A selection of the excellent Culinary and Chef related Blogs located at Harvest America Ventures reprinted with permission of Chef Paul Sourgle.  

I strongly suggest that you visit his site and spend some time enjoying his incredible work.




Women ChefsWhile I was a part of culinary education at two prominent U.S. colleges, I was proud of how many women were entering and graduating from culinary schools. By the late 1990’s, nearly a third of all enrolled students were women and that number appeared to be growing. This population stalled over the next decade or so, except in baking and pastry programs where the percentage of women was much greater.
Still, in comparison to the early days of pre-1990 culinary education, these numbers were encouraging.
From a chef’s perspective, gender was no longer a real concern. As the restaurant industry grew, what mattered most was work ethic and skill. As a result, I would always tell students and parents that the glass ceiling in the restaurant business was non-existent. If you were passionate about food, competent, had some business savvy and were willing to make the commitment – success could be yours.
Here it is, 2014 and although there have been thousands of female graduates from culinary programs; there is a surprisingly small number who hold positions of executive chef. Now, there are certainly examples to the contrary; a cadre of women chefs who are making their mark, yet no where near the 33% that graduate from culinary schools across the country.
So where is the gap? Does it matter what gender a chef happens to be? Do we even need to have a conversation on the topic? I can only speak from my own experience and do not profess to have any substantial quantitative or qualitative data to support my observations; nevertheless, her is my take.



ServersThere are many examples of love/hate relationships or classic feuds that are difficult to rationalize: the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s, Alexander Hamilton and Raymond Burr; Neil Young and Lynard Skynard, the Beatles and Yoko Ono, Democrats and Republicans, and, of course, Restaurant Servers and Cooks. What is the reason for these sometimes oil and vinegar relationships? Why did either side lose sight of the big picture? Are these feuds simply based on tradition or misunderstanding, not fact?
We have come to accept that Republicans and Democrats simply cannot get along or agree and Lynard Skynard and Neil Young intensely dislike each other as portrayed in song: “well, I hope Neil Young will remember a Southern Man don’t need him around, anyhow.” In actuality, Republicans and Democrats should be able to agree on what is right for our country and, oh by the way, Skynard’s lyrics were meant to support Neil Young’s charge against racist behavior. The point is, more often than not, feuds or traditional abrasive relationships are ill founded.
In the case of restaurant servers and cooks, consider these facts:
• Service staff members are the first line of offense and defense with restaurant guests. Their primary role is twofold: customer satisfaction and building check averages for the house and for the basis of their tips.
• Unlike cooks, their wages are not predetermined. In most cases, if they do their job well, the guest will tip as is expected, but the guest is not required to do so. Servers are paid, in most cases, sub-minimum wage (allowed by law) because it is assumed that they will make sufficient tips to make up the difference.
• Servers are required to hide their emotions while performing their job. When a guest is contrary, the server needs to tough it out, smile and say, yes.
• Servers are able to perform their job only when everyone else performs theirs.



SalmonIn recent years America has wrestled with the challenges of providing opportunities for every citizen to have affordable health care. This is an issue that divides the country as we are challenged by “who pays for it?” What few seem to try and address as the real issue is not just providing care for those who are sick, but investing in a plan of prevention. From a cost perspective, this is what will lead to affordability. What is interesting to me is trying to identify what role, if any, restaurants and chefs should play in this effort of prevention.

Let’s look at some undeniable data. In the neighborhood of 60% (and rising) of the America population is overweight or obese. The obesity segment alone is more than 30%. This equates to 78 million Americans whose body fat index is dangerously high. Obesity is a major cause of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer (according to the Center for Disease Control and the American Medical Association). Nearly 200 billion health care dollars are spent each year in treatment of these diseases among the obese. This information is not new; we probably have all heard this, countless times, and in various forms. The irony is that the message is not getting through to a significant portion of the population.

Simply stated, being overweight or obese is a result of consuming more calories than we are able to burn. Thus, we are creating this problem one fork full at a time. Is this obesity the cause of a major health problem in the U.S. or is this still an effect of something deeper?



Culinary Apprenticeship John was 16 and a junior in high school. He came from a family of modest means; dad was a carpenter, a pretty good one too; mom had her hands full taking care of John’s three sisters, his younger brother and him and decorating wedding cakes as a side business from their home. The family always had enough to eat, sufficient clothes, a warm house in winter and the necessary supplies for school, but it was apparent that college was probably not in the cards for John and his siblings.
One summer John was hired as a dishwasher in a local Italian restaurant; he immediately fell in love with the environment. He enjoyed the banter among the cooks, was invigorated by the pace of business, felt complete after a hard day in the dish pit, appreciated the opportunity to flirt with the waitresses, and most importantly, loved the aroma and flavor of the kitchen. The restaurant gave him purpose and hope.
When school started again in the fall, John kept a part-time job at the restaurant, working weekends and an occasional mid-week evening. His family was fine with this since he was able to have some of his own money, open a savings account and contribute a bit to the family fund.
As the summer of his 17th year drew near, the restaurant chef called John into his office. “John, I like your work ethic and can sense your interest in what is happening in the kitchen. What are your plans after your senior year in high school?” Jake sheepishly said that his family couldn’t afford college, so he really hadn’t given it too much thought. “I have an idea that you might be interested in. I learned how to cook through the old school of hard knocks and an opportunity given to me when I was your age. The restaurant I washed dishes at was part of a national apprenticeship program for cooks. It lasted three years, but at the end, I was an accomplished cook who could work in any kitchen.” John was intrigued. “I am starting a similar program at this restaurant and feel that it might be a perfect opportunity for you. I see myself in your work and your level of passion. If you are willing, I can start teaching you a few things as a breakfast assistant cook this summer and sign you up for the apprenticeship once you graduate.” John listened with great interest. “Talk it over with your parents and let me know.”