Archive for Chef

SOPA affects everyone, including people in the culinary world

baked alaska

There are many variations on how Baked Alaska can be made, but this picture shows how people from the Food Network made it (Photo provided by the Food Network 2012).

The Internet, the infrastructure designed and built to expedite the ability to share information and knowledge faster than any modern form has reshaped our society; integrating into our lives seamlessly and creating modern nations into an “always-on” culture.  This power removes the effort of searching for a new restaurant; see its menu, or learning about what type of cooking/dishes they serve. Anyone not familiar with Baked Alaska can now search online video giant YouTube and see the process for how it is made, who makes the best, or potentially find links to a television series that specializes in baked goods. The creation of Twitter allows friends and family to communicate with each other, along with follow movie and television celebrities.  This would not be possible with the bill that was working its way through the legal system.  The SOPA bill would have halted this effortless flow of information in its tracks, for the sake of copyright protection and anti-piracy.

H.R 3261, as it was known in Congress, was propositioned as a bill that would assist copyright holders to protect their work by making the process to have their content removed less complicated, and give more protection to those works in the process. It was reassigned the name SOPA.  It was drafted to assist in the ability of intellectual property holders to gain assistance to infringed materials and covered the protection of copyright materials such as counterfeit goods for customer purchase, and unauthorized streaming of copyrighted media.

From the perspective of someone who uses the Internet, that would mean that favorite sites like Twitter, Flikr, YouTube, or Etsy, would cease to exist. Under the provisions put forth under SOPA, YouTube, which shares cooking giant Epic Meal Time, would have had the potential for DNS seizure by the federal government.  The deprivation of, “Bacon strips & bacon strips & bacon strips…” would be in due to the fact that YouTube is not solely made up of original content. If someone were to have uploaded a copyrighted item, such as a portion of a movie or song by a favorite artist, this would be legal grounds to seize the site by domain name and lead to further damages.

sea beans

My Chef Mom holding a interesting find of sea beans at a Kroger located in Montgomery, Ohio (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

Philip Erdeljohn, Network Engineer for American Express/HP, shared a personal and professional concern for the legalization of SOPA. “In my field of work, SOPA would not have necessarily caused an issue for a public company in the financial sector, but as someone who uses the Internet for everything from general browsing to searching for technical discussion and how-to, it would have been a major loss. If I wanted to learn how-to cook a nice steak dinner for my girlfriend, I’m going to look up a recipe and potentially how to cook it perfect. My happiness is riding on this.” Laughs aside, Philip is very serious and continues, “If SOPA did pass, it would have meant that because someone uploaded a song from The Doors to YouTube, I wouldn’t have been able to learn how to flambé, or how to potty train my cat.  The federal government would have gotten the green light to seize the Domain Name for YouTube, and pull the rug right out from under us. It was that serious.”

Cyber Security group Kaspersky Labs withdrew from the Business Software Alliance after discussions about SOPA and the conflicting stance the bill created. “Lobbying for a return to Jurassic copyright laws is like giving a blood transfusion to an already dead patient, risking the donor’s life. Governments should think about stimulating and developing new business models, rather than protecting old ones,” said Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of Kaspersky Lab.

my chef mom

My Chef Mom and a fan creating Taiwanese dishes in a kitchen in Cincinnati, Ohio (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

The Internet has always been a source for people to find things they need.  Whether its for work or play.  People use it to find restaurants, the next food trend, jobs in the culinary industry, top culinary schools, following their favorite CelebriChef like Anthony Bourdain on Twitter or Facebook, or even creating their own Facebook fan page for themselves like one user did with My Chef Mom.  All these things would cease to exist if SOPA passed.  SOPA did not kill the Internet and that’s why there is the YouTube craze of PSY’s Gangnam Style.

Share Button

Culinary “Misappropriation”: legal matters relating to Intellectual Property

bacon pie

This piece of a larger pie called the “Salty Hog Pie” from the Village Inn located in Phoenix, Arizona, but recipes can be found for similar pies on the Internet (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

In the world of food, legal matters do exist.  It is important for chefs and cooks to be held liable for their cooking and baking.  People know that there have been court cases relating to this topic, what people do not know is that there has been “culinary misappropriation” by chefs.  This is concerning their cuisine style choices and using other chef’s recipes without the permission of said chef.

One such example of the cuisine style choice was the feud between chef Eddie Huang and writer/editor Francis Lam.  The basic idea is that Francis Lam wrote about an American writer who made a successful Asian restaurant.  Chef Eddie Huang is calling the idea of white American chefs opening restaurants out of their ethnicity “culinary misappropriation.”  How do other chefs feel about this topic?  Chef Margaret Thompson said, “In a way, I can understand his point. We call this “bastardization.” Taking, say an Asian cuisine and having no roots in the culture, you make it how you think Asian, Italian, or whatever should be. It will no longer be authentic. Perhaps then this cuisine should be called fusion.  The argument for purity or misappropriation is no longer substantiated.”

The idea of fusion cuisine and having restaurants comes at a price to some chefs; some ideas for dishes and recipes may already exist for their place of business.  One example where a recipe was “stolen,” was on the show Top Chef: All-Stars.  What happened was that chef Richard Blais shared a recipe/dish idea with chef Mike Isabella, a competing chef on the show.  During a “Quick-fire Challenge,” Mike Isabella used the idea that he and chef Blais were talking about earlier in the day.  Judge and chef Tom Colicchio wrote an article about the episode and the intellectual property issue created by the dish.  In the article, he wrote, “That said, intellectual property laws do not govern dishes. Menu items that appear in one restaurant can be reproduced in another. Even recipes that appear in a published and copyrighted cookbook can be made in any restaurant in the world. In fact, if a chef changed one single ingredient, s/he could even reprint the recipe in his/her own cookbook.”

Autumn Chop Salad

This is an Autumn Chop Salad created by Chef Margaret Thompson for her family in Phoenix, Arizona from a recipe she found on the Internet (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

Chef Margaret Thompson has these feelings on the matter, “Well, I think all dishes come from the same recipe and chefs “re-create” them to make them their own.  If the customers do not like the latest spin on the recipe, the chef will go back and tweak it, until people are satisfied.  Lets take a tamale for instance; it is basically masa, lard, and some hot water on the outside, but there are hundreds of combinations of fillings. It all originated with a pork shoulder and went from there.   Each chef added or subtracted from the original recipe. Nobody really owns it.”

Another article presented about the “Blais v. Isabella issue” creates the idea of “Chef Law.”  Chef Law is explained as the following, “Chefs don’t use other chefs recipes.”  This is why there is a perceived problem among chefs.  Should chefs be punished for “culinary misappropriation”?  “If they out and out looked in the person’s recipe file or sat in their restaurant and took notes or pictures and used it in their own restaurant or in a contest or published this, then I say whatever rules/ consequences that apply to plagiarism should apply here,” said chef Thompson.

Each idea presents its own problems and solutions.  Chef Tom Colicchio said it best, “How often have we heard the chefs say that they were making dishes inspired by dishes their grandmothers used to make? In Quickfire Challenges, sometimes the chefs create a new dish on the spot; sometimes they do something inspired by other dishes. Yes, it’s bad form to lift a competing chef’s concept so baldly, and it is rotten for Richard that Mike did so, but Mike still had to execute the concept well. There’s no Intellectual Property law governing such a move, and no Top Chef law against it.”

This idea could be applied to people of other ethnicities opening restaurants outside their own ethnicity as well.  All that matters is how the food tastes to the people eating and enjoying it.

Share Button

Hydroponic gardens are great for foodies and chefs alike


Hydroponically grown basil at AZ Growing store in Scottsdale, Arizona (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).


This small hydroponic system is a great beginner kit for people wanting to try hydroponic gardening available through AZ Growing (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

Many people in this world are turning to hydroponic gardens to grow their fruits, vegetables, and herbs.  In a recent article published in Maximum Yield Magazine, author Dr. Lynette Morgan says, “Fortunately, flavor in fruits and vegetables is something that can be manipulated to various degrees by the grower—and in hydroponics we have far greater control over growth factors than we do with outdoor crops—so there’s no reason for our homegrown flavors not to be fantastic…” Restaurant owner, Homaro Cantu, recently made an aeroponics(a type of hydroponic gardening) garden in the basement of one of his restaurants because he realized the value of taste that comes from growing hydroponically.


High yielding cherry tomato plants being grown indoors with lights and hydroponics at AZ Growing in Scottsdale, Arizona (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

Chefs are not the only ones talking about hydroponics.  A cast of hydroponic garden hobbyists created a podcast called “Heavy T’s Grow Show”, where listeners can call and ask questions, listen to interviews, and receive prizes just for calling in.  With the influx of people turning to hydroponics, especially in more arid desert regions like Phoenix, Arizona, it must be an easy way to grow plants, right?  Aaron Heimes of AZ Growing located in Scottsdale, Arizona says, “You need to pick up a book.  The book that I read and helped me get started is How-to Hydroponicsby Keith Roberto.”  Reading about hydroponics and the do-it-yourself techniques will teach anyone how to make their food taste better.


Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate (LECA) being used for a hydroponic growing medium at the AZ Growing store (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

hydroponic system

Hydroponic systems can also be very intricate like this one at the AZ Growing store (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).


Share Button

Yogi Chef changes career path yet again

chef and cat

This is a self-portrait that Chef Margaret took of her and her cat a few months ago at her home in Cincinnati, Ohio before she left for Arizona (Photo Courtesy of Chef Margaret Thompson 2012).

A couple of months ago, an article was written about Executive Chef Margaret Thompson and her illustrious career as a Yogi Chef.  She has since packed up her cat, Annabell Lee and moved from her home in Cincinnati, Ohio to Scottsdale, Arizona to pursue a career as a Floral Manager for Fry’sgrocery stores.  “Of all the jobs I ever had, flowers and Floral Design is what I love to do the most,” said Chef Margaret Thompson.

orchid arrangement

This is an arrangement that was made by Chef Margaret using orchids bought at Hausermann's Orchid Open House in Elmhurst, Illinois (Photo by Christina Thompson 2011).

sugar flowers

Even at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, New York, Chef Margaret still had her heart filled with flowers when she created this pulled-sugar show piece (Photo Courtesy of Chef Margaret Thompson 2006.)

flower lady painting

Chef Margaret's painting entitled "Rock Pose" from her gallery opening in Louisville, Kentucky in February of 2009 (Photo by Christina Thompson 2009).

Before she went back to school for her degree in Pastry Arts, she was the Outside Lawn and Garden Manager for Lowe’s Home Improvementstores.  Flowers have always been on this woman’s mind.  “When she was in her high school art class, she created a stain-glass window of poppies we have hanging in our dining room window,” said her father, Raymond DeBiase.  This is not the only artistic creation that she has done with flowers.  Chef Margaret said, “I had a gallery opening for my paintings a few years ago and plenty of my paintings from the heart have flowers in them.  I guess my heart has always known what makes it happy…flowers.”

homemade ice cream

Ice cream and sorbet made by Chef Margaret for her family in Arizona to try for the first time (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

Chef Margaret is not giving up on her culinary degrees entirely.  She will cook and bake for her entire family, who live in Arizona along with her.  “I still want to use my degrees in Culinary and Pastry Arts.  Arizona is a prime place to be an instructor at one of many cooking schools,” said Chef Margaret.  “Food and flowers are the two things I love and they seem to be the things that always make people happy.”




Share Button

TV and Economy changes the Wedding Industry

Recently, television shows and networks have changed the way people conceptualize their weddings.  They have cut back on food costs and quality in order to be able to invite more guests. Many couples opt for themed weddings like pirates, Halloween, “Winter Wonderland”, etc. for their weddings, instead of a more traditional fair of church and banquet hall/country club.  Most weddings of the past took place in the spring and early summer months of May and June, but trends in the industry put the new wedding months at the fall months of September and October.  Besides networks and shows changing the way weddings are done, Martha Stewart Weddings, a magazine put out by Martha Stewart, is also following the Do-It-Yourself trend.  There are businesses in the Cincinnati, Ohio area being affected by this and they are Creative Cake Designs, LLC, owned by Sheryl Eichelberger, who has been in the wedding cake design business for 30 years and Raffel’s Catering, LLC., which has been in business since 1973.  Flower companies are also getting less business from weddings too because brides have found out that silk flowers are a cheaper alternative to the real natural flowers that have been used in the past.   There is hope that current trends in the wedding industry will give way to the traditions of the past, but only time will tell.

Share Button

Farmers’ Markets

Share Button

Meatless Mondays

Share Button

The Sustainable Garden Chef

Many chefs are turning into farmers as well.  They are growing crops sustainably on rooftops, gardens, and in rooms themselves.  One restaurateur and chef, Homaro Cantu, is pioneering a new farming technique for chefs, aeroponic farming.   Another chef transplanted here from Kenya, Chef Kabui, is also taking his knowledge of farming and environment to his house land and catering business.  The Chef’s Garden is a company that is producing great organic vegetables for chef’s to grow in their gardens for their restaurants.  All these people are helping to evolve the revolution of the “Sustainable Chef/Restaurant.”


Chef Margaret plants lettuce on her balcony in Cincinnati, Ohio, to prepare for a busy summer of private chef parties on Mar. 29, 2012 (photo by: Christina Thompson 2012).


Red Leaf Lettuce in the hands of Chef Margaret being properly planted on Mar. 26, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio (photo by: Christina Thompson 2012).


The tasty lettuce being clipped out of the Cincinnat, Ohio apartment garden by Chef Margaret and being put right into a healthy salad for a party on Mar. 29, 2012 (photo by Christina Thompson 2012).


Chef Margaret adding Parmesan cheese to a salad created from her garden on Mar. 29, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio (photo by: Christina Thompson 2012).


Italian salad being put on a table for a party by Chef Margaret on Mar. 29, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio (photo by: Christina Thompson 2012).

Share Button

Food labeling is important for everyone’s health and well-being

Everyone knows about the labels on food and why it is the most important information that consumers can get about what they are eating.  Consumers are not the only ones reading product labels, so are the chefs preparing the food in restaurants.  Everyone is looking out for each other when it comes to food.

Why is it important for chefs to read the labels?

Food labeling has come under a lot of scrutiny.  It was even brought up in a court case against McDonalds.  A statement in the case read, “Thus Congress provided that essentially all packaged foods sold at retail shall be appropriately labeled and their contents described.”  A chef needs to know what is in their food because although it may not seem like, restaurants are food retailers and nutritional information is important.  Chef Margaret Thompson said, “I always ask about food allergies before I make my menus for private parties.  I want my customers to be happy with their food and know every piece of nutritional information that I can give them.  It is important for their safety and my reputation that proper food labeling is taken.”

There is a company called Monsanto that is producing Genetically Modified food crops and has therefore been put under condemnation because they do not want to label their products as such.  They were recently issued a court-ordered mandate to remove a genetically engineered sugar beet crop.  Not only is Monsanto being put under examination for their GM foods, but so is all food labeling.  The Center for Science in the Public Interest released a report addressing the problem with food labels.  “Problems with food labels can be broken down into three basic categories:  the Nutrition Facts Panel needs to be improved, ingredient labels need to be modernized, and Health-related claims need more stringent regulation.”  Chef Margaret said, “I know the labels on the food are not the best.  I research as much as I can to make an informed decision on the products I buy for customers.  I also petition the FDA and other government organizations to reform product labels to give all consumers the best possible information.”

So what do chefs serve, if labels are not correct?

“My restaurant (Lime Covington) serves only local organic products,” said Gina Puopolo, Executive Chef/Owner of the Covington, Kentucky restaurant.  “I don’t buy pre-packaged ingredients; I make them from scratch, so I know everything that goes into my food.” There are plenty of nutritional facts that chefs have to look at especially when it comes to food allergies.  One of the biggest allergies that chefs are dealing with now is wheat allergies, which has brought about the whole gluten-free movement. Chef Gina said, “I used to serve corn tortillas, but I changed to flour and our burritos can be made with lettuce for people with gluten allergies.”

Learning how to reading and understand food labels is important because after all, knowledge is power.  Everyone must do their part to change by being educated consumers and take the time to contact the proper agencies to bring about food label reform.  Chefs are only a small part of a bigger consumer picture.

Share Button

Fruit and veggie farming battle

Every produce consumer is a part of the debate about organic food because it is in every grocery store, mega mart, and produce stand.  It is up to consumer preference to what they purchase: organic fruits and vegetables or conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.

Organic vs. Conventionally Farmed


Conventionally farmed dragonfruit taken at a local grocery store (photo by Christina Thompson 2011).

Is it true that organically grown fruits and vegetables are better nutritionally?  A CNN Article gave people some insight on this issue.  It said, “A few small studies have shown that some organic foods contain higher nutrient levels than conventional ones. For example, a recent study showed that organic ketchup had 57 percent more of the antioxidant lycopene than regular ketchup.”


Meyer Organic Lemons taken at The Fresh Market (a strictly whole-food) grocery store (photo by Christina Thompson 2011).

In an article posted by Grist about this debate they studied strawberry crops.  “The study design was both careful and comprehensive in scope. The strawberries were grown on 13 conventional and 13 organic fields, with organic/conventional field pairs located adjacently in order to control for soil type and weather patterns. The data was drawn from repeated harvests over a two-year period, and the strawberries were picked, transported, and stored under identical conditions to replicate retail practices. And just as farming is a complex business, scientists contributing to the study range from soil and food scientists to genetics experts and statistics specialists, who analyzed 31 soil properties, soil DNA, and the relative taste and nutritional quality of three strawberry varieties in California.  The results are pretty convincing: organic strawberries are healthier, tastier, and better for the soil than conventional strawberries.”

The bottom line


These organic peas were bought at a local farmers' market (photo by Christina Thompson 2010).

The Grist article also offers this, “Its findings only apply to strawberries — but they do point the way to the kind of research that can, and should, be done with other crops as well.”  The studied only offered that strawberry crops are better organically for us.  The CNN article has Charles Benbrook, a Ph.D. scientist with The Organic Center saying, “Read labels and look at each product in its own right. An organic potato chip may contain as many calories and saturated fat grams as a conventional chip. The price premiums associated with processed organic food are not as great as the premiums charged for organic whole foods.”  In the article too, they have Professor Alan McHughen, Ph.D. of botany and plant sciences at the University of California, Riverside with this understanding, “Focus on foods’ benefit to your immediate environment — i.e. your body — first.  A good diet means variety, balance, and moderation, regardless of the farming method that produced the food.”

Sea beans

These delicious sea beans were found at a local grocer, but not in the organic section (photo by Christina Thompson 2011).

There really is some difference to organic and conventional farming, but other things maybe added to the organic food to make it worse for you then conventionally farmed produce.  Like Benbrook says, “Read labels!!”

Share Button

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: