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Category: interviews

  1. Thursday, September 11, 2014

    Inside the McDonald’s Machine

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    This post is sponsored by McDonald’s. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.

    In May, McDonald’s flew me to Chicago to visit their headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois. I sat down for 60 minutes of discussion with some of their leadership team, including the senior directors of marketing and management. McDonald’s understands that they have a polarizing brand and they are making efforts to reach out to people who have neutral or negative opinions about the company (people like me!) to engage in a dialogue. When they first approached me about potentially doing a sponsored post on my blog involving an interview with members of the leadership team, in all honesty my initial reaction was “no way.” But I thought about it a lot and decided that this could be an excellent opportunity to talk with decision-makers at the company, ask them direct questions and hear what they had to say (as well as maybe get a chance to share my thoughts around their business).

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    I feel strongly that what we do in the kitchen has a strong impact on Mother Earth. My New Year’s resolutions always involve an environmental goal that’s directly related to how our family eats. I also try to cook at home as much as I can to feed my family a nutritious and balanced diet. But guess what? We also go to McDonald’s. Not all the time, but we go. Cate doesn’t like McDonald’s and normally doesn’t order anything (she’s well-versed in the concept of monoculture farming but also does not enjoy the food). Anna and Owen, however, love McDonald’s, and it’s a special treat for them when we go. That said, on the occasions that I visit McDonald’s, questions and concerns about sustainability and our food system are constantly swirling in my head.


    When my girls found out that I was going to interview people at McDonald’s, I asked if they had any specific things they wanted me to talk about. They both said they wanted me to ask McDonald’s to please put baby carrots in the Happy Meals. I shared our family’s wish with Chef Jessica, so I’ve done my duty. Even though McDonald’s does not accept unsolicited advice – “Jane Maynard’s Requests” was not on the “How a Product Is Developed” infographic they shared with me – if baby carrots ever do appear in the Happy Meal, the girls and I are totally taking credit!

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    On to the interviews! Here are the folks that I had the chance to talk with, both in person and over the phone:

    • Justin Ransom, PhD, Senior Director, Quality Systems, Supply Chain Management
    • Erik Gonring, Manager, Global Government Relations & Public Affairs
    • Chef Jessica Foust, RDN, Director of Culinary Innovation
    • Cindy Goody, PhD, MBA, RDN, LDN, Senior Director of Nutrition
    • Darci Forrest, Senior Director Marketing, Menu Innovation Team

    In my discussion with Justin and Erik, we talked about food sustainability and supply issues, which have always been my biggest concerns with McDonald’s and other big food brands. I learned from talking with Justin and Erik that when McDonald’s looks at sourcing, there’s a triple bottom line that’s defined by three Es: ethics, environment and economics. Those three factors drive how the company sources their food. One interesting takeaway that I learned – and something that I honestly hadn’t thought about before – is that McDonald’s wants to get their food from sustainable sources, because they need those supplies to not disappear.

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    Erik gave the example of the Filet-O-Fish, an iconic McDonald’s item. At one point, the company learned that they were contributing to the depletion of the cod supply off the Atlantic coast. This problem had ethical, environmental and economic implications. McDonald’s knew they had to make a change, especially since they needed a long-term fish supply in order to continue serving the beloved sandwich. After years of work, McDonald’s USA has reached a point where all of the whitefish they use is sustainably harvested, and McDonald’s was the first national chain to serve whitefish sourced from a Marine Stewardship Council-certified sustainable fishery.

    I also inquired about organic and local sourcing. Justin said that 14,000 restaurants using local and/or organic ingredients is a challenge. Taking into account their high standards for quality, safety and consistency, McDonald’s has to minimize risk in their supply chain, which makes organic and locally sourced foods difficult to implement. I understand this on a logical level, but it’s still a concern for me. I asked Justin if he was at all optimistic that, in the future, we could source foods in more sustainable ways at this scale. Justin said he is. Honestly, I don’t know that I am, but I’m glad someone is.

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    We also discussed waste. On the customer side, I asked about recycling and compost bins in restaurants. Erik said that when there is infrastructure to support recycling and composting, typically they get on board: restaurants in cities including San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and Austin have recycling bins, and many of those markets also compost organic waste behind the counter. But he also stressed that customer behavior is the biggest challenge when implementing these systems. On the supply side, I learned that the bulk of the waste at a restaurant happens behind the counter. McDonald’s recycles their corrugate and cooking oil in many restaurants, which makes up to 40% of that behind-the-scenes waste. The company is also taking actions like phasing out polystyrene coffee cups and joining the How2Recycle label program to make it easier for customers to recycle away from the restaurant.

    The biggest takeaway from my discussion with Erik and Justin is that McDonald’s won’t compromise on their final product. The McDonald’s fry is a good example of this. Justin said that the taste of McDonald’s fries must remain consistent around the world. This means that McDonald’s only uses a handful of potato varieties from specific regions of the world. I was told that identifying new varieties is a long and arduous process and McDonald’s would never allow customers to notice a change in their fries. For me, this is a perfect example of how our demand for one specific product leads to problematic farming practices. If there were more room for variation, we wouldn’t need to farm such limited varieties of potatoes. When there is such a high demand for just a few crops, those plants are susceptible to pests, which in turn necessitates the use of either GMOs – which McDonald’s made clear that they do not use – or pesticides. Industrialized monoculture farming, where you grow un-diversified crops, doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Our demand – what we will or will not buy – directly impacts how food is grown.


    In my discussion with chef Jessica, nutritionist Cindy and marketer Darci, we talked at length about the menu, how it’s developed and efforts around nutrition. Here are four key takeaways from that discussion:

    • When a new product is rolled out, it takes anywhere from nine months to four years to develop, from conceptualization to finally being sold in restaurants.
    • McDonald’s has reformulated a long list of their ingredients, from the Big Mac bun to nuggets, to contain less sodium.
    • McDonald’s is working on a set of initiatives for their top nine and top 20 markets to be fulfilled by 2020 that include, among other things, increasing the amount of whole grains, fruits and vegetables that are served, as well as offering more salads and produce as options with meals.
    • Taste is key. McDonald’s won’t sacrifice when it comes to taste and is completely focused on serving customers what they want and will buy.

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    The Arches, a full-service McDonald’s restaurant in the corporate office building.

    A lot of the issues that I have with McDonald’s and our food system in general map back to the consumer. For instance, I asked Darci why McDonald’s peels the apples in their Happy Meals. (I really wish that the apples were not peeled so that my kids would at least have the option of eating better.) Darci explained that McDonald’s serves apples that way because it was the best balance they could find of serving a product that parents would feel good about giving their kids but also one that the kids would eat, based on testing prior to the product launch. Corporations as large as McDonald’s have a social responsibility and should take a leadership role, but purchasing power is also incredibly important when it comes to effecting change.


    So did I learn anything new through this process? Yes. Did I get some answers that weren’t completely satisfactory? Yes. Did I get some positive answers I wasn’t expecting? Yes. Could I have asked questions all day long? You bet. And do I still believe that we, the consumers, are at the root of the food system and that we can make a difference? Yes!

    A visit to the McDonald's headquarters by @janemaynard

    Let me know in the comments section below: if you could ask the McDonald’s team one question, what would it be?


  2. Friday, March 28, 2014

    My New Favorite Dishes – Q Squared NYC

    The giveaway is now closed, but please keep reading to check out this great company and read my interview with the founders!

    Today is FUN because I get to introduce you to a super cool company, share a fun interview AND do a giveaway!

    Q Squared NYC Montecito Dinnerware from @janemaynard

    Q Squared NYC recently reached out to me about working together. Now, I get a lot of emails about a lot of products everyday, but Q Squared really stood out. I clicked through and discovered a small company with really beautiful products as well as a fun story. I was super excited to find out more about them and was so happy that they got in touch with me!

    Q Squared NYC Montecito Dinnerware from @janemaynardI don’t know, guys, but these just might be my two most favorite plates ever in the history of the world. Just sayin’.

    First, before we get to anything else, just look how cute their dishes are. Q Squared sells melamine dinnerware, drinkware, flatware and great serving platters. Everything is beautifully designed and appeals to all kinds of aesthetics, from classic to modern. I am a firm believe in using beautiful things on a daily basis, plus I have kids, so beautiful dishes that are also practical? BINGO. We also love eating outside. Q Squared’s dishes really are perfect for our family!

    Q Squared NYC Montecito Dinnerware from @janemaynard

    All of the dishes you see in today’s post are from the Montecito line, which I can’t get enough of. We already have white and blue dishes in our everyday collection, so I knew that Montecito would fit right into our kitchen. The Provence blue flatware and blue tumblers also go perfectly with these dishes and I’m loving it all. You can tell that the products are high quality – nice and sturdy with a good feel. I’m ready to party!

    Q Squared NYC Montecito Dinnerware from @janemaynard

    Q Squared NYC Montecito Dinnerware from @janemaynard

    I mentioned that Q Squared has a fun story. The company is founded by a mother-daughter team, Nancy (the mom and former Glamour editor) and Alaina (the daughter). I had the chance to do a little interview with them and would love to share it with you. I especially love the story behind the inspiration for starting the company. So cute!

    Interview with Q Squared NYC founders and mother-daughter team Nancy and Alaina from @janeymaynard

    Q: What inspired you both to start a company making dinnerware? Do you love cooking or entertaining or was it just a fun way to channel your creative energy?

    The answer is a little of both, plus a third reason.  We do love cooking and entertaining, and we both feel very creative. Alaina has a critical eye for art and Nancy is a fan of fashion. The third reason, though, was not being able to find beautiful products that were practical and affordable.  After college graduation, we went shopping to set up Alaina’s first apartment. She has a very high standard aesthetically but was on a low budget. Everything we came across that had an aesthetic Alaina liked was either China or Porcelain, with the China Cabinet price tag to match – so we created our own company and products to fill that need!

    Q: Your about page says that while you have complimentary styles, they are distinct. What are Nancy and Alaina’s different styles?

    Nancy is modern and minimalistic, while Alaina is classical and ornate.  Nancy likes bold colors and Alaina likes more muted colors. Combining the two styles results in our refined look that bridges a generation gap. We like to call them generation-less.

    Q: What is your design process like?

    Alaina is the Creative Director, so the designs originate from her and her inspiration. Her inspiration comes from the past, whether it is history in general or her own personal history. Nancy’s input to the designs helps guide the collection toward what would be most widely appealing to our consumers.

    Q: Do you see yourselves moving beyond dinnerware one day?

    Yes, absolutely!  We are launching our first new product category (home fragrance!) in Summer 2014, with the continuing expansion into Fall/Winter 2014. Looking into 2015 and beyond, we will continue to introduce more home decor products, including gifts, decorative accents, textiles, etc.

    Q: What is the best part of working together?

    The synergy that we feel together, knowing that the results are bigger and grander than each of us alone. Oh and there’s always the perk of having a mom in the office (for the occasional old-fashion PB&J!)

    I hope you’ve enjoyed being introduced to this great company, its founders and their beautiful products. Good luck with the giveaway!

    This post was sponsored by Q Squared NYC. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.

    I think it’s time for a giveaway! One lucky, randomly-selected person will win 1 Large Cool Montecito Tray along with 4 Cool Montecito Tapas Plates. Here is how to enter the giveaway! (Comments must be left by Thursday, 4/3 Midnight PT.)

    The winner of the giveaway was Debbie Rough, who said, “Love this same pattern you have. Need a new tray”¦ Mine just broke!!!! Woohoo hope I am a winner” Congratulations to Debbie! You will love your items!

  3. Wednesday, October 9, 2013

    “Such a Dream.”

    Today I am going to totally embarrass myself. Yay!

    When we visited the Bosch showroom, they filmed each of the bloggers who attended, interviewing us about our new Bosch dishwashers. The videos will  play in showrooms and will be used for promotional purposes.

    So, today, the video. Yes, I’m sharing it with you. Even though I hate seeing myself on video and, like everyone, hate hearing my voice!

    The video itself isn’t all that embarrassing, but the closing quote IS. Every time I hear it, I just laugh and laugh and laugh.

    “Such a dream.”

    Such a cheeseball.

    Ah, the things I do for clean dishes. 😉

    Disclaimer: Bosch provided me with the dishwasher in exchange for reviewing the product. While they are wonderful and generous, all opinions are my own and, as always, I will share my honest opinions.

  4. Friday, July 19, 2013

    Blueberry Breakfast Salad and Why Alison Sweeney and I Should Be Besties

    A month or so ago, a company reached out to see if I could attend a fun event in Los Angeles, where I would have the chance to meet and interview Alison Sweeney. Because of the move I couldn’t go to the event. And then, the very day of that event, I received an email from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council to see if I would like to interview (you guessed it) Alison Sweeney! For real, the gods want us to be besties. Hopefully Alison gets the memo, too!

    blueberry breakfast salad |

    Our family loves blueberries, especially Miss Cate, so I was more than happy to work with the Blueberry Council and ask Alison a few questions! July is National Blueberry Month. (I think we should all eat lots of muffins to celebrate.) The council and Alison Sweeney are spreading the word about how dynamic blueberries are and how they can add energy and flavor to our daily routine. To find out more about these Little Blue Dynamos, click here to visit their website!

    blueberry breakfast salad |

    As I was poking around the blueberry website myself, I came across a recipe for a Blueberry Breakfast Salad. I was intrigued by the idea of getting greens into our breakfast routine and clicked through. The recipe for the salad dressing caught my eye and I knew I had to give it a try. People, this dressing is SO GOOD. The salad was good, too – I loved the sweet crunch of granola mixed in. However, the dressing is the real find here. It is surprisingly savory, with just a hint of sweetness from the blueberries. Nate and I had several salads this week! (See recipe below!)

    Back to my new best friend Alison. Here is our interview!

    Jane: What is your favorite savory dish that uses blueberries?

    Alison: Hands down – Blueberry Turkey Burgers! My kids love the tangy blueberry surprise, such a burst of flavor in the burger. Plus, you feel very “Master Chef” preparing them – blueberries are the secret ingredient!

    Jane: How do you fit in exercise as a busy, working mom? (I know that question seems so cliché, but I really am so curious what your techniques are!)

    Alison: You must make it a priority to take care of yourself. Put your workouts on the calendar to ensure you make time to work out. Sometimes I’ll have time for a quick run, other times I’ll be able to take a spin or yoga class. If I can’t work out, I make sure I adjust my nutrition accordingly.

    Jane: Kids will be kids…how do make sure they eat their healthy foods? (Again, sort of cliché, but would love your insight!)

    Alison: Getting my kids involved in the kitchen is really important to me because eating habits form at a young age. One of our favorite hot-summer-day activities is making smoothies. Not only are they nutritious, they’re also easy and fun. Here’s a quick and easy blueberry smoothie recipe we love.

    Here are a few more tips from Alison about kid-friendly recipes (something I am always thinking about!):

    Now, for real, go eat some muffins and put this recipe in your recipe box!

    blueberry breakfast salad |


    Blueberry Breakfast Salad
    Recipe type: Side Dish, Salad
    • Mixed, torn salad greens: 2 pounds
    • Blueberry Vinaigrette: Recipe follows
    • Fresh blueberries: 4 cups
    • Fresh orange sections or canned mandarin oranges, drained: 4 cups
    • Granola : 2 cups
    1. Toss salad greens with 1½ cups of the Blueberry Vinaigrette. Divide the dressed greens among eight large plates. Arrange ½ cup orange sections and ½ cup blueberries on top of each salad. Sprinkle each salad with ¼ cup granola. Drizzle remaining dressing on top and serve immediately.

    Blueberry Vinaigrette
    Recipe type: Salad Dressing
    • 1 cup olive oil
    • 1 cup frozen blueberries, thawed
    • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
    • 2 teaspoons minced shallot
    • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
    • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
    • ½ teaspoon paprika
    1. Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and process until mixture is smooth. Chill at least 30 minutes to blend flavors. Makes 2 cups.

    Please visit the Blueberry Council on FacebookTwitterYouTube and Pinterest for more inspiration and feel free to share how you plan to #BeDynamic this month!
    Thank you to the Blueberry Council for sponsoring this post. I was compensated for my work but, as always, all opinions are my own.

  5. Friday, June 10, 2011

    Jennifer Garner, My Almost Friend

    As a member of Martha’s Circle, I was invited to participate in an event hosted by actress Jennifer Garner for Frigidaire’s Kids’ Cooking Academy, which also supports Save the Children. Alas, the event was in upstate New York, and I’m in, you know, CALIFORNIA. I’m beginning to feel like my life is a constant 2-degrees of separation from Jennifer Garner. First my dear friend Allison got to hang out with her TWICE (you can read about her fun experiences here and here), and now this event that I was invited was, well, in New York. I have such a hard life, eh? Definitely whine-worthy. ANYWAY…since I couldn’t be there myself, I sent one of my far-flung correspondents to pretend he was me. Here’s his report (which, by the way, just made me even more sad to have missed it!):

    To tell the truth, life as a far flung correspondent really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. So when I had the opportunity to leave Manhattan on the hottest day of the year (so far) to visit a world-class restaurant and meet a celebrity, I was outtathere in a New York minute.

    First the setting: Chef Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barn is a localvore’s fever dream. Once a Rockefeller estate, the complex is now a self-sustaining organic farm where nearly everything that arrives at the table is grown practically right outside the door.

    For the event, Blue Hill’s kitchen director, chef Adam Kaye, demonstrated three farm-to-table recipes to a dozen or so kids ranging in age from 2 ½ to six or seven. As the kids worked on crispy zucchini with parmesan, a spring vegetable salad with baby peas, asparagus and edible flowers, and strawberries with mint, yogurt, and honey, Jennifer would pitch in with the demo, or stroll  along the table helping the kids out. This lady definitely knows her way around a whisk.

    THIS WEEK FOR DINNER: How did you learn to cook?

    JENNIFER GARNER: I grew up in a house where my mom cooked dinner every night, and I learned from her. I would help out sometimes, though I don’t think I was much help to her. Growing up that way makes it odd to pull something out of the freezer and put it on the table rather than a home-cooked meal.

    TWFD: Do you cook with your kids?

    JG: I do a lot of cooking with my daughter. Mornings are for baking, and she has her banana bread recipe memorized, so sometimes she’ll suggest variations, like “Let’s make it with some whole-wheat flour,” or “Let’s add some chocolate chips.”

    TWFD: What are some of your favorite recipes to make with her?

    JG: One thing is, we make pizza every Sunday. I got a great recipe for honey-wheat crust from Sarabeth’s Kitchen. And I got an ice cream maker as a gift many years ago. It’s so easy to make homemade! Sometimes I substitute the cream for whole milk. I like that you can control the fat, and just add any fruit you’ve got in the fridge for flavor. Also for dessert, I love Lucinda Scala Quinn’s Busy Day Chocolate Cake. I make a little 8” pan of it — so quick and easy.

    TWFD: As a mom, do you make sure your kids only eat homemade from scratch?

    JG: I don’t really try to restrict what they eat. I want them to know that all food is great in moderation. Some days are just junk food days!

    TWFD: How did you get started advocating for children’s causes?

    JG: I think it’s shocking that one in four kids America are at risk for hunger. It’s really a silent problem, because these kids don’t have a voice. They can’t rally in Washington. ‘Save the Children’ is doing such a wonderful job fighting hunger in the U.S., going into impoverished rural communities, providing physical activity, healthy foods, and 0-5 early-education programs. The difference these programs make in the vocabulary of these children is so impressive; it’s something you can’t ignore. And I have to hand it to Frigidaire, which has made a $500,000 commitment to ‘Save the Children.’ If other corporations made that kind of commitment, think of what we could accomplish.

    There you have it, Jennifer Garner, my almost friend. Hope you enjoyed this little interview with her…and maybe one day I’ll actually get to meet this lady! 😉

    Visit to learn more about Frigidaire’s Kids’ Cooking Academy. Every time you do, Frigidaire will donate $1 to Save the Children’s U.S. programs, and you’ll be entered for a chance to win a new Frigidaire Gallery French door refrigerator.

  6. Friday, May 14, 2010

    Interview with Mireille Guiliano…and a giveaway for “The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook”!

    This giveaway is now closed. However there is a really fun interview with Mireille Guiliano in this post, so keep reading!

    mireille guiliano headshot smallerTwo weeks ago I had the chance to do a phone interview with Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don’t Get Fat and The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook, among many other books. Mireille is a lovely person with lovely books and I was so excited for the opportunity. Not surprisingly, we had a lovely conversation! I wish you could have all had a chance to chat with her. She was friendly, sincere, kind and gracious. I’m pretty much in love and ready to do anything she tells me to do. Eat my veggies? Done!

    french women don't get fat cookbook web

    In conjunction with the interview, we are giving away two copies of Mireille’s new cookbook, The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook. Simply leave a comment on this post to enter. The book is beautiful and full of wonderful stories and recipes. Comments must be posted by Midnight, Wednesday, May 19. Two winners will be randomly selected and announced on May 20. (U.S. mailing addresses only, please.)

    On to the interview with Mireille Guiliano! (In case you’re wondering, her first name is pronounced Meer-ray, with that great French “R” sound. By the way, talking with Mireille made me want to jump on the next plance to France!)

    (>> Find out more…)

  7. Wednesday, May 5, 2010

    Interview with Jody Adams from Top Chef Masters

    JODY_ADAMS_230x508I recently had the chance to do an email interview with Chef Jody Adams, one of the chefs from Top Chef Masters. I was super excited about this opportunity because I have eaten at her restaurant and it was one of the best meals of my life! When Nate and I were pennyless newlyweds in Boston, my boss gave us a hefty gift certificate to Rialto, Jody’s restaurant in Harvard Square. We used the certificate for our anniversary and it’s a night I’ll never forget. We enjoyed our dinner for well over 3 hours (luxurious!) and every bite was perfect. It was a special night that I’ll always cherish.

    Jody is a fantastic chef who is committed to supporting local farmers and charitable work. It’s been fun watching her on Top Chef Masters…and even more fun thinking up questions to ask her directly. I hope you enjoy the interview!

    Q: The culinary world is traditionally male-dominated. Was it hard as a woman to break into the field? Has being a woman in this field been generally frustrating or empowering?

    Jody: Mercifully, the days when a woman would be excluded from a kitchen because of her sex are mostly behind us.  Even three decades ago my first restaurant job was in a kitchen under a female chef, Lydia Shire, one of the most successful chefs in Boston.  My first big step up in the game was as sous-chef, for Gorden Hamersley, who had once been Lydia’s sous-chef.  Kitchens are meritocracies; at the minimum, you have to be able to do the physical labor.  To advance, you need more than that–you need drive, ambition, talent and a willingness to push yourself outside your comfort zone.  I’m a hard worker and I knew if I could get in the door I’d have a chance.  I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve never been employed by some moron with dinosaur attitudes toward women.  That said, I think the current media tends to spin culinary culture in a way that doesn’t serve women well.  It has to do with the whole I’m-a-bad-boy-chef-cooking-with-lots-of-pork affect.  The press loves it, it makes good t.v., male cooks know it, and the public eats it up.  It’s an easy sell.  Not many female chefs enjoy playing in that arena; most of the male chefs I know don’t either.   Women are just as tough as men, we work just as hard, but what we’re about as cooks is often a little more complicated.  That means writers have to dig a little deeper, and the story’s a harder sell.  My hope for the future is  that the work I and other women chefs have done for the last 30 years will build a diverse culinary culture that moves forward toward the light rather than standing still or going backwards.

    Q: You do a wonderful job of supporting local farms at your restaurant Rialto. Given the growing importance of eating and growing locally, do you think other restaurants will adopt this practice in a timely manner? As consumers, what is the best way we can support this movement?

    Jody: The good news is that we ARE in the middle of a local food movement and chef/owners of restaurants like Rialto have been buying from local farmers for over 25 years.  We do it because the food tastes better, we are committed to supporting and possibly saving farms and because we can.  But not everyone has access to local food, and making sweeping statements about what consumers, in the broad general sense, should be doing is something I like to be careful about.  We as a members of the American community that eats food, that would be all of us, should do everything we can to ensure that all members of the community have access to fresh local healthy food.  People like Michael Pollan, Anne Cooper, Mark Bittman, Jamie Oliver and of course, Alice Waters are not quiet about this.

    So on the personal direct level, I say, buy from local farms and producers, support chefs and restaurants that do the same and enjoy it!

    On a community level–and this is going to be political–educate yourself about school lunches, urban food deserts, portion sizes, industrial food, government subsidies.  Recognize that these problems are ours and belong to our community and are therefore ours to fix.

    Q: We know you can’t give any spoiler alerts, so without getting too detailed, what has been your favorite part of being on Top Chef Masters?

    Jody: Finding out how much fun it was.  I was scared going into it–no support staff, no “do-overs,” none of the second chances I’d get in my own kitchen.  But my competition and I shared an enormous amount of mutual respect.  In some cases we’ve cooked at each other’s restaurants or worked fund-raisers together.  Although each of us was trying to win, there was a kind of we’re-all-in-the-same-leaky-lifeboat camaraderie, so it ended up being fun, everyone in the same kitchen cooking for their lives.

    Q: Any fun kitchen tips for at-home cooks?

    Jody: Buy one really good knife–it’s an investment in your culinary life–and learn how to use it.  Here’s my cheap tip: get a Microplane–what it can do with garlic alone is worth many times the twelve or fifteen dollars it will cost you.

    Q: One final quick question I have to ask…it’s fast, but maybe impossible to answer! What is your favorite food?

    Jody: It depends on the time of the year and the circumstances.  A lot of what I love about particular foods is the way they evoke people and circumstances with whom I’ve eaten them, and I like calling up those feelings whenever I can.  Down at the Cape where I spend time with my family every August, my favorite food is striped bass or bluefish, fresh out of the water, grilled at a picnic with friends, accompanied by local corn and tomatoes.  On Christmas, it would be roast goose, followed by my mother’s plum pudding, and then a couple of days later, goose and cranberry risotto we’ve made from at my sister’s house from leftovers.

    Be sure to check out Top Chef Masters Wednesday nights. And here are a few recipes from Jody!

  8. Monday, April 28, 2008

    Guest Blogger: Paul Lowe, Food & Interior Stylist

    I am so excited about today’s Guest Blogger! Paul Lowe, author of the fab blog sweet paul, is a food and interior stylist in New York City. He is super creative and talented as well as a fellow chocoholic. I love his blog and am intrigued by his job…and he’s agreed to give us a sneak peek into his world!

    Paul is originally from Norway and is doing some great work here in the States. He has several beautiful books, works with some amazing photographers and magazines, and even does cool things like style for Katie Lee Joel’s cookbook…and then hang out with her husband Billy during the shoot (yes, THAT Katie Lee & Billy)! Anyway, I wish Paul lived with me so he could style for my blog, but alas, I must enjoy his talent from afar. Without further ado…here’s Paul!

    Guess the whole “making things pretty” gene runs in the family.

    My grandmother was a great cook and my mother has always had very good taste when it comes to decorating. With this mix of genes running in my blood, it’s no wonder I became a food and prop stylist. I have been doing this for about 16 years now and am loving every minute of it.

    So why not become a chef or a decorator?

    I have always enjoyed being able to tell a story without having to use words. And I find that photography is the perfect media to do this with. I also think I have a different approach to my work than others in the same field. I do both the food and the props. Usually people do one or the other, not both. I really enjoy doing both. I like to be in control of the whole thing and love to mix food, interiors and craft, all in one story. I really hate putting food on an ugly plate!

    I start by choosing a theme – it can be an ingredient, a color, a material. A while back I did a story for the Norwegian magazine Interiormagasinet. I wanted to make knitted tea cosys. But I can’t knit. So, I bought a white woolen sweater and made a lot of props with the sweater and a hot glue gun.

    When I start on a story I decide on colors, props, etc. Then I go prophunting. New York is good for props as there are a lot of great prop rental places. You can find amazing things there. I pick out the props I want to use, then find surfaces and backgrounds.

    I also usually make my own recipes. I love to go food shopping. Whole Foods is my favorite. They usually have everything I need. Farmers markets are also a great place to find stuff.

    The morning of the shoot, I drag all my bags to the studio and start unpacking props and food. I always have an assistant to help me. He or she will prep all the food and I will put it together.

    When I do the set up I always think about where the camera will be, what angle, etc. I don’t do too much ”˜hokus pokus’ with the food, maybe just a little extra oil or a spritz of water.

    We always eat the food for lunch. Sometimes that can be quite a spread! Afterwards we pack up the props, do the dishes and go home.

    It’s a great job!

    I’ll leave you with a few more images* from my portfolio.

    (Click here for the recipe for this lovely egg)

    *Photos by Colin Cooke, Ellen Silverman and Steve Giralt.