Rocket Scientist Traces History Of Black Barbecue
Dr. Howard Conyers’s day job is designing testing facilities for rocket engines at NASA’s Stennis Space Center outside New Orleans. But Conyers has another vocation: documenting the history of Black barbecue in America, something he’s been working on for the past six years. Conyers grew up in South Carolina, cooked his first whole hog when he was 11 years old, and still considers whole-animal cooking to be the most foundational part of American barbecue. “People talk about ‘no waste’ like it’s something new,” says Conyers, “but that’s what Black pitmasters have been doing for centuries.”
Conyers has visited and interviewed as many Black whole-animal pitmasters as he could find across the South, compiling their oral histories of a traditional method that dates back at least 400 years. From Grady’s Barbecue in North Carolina to Campbell’s Quick Stop in South Carolina to Jones Bar-B-Q Diner in Arkansas, every Black pitmaster he spoke with explained how digging holes or building cinder block pits has always been the standard because that’s what was available to slaves. Even the classic vinegar-pepper barbecue sauce dates back to slaves who mopped the sauce over barbecuing whole hogs because ketchup, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce hadn’t been invented yet.
Conyers says there are less than a dozen Black whole-animal pitmasters left in the country, including a few younger ones like Bryan Furman at B’s Cracklin’ BBQ in Atlanta and Rodney Scott at Rodney Scott’s BBQ in Charleston. Conyers began documenting the oral histories of these traditional pitmasters and telling their stories at universities to help make sure that the story of barbecue includes its roots in African American foodways. Conyers is turning his years of research into a book about Black barbecue and says, “Barbecue is an evolving process, and it’s going to continue to evolve, but you should always keep a road map to the past.”
Food Brands Revise Their Racist Names And Images
As America confronts its racist history, PepsiCo’s packaged foods unit announced that it will retire the Aunt Jemima brand of syrup and pancake products. The Aunt Jemima brand was created in 1889, inspired by a song called “Old Aunt Jemima,” which was often performed by a white man in blackface in minstrel shows. A new product name and packaging are slated to roll out in during the fourth quarter of 2020.
Within hours of the announcement last Wednesday, Mars Inc. also said it will be changing its Uncle Ben’s brand to remove the racist image of a black chef. Several other leading food companies have recently followed suit, vowing to revise the packaging on their products, including B&G Foods Inc.’s Cream of Wheat, ConAgra’s Mrs. Butterworth’s, and Dreyer’s ice cream’s Eskimo Pie. These announcements follow the early lead of Land O’ Lakes, which declared in February that it will remove the kneeling Native American woman from its logo on Land O’ Lakes butter and other products. .
Padma Lakshmi’s Taste The Nation Explores Immigrant Roots Of American Cuisine
In her new 10-episode Hulu series, Taste The Nation, Padma Lakshmi explores the history of American food through modern-day cooks around the country. Each episode features a “hero dish” made by an immigrant community, and the show emphasizes indigenous people such as the Navajo in Phoenix, Arizona. The show delves into personal experiences of immigration and assimilation in American food culture, tracing the lineage of iconic dishes through wars and colonization. Lakshmi, who is also a host on Bravo’s wildly popular Top Chef show, immigrated to the U.S. from India at the age of four. She had the idea for Taste the Nation while working as an ambassador for immigrant issues with the American Civil Liberties Union.
Study Finds Most Avocado Oil Is Rancid Or Adulterated
In a new study published in the journal Food Control, researchers found that 82% of the 22 domestic and imported oil samples tested were either rancid or blended with other oils. Some samples contained no avocados at all, despite being labeled “pure” or “extra virgin” avocado oil. Three samples with such labels contained 100% soybean oil (no avocados at all), and six samples contained large amounts of sunflower, safflower, and soybean oil. “Because there are no standards to determine if an avocado oil is of the quality and purity advertised, no one is regulating false or misleading labels,” said Selina Wang, PhD, who led the study.
“These findings highlight the urgent need for standards to protect consumers and establish a level playing field to support the continuing growth of the avocado oil industry,” added Wang. In the meantime, make sure your virgin avocado oil is green in color, smells fresh, and tastes buttery and grassy. A harsh aroma reminiscent of Play-Doh is a sign of rancidity.
Restaurants Step Up Their Takeout Game
A Zagat survey of 7,000 people found that only one-third of respondents plan to dine at restaurants the week they reopen, and 20% plan on waiting three months. As restaurants gradually reopen, takeout and delivery have become essential components of most business models. According to restaurant market research firm NPD, delivery sales this April were 115% higher than last year. As a result, restaurant supply company US Foods saw a 25% jump in sales for its takeout containers, especially eco-friendly containers, specialty vented containers for fried foods, and containers for cakes and desserts. Sales of tamper-evident labels are also up 160% as restaurateurs invest in better packaging to gain consumer trust.
In Chicago, DineAmic Hospitality’s co-owner Luke Stoioff says the company’s restaurants worked hard to “make our delivery food look as beautiful as our dine-in food,” using specialty plastic tableware and packaging as well as other refinements. Some restaurateurs are even investing in custom packaging to help deliver the in-restaurant experience at home. French chef Daniel Boulud, the owner of Michelin-starred restaurant Daniel in New York thinks the Michelin Guide will soon institute a “delivery” classification to grade that service much like other restaurant services. .
Food & Wine Announces Best New Restaurants 2020
Though the coronavirus pandemic has thrown the restaurant industry into disarray, Food & Wine magazine restaurant editor Khushbu Shah says, “A pandemic doesn’t cancel the work that these remarkable chefs and restaurant owners have done over the past year.” Shah completed most of the research for this year’s list just before lockdowns went into effect. The magazine’s ten Best New Restaurants of 2020 include a wide variety of venues from casual to fine dining, inexpensive to luxurious, and food trucks to white tablecloth restaurants. “The idea that a restaurant had to be a place with four walls, a front door, and daily hours felt limiting,” says Shah. “To ignore the creativity and sheer flavor that comes out of food stands, pop-ups, and trucks felt like a giant missed opportunity.” Congratulations to Automatic Seafood and Oysters (Birmingham), Bon Temps (LA), El Ruso (LA), Gado Gado (Portland, OR), Golden Diner (NYC), Molly’s Rise and Shine (New Orleans), Kalaya (Philadelphia), Nixta Taqueria (Austin), Thattu (Chicago), and Thamee (DC).
Food Halls Plan Their Comeback
Massive food halls and public markets rely heavily on close proximity vending, high customer traffic, and communal tables. As they plan reopening amid the pandemic, safety is now the top priority. “We only have one shot at opening and we have to make sure it’s the right time,” says Didier Souillat, CEO of the six Time Out Markets in Lisbon, Chicago, Montreal, Boston, New York, and Miami. Souillat says the Lisbon and Montreal locations will likely open in late July or early August with U.S. halls to follow. Upon entry to reopened Time Out Markets, customers will be welcomed by an ambassador who will explain new health and safety rules and procedures. Signs urging customers to keep six feet apart will be posted throughout the buildings, and technology will track the hall’s total capacity based on foot traffic, sending alerts to general managers when capacity is within 10% of the 50% limit.
In Santa Monica, California, the Social Eats food hall never fully closed but immediately revamped its business and continued modifying it, at least six times, according to founder John Kolaski. “One of our first steps was implementing a contactless solution so guests can order ahead for takeout and delivery,” says Kolaski. The new online ordering platform at Social Eats consolidates all nine of the food hall’s dining concepts into one point of sale system so customers can combine items from all or some of the vendors into one to-go bag. Similarly, food halls around the country have revamped their services in preparation for safe and efficient service upon reopening.
Chicago’s Acclaimed Fat Rice Restaurant Closes Amid Mistreatment Allegations
Since March, Chicago restaurant Fat Rice has been closed for dine-in service but has continued operating as the grocery store and meal kit service, Super Fat Rice Mart. After recently posting support for the Black Lives Matter movement, owners Abe Conlon and Adrienne Lo have now closed Fat Rice altogether. Upon seeing the posts of support, former Fat Rice employees called out Conlon, sharing multiple stories of mistreatment. Some former employees tossed their Fat Rice shirts in a pile in front of the restaurant, while others burned their uniforms.
The reckoning also reignited a long-running debate over the restaurant’s cultural appropriation of Macau cuisine and Conlon’s attitude toward other cultures. The chef admitted to having an anger problem but denied claims about physical altercations. Conlon apologized for his behavior both in the kitchen and in the fight against systemic racism in the U.S., saying, “I have participated in and upheld a system that needs to fall.” He went on to say, “If Fat Rice needs to fall along with that system, I am ready for that.”
Bipartisan Bill Proposes $120 Billion In Relief For Independent Restaurants
Last week, Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) presented new legislation to begin a $120 billon pandemic relief fund for independent food service and drinking establishments. The Real Economic Support that Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive Act (the Restaurant Act) aims to offer restaurants grants so long as the ownership companies are not publicly traded and make $1.5 million or less in revenue under normal circumstances. Funds provided by the bill are in addition to any loans are grants received through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and restaurants may use the grant for payroll, benefits, mortgage, rent, protective equipment, food, and other expenses.
On a call with reporters, Blumenauer said that independent restaurant revenue is down 51% from last year as a result of COVID-19 and that independent restaurants face unique challenges not faced by corporate-owned chain restaurants. Since April, the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) has been pushing Congress to create this $120 billion stabilization fund, even though the National Restaurant Association and the International Franchise Association (IFA) criticized it for not including franchisees and small chain restaurants. The latest bipartisan version of the Restaurant Act does include franchisees but only those with 20 locations or less.
Slovenia Minted As Culinary Destination With First-Ever Michelin Stars
Five restaurants in Slovenia, the tiny yet fertile country bordering Italy, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, and the Adriatic Sea, have just received their first-ever Michelin stars. Celebrated chef Ana Ros earned two for her restaurant, Hisa Franko, and several other Slovenian restaurants earned one each. “Finally we have confirmation that Slovenia is a good gastronomic destination,” says Ros. “It comes at the right time because times are not easy for tourism and restaurants.” Hisa Franko, located on the Italian border in Kobarid, has attracted an endless parade of destination diners who can’t get enough of Ros’s hyperlocal, hyperseasonal ingredients and boundary-pushing dishes like mock guacamole made from lovage and smoked eggs, suckling pig stuffed pasta, and fermented wild magnolia flowers. Another first for Michelin’s just-released 2020 Guide to the “Main Cities of Europe”: Krakow, Poland now has a restaurant with a Michelin star in Bottiglieria 1881.
Top Chef Champ Defends Artful Fusion Cuisine
Last week, this season’s Top Chef All-Stars television show concluded, and Bay Area chef Melissa King emerged victorious. Up against chefs Bryan Voltaggio and Stephanie Cmar, King was tasked with serving a group of culinary legends in Tuscany, Italy. Her winning dishes of char siu glazed octopus with fennel, squash agnolotti with Szechuan chili oil, grilled squab with persimmon porcini and fermented black bean, and Hong Kong milk tea tiramisu successfully honored Italy’s culinary traditions while infusing them with the food and flavors of her Chinese family. Her final tiramisu dish brought eighth-generation Italian butcher Dario Cecchini to tears. “It respected the traditions of Italy,” said Cecchini. “Melissa made an interpretation of one of our traditions and she made it from the heart.” Fusion food can be tricky both culturally and on the palate. “I do a lot of research,” said King. “I travel to these countries, I eat the food of the locals as much as I can. I tried to keep the authenticity of the flavors and the tradition that is behind [it] in all of these cultures, but hybrid[ize] it in a way that’s very subtly and tastefully done.”
America’s Michelin 3-Star Restaurants Find New Ways To Serve
While closing dining rooms due to the coronavirus, Michelin 3-star restaurants around the country pivoted their operations to continue providing high-quality meals through takeout and delivery and by feeding medical employees and others on the frontlines of the pandemic. Chef Dominique Crenn began brainstorming right away when her Michelin 3-starred restaurant, Atelier Crenn, was ordered to close in March. Crenn and a skeleton crew of around 20 employees have been making hundreds of meals a day for hospital workers, firefighters, and even a domestic violence shelter close by. She plans to continue offering some of these services after the pandemic subsides.
Alinea in Chicago, owned by chef Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas, would normally welcome guests with a $365, 18-course tasting menu. Now the 3-star Michelin restaurant is offering six-course to-go feasts for about $50. The move has been extremely successful and has helped re-employ the entire restaurant staff with 80% of their previous pay and benefits. Other restaurants like Eleven Madison Park have begun feeding frontline workers only, and the acclaimed NYC restaurant now serves 3,000 meals a day to those in need.
Airlines Limit Alcohol To Minimize Contact On Flights
Delta and American Airlines in the United States, KLM and Easyjet in Europe, and Virgin Australia in Asia have limited drink menus to water only on many flights in order to minimize contact between staff and guests. Delta Airlines is not serving alcohol on domestic flights or in the Americas, but beer, wine and spirits are still offered on international flights. American Airlines is limiting food and drink service in the main cabin according to flight length and destination (check specific flights for details). Virgin Australia is offering guests water and a snack, but no more food or drinks are available to purchase on board. As always, airline travelers are permitted to carry up to 3.4 ounces of alcohol (two miniature bottles) in a clear, quart-size, zip-top bag.
U.S. Map Shows Which States Drink The Most Wine
Curious about how much wine is consumed in your state? A new color-coded map from VinePair shows which U.S. states drink the most wine per capita and by volume based on recent data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Surprisingly, those living in Idaho drink the most wine per capita (1.2 gallons) beating out America’s winemaking mecca, California. West Virginians drink the least wine per capita (0.1 gallons), but they drink about a gallon of beer and 2 gallons of spirits each year.
The wine map shows that the highly populated state of California, which is responsible for 86% of America’s total wine output, does indeed drink the most wine by total volume, with other large states like Florida, New York, and Texas not far behind. Conversely, Wyoming and South Dakota consume the least wine by volume. Top to bottom, that’s a difference of 155.6 million gallons overall for California compared to just 1.2 million gallons each for Wyoming and South Dakota.
Facing Racism Charges, Court Of Master Sommeliers Removes “Master” Address
The Court of Master Sommeliers Americas is facing charges of failing to be inclusive of people of color. The first to speak out against the organization was Atlanta wine professional Tahiirah Habibi who took the Court’s famously difficult introductory exam in New York in 2011. On June 16, she recounted her experience in an Instagram video post, recalling how exam proctors told her and other candidates to call them “master.” After passing the introductory exam, she decided not to enroll in further courses or exams with the court, saying, “I just couldn’t imagine having to pour a glass of wine for someone while calling them ‘master.’”
Chair of the board of directors for the Court, Devon Broglie, discussed the incident with Habibi and told reporters, “I expressed deep regret for the unwelcoming experience and the racism perpetrated then.” He added that the Master Sommelier board “will move to officially end any use of ‘Master + Last name’ only.”
Master sommelier Richard Betts also announced his resignation from the Court on June 17, the first time a master sommelier has resigned from the organization. Among Betts’s reasons for resigning, he believes the court should take a stronger stance on racial injustice, and he disapproves of how the court handled a cheating scandal in 2018. Brian McClintic, star of the popular television documentary “Somm,” walked away as well, because he felt that issues such as dismantling inherent classism were not being addressed by the organization. McClintic is one of four wine professionals in the documentary, which reveals the details and intensity of taking the world’s top wine exam and attempting to attain Master Sommelier certification.
Craft Brewers Repackage To Stay Afloat
According to the Brewers Association, an industry trade group, most American craft breweries keg 40% of their beer to sell on draft at their own taprooms or other brewpubs, bars, and restaurants. As on-premise sales dried up completely due to the pandemic, craft brewers began repackaging their beer any way they could. Many stepped up their canning operations. Others transitioned to growlers or crowlers. Those new to canning partnered with mobile canning companies such as Codi Manufacturing or Mobile Canning. Like restaurateurs, many craft brewers scrambled to establish online ordering systems and curbside pickup.
Many also turned to delivery. According to Bart Watson, Chief Economist at the Brewers Association, the number of craft breweries offering local delivery increased by 31% since last year. In some states, lawmakers have eased alcohol delivery restrictions, even allowing breweries to list their products on delivery services such as Doordash and UberEats. The online beer retailer Tavour saw a significant bump in sales, as 47 new breweries joined the retail website since March. Despite the overall economic downturn, most craft brewers remain optimistic, according to Watson, and many are hoping that legislators will allow beer delivery to continue after pandemic restrictions are lifted. “There are a lot of people who have really gotten used to staying at home,” says Megan Birch, Tavour’s director of marketing, “and when everything does open up, they’re not really going to want to go out. It’s so much easier to just get beer delivered to their house.”
Former Bumble Bee CEO Imprisoned For Tuna Price Fixing
Christopher Lischewski has been ordered to serve 40 months in prison for price fixing in the canned tuna market. The former president and chief executive of Bumble Bee Foods was the leader of the scheme, which included three other executives. According to prosecutors, the scheme was in effect from November 2010 to December 2013 and affected over $600 million worth of canned tuna sales. In 2017, Bumble Bee pleaded guilty to its role and was sentenced to pay a $25 million fine. In September, StarKist, the other canned-tuna company involved in the conspiracy, was sentenced to pay a $100 million fine. “Executives who cheat American consumers out of the benefits of competition will be brought to justice,” said Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, “particularly when their antitrust crimes affect the most basic necessity, food.”
U.S. Dietary Guidelines Committee Makes Its 2020-2025 Recommendations
Last week, a panel of 20 nutrition scientists met via videoconference to discuss recommended changes to the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The guidelines are updated every five years by the Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services, and they directly affect eating habits for millions by way of food stamp policies, school lunch menus, food manufacturing, and advice given by nutritionists.
Overall, the panel’s recommendations are similar to those from the previous five years, except for advice on the consumption of alcohol and added sugars. The panel recommended that men keep alcohol intake to one drink per day rather than two drinks, as previously advised. In addition, the panel recommends that all Americans cut back on added sugars.
The advisory committee has been highly scrutinized this year, as more than half of its members have ties to the food industry. For instance, scientists running new subcommittees on pregnant women, lactating mothers and toddlers receive funding from the baby food industry. African-American and Hispanic communities are also skeptical of the recommendations because almost all of the panelists are white. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has final approval over the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are scheduled for release later this year.
Hotels Suspend Buffet Service While Cruise Ships Forge Ahead
Hotel chains such as MGM Resorts, Hilton, Marriott, and Four Seasons and are revamping or eliminating breakfast buffets to prioritize guest safety. Marriott has gathered a team of health and hospitality experts in its Global Cleanliness Council. Council member Dr. Richard Ghiselli, who is also head of the School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Purdue University, says “Restaurant operators are advised to discontinue self-serve buffets and salad bars.” Ghiselli notes that buffets may survive in some locations with updated guidelines. “Where they are permitted, they must have sneeze guards in place,” said Ghiselli, “and staff are advised to change, wash, and sanitize utensils frequently, and place barriers in open areas.”
Hotel buffets may be changing in other countries as well. In Italy, Claudio Scarpa, director of the Venice hotel association says,“The breakfast buffet will be a thing of the past.” The association recently issued a 10-page list of regulations and recommendations for area hotels, and instead of a morning buffet, “guests now receive a breakfast bag,” says Scarpa.
As crowded areas where guests share serving utensils, buffets have come under intense scrutiny during the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this month, buffet restaurant chains Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes threw in the towel and closed all 97 locations permanently. Buffets on cruise ships, however, will likely continue. “Buffets will exist in some sort of form,” says Chris Gray Faust, managing editor of Cruise Critic. Faust notes that buffet food will mostly likely be dished out by staff, there will be fewer communal tables, and staff will be required to wear masks or face shields.
Food Automation Goes From Niche To Necessity
With guests eager to experience restaurant food and service–but safely–food automation devices such as salad and smoothie robots have become more widely accepted. The Chowbotic company’s robot, Sally, is an autonomous kiosk capable of mixing dozens of beautiful, fresh salad combinations in short order with little human interaction. These salad robots are now in high demand at large foodservice operations such as hospitals and universities. “The hospital market has accelerated,” says Rick Wilmer, Chowbotic chief executive officer. “We were one of those lucky companies that had the solution ideally suited for the circumstances.”
Similarly, a smoothie robot named Chef B can whip up more than three dozen 12-ounce smoothies in an hour without human assistance. Chef B’s parent company, Blendid, is now on the DoorDash app, with made-to-order smoothies ready for delivery. Even fast food hamburgers have become more automated and safer at Creator restaurant in San Francisco. Creator opened in 2018 with a 14-foot burger machine capable of making 130 burgers in an hour. Now it has a new pressurized airlock transfer window for contactless takeout orders.