USPS releasing very tasteful postage stamps

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on . Chefs

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On Friday the U.S. Postal Service is going to release some extremely tasteful stamps -- a sheet of Forever stamps honoring late, great celebrity chefs James Beard, Julia Child, Joyce Chen, Edna Lewis and Felipe Rojas-Lombardi for having "made a lasting and invaluable impact on our food culture."

Available at big post offices around the country as well as online at usps.com/stamps and ebay.com/stamps, the 49-cent stamps will have a first-day-of-issue ceremony Friday morning in Chicago with "Top Chef" season-4 winner and owner of Girl & the Goat, Stephanie Izard.

The oil-painting-ish artwork is by Jason Sieler.

According to a news release, "The Postal Service recognizes the five chefs for inspiring the American public to expand its collective palates.

"• James Beard is remembered for fostering a vibrant food culture in the United States.
Beard believed he was blessed with the perfect “taste memory.” As a result, his opinions
were strong and his judgments could be blunt—but his cultivated palate was also receptive to simple, satisfying pleasures, such as buttered potatoes or an onion sandwich.

"• Joyce Chen is one of America’s greatest popularizers of Chinese food. From her landmark restaurant in the Boston area to her cookbooks and trailblazing PBS television show, Chen invited newcomers to sample unfamiliar dishes in ways that firmly established Chinese cuisine in the United States.

"• Julia Child demystified French cuisine in the United States. Through her extremely popular television shows and cookbooks, Child showed us that we could make even supposedly difficult dishes in our very own kitchens, doing so with a joie de vivre that made her the public face of American cooking for more than 40 years.

"• Known as “the Grande Dame of Southern Cooking,” Edna Lewis found wisdom in the customs and patterns of her rural Virginia childhood. By bringing such quintessential dishes as shrimp and grits or roast chicken to the plates of fine restaurants, Lewis convinced her fellow Americans to take a second look at Southern cooking while also serving as one of the first voices to reemphasize the importance of fresh, seasonal ingredients.

"• Renowned for his creativity and culinary adventurousness, Edward (Felipe) Rojas-Lombardi is widely credited with introducing the Spanish small-plate tapas concept to American restaurants while raising the profile of Caribbean and South American cuisine."

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U.S. Postal Service images

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Event honors Chef Toni Pais

Written by Rebecca Sodergren on . Chefs

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The Art Institute of Pittsburgh’s culinary school will present an eight-station food extravaganza on Saturday, May 31, to raise scholarship money and honor longtime Pittsburgher and Chef Toni Pais of Cafe Zinho in Shadyside.

Culinary instructors have dreamed up novel food stations, and culinary students will assist with prep work and service. Some stations will feature fancy cold plates; at others, chefs will make food to order, allowing guests to watch the chefs in action.

Here are the participating chefs and what they’ll serve:

Chef Art Inzinga: Charcuterie (pates, terrines, antipasto, cheeses).

Chef Shawn Culp: Culinary Olympic Orchard (specialties based on his training for the Culinary Olympics event in Germany).

Chef David Russo: Dumplings of the World (pierogies, dim sum and more).

Chef Richard Panzera: Fruits de Mer (cold seafood station with smoked and poached seafood and seafood salads).

Chef Jeremy Reed: Hecho a Mano Tacos (hand-rolled tacos).

Chef Scott Schmucker: Fusion Appetizers (global flavors).

Chef Randy Russell and Chef Sally Frey: Contemporary Chocolate and Patisserie.

Chef Toni Pais:  Roasted Tomato-Garlic Bisque with Dill and a traditional Portuguese Wild Mushroom Migas served with Cafe Zinho cornbread.

There also will be wine and champagne bars and auction items, including dinner for six at Cafe Zinho, artwork, a Disney World park hopper for four, and more. The event will be held in the school’s art gallery, allowing attendees to enjoy student and outside artwork while they eat and mingle.

Mr. Inzinga suggested honoring Mr. Pais at the event because although Mr. Pais is not a formal culinary instructor, "he has been a teacher of those who have worked for him and gone on to own their own restaurants" over the course of his many years as a Pittsburgh-area chef. (The PG's Sally Kalson wrote in March 2013 about how he dealt with Parkinson's disease.)

The Art Institute is hoping to build this into an annual event. All proceeds will go toward student scholarships.

"It’s a wonderful opportunity to come down and interact with the students who will be running our favorite restaurants and hotels" in the future, Mr. Inzinga said.

The event runs from 7 to 11 p.m. May 31. Tickets are $75 ($65 for James Beard Foundation members) and are available here.

Norm Huelsman photo


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Inspiration from Marcus Samuelsson

Written by Miriam Rubin on . Chefs

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NEW YORK CITY -- It's unusually frigid here in the city since a foot of snow dropped, mostly sideways and then ushered in a big freeze. No warm cars with heated seats here; instead to get to the subway, one climbs over snow-packed curbs and skids on ice-slicked sidewalks.

So, understandably, Marcus Samuelsson, celebrity chef, owner of Harlem's Red Rooster and author of the memoir "Yes, Chef" was running late on Wednesday. Just a touch, for his noontime talk at the Beard on Books program. Run by the James Beard Foundation, it's held in the Greenwich Village townhouse once occupied by Mr. Beard.

Marcus Samuelsson is intense, and maybe a little nervous, but very dapper, wearing a deep-purple sweater, a multi-colored scarf, a cap with triangles of black leather, and leopard-print sneakers.

Inspiration was key to his message. His early culinary influences came from his Swedish grandmother who shaped his love of food. Born in Ethiopia, Marcus Samuelsson and his sister were adopted by a Swedish couple after their mother died. It would be years before he would return to his roots and the country where he was born.

His grandmother was a retired domestic and there was struggle between her and Marcus' mother, who didn’t want to cook in the old way. But he loved cooking and the work it involved. Besides, "Her kitchen smelled better."

Often he'd have two dinners, he told us with a wide smile. First with Mom and Dad, and then he'd ride his bike over to "Mormor's" house.

There he learned from the ground up. To roast a chicken, it first had to be killed, plucked and salted. With the cooking lessons there were always stories, about World War II, about poverty. At his grandmother's house, he said, "there was always something to do and something was always cooking.

"There were mushrooms and herring to pickle, jam to make, plums and apples to pick. I was tasting things for the first time."

After working in France, and realizing food would be his life's work, he tried to get to the States, writing three letters of appeal. One was to David Letterman, one to Oprah and one to the founder of a well-known Swedish restaurant in New York, Aquavit, where, later, he garnered three stars from The New York Times. He had $300 dollars in his pocket.

"And a big idea."

He'd explore the city on roller-blades, living with a roommate who was also working in restaurants and at night they'd exchange ideas.

After 9/11, he found a new place for himself in Harlem. Opened Red Rooster and then Ginny's Supper Club, a place where the culture of Harlem, jazz, gospel music and art intersect with food. His goal is to inspire other young cooks, to work with them, to teach them. To do something meaningful, beyond just filling up seats in a restaurant.

He travels by bicycle now, having given up rollerblades. Fifteen restaurants have opened in Harlem since he opened Rooster.

As he writes in "Yes, Chef:"

"I spent so much of my life on the outside that I began to doubt that I would ever truly be in with any one people, any one place, any one tribe. But Harlem is big enough, diverse enough, scrappy enough, old enough, and new enough to encompass all that I am and all that I hope to be. After all that traveling, I am, at last, home."

Miriam Rubin photo

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Sousa Kickstarter campaign off and running

Written by Gretchen McKay on . Chefs

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Chef Kevin Sousa knew he was going where few Pittsburgh restaurateurs have dared go when, earlier this month, he kicked off an ambitious Kickstarter campaign to raise $250,000 for a new restaurant in Braddock, one of Pittsburgh's poorest and most disadvantaged boroughs. 

Failure, you see, is not an option on Kickstarter. Unless the chef raises evey single penny of his quarter-million goal by 11:59 p.m. Jan. 6, he gets nothing and the restaurant --  which could not secure financing through traditional sources --  simply won't happen.

Fans of Chef Sousa's creative, modern American cuisine and farm-to-table sensibility, however, are proving faithful.

kevinsousaLess than two weeks into his 31-day campaign,  Mr. Sousa already has raised almost of one-third his fundraising goal. More than 380 backers have promised about $80,000 for the project, including 4 heavy hitters who've made $5,000 pledges --  a serious show of faith that will reward each of the backers with an all-inclusive, five-course dinner for eight at Braddock Mayor John Fetterman's funky loft above the proposed restaurant on Braddock Ave. There's also been one $10,000 pledge.

"We had no idea what to expect," Mr. Sousa said yesterday. "As of now, if we can keep the momentum going, we are on track to hit our goal . . . The feedback has been extremely positive."

That said, he still has a ways to go.

Which is where you come in.

Fans can pledge as little as $25, to $10,000 or more for the restaurant he'll call Superior Motors. Each comes with a "reward" ranging from a free appetizer at the new restaurant when it opens, to  a private event for 25 of your choice. That, and the knowledge you're doing something good for an in-need community.

The 50-seat restaurant will be located across the street from Braddock's most famous and fiery structure -- Edgar Thomson Works steelmill -- in a 1921 building that was one of the first indoor car dealerships in the country. (That's where the name comes from.) In keeping with Mr. Sousa's mission of "paying it forward" to members of the community, it will include housing for staff, as well as culinary training for local residents.  A rooftop greenhouse will provide some 1,000 square feet of year-round growing space, and Mr. Sousa also plans on constructing 20 or so raised beds on the roof. 

You can watch a video on the genesis of project here, where you also can take a virtual tour of the property with architects Studio for Spatial Practice.superiormotors2 Better yet, peruse the space in person. On Sat., Dec. 21, from 1 to 5 p.m., Chef Sousa and Mayor Fetterman will host a meet-and-greet at the site, 1215 Braddock Avenue. Guests will be able to see all facets of the project:  the greenhouse and chicken coop, apiary and rooftop garden area. There will be a fire and hot beverages to keep you warm, and Chef Sousa will be doing cooking demonstrations in the kitchen. Mayor Fetterman also will be opening his house (which is really cool) to the public. Free parking. 

Mr. Sousa also will talk about the project on KDKA-TV's Pittsburgh Today Live on Thurs., Dec. 26. 
 
If Mr. Sousa is successful, Superior Motors will be among the most ambitious restaurant projects to be funded by Kickstarter, one of the world's largest funding platforms for film, music, art and other creative projects.

Superior Motors (top and bottom right) and Post-Gazette photos


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Five-Star Ode to Pittsburgh in NYC

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on . Chefs

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Chef Kristin Butterworth, back in Fayette County at Nemacolin Woodland Resort's five-star and five-diamond Lautrec, is cooking up a "Five-Star Ode to Pittsburgh" dinner tonight at the James Beard House in New York City. 
          
There's a cocktail reception at 7 p.m., and dinner is at 8. Tickets are $170 for the public (if you happen to be in NYC this evening) and $130 for members of the James Beard Foundation, which puts on scores of such culinary events (reserve here or by calling 1-212-627-2308).

Even if you can't be there, you might enjoy the menu:

Hors d’oeuvres

Ode to Primanti Brothers: Housemade Corned Beef with Slaw and Pomme Frites

Lautrec Truffle Scones with Fiscalini Farmstead Cheddar and Sea Salt

Beet-Stained Deviled Quail Eggs with Baby Beet Chips and Feta Powder

Champagne Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut NV

Yuengling Traditional Lager

Dinner

Foie Gras Terrine with Pennsylvania Maple Syrup, Vanilla-Pickled Apples, Salted Granola and Fried Sage

Montinore Estate Almost Dry Riesling 2012

Smoked Potato Pierogi with Charred Pearl Onions, Truffled Sour Cream, Onion Consommé and Chinese Toon

Damilano Barbera d’Alba 2011

Pittsburgh-Style Grassfed Beef with Bone Marrow Butter, Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, Carrot Confit and Black Garlic Jus

Trefethen Family Vineyards Merlot 2010

Rosemary Macaron with Pennsylvania Amish Chèvre and Huckleberry Preserves

Grapefruit Posset with Crystalized Shiso, Cocoa Nibs, Toasted Coconut and Honey Granita

Luccio Moscato d'Asti NV

Chef Butterworth worked for at time at The Grill Room at New Orleans' Windsor Court Hotel, which wooed her from Lautrec in 2012. A Western Pennsylvania native, she's worked at other swanky places, including Virginia's the Inn at Little Washington. She and her Lautrec team were previously invited to show 'em what they got at the Beard House in 2011, as she recounts here.

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Nemacolin photos of Chef Butterworth and her foie gras terrine as served at Lautrec.

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Is there a Rust Belt cuisine?

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on . Chefs

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Is there Rust Belt cuisine?

Belt Magazine asks the question, and gets some interesting answers and tidbits from chefs in the region, including Pittsburgh's Chris Bonfili, depicted above with his wife, Jennifer, at their Shadyside restaurant, Avenue B.

Snip: " 'Rust belt' sounds like decay."

You can read the online article here.

And if you care to comment, please do so via this blog's commenting feature.

Bill Wade/Post-Gazette photo from 2010

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