Meat on Tour

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I’ve talked about culinary collaborations before. Chefs love to jam together. Restaurants love to host themed dinners and book signings for food memoirists. People love to take food and food ideas on the road and share them with the masses.

Leave it to “emerging concept” Mendocino Farms to design a meat tour when it invites the “garage to table smoked meat pop-up” Ugly Drum to incorporate its hand crafted pastrami into menus, hitting each MF location for a few days each throughout April and May.

Happy to be a groupie.

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Good People Doing Good Things

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When I come across something interesting in the culinary world that also happens to be innovative, beautiful and altruistic I immediately want to be involved.

I’ve known Bob Hodson for several years now — our relationship snaking back through my work in the restaurant industry and his day job as a commercial food photographer.

Bob is incurably curious, gregarious, and in love with the world of delicious food and passionate, inspired chefs. So much so that he began to carve out time from his work schedule to cultivate a passion project called Chef’s Insight. The site is essentially a photographic journey into the process and inspiration of a chef. He’ll go as deep as the chef will allow, capturing raw, fly-on-the-wall images that help to tell the story of the personality and the food born from it. For Bob I believe the work fills a need to connect with that beauty and craftsmanship he so admires. For others (like me), it is a sumptuous, voyeuristic culinary experience.

How could I not want to be involved?

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at last week’s shoot with Chef Jimmy Shaw of Loteria Grill. Stay tuned for Jimmy’s feature and, in the meantime, devour what’s already there.

Chef's Insight / Jimmy Shaw

Chef’s Insight / Jimmy Shaw

The Food Event Finally Gets Out From Behind the Sampling Booth

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It was only a matter of time before the collective culinary event consciousness decided they’d had enough “line-up-and-wait-for-a-taste” food events. Sure, some of them have panel discussions, demos or cook-offs, but those too are becoming as stale as last night’s bread basket.

Enter the All-Star Chef Classic.

This event must have been conceptualized on the back of a cocktail napkin over the holidays, because it seems to have appeared virtually overnight and with very little advanced buzz. From the looks of the chatter, the official press release hit the wire less than a week ago and tickets were made available to the public just this past Saturday. As Time Out aptly put it: “Do you hear that? It’s the sound of a thousand LA foodies letting out one collective squeal.”

Happening March 21 – 23, 2014, the event takes place in the L.A. LIVE “Restaurant Stadium” (pictured above). While not a real competition, this “never-before-seen venue will be the center of the action at the All-Star Chef Classic, bringing over 250 fans ‘kitchen-side’ in an intimate VIP setting, where they can be as close to the action as possible without being in the heat of the kitchen.” While the  Iron Chef-style arena leans heavily towards the dramatic, the setting seems to be offset by a decidedly down-to-earth cast of participants.

God bless Lucy Lean and Krissy Lefebvre for their ingenuity and covetable little black book of culinary connections. While I will always give props for simply not including the Sandra Lees of the food world in an a festival line-up, Lean and Lefebvre have gone beyond simply shooting for diversity by involving personalities that Angelenos may have never even heard of (depending on how many national food magazines they read), but whose credentials and talent will bring quite a lot to the experience. Much like Wolfgang’s belated American Wine & Food Festival did so successfully, All-Star’s line-up showcases chefs from cities all across the country and abroad.

After LAFW changed venues last year, I believe AEG would have taken the next soft-boiled festival concept to came their way as long as there were enough Food Network personalities attached to make it worth their advertising while. What AEG didn’t realize the first time around is that Angelenos just aren’t impressed by that kind of stock celebrity. We want the real deal. Something that looks and smells like the real thing and makes us feel like the insiders that we are.

Could this be it? Sure reads like it.

I’ve got my tickets.

http://www.allstarchefclassic.com/ @allstarchefla

Leveraging Chef Talent

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This article covering an article about Taco Bell’s recent rebound demonstrates the power of the culinary world and why more and more people are positioning themselves as brokers within it.

Doritos promotion aside–align yourself with a credible, recognizable chef personality and watch a vast, new audience flood through your door.

The model doesn’t always work (Aaron Sanchez / House of Blues), but if constructed correctly, a partnership with the right culinary talent could help revitalize and reposition your brand.

Business Travel, The Ultimate Buffet

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I traveled to San Francisco recently for a conference – Visit California’s Outlook Forum – a kind of “state of the state” chronicling tourism in the Golden State. As with any business travel, I did some cursory online research and quickly booked plane tickets, hotel, even dashed to the mall for a new outfit. What took me the longest in my planning process? Dinner reservations of course.

Sharr Prohaska, a professor of Hospitality, Tourism & Sports Management at NYU, recently contributed a concise little article to Huffington Post about the state of Culinary Tourism. While not revealing much beyond the fact that we’d soon be seeing the results from a new Culinary Tourism research study (courtesy of The World Food Travel Association), she hypothesized about who culinary tourists actually were:

“Are the culinary tourists really the Explorers who are always looking for something new to experience, the Baby Boomers who are seeking and educational or interactive experience, or many of the Millennial who have traveled since they were young and been exposed to exotic foods from around the world and are no longer content with a hamburger?”

Sure. All of the above. But there are hoards of us that squeak in between those categories on a daily basis. We’re the people who, despite whatever work or professional callings may lead us through our lives, food and the experiences that come with it, temper everything we do.

That’s why, long before I knew what time I’d have to leave for the airport or where I’d be telling my shuttle driver to take me, I knew where I’d be eating (Bar Tartine), what dishes I’d likely be ordering (potato flat bread,  green chile fisherman’s stew and farmer’s cheese dumplings) and what others had to say about them (“as good as it gets” and on and on…). I’d seen photos, read maddeningly descriptive reviews and felt like I had an insider’s perspective–all without ever having ever been there before.

The best possible kind of armchair travel these days is spent building your travel plans, one meal, snack or beverage at a time. Surfing has never tasted so good.

Burn the Boats

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There are a handful of marketing gurus I stay connected to–for inspiration, for ideas, to help me get off my butt and do what I know I should be doing.

Never Stop Marketing” is one newsletter I actually manage to read on a daily basis. Today’s post is about managing the things we tell ourselves and taking control of the messaging and turning it into something that drives and motivates, rather than slows us down or defeats.

He had a list:

Go big or go home.

Leave it all on the field.

Embrace the suck. (A particularly appealing phrase courtesy of the Navy Seals.)

But the one that did it for me was: “Burn the boats.” And he linked out to a Wikipedia post to help explain.

The Wikipedia entry was for “Point of no return.”  It read: “[Burning one’s boats] is a variation of “burning one’s bridges”, and alludes to certain famous incidents where a commander, having landed in a hostile country, ordered his men to destroy their ships, so that they would have to conquer the country or be killed.”

Wow.

I think Seth Godin would like this.

Talk about commitment.

Now imagine being this committed to your ideas. And go burn your boat.