Archive | February, 2012

Food Advocates: Aren’t we fighting the same fight?

24 Feb

Señor Bacon or Monsieur Tofu?

A growing trend in the food world continues to amaze me.  People involved in the “organic,” local, slow or whatever “food movement” they define themselves as a part of (myself included) are either for eating as much animal protein as possible, or for eating zero animal product at all (paleo vs vegan).  Those in favor of eating animals believe that it sets the world on a more “sustainable” course and improves everyone’s health. Those against eating animals believe, well, the same thing.  Both argue the same outcomes with diametrically opposed means and there substantial evidence backing both claims (see: The China Study or Why We Get Fat) .

Essentially, both parties are two sides of the same coin, bordering on Food Extremists. Food Extremist: Those believing their ideology on food and nutrition is the be all, end all for all modern disease, world problems, and that by doing so, set the world on a “sustainable” course.

There must be a middle ground in order to create lasting societal change. Is it not ok to eat both sustainably, humanely produced meat some days, and opt for vegan lifestyle on other days?  At the end of the day, we all want:

  • Improved transprancy in the food system
  • Improved farming and livestock practices that improve our own health and the welfare of the planet
  • Profitable business practices that also create positive health outcomes for the population
  • Solutions for the modern-day chronic diseases that burden society

I recently engaged John Durant, perhaps the preeminent caveman/blogger from hunter-gatherer.com, and advocate of the paleo diet and “living wild in the modern world” (see: Paleo Kick for 21 days) in a twitter talkback with Mark Bittman, NYT writer, cookbook author, and advocate for sustainable food and [occasional] veganism. I was surprised by the vitriol involved in the talk-back relating to which ideology was superior.

Let’s not be elitists about this! Afterall,  we are all fighting the same fight against the SAD (Standard American Diet) and the current problems that task society. Can’t we all just hold hands and shop at the farmers market together?

I’ll leave you with a quote from the man himself, Michael Pollan:

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.”

Now that’s something we should all agree on.

Always going for glory!

Craig E. Steinfeld

@CESteinfeld

How to dominate in all phases of life like Chef Ferran Adrià

9 Feb

I had the pleasure of recently viewing the new documentary El Bulli: Cooking in Progress by German filmmaker Gereon Wetzel. If you have the chance, I’d recommend seeing this as soon as possible strictly as a motivational tool. The avant garde, raw, film gives a rare glimpse in to what makes El Bulli and the man who drives it all, function at such a remarkably high level. El Bulli was considered (until it closed last year) at the forefront of the molecular gastronomic landscape, merging food with science, even closing for 6 months of the year to work in “El Taller” or “The Lab” to continually innovate and push the envelope for the next year.

Ferran Adria

Ferran Adria Directing His Staff

Ferran Adrià is the Steve Jobs of the cooking world. You just look at his gaze and it screams: Intensity, immense attention to detail, unparalleled drive, and motivation to push the limits of human innovation through food. Frankly, the man has created dishes that no one even thought were possible and chefs around the world strive to emulate his creations.

What makes Ferran Adria one of the premier innovators and motivators on the planet, and what can we learn from people such as him?:

1. He pushes those around him to function at a higher level than they ever thought possible. He extracts the most out of his employees, sous chefs, and executives and forces them to innovate, pushing the limits of cooking that no one thought possible. If you have a comfort zone and work with Ferran,  it’s out the window. Chefs from all over the world would kill to work with him despite his intensity. Why? Because by pushing the chefs even harder, they grow and learn in ways that would otherwise be impossible.

2. Attention to detail: On any given dish or experimentation process, everything down to the last grain of salt is handled with extreme precision. Chef Adria even uses his own industrial designer to create the perfect serving vessel for each dish. His cleanliness in his workspace, restaurant, and kitchen are pristine, creating an environment conducive to invention. All dishes are catalogued, photographed, and documented as if a chemistry experiment to make sure than any new creative ideas are logged and recorded in full.

3. Continual drive to do things better than ever before. Even if  Adria and his staff created the world’s greatest dish last year, the next year it’s off the menu. Why? Because Chef Adria feels an innate desire to continue to push and do better than he has previously done before. At one point in the film, Adria lambastes his Executive chefs in the test kitchen for “bringing him something that isn’t good,” and something that remotely resembled something they had done in years prior.

4. It does not matter what happened last year, yesterday, or five minutes ago, for Chef Adria, it’s about what you create in the given moment. A Chef is only as good as his last dish. For entrepreneurs, innovators, and athletes this means that we need to find new ways of looking at things, pivoting or changing if necessary, and pushing forward to do things better than ever in order to succeed. Past failures and successes should mean nothing to you or anyone else.

5. MOST IMPORTANTLY: Be crazy. Be fearless. Despite the doubters and contrarians, Adria continually pushes ahead with his grand vision, brushing aside harsh criticisms and detractors. He fears nothing and no one.

Ferran Adria "Disappearing" Ravioli At El Bulli

We can all take away lessons from the great innovators and leaders of our time. Even if we never reach the heights of our heros, we can still strive to achieve and innovate in our own little universe.

Always going for glory,

Craig E. Steinfeld

@CESteinfeld