IACP 2012 Launch Party

Last week the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) put on a mini-skirt and some glitter and hit the streets. Yes, the venerable organization is shaking things up on the road to their next national conference and I’m all for it. The first conference I attended was in Portland two years ago. It had a spectacular taste, deeply woven into the city and amped with great chefs and funky events. And still, in between the parties and panels, I yearned for the board to adopt more technology into their planning. I was among the youngest attendees, a glaring hole in their facade.  Plancast, Twitter, Foursquare- if IACP wanted to attract more people my age, I suggested they jump into the deep end.So my hopes were high for the next conference in Austin.

And I was let down. The week felt sleepy, it lacked the urgency and spunk of Portland. Sure, I made some great contacts in the food world (that is, after all, the main focus of attending these things), but I didn’t leave feeling terribly energized. Knowing the next conference would be in NYC I decided that would be the make or break conference for me.

If NYC improves upon the Portland formula, then I’ll continue my IACP membership. If, on the other hand, it follows in the footsteps of Austin, then this will be my last year in the organization.

Bringing the event to NYC is important for so many obvious reasons. And for the less obvious? NYC is the place to weave IACP into a younger food culture. Time to pick up more digital entrepreneurs, time to change the game.

For too long IACP has been focused on presenting “the book deal” as the pinnacle of our work as food professionals. Yes, I love cookbooks. They are beautiful transcriptions of life lived around the world. And I almost never use them. I’d rather have my iPad in the kitchen with me, looking through my collection of recipes or searching for things online.

It seems to me that most attendees have websites and twitter handles at the urging of publishers and agents. IACP members are told, repeatedly, that having an online presence is key to building the audience necessary for that elusive book deal. But what about looking at digital projects as more than means to various ends?

Why don’t we examine the value of digital food interaction as an end in and of itself?

Now back to the glitter and heels:
IACP launched with a party at Santos Party House last week. I didn’t know what to expect, would it be Austin all over again or Portland-inflected?

I was not let down. It seems everyone is rallying around this conference, within and without. The planning committee has lined up some big-ticket speakers and peeled back the curtain around some of NYC’s most coveted food businesses. And to top it off, this year our awards show (usually a despairing evening) will be hosted by Mo Rocca. Watch the video above to hear more from the team in charge. I’m excited.

Will you be there?


Michel Nischan

When I get the opportunity to meet an incredible person I like to share some of that with you. Michel Nischan was recently given the Humanitarian award at IACP Austin 2011 and because he couldn’t be there in person to accept, I drove out to his brilliant restaurant in Westport, CT to interview him. Now, when I say “I drove,” what I really mean is Doug Duda, VP of IACP, picked me up and took me along for the ride.


I will admit to knowing little of Michel’s work before I was contacted to do this piece. Cursory research online bounced me to the website of his foundation, Wholesome Wave, and I liked what I saw. Michel started this program to get fresh, local produce in the hands of those needing it most. Among the many wonderful programs started by Wholesome Wave is the Double Value Coupon Program. To entice those living on SNAP (formerly Food Stamps) to shop at farmer’s markets this program doubles the value of every dollar spent from SNAP on local produce.


It was an honor and a pleasure to spend the afternoon talking with Michel, he is a most gracious man. Check out the interview above and if you find yourself in Westport, CT, make sure to stop by for a meal at The Dressing Room.

Video, Summer

IACP 2011

IACP 2011.

I was in Austin, TX for a week at the beginning of June with a collision of foodniks. The International Association of Culinary Professionals. We talked, we ate, we drank, there were some fantastic panels and there were reasons to play hooky. IACP is at an interesting crossroads (so say I). The organization has been around for over 30 years and acts to connect food professionals from all corners of this industry-photographers, chefs, food stylists, producers, bloggers, authors, eaters, etc. But in an ever more youthful food industry it seems that IACP struggles to bring in the under 35 demographic. Indeed, I was one of a handful of attendees under the age of 30. This was my second year as an IACP member. I joined because it put me in direct contact with people who knew more than me, plain and simple. I started this website in my imagination (honestly, I told people it existed but “was down for service” for a good 6 months before I even launched). It was an idea bubbling in my head and when the bubbles started to burst I found myself with questions questions questions. I needed to meet people (face-to-face, not pixel-to pixel) who had done this before, who had started a website on a whim and turned it into something more. For me, IACP is the place to get face time with peers you’ve known online for ages. It’s a deep resource and I’m happy to have it at my fingertips.

So why is it so hard to get us young folks in the door?

Face time is a hard sell. And with a $600-800 ticket price (not including travel expenses), we have to prove a return of equal or greater value. For people starting out in the food world, be they young chefs or baby bloggers, this is a major expense. Hell, for people not starting out in the food industry this is a major expense. And when I’m about to drop serious cash I look long and hard at the product before I write that check. At the relatively minor cost of $100 I decided not to attend the regional conference in NYC this year. What kept me away? A quick demographic breakdown of the speakers instantly deterred me. I believe that we are drawn to speakers for one of two reasons: 1) They are like us 2)We want to be like them. The average panelist at the regional conference was certainly not like me, late 40′s to early 50′s, but the real struggle I felt was that I didn’t see panelists I wanted to be. Sure there were fascinating speakers, and there were even some people talking about what’s happening in the digital world. But those people were not my people. These were not speakers I’d have picked to talk about food in the digital age. Let’s get the folks behind Foodzie on a panel. I want to hear from the team. I want to meet the people my age who are game changers in the online food world. And more than that, I want action. As someone under the age of 30 (and I know many over-30 year olds who’d agree) I don’t want to sit in a room while someone talks at me for 2 hours. Even if it’s a topic I’m enthused about, I lose interest when my participation isn’t necessary.

If we want to change the demographic of our attendees at the national conference we need to change the demographic of our speakers.

If we want to prove value to a younger generation we need to build active programming.

One place IACP really does it right? The Kids in the Kitchen committee hosts an event each year that is both active and youthful. This year we went to the excellent UT Elementary school and gardened with the kids. We then drove to Whole Foods and showed these funky eaters how to cook what they grew. I left with dirty hands, as sure a sign of value as anything. The best face time at IACP is there, working with culinary peers to educate a new generation. Second best face time? Eating and drinking with new-found friends and old-school cronies while you ditch a few panels and make connections that will last a lifetime. We have to find a way to showcase this value, this nebulous, unplanned, off-campus “networking” that changes your career.

I want IACP to grow, to change, to be the best it can be. It has played a major role in my professional development and I want it to do the same for my peers. I made a video highlighting the Kids in the Kitchen event this year, it encapsulates the energy, passion and integrity that I see in IACP members.

There is great value in knowing people who know more than you. Thank you IACP for another great conference.

Video, Summer

IACP White House Event

Did this really happen?

Just over a week ago I found an email in my inbox from the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) asking if I would be interested in attending an event at the White House. Michelle Obama wanted to launch the next phase of her Let’s Move campaign to end childhood obesity with a lawn packed full of chefs. I couldn’t (and still can’t) think of anything that would stop me from going, so I sent in the requested security information and hoped for the best. Would there be a selection process? Was I eligible? Could I bring my camera with me?

I bought a ticket on the excellent Bolt Bus (plugs at every seat and wifi on the bus, it’s like Virgin Airlines hijacked Greyhound) and tried to pack wisely. I knew we’d be required to wear our chef’s coats on the White House lawn, so that took care of the tricky part (I dread to think what I would have dared to wear without a requirement). And then I received another email, this one from our White House contact. We would be allowed to bring in phones, cameras, video cameras…technology! I was surprised at the time, but I shouldn’t have been: more press=more press

The morning of the event we were invited to a sponsored breakfast from Share Our Strength. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke about the challenges we face when it comes to overhauling the school lunch program, but more importantly, he focused on the danger of doing nothing. He said, “What keeps me up every single night is that we have a dropout rate in this country that is staggering. We have 1.2 million students leaving our schools for the streets each year. We have to do everything we can to reduce that dropout rate and increase the graduation rate. But we can’t do it if we don’t start to address their health. We can’t do it if we don’t improve the quality of the food they’re eating.” I couldn’t agree more. Food is powerful.

I love hearing politicians discuss the connection between academic achievement and our current food culture. The processed foods that have taken over school lunches (not to mention the general American diet) don’t set students up for success. I’d love to see more relationships between local farms and schools. Is there a financially feasible way we can get fresh and local produce into cafeterias? I know a number of schools have started gardening programs, not only as a way to bring in unprocessed foods, but also as a learning tool for the students. Science classes can teach plant-life biology in the garden; English classes can discuss the various ecological influences in some of our most famous works of literature (When all at once I saw a crowd, A host of golden daffodils). This weekend in D.C. showed me how badly our food system needs overhauling, but also how much our education system stands to gain from that change.

And then we walked to the White House, where we mingled in the garden until Michelle Obama’s speech. It was hot, I was wearing a black chef’s coat (poor choice of color), and I could not have been more excited. I didn’t know what to expect (my favorite state of being). Among the guests were a number of chefs from The Food Network (Anne Burrell, Aaron McCargo Jr.) and a few past Top Chefs (Carla Hall, Ron Duprat). Everyone in the crowd (celebs and civvies alike) was simply charming on camera and I thank you all for lending me your time and voices.

As the crowd started to move from the garden, I realized it was time for the speech. We made our way to the South Lawn and sat down in sweaty anticipation. Sam Kass (assistant executive chef at the White House) opened for the First Lady and then it was showtime. Michelle Obama spoke to us about the Let’s Move campaign and our collective opportunity to change the future. I could paraphrase her, but I’d rather quote:

“We are going to need your time and talent to solve the childhood obesity epidemic and I am calling on our nation’s chefs to get involved by adopting a school and working with teachers, parents, school nutritionists and administrators to help educate kids about food and nutrition. You have tremendous power as leaders on this issue because of your deep knowledge of food and nutrition and your ability to deliver these messages in a fun and delicious way and I want to thank you for joining the Chefs Move to Schools campaign.”

Thank you, First Lady Obama, for letting me be a part of this. I’m thrilled.

Of course, I also made a video:

Video, Dessert

Seth Ellis Chocolatier

Everyone living with nut allergies out there-
This is for you.

Seth Ellis Chocolatier is a bonafied Wonka wonderland in our very own mountain town. We first found their chocolates at the Boulder Farmer’s Market, and then proceeded to see them all over town. Whole Foods, CU, OZO Coffee, Brewing Market, Glacier Ice Cream- Everyone wants to carry this chocolate.

Let me give you a rundown on why they’re so hot-
Dedicated Nut Free and Gluten Free facilities. You’ve all seen the back of normal candy bars: “Warning-May have been processed in a facility that handles nuts.” We like our chocolate warning free thank you very much. Seth Ellis Chocolatier produces fine artisanal chocolates for those of us living with food allergies. Rock on.
Organic Ingredients. Feel good about eating these chocolates. Rick and the team at Seth Ellis Chocolatier have meticulously sorted through hundreds of varieties of organic chocolate to bring you the finest, cleanest, and best tasting chocolate.
Great People. Seth Ellis Chocolatier is great people, plain and simple. Rick started making chocolate with his kids, and that turned into a full blown chocolate shop. Want a specially labeled chocolate bar for your restaurant? Get in touch with these guys, they already specially wrap bars for CU and OZO coffee.

Here’s what you need to know:

Buy online:
It’s Only Natural Gifts

What are you waiting for?
Get gone.

Eat it.

Summer, Video

Farm City Fair 2010

This is totally meme-worthy.

My sister (heretofore known as Therese) forwarded me some info on a local food event that she would not be able to attend. Fortunately it fit perfectly into my schedule. The Farm City Fair is a celebration of urban fooding, local farming and agricultural artmaking. Sponsored by the FI:AF (French Institute:Alliance Francaise), it took up a few blocks of Cobble Hill as well as the interior of the Invisible Dog Gallery. The crisply witted @kthread was my date and we ate, laughed and reveled in the blissfully weird event.

We arrived to find a fair somewhat smaller than we had imagined. Maybe it was the grey sky, but from a distance the tenting along the block looked sparse. Maybe this would be a short adventure.

And then music.

Asphalt Orchestra was playing, dancing, shouting, grooving and bumping the fair into a capital event, it was now a full fledged FAIR. Grinning from the music (well, that and terribly attractive horn players) @kthread and I ran an initial lap around the booths to see who was there. Hydroponics advocates, local restaurants, kombucha breweries and local love all over the place. Ducking inside the gallery we finished our preliminary lap around the vendor tables to find Wylie Dufresne plating up some poached eggs. Obviously we would be back to sample.

The short story here is this: homegrown fairs are fabulous. We left the block filled to the brim with good food and giant smiles, more than enough to carry us home through a light mist.

You should watch the video through to the end. We made a very special friend.

There are many hats under this hat,


NYC Fancy Food Show 2010

Once a year something magically caloric happens at the Javits Center in NYC. The convention hall is consumed by the Fancy Food Show and foodniks of all ages and appetites roam, graze and stalk down the aisles in search of some new morsel or flavor. Manufacturers and vendors ship themselves and their wares into the sweaty heat of mid-summer Manhattan to pitch their products and jockey for attention in the alarmingly expanding specialty food market.

How could I miss this?

I’m always hunting for new gluten free goodies (this is, perhaps, why I can easily spend an hour in a grocery store) and there is no better target to train my sights than the Fancy Food Show. While many of the aisles are packed with cheese and chocolate (remember when I said magically caloric?), I ducked and dodged the crowds in an effort to pick out every gluten free offering. I was stuffed.

Gluten free baking is hot. You know this. Vendors are quick to jump on the boat in an effort to sell more product and grab a growing demographic. This, unfortunately, does not always lead to innovation and creativity. Which is to say, there’s a lot of junk out there. You know this.

And so, my goal in attending this trade show was to find not only what’s new, but shine a spotlight on what I think is great. I tasted (and tasted and tasted), talked and taped for three days. I wanted to be selective, to bring you only my favorites. I can tell you without doubt that the people featured in this video are all doing fantastic work. These are foods I eat and products I use in my kitchen every day.

It’s always smile-inducing to see old friends like Rick Levine from Seth Ellis Chocolatier (check out our tour of his factory here). He’s working on some new gluten free and nut free peppermint cups and caramel cups to compliment his stunning line of chocolates and sunflower-nut butter cups. I had a chance to see Dr. Lucy of Lucy’s Cookies and she gave me a sneak taste of her new treats (if you like her cookies, get excited). Lucy and I cooked together this summer and we’ll be posting that episode in August, stay tuned!

Of course, I love meeting new people. Talking with the folks at Bob’s Red Mill was certainly a highlight. I can’t tell you how many of their products line my shelves. And have you tried Glow Gluten Free Cookies? I knew Jill (the owner/creator) from the twitterverse and it was a joy to laugh and smile and chat with her in person. Speaking of twitter, I was able to meet up with one of my favorite gluten free tweeters (@gfcrumpette). We gossiped and made mischief. Duh.

Here’s the thing of it:
Everything is in the video below. Goody Good Stuff Gummies, Edward and Sons‘ GF Ice Cream Cones, and of course, my bug-eyed trouble making face. Watch the video and watch out for these new products on your shelves.



IACP 2010, Portland Day 2 Video

Hopefully you watched the Day 1 IACP video.

If not, take a few minutes and catch up.
I don’t want to spoil anything.

As far as I’m concerned, day two officially started with the opening night ceremony on day one. Everyone had a chance to get their glam on, eat some food and sample some incredible LOCAL spirits. As a non-Portlander, I was wowed by the mashup of high end restaurants and out-of-control food trucks. The competition was fierce between the two, and I am not about to call a winner in that battle. If you made your way to the absinthe room, consider yourself lucky. Bathed in low light, it was the official IACP red light district of the night. Two great distillers, Marteau and Pacifique. Rock it out.

Of course, then there were all the events of day two. It started with a call to arms from Captain Reichl, asking us to vote with our dollars and change the food industry from the ground. More classes followed and of course, there was Ruhlman. You’ll have to wait for the next video to catch a glimpse of him. I’m a tease.


IACP 2010, Portland Day 1 Video

Ladies and Chickens, this is what you’ve been waiting for. At the end of April, Renegade Kitchen hit the road and took the show to IACP 2010. I spent a week in Portland with some of the hungriest culinary minds eating, drinking, laughing and learning. In between the edification I boogied around and filmed interviews with attendees, vendors, speakers and volunteers. Many thanks to everyone who spoke into my camera during the conference-your bravery is to be commended.

Here’s the first film (yes, this will be a series). Day 1 of IACP 2010-checking in, making some friends, celebrity sightings, the usual. It was a brilliantly full day of classes and handshaking. We left lunch with a charming little ceramic crock from Le Creuset (who didn’t covet another?). The first day was superb, everything kept in check by the IACP volunteers. If you were clothed in orange during the week, you have my heartfelt thanks. Music in this clip is courtesy of Purse Candy over at Rock out.