New Ranking of 50 Most Powerful People in Food Has Few Chefs, Fewer Writers

Categories: Talking Points

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USDA
Thomas Vilsack: the most powerful man in food?
The Daily Meal has released its fourth annual list of the 50 Most Powerful People in Food, and the results are a little different than you may expect. Chefs don't appear until Jose Andres at #18 -- after that it's only Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich (#26), Danny Meyer (#35), Thomas Keller (#37), Alice Waters (#39), and Tom Colicchio (#45). Journalists and writers have an even poorer showing, with New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells at #17, followed by Michael Pollan (#34), Food and Wine's Dana Cowin (#40), Mark Bittman (#42), and Bon Appetit's Adam Rapoport (#49).

So who makes up the majority of the list? Well, it's mostly CEOs.

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When Will Palo Alto's Dining Scene Step Out of S.F.'s Shadow?

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Flickr/Allie_Caulfield
Downtown Palo Alto is poised to become a dining destination.
Palo Alto's dining landscape these days looks more and more like a mash-up of San Francisco's Marina neighborhood, Valencia Street, and Ferry Building than a place that holds its own in the Bay Area culinary world. Over the past year we've seen local chains like Tacolicious, Gott's Roadside, and Umami Burger moving into town, with Pizzeria Delfina coming this fall and Blue Bottle Coffee following early next year. This is not a complaint about having these excellent establishments open Palo Alto branches, but it is a request for a talented, passionate chef to make his or her culinary mark in Palo Alto.

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Why Portland's Food Scene is Better Than S.F.'s Right Now

John Birdsall
Hazelnut-finished pork in a sub at Tails & Trotters is a good example of PDX's democratic approach to food..
A good food festival serves up the essence of the host city's food, in 2 ½ days of dinners, tastings, and partying. A very good food festival sends you home with a deeper understanding of the food where you live.

This year's Feast Portland was a very good food festival. Last weekend in Portland, a whole bunch of people came together to taste and get drunk, to cook under impossibly hard festival conditions and to slip each other business cards. By the time I flew back to Oakland Sunday night, on a prop plane that offered the kind of view of San Francisco Bay that makes living here feel like privilege, I felt like I had an overview, not only of what makes Portland's food essential in the national conversation, but what's depressing the soul of ours.

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S.F. Food Bank Hunger Challenge, Day 5: Wrapping Up the Week

Categories: Talking Points

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Anna Roth
Hunger Challenge participant lunches at the Food Bank today.
It's the last day of the Hunger Challenge and I returned to the Food Bank to have lunch with the staff to talk about our collective experience. It was nice to be around a group of people who were all going through the same thing, and I was jealous that they'd had each other to bounce ideas off of and get inspiration from all week. One of the aspects that's been the hardest of this whole endeavor is how isolating living on a severely limited budget can be. I realized that basically everything social I do involves going places and spending money -- whether restaurants, bars, coffee shops, movie theaters, whatever -- and this week I've stayed in, envious and a little resentful of everyone posting about their fabulous lives on social media (something that I'm normally guilty of as well).

See also: Hunger Challenge, Day 4: Talking With Chefs About Their Experience
Hunger Challenge, Day 3: A Visit to St. Anthony's For a Free Lunch
Hunger Challenge, Day 2: I Discover I'm Bad at Feeding Myself
S.F. Food Bank's Hunger Challenge: Day 1
Tyler Florence Signs on to S.F. Food Bank's New Hunger Challenge

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S.F. Food Bank Hunger Challenge, Day 4: Talking With Chefs About Their Experience

Categories: Talking Points

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Anna Roth
My dinner last night: Roasted chicken legs, sauteed kale, beans and rice.
Last night I finally managed to make a functional meal for myself, after hitting a wall around 5 p.m. and realizing how much I needed a good dinner, both physically and psychologically. I still had about $10 left in my budget, and chicken legs were $3 for 6 at Safeway with my club card, so I dredged them in a bit of seasoned flour, roasted them up, and served them with some sauteed kale and the now-ubiquitous beans and rice. It was the first meal I'd eaten on the challenge that was truly satisfying, and I started to feel like I was getting the hang of this whole thing. If I had another week, I think I'd be a lot better at planning ahead and understanding how to make leftovers stretch into other meals.

See also: Hunger Challenge, Day 3: A Visit to St. Anthony's For a Free Lunch
Hunger Challenge, Day 2: I Discover I'm Bad at Feeding Myself
S.F. Food Bank's Hunger Challenge: Day 1
Tyler Florence Signs on to S.F. Food Bank's New Hunger Challenge


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S.F. Food Bank Hunger Challenge, Day 3: A Visit to St. Anthony's For a Free Lunch

Categories: Talking Points

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Anna Roth
Lunch today at St. Anthony's
Day three of the S.F. Food Bank's Hunger Challenge, where I'm living on food pantry supplies and $4.50/day, found me at St. Anthony's for a free lunch. The Tenderloin non-profit feeds around 3,000 people a day, with about half of its annual 2 million pounds of food coming from the Food Bank. Pretty impressive stuff, especially considering that the four employed chefs are working in a cramped, temporary space while the new facility is built across the street at Golden Gate and Jones (the site of the original free restaurant, a converted auto body shop started by the church next door in the '50s; the new building will also include social services and low-income housing, and is set to open in October 2014).

See also: S.F. Food Bank Hunger Challenge, Day 2: I Discover I'm Bad at Feeding Myself
S.F. Food Bank's Hunger Challenge: Day 1
Tyler Florence Signs on to S.F. Food Bank's New Hunger Challenge

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S.F. Food Bank Hunger Challenge, Day 2: I Discover I'm Bad at Feeding Myself

Categories: Talking Points

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Anna Roth
More action than my kitchen has seen in months.
God, I'm rusty in the kitchen.

A few months ago Tom Sietsema, the restaurant critic for the Washington Post, wrote a great essay about getting back in the habit of hosting dinner parties, and compared cooking to a language he hadn't spoken in a while, one which had fallen out of practice.

Last night, I was made keenly aware of how much my cooking skills had atrophied. Because my job necessitates eating out probably five nights a week, and the other nights I'm busy writing or just tired and go with takeout or something simple like cheese, salumi, and bread. I hadn't cooked a proper dinner for myself for several months, and I'd forgotten how much time and effort it takes to make nutritious and/or satisfying meals.

See also: S.F. Food Bank's Hunger Challenge: Day 1
Tyler Florence Signs on to S.F. Food Bank's New Hunger Challenge


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S.F. Food Bank's Hunger Challenge: Day 1

Categories: Talking Points

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Evan DuCharme
A simulated pantry distribution at the S.F. Food Bank.
This morning a small group of chefs, journalists, and food activists gathered at the San Francisco Food Bank for a quick tour. The Potrero Hill facility is a Costco-like warehouse with pallets of products (donated or bought at bulk cost) stacked to the ceiling. Executive Director Paul Ash walked us past stacks of canned beans, canned fruit, juice, tomato sauce, multigrain cereal, applesauce, and other goods the food pantry provides to families, schools (they provide 10,000 snacks for school children every day), and organizations for low-income S.F. residents like St. Anthony's.

See also: Tyler Florence Signs on to S.F. Food Bank's New Hunger Challenge


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Quinoa, New California Crop?

Categories: Talking Points

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Flickr/SweetOnVeg
Could quinoa become the next big California crop?
For more than a year now, we've been confused about quinoa. The crop came onto the public's radar only six years ago, blasting quickly from anonymity into a ubiquitous grocery staple, hailed by health fiends as the "Andean superfood." The hype is deserved when we look at quinoa's benefits -- including all the essential amino acids, trace elements and vitamins, no gluten, and it's the only vegetable that's also a complete protein. Plus, it's delicious. And, as it turns out, ripe with political and ecological conflicts.

In fact, the whole thing is so thickly wrapped in debate that it prompted the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization to deem 2013 the International Year of Quinoa. It's even got a Facebook page.

See also: Quinoa Controversy, Sriracha Soy Curls, and You Can Now Officially Feel Bad for Lobsters

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Slate's Bewildering Attacks on Restaurant Criticism

Categories: Talking Points

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Flickr/myDays / S.Lee
One of the downsides of the Internet is that you can get a lot of attention for saying stupid things loudly, as the food editors over at Slate seemed to have figured out. The site's been on a pointed tear lately against the established rules of restaurant reviews, publishing story after story railing against critic anonymity, expense accounts, and waiting at least three weeks to a month after the restaurant opens to write about it. (The author of the former two articles, assistant editor L.V. Anderson, also wrote a delightfully inane rant yesterday against the word "heirloom" in reference to vegetables on the grounds that it's classist.)

See also: What Good Is a Restaurant Critic Anyway?
Should We Teach Kids Restaurant Criticism?
Calling Bullshit on Eater's Crusade to Bust Restaurant Critics

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