In this week’s long reads, we offer you a detour from the current onslaught of election season madness. A respite, if you will, from the stress many Americans are experiencing. First up, forget Anthony Bourdain’s anti-Trump antagonism with a Vogue profile of the always-prompt chef and TV personality. For industry types and dessert lovers, The New York Times offers and interesting look at the wage and knowledge gap for pastry chefs. In Detroit, cottage industries are finding a boost in a flourishing food economy thanks to a local organization call Detroit Kitchen Connect.
Meanwhile, pizza wizard Chris Bianco talks about stepping away from the flour and smoke that made him a name and is now making him sick. For a fun, drunk recipe consider Celine Dion’s specialty meat pies and experience that “Finally!” moment reading about one woman’s positive experience with male harassment in a Manhattan bar. Here are six diverting food reads to dig into this weekend.
Anthony Bourdain is already sitting in a corner booth when I walk into Sakagura, a Japanese bar in the basement of an office building in midtown Manhattan. Bourdain, I will come to learn, turns early arrivals into a competitive sport—no matter how well you plan, he will be there before you. This might seem like compulsively considerate behavior from a notorious hard-liver like Bourdain, a man whose public personality is tied up with late-night benders, foul mouthed frankness, and consuming such a staggering variety of food that he’s something like the Library of Congress of eating. If anybody is allowed to show up late for a night of sake and sashimi, it’s Bourdain.
The New York Times
And yet Mr. Shields’s case illustrates how restaurants have managed to keep salaries in check. Instead of hiring a pastry chef who spent years honing her skills, he chose to hire a pair of sous-chefs in their mid-20s for each restaurant. He pays them about $35,000 a year. Mr. Shields, a longtime savory chef who did a tour at the famed Chicago restaurant Alinea, and his wife and business partner, Karen Urie Shields, a former executive pastry chef at another noted Chicago eatery, Charlie Trotter’s, conceptualize the desserts. The two younger chefs execute them.
Mr. Shields and other restaurateurs say there is a strong economic imperative at work. In a low-margin service business like food, it is difficult to pay high salaries to a worker who is involved in only a limited aspect of the restaurant’s menu. “Paying someone $55,000 per year is a big venture,” he said. (For the Shieldses, the rationale is even more creative than it is economic: Their pastry vision could clash with that of a more experienced chef.)
From the late 19th century through Detroit’s mid-century boom years, the sheds and warehouses at Eastern Market were an important distribution point for local butchers and farmers from Michigan’s thumb, as well as an informal incubator where new arrivals to the city would open their businesses. In the second half of the 20th century, the city depopulated, many farms shut down (it was more profitable to sell the land than to cultivate it), butchers moved to the suburbs, and the vendors that remained starting complaining about mismanagement, claiming that public administrators showed preferential treatment to some in the form of discounted vending fees.
Aref Saad, who went against the prevailing trends and moved his halal butcher shop from Dearborn to Eastern Market in the 1970s, remembers friends and acquaintances telling him he was crazy. The market was less than secure in those days (Aref says he came to work one morning in the early days to find robbers in the store in broad daylight; his wife, Aida, added that he had to call the police several times before they finally turned up to help).
The New York Times
In 2010, a severe asthma attack, combined with pneumonia, landed Mr. Bianco, a lifelong asthmatic, in the emergency room. The culprit was years of exposure to airborne flour and smoke from his wood-burning oven.
“My doctor says I have to keep my head out of the oven if I want to see 50,” Mr. Bianco said in an interview that year with The Arizona Republic, which printed the news on its front page, under the headline, “Food stunner: Pizza guru Bianco will leave kitchen.”
Today, he says the revelation that he had what he calls “baker’s lung” was pivotal, prompting him to rethink his business. “I had been protected from death,” he said. “Now when I look at the human experience, I don’t want to waste any opportunity.”
"We're on a date," I said politely. "Enjoy your meal!"
Apparently, this was not the thing to say. The man started laughing, and got even more interested in us. Suddenly, our date was not for us; it was for him. This is how guys like this regard two girls who like each other: It's not real. It's entertainment. It's a performance just for him. This man had the kind of simple, entitled mind that truly believed that all the girl-girl pornography he'd watched was just a preview of what his future ought look like. To him, women are always objects, not subjects. Most people can separate erotic fantasy from reality. Most people can behave politely even if they're curious. But not guys like this. There are a lot of guys like this.
"You're on a date, huh?" he said, sweating, leering, being gross in the specific manner of dudes who have a lot of money and think it lends them some inherent dignity or value. (It does not.) He started to say something else, and then I saw him stop and look up. I looked up too. And there, in the manner of a frowning avenging angel, was our waiter.
But something about Céline Dion’s meat tarts felt real to me. In 2000, René and Céline renewed their vows in a lavish Melkite Byzantine ceremony, a nod to René’s Syrian and Lebanese heritage. Céline wore gold sequins and ten humans’ worth of hair. Does Céline Dion cook? On the one hand, yes, probably makes a lovely sandwich and can pull off a quiche if hard-pressed. The meat tarts are maybe the one recipe she really, really knows — her go-to dinner party appetizer—something she throws together before having friends over for Pinot Grigio and power posing.
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