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The Leafy Green Machine

BY: Ethan Reynolds, AOS Culinary

Modern hydroponic farming is the practice of growing plants in nutrient-dense water instead of soil. This practice has been in existence since the early 20th century. It’s a true agricultural breakthrough, The idea of producing food in climate-controlled indoor facilities, with no need for soil, opens up a myriad of possibilities for farmers to improve efficiency and to grow any type of food at any time of year.

Commonly, hydroponic farming is organized in a greenhouse-like environment. Natural sunlight provides the plants with the ability to photosynthesize, and these plants are fortified by the nutrient-packed water that immerses their roots. Usually, these plants will be situated on large horizontal beds of water. The water itself is blocked from the sunlight to allow the plants access to light but prevent algal growth beneath the surface of the water.

Freight Farms is a company that has expounded upon this farming technology in a truly unique way. Their idea was this: create a self-contained vertical hydroponic system in a shipping container measuring 320 square feet. This shipping container holds nearly everything needed to produce 4,500 plants simultaneously, yielding the same amount of food as two acres of farmland. This is 270 times more space-efficient, a truly remarkable improvement. The portable farm was fondly dubbed the Leafy Green Machine. Though it can grow many kinds of plants including strawberries and sugar snap peas, these plants do not truly fit the design of the farm. It is best suited for growing leafy greens such as lettuce, herbs, and brassicas such as cabbage or kale.

The structure of the Leafy Green Machine is built around making the most of a tiny space. The incubation area, where plants are grown from seed to sproutling, is housed underneath a functional work table which can be used to organize and pack the mature plants. Instead of a horizontal growing system, the crops are grown vertically, then each mature seedling is placed into a slot on a hollow tower. The roots are fed by a flow of specially enhanced water that flows within the tower, from top to bottom. There are many of these towers in the shipping container, and each is set on a rolling track so that they may be moved towards the work table when it comes time to harvest. The plants will then grow out from the towers instead of up from the ground, which allows much more to be planted in a tiny space.

The farm is almost completely automated. The walls are insulated and the climate is computer-controlled, and the plants are “fed” by red and blue LED lights which turn on and off to regulate photosynthesis as the system determines. Furthermore,  the enhanced water is recycled throughout the system. With this system, the farm needs less than five gallons of water to function for an entire day. Sensors within the farm measure the properties of the environment, and these measurements are used to adjust the climate as needed. The entire system can be controlled via an app, which makes it a practically hands-off operation. The farm needs only about 15-20 hours of labor per week to stay running, which is significantly lower than many farmers today. The isolated nature of the shipping container makes it so that pests are hardly an issue; therefore, pesticides do not need to be used. This makes it far more feasible to grow organically.

Due to the climate-controlled nature of the farming environment, the Leafy Green Machine can grow crops in virtually any part of the world and at any time of year. Each farm sells for the comparatively reasonable price of $85,000, with an added yearly cost of $13,000 in upkeep and supplies. This price point makes it practical for entrepreneurs to buy, and build a business around, one or more of these farms.

A small business owner and Vietnam War veteran by the name of Jerry Martin started a farm aptly named Vet Veggies in Springdale, Arkansas. The company serves as an example and an encouragement for recent veterans to rejoin the workforce in the hydroponic farming industry. Vet Veggies grows butter head lettuce,= which is distributed to several local grocery chains.

In urban East Boston, a couple formed a business around four Leafy Green Machines. Corner Stalk Farm brings forth produce that the couple then sells at their well-loved neighborhood retail shop, Boston Public Market. By building a farm in such an urban environment, they provide their customers with truly locally grown, fresh produce while simultaneously improving their community.

Hydroponics have been at the forefront of the agricultural zeitgeist for some time now, so it’s only a matter of course that the innovative minds of this millennium would apply themselves to revealing the extent of possibilities that exist in soil-less farming. If Freight Farms continues to gain traction as a company, the reach of hydroponic farms can only grow wider and  fresh food could be grown in unfarmable sections of the world, feeding scientists in Antarctica or underprivileged children in the deserts of Kenya.

 

 

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Chowder Cook Off 2017

BY: Deja Burrows, BBA Food Business Management

If you were to enter the gymnasium at the Culinary Institute of America on March 12th, you would have been enveloped in the smooth sounds of the live band and salty air smell of simmering clams. Fourteen teams were selected to be a part of the CIA’s 16th Annual Chowder Cook Off, with food preparations starting the day before and decorations being carefully crafted from weeks before the event. The competition included two components – the first being the judged competition with a panel of judges that each team presented with hot bowls of ungarnished chowders for critique. Fellow students and other members of the CIA family were invited to help in judging for the People’s Choice award. A ballot holding fourteen boxes – one for each team – was given out and each ballot was stamped upon approaching the booth and sampling the chowder. Each guest could vote for the chowder they liked best. Every stamp on their voter’s card counting as a point.

With themes as varied as prison lunch style chowder to Finding Dory, costumes and decorations filled the room with color and style. SPICE even gave the guests themselves a chance to dress up with a “decorate your own sailor hat” table, including shells and fabric paint. So, with voter cards in hand and sailor hats on their  heads, guests set out to try the carefully crafted chowders. Each chowder had its own signature style. Some included seafood rather than clams; crawfish, shrimp and even cod roe made an appearance while others included classic ingredients such potatoes,  corn, and bacon for a smoky finish. Though the creamy cups of steaming chowder were delicious on their own, the garnishes put them over the top. Such additions included freshly-baked, moist, crab shaped corn biscuits, crisp potato sticks, and charred corn. After sampling as many cups of chowder as one could handle and dropping their ballots into the bucket of the team whose chowder they liked the best, guests gathered around to witness the great oyster shucking and eating contest. With contestants signing up earlier in the day, they were organized into three separate rounds. Each person was given a platter of ten oysters with a cutting board, towel and oyster shucker. After being prompted to start, each contestant began prying open and flipping over each of their oysters as quickly as possible until the victor dropped his shucker and shot his arms up in pride. The winner from each of the three rounds then returned for a face off, with techniques being displayed such as the use of a glove to allow in-hand shucking and bending to be at table height. The last round ended in a tie with two contestants finishing too close for a clear winner to be decided upon. This then led to a five oyster shuck off to reveal the true winner. The festivities didn’t end there; something had to be done with all those shucked oysters, so three rounds of brave contestants lined off to slurp down oysters with a concoction of cocktail and hot sauces that made some turn bright red. While both competitions excited the guests, all ballots – including the judges and the common people – were being tallied in the background. The humming of the mechanical shark was soon ceased, the bands equipment were packed away, and all contestants gathered in the middle of the carpeted gym anxiously awaiting the big reveal. In addition to first second and third place, other categories included: people ‘s choice, showmanship (based on the ascetic of their booths and costumes) and professionalism based on timeliness of ordering, cleanliness and overall attitude throughout the competition. After weeks of making decorations, two days of food preparation and full day of cooking and greeting the Chowder Cook Off Winners were finally revealed to be:                                                       

Professionalism Award – Finding Flounder ( Team 3)                                                                              

                                                              Showmanship Award-Crusty Clam ( Team 14)

                                                              People’s Choice- Star Anise ( Team 2)

                                                              3rd Place Overall-Straight out of Clamton ( Team 8)

                                                              2nd Place Overall-  Bivalve & The Crawdaddies ( Team 11)

                                                              1st Place Overall – Just Keep Swimming ( Team 1 )

It’s  clear to see the 16th Annual Chowder Cook-off was an exciting time for both the competitors  and guests. Congratulations to all the teams that participated, and especially to those who placed. Next year, don’t be afraid to submit your own recipe or come and have a fun time at the CIA’s Annual Chowder Cook Off.   

 

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(Don’t) Fear the Critic   

BY: Amanda Lamperti AOS Culinary

Food writer turned restaurant critic Pete Wells of the New York Times earned his respect from people both heavily involved in the New York City food world as well as followers of his work throughout the country. Readers of the Times often resort to Wells as the go-to guru of all things to know in the NYC food scene when searching for the right restaurant to make reservations for a Saturday night dinner. The attraction to these artfully crafted words of wisdom published weekly from Wells can come from the curiosity of seeing which restaurants are rising above the rest, and it is arguable that some readers simply wish to have their appetite satiated by his raw display of sarcasm. Nevertheless,  it is agreed that Wells holds the talent of “telling it like it is” while keeping his reviews both constructive for the restaurant and entertaining for the readers – and people love it. This is not something that is easy to do, which is why Wells is the perfect guy for the job. Chefs are intimidated by him, restauranteurs try too hard to please him, and waiters run the other way when they see him sitting in the dining room. But why? He is just an average guy with a normal opinion, but has the power to use that opinion to make or break a restaurant. So yes, he kind of is a big deal, but  the way people who are affected by food critics in general view them as tyrannical, aggressive, and just plain mean. This one person can put a lot of stress on a lot of people, but if these people took the time to understand the logic of Pete Wells and others in the business, they might change their minds.

To start off, Mr. Wells is strictly a writer; and a fair one at that. In a recent phone interview with La Papillote he explains, “I got into this to write. I started off as a writer, then the food kind of came later.” Wells worked his way up in the columns of the New York Times and started to write about food, which obviously fared well for him.  He now has what any student at the CIA would consider a dream job, eating his way through NYC, all on someone else’s dime. He goes into restaurants as a reporter and writes about his experience, with no favoritism or other opinions in his head. He continues saying, “I think people imagine that a food critic is supposed to be sitting there looking for faults, and you do see them, but what you’re really trying to do is experience the restaurant. Whatever experience they’re offering, you’re trying to have it.” No pre-judgements, no early predicaments on his part. “I don’t read other people’s reviews. I don’t even read that much of the publicity, or sort of pre-opening criticism. Sometimes I go into these places knowing nothing.” Going into each and every restaurant with a clean slate and open mind means that anything can either charm Wells into writing a blissful article of praise or a rather bitter review full of more sarcasm than usual.

And as far as Wells’ relationships with the chefs, no bribery or favoritism is allowed. When he writes an article that does not go over so well with the chefs, he stays calm to explain the backlash he receives from his merely honest report of their restaurant. Wells says, “There aren’t many chefs in New York City who I would consider a ‘buddy’… Sometimes chefs will write back whether it is a good review or a bad review. The worst that will happen to me is that chefs will lash out at me in public, but that’s really rare. But I don’t mind if they do that. [One restauranteur wrote to me] saying that I shouldn’t be doing my job and the Times was making a mistake by employing me.” Chefs will be some of the most fiery and passionate people you will ever meet, and Wells’ calm personality and ‘cut to the chase’ take on his influential job is a balancing act in the restaurant industry. He proves to be the less selfish and attention-focused partner in this duo of food critics and the emotional chefs of New York City. But what irritates Wells are the self-centered chefs that use the dining room as a stage and the guests an audience to fuel their ego. “There are these restaurants where the chef is taking himself or herself so seriously and they forget that people aren’t just sitting there to applaud you all night. They want the show to be all about them, and it shouldn’t be that way.”

But no matter what the cuisine, starred ranking, or generalized fame a restaurant holds that Wells is reviewing, he extends that the most important factor is that they deliver what they promise to their guests. Wells reviewed Senor Frogs, a not so high-class restaurant- chain bar located near Times Square and they received a great review… and they do not even have a chef to run the place. How in the world did that happen? According to Wells, his logic on judging these two extremes is quite simple. “A lot of it has to do with what the restaurant is promising you and what they deliver. Senor Frogs wasn’t really promising that much on the storefront, you know.” Wells laughs. “It wasn’t saying it was this new interpretation of, I don’t even know what it would be, Spring Break Cuisine? They were promising the drinks would be large, and they were. And that there would be wild, weird entertainment, and there was. For what they set out to do, they did it.”

When recalling the fame Per Se’s article retained, he says “I knew it was going to be talked about a lot in the restaurant business and at your school. People who are following the industry were going to be intensely interested in that. But what I did not know was that it was going to be read by so many people who don’t really follow restaurants and had no intention of eating at Per Se. It took off in this scale that I wasn’t predicting.” When discussing the remarks of his reviews in general, he says, “It’s nice to be read. I don’t really enjoy a backlash at all. When it’s a negative review, it makes me a little bit uncomfortable when people are cheering. It’s negative, but it’s not being cheered at the restaurant, for sure. In the restaurant, I see people’s faces where I don’t want to see people laughing at them. And I write to make people laugh, so go figure.”

So if there is one thing that must be done to impress Pete Wells, it is complete honesty and sense of realness in every aspect of the restaurant. That does not sound so mean coming from someone dubbed “America’s most dangerous restaurant critic.” To further his defense, when asked whether Wells preferred to construct his insults while writing his articles or if they were spur of the moment during his meal, he could not quite decide. “Sometimes there are things I think while I am eating, sometimes it’s things I think of when I’m sitting down taking my notes. It’s kind of better if it happens at the spur of the moment. It’s fresher, and it could be more accurate.

And do not think that Wells enjoys special treatment because of his title. The need to ensure everything for Mr. Wells is absolutely perfect at all times is unrealistic, and he is certainly aware of it. “There is refilling the water glass at the table every time someone takes a sip. They just must not realize how irritating that is. It’s distracting; every time you pick up your water glass, it doesn’t need to be refilled if it’s just gone down one eighth of an inch. But [as a reporter] you also have to pay attention to how everyone else is eating. Just looking around the room, how other tables are being treated.”

Wells finishes off by saying, “I’m not writing them a report card. I’m not writing them to give them a sense of how to improve their business. I’m really writing for the reader.” Nothing that Wells says is meant by any tyrannical, aggressive, or just plain mean things people assume are his intentions. He laughs, saying, “Well, there’s the job and then there’s the person. And it’s never been personal for me, and I think it’s hard sometimes for chefs to realize that. It’s personal for them.”

 

March Career Fair

BY: Timothy Slavin, AOS Culinary

The CIA’s Spring Career Fair got off to a frigid start, but nonetheless was another incredible opportunity for networking with leading companies spanning the globe. Despite the two day delay to the event, over 100 restaurants, hotels, country clubs, and many other hospitality related properties were on campus to recruit CIA students. Companies such as Hyatt, Four Seasons, The Little Nell, The French Laundry, Blue Hill, and many others were here to talk with students. Whether you are looking for an externship, a stage, or a job after graduation, there were many interesting companies to speak with. I had the opportunity to interview a couple of the companies represented and ask why they invest so many resources in recruiting students from the CIA.

The first person I interviewed was Jessica Woodson from Bonura Hospitality Group. Bonura has many businesses located in the Hudson Valley region such as Anthony’s Pier 9 in New Windsor, NY, Shadows on the Hudson in Poughkeepsie, NY, and Blu Pointe in Newburgh, NY. “We’ve been coming to the CIA for 5 years because of the quality of the students here,” Jessica says. Because of the proximity of their concepts to the CIA campus, it makes perfect sense for Bonura to focus on recruiting from the school. One of the people representing Bonura in addition to Jessica was John Chamorro, a CIA graduate. “I met John at a CIA career fair and he ended up working for us after school. He is now the Wine Director for Blue Pointe.” It was inspiring to see the type of impact that a graduate from CIA can have so immediately upon a company.

Tami Stephan from Omega Institute for Holistic Studies was also on campus interviewing students for externships and jobs. Omega is a holistic retreat located in Rhinebeck that focus on healthy, sustainable eating, meditation, yoga, and other holistic studies. They have several CIA alumni that have worked for them, including their previous two chefs. When I asked Tami what sets apart students from the CIA versus students from other schools or employees lacking in formal training, she said, “The professionalism that the students display sets them apart. They care about what sustainability and what we are doing. They are real go-getters.” These, among other qualities, are what has brought Omega to CIA’s career fairs for the last four years.

Maybe you aren’t ready to start looking for an externship or job post-graduation, but it is always a great idea to network and talk to recruiters at the career fair. Many of them have stood where you are, and can answer any questions you might have about life after CIA, and what kind of career path you might take. If you missed this one, the next career fair is scheduled for June 5th. Dress nice, bring resumes, and dream big!

photo courtesy of Leslie Jennings

AOS Graduation Speaker

Bryce SHuman

BY: Shelly Loveland, Staff Contributor

Former Executive Chef of Betony

 

Chef Bryce Shuman has made a career of leading and working in some of the country’s top restaurant kitchens to great industry acclaim. 

Originally from Chapel Hill, NC, Chef Shuman was introduced to the restaurant world as a dishwasher at Mesh Café in Greenville, NC. He quickly fell in love with the kitchen and moved up through the ranks to become the restaurant’s chef de cuisine before moving to San Francisco in 2002 to hone his culinary skills. Working first for Wolfgang Puck at Postrio and then for Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski at Rubicon, Chef Shuman learned the importance of cooking with the finest ingredients and always from the heart. He also earned his degree from the California Culinary Academy while working nights at Postrio.

Returning to the East Coast, Chef Shuman joined Daniel Humm’s team at Eleven Madison Park in New York City in 2007. During his six years as sous chef and executive sous chef for the restaurant, Eleven Madison Park garnered four stars from The New York Times, three Michelin stars, and a top 5 placement on the S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants listing.

In 2013, Chef Shuman was hired as executive chef along with Eamon Rockey ’06 as maître d’ to transform the former Brasserie Pushkin into a new venue. The result was the sophisticated, fine-dining Betony, which opened later that year. Under Chef Shuman’s leadership, Betony soon earned three stars from The New York Times, one Michelin star, Restaurant of the Year honors from Esquire magazine, and a Best New Restaurant nomination from the James Beard Foundation. In 2015, he was named a Food & Wine Best New Chef and recognized as one of New York City’s Rising Star Chefs by StarChefs.com.

Active in his community and industry, Bryce Shuman is a supporter of Careers Through Culinary Arts (C-CAP), No Kid Hungry, and Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. He has leant his talents as a judge at the New York City Cochon 555 competition, served as a guest instructor at Macy’s DeGustibus Cooking School, and cooked at the James Beard House and several food and wine festivals. In 2010, Chef Shuman competed in a season 5 episode of the Food Network’s Chopped.

 

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Nicholas Elmi

photo courtesy of Leslie Jennings

AOS Graduation speaker

March 3, 2017

Nicholas Elmi

by Shelly Loveland, Staff Contributor

Chef/Owner Restaurant Laurel and ITV

Nicholas Elmi is the chef/owner of Restaurant Laurel and ITV (In the Valley) Wine and Cocktail Bar in Philadelphia, PA. Chef Elmi and the staff of Laurel focus on French-inspired American cuisine with a nod to regional tradition and contemporary flavors. A 22-seat gem that delights critics and neighbors alike, Laurel is located on a small street in South Philly known as East Passyunk Avenue, named one of the “Ten Best Foodie Streets in America” by Food & Wine. ITV, located right next door, reflects Restaurant Laurel’s intimate vibe. Chef Elmi’s latest concept is Baba Bar, a Mediterranean bar and grill that will be located in Terminal B in Philadelphia International Airport.

Since opening in November 2013, Laurel has garnered national attention in a short amount of time. It has consistently been named near or at the top of Philadelphia magazine’s 50 Best Restaurants and also earned a spot on GQ’s 25 Most Outstanding Restaurants of 2015. Laurel was also awarded four bells (the highest rating possible) from award-winning critic Craig Laban of The Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as three and a half stars from Trey Popp of Philadelphia. The James Beard Foundation named Laurel a semi-finalist for Best New Restaurant in 2014 and Chef Elmi a semi-finalist for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic in 2017 and 2015.

A native of West Newbury, MA, Nicholas Elmi is a 2002 graduate of The Culinary Institute of America. Before opening Laurel, he worked in some of the top restaurants on the East Coast and the world, including Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia, Union Pacific and Oceana in New York City, and Guy Savoy in Paris, France. In 2013, Chef Elmi won season 11 of Bravo’s Top Chef, beating out 18 competitors for the top spot.

Active in the industry and community, Chef Elmi has served as a guest chef at the James Beard House, was a guest instructor at DeGustibus at Macy’s in New York City, and participated in the Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival in 2015 and the New York City Wine & Food Festival in 2016. He also appeared with Chef Carla Hall in a webisode for students by Scholastic called “Math@Work: Math Meets Culinary Arts,” designed to connect classroom learning to careers. Chef Elmi is a supporter of many worthy organizations, including the March of Dimes, The Parkinson Council, and the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).

 

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Michael McGrath

photo courtesy of Leslie Jennings

Aos Graduation Speaker

February 10, 2017

Michael McGrath

Chief Executive Officer: Newman’s Own

by Shelly Loveland, Staff Contributor

Michael McGrath is the chief executive officer (CEO) for Newman’s Own, Inc. In this position, he is responsible for managing the food and beverage company’s business in the United States and internationally, as well as leading new product development and market expansion. Mr. McGrath also serves as a member of the Newman’s Own, Inc. Board of Directors.

There are currently more than 300 items in the Newman’s Own product line of great-tasting, high-quality, and organic foods, including salad dressings, pasta sauces, frozen pizza, salsa, frozen skillet meals, refrigerated lemonades, cookies, snacks, and pet food. Each contributes to fulfilling the company’s “100% of Profits to Charity” commitment through the Newman’s Own Foundation.

In collaboration with 30-year Newman’s Own partner LiDestri Foods, Mr. McGrath recently introduced a new line of organic pasta sauces to consumers under the name Common Good. The two CEOs—Giovanni LiDestri and Mike McGrath—selected a specific tomato varietal in a taste test, LiDestri Foods commissioned a California farmer to grow it, and just one year after the idea was conceived, finished jars were arriving at grocery stores.

Mr. McGrath began his work with Newman’s Own as an outside consultant on business issues. He subsequently joined the Newman’s Own team in 2013, when he was hired to manage the intellectual properties and licenses for the food and beverage business. In 2014, Mr. McGrath was named CEO. His more than 35 years in the food and beverage business also includes a successful career in the consumer packaged food business, where he was president and CEO of Weight Watchers and, most recently, the founder and CEO of Wolfgang Puck Soups, which he sold to the Campbell Soup Company.

Michael McGrath was a personal friend of actor and Newman’s Own co-founder Paul Newman. He is a longtime supporter of charitable causes, most notably the SeriousFun Children’s Network, where he serves on the Advisory Board, and its member camps, such as Barretstown in Ireland (where he has served on the Board of Directors) and The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, CT. 

Mr. McGrath earned a bachelor of science in business administration and accounting from Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, CT and a master’s in business administration from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA.

 

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Spent Grains

 

 

 

BY: Joe Piccirillo, BPS Applied Food Studies

After a long day of cooking, sitting in class, memorizing recipes, or studying, many students seek repose in The Egg. Some may want to enjoy a cold beer and unwind. In Brooklyn Brewery’s state-of-the-art brewing facilities and classroom, Head Brewer Hutch Kugeman educates students in the art, science, and history of one of the world’s most ancient beverages. Beer has four key ingredients grains (malt), water, hops, and yeast. Together these components give the beverage its iconic flavor, aroma, and pleasant effervescence many people have grown to love. The grains stand out in the brewing procedure. Grains allow the wort (unfermented beer) to begin the fermentation process by providing necessary sugars to feed the yeast and determine the final flavor of the finished product. After mashing is complete, the remaining grains are strained out of the wort and are often thrown out. This generation of large amounts of spent grains as byproduct has become a major disposal problem in the brewing industry. Fortunately, as sustainability movements grow in popularity, brewers have grown more resourceful. Some have reached out to local farmers in their area who can use spent grains as cattle feed. Beyond animal feed, brewer’s waste makes an excellent nitrogen-rich component in any sort of composting system.

Spent grains are a treasure in their own right. They are rich in nutrients such as protein and fiber, and acquire a distinct sweet and nutty flavor from the brewing process. Because of this, chefs and home cooks alike are adapting to the culinary uses of spent grains. Here are the CIA, Chef George Shannon, the chef instructor of the breakfast class at The Egg, has done extensive research in the utilization of these grains. Chef Shannon has been working with Hutch at the school’s brewery and is trying to utilize as much of the grains as possible.

Once Chef receives the grains, he begins to process them into flour. First, the grains are all laid on sheet trays, about ½ inch layer per tray. Then they go into an oven, set at the temperature 225F. Over the course of a few hours, the low heat will dry all the moisture out as well as deepening the flavor of the finished product. During this process, it is imperative that the grains are rotated on to new sheet trays, about every 30 minutes. This ensures even drying and safeguards the grains from sticking to the tray as moisture is released. After drying is complete, the grains are stone ground into flour in a grinder. The coarseness of the flour varies from coarse to fine, depending on the final usage. Now that flour is now ready to use and appears in many of Chef Shannon’s breakfast dishes. From waffles to muffins, spent grains are fortifying these dishes with nutrients, and most importantly, flavor. Chef Shannon is continuing to find new and innovative ways to provide these grains with an afterlife.

Although Chef Shannon is doing good things with our brewery’s spent grains, we are still disposing, on average, about 500-600 pounds a week. Hutch is willing to give grains to students.  Now that you are aware of the benefits and many uses of spent grains, stop on by the brewing facility a grab a few pounds of grains, and discover your own new way to repurpose them.

 

 

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Aphrodisiacs

BY: Francesca Zani, AOS Culinary

Most of us are like -minded when it comes to the topic of aphrodisiacs, especially with Valentine’s Day. Many of us can’t help but snicker at the thought of their purpose. Aphrodisiacs can be anything from fruits and spices, or liquors that evoke sensual feelings presenting a fun diversion for adult couples. There are many interesting assertions surrounding this topic including the nutritious benefits aphrodisiacs offer and their potentially controversial side stories.

It is a common theory that if a food looks like a body part or an organ, then it must be beneficial to that body part.  The Culinary Institute of America’s Chef and culinary science professor Jonathan Zearfoss has studied aphrodisiacs, and in his work mentioned a theory called the Doctrine of Signatures. This theory contends that if the plant or herb resembles human body parts or organs, then it will positively help that particular body part or organ.  CIA Chef William Philips notes how avocados look like the cervix of a female and therefore assist in the menstrual cycle along with the antioxidant Vitamin E. Upon further research, the idea of avocados improving reproductive health dates back to the time of the ancient Aztecs.   

As for males, oysters are alleged to be of assistance in reproductive organs. Chef Phillips also mentioned zinc and oysters being good for men’s sexual health. Zinc was used as a supplement for male testosterone levels. Chef Zearfoss stated  that because oysters are usually eaten alive, the idea of “taking on a life force” may be a factor in why live oysters are seen as something more than just food. Saffron, the vibrant orange culinary delicacy, is also essential for libido levels or sex drive. You can steep it in tea , or do as Queen Cleopatra did, which was to bathe in it.

There are also potentially harmful foods consumed for the perks that aphrodisiacs offer. Many of us in the culinary industry have heard about Fugu, the tetrodotoxin poison containing blowfish of Japan. This malignant fish is considered an aphrodisiac because of the mouth numbing sensation it gives diners. Yarsagumba, which can be found in Nepal, is a fungus that grows on caterpillars and is known for its amorous effects. Studies in Chinese medicine tell us that the fungus is boiled and consumed in forms of hot tea or soup.

There is controversy on the subject of aphrodisiacs, however. Chocolate is probably one of the best regarded to eat on any given day. Valentine’s Day is this month. It is interesting to bring about a controversial perspective some have on the topic. On the contrary of aphrodisiac history with chocolate, the 2006 New York Times article “The Claim: Chocolate is an Aphrodisiac”, written by Anahad O’Connor, found  this to be a false assertion. Although chocolate contains tryptophan which induces serotonin and phenylethylamine – a chemical released when you’re in love – there is not nearly enough of either of these chemicals in chocolate for it to have an effect on the body. This idea relates to other items people consume like spices and herbs. Although many herbs and spices offer health benefits, they must be consumed in large amounts for them to have an effect on the body. Don’t let this research put a damper on your fun, but it’s good food for thought next time you consider eating colossal amounts of chocolate while watching romantic 1980’s movies. 

 

 

 

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The Rise of Za’atar


At Restaurant Shaya

BY: Sarah Lubitz, Alumni Contributor

When I think of spices used at Shaya, the modern Israeli restaurant I work at in New Orleans, the first thing I think of is the smell of za’atar. Once I am fixated on that smell, I start thinking of specific things. I think of our pita bread, steaming as it is being taken from the oven. Our pita is served with an olive oil and za’atar mixture, and this is one of the first tastes of Shaya that you are presented with as a diner. I also cannot help but think of our Israeli salad, a bright and bold mixture, beautiful in its simplicity. Diced cucumbers and red onions are accompanied by quartered grape tomatoes. Za’atar, salt, fresh lemon zest, and a vinaigrette made with za’atar finish this salad. When ordered, more za’atar is sprinkled upon the salad. The smell of this herb blend is earthy, and it transports me to some place far away yet familiar.

My knowledge of za’atar was limited before starting my job at Shaya. I decided to taste it and to truly enjoy using it at work. But, since then, I have wanted to know more. Admittedly, writing this article made me finally get around to truly educating myself about this blend. I turned to Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem: A Cookbook to gain more knowledge. I quickly discovered that not only is za’tar a common spice blend, but it is a plant. During my reading, I learned that za’atar can be used fresh in the spring and in the summer, and it can be used dried and rehydrated throughout the rest of the year. When most people think of za’atar, they think of the spice blend that contains dried hyssop leaves, ground sumac, toasted sesame seeds, and salt. I turned to my boss, Shaya’s chef de cuisine, Zach Engel, to ask him about the blend we use at the restaurant. He told me that Shaya uses a Jordanian blend, which is composed of mostly thyme and oregano.

To gain even more knowledge of the za’atar plant, my chef loaned me his copy of The Spice Companion: A Guide to the World of Spices, written by the founder of La Boîte, Lior Lev Sercarz. In Lior’s book, he tells us that za’atar, Origanum syriacum, was an herb before it was a spice blend. He explains that this herb is the main component in the Middle Eastern spice blend of the same name, along with such spices as sesame, sumac, thyme, and other various spices, most of which vary from country to country. When it comes to be being harvested, za’atar is harvested in the wild, but is now being commercially cultivated because of the ever-growing demand for it. The most traditional uses for za’atar are the za’atar spice blend, marinated olives, tomato salad, all from the Middle East; Shanklish cheese in Lebanon; herbal tea in Oman. Za’atar is commonly used in flatbreads and in pita bread, as well as in mixtures with olive oil.

When it comes to using this herb in the kitchen, there are many options. Lior suggests adding crushed dried za’atar leaves to cheese biscuits before baking. He also suggests whisking together za’atar, honey, lemon juice, and olive oil, and then using it for basting a Cornish hen as it roasts. (I feel like this would work for any poultry.) At Shaya, as previously mentioned, we use it with oil for pita bread, and we use it in our Israeli salad. We have also used za’atar on fresh pita chips, and we have sprinkled it in salads. I look forward to learning of more uses for this spice blend that I have come to love. Hopefully, the next time you cook, you will keep za’atar in mind.