All Posts By Food Network Kitchen

Junior Chefs

by in View All Posts, October 10th, 2008

Recently, I was asked to judge a culinary competition in Sacramento put on by Jr. Chef Central, an organization that teaches cooking classes for kids between the ages of 10 and 15.

The competition was part of a larger “Culinary Convention” that included classes for about 200 kids on the subjects of pasta, baking, sushi, grilling, and pizza. In addition to those classes, all of the kids attended seminars on food styling, nutrition, farm to table, table setting and etiquette, and knife skills. There were even parent education classes to loop parents in on what the kids were learning. The convention was open to all kids, not just kids in the program.

I had no idea what to expect when I flew 3,000 miles to be a part of this. I was totally blown away by what I found.

The competition part involved 5 teams of students from the classes: each team had 3 regular students, 1 Master Jr. Chef (a kid who’d been through every level of the program) and 1 Chef Mentor from a local restaurant. The teams had the same themes as the classes. Each team had to make 3 dishes based on the theme as well as a mystery ingredient: figs.

While the kids were cooking, the judges (myself, Elaine Johnson from Sunset Magazine, and 1 of the Master Jr. Chefs) got to walk around and see how the kids were working together, assess their skills, and make sure they were following safety and sanitation guidelines. I simply couldn’t believe how talented and comfortable these kids were in the kitchen. I walked by the sushi team at one point and 1 of the girls was making an unbelievable rose out of a cucumber. I asked her if her Chef Mentor taught her how and she said no, she read about how to do it online. Wow.

All in all, we tasted 15 courses prepared by the kids. They were judged on presentation, content, teamwork and sanitation. There were 2 awards, Best Dish and Best Team Overall. There was a tie for winning dish: a Fig Crostata with Basil Ice Cream from the Pizza Team and a Grilled Fig Pizza with Raspberry Sauce, Mascarpone, Fresh Mint and Caramel Sauce from the Grilling Team.

The winner: fig crostata with basil ice cream

The Best Team Overall was the Pizza Team and they prepared the Crostata mentioned above, Pizza Poppers with mushrooms, pepperoni, and a fig dipping sauce, and a Fig, Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Pizza with Arugula. If I hadn’t been watching these kids make all the dishes, I would never have believed that this food was made by 10 to 15 year olds!

The idea of 200 young teens in one place at one time can be a scary one, but these kids were incredibly poised and dedicated. They were so proud of what they accomplished (win or lose) and I was so proud of them. Karla Lacey Minors, who runs Jr. Chef Central, is amazing and so is her program.

Jill Novatt, Executive Culinary Producer

Breaking the Fast with Food Network

by in View All Posts, October 10th, 2008

Food Network’s Executive Chef Rob Bleifer serving up shrimp and grits at Chelsea Market After Dark kickoff event.

Breaking fast is a tradition after fasting for the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. It consists of a light meal of bagels, spreads and smoked fish.

Well, last night I changed it up. The first ever Food Network New York City Wine and Food Festival kicked off last night, and what a kickoff it was. It started at 7pm sharp up in the Food Network studios with a VIP party. Everywhere you looked there were Food Network faces, the Neelys, Nigella, Anne Burrell, it goes on and on.

Let’s get to the food: didn’t see any bagels or spreads around the room. What I did see was amazing food that the Food Network Kitchens put out. Upside down lobster pot pie, mouthwatering pate, falafel bites, crusted lamb with fig mostarda, and house-cured smoked salmon (OK, so there was some smoked fish). The night continued downstairs with Chelsea Market After Dark, where we put out some shrimp and grits and tender duck confit.

The festival continues all weekend and it’s going to rock. Anyone going to the festival? Let us know what you thought. I have to say, it was definitely a good way to break the fast.

Dave Mechlowicz, Culinary Purchasing Manager

Peanut Butter & Jelly All Grown Up

by in View All Posts, October 6th, 2008

Some special clients were coming in for a lunch and I wanted a really special dessert. For an event last fall, I made a peanut butter ice cream with a homemade concord grape jelly swirl, but this time I wanted a plated dessert rather than just a scoop.

I was discussing with Miriam, our Sous Chef, and Anthony, a freelance cook, and their ideas immediately made me think about using a classic Kentucky jam cake as the base, putting more grape jelly on top, then topping it all off with peanut butter ice cream. When testing the cake recipe, we didn’t have enough grape jelly, so I had to use fig preserves, which made the most incredible cake.

Some Syrah wine grapes were available in the market and they made the best grape jelly we had ever tasted. The dessert came together with some toasted peanuts and a sprinkle of flaked sea salt. Not a crumb was left on the plates!

Peanut butter & jelly — who knew it could be a decadent dessert for grown-ups?

Recipe Developer Sarah Copeland taste testing

Rob Bleifer, Executive Chef

Lock, Stock and Barrel

by in View All Posts, October 2nd, 2008

So about a week ago, I got a call from my friend Robert, who is, I’d say, at least in my top 5 favorite cloud-physicists-moonlighting-as-food-writers. The gist of Robert’s phone calls tend to be “Deliciousness afoot; come immediately.” This was no exception; this time, he wanted to know if I could meet him to drive 6 hours round-trip to have dinner in a field of a tomato farm sort of near Allentown, PA. He was leaving in three hours.

Because I am not stupid, I said yes.

Dinner, put on by these guys and cooked by this guy at Eckerton Hill Farm, run by this guy, was awesome. But that’s not the point. Also, the meeting that I totally skipped out on to be there is also not the point.

At one point, Wayne Miller, who works at Eckerton Hill, handed me one of the North-Indian-style chiles they were growing. I had fully intended to bring it home to my mother, who is sort of painfully blithe about the kind of heat that would fell your average grown man and/or horse.

But I wasn’t going to see her for a bit, and the chile was starting to look sad, so I thought I’d throw the chile into a pot of stock I was making, along with all the sad remnant produce from the day-before-we-get-our-weekly-CSA and a bunch of similarly benign things.

Yeah, ok. The second it went into the pot, I started coughing. A minute later, my husband, at the other end of the (admittedly tiny) apartment, started coughing. Two minutes later we were both weeping, which continued over the course of the evening.

Turns out that chile was in fact recently named the hottest in the world, equivalent in heat to about 100 jalapenos, and hot enough that you could probably make a convincing case for pre-emptive war against the kind of country that would harbor such a thing.

So I made risotto with about a third of the stock. Rice, butter, shallots, white wine, and Parmesan. Thought the butter and Parmesan and starchy Arborio would mellow out the Stock of Doom.

Of course not. In the risotto’s defense, though, it only caused minor physical tremors.

Anyone want some homemade chicken stock?

Rupa Bhattacharya, Culinary Writer

By The Time They Got To Foodstock

by in View All Posts, October 2nd, 2008

Recently, over 60,000 participants came to Slow Food USA’s coming-out party in San Francisco. This organization, as its name implies, celebrates real non-processed foods and the farmers, fishermen, cooks, servers and eaters that share them.

I was lucky enough to be part of this well-fed throng. I strolled through the fantastically lush victory gardens in front of SF City Hall, stuffed myself silly (“slow” didn’t mean “restrained”) on delicious foods that included incredible Olympia oysters, rustic Southern soused pork and cornbread with sorghum and buttermilk, vibrant Bronx grapes, perfect peaches, awesome ice creams, intense chocolates, artisanal cheeses and salumi, remarkable Indian flatbreads and the best hand-crafted beers.


Although a couple pounds may be with me for a bit, it was the Food for Thought series that will stay with me forever.
SFN assembled the best and the brightest of the food community — Michael Pollan, Corby Kummer, Wendell Berry, Carlo Petrini, Alice Waters, Vandana Shiva, Marion Nestle, and James Oseland — to grapple with the bigger questions about how we choose to feed ourselves. These panels were inspiring. The issues aren’t simple, and we have lots of work to do to build a sustainable food system that is good, clean, and fair. But the energy and passion of all the participants was a fantastic opening act.


Check out this declaration that emerged from the panel discussions: http://fooddeclaration.org

Katherine Alford, Test Kitchen Director

Carrot Tops

by in View All Posts, September 30th, 2008

How Sweet It Is

As long as I can remember, I’ve been crazy for carrot cake. Each year for my birthday, my mother would ask what kind of cake I wanted. Every year without fail, I’d reply “carrot cake,” and my mother would turn her classic carrot cake into a themed creation of my choosing. One year, slathered in aqua-blue cream cheese icing, it became a pool for my pool party. Another year it became a yellow studded pineapple for a luau party.

I never understood why, every time she sliced into the cake, we got a “carrot cake again?” moan from my birthday regulars. I was always thrilled to see the brilliant orange beneath the layers of icing and couldn’t imagine why anyone else wouldn’t be. Years later, I still haven’t quite accepted that carrot cake is a love-it or hate-it kind of cake, with not everyone residing firmly in my camp. For those that do, I want to share my latest carrot cake find — pale ivory carrot cake ice cream from Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream in Columbia, MO, with subtle flecks of sweet carrot and bite-size bits of walnut. Creamy, toothsome, and incredibly satisfying, it brought me right back to birthday bliss.

Sarah Copeland, Recipe Developer, Test Kitchen

Summertime Cupcakes Anytime

by in View All Posts, September 29th, 2008

I recently discovered the meaning of the phrase “necessity is the mother of invention” when I set out to use up the last of my watermelon by making homemade ices. A quick and easy way to enjoy fruit that is lingering on the overripe — just a little simple syrup, pureed fruit (strained) and perhaps a squeeze of lemon juice. My kids were motivated to help, since they love anything sweet and frozen. Only one snag: I realized after the watermelon mixture was made that not only did I not have proper Popsicle molds, but I also did not have any Popsicle sticks to stick into cups — what to do? As I rummaged through my miscellaneous cabinet of cookware (a bigger endeavor than making ices), I spotted my cupcake pan and quickly decided to make frozen watermelon cupcakes. I lined the pan with cupcake liners, poured in the mixture, froze it for about 6 hours and…presto: the cutest cupcakes and a perfect summertime treat anytime! Sometimes inspiration comes out of desperation.

Claudia Sidoti, Recipe Developer, Culinary Production

What's for lunch

by in View All Posts, September 25th, 2008

Charlie and the fish 1

You may be wondering: just what do a bunch of chefs, culinary producers and recipe developers eat for lunch?

Well, the truth is, we don’t know until we get to work and rummage through the walk-in fridge to see what we have to hurry up and eat before it’s only good for compost.

Actually, the truth is, we take our staff meal here seriously and everyone pitches in so that our ”family meals” are not just delicious, but something to write home about. Thanks to Charlie Granquist, one of our food stylists, today the meal was so special, it was even worthy of a pic.

Now that’s some nice looking fish…stay tuned for more family meal pics from the Behind the Scenes Team.

Claudia Sidoti, Recipe Developer, Culinary Production

The visiting team

by in View All Posts, September 25th, 2008

What’s it like to work a photo shoot on location for the Food Network?  Here’s a taste.

It’s mid-morning and no longer raining, now that the canopy over our work tables is finally in place, and I am across the street–half on the sidewalk, half in the gutter–from all of the action. Sports Illustrated is on the action side, shooting their annual Football Gridiron Tailgate special.  Bobby Flay is grilling in front of a Brooklyn brownstone with two of the New York Giants, and many hungry “neighborhood extras” are about to consume a lot of food in just an hour and a half.  I am part of the Food Network kitchen production crew, providing and styling the food for this photo shoot.Bobby’s having a great time.  Beside himself, cooking with the Super Bowl champions! The food looks great…that is, when I can see it.  When the stoplight on the street turns red, taxis and FedEx trucks idle and block my view.  That’s okay; I don’t need to see to know what is going on. If something’s wrong, I’m sure I will hear it first.  I focus on cooking more food on uneven tables with portable burners that the wind keeps blowing out.

People roll down the windows of their cars and ask what is being filmed.  Some love Bobby Flay and the Food Network, and want to chat, holding up traffic.  Others are Giants fans, and some are disappointed, their myopic illusions of an all-star Law and Order with Brad and Angelina dashed.

Vince Camillo, Food Stylist, FN Kitchens