The Noosa International Food and Wine Festival, the most joyous food festival we’ve ever visited (part 1)

appetizers at hinterland tour lunch, noosa international food and wine festival

My greedy, gorgeous wife S and I have been to many food and wine festivals, in many different places, over the last decade and a half. We’ve attended festivals as speakers, as working journalists and as members of the public. Some festivals are rather high-brow. Others try hard to connect with the everyman. Many others fall in between, offering a mix of small, exclusive (which means expensive) dinners coupled with affordable experiences that can accommodate large crowds. This can be a hard formula to get right, and many festivals are still struggling to find the right balance. A few others, however, seem to have discovered the magic formula for food festival success.

A few weeks ago, S and I found ourselves attending such a festival. Not only has the Noosa International Food & Wine Festival (held in the small holiday/retiree town of Noosa on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast) perfected the balance between luxury and accessibility, it’s done so with a laid-back sense of humour that is utterly infectious. Before Noosa, I had never attended a food and wine festival in which everyone–the chefs, producers, participants, even the festival staff–seemed to be having so much fun. And for that alone, I would definitely consider going back again and again.  Continue Reading →

Sydney International Food Festival (a small slice)

Chefs from the Showcase Gala Dinner posing while plating. Photo by Dominic Loneragen of the(sydney)magazine.

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of attending quite a number of food festivals in different parts of the world. Most recently, I was in Sydney, Australia, to check out the first-ever Sydney International Food Festival, both as a panel-speaker and also as an invited observer. I was particularly excited to head down under for this particular festival because its director, the amazing Joanna Savill, is an old and very special friend. Joanna is one of the most respected foodies on the planet, let alone Australia. Among her many accomplishments, Joanna is co-editor of the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide and co-creator of the landmark TV Series, The Food Lover’s Guide to Australia. My darling wife S and I first met Joanna back in 2001 (of course, we were already fans) and have been friends ever since then.

Joanna has taken what used to be known as the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Month and has turned it into a stellar international food festival worth planning your Australia trip around. The Festival is still a month-long, with different programmes and components happening throughout the month of October. Whether a person is more into gritty streetside dining or is a fan of fine dining, the Festival has been truly able to deliver an experience for each and every kind of foodie out there. Joanna’s also smartly sexed up several events, introducing star power to bring in the crowds. For example, the Festival’s opening event was a day of Barbecue Madness. But Joanna didn’t just bring in anyone to lead the barbecue. Oh no… she enlisted the help of Fergus Henderson of St John in London to work with 12 well-known Sydney chefs, turning a simple bbq into a powerhouse gastronomic event!

I had flown down to take part in the World Chef Showcase. This 2 day series of talks and demonstrations featured some really amazing culinary talent. The theme for this year’s Showcase was The Best of Asia, which I thought was fantastic. We don’t even properly celebrate our own region at most of our own festivals. I thought it was inspiring and exciting for the Sydney Festival to be championing the best of Asian cuisine, chefs, food writers, and restaurateurs. The participant list was simply amazing. Superstars like David Thompson, Peter Gordon, Pichet Ong, Jereme Leung, Kylie Kwong, Alvin Leung, Fuchsia Dunlop, Cheong Liew, Rainer Becker, Neil Perry, Chui Lee Luk, Andre Chiang, Yu Bo, Yoshihiro Murata, Mamoru Tatemori, and Tetsuya Wakuda (among others) all took their turns on stage during the weekend of 10-11 October. Each day, there were three consecutive tracks of talks and demos. On the first, Track 1 focused on Thailand and Vietnam; track 2 on China; while track 3 was the “world” track which featured chefs like Sergi Arola and Alexandre Bourdas. The second day, track 1 was Asia; track 2 was titled “Creative”; and track 3 focused on Japan.
(Keep reading)

Mundaring Truffle Festival

Chef Alain Fabreques dishes chopped truffle over his signature truffled eggs

Last weekend, my darling wife S and I skipped town to check out a festival that we’d only recently heard about, but which we knew we simply had to attend. The Mundaring Truffle Festival, held in a small suburb just 30 minutes drive from Perth, Western Australia, is a gustatory celebration of the Black Perigord Truffle. The Festival’s official literature describes it rather perfectly: “For one glorious, over-indulgent weekend during the height of the West Australian truffle season, the picturesque hills community of Mundaring transforms into a bustling Festival village filled with truffle-themed events, an open-air produce market, the annual Perth Hills Wine Show and much, much more.” The Festival, which took place 8-9 August, also happened to coincide perfectly with Singapore’s National Day (long weekend) holiday. Perfect timing for us.

The Mundaring Truffle Festival is in its third year and while marketed primarly domestically, it is begining to attract foreign visitors like S and me. This year, the Festival attracted over 25,000 people, which more than doubled last year’s attendance numbers. I can only imagine how massive and well-attended this Festival might become over the next 5-10 years. It has the potential, if it’s growth is planned and managed well, to become one of the most exciting and leading food festivals in the region. (Keep reading)

Four Seasons Bangkok WGF: Emily Luchetti (post written by S)

I have to admit that I bought Emily Luchetti’s A Passion for Desserts primarily because I had to have her recipe for the enticing chocolate chip ice cream cake that’s featured on the book cover. While there are days when one may be inspired to take on Pierre Herme’s Plaisir Sucre, the demands of a busy household most often nip those sorts of fantasies in the bud. What I love about Emily Luchetti’s desserts is that she manages to somehow keep them wholesome, yet sophisticated (her pear-caramel swirl ice cream is another fabulous example). There is great finesse in her seemingly casual, home-style sweet creations.

For her cooking class at the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok’s World Gourmet Festival, the pastry chef at Farallon restaurant in San Francisco shared her recipes for walnut cake with Moscato d’Asti sabayon, milk chocolate towers and coffee meringues with coconut ice cream. Versions of the first two recipes can be found in A Passion for Desserts. The last one is from her latest book, A Passion for Ice Cream. While all three desserts were delicious (the walnut cake was pleasingly light), the coffee meringues with coconut ice cream were my favourite. The flavours were intense, yet the dessert tasted incredibly light. I loved the nutty sweetness that the toasted shredded coconut gave to the finished product. The fact that the meringue requires some of the egg whites I never know what to do with after I make a batch of ice cream also makes this dessert a winner. Emily has kindly given us permission to reproduce her recipe below.

Because I am rather obsessed with making ice cream, when we sat down for a chat with Emily, our conversation naturally veered towards the subject of frozen desserts.

S: What are your three top tips for making great ice cream?
EL: Tip number one: when you’re making your custard base, do it over medium-low heat. Stir it with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula and pay attention as you do this. If it curdles, just strain it.

Tip number two: I like to infuse my milk and cream when I heat them up. For example, by adding slices of fresh ginger to the milk and cream the ginger flavour in the ice cream takes on greater depth while retaining its freshness. Sometimes I add toasted chopped nuts. Let the ingredients steep in the liquid for about 10 minutes.

Tip number three: Be aware that your ice cream base will taste different when it’s hot and when it’s cold. The flavours are more acute when it’s cold.

S: Philadelphia or French? Which style of ice cream to you prefer?
EL: I usually prefer French-style ice creams. But there are exceptions to the rule. When I make ice wine ice cream, I just use cream, milk, sugar and ice wine. Adding eggs would dilute the flavour of the liquor, losing its purity of taste.

S: Do you have any advice for home chefs who are nervous about making their own desserts?
EL: Retain your commonsense. If you don’t have the 9 inch square cake pan your recipe calls for, replace it with a 9 inch round pan rather than a 7 inch square pan! [The smaller pan would result in a taller cake and would require a different length of time in the oven.] Follow the recipe the first time you attempt a dessert before tweaking it. And if your cake turns out less than perfect, scoop it into bowls, top it with whipped cream and call it pudding. Go with tried and tested recipes first. Get ready early, and don’t get intimidated by the recipe. Look to it for guidance.

S: Who do you think is doing hot stuff in the world of pastry?
EL: Sue McCown, Dana Bickford and Pichet Ong.

Coffee meringues with coconut ice cream
(From A Passion for Ice Cream by Emily Luchetti)

Serves 8

Coffee meringues
2 large egg whites
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee granules

Coconut ice cream
¾ cup coconut nut cream, such as Coco Lopez (can be substituted with equal amount of unsweetened coconut milk)
1 1/3 cups unsweetened coconut milk
2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted (see below)

To make the meringues: Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. On 2 pieces of parchment paper, trace thirty-two 2-inch circles, 1 inch apart. Place the parchment paper, marked side down, on baking sheets. (Placing them pencil side down will prevent marks on the meringues. You will be able to see the outline of the circles when they are inverted.)

With an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Add 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar, increase to medium-high speed with a stand mixer (high speed with a hand-held mixer), and whip until soft speaks form. Add 3 tablespoons of the granulated sugar and continue to whip until stiff, satiny peaks form. Sift together the remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, the confectioners’ sugar, and instant espresso or coffee. Fold the dry ingredients into the egg whites

Place a ¼-inch plain pastry tip in a pastry bag and fill the pastry bag with the meringue. Starting from the inside of each circle, pipe the meringue in a solid spiral, filling the circle. Pipe the remaining circles in the same manner. (If you don’t want to use a pastry bag, you can carefully spread the meringue into circles with a small offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Use a scant tablespoon for each.)

Bake the meringues until dry, about 5 hours, though you can leave them in the oven overnight. To test if they are done, remove the pan from the oven and let sit on the counter for 30 seconds. Try to remove a meringue from the baking sheet. If it peels off the parchment paper easily, the meringues are done. Let cool for 15 minutes and then put in an airtight container until you are ready to assemble the sandwiches.

To make the ice cream: Whisk the coconut cream (if using) in a medium bowl until smooth. Whisk in the coconut milk, cream, sugar, and salt. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight. Put the shredded and toasted coconut in a bowl and put the bowl in the freezer. Churn the ice cream base in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Fold the ice cream into the toasted coconut. Freeze until scoopable, about 4 hours, depending on your freezer.

To assemble the sandwiches: Turn half of the meringues bottom side up. Place a scoop of ice cream on top. Place a second meringue, bottom side against the ice cream, on top and gently press together to adhere the sandwiches together. (Meringues formed with a spoon or offset spatula are more delicate than piped meringues.) Freeze for at least 1 hour before eating. Serve 2 sandwiches per person. If desired, serve with cocoa sauce.

In advance: The meringues can be made up to 3 days in advance as long as the weather is not too humid. I often store meringues in a turned-off oven. Otherwise, they should be stored in an airtight container. The ice cream can be made 2 days in advance. The sandwiches can be assembled 2 days in advance. Store well wrapped in plastic wrap.

Toasting coconut: Place the shredded coconut in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 5 minutes, then stir the coconut and continue to bake for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until evenly golden brown. Watch the coconut carefully as it burns quickly, especially around the edges.

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Four Seasons Bangkok WGF: William Ledeuil and his Thermomix

Of all the great chefs that flew into Bangkok for the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok’s World Gourmet Festival and cooked their hearts out over the past week, the one that impressed me the most was Chef William Ledeuil. This always affable, enthusiastic and humble chef runs one of Paris’ hottest restaurants, Ze Kitchen Galerie. The International Herald Tribune has called Ledeuil’s establishment a “delight”. The New York Times has said, “the cooking shows unbridled creativity and a sense of fun.” Ledeuil first made his name at Les Bouquinistes, a Guy Savoy bistro. There, he prepared fresh, modern French food. Today, at Ze Kitchen Galerie, he cooks what he calls simply “contemporary cuisine”. Not contemporary French mind you. Just contemporary. Others might also call his food, for lack of a better term, fusion.

Ledeuil, who has a wealth of classical training, is in love with Asian produce, especially the herbs and spices of Southeast Asia. His cuisine draws upon these inspirational ingredients to produce a range of fantastically exciting dishes. At the World Gourmet Festival, I had the pleasure of attending Chef Ledeuil’s cooking class, one of his 5-course dinners and also of having an encore of what I consider the best dish of the week during the WGF’s gala dinner, a seabass ravioli with capsicum lemongrass condiment and shellfish broth (pictured at the top of this post). When this dish was presented at the 8-course gala, it caused quite a sensation. You could smell the lemongrass in the air as the waiters and waitresses carried the plates into the room. A super-light but amazingly flavourful foam covered the ravioli, which was steamed to perfection. The fish inside was deliciously tender and the capsicum lemongrass sauce under it added the perfect hint of complexity.

Chef Ledeuil’s five course dinner menu was as follows: layer of daikon and shrimp flavoured with Thai basil and tarama lemongrass; beet root and confit of ginger gaspacho with cucumbers filled with crabmeat, avocado puree and salmon roe; the seabass ravioli; grilled lobster and Bouchot mussels with lemongrass and crustacean jus; and mango cappuccino with coconut ice cream and banana papaya emulsion. During Ledeuil’s cooking class, I was thrilled to watch him make the seabass ravioli that I had fallen in love with just a few days earlier. Unfortunately, because Chef Ledeuil had originally planned to make the dish with different sauces, the recipe he handed out was different from what he showed us. If you want to check out Chef’s Ledeuil’s recipes for yourself, he released a cookbook called Les Couleurs du Gout (The Colours of Taste) two years ago. Chef very generously passed me a copy. It’s stunning and I urge you to buy a copy. The only problem (for me at least) is that the book is in French which means I’ll be spending many a night brushing up on my very, very rusty Francais.

In addition to wowing me with his cooking, Chef Ledeuil also wowed me with something I had read about but had never gotten to actually see up close, a Thermomix. Ever since I had heard about these amazing machines that single-handedly weigh, chop, blend, knead, whip, and cook (yes cook!), I’ve wanted to check one out and see it in action. Chef Ledeuil swears by them. He told me he can’t imagine cooking without one. I was thrilled when he invited me into the kitchen to watch as he prepared some of his sauces with the one he carried all the way to Bangkok from Paris.

The Thermomix is very cool. It allows you to precisely measure ingredients and blend them at 11 different speeds (1-10 plus a turbo setting). Most amazingly, you can heat your ingredients at 7 different temperature settings, ranging from 37 degrees Celsius on up to 100 degrees Celsius. The consistency of the sauces that Chef Ledeuil made were brilliantly smooth and nicely heated through. Having finally seen a Thermomix in action, all I can say is, “Oh my God, I want one!” Of course, I’d like to cook like Chef Ledeuil as well.

4, rue des Grands Augustins
Paris 6
Tel: 01 44 32 00 32

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Four Seasons Bangkok WGF: Fatema Hal

lamb tagine with olives, eggplant and lemon confit

One of the chefs attending this year’s Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok’s World Gourmet Festival whose food I was most excited to try was Fatema Hal. Ms Hal is considered by many to be one of the most important proponents of Moroccan cuisine on our planet. Over the past 21 years, at her restaurant in Paris, La Mansouria, she’s been introducing countless foodies to the joys of this once over-looked but now trendy cuisine. More importantly, Ms Hal has, during the same period, dedicated much energy and research to recording the most authentic and often rare recipes from her homeland. She’s both advocate and historian, ambassador and anthropologist.

During the World Gourmet Festival, diners who attended Fatema’s two 5-course dinners raved about her exotic and delicious food. S and I were lucky enough to catch one of her equally popular cooking classes, during which she showed us how to make spicy shrimp briwatte; a lamb tagine with olives, eggplant and lemon confit; and gazelle horns with sesame seeds. It was interesting to hear from Fatema that while tagines are served in their traditional bowls, hardly anyone uses these tall, attractive tools for cooking anymore. Almost everyone, she told us, cooks tagines in dutch ovens or cocottes.

I’ve decided to post Ms Hal’s briwatte recipe. A briwatte is something similar to a fried spring roll. It’s traditionally shaped like a long cigar, but for our class, Ms Hal shaped them in triangles, like samosas. They’re easy to make and Ms Hal’s filling was actually quite tasty. The combination of herbs and spices was very nice and pleasantly evocative. I could easily imagine snacking on these on a lazy afternoon in Marrakech.

Briwatte aux Crevettes Pimentées (Spicy Shrimp Briwatte)
Makes approximately 24

2 tablespoons oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
250 grams shrimps, peeled
1 coriander root washed and chopped
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cumin
freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste
1 tomato, peeled and finely diced
1 green chilli (optional)
12 sheets briks (this can be substituted with spring roll skins)
1 egg yolk, lightly whisked

Heat the oil over high heat. Add the garlic, coriander, salt, cumin and lemon juice. Lower the heat and stir the mixture with a wooden spoon for approximately 3 minutes.

Add the diced tomato and cook for another 7 minutes before adding the peeled shrimps and green chilli. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes before removing the pan from the heat. Let the mixture cool.

Halve the brik sheets (or spring roll skins). According to Ms Hal, a spoonful of filling should be placed in the middle of a half sheet. Roll the sheet to form a cigar, folding the two ends in at the same time. (I’m guessing that it should look like a spring roll.) Seal the parcel with some egg yolk. Repeat with the remaining sheets.

Deep-fry the briwatte in oil for 5 minutes or until they are light golden brown.

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Four Seasons Bangkok WGF: Vincent Bourdin’s macarons

One of my wife’s favourite people in Singapore is Chef Vincent Bourdin. Vincent is Valrhona chocolate’s regional pastry chef. Which means that he knows more about chocolate and desserts than most people and definitely much more than I could ever hope to. Vincent’s background in pastry is pretty impressive. He’s worked at La Tante Claire with Pierre Kaufmann in London and with Pierre Herme when he was still at Fauchon in Paris. In Asia, Vincent zips around the region, advocating the use of only the best quality chocolate when making desserts as well as demonstrating some pretty impressive pastry skills.

Here at the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok’s World Gourmet Festival, Vincent has been serving a pretty impressive and sumptuous afternoon tea in the hotel’s Lobby Lounge. He also wowed the very dressed-up audience of this year’s gala dinner (which featured at 8 course meal prepared by 8 different celebrated chefs) with a petits fours platter unlike any I’d ever seen before. It featured a bar of chocolate on which were delicately balanced 4 skewers. Each skewer was topped with a different, small but beautiful dessert. Once you eat these, you then take your bar of chocolate, box it up (the box was provided/plated on the side) and take it home with you. The idea was to give you something to remember the evening by. Another highlight of Vincent’s participation here at the Festival was a cooking class during which he demonstrated three very interesting desserts. Of these, the one that excited me the most was his preparation for raspberry and white chocolate macarons. While other fellow bloggers have been able to pull off some pretty impressive macarons, I’ve always been slightly afraid to make them. But after watching Vincent prepare his and explain the process quite clearly, I’m now very encouraged to try. It was much easier than I ever imagined. I’ve posted the recipe below so you can also give it a shot.

Raspberry and White Chocolate Macarons
Makes 50-60 macarons

Raspberry Ganache
100 grams whipping cream (35 percent fat)
200 grams white chocolate (preferably Valrhona), chopped
90 grams raspberry pulp

150 grams finely ground almonds (almond flour)
150 grams icing sugar
200 grams egg whites
165 grams caster sugar
50 grams water

Prepare the ganache ahead of time. Bring the cream to a boil and pour it over the white chocolate in several stages as you whisk the mixture to emulsify it. Start with your whisk placed in the middle of the bowl and quickly incorporate the cream into the chocolate. Once the ganache reaches room temperature, add the raspberry pulp.

Refrigerate for several hours or overnight so that the ganache can be piped easily.

To prepare the macarons, combine the ground almonds and icing sugar then sift the mixture. Add 50 grams egg white and stir to form a paste. Set aside.

Lightly whisk the remaining 150 grams egg white with 15 grams caster sugar in a KitchenAid.

Combine the remaining 150 grams of caster sugar with the water in a saucepan and cook the mixture until it reaches 110 degrees Celsius (if you prefer your macarons to have pronounced domes, heat to 115-118 degrees Celsius). At this point, you may add any food colouring and flavouring you may wish to incorporate into the macaron batter. Remove the mixture from heat once it reaches the desired temperature and pour it onto the egg whites as they are being whisked.

Continue whisking until the meringue is cool to the touch (it should look shiny; Chef Bourdin believes that using this technique yields a better, more consistent finished product). Gently fold some meringue (about 1/3) into the almond-sugar paste before folding in the rest of the meringue.

Pipe the batter onto a silicon mat (hold the piping bag at a right-angle perpendicular to the mat when you do this; you’re also more likely to get perfectly round macarons if you pipe them onto a silicon mat rather than baking paper) and leave them to rest for 45 minutes so that they develop skins (they should not stick to your finger when you press on them; this may take longer in a humid climate).

Bake at 140 degrees Celsius for 12 minutes and cool.

To assemble, sandwich some raspberry ganache between two macarons. The finished macarons can be stored, chilled for several days. (Chef says that they taste best the day after they’re made.)

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Four Seasons Bangkok WGF: Michael Mina

butter-poached kobe tenderloin with sauteed spinach, horseradish mash and pearl onions

Easily one of the biggest attractions at this year’s Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok’s World Gourmet Festival is Michael Mina. Named Bon Appetit Chef of the Year as well as Restaurateur of the Year by the International Food and Beverage Forum in 2005, Mina has become one of America’s most celebrated chefs. Today, he oversees 6 restaurants, 3 in Las Vegas, 1 in San Francisco, 1 in San Jose, and the last in Dana Point. Plans to open a seventh restaurant this year, in Las Vegas, are already underway.

When this year’s WGF schedule was announced, it was no surprise that Mina’s 5-course dinners were the first to sell out. S and I were therefore unable to score seats for these. We were able to sit in on one of Mina’s cooking classes, during which he demonstrated three rather simple yet delicious dishes. And yesterday, we had the fortune of chatting with the Egyptian-born celebrity chef.

Below is part of that interview.

CH: You once described your cuisine as “complex simplicity”. What does that actually mean?

MM: Actually, complex simplicity really only accurately describes the food in one of my restaurants, the one in San Francisco. The concept there was to serve multiple preparations based around the same product.

seared scallops on potato cakes with a caviar-lemon butter sauce

MM: Take diver scallops for example. When you order this dish (at Michael Mina), you get 6 small portions of scallop, each treated differently. One would be served seared and over a potato cake; this would be plated with a caviar sauce. I’d then make a scallop ceviche paired with a lemon vinaigrette and some more caviar. A third would be served with a yellow corn and truffle pudding. And so on and so on. Each of these preparations taken alone is actually pretty simple. But served together, the dish becomes uniquely complex.

CH: What other ways or terms would you use to describe your cooking?

MM: My food is highly conceptual. It definitely fits within the category of “Modern American” cuisine. Which is a way of saying that I’m making very product-driven food that draws on and plays with regional American classics. I like injecting a sense of fun into my food. Take my lobster pot pie for example. It uses a great regional product as well as classic preparations from around the country.

MM: I’d also say that my food is known for having bold flavours. I really like flavourful food. So do most Americans, which is why I think Asian food is so popular in the United States. So much of the food from Asia has strong flavours. But they also have an amazing sense of balance. A sour or spicy food will be served along with something sweet or cool. I love that! And it’s something I try to achieve in my cooking.

CH: How do you come up with a new dish or recipe?

MM: I’m a very ingredient-driven chef. I start with the product. I’m also really fortunate because today in America there’s a great wealth of amazing organic and farmed products. I might find something from a specific farmer, like wild boar for example. And that will inspire me to come up with a dish for one of my restaurants. Because each of my restaurants has a slightly distinct concept, I can create dishes for specific ones.

banana tarte tatin with ice cream

CH: What’s driving this wave of farming? Is it the chefs that are demanding better produce to work with or were the farmers leading the push?

MM: I think it’s been a combination of both better awareness and demand from chefs and customers. As people have become more health-conscious, they’ve become increasingly concerned where their food comes from.

MM: I went to Tokyo for the first time recently. It was great seeing how obsessive, in a good way, Japanese are about their produce. I live in Northern California, and while we’re not at that level yet, we’re also becoming obsessive about our food. It’s actually a result of having so many vineyards in the area. Growing the very best grapes is important to winemakers and that philosophy has filtered to others. Also, many vineyards have fantastic gardens of their own where they produce great vegetables.

CH: So what products are exciting you the most?

MM: I’m really into micro-vegetables right now. I love how producers have been able to itensify flavours. They have great visual appeal too. It’s funny because so many people think that American food is boring, that it’s just meat and potatoes. But now in the States, I can get 11 different varieties of potatoes.

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