Making It: Food Entrepreneurs Turn Their Craft into a Career

 

After Kris Swanberg lost her job as a high school teacher in 2008, she spent the summer, as many of us might have, drowning her sorrows in ice cream. Except that she wasn’t just eating ice cream—she was making it, pint after pint, in a KitchenAid ice-cream maker she had received as a wedding gift.
 

Word soon spread among Swanberg’s friends and neighbors, and within a matter of months she was selling small batches of her ice cream to a local grocer. Two years later her product, Nice Cream, is available in 20 Chicago-area locations.
 

Though Swanberg’s story is singular in many ways, her decision to become a small-scale food producer is not. The recession and a surge of national interest in cooking and culinary crafting have prompted more and more people to start their own food businesses, according to Louise Kramer of the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade.
 

But exactly how do amateur food artisans take their passion from hobby to career... Read more >

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Member Profile: Dano Hutnik, the Ultimate DIY Chef

Dano Hutnik

Long before it was de rigueur to have an in-house charcuterie program, a housemade bread basket, and an in-house forager, JBF professional member and frequent Beard House featured chef Dano Hutnik was harvesting, canning, pickling, stuffing, and curing just about everything on the menu at Dano’s Heuriger on Seneca, the restaurant he owns with his wife, Karen, in New York’s Finger Lakes region.


“I like to cook, so I don’t buy things, I make,” Dano explained in his lovely Mittel-European accent as we sampled his pork sausage with garlic and housemade paprika and slices of his three-month-aged Gouda with more of that intoxicating paprika (Dano started making his own cheese six months ago).


“When you’re out in the country and there are all of these raw ingredients, you just want to use them,” he says. And use them he does—in his homemade mustards, canned... Read more >

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Mobilizing: Can Chefs Get Chicago to Green-Light Food Trucks?

Chef Matt Maroni's food truck, the Gaztro-Wagon, parked in downtown Chicago

On the final day of the 2010 National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, Mobi Munch—the country’s “first mobile food service infrastructure company,” according to its website—drove its slick prototype onto the “Food Truck Spot” pavilion. Attendees drifted in and out of the crimson red vehicle, which was souped up with gas heat, waste containment, and a POS system. A banner overhead rallied: “Take your eats to the streets with Mobi Munch!”

If an entrepreneur had been moved to buy the truck and speed off to launch his own itinerant eatery, he wouldn’t have made it beyond the parking lot: food trucks—specifically those from which chefs both prepare and serve food—are illegal on the Windy City’s streets. (The city does permit mobile vendors to sell prepackaged goods that were cooked in a

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Thanksgiving Pie: A New Way to Slice It

Thanksgiving pie

“We Americans undoubtedly eat more kinds of pie than any other country,” James Beard wrote in 1979. Early Americans baked sweet and savory pies in round, shallow pans as a way to stretch basic ingredients like flour and lard. The dish was such a staple that most settlers ate it at every meal.

Oh, how times have changed. These days most of us eat pie only once a year—on Thanksgiving—and we tend to stick to our family’s favorite kind, which is almost invariably one of three varieties: apple, pumpkin, or pecan.

This year, why not shake things up a bit around the holiday table by experimenting with a different kind of pie? For inspiration, look no further than these regional American pie-making traditions.


New England: Boiled Cider Pie
Although English recipes for apple pie go

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As the Frozen Custard Churns



Where I grew up there were two seasons: frozen-custard season and no-frozen-custard season. Maine summers were all about our semi-weekly trips to Hodgman’s, which is open for business only from Mother’s Day to Labor Day. Sitting in the back of my parents’ Subaru, I knew we were halfway there when we passed the peeling wooden church.

Fast-forward to last summer, when I visited Hodgman’s for the first time in years, this time accompanied by friends and fellow New Yorkers. Not much had changed. The stand still bears a sagging awning that shelters dogged customers on rainy evenings. The menu is the same, too. It features parlor standards with sprinklings of Northern parlance (jimmies) and regional specialties (like the “tin roof.”)

My expectant friends plied me with questions: What’s the best flavor? How are the sugar cones? What the heck is a tin roof? (A sundae topped with chocolate syrup and peanuts.) Oh, and what is frozen custard, anyway?

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Kitchen Legacies: Exploring the Unique Chef/Mentor Relationship in Restaurant Kitchens

 

There is a saying in the food world: A chef is only as good as the cooks that come out of his or her kitchen.

 

The profession of cooking has always been based on an apprenticeship system. Even today, when a degree from a culinary program is often a prerequisite for kitchen work, new cooks still learn from more experienced cooks once they are on the job. Occasionally, in the heat of this environment, a relationship will form that goes beyond a simple transfer of skills. When an established chef takes a particular interest in another cook’s career—an interest based on mutual respect—both the chef and the cook grow. Once out in the world, whether in the kitchens of other chefs or in their own restaurants, these young cooks become a chef’s legacy.

 

This year, for the 20th anniversary of the James Beard Awards, we chose to celebrate these legacies by asking all of the previous Outstanding Chef Award winners to select a chef whom they mentored to cook at our gala reception. By... Read more >

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