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.







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.   



(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

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.


Graduation Photos




Facts and food in a post-truth world

BY: Mike Feist

“Post-truth” is the Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year for no small reason. We have major politicians that believe climate change is a hoax and vaccines cause autism, despite mountains of scientific evidence. Our president’s administration started their first day in office claiming this inauguration was the largest ever, despite aerial images and transit records showing otherwise. The administration later defended the claim, saying “sometimes we can disagree with the facts.” It’s not just a problem here – two days later the new UK Prime Minister kept news of a nuclear missile test failure from the House of Commons and the public. Her defense secretary even said the government “successfully concluded” the operation. Lies, secrets, and the rejection of evidence-based statements are abundant in politics. But this isn’t just the routine “most politicians lie”; the amount of blatant, easily refutable falsehoods is unprecedented.

The term “alternative facts” has taken center stage in much of our news reporting and political debate since Brexit – the United Kingdom’s proposed secession from the European Union – and in the US presidential election. Information sources once deemed reliable by the mainstream are increasingly rejected, and the number of “fake news” websites is on the rise. People are largely ignoring facts and instead gravitating towards repeated emotional ideas and personal beliefs.

In George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, alternative facts are the backbone of government publications. The fictional government’s secret Thought Police surveil everyone and punish dissenting speech, actions, and thoughts. The Ministry of Truth is responsible for creating propaganda, doctoring papers and changing historical records. Orwell’s book, published in 1949, has recently seen a record surge in sales, becoming the top-selling book on Amazon and prompting a reprint of 75,000 copies (which is almost as many books as are found in our Conrad Hilton Library). Obviously a great many people are comparing our current times and foreseeable future to that of Orwell’s fictional world.

Statistics lost public credibility especially after Trump was announced as the election winner, as both the media and the public had become dependent on polling data to determine who would win. Those outlets disseminated their absolute certainty Clinton would win. Though the details behind the poll flaws are complex and vary by poll, the largest flaw may be media and public dependence on poll data. Elections are not science: you simply cannot predict the results with exact detail. A false prediction is not a reason to start losing faith in statistics as a whole, however. And, this premise applies similarly to the fields of food science and nutrition.

As in politics and media, the culinary industry sees a large amount of misinformation and disinformation (intentionally misleading or false claims) and a disregard of scientific evidence, for example, how people receive diet and nutritional advice, how they determine foods’ safety (such as genetically engineered foods), and how they view economically and environmentally sustainable agriculture. Some of these authors take advantage of ideas, like the conceptions that corporations hide data, fund (and thus influence) research, bribe doctors, and lobby Congress. Many alternative lifestyle organizations use partial truths to convince people to turn to unproven herbs and medicines, nutritional claims, or agricultural techniques. And they can play on public fears over published data to allow emotion to become dominant in determining personal beliefs. GMOs may be deadly. Gluten may make everyone sick. Coffee may be bad for you. The problems and solutions in politics, health, nutrition, and food safety are all similar, in that emotion-based sources tell you that terrorists, chemicals, toxins, and all things foreign are present, and they must be kept out, so detox, build walls, eat natural, and eat clean. Right?

Emotional ideas have already impacted our industry in huge ways, turning opinions on biotechnology, like genetically modified foods and herbicides like glyphosate. The latter reduces the use of soil tillage and therefore reduces erosion and runoff. It has also passed the EPA’s and other national institutes’ risk assessments many times. Genetically modified foods are among the most studied, and the process reduces environmental damage, increases the food supply, can prevent allergic reactions, and can literally save lives through nutrient benefits. As an example, golden rice is biofortified with beta-carotene, which reduces vitamin A deficiency, the leading cause of preventable childhood blindness, affecting millions of people.

Marketing plays a huge role in disinformation, with Non-GMO Project labels becoming ever more popular. Similarly, “natural” labels are also everywhere, though any food could be labeled natural: there aren’t any restrictions on the term’s use. There are restrictions on the term “organic” in the United States, but the US’s organic program is flawed, with organic farms requiring significantly more land and resources than conventional farms to produce the same amount of food. Organic farms have a larger carbon footprint and larger environmental effects. Marketing often targets pesticides as a reason to buy organic, and consumers buy into it. However both organic and conventional farms use a variety of synthetic and natural pesticides. Some natural pesticides, such as copper sulfate, are more harmful to the environment, and many of the synthetic pesticides are designed to quickly break down into simple substances. The USDA organic program also has fear-based and unscientific policies against irradiation, antibiotics, and genetic modification. It prohibits any use of antibiotics, which can be an ethical problem regarding the treatment of animals. Overall, organic products are more expensive and bring no demonstrable benefits, to food quality, nutritional content, the environment, or the economy.

Another food industry example is truffle oil. It’s overused and not appealing, and there are a lot of similar opinions most chefs agree with, but what about the facts? It turns out that those are hard to come by. Nearly all of what can be found on truffle oil is opinion-based, and often false. For example, Joe Bastianich said in 2014 that “it has nothing to do with truffles”, “it’s made by perfumists”, and that “it’s bad for you.” Just to be clear: many brands of truffle oil are flavored with pieces of truffle, producers of perfume do not make truffle oil, and no, truffle oil is not hazardous to human health. Contrary to claims published in The Alternative Daily, the WHO’s JECFA report recognizes truffle oil as safe.

According to Tim Wu, professor of communications law at Columbia, part of the problem with false facts is the internet. The beautiful idea of free and open worldwide communication has turned into what he calls a “wasteland of empty articles, celebrity non-stories, and random stuff designed to get your attention for even a microsecond.” Websites like Buzzfeed largely seek an emotional reaction and have no ultimate goal beyond selling advertising. This model where a company’s worth is only based on the number of clicks they get “makes TV ratings look honorable by comparison”, according to Wu. In comparison, Wikipedia is one website which has structured itself to prevent that: on a list of the thirty most popular websites, it is the only nonprofit and the only one not ad-based. Its director has stated that accountability is the most effective way to build public trust – transparency at every level and earnest aspirations towards the truth and self-improvement. Tim Wu expressed hope that other media organizations take on similar standards in order to maintain the public’s trust. If you’re unsure about a controversy or are looking for information on food safety, nutrition, or biotechnology, look to Wikipedia, which has policies requiring neutral content, though still check that the information you find is cited from trustworthy sources.

What does this matter to a CIA student? As a reader, choose your information sources carefully, as there is more disinformation being spread recently. For determining the truth, the best course is to read multiple sources, all with no apparent bias, transparent and appropriate motives for reporting, detailed and reasonable methodologies, authoritative authors and publishers, and a peer review process (like review boards for scientific journals or editors for books, newspapers, and some online media). Maintain skepticism and rigorously challenge even the most basic of claims to see how they stack up against robust evidence.

Regardless of what degree program you’re in, you are going to be affecting what and how people think about food. You may come to be interviewed or asked to write a piece, but even if you don’t, your menu and philosophy as a chef or business owner will speak to the public. But without public trust, as institutions are finding themselves ever more frequently lacking, your words and the truth will be lost to all.


From dock to dish

BY: Mike Feist, BBA Food Business Management

I was painted a vivid picture; almost 90% of fish sold in the US is imported, mainly from Asia, and about half of those from farms are in and around polluted rivers like the Mekong. The fish are largely illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) and forced labor is prevalent in the industry. Due to these factors, US seafood prices are rock-bottom. The number of US imports surpasses the previous record each year, and the FDA only inspects about 1% of these imports before the food is distributed. More foodborne illness outbreaks come from seafood than from any other imported food. We have an epidemic on our hands.

Sean Barrett is a lifelong fisherman who is currently located at the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture. We met there to talk about what he’s doing to fight this catastrophe. In 2012, Sean created Dock to Dish, a network of fishermen, chefs, and some of the most brilliant people in the industry. He launched the operation in Montauk, having worked with Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Scott Chaskey at Quail Hill Farm, where the “farm to table” concept evolved into “dock to dish”.

The original initiative was simply a community-supported fishery (CSF), based on the community-supported agriculture (CSA) model, and the first of its kind in New York. Dan Barber crafted an additional new program with Sean, the first restaurant-supported fishery (RSF) in the world. Sean’s fishermen supply top-quality fish, always delivered within 24 hours and never frozen. At Dock to Dish, they only offer sustainable seafood by only fishing for underutilized and abundant species, and working with multiple agencies to ensure that remains true. They are also sustainable in their methods – only using pole- and spearfishing to prevent bycatch and sea floor damage. This also made them a supply-based restaurant purveyor, reversing away from the traditional demand-based motivation as a purveyor.

They supply seafood to 15 restaurants in New York, including Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Eric Ripert’s Le Bernadin, Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern, April Bloomfield’s John Dory Oyster Bar, and Mario Batali’s Manzo at Eataly. Their waiting list has over 250 New York restaurants alone. Google’s Chelsea office also demands ten times the volume of a typical shipment to one restaurant, a staggering volume of fish. Whatever Sean brings in the chefs will take, whether it be Atlantic butterfish, sea robins, triggerfish, or cocktail bluefish. Chefs love these underutilized (and historically bycatch) fish, and the public, once mostly wary, are now specifically asking for them too.

Sean Barrett grew up around the freshest fish. His parents said they’d send him to basketball camp and he would return home with a “best fisherman” trophy. He’s worked in fisheries and restaurants since he was young, including his family’s tavern, where he learned to stand his ground in a kitchen. He grew up around one of the first CSAs in New York, Quail Hill Farm, founded by Scott Chaskey. Chaskey’s book, This Common Ground, made him think, “could CSAs work for seafood?” Scott then helped them start their CSF in 2012, and Sean said it skyrocketed from there. It became so popular that right away he had over 100 families with a 300-family waiting list. Sean brought the idea of adding restaurants into the mix to Dan Barber. The pair piloted it at Stone Barns, where philosophically it was a perfect fit, matching ideally with the force behind The Third Plate.

Dan Barber developed Sean’s idea to work for other restaurants, and immediately got on the phone. Dan personally called Eric Ripert, April Bloomfield, and half a dozen other top chefs. With his reputation and his insight as to which chefs would join in, he quickly got them on board. Dan Barber also guided Dock to Dish through some operational kinks. The first couple of times, they delivered the fish to Le Bernadin around noon, which was too late in the day. Sean didn’t realize they served lunch there and the fish should have been delivered much earlier, around 7:45 am. So they strolled in, excited to deliver some beautiful fish, and didn’t realize – the staff was ready to go for service, without the fish.

Once the operation became replicable, they started branching out all over the US, now operating in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, and Costa Rica. In California, they’re known for serving Michael Cimarusti’s Providence and Thomas Keller’s French Laundry. They always deliver within a 150-mile radius of the source, with an average of only 70 miles’ distance. In Vancouver, they average 11 miles away and in Costa Rica, it’s only 7 miles from the dock. They end up with the smallest carbon footprint of any distribution system in their class.

This month, Dock to Dish is launching a Kickstarter campaign for what they name Dock to Dish 2.0. They want to show transparency through traceability by introducing the first real-time seafood tracking system. It shows the fishing boats arriving just like watching an Uber pull up to your door. You can see information on the fishermen’s names, history, license numbers, favorite fish, recipes, and more.

They’re partnering with Google and the system will display on Dock to Dish’s website. The program has the potential to display on member restaurants’ websites or on a tablet at guests’ tables. Blue Hill already does similar demonstrations for guests, including showing videos of Sean and Dan’s crews out on the fishing boats. Sean hopes this transparency will spread to other types of purveyors, so he’s making everything open-source and easy to replicate.

I asked Sean about his personal philosophy. The work is hard, laboring on boats and docks, hauling and lifting. He admits to questioning his career, like many chefs do after a long and exhausting day. Sean questions his work more when he’s waiting through miles of traffic on the LIE before dawn, hoping to get to the Manhattan restaurants on time. However, he reminds himself that his products feel like preventative medicine, as good fish is fresh, clean, and healthful. With his program, he can check off all the boxes for sustainable, traceable, hyperlocal, and seasonal fish. So for the families and restaurant guests he feeds, he knows they can have a wholesome, delicious, and nutritious meal to end a hard day’s work. That idea is what keeps him going – knowing he’s making a difference.

He’s also excited about the nation getting back to its roots of locally-sourced food. It’s partly why he and Dan Barber are such good friends. Together, they also created the Squanto Project at Stone Barns, which started when Sean ended up with scraps from filleting fish for the CSF. Squanto and other Native Americans taught the early colonists that if you fertilize the earth with fish, crops will grow larger and stronger. Sean and Dan applied that knowledge to the compost for Stone Barns’ fields, and together with a switch from cardboard to reusable plastic containers for the seafood, they eliminated nearly all their waste  . They started teasing the Stone Barns farmers later that fall, having to harvest “Jurassic Park-sized produce” – due to the fish from the spring before.

Dock to Dish also works heavily with CIA alumni; Sean estimates that 75 or 80% of his restaurants’ chefs have graduated from the school. One of his closest mentors, William Rosenzweig, directs the CIA’s new Food Business School and is an Advisory Board Member.

The outlook of local seafood finally looks promising.   So many fish populations have been soaring over the past two or three years; fish like porgy and bluefish are both at 150% of their target populations. Sean says we now have the largest and most diverse population of sustainable fish in US waters that we’ve had in generations. And with a blueprint for fresh, traceable, and environmentally-friendly seafood supplies, the food industry has a bright future.



West Coast Living at Greystone

CIA in California

BY: Mike Feist, BBA Food Business Management

Some people get lucky. If you can find a way to live somewhere unique for a year or two, don’t say no. I decided to spend my two AOS years out at Greystone, in California’s Napa Valley.

The California CIA campus is in northern California, about 60 miles from San Francisco. There are enormous mountains, deserts, volcanoes and hot springs, vast tundras, and awesome beaches all over the state. And being outdoors is perfect almost anytime and anywhere: most areas never drop below forty degrees, it never gets humid, mosquitoes are very rare, and it hardly even rains. Most days year-round are sunny and stay around 70 degrees. I found opportunities to go backpacking, canoeing, whitewater rafting, snow caving, and skiing, and I could camp out under a single tarp most nights without a problem.

The town of St. Helena (officially a city, though a tiny one) hosts two other small college campuses. It has a small permanent population and relies almost entirely on tourism. You can find excellent high-end restaurants, boutiques, and gourmet shops like Woodhouse Chocolates. Their boxed chocolates have been rated the best in the US, according to Consumer Reports. St. Helena is also a town away from the French Laundry and near famous wineries like Robert Mondavi’s, Peter Mondavi’s Charles Krug, Stag’s Leap, Francis Ford Coppola’s, and Opus One. The area draws millions of tourists from far away for their Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Zinfandel. So if you love food, wine, or desserts, you’ll be in heaven, but there are fewer attractions that concern art, history, or science. It’s not like New York where you can find three museums on the same block. People in the Napa Valley are looking more to relax, enjoy the outdoors, and have a good time.

In St. Helena, it’s hard to find cheap food, and it’s hard to find things to do without spending a lot of money. So my friends and I, broke college students, had little to do there. My friends and I still have nothing to do in Hyde Park, but instead because we’re in the middle of nowhere. San Francisco and Sacramento are very far away from the California campus, and they surprisingly don’t offer as much as I initially thought. However, find a way to visit San Jose, Palo Alto, and Berkeley; there’s so much more there, and you’d definitely not regret going up to Portland and Seattle either. Public transportation can be tricky. It’s not nearly as convenient as Metro-North or the New York City subway, but it is much easier than the public transit in Dutchess.

Greystone’s campus is very small. It’s mostly all within one building, which is about ¾ the size of Roth Hall by square footage. Greystone’s unique in that on the top floor there’s the hot side and the cold side, separated by our only cafeteria. So there’s only one bakeshop (the cold side) and one main kitchen for culinary arts. There’s another kitchen on the first floor for use by one or two classes at a time, but the main one gets the bulk of the school’s use, and up four to five classes or groups can use that space at once. And I should mention it was designed fully open – no walls between the three sections – so you can see from the end of the bakeshop to the end of the kitchen, and glass walls that continue behind the kitchen allow you to see two-thirds of the building’s top floor from any spot.

Another potentially big difference is with carts and reqs. I’m not sure how the requisition system works in Roth Hall, but at Greystone we had to go to a corner of the building every day, check over every item if Purchasing had pre-assembled our cart, or help build our own if they were behind. We’d have to wheel it across back passages through the entire building, unless the elevator didn’t work (which was often). In that case we’d have to wheel all the food across the entrance hall of the building. Luckily it was usually early in the morning, so we didn’t have to find a way past the tourist crowds that show up later in the day. There also was never a specific place designated for carts and speed racks, you sometimes had to search the entire building to find one. Dealing with these problems every day helped us learn to adapt quickly in future situations.

Greystone also only has one restaurant for AOS students. Your schedule is therefore even more fixed than AOS students have it over here, but luckily our restaurant was a lot of fun. It was called the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant, a mouthful when trying to greet guests over the phone or at the door. Yet the front- and back-of-house instructors were probably the most helpful and nicest of all that I had. The food we served was delicious, and I was just as proud to cook it as I was to serve it. Our wines were fantastic, as were the cocktails. The whole system was the cleanest and one of the best-organized restaurants I’ve worked in, even though we started out with little front-of-house experience. By the end, we were all part of a fantastic machine we were proud of. Among the random things that I heard Hyde Park kids do differently in the restaurants and out are: not flipping cutting boards for new tasks (oops), actually peeling celery and asparagus, and washing pots and pans by hand! I was sad when I found out that with Greystone’s new satellite campus, the restaurant is being removed. AOS students will now use the restaurant formerly run by the BPS Farm to Table semester-away students, now called the Gatehouse Restaurant.

As I was leaving Greystone last spring, the CIA had bought and was renovating Copia, formerly a huge nonprofit museum entirely dedicated to food, wine, and all forms of culinary arts. I so wish I was around to see this enormous facility in its prime – complete with art, history, and science exhibits, massive theaters, demo kitchens, a rare book library, wine tasting rooms, and a cafe and restaurant. As a lover of food, wine, and culture, I would’ve spent all my time there. I managed to visit the empty space a few times, at first without even knowing it! Like most other Greystone students, I thought “what’s Copia?” when I first heard of the school’s purchase. I had been to the nearby food hall and farmers’ market, literally feet away from the building, and didn’t even know about Copia. A while later, I familiarized myself with the whole building, including its gardens and shaded paths, the reflecting ponds, and beautifully modern architecture. I’m looking forward to going back now that its long-empty halls are finally full.

As I was beginning my AOS, I realized Greystone is a bit more like an institution, not a university. So if you’re an older or a more mature student, it may be a good choice. You may even prefer it – come in, take serious classes, and leave. Clubs are few in number and disorganized, given Greystone’s lack of a four-year program. School trips and events are less common with a smaller student body, and there’s no on-campus gym, pool, or club rooms. The library is maybe half the size of the gift shop here and permanently shares its space with the learning strategies center. And because the campus’ only cafeteria requires business casual or chef whites and doesn’t include comfortable chairs or places for laptops, it lacks a university dining hall’s convenience and charm. There’s still a community feel to the campus because of its small size. My classmates and I felt Greystone was like a family.

I hope that the above ideas will help you and inspire you, whether you’re considering vacationing in the Napa Valley or spending a semester at our Napa Valley campus. Trust me,  you’ll be glad you did!

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).


GRaduation Photos


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.


Graduation Photos