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the sweet scoop
Wednesday kicks off the 21st annual New Orleans Wine & Food Experience, and my excitement over heading down to the Big Easy for all the food, fun, and festivities is overwhelming.
It was an absolute honor to be invited to be one of the judges of the Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off—a yearly cooking competition where celebrated local chefs create their most delicious signature dish showcasing fresh Louisiana seafood in all its glory. Helping select a winner will surely be a tough task, considering the caliber of chefs competing. So am I ready for the challenge? You bet! I may even pack my elastic waist pants.
Last year, chef Keith Frentz of Lola restaurant won over the judges and was crowned “King of Louisiana Seafood” for his “Friday Lunch Special,” a cornmeal-dusted wild Des Allemands catfish with Camellia red beans and local crawfish succotash, braised collards, and homemade tartar sauce (get the winning recipe here). And on Saturday, one of these talented ten will snag the coveted 2013 title. It’s thrilling to be able to play a role in this year’s Cook-Off excitement — wishing all participating chefs the very best of luck! Really looking forward to meeting you and trying each of your dishes.
Image courtesy of LouisianaTravel.com
After working in high-profile NYC kitchens including Gotham Bar & Grill, Le Bernardin and Judson Grill, chef Bill Telepan opened New American restaurant Telepan in late 2005. Since then, the elegant Upper West Side eatery has been widely celebrated by diners and critics for its seasonal menu and use of fresh, local ingredients. “We buy locally, we buy as much organic as we can,” Telepan says. “It’s important because seasonal and local means you’re getting the freshest ingredients that are really well grown by someone I know. It’s just a better product.”
I recently spoke with chef Telepan about his passion for seasonal cooking, helping make schools healthier, and more.
Why has the philosophy of sourcing local ingredients been so important to you over the years?
It’s very simple — when things are seasonal and local, they taste better. When a carrot is pulled out of the ground that day from less than 100 miles away, it’s going to taste better than a carrot that was pulled out of the ground a week ago and flown in from another part of the country.
What type of meals do you cook at home with your family?
We try to keep things quick and simple, but it changes. If I want to try something new, like something with Chinese ingredients, I’ll mess around with that at home. My daughter and I love to make our own pasta, but it’s all about keeping things simple–and we use the crock pot a lot!
So your daughter is a little chef-in-training?
Yes, she likes to cook and she loves to bake—she has officially become the family baker.
What are some of your favorite dishes on the menu right now at Telepan?
Wow, that’s a tough one because I love them all! Right now, we are pulling our own mozzarella to order. Through Murray’s Cheese, I found a great grass-fed milk producer that makes curds that we pull into the mozzarella—it creates an amazing cheese. I also recently started buying whole veal from a farm in upstate New York. We feature it in a dish on the menu, which is amazing, but we also make sausage with it for pasta. I obviously love everything on the menu, but those are definitely a couple things I am very excited about!
Sounds like there’s a bit of Italian influence in there…
Yes, well, I was trained in France and have visited Italy many times, but I’m from New Jersey. France and Italy are so hyper-seasonal, so it has been nice to gain influences from there, but given my background, I am able to take it a few steps further.
What inspired you to get involved with Wellness in the Schools?
Very simply, my daughter is in a public school and I had met some parents who were trying to make some changes, and given that I am a cook, I figured I could help them move it a long a little quicker. 70% of the kids in public schools are getting a majority of their calories in a day by eating school lunches—and this mostly includes breaded chicken, hamburgers, french fries and nuggets. I figured this could be something I could help with by making those calories healthier. Over the last four years, we have been able to eliminate types of food like this from the Wellness in the Schools menu.
Has getting the school system to make change been a challenge?
Well, it’s really just about getting back to cooking and getting rid of the processed foods. It’s that simple. The school system has a large selection of food that they are able to buy, and it’s all about what foods they should be buying and how they should be preparing it. It’s not local, organic or even seasonal, which is fine, but we made it a point to get rid of the processed foods and get cooking again. This is the first step–and hopefully 50 years from now, everyone will get back to buying local.
Congratulations for being named one of the top ten chefs in Food & Wine’s recent Chefs Make Change campaign! How did it feel to participate?
That was so exciting! And such a surprise because we’re such a small organization. To be recognized in the same light as Emeril, Mario Batali, Rick Bayless, José Andrés and Alice Waters—we were extremely honored. It was a great feeling to be included in that team of chefs. And it created such a big awareness and raised a lot of money for all of our charities.
Inspired by Ingredients was a fantastic first cookbook. Do you plan on publishing another?
Yes, I am always putting down outlines and thoughts, so hopefully by this summer I will have something in the works.
In the meantime, you can follow chef Telepan on Telepan TV (which, he tells me, is shot entirely by camera phone) and on Twitter at @billtelepan.
Interview featured on CleanPlates.com. Photos courtesy of Neil Samson Katz for CBS.
The much anticipated new Italian food and wine marketplace, Eataly, finally opened its doors on Tuesday. Legendary Italian-American restauranteurs, Mario Batali, Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Joe Bastianich, teamed up with Oscar Farinetti (founder of the original Eataly location in Turin, Italy) to create this ambitious 50,000-sq. foot culinary epi-center right in the heart of the Big Apple. I couldn’t wait to go and experience it for myself.
The smells wafting around me as I walked through the artisanal market were incredible, so I grabbed a spot at one of the many high-top tables to enjoy a glass of vino and some savory salumi & formaggio. As I stood there eating, drinking and looking around in awe, this overwhelming pang of nostalgia came over me—Eataly brought me back to the unrivaled days when I lived in the beautiful country of Italy (sigh), and for a perfectly fleeting moment, I was transformed back there.
Eataly offers every Italian delight you can dream of, with endless counters serving up of the freshest food and produce this side of Rome (think butcher-cut meats, just-caught fish, creamy cheeses and freshly made pasta, breads and pizzas), a seasonal fruit and vegetable market, and aisles upon aisles of packaged goods and groceries. While shopping, you can grab a bite at one of the seven specialty restaurants (including Manzo, an upscale steakhouse) or satisfy your sweet tooth with some homemade gelato and decadent desserts at the cafe and Lavazza coffee bar. There’s even a wine store, bookstore, an Italian housewares section, a rooftop beer garden and microbrewery (opening next month) and culinary education center.
This massive food forum is the ultimate destination to shop, sip and savor—and is designed to help customers understand and celebrate the Italian table. Excerpt from Mario Batali in the New York Post: “Italian cooking is less elaborate in Italy [than in the US] and that’s one of its greatnesses,” says Batali, who notes that restaurant preparations will be very traditional in spirit. “The ideology behind the restaurants is more about enticing the customer to take [the ingredients] home and make it themselves,” he adds. Fantastico!
Experience all the authenticity of Italy, bite by bite, at Eataly, 200 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY