The Dining Dish blog is Dara Bunjon's take on anything food, both national and in her hometown of Baltimore. Warning: this food blog can be harmful to your waistline.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Is This What A Reality Show Feels Like?

I attended the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) conference in Chicago in April. I want to share an experience I had and hope you enjoy reading it as much as I had participating.


I'm up early, pumped to be participating in a workshop for food photographers and food stylists. I hopped on the bus taking us to Stephen Hamilton Photographics, our host studio for the day. You need to go to Stephen’s link not just to see his photographs but to see his studio – two full kitchens plus a small side kitchen, a room the size of my living and dining room filled with china, glassware and flatware (a dream for a plate junkie like me)…. this was big time.

I am not going to bore you with the panel discussion; it was pertinent to those in the room. What I am going to tell you about is the “challenge” set forth to the 40 stylists and photographers. Don Odiorne, a vice president at the Idaho Potato Commission presented the challenge of re-creating Tater Tots and having a completed photograph to go along with the campaign. No choosing teams, they were pre-arranged. We had about 30 minutes prior to lunch, plus lunch to come up with a concept. Ten strangers, ten different ideas that had to be narrowed to one concept, cooked, styled, and photographed in three hours.

As for my team, Team Red, we had photographers, a chef, and a representative from a manufacturer (I think), add me and a bright, vibrant stylist-chef, Danni Bleil to the mix and that was our team. My thoughts were, you liked Tater Tots as child, you’ll love them as an adult-reinventing them for an adult market. Danni had the idea take-off on the mashed potato martini bars and after what was a very, very, long, tedious discussion we came up with an adult drink concept with the Tater Tot garnish. By the time we went to the kitchen/studio I had become team leader (I got to make the presentation) and Danni was lead on the styling.

Let me say here and now, my styling skills have been for live cooking demonstrations and TV segments. I took the workshop to learn more about photographic styling. Danni showed me a fabulous mini photo album of beverages taken by Steve Adams , a photographer on our team. We immediately made him lead photographer. The team spent a lot of time coming to an agreement on a concept which left us last-in-line at the prop room. Then there was a problem with the camera/computer set up. If this kept up, as team leader, I knew Donald Trump would fire me in the board room.

To keep the odds even for each team, each were presented with identical food baskets. I’m trying to remember every teams work. One does sticks out, it was a Tater Tot baked with a Rolo (chocolate – caramel candy) on top - need I say more. One team made it mini foods by cutting the Tater Tot in half and making mini-burgers and the other team dressed them up for hors d’oeuvres.

Another team leader put together a PowerPoint presentation. I was in spasms about memorizing the presentation, at my age I’m lucky to remember why I walked into the next room. When I was advised I didn’t have to memorize it and could use notes, I was golden.

Team Red really pulled together after a very rocky start. Danni came up with the name, Tatertini, and I used my public relations/marketing skills to drive the team story home of opportunities in the adult market, co-branding with potato vodka companies, creating a signature drink that will boost sales and expand the advertising market to magazines like Gourmet, Bon Appetit and Santé. Steve Adams addressed how he photographed the product and we presented the photograph in color and in black and white.

I am pleased to say Team Red won the challenge, which I’m sure was obvious, why else would I write about it. As the winners we received a little potato doll and an autographed copy of Art Smith’s new cookbook. A cocktail reception awaited everyone with a wonderful lobster cerviche, wine and cheese. At the reception, two of my team members proceeded to tell me that couldn’t believe that we won, they thought our concept was, hmmm, let me paraphrase “stupid.”
Reality, what can I say – IT WAS A BLAST!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Second Chance to Save Chocolate

U.S. Food and Drug Administration has extended its deadline regarding what can be called chocolate

Due to an overwhelming outcry from the public, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has extended its public comment period for proposed changes to the ingredients in chocolate from April 25th to June 25th. If the change in the ingredients listing passes, the FDA will allow chocolate companies to begin substituting artificial fats and vegetable oils for the naturally existing cocoa butter found in chocolate and they will still be able to label and call the final product “chocolate.”


The ‘why’ is simple. The mega-chocolate companies want to reduce their costs with the cheaper vegetable oils and then be able to pass the final product off on the public as chocolate. The recipe for chocolate has virtually been the same for hundreds of years; changing it now is not for better taste or health benefits, it is to keep the manufacturing costs down.

Art Pollard, founder of Amano Artisan Chocolate, one of the few small artisanal U. S. chocolate manufacturers, continues the fight to keep chocolate natural. Pollard states, “When you take the cocoa butter out of chocolate it’s like taking the cream out of ice cream and still calling it ice cream. Removing the cocoa butter and replacing it with artificial fats and vegetable oils creates a monstrosity, I call it FrankenChocolate.”

“As for the consumers, buyers beware,” says Pollard. “FrankenChocolate will leave the consumer misled, confused and ultimately dissatisfied. It is very important that the public fight this. If they do not, the chocolate we grew up with will never be the same.”

How YOU can save chocolate!

More detailed information and a link to where the public can leave comments for the FDA can be found at the Amano Chocolate's website
“Gary Guittard of Guittard Chocolate has taken a very public stand against these proposed changes in chocolate,” states Amano Artisan Chocolate founder Art Pollard. “To the best of our knowledge, Guittard is the only large U. S. chocolate company to oppose these changes in a public way.” Guittard has created a website with additional information -

If the public doesn’t reach out to the FDA and make their voices heard they can be assured that grandma’s chocolate chip cookies will be full of artificial hydrogenated fats instead of the chocolate she intended.

Cause and Effect

As the giants of the chocolate industry create artificially low pricing, they are harming the industry over the long term. The replacement of cocoa butter with cheaper ingredients will depress the cocoa prices, forcing cocoa growers to look for other livelihoods. In fact, a number of growers are now cutting down trees to plant more profitable and less labor-intensive crops such as pineapple and passion fruit.

Cocoa farmers have long subsisted on the edge of poverty with the large chocolate makers paying only the bare minimum - just enough to ensure the next year’s harvest - a practice Amano Artisan chocolates decries. With the higher cocoa prices the labor situation on the Ivory Coast has been improving and diminishing the trafficking of children. By depressing the cocoa prices it will reverse all the gains made in protecting these children.

Menus * Substitutes * Cooking Recipes

As I touch this delicate paper cookbook/pamphlet, Wartime from July 1944, it starts to fall apart in my hands. My husband, a flea market-yard sale devotee, garnished this piece of history for me a couple of months ago. I thought I would share some of the interesting parts of this wartime food legacy with you.

Wartime rationing is not anything most of us have had to deal with in our lifetime. These were times when you didn't have strawberries in the dead of winter; no one knew about nutritional packaging, there were no TV dinners or fast food joints. In those days you barely had enough butter.

Recipe: How to Stretch Butter
1 envelope gelatin
1 lb. butter
1/4 cup cold water
1 14 1/2 oz. can evaporated milk
salt to taste

Soften the gelatin in 1/4 cup cold water (about 5 minutes). Place over hot water and stir until the gelatin is thoroughly dissolved. Soften the butter but do not melt it. Gradually whip the milk and dissolved gelatin in to the butter with an egg beater or electric mixer. Salt to taste. A little yellow vegetable coloring may be added if desired. Pack in a glass container and chill before using. DO NOT USE FOR COOKING. This recipe yields 2 lbs.

Americanism was promoted when the US was at war in 1944. The opening line of the foreword "We, as a nation, are great meat eaters ." The closing line "This series has been carefully prepared with the hope that it will be of real practical value in helping your family and every other family using them to be healthy and happy American citizens."

The Lunch Box chapter continues with the Americanism. "Good foods and proper ones are the bases of healthy, strong bodies. Healthy men and women are vitally necessary to win this war. Yet many workers are not eating the proper foods to give them energy and "pep."

Here is a peppy recipe for a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich:

Butter two slices of bread. Spread one slice with peanut butter and one with jelly. Put the two together and brush the outside with melted butter. Sauté in butter in a heavy skillet.

Note-Marmalade, or jam may be used in place of jelly.

In 1944 there were Seven Basic Foods:

Group 1
Green and yellow vegetables-some raw, some cooked, frozen or canned
Group 2
Oranges, tomatoes, grapefruit, raw cabbage or salad greens
Group 3
Potatoes and other vegetables and fruits - (raw, dried or canned)
Group 4
Milk and milk products -fluid, evaporated, dried milk or cheese
Group 5
Meat, poultry, fish or eggs, or dried beans, peas, nuts or peanut butter
Group 6
Bread, flour and cereals - Natural whole grain or enriched or restored
Group 7
Butter and fortified margarine - (with added vitamin A)

In addition to the seven basic foods, eat any other foods you want.

Wartime offered a 2-week menu planner so one could appropriately take advantage of the leftovers, no waste. Probably the most unusual combination I saw recommended was a bacon and pickle sandwich on enriched white bread.

In the Vegetable Cooking section one can learn how to cook Jerusalem Artichokes. I didn't fathom that this was something grown in the US at that time.

What a gold mine Wartime is for a view of how we lived in the US during 1944. I hope you enjoyed this snippet of history.


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