lull in blog posts. As President of the Friends of USA Pavilion at EXPO Milano 2015, I have had my hands full. The Pavilion is so exciting that I just have share the developments. For those of you who might not be familiar with EXPO Milano 2015, there will be a World’s Fair (EXPO) in Milan from May 2015 through October 31 2015. Six months of wonder.

USA Pavilion rendering James Biber Architects

The theme is “Feeding the Planet; Energy for Life.” Over 140 countries will participate. We have all been challenged with the daunting task of how we will responsibly feed the planet when our population explodes to 9 billion people. If we continue to produce, consume and waste food at our present rate, we will not only not have enough food but won’t have enough energy to produce the food. Climate change and dwindling natural resources like fresh water also will add to the dilemma. Each participating country will take a stab at demonstrating how to meet and solve these challenges.

The USA Pavilion theme, American Food 2.0 will highlight some of our greatest thinkers on the subject. ICC’s grad Dan Barber will speak to his Third Plate, and Dean Cesare Casella will be cooking at the JBF House Milano. Architect Jim Biber of Biber Architects has designed  a beautiful and transformative building: it is a true vertical farm. Thinc, the exhibits firm that designed and programmed the 9/11 Museum, will be designing our exhibits.

Harvesting the vertical farm, rendering James Biber Architects

The USA Pavilion will be three floors. The roof will serve as a bar/garden and communal meeting place. The middle floor is a boardwalk, boardwalks have historically been an avenues of food and community, and fun too! We were able to purchase the actual Coney Island boardwalk after Hurricane Sandy. That floor will have exciting stations speaking to the pressing issues, highlighting various points of view on how to solve them and introduce American personalities and institutions that will play key roles in solving the problems. The ground floor will be a visual delight of the great American foodscape from barbecue to immigrant food to Thanksgiving dinner.

Whew! If you are at all interested in food and the future, you must plan on visiting. This World’s Fair will be a benchmark in the history of EXPOs and will rival the best. We at ICC are proud and honored to be a part of it. Please visit USA Pavilion:American Food 2.0 website for information, social media and updates.

Roof Deck rendering James Biber Architects

A warm human touch will be the 120 student ambassadors who will serve as guides and docents. They will be bi-lingual and speak a polyglot of languages. These students are being recruited from colleges all over the country and trained by the University of Southern California.

We will also have a space across from our Pavilion that will contain food trucks. We will be showcasing American food in its diversity and deliciousness. Everything from lobster rolls to fried clams. Hamburgers to tacos. We want to bring the great bounty of American regionalism to our Pavilion and introduce the 25-30 million EXPO visitors to the real deliciousness of American cuisine.

Outside the walls of the Pavilion and the EXPO itself, we will infuse a bit of the States in the city of Milan itself. The Mayor of Milan, Guiliano Pisapia  graciously visited the ICC and is excited to welcome us to his city to showcase our top chefs and to liven the piazzas around the city with American outdoor eating events. Tailgating anyone? Also in the city we will hold TED-like talks (Beard Chats) and panel discussions to hear from a myriad of experts on the various ways we can overcome the big issues. Last but not least, we will run a James Beard House in central Milan and showcase the best and brightest chefs from the USA.

Scenes from December Milan and site visit, with Amb Reeker and, at the site with Mitchell Davis

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Dorothy with JBF President Susan Ungaro, JBF Chair Emiritus and Treasurer, Woody Campbell and JBF Chair Emily Luchetti

Yes, this month The State Department initiated a new program in conjunction with The James Beard Foundation to utilize chefs as culinary Ambassadors abroad.I was invited to attend the inaugural ceremony in Washington D.C. in the illustrious Ben Franklin room at the State Department headquarters. It seemed that many of the great American chefs were in attendance. And yes, our Deans Emily Lucchetti, who is also the Chairman of The James Beard Foundation, and Jose Andres were in attendance. We ate, and drank and pinched ourselves to think that finally a government has recognized the power of food in diplomacy. Listen to White House Chef, Sam Kass, speak about the program.

 

Jose Andres, far right at the presentation

Sauntering through the historic rooms enroute to the Ben Franklin suite, there were exhibitions of Presidential china as well as a note from Queen Elizabeth II to Ronald Reagan. Evidently, he wanted her scone reicpe! Here it is in her own regal handwriting. If you try it, let me know how you liked them. We can send her a grade!

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Guy Savoy

Guy Savoy

It is nerve wracking to have classically trained chefs descend on The French Culinary Institute but when the Michelin stars start rolling in from France for a traditional dinner even the most talented are a bit edgy. The FCI had been asked by the James Beard Foundation to host/cook a family type dinner for the top French chefs coming in to star at the annual auction.  Why not feed them some typical American fare? Take the edge off. No, we went right for the French jugular. Salad Lyonnaise, Choucroute Garnie and Tarte Tatin. The occasion gets more nerve wracking. In addition to the roster of these culinary masters of the universe, The JBF people invited James Oseland from Saveur, Dana Cowin from Food and Wine, Gillian Duffy from New York magazine and Mari Uyehara from Time Out New York as well as the President and Vice President of JBF, Susan Ungaro and Mitchell Davis.  Oh and how about the top food critic from Paris, Benedict Beauge?

Gillian Duffy, Benedict Beauge

Francois Payard, Mitchell Davis

To my mind though, the most intimidating feat was to pull off a superb choucroute for our own Andre Soltner, Mr. Alsace himself. Before the dinner started I and Andre had the opportunity to tour Guy Savoy around the school. What an amiable fellow! Since he has six restaurants on three continents I asked him if he felt more like a chef, an entrepreneur or a business man. He answered with a small smile, “a cook!” As we walked through the school which I will point out is usually spotless Chef Savoy spied some paper on the floor (I didn’t even see it!) He swooped down and picked it up! His respect for the kitchen was inspirational.

Touring with Andre and Guy

Guy Savoy, Dana Cowin

We circled back to the dinner and I was seated between Chef Savoy and Dana Cowin, Food & Wine’s Editor-in-Chief. The Salad Lyonnaise arrived. The poached egg looked, well dirty. Of course it wasn’t. After being taken out of a water circulator at the perfect temperature it was bathed in red wine. The egg was delicious. the wine wash gave it a hint of acidity. To my eye I actually thought the egg was cooked a little too long since it wasn’t very runny. I was told by Chef Savoy however that it was exactly how it should be, gooey more than runny.

On to the choucroute! Chef Alain Sailhac proudly told us that this was a truly artisanal choucroute. Every ingredient was made from scratch. The sauerkraut and the charcuterie of garlic sausage, frankfurter, bratwurst, smoked pork loin and smoked bacon was made by our own Chef Pascal Beric, even the beer was made by Chef Lisa LaCorte from our a la carte team. The Tarte Tatin was buttery, caramelized and simply scrumptious.

Guy Savoy unprovoked started exclaiming, “3 Stars! 3 Stars!” as he rushed into the kitchen to congratulate our chefs and students…it can’t get better than that!

Pascal Beric, Guy, Andre, Herve Malivert

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There is a wonderful ongoing program at The James Beard House, Beard on Books.  I was invited to participate and read from Love What You Do.  It was my very first chance to speak about the book.  I must say it is a little intimidating as an author to stand under the gaze of the almighty Jim Beard and speak about my little book.  I did meet Jim Beard back in the eighties.  He was a supportive and kind man, so my intimidation was tempered by knowing he loved helping new people get into an industry he loved.

He also would have loved the wonderful and diverse crowd of people…all ages and backgrounds.  So many people are interested in getting into the culinary field.  Afterwards, I had time to sign books and speak with the audience.  The common denominator was most people are multitalented.  Their present lives incorporate skills such as managing, writing, teaching etc.  I was happy to brainstorm how those skills could be incorporated into a new culinary position.  I hope at least some of them take the leap.  As I say all the time,  life is too short not to do what you love!

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