(Banner photo © Zach Nash)
In the movie Chef, Jon Favreau plays a chef on the edge who leaves his crazy white-linen job to run a food truck.
In the movie “Chef”, Jon Favreau’s character abruptly quits working for a posh L.A. restaurant that’s been squelching his creativity – as well as forcing him to work under a psycho boss, deliciously played by Dustin Hoffman. The disgruntled chef decides to follow his dream of opening a specialty food truck and the results are, of course, movie magic.
So is art imitating life? Are real-life chefs and would-be chefs quite as bold after they’ve been stifled creatively? Turns out yes, even if most interviewed won’t cop to being quite as miserable as Favreau’s Chef Carl was onscreen.
Pride of ownership
Oklahoma City-based chef Jonathon Stranger, co-owner of popular restaurant Ludivine, attended the world-class Institute of Culinary Education, yet in his early 20s his life was a mess. Working in restaurants seemed to fuel an alcohol-and-pills habit, in part because of the plentiful supply he found through working in kitchens, but mainly because of where his head was at.
Chef Jonathon Stranger went from recovery to creative riches with his world-class restaurant Ludivine, which has brought the farm-to-table concept to Oklahoma City, his hometown. Photo © Quit Nguyen
Andrea Adelstein hopes to revive the lost art of the dinner party by reminding us to keep it simple.
To all appearances, the dinner party exists mainly within the pages of magazines. Yes, there are block parties, progressive parties, underground restaurants, dinner with six strangers, etc. But what about those incredibly elegant, utterly everyday affairs we vaguely recall our parents talking about?
Andrea Adelstein remembers. The Tenafly NJ native looks back to her childhood and sees the candlelit, laughter-filled evenings when her parents invited guests over for dinner. Through her company NY Lux Events, Adelstein attempts to recreate the relaxed glamour of intimate dinner parties for small groups and large throngs. Recently she was asked to consult on an event honoring Hillary Rodham Clinton; they do weddings, bat mitzvahs, life celebrations and all other special occasions where food is a must.
We asked Adelstein a few questions about why dinner parties have fallen out of favor, and perhaps any hope for a renaissance.
Toque: Why have you felt called to bring back the dinner party?
Adelstein: Over social media, I see more and more people sharing photos of their food, swapping recipes and blogging about their dining experiences. Everyone is excited about food. Yet people do this from a distance, over the Internet. I believe it is time to reconnect in a more intimate and personal way. Time to bring people back into our homes.
Leah Sarris, program director of Tulane’s Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine (second from right) celebrates groundbreaking for a new kitchen with a Tulane med student and two Johnson & Wales culinary nutrition students.
While the general population is gradually learning that eating well can stave off some of society’s worst diseases such as diabetes and obesity, the medical community has been even slower to follow suit. Remarkably, medical school programs, at least traditionally, do not require taking nutrition and medical doctors can actually graduate being clueless on the concept of using food to cure what ails us.
All of that could change thanks to some forward-thinking individuals at Tulane University’s Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine in New Orleans and at Rhode Island’s Johnson & Wales University.