Everyone’s life can be hectic from time to time, and sometimes here in Nashville we feel as though we’ve been sequestered into seclusion (when it comes to family and friends). This post is intended to be an update for what is going on up here and the stages of life Scott and I are going through.
The most imminent life change we are about to go through (me more directly) would be that I am starting back to school this coming Monday. After a three-year hiatus from tests and homework, I have decided to rejoin the realm of the classroom learner. For about the past four to five years, I progressively and earnestly became more and more interested in food, nutrition and the classic fundamentals of culinary arts and have a blog and journals filled with recipes to prove it. During my short internship with Southern Living magazine I was afforded the opportunity to get to see how the test kitchen worked and food has been my obsession ever since. About a year ago I decided that self teaching, a job as a baker at a local Nashville establishment, books and independent research were no longer enough to quell the desire for more knowledge on the subject and that led to the decision to start researching and saving for culinary school. In a digital world where anyone can be a self proclaimed “expert,” I have determined that I want to go through a more classical training to gain the knowledge that I crave and to become a credible member of the culinary society. Thankfully, due to courses transferring from my prior education, this process should only take about a year to complete.
Another big change for us is our recent undertaking with a local startup apparel company called 1907 Apparel. Scott is charged with doing what he does best by heading up the Creative Development side of things. He’s writing, brainstorming and making contacts with people to get the word out about this awesome company. I offer up my photographic services to the team as well. 1907 Apparel at its core is about helping build communities. Every purchase helps in one of three areas: Poverty, Education and Sustainable Agriculture. If you’d like to learn more about 1907 Apparel, their story and their products you can click here to learn more.
I believe it is important to note here that I have not given up on photography. I am still scheduling photography work in my free time and still love and enjoy it as an art form. Maybe someday I will be able to find a way to combine culinary arts with my visual journalism degree in ways other than our blog. Scott and I are also in the works of our own start up business here in Nashville and hope to bring details of this venture to you soon, but we will see what the future holds.
Despite all this, we still plan to continue posting to this site about our many adventures out-and-about Nashville, in the kitchen and in our travels. Scott is currently writing a piece about our recent trip to Fall Creek Falls and our fun and mishaps canoeing on the Harpeth river and I have peppers roasting in the oven as we speak. The format may change a little as I am hoping to spend more time sharing what I will be learning in school at the time, but the content will mostly remain the same. Just me and Scott,”lovin’ life, lovin’ each other.”
One of the coolest parts of living in Nashville is discovering all the little hidden gems around town. That doesn’t just mean restaurants, either—it’s hard to keep a good restaurant a secret long around here, and it never takes long for even a tiny closet of a dive in Nashville to become overrun with foodies and others scoping out what all the hype is about.
No, I’m talking about the other gems—the markets, the special events, the less-publicized things-to-do that interest food and food culture lovers. Look hard enough and you can always find some sort of movie or discussion or talk somewhere in the city about a food issue, and we found a great one this week with “A Place At The Table,” the weekly dinner hosted by Martha Stamps, known for her work with Martha Stamps Catering and FEAST Together. “A Place At The Table,” hosted at West End United Methodist Church downtown, is a $10 per person weekly dinner held every Wednesday at 6. The food (as, you know, it’s hosted by the lady running Martha Stamps catering) is as excellent as it is earth- and vegetarian-friendly: This week’s menu consisted of chicken salad, roasted new and sweet potatoes, roasted asparagus, carrots, and mushrooms, and glazed carrot cake.
After the dinner there is a movie or a presentation or a talk of some sort relating to food, food culture, or, as in this week’s case, clean-earth initiatives. It was really interesting and completely worthwhile, and we left with a pretty sweet Swag Bag from Home Depot filled with light bulbs, power strips, reusable shopping bags, and other cool stuff.
There were probably close to 100 people at the church for dinner, and probably 40 or so stayed for the presentation. It’s very low pressure, and you don’t at all have to be a member of the church to attend. (We had never walked in the door before 5:55 p.m. Wednesday.) All in all, if you’re looking for a cool way to get out in the middle of the week, A Place At The Table is a really cool option by a lady doing a lot for sustainability in and around Nashville. It’s a hidden gem, alright—that was right under our noses the whole time.
From time to time we’ll be guest posting on a national food and restaurant review site called 2 Dine For. They spotlight areas like Nashville, Boston and Houston, but occasionally have reviews from other locations as well.
For our first guest post we made a home version of a local restaurant’s dish in what 2 Dine For likes to call “Recipe Box.” Click here to read the whole story.
We visited City House, a local Nashville favorite, and had their famous pork belly pizza with a farm fresh egg on top. If you live in Nashville and haven’t tried it, you must.
We flexed our at-home culinary muscles to attempt to recreate the wonderful dinner. We made our own pizza dough, used thick cut prosciutto, dried red pepper flakes, parmigiano reggiano, and a fresh egg on top. Almost as good as the original. Have I piqued your interest? Want the recipe? Well you’ll have to head over to 2 Dine For to get it. Be on the look out for our other upcoming guest posts as well. Cheers!
Most people dream of giving an Academy Award acceptance speech. They stand in front of the mirror, gripping a hairbrush, and thank their producers and writers to their smiling reflection. Some people, however, rehearse a different speech. And for those people, award season is just now gearing up.
The culinary world’s biggest event, the James Beard Awards, is just over a month away, and with the finalists being announced this week, the list is ripe for dissection and argument. From a Nashville perspective, there isn’t much of a presence among the finalists; The Catbird Seat, which was a semifinalist for best new restaurant, didn’t make the cut, nor did any Nashville chef. The closest thing to a Music City presence on the list is Jeni Bauer, an Ohioan whose Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in east Nashville boasts some of the longest lines in the city. Bauer is one of three finalists for the Baking and Dessert book category, for her book Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home.
Nashville’s omission from the finalists doesn’t mean the South struck out at-large; Southern culinary giants like Hugh Acheson, John Besh, Chris Hastings, and Blackberry Farm’s Joseph Lenn are all finalists. Blackberry Farm is also a finalist for Outstanding Wine Program. Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham, whose chef Frank Stitt is a previous Beard winner himself, is once again up for Best Restaurant in America, an award that, to this point, has eluded him.
Other culinary staples like Wylie Dufresne, Michael Chiarello, and Top Chef Stephanie Izard are all on the list, which can be seen here.
Last month I posted my Food Resolutions for 2012. Rather than make run-of-the-mill resolutions, this year I want to focus a little more on my diet and try to get it in line with what I believe about food systems and what we should be eating. Chief among these resolutions was to cut down on meat, or at least to get a better look at what kind of meat I’m eating and where it’s coming from. As I said in the post, with Jessica now vegetarian, my meat consumption over the last year has come down from what it used to be (daily) and has been shaped by a more healthful view of what human meat consumption should be.
At least this is what I thought. Over the last month I tracked every piece of meat I ate. I didn’t focus on avoiding it or intentionally staying away from it for the sake of looking better; I simply went about my daily food routine, and I tracked how much it involved meat. (I also tracked now many non-water beverages I drank in January, but it’s mostly coffee and juice. I’m doing OK there. Snoozer.)
This isn’t to say at all that eating meat is inherently bad for you or that everyone should avoid it. Cutting down on red meat, we all know, is a healthy decision, and I’m happy to say there’s very little of it on this list. Most of the list, not surprisingly, is chicken. But we all have reasons for eating (or not eating) what we do—my reasons for wanting to cut down on meat have to do more with how I feel about the processes that go into producing it and wanting to take a much harder look at how I’m supporting that system. (Hat tip to Food, Inc.)
So here’s the list. Of January’s 31 days, I ate meat on 21 of them. There were five pork dishes, nine chicken dishes, two beef dishes, three turkey dishes, and three seafood dishes.
1/6: 1 McDonald’s sausage biscuit (grabbing breakfast on the way to work)
1/6: 2 Baja fish tacos (Baja Burrito. No apologies.)
1/7: 1 slice Whole Foods barbecue chicken pizza (maybe four bites of pulled grilled chicken)
1/8: 1 Athens Cheeseburger (best in Nashville, FWIW)
1/9: 6 Buffalo wings (National Championship game. Ugh, they were nasty.)
1/11: ½ link Chorizo (on a grilled egg sandwich)
1/13: 2 Whole Foods chicken tacos (lean and healthy)
1/14: Noshville Turkey Rueben (great alternative to the original)
1/17: Sloco ham sandwich (if you gotta eat meat, Sloco’s the place to do it)
1/19: Fast food chicken sandwich (caught at work without lunch and got desperate)
1/21: 2 Baja fish tacos (Baja Burrito again. Yep, it’s good)
1/22: 1 cheeseburger (always been my favorite food)
1/23: 1 chicken breast (Hawaiian grilled chicken breast in the work cafeteria. High-risk, but it wasn’t bad.)
1/24: Sesame chicken (we didn’t feel like cooking and got desperate..)
1/25: Sesame chicken (..and it was a lot of food..)
1/26: Sesame chicken (..and I’m the only one who ate it so it took three days.)
1/27: Turkey and ham sandwich (Glad there isn’t a Firehouse close to my office or this list would be twice as long)
1/27: 6 grilled shrimp (The Silly Goose)
1/28: 5 chicken fingers (a regrettable and gross Saturday lunch trip to Arby’s)
1/29: 1 turkey burger (Burger UP, and the best I’ve ever had, hands down, end of story)
1/30: 1 sausage biscuit (breakfast on the way to work)
So there’s my rundown for January. Looking back, I only really regret a few of them—the two lunchtime fast-food trips, the chicken wings (which I used to love but am fading on), and three straight days of Sesame Chicken. If you take those out, you’ve got about 15 days of meat, which is more in line with where I thought I’d be. One interesting observation is that of all the meat, we only cooked it once, when we added chorizo to these egg sandwiches. We ate out more than usual in January, and that’s where the other 20 times came from. Had we eaten in every night, my meat consumption would have been almost zero.
I’m tracking February now, so it’ll be interesting to see where we’re at by the end of the month. (I may or may not have caved and gone to Chick-Fil-A for lunch yesterday. But I definitely did.)
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I earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism in December 2008. You remember December 2008—that time when people were running around streets with placards saying the economy was going to end, all those numbers in the stock market I don’t understand were shrinking, and general panic about our country was rising faster than Paula Deen’s blood sugar. It was not a great time to be graduating with a journalism degree.
Three years on, I can start to see now the pros and cons of having a degree in journalism. Three months out of school, for instance, I was hired to edit a small weekly paper. A year later I was hired to help edit a magazine. My degree helped make this possible. If I were advising future JN graduates, however, I wouldn’t be so quick to endorse it. Really, there aren’t many degrees I would endorse right now, and it honestly seems that we’re in a transitioning era of higher education: as the economy rebounds and shifts, job priorities will change and already are. Students should focus on tech degrees and work to create their own jobs, leveraging the power of the Internet to find a place to fit in this Economy 2.0, we’re told. Full-time diplomas don’t always facilitate that as well as, say, just getting out and doing it.
As I research culinary schools, I find myself asking the same question. Is it worth it? Is it worth putting in the two years in school rather than working up into a legitimate kitchen and being tutored there? Is it better to, say, save the debt, find a kitchen to apprentice in, or maybe scratch together enough to start a cart or truck and just get out and start putting out good food?
I’m not the only one wondering. Eater.com asked the question last year of some of the country’s top chefs. Here were some of their answers:
Anita Lo, Restaurant: Annisa, New York, NY
It’s a luxury, something that makes life easier for you. But it’s not necessary. I did go to Ritz Escoffier, but legions of people around the world haven’t gone to cooking school — that’s mostly how it was in France for a long time, with chefs that worked their way up in the kitchen. Cooking school is really expensive, and I’d say that anyone who has a good head on their shoulders, has the discipline to buy a good book, read it, and learn the fundamentals can certainly get by without attending school.
Lee Ann Whippen, Restaurant: Chicago q, Chicago, IL
Cooking school is not worth it due to the current state of the economy. After shelling out $60k+ for an education, you are not only left at graduation with a huge amount of debt, but there are also not many kitchen jobs that pay enough to pay that all back. Being a restaurant owner, it’s hard to find cooking school graduates or non-grads that have a great work ethic, so educated or not, if you start in a kitchen in a low level job and show a willingness to learn with drive and tenacity, you’ll have a much better chance of succeeding.
Joseph Gillard, Restaurant: Napa Valley Grille, Los Angeles, CA
At the time I attended cooking school, there were limited options. I went to Grand Rapids Community College (MI). I paid for school out of my own pocket, without having to borrow. Many of my colleagues are still paying off loans for the CIA and CCA, because even at that time (1992), they were charging $35,000 for the same education I received for $3,000. I no longer think culinary school is worth it. At $50 to $60 thousand it creates a tremendous crutch for young culinarians or people seeking a second career. Graduates can only hope to start in the industry at $10 or so per hour. I especially think for-profit schools are a rip off.
I think this is probably a microcosm of what many chefs would tell you. I was particularly interested in Joseph Gillard’s response though—my general line of thought was that if you’re gonna go, you need to go to a top-shelf school to make it worth it. Maybe that’s not entirely true, and to say that cooking school provides a crutch for people looking to make a change is strong language.
I guess this is just one of those questions that just depends on the person. It’s kind of like a journalism degree, or any degree, really. There’s always room for people who can get in and work their way up. But does the piece of paper give you a leg up? Any chefs out there care to chime in?