Q & A with Environmentalist Simran Sethi

 

Simran Sethi wants to get personal about climate change. Dubbed the “the environmental messenger” by Vanity Fair, the journalist and educator believes that storytelling plays a crucial role in raising awareness and inspiring action. (She recently gave a TED talk called, How and Why Do We Engage?) In anticipation of her appearance at our annual food conference next week, we got in touch to learn more about her work.

 

JBF: You Twitter bio says that you tell stories and support storytellers. How does this fit into your work as an environmentalist?

 

SS: The core of my work was always journalism, so I’m in the habit engaging people and learning their stories. I’ve found that when someone shares their story, that’s what gets other people—even people who think they have very little... Read more >

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Q & A with Dahlia Narvaez of Mozza

Dahlia Narvaez

 

Together with her mentor Nancy Silverton, pastry chef Dahlia Narvaez has crafted some of the most legendary desserts in the city of Los Angeles. We got in touch with the 2012 Outstanding Pastry Chef nominee to look back on how she joined the restaurant industry and find out which sweet on the Mozza menu is her favorite.

 

JBF: As a native of Los Angeles, did any of the food of your childhood inspire what you make now?

 

DH: I actually didn't grow up with a ton of homemade desserts. Dessert just wasn't something my mother made. But she did made good food, getting complex flavors out of simple ingredients.

 

JBF: We read that you once fudged your résumé and talked your way into your first professional kitchen, the Conga Room. Can you tell us a little more about that?

 

DH: That probably was not the smartest thing I've done for my career—after ten minutes on my first day, it was clear... Read more >

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Q & A with Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese Food

Anna Mowry interviews chef Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese Food

 

Now that the original Mission Chinese Food seems destined to endure as one of San Francisco's most popular spots, its chef and Rising Star award nominee, Danny Bowien, is about to introduce New Yorkers to his progressive Chinese-American cooking at a soon-to-open Lower East Side outpost. We phoned Bowien to talk about what he's putting on his new menu, his favorite Chinese restaurants in the city, and more.

 

JBF: We read the recent Bon Appétit piece about your trip to Chengdu, in China’s Sichuan province. Did you find any dishes there that you’re now adapting for your menu?

 

DB: There will be six or seven new dishes on our New York menu, and those things are definitely based on a lot of the flavor profiles that we... Read more >

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Q & A with Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery

The James Beard Foundation interviews paste chef and JBF Award nominee Joanne Chang

 

At her three Flour Bakery locations, Joanne Chang gives Boston-area dwellers their sugar fix with her menu of wholesome, like-you're-a-kid-again cookies, tarts, cakes, and other baked goods. Chang took a break from her packed schedule to answer our questions about her favorite pastry, where she likes to eat in Beantown, and the childhood treat she misses most. 

 

JBF: What’s your favorite item on the menu at Flour right now?

 

JC: We just introduced our kouign-amann, which is my favorite pastry ever.

 

JBF: Your sticky buns famously won in an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay. Any other baked goods in your arsenal that you would confidently take into battle?

 

JC: Many things: our banana bread, our midnight chocolate cake, our carrot cake, pop tarts, blueberry... Read more >

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Q & A with Thomas McNaughton of flour + water

The James Beard Foundation interviews Thomas McNaughton of flour + water

 

A repeat nominee for our Rising Star award, chef Thomas McNaughton channels an Old-World commitment to top-notch product and time-honored techniques at San Francisco's flour + water. Read on see what he has to say about nose-to-tail cooking and the East Coast food he craves.

 

JBF: We’ve read that you attribute some of your success to eight grandmothers at a pasta factory in Bologna, Italy. Can you tell us more about that?

 

TM: It was inspirational to see Old-World techniques and cuisine executed on a daily basis, and it was an honor to be in the presence of people who execute the craft they have been dedicated to for the past 40 years. For me that was the definition of finding refinement in simplicity.

 

JBF: You snagged your first restaurant job at age 14, working as a dishwasher. Did you already... Read more >

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Q & A with Hedy Goldsmith of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink

Hedy Goldsmith

 

At the Miami hotspot Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith’s whimsical yet sophisticated treats have earned an ardent following. We called up the Outstanding Pastry Chef award nominee to learn about her debut cookbook, the unexpected star of her repertoire, and how a Philly cheesesteak changed her life.

JBF: We’ve read that you like to draw on local fruits and herbs in your desserts, and that you use unexpected techniques like smoking. What are your favorite combinations?

HG: Smoked bittersweet chocolate with pickled mulberries; I was blown away at how great the flavors were together. I actually just served this dessert recently. Mulberry season is so short, so I try to jam-pack them with different flavors before they’re gone.

JBF: What’s your favorite dessert that you’ve made for Michael’s Genuine... Read more >

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Q & A with Ignacio Mattos of Isa

Anna Mowry interviews chef Ignacio Mattos of Isa

 

After years of cooking faithful renderings of authentic Italian cuisine at Il Buco, chef Ignacio Mattos crossed the East River and introduced Brooklyn to his  "modern primitive" aesthetic at Isa. Now that the restaurant is up for a Best New Restaurant award, we caught up with Mattos to talk about his plating philosophy and cooking in Brooklyn.

 

JBF: Smoke and wood play a big role in Isa, from the food to the décor. What’s the weirdest ingredient you’ve ever smoked?

 

IM: One time I smoked some butter, but I can’t remember what it was for. At Isa we have smoked pretty much everything. 

 

JBF: Many of Isa’s desserts are rooted in vegetal and other unexpected flavors. What’s the thought process behind creating a dessert?

 

IM: Pam Yung, our very talented pastry chef, has a very refined and elegant... Read more >

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Q & A with Mark Liberman of AQ

 

At San Francisco's AQ, which is nominated for a Best New Restaurant award, chef Mark Liberman merges Northern California's hyper-seasonal style with a rigorous but discreet use of modernist techniques. We got in touch with him to discuss his cooking philosophy, the best dish on the current AQ menu, and his favorite American foods.

 

JBF: AQ is very devoted to seasonal cooking. Are there particular ingredients at the markets that you can’t wait to get your hands on each year?
 

ML: Right now we’re heading into spring; we’re at the strange seasonal place where it isn’t quite spring yet, but it isn’t winter anymore. I’m looking forward to cooking with purple artichokes and young fava beans.
 

JBF: AQ is clearly a disciple of the California philosophy of cooking, but you’ve also cooked in very technique-driven restaurants, like Daniel and L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon. How do you find a balance between the two? What guides you?

 

ML: I think it’s... Read more >

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Q & A with Seamus Mullen of Tertulia

Seamus Mullen of Tertulia, interviewed by the James Beard Foundation

 
 

A Vermont-raised chef may not be the likeliest candidate to serve the most sought-after tapas in New York City, but ever since Seamus Mullen and his slow-grilled turbot scored a rave from the Times, it’s been nearly impossible to score a seat at his restaurant, Tertulia. If you have eaten there, you know why it’s nominated for a Best New Restaurant award. Read on to see what Mullen told us about the lessons he learned while cooking in Spain, the challenges of cooking authentic Spanish cuisine in America, and where he likes to nosh on his days off. 

 
 
JBF: What’s the story behind the name Tertulia?
 
SM: In Spanish a tertulia translates to a chat or a get-together. It's usually accompanied by wine and, inevitably, food. When I was in college studying Spanish literature, we had a weekly tertulia at my

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Q & A with Fiola's Fabbio Trabocchi

Fabbio Trabocchi of Fiola, nominated for the James Beard Foundation's Best New Restaurant award

 

When the Washington, D.C.-based eatery Fiola opened its doors in 2011, it was immediately met with rave reviews for its seasonally driven Italian cuisine—and now it's nominated for our Best New Restaurant award. We got in touch with chef/owner and JBF Award Winner Fabio Trabocchi to discuss what inspired him to become a chef, his favorite spring dish, and what he considers to be the best resource on authentic Italian cuisine.

 

JBF: What’s the significance of the name Fiola?
 
FT: It’s a word from an Italian dialect from the Le Marche region of Italy, which is where I’m from. It’s comparable to "sweetheart" in English.
 
JBF: What’s your favorite dish on the menu right now and why?
 
FT: Anything that involves shellfish, seafood, and spring vegetables. One of my favorite... Read more >

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