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Behind the Plate

BEHIND THE PLATE: REBECCA SPARKS

April 15, 2016

behind_the_plate_rebecca_sparks

 

We were introduced to Rebecca Sparks, MS, RD by our very own Noni Vaughn-Pollard, aka @darkchocolatepeanutbutter (you can find her Behind The Plate interview here). In addition to being Noni’s Nutrition Professor at New York University, Rebecca is the Nutrition Consultant for Head Start in New York, a governmental program providing services to low-income children and their families. Considering that last month was National Nutrition Month, we were excited to follow up with Rebecca and share her take on the current situation regarding nutrition across income levels.


Tell us about Head Start.
Head Start is a government program started in the 1960’s to give low-income children a “head start” so they would be just as well prepared for school as more fortunate children. It provides services (including nutrition) and daycare for children 0-5 years old.

How do you define good food?
“Know your farmer, know your food.” Good food is grown without the use of fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. The less processed the food, the better it is. The more local the food, the better it is. However certain foods cannot be grown locally, such as coffee, citrus fruit, etc. Living in a global world, we can include these in our diet but Fair Trade Sources are encouraged. It would be an ideal situation if all people could afford to eat good food. Unfortunately with income disparities, that is a big challenge for many people. I recommend families to prepare food at home and eat as many fruits and vegetables in whatever form they can afford. And for all people to eat a variety of foods and a variety of colors in moderation and eat a family meal whenever possible. Most importantly, good food includes enjoyment!

Food issues have not quite made it into the race for President. If you could ask the future President to consider a food issue that needs to be addressed, what would it be?
At present there is a movement in the government to limit access to SNAP benefits by making it a block grant where states can make decisions of eligibility and access. This is a crime. Every American resident should be guaranteed the right to food.

If you had to make (or are making) a food resolution this year, what would it be?
Support new young farmers!

What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
In 3rd grade I gave a report in school on scallops. They looked so good with their beautiful shapes. When I tasted them for the first time, they did not taste the way I thought they would. Now they are one of my favorite foods!

If you could get the general population to change ONE aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
Cook and eat food at home instead of relying on takeout.

Who is your food inspiration?
Joan Gussow and Yotam Ottolenghi.

Tell us about what you’re working on right now.
I have found that many low-income mothers are still bottle-feeding their children at four years old. Children should be off the bottle and the sippy cup by one year old. To continue bottle feeding can lead to massive tooth decay, ear infections, speech delays, anemia and excess weight. With the increase in developmental delays that we are seeing among low-income children, it is essential that mothers be taught how to feed their children.

Where do you typically grocery shop?
In my garden, at farmers markets, Green Carts, Fairway, Whole Foods, and Essex Market.

March was National Nutrition Month. What’s one good-food aspect of your diet that packs some nutritious punch?
Kombucha

You work with low-income families. What is one thing you would like to see change that could help everyone eat well, regardless of income level?
The biggest challenge that I think low-income people have is the stress of poverty and not knowing if there is enough money to buy food, pay for utilities, and cover health costs. If there was a way to change that by providing a livable minimum wage and empowering people to take charge of their lives, it would open the way for them to think about a better future.

Are there any misconceptions you see surrounding nutrition about which we should be better educated?
I am concerned with trends about foods such as gluten and dairy. Though I recognize there are many people who have intolerances and allergies, I also see a lot of people limiting their intake of these foods because other people say they should. It is more important to listen to your own body to learn how to eat healthfully.

What’s your favorite meal-on-the-go?
Different homemade soups.

What’s always in your fridge?
Kombucha, onions, avocado, garlic, celeriac, carrots, ginger, and parmesan cheese.

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Who is one famous person, dead or alive, that you want to share a meal with? And where?
Amanda Cohen—near a farm or garden.

Your good food wish?
To learn how to cook the way Amanda does!

Favorite cuisine?
Mideastern

What’s your favorite indulgent treat?
Smoked salmon

Nutrition is becoming much more popular these days. Is it exciting to see more people become interested in your area of expertise?
Yes it is. I wish that people considered nutrition more for health than just for losing weight.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
Pottery, gardening, helping others, and traveling.

Behind the Plate

BEHIND THE PLATE: SANJAY RAWAL

April 7, 2016

 

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Documentary filmmaker Sanjay Rawal is the Director of Food Chains, a film crucial to fair labor practices in the United States. His work illuminates a previously hidden cost of food that is arguably the most important—the toll on people involved in the production of our food. Please join Sanjay and Foodstand on Friday, April 8th, for our Food Book & Film Club screening of Food Chains at the Food+Enterprise Summit in Brooklyn. Food+Enterprise is offering Foodstanders special evening entry to the screening and reception for $30. To register, leave quantity fields blank and use the discount code A47BFT. And in the meantime, get to know Sanjay!


For those unfamiliar with Food Chains, please describe the film in a few sentences.
Food Chains follows a small group of farmworkers, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, as they expose the abuse rampant in farm labor in the US. We follow their battles against the largest companies on the planet, some of which they win!

Is there current food policy that safeguards against slavery in the U.S. food supply chain?
There are ZERO government safeguards against slavery in the food industry. Yeah there are laws. But there is almost no power to enforce those laws. The only program in the US that guarantees slavery-free produce is the Fair Food Program by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the stars of Food Chains. Look for their Fair Food Label on tomatoes and strawberries at Whole Foods, Walmart, Giant and Stop&Shop.

How do you define good food?
I don’t care if something is organic or sustainable if the people that picked, grew, manufactured or served the food aren’t treated and paid well. Too many people care too much about what goes into their bodies at the direct expense of caring about those responsible for creating that food. Should we eat organic? Sure. But organic doesn’t mean workers were treated well—there is zero correlation. Same goes for local, natural, everything that gets foodies excited. The food movement has left the worker behind. We need to fix that.

What are some of the food-related revelations you had while filming?
There’s so much interest and consciousness around food these days, but it’s really focused around environmental issues and issues of animal welfare. Even when informed, very few people care about the hands that pick or serve our food. If they did, the fight for a $15 minimum wage, for example, would draw millions of protestors to the street. It doesn’t.

What was your biggest challenge while making this film?
Abuse in agriculture is our nation’s deep dark secret. Farm labor abuse began the moment the first European settlers arrived in Massachusetts and California and mushroomed through the enslavement of Africans. People think that the problems of yore have been eradicated. Sadly, that’s just not true. There is a willfulness in the agricultural sector to obscure the abuse of workers. Consumers, therefore, are not told the actual story behind their food. From Ag-gag laws that made filming a potential felony, to resistance from growers and supermarkets, we had to shake off legal risk every step of the way. This was by no means as dangerous as making a film in a war zone. But this is a story that Big Ag does not want to be told.

Food issues have not quite made it into the Presidential race. If you could ask the future President to consider a food issue that needs to be addressed, what would it be?
About 20 million Americans work in the food sector, many of whom barely make ends meet. Without their service we have no food security. Same goes for the 3 or 4 million undocumented workers who are in the food sector (farmworkers, meatpacking, distribution, dairy, etc). Without job security and dignity much less a non-draconian immigration policy, our food system will absolutely disintegrate. I am shocked and appalled that the issue of equity in our food system isn’t being discussed in even the most basic way.

If you could get the general population to change ONE aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
Care about who is responsible for your food—whether it’s a farmworker, a restaurant worker or your mom!

What is one of your first memories of food?
Ahhhh—my parents are the best cooks of Indian food in the whole world. I would love to share those memories with anyone who wants to grab a meal with me and my folks.

Who is one famous person, dead or alive, that you would want to share a meal with? And where?
I was so lucky to have been able to spend my 20s with an Indian spiritual teacher who lived in NYC—Sri Chinmoy. He was close to all the peace-makers of his generation—from Mother Teresa to Mandela. He passed in 2007 and while I feel his presence daily, I would love to have another meal with him. He was a real New Yorker in every wonderful sense of the term—and loved diners! These days Greek omelettes with feta and spinach or a Guyanese Aloo Pie can elicit a tear or two of gratitude just for memories of time with him.

What’s always in your fridge? What do you use it for / how do you use it?
I live off frozen cherries and açaí. Açaí bowls twice a day. I am also trying to master cooking eggs every way possible. These days I’m trying to get good at Japanese omelettes—dashiki.

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You used to work in the non-profit and government sectors. How did you first become involved with film?
In the early 2000s I worked on a couple projects overseas (Haiti, Congo) where filmmakers were hovering, making feature length projects on folks I was working with. But in 2009 I helped a friend (in a very minor way) on her first feature length doc—Pray the Devil Back to Hell—about a group of Liberian women peace activists who lead the peace process in West Africa. Those women ended up getting the international credit they deserved because of the film. The film promoted their work to such an extent that the Nobel Peace Committee recognized them with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. So I saw how powerful film could be!

What’s your favorite meal-on-the-go?
Chocolate Malt Superfood Smoothie!

In your film you discuss how much pull supermarkets have over the supply chain. Can you expand upon this?
Supermarkets earn about 500 billion dollars each year. I’ve heard the common argument that their margins are low. True, but their power is not because of their profits – it’s because of the amount of money they pour into their supply chain. It’s that dollar amount that gives them power. This power is “monopsonistic” (a monopsony). It’s like how Amazon, while not in control of the entire book industry, has enough of the book market that it can bully authors and book publishers (folks in its supply chain). This power is illegal in the US, but it’ll take a Congress with a collective IQ of greater than 500 to tackle.

How can food consumers get involved?
Consumers have to stop believing the lie the food movement is pushing—that they can vote with their credit cards or forks. No one consumer or set of consumers has any control over the supply chain. For real power, a consumer has to become a citizen—exercise your voice on the streets and at the ballot box. Support worker led movements and support an environment that allows workers the freedom to organize or unionize. Our power is in supporting democracy not in supporting commerce alone.

Your good food wish?
May we all eat healthy and live happy.

Behind the Plate

BEHIND THE PLATE: PALAK PATEL

April 1, 2016

Photo credit: Adam Milliron

Don’t mess with this culinary powerhouse! Chef Palak Patel @palaknyc may be relatively new on the scene, but she’s already one heck of a #ladyboss—she took down Bobby Flay on the Food Network, and battled it to the top on Chopped! How? Big heart and good intentions, a lot of talent, and a world of inspiration. Now she’s the one to inspire us, and we can’t wait to see what she’s up to next!


 

How do you define good food?
Good food is simple, but packed with flavor. To me good food also creates connections, and it’s how I show love. I grew up in a large Indian family where daily meals were the center of our day. Having grown up with Indian spices and bold ingredients, I enjoy incorporating these ideas into everyday cooking to create delectable, healthy dishes that deliver big flavors.

Food issues have not quite made it into the race for President. If you could ask the future President to consider a food issue that needs to be addressed, what would it be?
Addressing the increasing role that corporations have on our food system. We must understand where our food comes from. Right now, we’re headed toward a future where decisions about our food are decided in closed boardrooms by executives putting profits before people.

Tell us about something you’re working on right now.
I’ve partnered with a large meal kit company to create my take on healthy Indian-inspired recipes. I’ll also get an opportunity to create some fun videos in the process.

Are you making a food resolution this year? If so, what is it?
My food resolution this year is to learn more about the connection between food and healing. The inherent connection between the food we eat and how it determines our health and general well-being.

If you could get the general population to change one aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
Reduce their meat consumption! Even if it means replacing a single meat meal with a vegetarian option. That’s a start.

Who inspired you to become a chef?
My mom! Born and raised in India, my culinary adventures started as a young girl where I played the sous-chef to my mother as she prepared the family’s daily meals.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of being in the food business?
Helping others by making and sharing my food. Also just being surrounded by passionately talented people. The ability to transform my passion into a business is extremely gratifying.

What do you find the hardest about being in the food business?
The policies that govern our food system vs. the rest of the world. It feels daunting at times to tackle so many issues.

March is National Nutrition Month. What’s one good-food aspect of your diet that packs some nutritious punch?
I cook with seasonal produce because it inevitably has an impact on taste. To me, this is key to more nutritious and flavorful meals. Whether you eat it raw, cooked, pickled or steamed, the taste of something in season is undisputed.

What’s your favorite meal-on-the-go: what do you make?
Grain bowls. Easy to prep, easy to make, and even easier to consume on the go.

What was your biggest #foodfail?
Generally baking. But my biggest fool fail happened in Paris while I was attempting to make meringues for a French-Indian pop-up dinner. Meringues have a reputation for being easy to make, but that night things got surprisingly complicated for a dish containing just two ingredients! I calculated the conversions incorrectly, plus using a French oven made my meringues lifeless and flat. Needless to say, I proceeded to crumble them and presented the dessert as “deconstructed”.

Top three herbs, in order of importance?
Cilantro, thyme, mint

What’s always in your fridge?
Tahini, capers, Sichuan pepper oil, and Champagne.

Most underrated spice?
Cardamom

Are there any personal beliefs that you have on the overall food system that make their way into your everyday business (e.g., curbing food waste, sustainable sourcing, local sourcing)? Do tell.
When I lived in San Francisco and cooked as a personal chef, I became enamored with the Community Supported Agriculture movement. I began to incorporate freshly picked and locally grown organic produce into my menus, which brought about a palatable change in my cuisine.

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Who is one famous person, dead or alive, that you want to share a meal with? And where?
Aristotle. Al fresco dinning on a farm.

What’s your favorite indulgent treat?
Warm bread pudding.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
Cooking is my second career, so I’m doing exactly what I want!

Your good food wish?
My good food wish is to educate everyone about the importance of cooking/eating produce that’s in season and, when possible, sourced from sustainable farms and ranches in the area. Produce, grass-fed meat, eggs and dairy products—good clean food has changed me.

Behind the Plate

BEHIND THE PLATE: AUDREY SNOWE

March 25, 2016

Audrey (@unconventionalbaker) is the wholesome recipe creator and blogger behind Unconventional Baker, and the author of Unconventional Treats. She’s adventurous, showing us that the baking ingredients we are accustomed to aren’t the only ones out there. From takes on the classics, to new concepts entirely, Audrey loves experimenting with recipes and teaching others about her delicious discoveries. And Audrey is offering a special discount for her Unconventional Treats book & video training series for Foodstanders, so you all can learn her greatest tricks and treats!

Tell us the story of how you started blogging.
It all started from the bottom up for me—from a very challenging point in my life to the place where I am now, which is much better! In my mid-twenties I was suddenly faced with a whole host of autoimmune conditions, which inevitably forced me to change my diet. I discovered many food sensitivities, and for a while it felt like my diet got cut in half. More than in half, it felt like there was nothing left to enjoy really… I’ve always been an avid baker and so I essentially had to re-learn everything I knew in that department from scratch. Back then there weren’t as many resources out there, so it was more experimental—a lot of trial and error. Along the way I changed my catering creations to be gluten and dairy-free and was surprised by the positive response. People wanted more. It seemed many want desserts they can enjoy, but just don’t know how to make. So I started the blog to share what I know, and it has grown into a hub for wholesome, simple, no-fuss desserts.

What’s your go-to breakfast?
Banana ice cream. I have lots of recipes in my book and on my Instagram page. Here’s one of my favorites.

How do you define good food?
Easy, wholesome, fresh, vibrant, nourishing, and flavorful are all words that come to mind. And anything from my garden 🙂

What is your food resolution for 2016?
Pushing the boundaries and redefining desserts. There are so many ways to enjoy something sweet, yet for many if it doesn’t come with wheat, eggs, or sugar, it doesn’t count. Someone invented all those “classics” at some point, but who says we can’t have new classics—ones more in tune with our current environment and society. I hope the idea will catch on with even more people. I’m dedicating this year to taking these concepts to the next level, experimenting in the kitchen like crazy, and encouraging others not to be afraid to try new things.

What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
Picking berries on my grandfather’s farm. I have very vivid early childhood memories of picking gooseberries and giant fresh strawberries, and playing with some caterpillars, slugs, and these beautiful white butterflies in the process. My grandfather told me these butterflies only live one day, or better said—their whole life in the span of a day, and tried to explain to me what that means in comparison to our human lives. I think he was mainly musing to himself there—doubt he thought my 5 year-old self would have gotten the deeper meaning of the comparison—and yet that parallel really stuck with me. The smell of fresh strawberries brings me right back to those days of digging around in the soil with my fingers, enjoying the company of the creepy crawlies, and the freshness of homegrown food.

Tell us more about the blog.
My blog is my place to share my creations and my passion for wholesome treats. I have a major sweet tooth, a love for creative thinking in the kitchen, for photography, writing, for keeping it simple and real when it comes to food, and for inspiring others to follow along and try new things. I integrate all of these elements into the blog and my work.

I’m not into food/dietary labels. If I had to describe my recipes though, they are all gluten-free, dairy-free, plant-based, and refined sugar-free. Many are grain-free, lots are raw (my real passion), and I try to vary things a lot and make innovative recipes for those with food sensitivities and allergies. My overall “mission” is to make easy treats from wholesome ingredients that can be enjoyed by all, regardless of dietary preferences, health restrictions, and so on. I just want everyone to have their cake 🙂

If you could get the general population to change one aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
Just encouraging the understanding of where your food comes from, how it has been raised/developed/handled, and using your money as a vote to help sustainable enterprise/farmers.

Tell us about something you’re working on right now.
I’m juggling a few exciting projects. Currently working on an upcoming course I’d love to introduce on the blog. I’m also working on finding a publisher to get my book into print.

Who is your food inspiration?
My mom—she has the most abundant garden in the tiniest urban setting.

What is your go-to dinner party dish?
One of my signature raw cakes, of course! The Raw Tiramisu is always a winner.

What was your biggest #foodfail?
Broccoli cheesecake. Worst idea ever! Don’t judge! I try lots of crazy things—sky is the limit—and I often land on winners that become “cult classics” on the web. But this one was clearly out of range. When I made it at first it was absolutely delicious—tasted nothing like broccoli at all (in case you’re wondering). Just a beautiful pale green cheesecake. I left it in the freezer for a week amidst all my other frozen cakes, and when I re-tasted it later it tasted absolutely horrible. Like broccoli gone horribly wrong with sugar and roses on top >_<

Do you have a favorite food trick?
Always have a raw cheesecake (or two!) on hand in the freezer. They make the best desserts for unexpected company.

Where do you typically grocery shop?
Local health food shops (because they have the biggest selection of fair-trade and local produce), the organic aisle of the grocery store, and also the ethnic fruit aisle because I’m always into discovering new fruit. In the summer—farmers markets and my own garden. Costco for some staples.

March is National Nutrition Month. What’s one good-food aspect of your diet that packs some nutritious punch?
Green veggies make up a huge percentage of my daily diet—from salad, to zoodles, to roasted or steamed broccoli or asparagus. And cauliflower, though technically not “green”, and avocado. Keeps me full, fueled, and nourished, and helps to balance out all my work with sweet ingredients through the day.

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What’s your favorite meal-on-the-go: What do you make or where do you buy it?
I have two favorites I always go for when on the road: the Tangled Thai bowl at a restaurant called Fresh (spiralized golden beets, radishes, salad greens, popped amaranth, peanuts, and hemp seeds, topped with a tahini lemon dressing), with a side of crispy tofu. Or the veggie bowls you can assemble at Whole Foods and take to-go. These are both a rare treat since I live remotely and don’t get to travel or frequ
ent restaurants often. Otherwise, I can easily live off fruit, so food supply while on the road is never an issue.

Is there any food that you can’t stand?
Bacon

What have you been dying to make recipe-wise, but haven’t yet?
Gluten-free baklava. The list of food fails I’ve had with this one is incredible, but I’m still holding out hope 🙂

What’s always in your fridge?
Zucchini, flavorful tomatoes, avocado, lettuce, bananas, berries, almond milk, coconut milk (for whips).

Who is one famous person, dead or alive, that you want to share a meal with? And where?
Gosh, this has probably been the hardest question for me to answer so far! I’ve never had the desire to meet anyone famous in particular, though of course I love the work of many people. If I had to choose though, I guess I’d go for a coffee with… Edward Leedskalnin, the guy who built Coral Castle in Florida. I’d love to know more about the mysterious technology he used to build that place.

Veggie you never liked when young, but now you do?
Bell peppers. Their cavernous inside really scared me for some reason. Love them now though.

If you were a food, what would you be and why?
Chocolate. So many ways to go to match my mood.

Most underrated spice?
Lovage. It’s used in many veg stocks, but is rarely sold on its own. I grow and dehydrate my own. It’s a perennial that ads a lot of flavor to soups and curries.

Favorite cuisine?
Raw food or Indian.

Food related pet peeve?
When people assume gluten-free is automatically healthy.

What’s your favorite indulgent treat?
Cake. And I have plenty of it 🙂

What’s your favorite part about being in the food industry?
Being a part of redefining food for modern needs.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
Traveling. In a heartbeat.

Favorite little-known baking ingredient?
Raw ground vanilla bean.

Your good food wish?
I wish everyone had access to clean, sustainably farmed food, no matter what kind of diet plan they follow.

Behind the Plate

BEHIND THE PLATE: NONI VAUGHN-POLLARD

March 18, 2016

Noni (@darkchocolatepeanutbutter—yes, we love her handle too) is our resident nutrition expert! She’s a nutrition, food studies, and child psychology student at NYU, and a volunteer at Edible Schoolyard NYC. To top it off, she’s also a valuable member of the Foodstand team in her free time! And of course provides a daily dose of nutritious food for thought on the Foodstand app.

How do you define good food?
I believe good food is any food that gives me pleasure. Whether it’s a fresh hot doughnut or a kale salad, I like food to be simple and delicious.

March is National Nutrition Month. What’s one good-food aspect of your diet that packs some nutritious punch?
I’m fascinated by the digestion process in the body and experiment with my own digestion. Currently I’m trying to incorporate more probiotics into my diet and since I don’t eat yogurt, I drink kombucha and eat miso and tempeh.

Your good food wish?
I wish that good food were available to all of us no matter who we are. According to psychologist Abraham Maslow, when we are able to satisfy our physical hunger, we are able to use our energy to live amazing lives.

What is your food resolution for 2016?
My food resolution this year is to eat more vegetables at breakfast. I’m used to an American-type of breakfast that is usually sweet, however I’m now incorporating leafy greens into my smoothie, eggs and oatmeal.

What’s your favorite indulgent treat?
Vegan nacho cheese with blue corn chips.

Food issues have not quite made it into the race for President. If you could ask the future President to consider a food issue that needs to be addressed, what would it be?
I would love if the future President would address the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) since many Americans rely on this program to allow them to eat each day. It’s nearly impossible to survive on $4 a day and if people were given more to spend, it would make a significant difference in their well-being.

What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
Breakfast has always been important to me, and I remember my mother teaching me different meals I could fix for myself in the morning. She showed me how to make deviled eggs, toast with applesauce, and how to slice bananas on my Cheerios. Now breakfast is my favorite meal of the day!

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What was your biggest #foodfail?
Homemade injera, never again.

Where do you typically grocery shop?
Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

If you could get the general population to change one aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
I agree with Michael Pollan, that we as a society need to get back into the kitchen. There’s something magical and exciting about creating nourishment for your body with only a few simple ingredients. Whenever I cook my food, I don’t feel stress or guilt. It’s hard not to feel stress or guilt when food isn’t made by you and becomes a mystery.

What’s your favorite meal-on-the-go?
The 5-minute Spinach Smoothie

Tell us about what you’re working on right now.
Right now I’m working with a non-profit organization named Edible Schoolyard NYC in Gravesend, Brooklyn. I teach children how to measure, chop and identify new foods in their monthly recipes. This week I taught preschoolers how to make tomato sauce and I let them stir the pot. I was amazed at how good they were at chopping their vegetables!

What/who is your food inspiration?
Youtube and my mother.

Behind the Plate

BEHIND THE PLATE: EMILY SUMMERLIN

March 11, 2016

You might know her as @etsummer—Emily is a food lover extraordinaire! Her love of food and her professional expertise in sustainable agriculture go hand in hand, and certainly bring about many a delicious creation and compelling conversation on Foodstand. And now that she has transplanted to Northern California, we have a San Francisco expert!

Tell us about what you’re working on right now.
I’m currently working on finishing my MA in International Environmental Policy. My focus is in business, sustainability and development, and my specific interest is in sustainable agriculture and food systems. I’m hoping to make a career for myself in the space where those two intersect!

How do you define good food?
Good food is good for your body, good for your community, and good for the environment. (Of course it tastes good too!)

March is National Nutrition Month. What’s one good-food aspect of your diet that packs some nutritious punch?
I always have sweet potatoes. They’re super good for you but also feel like you aren’t being too healthy when you’re in the mood for something comforting and cozy. My favorite way to eat them is to slice them up into rounds, bake until crispy, then top with black beans, avocado, cilantro & jalapeño vinaigrette, and a bit of feta. It’s kind of like nachos but still good for you.

What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
My grandparents are from Mississippi, and my Nana’s southern cooking is always something that I remember from my childhood (and I’m still enjoying it today!). She taught me how to make biscuits, just like her mother did, and I’ll always love and cherish that memory. It was also always a hoot when we would go back to Mississippi—the fact that I’m a vegetarian would baffle everyone, especially in a place where ham makes an appearance in almost every vegetable dish!

What is your go-to dinner party dish?
Lasagna. It’s nurturing, and you want people to feel nurtured when you’re cooking for them.

Do you have a favorite food trick?
Peel a banana like a monkey! Pinch the bottom and peel from there, not at the top with the stem. Also, I eat the skin of kiwis which a lot of people don’t do. Try it—I know it looks hairy and uncomfortable, but it’s really not bad.

What was your biggest #foodfail?
Ridiculously enough I’ve done this more than once. I make a smoothie and upon the first sip realize that I didn’t rinse the soap out of the blender well enough beforehand. No thanks to soapy smoothies.

If you are making a food resolution this year, what is it?
I want to engage with farmers and food-makers more. Food has such a story to tell, whether it’s a piece of fruit from the market or a loaf of bread from the bakery, and I want to hear the stories of the people this food is coming from—how they got into the food industry, what they love (or don’t love) about it, what their vision is for the food system in the future.

What’s your favorite meal-on-the-go?
A quick cheese “plate”! Fruit, nuts, crackers, and a yummy soft cheese like brie is easy to pack up and eat basically anywhere. Sometimes I throw it together to bring to work for lunch. Makes a Monday feel a bit more glamorous 😉

Is there any food that you can’t stand?
Yogurt, pudding, and jello. It’s a texture thing.

 

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What’s your go-to breakfast?
The always simple and never disappointing avocado toast! I like mine with a fried egg on top, with madras curry powder and black sesame seeds.

Food issues have not quite made it into the campaigns for President. If you could ask the future President to consider a food issue that needs to be addressed, what would it be?
I would ask the future President to consider the soil! 2015 was the International Year of Soils and a lot of great things happened around that, but I want that momentum to keep going. Not only does healthy soil produce nutritious and delicious food, but it also sequesters carbon! It’s one of the keys to reducing our climate impact and it is very worth taking care of, not only for the future of farming but for the future of the the entire planet.

Top three herbs, in order of importance?
Cilantro, cilantro, cilantro. I LOVE it.

What have you been dying to make recipe-wise, but haven’t yet?
I want to make pink pasta! Colored with beets. How fun is that? Just need to find some time…

What’s always in your fridge?
Olives, peanut butter, and beer 🙂

What is your food inspiration?
My food inspiration right now is the city of San Francisco. I just moved here, but everywhere I look is full of beautiful food, and the beautiful people who work with it. There are so many cool things surrounding good food going on here. I’m blown away.

If you were a food, what would you be and why?
An avocado. I eat enough of them I probably should have turned into one by now.

Most underrated spice?
Smoked paprika. Is it still underrated? I feel like people still don’t know the magic—this spice works on so many things. Such smoky goodness!

Favorite cuisine?
Thai. I could eat Tom Kha soup every day.

If you could get the general population to change one aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
I want more people to realize that a plate doesn’t need meat to be a complete, substantial meal. That mentality is so frustrating to me. I think people are getting better about it, but I can’t tell you how many times I get the question “what do you eat?” when I say I’m a vegetarian. There are so many foods out there that don’t come from animals that are full of protein and are nourishing and filling.

Food related pet peeve?
When people won’t even try new foods. And when knives are dull.

What’s your favorite indulgent treat?
Green tea mochi ice cream.

Your good food wish?
I want people to be produce literate! There are so many cool fruits, veggies and herbs, etc. out there that many people aren’t familiar with and/or don’t know how to prepare. It can make for such a limiting diet. Teaching eaters about all of these foods and flavors can open so many doors and start a conversation about good food and better choices for health and the planet.

Behind the Plate

BEHIND THE PLATE: JESSICA SENNETT

March 4, 2016

Photo credit: William Burgess

Jessica @cheesegrotto is an innovative cheese lover who is pushing the envelope of good cheese. Her beautiful wooden storage boxes, set to hit the market this year, are designed to preserve the life of a cheese while allowing for its natural aging process. And her Cheese Caramels (yes, that’s right) are out of this world.

In a few sentences, tell us about your business.
Cheese Grotto is a lifetime storage solution for naturally made cheeses. The product, slated to hit the market in the coming year, is complete with humidity, air flow, and temperature controls to keep your cheese fresher for longer. Like fine wine, cheese wedges and wheels become more complex with age, and the Cheese Grotto protects its integrity. While the product is in development I spend my time teaching the world of natural cheese, and throwing seasonal cheese events that are both educational and fun.

Favorite cheese pairing?
Cheese and chocolate is amazing. Also, nut brown ales and cheeses of all types are a winning combo. My favorite nut combination is the hazelnut—it has a natural richness and sweetness and isn’t too tannic for pairing.

Do you have a favorite food trick?
When I make cheese at home, such as ricotta, I save and freeze the whey for broth. It is amazing for braising and enriching a vegetarian lemongrass coconut curry.  It’s lightly buttery and tangy and chock-full of minerals and proteins. It’s also great as a baking substitute for milk.  You can learn more about this on my blog.

The storage boxes are beautiful. Besides their looks, why should I buy one?
The Cheese Grottoes are made of bamboo, glass, and clay, and use the benefits of these natural materials to promote even and healthy ripening of cheese. Compared to the other methods of storage available (plastic wrap, tupperware, and cheese paper) the Cheese Grotto extends the shelf life by three to four times.

How do you define good food?
Good food is defined by its process. This process can be from the farm to the table and everything in between. I often think of good food as a meditation: in the home kitchen, in commercial kitchens, and with the land. It is based off of values and relationships. In this way, good food is a great tool for promoting democratic processes in the agricultural, organizational, and social spheres. Take cheese, for example. I am a supporter of naturally made cheese because it considers the land, the working dairy animals, and the quality of the milk.

Food issues have not quite made it into the Presidential campaigns. If you could ask the future President to consider a food issue that needs to be addressed, what would it be?
What concerns me the most is farm workers’ rights and agricultural practices. Limited water resources are a present day reality in California. We have to change our practices and not let a few large food corporations and buyers determine the method and quality of our farming. They control the whole industry and subject farm workers and owners to endless cycles of debt and dependence. The framework that exists does not take into consideration resource depletion.

What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
I would say that my deep love of food and all of its processes came later in life, as therapy and as relationship building. When I started working at Cowgirl Creamery in the San Francisco Ferry Building at the age of 19, I tasted many cheeses that transformed and blossomed my palate, leading me to an appreciation of the subtle differences between one handmade batch of cheese to another. I was also submerged in an amazing hub of food makers and shakers with whom I could share my discoveries.

Tell us about something you’re working on right now.
American Raw Milk Cheese Appreciation Day is coming up on April 16th, and I will be throwing a large party at 61 Local in Brooklyn. We’ll be featuring a selection of Raw Milk Cheeses from Anne Saxelby that we’ll pair with seasonal fare and regional wine/beer. It should be a fun party!

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Who is your food inspiration?
So many people! From a Trinidadian private chef I met when I was 19 in New York, to Julia Child, Ruth Reichl, Amanda Hesser, to a dear friend Kara Chadbourne who sees food as a way of living.

What is your go-to dinner party dish?
A Moroccan tagine with preserved lemon, or a salad of beets, oranges, pomegranates, and mint. But because I’m a cheese lady, anytime I can get a wheel of gooey cheese, like Vacherin Mont D’Or or Rush Creek Reserve, I roast a bunch of fingerling potatoes, brussels, and veggies, and get to dunking. Add a crusty loaf of wood fired oven bread, and it’s heaven on earth.

What was your biggest #foodfail?
My biggest #foodfail was a persimmon tart. This was before I knew how to pick persimmons that wouldn’t be cloying and drying in the mouth. (If you have tasted an underripe persimmon, you know what I mean.) I tried to cook the tart anyway, and it really wasn’t edible.

March is National Nutrition Month. What’s one good-food aspect of your diet that packs some nutritious punch?
Whatever you eat, add vegetables. When I eat cheese, I eat vegetables, too.

What’s your favorite meal-on-the-go?
A blend of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. I try to make a habit of giving myself time to sit down to a meal, even if it’s just 15 minutes.  If I’m really running around, I might get a sushi box to go at Citarella, or something at the buffet at Whole Foods.

Your good food wish?
I wish good, naturally made food could become a staple for everyone. This is a never ending wish, I know.

What have you been dying to make recipe-wise, but haven’t yet?
Chocolate Whiskey Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
I love writing. So, if I stayed in the city I’d most likely get involved with the digital editing world. My pipe dream in 10 years is to become an artisan cheese maker and have my own plot of land.

What’s always in your fridge?
Butter, kale, broccoli, eggs and cheese of course.

What are your favorite three cheeses right now?
I have Gruyere AOP (the protected, authentic one) on the mind right now, since I’ve been working with it for my Cheese Caramels. (Did you know it has been made for over 900 years?) Pecorino Riserva del Fondatore is a great hard cheese to have around. And Italian Robiolas, wrapped in cabbage or fig leaves.

What’s your favorite part about being in the food industry?
Hands down the relationships and the interconnected community. That is really what sold me on the food industry since day one.

Tell us about your cheese caramels. And where can we find them?
They started out as an experiment to bring out the candy qualities in cheese, and now they are becoming a micro-local cheese sensation. I make them by melting Gruyere cheese in cream and butter, and then folding this cheese sauce into caramelizing sugar. Once formed, we sprinkle the caramel with flake salt. You can learn more on my website. Right now they are only available through larger quantity special orders through email request to cheesegrotto@gmail.com. But they will be available in the coming months as a whole new line of product!

Please tell us about your workshops.
My cheese making and tasting workshops act as a great platform to learn more about the process and experience of natural cheese. I offer everything from small home gatherings to corporate events, with the intention for people to collaborate in making memorable food experiences.

Do you have a favorite recipe with cheese?
Beet, Berry and Goat Cheese Popsicles

Behind the Plate

BEHIND THE PLATE: EMILY VAN RAAY

February 26, 2016

Emily van Raay @modelsforwellness is a model of all sorts. And her latest gig is being a role model! Emily has long observed a lack of education surrounding health, food and wellness in the fashion modeling world, and has decided to do something about it. Her site Models for Wellness encourages positive living by showing how real-life models live balanced, healthful lives. Her goal? To inspire a love affair with health and happiness for all.

What are you working on right now? Tell us about it.
Models for Wellness—check it out! It’s a blog platform where a group of amazing models from all over the world and I are sharing how we stay healthy, happy and fit. It’s a really amazing project that I’m so passionate about!

If you could get the general population to change one aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
Know where your meat comes from.

Is there any ingredient that you can’t stand?
Sugar in places there should not be sugar!

How do you define good food?
Good food comes from a good place, good people, with good standards that match your own. My idea of ‘good food’ is a plate full of seasonal produce and meats/cheeses that come from local farms, that meet my personal standards for quality.

Who is your food inspiration?
Jamie Oliver!

What is your go-to dinner party dish?
My mother’s apple crisp recipe. It’s definitely not healthy, but it’s a showstopper 😉

Do you have a favorite food trick?
Freezing kale. Even if I’m going to eat it fresh, I freeze it first. It makes it so much easier to handle. You can smash it up so that it crumbles and you don’t have to deal with chopping the stubborn, rubbery leaves for soups or garnish, or even smoothies.

Where do you typically grocery shop?
Trader Joe’s and the farmers market.

What’s your favorite meal-on-the-go?
The Earth Bowl at Sweetgreen is my favorite on the go meal, by far!

Food issues have not quite made it into the upcoming Presidential Debate. If you could ask the future President to consider a food issue that needs to be addressed, what would it be?
Meat. Meat. Meat! Animal production is, in my eyes, the biggest actionable issue on hand at the moment, and the least addressed. For a collective American public who is beginning to take climate change to heart, meat consumption and its effects on the environment is an important issue, yet one that is completely bypassed. It’s unfortunate because we could be taking advantage of the mass public interest that is beginning to emerge. Especially with the shocking evidence that has recently been brought to public attention by the documentary Cowspiracy, in which environmentalist and film maker Kip Andersen accuses the meat industry of conspiring against the health of Americans and the planet for a profit. (Thank you Netflix!) With the meat corporations and the government shoving the idea that meat should be a part of our daily lives down our throats, we also have to take into account the health implications of meat. The recent World Health Organization study shed some light on the hard proof that meat consumption is linked to cancer.

What’s your go-to breakfast?
Fried eggs over rice and beans with a green juice or kombucha.

Favorite seasonings?
Pink sea salt and black pepper.

If you had to make (or are making) a food resolution this year, what would it be?
To cook more at home! It has squeezed its way up to the top of my priority list not only because it’s healthier, but because it’s incredibly meditative and heightens my connection with my body throughout the day. This is important for me, as I notice my stress levels are much lower when I cook.

What have you been dying to make recipe-wise, but haven’t yet?
Traditional Indian Curry (that’s not a fail…).

What’s always in your fridge?
Mustard seed and tahini.

Who is one famous person, dead or alive, that you want to share a meal with?
Jamie Oliver.

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What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
Scrolling through memories, the more traumatizing experiences are the ones that seem to stick out. My first and most memorable experience with food was when I was around 10 years old, and my brother and I went to Taco Bell with my grandparents. Hey, I loved Taco Bell. Fast food was a treat for my siblings and me on rare occasions, and food as I knew it was always good quality. I’d heard rumors that the meat at Taco Bell came in powered form, that they would add water to and serve it as a “meat-like” product. My brother said he’d caught a glimpse of the ground “beef” up close, and it made him sick. From then on I knew about the smoke and mirrors that surrounded food, especially fast food.

Veggie you never liked when young, but now you do?
Zucchini.

If you were a food, what would you be and why?
I would be a coconut, because I wouldn’t ever have to deal with cold weather.

Most underrated spice?
Star anise.

What was your biggest #foodfail?
I have food fails all the time. I’m not an expert in the kitchen but I love making new dishes and tend to bite off far more than I can chew… Roasting acorn squash is something that I can NEVER seem to get right! I end up leaving it in for far too long or taking it out way too early and can never get it off the skin. It’s probably one of the easiest things to make. Help!!

Favorite cuisine?
Thai

Food related pet peeve?
Pasta noodles that are too hard kill me!

What’s your favorite indulgent treat?
A JG Melon cheeseburger.

Your good food wish?
I hope that in the future, trust is something that people realize is so valuable and essential when you are buying food. Trust means educating yourself on where your food is coming from, knowing whether it’s a farm, factory, or your parents’ backyard. Learning that trust is something that in our current world, is essential when you buy your food.

Behind the Plate

BEHIND THE PLATE: MATTHEW KENNEY

February 19, 2016

A classically trained chef, Matthew Kenney made a splash in the food world when he ditched animal products and his oven, and went the raw, vegan route. Now Matthew’s thriving plant-based food lifestyle business spans the globe—from restaurants, to a culinary school, gourmet products and much more. And lucky for us, he’s offering Foodstanders 10% off all courses at his academy, Matthew Kenney Culinary!

Describe your business.
We operate in 5 business sections—hospitality, education, products, services, and media. This allows us to cast a wide net and reach all of those interested in plant-based cuisine, whether it’s dining in one of our restaurants, attending a class, or reading a book.

What has been your biggest challenge with relation to your business?
I was a traditional chef for many years. When I left cooking traditional protein I knew this was the right decision for me personally and professionally, although many of my peers didn’t understand how I could make this transition. It has taken some time for the community to recognize how integral and innovative plant-based cuisine can be, but we continue to see progress in this movement everyday. I’m honored to be part of this work.

Food issues have not quite made it into the Presidential campaigns. If you could ask the future President to consider a food issue that needs to be addressed, what would it be?
There is a lot of talk about healthcare. I believe it’s integral that we recognize overall health and wellness is directly related to our what we put in our bodies. Consuming even slightly more of a plant-based diet will have an enormous impact.

What are some of the principles that guide your business?
We strive to bridge the gap between culinary art and nutrition. In addition to being beautiful and good for you, we prioritize innovation, local and seasonal ingredients, and education. Education is the foundation of everything we do.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your business?
Our work in education is the most rewarding part. Teaching young chefs from around the world and watching them apply the techniques and principles learned in our program is incredibly inspiring. We learn from our students just as they learn from us.

Are there any personal beliefs that you have with regard to the overall food system that make their way into your everyday business (e.g., curbing food waste, sustainable sourcing, local sourcing)? Do tell.
Yes, we have a culinary garden at our academy and restaurant in Venice CA, and at our academy in Thailand. We teach sustainable practices and the importance of urban agriculture, and we source organically whenever possible. We support local farmers and believe the very best seasonal ingredients create the absolute best dishes.

Anything new around the corner for you?
Yes, we just opened 00+Co, a plant based pizza concept, in New York, and are opening a restaurant and academy in Miami this month. I’m working on a new book and have a number of other projects in the works. It’s good to be busy.

What can we see on the menu at 00+Co?
Pizza and flatbreads have been part of our cuisine for many years, but this is the first time we have a dedicated concept around it. We will have a beautiful section of small plates, organic pizza prepared in a wood burning oven, vegan desserts, and a beautiful list of bio-dynamic wines.

Opening a restaurant can be complex and stressful. What are some top tips for those interested in getting in the restaurant business?
Surround yourself with a talented, dedicated team, and together it will happen. No one can open a restaurant on their own.

How do you see social media and social discourse changing the food industry, our place in the industry, and people’s views?
Social media’s influence is huge. We have photoshoots in the kitchen almost everyday to showcase what we’re working on. When people see how beautiful food can be, they want to eat well and try new things. Social media allows me to follow the work of our students around the world—scrolling through my feed and seeing their plates is my favorite part of the day.

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If you could get the general population to change one aspect of their eating habits, what would it be? 
Eat one plant-based meal a day.

What is one of your first memories of food?
All of my early memories involve food! I have memories foraging and picking berries with my family in Maine. Growing up in Maine really shaped my understanding and love for nature—it’s where I fell in love with food.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
I had planned to go law school at one time. If I didn’t end up being a chef I would have been a lawyer.

Who is one famous person, dead or alive, that you want to share a meal with? And where?
I’m really inspired by Elon Musk’s work, so it would be interesting to sit with him. I’d love to have a meal with him at Plant Food and Wine in Venice, and discuss how his work in sustainability intersects what we do.

What’s always in your fridge? What do you use it for? 
My fridge is full of green fruits and veggies. I have a green juice every morning to fuel my day before I go to yoga.

What was your biggest food fail?
One of the first times I served raw cuisine to a group I spent a lot of time preparing our zucchini lasagna in sheet pans ahead of time. I had never served this at a large event before, and the extra moisture turned the lasagna to mush. I had to serve a group of my peers this horrible dish and was mortified. I never plated this in advance again!

Your good food wish?
I wish that the access to good, healthy food was extended so that all communities could enjoy nutritious, plant-based cuisine.

Behind the Plate

BEHIND THE PLATE: JILL DE JONG

February 12, 2016

Jill de Jong is a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. She’s also a model who loves to eat, and believes in a healthy and balanced diet! Her method is all about implementing simple, permanent lifestyle changes to help you stay healthy. Want tips from Jill? Check out her website Models Do Eat, for her latest on a healthy lifestyle. Here’s what Jill has to say about good eating.

Tell us what you’re working on right now.
I’m currently working on a cookbook with nine other models who are all passionate about eating delicious and nutritious food. Among us there are fitness instructors, health coaches, authors and food bloggers. It’s all about being a good “role” model, sharing our stories, experiences and recommendations to inspire other women to take excellent care of themselves.

What is your food inspiration?
I get inspired everywhere—magazines, seasonal products, Instagram…

Do you have a favorite food trick?
Yes I have a great one to share! If you love creamy soup but don’t want to use dairy/heavy whip, use cashews instead. Pour the soup in a blender with the cashews and you’ll get the most silky, delicious texture.

What was your biggest #foodfail?
Cauliflower crust pizza. It drove me crazy; I was trying so many different things but I have not been able to master it and have given up!

How do you define good food?
Good food is nutrient-dense, flavorful and nourishing to the body and soul.

Is there any food you can’t stand?
I don’t like olives. I’ve tried so many different ones so many times but I just can’t seem to get over it.

What’s always in your fridge?
Cheese!

Where do you typically grocery shop?
I buy the majority of my groceries at Sprouts and Traders Joe’s.

Top three herbs, in order of importance?
Basil, parsley, mint.

Your good food wish?
That everybody on this planet can enjoy an abundance of good food and clean water.

Most underrated spice?
Cumin.

What’s your go-to breakfast?
I like to change things up. I will have a egg and spinach omelet one day, oatmeal the next, and a piece of toast another day.

Who is one famous person, dead or alive, that you want to share a meal with? And where?
Tony Robbins. At his favorite restaurant.

Veggie you never liked when you were young, but now you do?
Brussels sprouts.

What is your go-to dinner party dish?
I don’t have a go-to dinner party dish—it depends on the season and who’s attending the dinner. But right now I would bring a pot of short ribs. 🙂

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Food issues have not quite made it into the upcoming Presidential Debate. If you could ask the future President to consider a food issue that needs to be addressed, what would it be?
I would ask the president to demand that companies take the chemicals OUT of our food. No colorants, preservatives or additives. That would make a huge difference.

What have you been dying to make recipe-wise, but haven’t yet?
Bone broth.

If you were a food, what you be and why?
I would be a granola bar—full of life, a little nuts, and sweet. LOL

Favorite cuisine?
Thai.

What’s your favorite meal-on-the-go?
Kale and cauliflower curry salad from Trader Joe’s.

Food related pet peeve?
The FDA.

If you could get the general population to change ONE aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
To eat more whole foods!

What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
When I was little I loved making bread. My mom would make a big batch of dough for me and my brother, and we’d play with it, making fun shapes and dolls to bake in the oven. The whole house smelled great, and the best part? Eating the freshly baked creations. 🙂

What’s your favorite indulgent treat?
Salted caramel ice cream.

If you are making a food resolution this year, what is it?
To make even more things from scratch. Like almond milk—instead of store-bought, I’m making it myself now.

What are you up to these days?
The cookbook is my passion project at the moment. I’m a health coach, fitness trainer and model. There’s never a dull moment in my life; I keep really busy between coaching calls, HIIT training and photo shoots. 🙂