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"'Uh-oh,' I said under my breath. 'Is there a wedding here tonight?'" says Pete Wells
"The only way we might have trouble getting a table would be if the entire place had been rented out by a couple about to walk hand in hand into marital bliss. And that’s exactly how it looked," says Pete Wells.
The New York Times’ restaurant critic Pete Wells reviews Lake Pavilion, a banquet-style Cantonese restaurant in Flushing, Queens, and calls it "A Special Occasion, Seven Days a Week." Wells compares the restaurant scene to that of an immaculate wedding: "A classical white arbor stood at the entrance, threaded with silk rosebuds. Lavender swags had been draped from the rafters, and lavender napkins were propped up in the water goblets. Shiny gold curtains hung in the windows, and enormous bows in pink or burgundy flopped from the back of every chair. Servers were buzzing around, immaculately dressed in black suits with red bow ties or striped neckties," he writes. But, Wells says, "There was no wedding. Lake Pavilion looks like that every night."
Wells praises the menu, which he says "goes on for about a dozen pages and does not waste any of them on Chinese-American sillines." "If Dungeness crabs are in season and you do not have a life-threatening allergy, please order them," he says, and suggests them "stir-fried with ginger and scallions, their cracked legs and deep-dish bodies sticky with a sauce that will end up everywhere" or in "a casserole of Dungeness crab stacked up on sticky rice that’s been lightly browned while being turned and tossed with roasted peanuts, garlic chives, ham, onion, and liberal strafings of fried garlic."
For Pete Wells' full review, click here.
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Culinary Demonstration with Chef Anita Lo
This is your opportunity to see Chef Anita Lo in action as she demonstrates her recipe!
A limited amount of her cookbook, Solo: Easy Sophisticated Recipes For a Party of One
will be distributed during her demo. Must be present to win!
About Anita Lo
Anita Lo, a first generation Chinese-American, grew up with her family in Birmingham, Michigan, and fostered an interest in food at a young age. While earning a degree in French language at Columbia University, she studied at Reid Hall—Columbia's French language institute in Paris. She fell in love with the food culture and vowed to return. Back in the United States, Lo accepted her first kitchen job as garde-manger at Bouley, and after a year, she decided to move back to Paris and enroll in Ecole Ritz-Escoffier, a revered culinary institution.
She received her degree, graduating first in her class with honors, while interning under Guy Savoy and Michel Rostang. Back in New York, Lo worked her way through all the stations at David Waltuck’s Chanterelle. She developed her culinary style during her time at Mirezi, where she earned a two-star review from Ruth Reichl at The New York Times.
In 2000, Lo opened Annisa (which means ''women'' in Arabic), an intimate, upscale restaurant in Greenwich Village serving Contemporary American cuisine. It was an instant hit, earning a two-star review from The New York Times. Food & Wine magazine named her one of ten “Best New Chefs in America” in 2001, and the Village Voice proclaimed Lo as “Best New Restaurant Chef” that same year.
In 2005, Anita Lo co-founded Rickshaw, a dumpling bar with several locations in New York City and also appeared on the first season of Iron Chef America, defeating her competitor Mario Batali.
In 2008, she opened Bar Q, an Asian barbecue restaurant in Greenwich Village. The following year, in June 2009, after nearly ten years in business, Annisa suffered an unfortunate blow—a fire destroyed the restaurant entirely.
Lo decided to take some time to travel as plans for rebuilding Annisa got underway. She scoured the globe for inspiration. Meanwhile, Lo appeared on the first season of Top Chef Masters where she battled her contemporaries on weekly challenges that tested their culinary prowess. She finished fourth out of 24 chefs.
In April 2010, after a complete renovation of the original Barrow Street location, Lo reopened Annisa. She kept many of the same elements—clean design, welcoming atmosphere, small menu and a few signature dishes—but shook it up with new additions to the menu inspired by her recent travels that ranged from culinary trips to Senegal and Russia to a fishing trip to Alaska. Annisa was reviewed again by The New York Times and received two stars.
In October 2011, Lo released her first cookbook, "Cooking Without Borders," which highlights her passion for bringing multicultural flavors to her American kitchen. Her recipes celebrate the best flavors and ingredients from around the world at a time when access to international ingredients is greater than ever before. Interspersed are stories from Lo’s life, memories of her travels and tips on cooking.
In February 2014, critic Pete Wells re-reviewed Annisa in The New York Times, bestowing the restaurant with a prestigious three stars. In the review, he calls her food “remarkable” and “impressive,” and the restaurant “graceful and unfussy.”
In 2015, Anita Lo was the first female guest chef to cook for a State Dinner at the White House, under the Obama administration. She prepared a 4-course meal for the visiting Chinese president, Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan.
In May 2017, after 17 years of business, and holding a Michelin star for nine consecutive years, Lo closed Annisa to pursue her next great adventure. And in the meantime, her second book, "Solo: Easy Sophisticated Recipes For a Party of One," will be published in the Fall of 2018.
Daniel Humm was born on Tuesday September 21st, 1976 in Strengelbach Switzerland, a small village 45 minutes west of the country’s largest city, Zurich. As a child, Daniel would accompany his homemaker mother to the market in a quest to find the freshest, most local seasonal ingredients the Swiss landscape could offer. Not only would the farmers market become the site of Daniels first job, but it also exposed him to a wide range of ingredients and foods not found elsewhere.
Growing up, Daniel’s relationship with his mother flourished but the bond between him and his architect father was albeit nonexistent as the two clashed routinely, growing farther and farther apart with each argumentative encounter.
At ten, Daniel developed an interest in cycling and began competitively racing mountain bikes before eventually joining the Junior Swiss National Team. Ten was also the age that he first garnered an interest in cooking thanks to the interactive experience of dipping leaves of endives into jars of dressing at a restaurant while dining out for his mother’s birthday.
Once he turned 14, Daniel dropped out of school to apprentice at Baur au Lac, a restaurant situated on the Lake of Zurich. A little over a year later after he turned 15, Daniel left the family house altogether, vowing never to return or ask for a single thing due to the emotional unavailability of his father. He landed at Claridges in London working as a commis chef in the infamous kitchen.
At the age of 17, Daniel fell in love with an older woman named Elaine. She became pregnant soon after and in 1994 after just turning 18 he became a father with the birth of his daughter Justine. Due to the age difference, Elaine eventually ended the relationship and left Daniel for another man, taking Justine with her in the process. The decision left Daniel devastated as it would be years before he was able to reconnect with Justine. He became selfish as a result, throwing all his energy and focus into his career pursuits by splitting his time each day between continuously developing as a chef by working twelve hour days in the kitchens of Michelin starred restaurants and spending four hours a day training for a career as a professional cyclist.
At 21 years old in 1997, Daniel competed in the Swiss Championship, a cycling race being held in the mountainous resort town of Lenzerheide. A good but not great cyclist, he usually finished among the top ten or so riders but failed to break into the top three to reach the podium. At the start of the race Daniel pushed hard, too hard, and went too fast and too wide into a sharp left turn and lost control of his bike as soon as he ran across the gravel scattered on the outer edge of the turn. The bike crashed into the fence marking the course and sent him flying through the air, knocking him unconscious when he landed. When he woke up, he was lying down inside a helicopter being airlifted to the nearest hospital where he was diagnosed and treated for a concussion, broken ribs, a punctured lung, and a broken arm. For the following six months he was confined to a bed as a result of the accident and ultimately came to the conclusion that he was never going to be good enough to reach the level he wanted and was wasting valuable time with cycling rather than throwing all of his energy into cooking to make that his sport instead.
Fully recovered and 100% invested in a culinary career, Daniel began working at Gamma, a catering company where he met Peter Marty who would become a lifelong friend and de facto older brother like figure in his life from that point forward. Later, Daniel landed a position at three Michelin starred restaurant Le Pont de Brent in Montreux Switzerland. He spend three years there working under and learning from chef-owner perfectionist Gerard Rabaey. Under Rabaey’s tutelage, Daniel learned how to cook in a highly organized and structured setting where, for example, vegetables were required to be separated into five different sizes upon delivery so their potential could be maximized and the kitchen was cleaned from top to bottom at the end of each week by all the cooks who were instructed to use q tips to swab the corners of the ceilings. While exhausting and insanely difficult at times, the main lesson he learned before leaving Le Pont de Brent was to appreciate the beauty that lies in the repetition of cooking.
After three years at La Pont Daniel was offered and executive chef position at the Swiss mountain resort Gasthaus Zum Gupf an hour east of Zurich in Rehetobel Switzerland. As the head chef at Gasthaus, Humm began honing on his culinary voice with his own dishes. The results led to him earning his first Michelin star at just 24 years of age in 2000.
The next year while driving his boss’s Mercedes to the market in Zurich early one morning just like he did multiple times a week, Humm drove too fast into a curve and slid off the road. As the vehicle headed for the edge of the mountain, he was able to quickly steer toward the only tree in sight and slammed headfirst into the lone cliff side barrier, destroying the car in the process but avoiding certain death as well. Undeterred from the near death experience, he went back up the mountain and borrowed another car to make the run to the market in time to return to the restaurant with fresh produce for dinner service that evening.
Even though he knew very little English at the time, Humm moved to the U.S. in 2003, landing in San Francisco California after being offered the executive chef position at Campton Place. One of the first chefs Humm hired to round out the kitchen staff was Christopher Kostow who would go on to become the executive chef at the Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena five years later in 2008. At Campton Place Hum quickly developed a reputation as the hot new thing in the Bay Area. San Francisco Chronicle food critic Michael Bauer agreed with the sentiment, giving Campton Place a four star review in which he said Chef Humm was “the brightest star to land in northern California since Thomas Keller opened the French Laundry”.
Two years later in 2005, Humm was named of the year’s best new chef’s by Food & Wine Magazine. It was an accolade that would travel all the way across the country to New York City where it would grab the attention of renowned restauranteur Danny Meyer.
Located at the corner of Madison Avenue and East 24th Street, restaurateur and Union Square Hospitality Group C.E.O. opened Eleven Madison Park, a French brasserie designed by Bentel & Bentel, in 1998 inside the former home to MetLife’s corporate headquarters from the 1920’s. Although Eleven Madison Park was nominated for the James Beard Foundations best new restaurant award in 1999 and won the outstanding service James Beard award in 2004, the restaurant had reached a plateau as evident of the middling critical acclaim it had received since like the two star review from the New York Times. In an effort to revitalize E.M.P., Meyer began a five month search for a young chef to realize the full potential of the dining room and refine the cuisine exiting the kitchen in hopes of turning the space that had been serving French comfort food into something more. Meyer, the George Steinbrenner of restaurateurs in New York City, ultimately went out and got the best available free agent available, luring Daniel Humm away from Campton Place and bringing him across the country to Manhattan.
In January of 2006, Humm began the process of reshaping the restaurant to transform it back into a place worth visiting. His first order of business was to bring the kitchen staff up to his technical proficient requirements. Around half the kitchen wound up leaving in the first six months due to being unable to hack it. Next on the list was to fix the décor selected by E.M.P.’s general manager who implemented cues from his time at Charlie Trotters which aged the dining room into an old, stuffy, and boring place after a few years. When Humm brought the issue to Meyer, Meyer recommended bringing in Will Guidara to take over the dining room side of the operation.
A native of Sleepy Hollow New York, Will Guidara was born on November 25th 1979 and grew up around restaurants thanks to his dad who owned a company called Restaurant Associates that opened The Four Seasons in New York City. Eventually Restaurant Associates they sold the hotel property but retained the rights to the brasserie downstairs. As a kid, Will, dressed in a navy blue blazer with gold buttons, was transported to the magical world of fine dining for his birthdays by his dad.
After graduating from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration in 2001, Will headed west out to Beverly Hills to join the hospitality team at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant Spago. He then headed over to Spain to complete hotel school. Upon returning to the U.S. he promptly joined Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group and began working at various restaurants in the portfolio like Tabla, Café 2, and at the two café’s inside the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
In 2006, Meyer recommended Will to Daniel’s to be his counterpart in the journey of creating a culture at Eleven Madison Park that would make it one of the great restaurants in the world. Daniel and Will met for the first time at a restaurant called Crispo after Meyer set them up on a blind date of sorts. The two hit it off instantly and quickly realized they shared the same vision for the restaurant. Although three years apart in age, with Daniel being 29 and Will being 26, both men were very ambitious and very talented, but each recognized that they lacked a skill the other had. After wrapping up the evening at a Dominican bar down the road from the restaurant at 4 a.m., Will agreed to become the General Manager at Eleven Madison Park for at least a year, maybe two, to help transform E.M.P. into a fine dining restaurant destination.
Soon after Guidara joined Eleven Madison Park, Moira Hodgson, a food critic for the New York Observer, dined at the restaurant and published a review giving it 3 ½ out of 4 stars. She called Humm “a star” but stated the dining room needed “a bit of Miles Davis”. Not knowing what exactly she meant by the comment, the duo of Daniel and Will began listening to Miles Davis’s music and eventually broke it down into elven words that they then used as a guide to model the food after.
A year after the duo had taken over Eleven Madison Park, the restaurant received a three star review from New York Times food critic Frank Bruni while Humm was nominated for the 2007 James Beard Foundations rising star chef of the year award. Around the same time, an opportunity for Will to transfer over to Shake Shack, another brand flying under the Union Hospitality Group flag, arose. He turned it down, deciding to stay at Eleven Madison Park as the restaurants G.M. because he had found someone to do fine dining with that made it fun in Daniel.
Even though Madison Park won the 2008 James Beard award for outstanding wine service and Humm was added to Relais & Chateaux’s list of grand chefs, the restaurant hadn’t reached its pinnacle in the eyes of either Daniel or Will. Together they pressed Meyer on spending money to upgrade the dining room in order to gain a fourth star from the New York Times. After two weeks of consideration, Meyer approved the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars for renovations to update the restaurant. Renovations included the removal of some of the banquettes and tables that impeded the servers movements which doubled as a way to alleviate some pressure on the kitchen staff, bringing in new comfortable chairs for all of the tables, replacing all the service staff’s uniforms, upgrading all the china and glasses, and purchasing both a Pacojet and a Hold-o-mat slow cooking oven to install in the kitchen.
In September of 2008, the renovations were completed and the restaurant hosted a charity benefit on the night of the Sunday the 14th, mere hours before the collapse of Lehman Brothers that sent the financial markets into a tailspin and slid the economy into a recession. Eleven’s business began to struggle as a result of the economic downturn which forced other fine dining restaurants in the city to close permanently. Each night E.M.P. was opened was a war of attrition with the dining room being half full on some nights while only ten tables would be occupied on others. To make up for as much of the difference on the balance sheet as they could without laying off any of the 30 servers or 75 person brigade de cuisine, paper towels were cut in half, the amount of soap used for washing dishes was significantly reduced, a strict schedule was enforced to eliminate all overtime, and a lunch special was introduced. The restaurant made no money in 2008 and was hemorrhaging cash in 2009 which drained the bank accounts and put permanent closure mere weeks away by summer.
After three years of grinding, Eleven Madison Park received a four star review from New York Times food critic Frank Bruni in August 2009. Titled “A Daring Rise to the Top”, Bruni wrote “Eleven Madison Park now ranks among the most alluring and impressive restaurants in New York.” As soon as the review was published the dining room at E.M.P. immediately sold out and has every night since. That fall, Eleven Madison Park made its debut in the New York City Michelin Guide which awarded the restaurant one star for its 2010 edition.
With the turnaround at Eleven Madison Park both Humm and Guidara began to receive outside offers to leave the restaurant but both passed on the opportunities as they knew they were equals in each other’s eyes as well as the eyes of the staff and being linked to one another was beneficial for the both of them. Guidara was the only person able challenge Humm’s decisions, dragging Humm into their office and scolding him for his display of behavior one night after service when Humm threw a quart container filled with avocado roulade at a cook for less than perfect execution which was unacceptable in Humm’s eyes.
In May 2010, Humm won the best chef New York City James Beard Award. The next month Eleven Madison Park made its debut on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants List, placing 50th, and has appeared on the annual list every year since.
Humm’s became a father for the second time in 2010 when his girlfriend, now wife, Gineen gave birth to their daughter Viviane. Their second daughter Colette, Humm’s third, would be born the following year.
In 2011, Daniel and Will signed on to open another restaurant and run the food and beverage in partnership with the NoMad Hotel brand which would be located just four blocks away from Eleven Madison Park. Meyer couldn’t sanction a competing restaurant being so close to Eleven and had no interest in starting over with a new team so he made them an offer to buy the restaurant from him and own it outright. Through a connection from a banker who was a regular at the restaurant, Daniel and Will were able to secure an investment from Noam Gottesman, a former Goldman Sachs banker who was now a billionaire after he started his own hedge fund, and purchase Eleven Madison Park from Union Square Hospitality Group for an undisclosed sum believed to be in the millions and form their own hospitality group, Make It Nice, in the process.
Later that year in May, E.M.P. won the 2011 outstanding restaurant James Beard Award while pastry chef Angela Pinkerton took home the award for the year’s outstanding pastry chef. That fall Humm and Guidara published their first cookbook, “Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook” on November 11th, a few days before the Michelin Guide awarded the restaurant its second and third stars, making Eleven Madison Park a restaurant worth traveling for and putting it amongst the elite restaurants in New York City when its three stars are renewed for another year. Not a duo to rest on their laurels, Humm and Guidara reformatted the menu, this time to exclusively offer a tasting menu at both lunch and dinner service.
At the beginning of 2012, Humm and Guidara’s cookbook received a nomination for the James Beard Media Award in the cooking from a professional point of view category.
Two months later at the beginning of April, Humm and Guidara opened their second restaurant, the aptly titled NoMad in partnership with GFI Capital Resources who fully funded the project. Just a six minute walk from Eleven Madison Park and inspired by The Rolling Stones, the restaurant was made up of five distinct dining spaces, a glass ceiling atrium, a cocktail bar with a fancy bottle service trolley, a book lined library with hidden bottles of booze randomly stashed and free for anyone that found them, a parlor, and a rooftop patio with views of the Empire State Building. With an atmosphere full of hustle and bustle, the complete opposite of Eleven Madison Park’s refined dining room, the restaurant opened a week before the hotel to mixed reviews, receiving three stars from the New York Times who called it “novel and wonderful” and a two out of five star review from New York critic Adam Platt who took the Nomad to task over the pricing.
In May 2012, Humm was named the winner of the year’s outstanding chef James Beard Award, becoming one of only a handful of chefs to be awarded both a best chef and outstanding chef awards from the foundation. June brought a drastic ascension on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list for Eleven Madison Park as it made its first appearance in the top 10 ranking 10th. After the rankings were released, Humm and Guidara shifted the focus of the menu to revolve around an “I Love New York” theme and Eleven Madison Park’s place in the city. The change from an a la carte offering inside a leather bound book to a white eight in square card with sixteen ingredients that changed with the seasons printed in a four by four grid where diners would select one from each of the four rows not only streamlined food costs but updated the execution and creativity as well. By incorporating local ingredients the kitchen was able to create dishes like carrot tartare with rye bread, the Greensward picnic basket, and the Long Island clam bake to depict New York cuisine in a modern way. In addition to the menu changes, the duo implemented others throughout the restaurant like how the kitchen and dining room staffs interacted with one another, tasking sous chefs with delivering dishes they assembled to tables and explaining them, inviting guests to the kitchen for a glimpse of the brigade in action from an alcove off to the side, having guests play a game of three card monte during the dessert course, offering complimentary after dinner cognac at the front lounge after dinner before sending them on their way with a jar of house made granola in tow to take home, and adding a box of petit fours for the road from a hot dog cart waiting just outside the entrance. A few weeks after the new menu’s debut, New York Times critic Pete Wells wrote a review on his experience, outlining that the excellent cooking was overshadowed with over the top storytelling. The duo stayed the course despite the warning and slowly worked out the kinks of the lengthy dinner and it’s accompanying whimsical theatrics.
In the fall, the Michelin Guide awarded NoMad a single star, upping the Make It Nice Hospitality Group’s total star count to four. The NoMad received a nomination for the outstanding bar program James Beard Award for the James Beard Foundations outstanding bar program award a few month later in February of 2013, two months before Humm and Guidara published their second cookbook titled “I Love New York: Ingredients and Recipes” on April 9th.
Just over a year later on June 20th, 2014, Humm and Guidara opened NoMad Bar, continuing their expansion in New York City while laying the ground work for ventures in other markets. 2014 was also the year that Will organized and co-founded an annual hospitality focused symposium called the Welcome Conference with Anthony Rudolf.
Six years after receiving its first four star review from The New York Times, Eleven Madison Park received a second from the publication in 2015, reinforcing its standing among the top restaurants in the city. Meanwhile, the NoMad was awarded the years outstanding bar program James Beard Award in May and its first cookbook “The NoMad Cookbook” hit bookstore shelves that fall on October 13th.
The Wall Street Journal named Humm and Guidara the winners of it’s 2016 food innovator award which coincided with Eleven Madison Park winning the years outstanding service James Beard Award and NoMad executive chef James Kent receiving a semifinalist nomination for the foundations rising star chef of the year award in March.
Seven years after Humm and Guidara set out to elevate Eleven Madison Park to the title of the best restaurant in the world, the duo finally achieved their goal when the annual World’s 50 Best Rankings were released in June 2017. Days after the award announcement, they closed the restaurant so renovations to the kitchen and updates to the dining room could start. In addition, custom gray two button suits made by a local designer to replace the server uniforms were implemented, ceramicist Jono Pandolfi was hired to create custom handmade plateware to replace the existing china, and the menu was transitioned to an exclusive twelve course tasting menu with all of the lower priced prix fixe options being removed. Long planned as Eleven had never undergone a kitchen modification of any significance since opening in 1998, the four month long renovation and construction process was filmed by a crew from Netflix as part of a docuseries called “7 Days Out” which chronicled the days leading up to the restaurants grand re-opening. During Eleven’s closure from June 9th to October 11th, the Humm and Guidara opened a counter service restaurant in the NoMad neighborhood called Made Nice on August 24th, which sputtered out of the gate and never expanded beyond the one location, and published their fourth cookbook titled “Eleven Madison Park: The Next Chapter” on October 3rd, a week before E.M.P.’s reopening.
The next year on January 21st, 2018, the Humm and Guidara opened NoMad Los Angeles, their first restaurant outside of New York City located inside the former Bank of Italy building in partnership with the Sydell Group who renovated and built out the hotel property of the same name. Comprised of six separate dining options aptly titled the lobby, the Giannini Bar run by NoMad New York beverage director Leo Roitschek, the coffee bar, the rooftop bar, the Mezzanine fine dining restaurant helmed by executive chef Chris Flint, and a hide away bar that is only revealed after the sun sets, NoMad Los Angeles became an instant hit as it was one of the most anticipated projects in the city three years running. That fall on October 12th, Daniel and Will partnered with the Sydell Group once again to opened a third NoMad Bar inside the newly rebranded Park MGM Hotel in Las Vegas Nevada
By the end of 2018, rumors began to swirl that Humm and Guidara would be opening a new restaurant sometime in 2019. The rumors turned out to be a mix of both truth and falsehoods as the duo confirmed the killing of their plan to open a casual restaurant in the FiDi neighborhood while announcing that they signed on to open an event space in the Lower East Side, a two story fine dining restaurant on Park Avenue, and would be taking over the space inside the famed Claridge’s Hotel vacated by the restaurant Fera and opening their first international restaurant Davies & Brook sometime in the following year.
At the end of July 2019, Humm and Guidara announced to the staff in an email that was also sent to The New York Times that they would be diverging their partnership and going their separate ways with Humm buying out Guidara’s half of the Make It Nice restaurant group and Guidara announcing plans to form a new hospitality group of his own. The two decided their business and creative goals were too different to overcome from either side and decide to dissolve their long standing partnership.
On Monday December 9th, Humm opened Eleven Madison Park’s sibling restaurant, the 117 cover Davies and Brook at Claridge’s in London, a kitchen he previously worked at when he was a 15 year old commis chef peeling tomatoes and chopping the crusts off cucumber sandwiches to form little triangles. The venture was a partnership between Make It Nice and Claridge’s with the staff being employed by Claridge’s and the rest conceptualized by Humm himself. Humm almost opened a restaurant in the space back in 2012 when Gordon Ramsay’s 12 year tenure came to an end but Humm got cold feet and the last second feeling he wasn’t ready and Maybourne Hotel Group co-owner Paddy McKillen went with Simon Rogan who opened Fera, the predecessor to Davies and Brook. The entire four year old multi million pound kitchen was ripped out and completely replaced and reconfigured so both the a la carte menu and seven course tasting menu could be executed in hopes of luring casual diners who desire a meal in 90 minutes rather than 4 hours. Although the menu at E.M.P. is themed around New York City’s culture and culinary traditions, the menu at Davies and Brook would contain some Indian and Middle Eastern influences but primarily be inspired by the travels of Humm and the team who look to reshape fine dining in London like they did in New York City with Eleven Madison Park.
Just under two months later, a few days before the end of January it was announced Humm and Make It Nice would no longer be involved with the NoMod brand properties. The Sydell Group would be taking charge of the NoMad restaurants and bars in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and London moving forward with many of the staff brought on by Make It Nice staying in their positions to help ease the transition. The decision to split rather than renew food and beverage management agreements signaled a refresh for both NoMad and Humm with the former looking to go down a different path in the midst of a changing hotel restaurant landscape and the later divesting his association with a second brand to focus exclusively on Madison Park, Davies and Brook, Made Nice, and his forthcoming highly anticipated yet to be named restaurant at 425 Park Avenue.
In March 2020, Humm was forced to shutter Eleven Madison Park due to the statewide mandate for no essential personnel to stay at home in order to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Humm responded by turning E.M.P. into a commissary kitchen to feed New Yorker’s in need during the public health crisis. Humm scaled up operations thanks to funding from American Express and partnered with non profit Rethink Food, who is known for eliminating food waste in NYC by obtaining surplus food from grocery stores and restaurants to feed underprivileged communities, to make and distribute 2,000 meals per day for residents in need.
That same month, Humm’s cookbook “Eleven Madison Park : The Next Chapter, Revised and Unlimited Edition” was named a finalist for the cooking from a professional point of view James Beard Award. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic and several discrepancies and voting irregularities within the foundations process, the 2020 awards were delayed until September and eventually canceled altogether.
At the beginning of November 2020, Humm announced via Instagram that he was closing Eleven Madison Park’s fast casual venture Made Nice after three and a half years of operation, citing the downturn in foot traffic due to coronavirus as the main cause.
A few weeks into 2021 it was revealed Humm had filed a lawsuit against Sydell Group, the operator that owns the NoMad hotel chain, claiming that the company owes him almost $6 million in unpaid and outstanding management fees from his time running the food and beverage programming after the Sydell Group failed to pay the agreed settlement amount of $1.89 million that that two parties came to in an effort to avoid litigation.
Shortly after Humm launched EMP At Home, a pick up meal service with locations across the tri-state area like The Hamptons, which hosted EMP Summer House a few years ago, and North Fork that allows diners the choice of four mains and a selection of accompaniments. With each meal’s purchase EMP donates ten meals to help feed food insecure New Yorkers through their partnership with Rethink Food.
On April 12th, 2021, Humm debuted the Eleven Madison Truck, a food truck that will feed underserved food communities in the New York City area in partnership with Rethink. The truck will serve around 400 meals per day for free and operations will be paid for by a portion of the revenue from restaurant diners. The first location the truck will operate in will be the Bronx.
A week later it was revealed Eleven Madison Park would be partnering with Vespertine to create Vespertine At Home and bring some of chef Jordan Kahn’s cuisine to the New York City area for a limited time starting April 23rd.
On May 3rd, Humm announced during a segment on NPR that Eleven Madison Park would officially re-open for dine in service on June 10th and when it does it would be 100% vegan. Iconic EMP dishes like honey lavender duck, foie gras with maple syrup, and deconstructed milk and honey would be abandoned in order for the restaurant to become the latest Michelin starred venue to turn vegan. Many of EMP’s meat suppliers were caught off guard by the change even though Humm, who says he’s 90% vegetarian, had been teasing the change for months and even talked about wanting to make what can only be called a bold switch in interviews from years past.
With a three pronged culinary style of hearty alpine, seasonal Californian, and neoclassical New York mixed together, chef Daniel Humm has developed a signature style of reworking the same ingredients over and over, again and again to allow each to stand out individually without comprising the overall flavor of the dish itself. By using an internal archivist to chronicle each step in a dishes evolution through changes captured by photographs from week to week, Humm has developed an ability to plate a course in a single color and utilize the negative space on a dish the way an architect does designing a building without fear. Humm credits the creation of the celery root and black truffle dish, a dish that looked like a golf ball splashed into a mud puddle but tasted like everything that ever was, as the moment he achieved cooking in minimalism. The breakthrough not only allowed Humm to create hundreds of new dishes using the four fundamental pillars to his approach to cooking, deliciousness, beauty, creativity, and intention, but elevated him to become the face of minimalism in the culinary world today.
Coming into the decade
- November 2008: Chef Roy Choi launches Kogi, a food truck selling tacos that riff off Korean flavors. Kogi announces its daily locations via Twitter. In the thick of the Great Recession, its food and its social media savvy create a local and national sensation.
- L.A.’s hottest new restaurants at the dawn of the 2010s: the Bazaar, José Andrés’ modernist tapas wonderland in the SLS Beverly Hills Nancy Silverton’s Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza and Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo’s hyper-rich, Southern-inflected Animal.
- June 2009: After issuing Los Angeles-area guides for 2008 and 2009, Michelin announces it will discontinue covering the city. A press release initially cites the economic situation as the reason “The people in Los Angeles are not real foodies,” Jean-Luc Naret, then-director of the guides, later said.
- Ludo Lefebvre is in the middle of his run of LudoBites pop-ups, which will last from 2007 to 2012. Formerly a chef at French classics L’Orangerie and Bastide, Lefebvre uses the pop-ups to introduce his evolving, groundbreaking style (layers on the plate, seemingly contrapuntal flavors) while bucking established ideas about restaurant settings.
- The Test Kitchen in Pico-Robertson becomes another ephemeral draw, hosting chefs testing concepts or riffing on fresh ideas for three- or four-day stints. Bill Chait is a partner he’ll soon make his mark as one of the decade’s formative restaurateurs. His Sprout Restaurant Group (which he leaves in 2015) funds some of the decade’s defining restaurants, among them Bestia, République, Sotto, Broken Spanish, Otium and Vespertine.
- The Kogi team opens its first bricks-and-mortar restaurant, Chego, and labels it an “L.A.-in-a-rice-bowl spot.” In a mention of the dish Hot Buttered Kimchi Chow in his roundup of the year’s best dishes, Jonathan Gold writes presciently in L.A. Weekly: “Is this the year of metacuisine? I believe it must be, with flavors and expectations and ethnic paradigms folded over themselves like picture planes in a David Choe painting: food about food about food.”
- Red Medicine managing partner Noah Ellis snaps a picture of Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila, refuses her service and posts her photo on Twitter. Critics losing their anonymity to the internet age was nothing new, but Ellis’ unapologetic tone around his actions makes national news.
- Spice Table opens downtown the restaurant introduces Bryant Ng’s cooking, honoring the flavors of his Singaporean heritage (with culinary nods to wife and business partner Kim Luu-Ng’s native Vietnam). The restaurant will close in 2013 when its building is marked for demolition, but it paves the way for Ng and Luu-Ng’s Santa Monica 2016 game-changer Cassia.
- Despite mixed reviews, Michael Voltaggio’s buzzy Ink, which serves gimmicky dishes like octopus with cream of dehydrated potatoes and lemon curd, is a hit — and a peak moment for critical recognition of “Top Chef”-helmed restaurants in Los Angeles, which will become a fixture over the next decade.
- Evan Kleiman, chef and host of KCRW’s weekly program “Good Food,” announces she’ll close her influential Melrose Avenue restaurant, Angeli Caffe. Angeli opened in 1984 and helped codify California-Mediterranean cooking.
- Jonathan Gold, who five years earlier became the first restaurant critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for criticism, returns to The Times he first published restaurant reviews in the paper’s pages in 1990 during Ruth Reichl’s tenure as food editor. Coming back in 2012, he abolishes the star system established by Virbila.
- Gold’s last major project for the Weekly was a love letter to Koreatown, expressed in 60 dishes. (He echoes the sentiment in The Times with a Koreatown guide published in 2018.)
- Besha Rodell takes the food critic helm at L.A. Weekly, instating a starred rating system before year’s end.
- Ari Taymor’s modernist-Californian restaurant Alma, which began as a series of pop-ups, serves tasting menus in a bare-bones space on a then-forlorn block of downtown. Financial pressures force Taymor and partner Ashleigh Parsons to close in 2015, but Alma’s fierce creativity helps inspire a new generation of tiny, bleeding-edge L.A. restaurants.
- Wolfgang Puck’s flagship Spago in Beverly Hills turns 30. The space receives a sleek, modernist makeover critics rave about the cooking under the direction of chef Tetsu Yahagi. What’s old is new again.
- Jam maker Jessica Koslow brings Sqirl to life in a threadbare Virgil Village space. Dishes such as her lemony sorrel pesto rice bowl and billowy brioche toast with ricotta and jam will spark an all-day dining revolution, changing how restaurants across the U.S. approach breakfast service.
- Wes Avila left behind cooking at tasting-menu restaurants to launch Guerrilla Tacos as a street stall soon he would serve his tacos from a truck, using tortillas as canvases for uni, foie gras (then legal) and farmers market fineries. Gold notes in a 2014 review in The Times: “A Ducasse disciple quitting his job at an haute-cuisine pop-up to serve charred octopus tacos on a downtown street corner? You’re not going to find cooking like this anywhere else but L.A.”
- Shunji Nakao, a longtime chef at Matsuhisa and a founder of Asanebo, opens his Sawtelle restaurant Shunji in a funny-shaped building once home to a Chili Bowl. He puts forth an Angeleno style of omakase interspersed with ingenious vegetable dishes.
- Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis launch industrial-chic Bestia in the Arts District. The couple isn’t the first to open a triumph in the Arts District — Yassmin Sarmadi and Tony Esnault’s Church & State broke the mold of what could and couldn’t open in the area in 2009 — but the hype around Bestia’s bombastic pastas and pizzas ignites the area for new restaurants.
- Tony Xu opens Chengdu Taste its aggressively spiced, often incendiary dishes (boiled fish with green pepper sauce, toothpick lamb with cumin, “Diced Rabbit With Younger Sister’s Secret Recipe”) set off a fervor for regional Sichuan cuisine that reverberates across the nation.
- Husband and wife Fernando Lopez and Maria Monterrubio opened Oaxacan restaurant Guelaguetza in 1994. In 2013, Paulina, Fernando Jr., Elizabeth and Bricia Lopez buy the business from their parents, who are set to retire, ensuring that the Koreatown restaurant remains an embassy for Oaxacan culture for another generation.
Bricia Lopez of Guelaguetza talks about writing her book “Oaxaca: Home Cooking From the Heart of Mexico.”
- Ludo Lefebvre settles into Trois Mec, an exhilarating tasting-menu restaurant hidden behind the scruffy exterior of a former pizzeria. Lefebvre’s partners are Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo. The two become the decade’s most prominent L.A. restaurateurs, opening their own Jon and Vinny’s restaurants (following Animal and Son of a Gun) and helping other chefs — most notably Lefebvre and Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson of Kismet in East Hollywood open theirs.
- Walter and Margarita Manzke take over the Campanile space made legendary by Nancy Silverton and Mark Peel. It’s the end of an era, but the Manzkes steadily build their all-day restaurant/cafe/bakery, République, into a triumph in its own right.
- Josef Centeno, a chef as industrious as he is gifted, opens Orsa & Winston, a modern American tasting-menu restaurant with heavy Japanese influences. It joins his Bar Amá (serving the Tex-Mex of his San Antonio upbringing) and Mediterranean-leaning Bäco Mercat, which both opened earlier in the decade in downtown’s Historic Core.
- Carlos Salgado opens Taco Maria in Costa Mesa. He attracts national attention serving intricate yet earthy four-course dinners and sublime daytime tacos on tortillas made from corn varieties grown by independent farms in Mexico.
Carlos Salgado on his journey to becoming a chef and embracing his heritage, taken from a talk he gave at Mesamérica L.A.
- Night + Market Song in Silver Lake blasts onto the scene. Kris Yenbamroong first made his presence known in 2011 with the original Night + Market attached to Talesai, his parents’ Thai restaurant on the Sunset Strip. The Thai cooking at Yenbamroong’s second restaurant, with herb-strewn blood soup alongside an off-menu fried chicken sandwich (and lots of natural wine), sparks all the right questions around notions of authenticity and subversion.
- Sticky Rice (which opened in 2013 its speedy expansion, Sticky Rice 2, came a year later) and Wexler’s Deliheadline a new crop of vendors that bring renewed attention to downtown’s essential institution, Grand Central Market.
- Bakery-cafe Gjusta is the follow-up to nearby Gjelina, a Cal-Ital fantasy that became a star vehicle for chef Travis Lett. Mob scenes show up for porchetta melts and colorful salads — and for breakout star Nicole Rucker’s rhubarb-raspberry pie.
- Nancy Silverton wins the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Chef award, the organization’s highest honor for a chef. The last time a Los Angeles chef took home the big prize was Wolfgang Puck in 1998 (and even that was a tie with New York’s Jean-Georges Vongerichten).
- n/naka opened in 2011. But after chef-owner Niki Nakayama is the subject of an emotionally rich episode of Netflix’s “Chef’s Table” in April 2015, the 26-seat kaiseki restaurant gains (deserved) world renown reservations become — and remain — nearly impossible to score.
- At Hollywood’s bare-bones Baroo, Kwang Uhtransfixes the food world with his spellbinding cooking, a style that defies definition but incorporates Korean ingredients and techniques, fermentation in myriad guises and comforting pastas and grain bowls. A grueling two-man operation, Baroo will shutter in 2018. (A temporary reincarnation at the Union Swap Meet in East Hollywood closes at the end of 2019.)
- Charles Olalia leaves his post as executive chef of Patina in Walt Disney Concert Hall for Rice Bar, a 275-square-foot counter space where he immerses himself in the foods of his native Philippines. His Filipino heirloom rice bowls and pork longganisa herald a mainstream arrival of Filipino cooking in Southern California, which includes Chinatown’s Lasa, Santa Ana’s now-closed Irenia and Olalia’s follow-up project, Ma’am Sir.
- Cassia merges Westside glitz with Bryant Ng’s soulful Vietnamese-French cooking. The Santa Monica brasserie is also a crown jewel for Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan’s emergent Rustic Canyon Family other restaurants in the group include Rustic Canyon, Huckleberry Bakery and Cafe, Milo & Olive and, in 2019, Jeremy Fox’s Birdie G’s.
- After working for Jaime Martin del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu at their La Casita Mexicana in Bell, and partnering on La Diosa de los Moles in Sun Valley, Oaxaca native Rocio Camacho opens her first solo venture, Rocio’s Mexican Kitchen, in Bell Gardens. The restaurant showcases her astonishing moles.
- Ray Garcia takes Mexican cooking in exultant modernist directions with Broken Spanish, located downtown near Staples Center. (He filled the space formerly occupied by Rivera, where chef John Sedlar’s ahead-of-its-time cooking explored the global origins of Latin flavors.)
- Providence and Connie & Ted’s chef-owner Michael Cimarusti cofounds the local division of Dock to Dish, which connects fishermen to sell directly to restaurants.
- Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson open Locol in Watts, a fast-food chain aimed at feeding underserved areas. A second location opened the same year in Oakland. Its zero-star review from New York Times critic Pete Wells receives backlash Jonathan Gold would go on to crown Locol restaurant of the year. The restaurant falters and closes by 2018. Locol’s kitchen manager, Keith Corbin, will become the chef at Alta Adamslater in 2018, with backing by Patterson.
- Howlin’ Ray’s debuts in Chinatown’s Far East Plaza. In 2014 Johnny Ray Zone toured Nashville’s long-established hot chicken scene, popularized by Prince’s Hot Chicken’s radically spicy bird. He began serving hot chicken sandwiches from a food truck in 2015. Social media-inflamed demand swiftly calls for a permanent space. Zone’s sandwiches remain the marquee dish fueling L.A.’s hot chicken craze, served by over two dozen restaurants, trucks and pop-ups across the region. (In 2019, Kim Prince of the Prince’s Hot Chicken family opens her own L.A. restaurant, Hotville Chicken & Chops, in Baldwin Hills.)
Kim Prince spent most of her childhood standing on the pickle buckets in flour-dusted shoes at her family’s hot chicken shack off Clarksville Highway in Nashville.
Seattle has always been home to a diverse food scene that welcomes complex flavors and unfamiliar ingredients. Growing up there, I ate pho, teriyaki, Westernized Indian curries, and Thai cuisine just as much as burgers and baked potatoes. Seattlites embrace complex and far-flung flavors and ingredients, and heartily welcome cuisine pioneered by people of color.
In this environment, chef Edouardo Jordan, a native of St. Petersburg, Florida, thrived. In 2015 he opened Salare in Seattle&rsquos Ravenna neighborhood and forever changed the way Seattle eats. In 2016, Food & Wine crowned him one of its &ldquoBest New Chefs.&rdquo His momentum didn&rsquot slow down from there.
In 2017, he opened JuneBaby. Eduardo crafted a menu celebrating Southern cuisine shaped by African-Americans while actively dispelling stereotypes that soul food is unhealthy or unsophisticated. The restaurant quickly racked up accolades: Three stars from New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells. A Food & Wine 2018 restaurant of the year. He also won two James Beard awards in 2017, solidifying his status as one of the most innovative, exciting chefs in the country.
Jourdan, though not originally from Seattle, represents everything admirable about the culinary landscape here: This city boasts an open-minded, youthful energy, and its residents are willing to take a chance on new faces. Seattle didn&rsquot become a destination for some of the most glorious food on the planet &mdash spicy noodles, spam sliders, creamy clam chowder &mdash in the past decade. It&rsquos always been that. But Jourdan proved that this city still has so much to say about what fine dining can look like, and who can make it. &mdash ES
Go because. you can eat James Beard Award–winning food without a reservation.
Denver is one of those cities that looks its best in the summer—like it’s been training all winter just to put on a bathing suit. Out come the farmers’ markets, the festivals (slow food! dragon boats!), the movies in the parks, and the outdoor happy hours that are more like happy days. Locals and visitors alike make a break for Estes Park to go hiking and biking, or to Red Rocks for a concert at the gorge. But this summer, we have a controversial suggestion: Visit Denver, but stay indoors. There’ll always be a beer garden, but has there ever been such a stellar restaurant and cocktail scene as there is right now in the Mile High City? James Beard alums have opened up new restaurants across the neighborhood LoDo—try Ultreia and Tavernetta if you can snag a table—while NYC’s cocktail kids Death and Co. have set up shop in the new Ramble Hotel in RiNo. The lobby scene has a 17th-century French salon feel, which is the anti-beer garden—but it sounds just about perfect for a night in, doesn’t it?
#FoodPorn leads to rise in camera cuisine
Popular downtown Provo restaurant Station 22 is always lively but cozy on a Friday night. Hipster paintings line the walls, and the lighting is dimmed. A woman and a man sit down at a table a waiter quickly brings them mason jars full of water.
Station 22’s top selling item is the chicken and waffles meal. A juicy piece of fried chicken and a small strip of candied bacon top a gourmet waffle on a metal dish. A smaller silver dish with syrup sits next to the entree.
Patrons everywhere take their phones out to photograph their trendy, beautifully plated meals. This habit of photographing food is becoming more essential to the way people view and consume food, and everyone in the food industry is becoming aware of that.
A social media generation
Collin Payne, a BYU Ph.D. and professor of New Mexico State University and co-director of its behavior lab, said it’s hard for this “selfie generation” to imagine a life without social media. Millennials grew up with the Internet as a go-to, so now taking a picture and posting it to Instagram is second nature.
Nurse Elizabeth Baessler said she always keeps her smart phone with her whenever she goes to a restaurant. “I feel incomplete without it,” she said. “It is a way for me to invite others into my world. It’s just fun.”
The “eat and tweet” culture is in full force. Restaurants are pushing for people to create and use hashtags with their social media posts of dishes to direct traffic to the restaurants. Patrons appear to be responding as food photos become trendy. More than 81 million posts are currently tagged #foodporn on Instagram.
A 2012 Natural Products Insider article reported that Twitter and Facebook are the main ways 50 percent of consumers discover and learn about food. This article said that while enjoying meals and drinks at home, “nearly one-third of Americans use social networking sites among millennials (18 to 32 years), the figure jumps to 47 percent.”
It’s not just any pictures of food that achieve success. It’s the one’s that get the most “likes”: the ones usually classified as #foodporn.
This could also change the way professional photographers manage and facilitate publicity. Cornell University psychology graduate Kelsey Mollura said, “It’s word of mouth times 1000 because it’s ‘word of eyes.’ Food porn is probably what’s allowing so many rustic, trendy and hipster places to pop up because they need people on media platforms to seek them out.”
Food porn nation
Payne called food porn an “unrealistic media depiction (visual, auditory) of hedonic food.” Constantly looking at images of food makes people want to eat, even if they are not hungry.
“It targets reward centers in the brain. People are hard-wired to desire food — anything that draws attention to its hedonic qualities is sure to grab attention,” Payne said. He said this is because people “associate all sorts of activities, occasions and ‘things’ with food because of the stimulation.”
Food porn not only stimulates the brain, it also sells. People are far more likely to click on a recipe with a beautiful picture than on one with an unappealing picture. Cookbooks are slowly going out of style because anyone can surf Pinterest and click on the picture of the food they envision.
A 2012 study found that people “eat with (their) eyes first.” The way food looks can alter one’s perception of taste and smell. So photographers will go to great lengths to make food look as appealing as possible, whether the food is real or not.
The people behind food photoshoots intend to make the food look as real as possible, but it’s all about transforming the food into #foodporn.
While restaurant marketing teams may have to shuffle out more money for better pictures, they may find that it’s worth it. Salt Lake-based food photographer Kelsi Greeff said that “the food industry has benefited a lot from food photography. People will come to restaurants based on how a picture of food looks. Someone could take an average hamburger and make it different and beautiful for one picture, and people will think that that’s what all their hamburgers look like.”
Restaurants impacted everywhere
Restaurants are diving into the trend by using food photography and social media to market their products to their customers.
Chili’s spent $750,000 on on making their corporate Instagram photos more appealing. (Twitter/Chili’s)
Chili’s is currently focusing attention on social media advertising — so much that it’s changing the presentation of food to prepare more beautiful dishes for social media.
A 2015 Associated Press report published by the New York Daily News said Chili’s spent $750,000 on making its corporate Instagram account photos more appealing. The money was spent on a special egg wash that makes the hamburger buns stand out. “It just makes (the bun) look great. It glistens, it shines,” said Wyman Roberts, CEO of Brinker International, the parent company of Chili’s, in the report.
The negatives of food porn
Some researchers say food porn actually decreases one’s enjoyment of food. Paige Fumo Fox said in an article for Community Health Magazine that a recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology had 232 people rate photos of foods. “Half the group viewed salty foods, such as french fries and chips, and the other half viewed sweet foods,” Fox said.
They all then ate salty peanuts. The people who had just viewed the pictures of the salty food enjoyed the peanuts less. They felt they had satisfied their salty craving just from viewing the pictures. They had satisfied their craving not with the tongue, but with the eyes.
Some also say that social media being too incorporated into the food world is negatively impacting the restaurant experience.
Former Johnny Rockets manager Angela Ngyuen called social media a double-edged sword. “People can say awesome things to bring business in or they can esteem themselves to be amateur food critics and totally bash all the hard work you and your coworkers do,” she said.
“I’ve had moments where people are too busy taking selfies to give me their order, which is super annoying because you only have that small window of time to take their order and get back to helping everyone else,” she said. “Luckily, servers are crafty people so we have adjusted to it, but it’d be nice if people were more mindful.”
Johnny Rockets waitress Julianne Carew also thinks social media distracts from the dining experience because it takes patrons’ attention from each other and brings it to their phones. “In general they are bragging about who they are with or where they are instead of actually enjoying the experience,” Carew said.
But it isn’t just waiters and waitresses that social media impacts. Because of the food porn boom, customers are more susceptible to failed expectations. According to Payne, “customers are more dissatisfied than ever.”
Social media and chefs
While some chefs believe social media is decreasing the authenticity of the dining experience, some are turning to Instagram to get creative inspiration for plating. Cooking is coming full circle, and is now a sensory experience of sight as well as taste.
Over the last few years, chefs have focused on trends such as sauce smears, dots, asymmetrical plating and presentation. Instagram accelerates these trends forward.
Martha Stewart’s tweet of onion soup was criticized for its poor food photography. (Twitter/Martha Stewart)
Chef’s are also turning to Instagram and Twitter for exposure and self-branding. Chef Jamie Oliver has 3.3 million followers of his Instagram account, where he posts stunning food photos and their recipes. Chefs treat food more like art now, and plating has become a way to express oneself.
Greeff said food photography produces more chefs. “A lot of food photographers are going to culinary arts school to help with their food photography skills,” she said. Culinary school can teach food photographers more about food presentation.
Chefs are also learning that bad presentation can affect the way people taste the food.
Bad food photography on social media can actually hurt a chef’s reputation — the taste of the food completely disregarded. In November of 2014, Martha Stewart tweeted a photo of soup and received backlash for its less-than-appealing appearance from followers and bloggers, according to a New York Times article.
When it comes to social media, people want to be be amazed and dazzled by aesthetics. Now chefs have two audiences to please, the consumer and the world.
The future of food porn
Users can now stay ahead of all the trends. Digital media platforms connect consumers and professionals globally. Ad agencies are striving to fit in with the Instagram look to effectively reach millennials. Wendy’s now has a specific Instagram photographer to give the food and marketing a new look.
Food photography isn’t going away any time soon. Greeff said that “food photography is on the beginning of its whole journey. People can define themselves by food. The reason it will keep expanding is because it is getting more specific, and more and more people are posting.”
New, more specific jobs geared toward social media are being created because of how prevalent social media is in society. As Instagram and Twitter gain in popularity, the “eating with (the) eyes” trend will only escalate. But it could come at a cost.
Restaurant critic Pete Wells said in an NY Times article that “a side effect of the digital age in food photography, camera cuisine is any dish that was inspired by a picture or aspires to be one.” Our eyes are now driving the food industry, rather than our tastebuds, and as social media continues to grow and progress, this #foodporn revolution will only increase.
Thinking of buying a book as a gift? Here’s some suggestions
The older I get, the more my Christmas and birthday gift wish list shrinks down to one word- Books, not that I can recall a time when I wasn’t super excited to receive one. From the Christmas Days of my youth when I had to be prised away from the latest annuals or a yet to be read Rumer Godden / Roald Dahl / Blyton and later on, the copy of the ‘Women’s Room’ given to me by a friend’s mother, to my now fast approaching ‘On Golden Pond’ days where the books are a little more reflective of one half century of interests, I could never feel disappointed by a gift of a book. Even the piles of books from publishers and authors keen for me to review them hasn’t spoiled my pleasure and I look forward to a time when I can cancel all obligations and simply read my way into old, old age, preferably in some stellar location- a rocker on an Appalachian covered porch, a maccia covered hillside in Sardinia, by the fishing boats at Woodbridge’s Tide Mill or a Georgian garden square in Bloomsbury perhaps. Until then, I will visit these places vicariously through the writings of others. Here are some books, newly published, soon to be published and a few old favourites too- books that somebody you know will love to receive, lend to others or to treasure.
Please note that you will find no Amazon links on this site. All books can be ordered from local book shops and from Waterstones and other nationals too. Please support your local traders and a list of some great East Anglian book shops are at the bottom of this feature.
Food writing & cookery books
My own preference is for a bit of writing with the recipes, lyrical, well researched and evocative writing that makes me want to do more than just cook. I want to be transported to the history, places and people behind the recipes. However I accept that this is my own quirk and so have also picked out some cookbooks that are very good examples of clear recipe writing, that don’t always assume prior knowledge nor a hedge funders means when it comes to buying ingredients. First off is the super engaging campaigner Jack Monroe and her second book release of this year, ‘A Year in 120 Recipes’. With the same consideration given to budgetary constraints and the paying of close attention to seasonality and careful use of a good store cupboard, Jack shows us how to bake (Peanut Butter Bread is yummy) and cook delicious soups and sides: a ‘pesto called Lazarus’ makes great use of innervated bottom of the fridge ingredients. As we go through the year, Jack shares with us some of the tumultuous events that cemented her position as a cook, recipe writer and social activist. Oh, and she found love too.
I have been obsessed with the writing and recipes of David Lebovitz for quite a few years now and often re-read his first cooking memoir ‘A Sweet Life in Paris’ with its mix of wise before its time ex pat advice, scintillating food and wry observance of the often baffling nature of la vie en Paris. He has (thankfully not a moment too soon) published a new tome, ‘My Paris Kitchen‘ with the same mix of memoir, experience, culinary know how and recipes readers of his website will recognise as his trademark. Beautiful photography of his apartment and the city reflects the ten years he has lived in the city and the many changes Paris has undergone: a city embracing the cuisine and ingredients of people from all over the world. Cassoulet, coq au vin, wheat berry salad with radicchio (very good), cookies made with duck fat and that classically chic little chocolate cake are among the stand out recipes for me. Practical know how is great too- weights AND measures. Oy vey.
Baking books with a different slant to them are a particular weakness of mine and Trine Hahnemann’s ‘Scandinavian Baking: Loving Baking at Home’ combines functionality (recipes that work and aren’t too esoteric in technique or ingredients) with the quirkiness and lightness of touch possessed by Scandinavian food. The rosehip roulade for me, is the standout recipe and many of them are hugely appropriate for winter (and Christmas) baking. Out now.
‘Rappers Delight: HipHop Cookbook’
Want to get your rap mad kid into cooking? Best suited for the younger cook, the ‘Rappers Delight: HipHop Cookbook’ contains thirty hiphop inspired recipes with sometimes (very) tenuous links to the music itself- think Wu-Tang Clam Chowder, Public Enemiso Soup, Run DM Sea Bass and Busta Key Lime Pie. No expletives and each recipe is accompanied by a bespoke piece of artwork created by one of 30 of the best upcoming illustrators.
The first cookbook from a popular London restaurant, ‘Duck & Waffle: Recipes and Stories’ features its eponymous dish, a confit duck leg sandwiched between fresh waffle and fried duck egg, drizzled with mustard maple syrup. One for lazy afternoons where you can take over the kitchen and use every pan in the cupboards. In complete contrast is are the Little Leon range of small cook books from ‘Fast Suppers’ to ‘One Pot Naturally Fast Recipes‘ with uncomplicated recipes, standard ingredients and a lower hardback cover price of around £5-7 making them a great stocking gift for students, less confident cooks and children.
Increasingly fashionable are cookbooks that focus upon a particular region and in the case of Italy this is particularly apropos considering it was not even founded as one nation until the 1860’s and still cannot be described as uniform in cuisine to this day. ‘Sharing Puglia: Delicious Simple Food From Undiscovered Italy’ by Luca Lorusso is a well designed example of a comprehensive regional cookbook packed with stunning landscape photography. Cook kingfish crudo with fresh fava beans, lemon, and Caciocavallo or scampi with fresh chicory and pomegranate, pour some wine and dream.
In Kathleen Flinn’s earlier memoir, ‘The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry’, she recounted the story of her departure from the corporate world to study at the world’s most famous cooking school- Le Cordon Bleu. In ‘Burnt Toast Makes you Sing Good’, Flinn tells the remarkable story of her large Michigan family and her Irish/Swedish roots, including her parents’ unlikely decision to pack up everything and go to California to help run an Italian restaurant, their abrupt move to a very basic Michigan farmhouse, and their risky decision to raise chickens with no prior experience. Memories of Family, fishing, foibles and food, accompanied by the recipes of the food mentioned makes this a great read for lover of food writing.
The Autumn sees the release of books by the big gastro-beasts that roam the earth –Yotam Ottolenghi, Jamie Oliver, The Hairy Bikers and Hugh FW (full name not required). Ottolenghi’s ‘Plenty More’ firmly places vegetables under the spotlight and refreshingly refers from framing them in the context of fish and meat. Organised not by ingredient or meal type, but instead by cooking method- grilled, baked, simmered, cracked, braised or raw, the recipes (which remain ingredient heavy) number Alphonso mango and curried chickpea salad, roasted aubergine with a sweet black garlic sauce, seaweed, ginger and carrot salad and a variety of sweet honeyed cakes and tarts such as meringue roulade with rose petals and fresh raspberries. Sumptuous and clear in its layout, courtesy of well known designer Caz Hildebrand (of Nigella book fame), the recipes might not be swift or few in ingredients but they work and they look good. Jamie Oliver has abandoned his low cost meals laced with a soupcon of social concern theme of his last book, to go all out in his latest tome ‘Jamie’s Comfort Food’ featuring carb and protein heavy meals that may leave you with a food baby alongside some pretty pleasurable satiation. NOT a book for dieters (or those watching the pennies), meals like katsu curry with its fried breaded coating, mighty moussaka, mushroom soup pasta bake which riffs off those post war American recipes using canned soup as an ingredient plus enough roasted cow to keep Dan from feeling desperate will please many of his fans.
Got a coffee snob in the house? Then the ‘World Atlas of Coffee’ by James Hoffman might keep them from banging on about it for a few days. His profession as a champion barista and coffee roaster means his exploration of varieties, the influence of terroir, production and roasting methods down to actual brewing is extensive and informed. This is the first book to chart the coffee production of over 35 countries, encompassing knowledge never previously published outside the coffee industry. Another semi scholarly tome is ‘The Language of Food’ by Stanford University linguist and MacArthur Fellow Dan Jurafsky, the book every person in the food business needs to read, thus hopefully releasing us from tedious menu’s full of boring descriptions like ‘crispy’ and ‘juicy’. Jurafsky points out the subtle meanings hidden in filler words, homes in on the metaphors and storytelling tropes we rely on in restaurant reviews, and charts a micro universe of marketing language on the back of a bag of crisps. The fascinating journey through The Language of Food uncovers a global atlas of culinary influences. With Jurafsky’s insight, words like ketchup, macaron, and even salad become living fossils that contain the patterns of early global exploration that predate our modern world.
Gabrielle Hamilton, the famous chef proprietor of NYC restaurant ‘Prune’ is tiger to Anthony Bourdain’s pussy (cat). From the moment I read her first autobiographical book ‘Blood, Bones, and Butter’, sent to me by a dear friend in the States, I got hooked on her writing and was determined to taste her food. I have yet to achieve the latter but with the publication of her first and eponymous cookbook ‘Prune’ I can make do at home until I pick up the phone, book the flights and make a reservation at the same time. Gabrielle’s book is as no nonsense as her cooking style: there no introduction nor headnotes, because they are already covered in her memoir, Blood, Bones, and Butter, which covers the evolution of her culinary ethos and style. There are stylish and tasty tricks to make the ultimate grilled cheese, the methodology for a bowl of grape nuts cereal with maple syrup that comes complete with a vanilla ice cream cone upturned on top and her ‘Youth Hostel Breakfast’: an assortment of wursts, olives, crackers, an egg, and tubes of fish paste. If I told you that her signature, for me, is the purest of recipes for radishes with salt and pale creamy butter, then you’ll either get her or you won’t.
One of the first (and best) food bloggers is Molly Wizenberg of ‘Orangette’ fame and I can claim to be an early adopter, having read her from the start and bought her first book ‘A Homemade Life‘ pretty much straight off the presses. Basically when Molly recommends something or someone I get onto it straight away meaning that the book I was sent recently, ‘A Boat, a Whale and a Walrus’ by Rene Erickson (which had already impressed me greatly), took on even greater significance when her latest blog post dropped into my inbox. It turns out that Molly is friends with Ms Erickson and like me, cannot rate her food, which is basically French married with the Pacific north west, highly enough. Listen to the ethos of Rene: “I’m not a classically trained chef – actually, I’m not trained at all – so there aren’t a lot of rules about cooking in my kitchens. It’s more important to me that people are happy and comfortable than that they can crack an egg with one hand or slice a case of shallots in a minute flat. If I don’t want to do something, I don’t want to make someone else do it. I want my staff to have healthy lives and dynamic, interesting jobs that don’t entail someone hovering over them.” The cover art is glorious- paper art married with victoriana, all on a background of saxe blue making this a simply gorgeous cookery book to own as well as use.
I have often thought about a compendium of lemon recipes (I am a dweeb I know) and somebody has beaten me to it with this, the Lemon Compendium by Yasemen Kaner-White, packed with amazing and lesser known recipes. Recipes such as Latvian Celebration Cake are bookended by writings about all things lemony from health and beauty tips to historical accounts making this a lovely ‘refreshing’ book to brighten a dull and endless winter.
My prediction for the next gastro-fashion is Hawaiian food. Diverse and kaleidoscopic with an amazing fusion of culinary influences that reflect the history of the islands, books on the subject are a bit thin on the ground in the UK. If you are prepared to do a bit of hunting though, Rachel Laudan’s book, ‘The Food of Paradise: Exploring Hawaii’s Extraordinary Culinary Heritage‘ is a fabulous introduction and guide to its history and food. Part personal memoir, part historical narrative, part cookbook, the book kicks off with a series of essays that describe Laudan’s first experiences with a particular Local Food (the Creole term for the food), encounters that intrigue her and eventually lead to her tracing its origins and influence in Hawaii. Followed by recipes, over 150 of them and a glossary plus gorgeous photos, this is the book for those eager to acquaint themselves.
Children tend to lead mindbending lives, what with the imaginary friends, monsters under the bed and other manner of weird and wonderful imaginings and so we think Clive Gifford’s book ‘The Science of Seeing and Believing’ which has just been crowned winner of the Royal Society’s Young Peoples Book of 2014 is a perfect gift. And not only for kids: your average adult could always do with getting back in touch with all the wonders of the human brain. Packed with anecdotes about how the brain processes sensory information and a range of illusions, from Akiyoshi Kitaoka’s stunning motion illusions to Roger Newland Shepard’s L’egs-istential Quandary, this is a brilliant book.
The latest Jacqueline Wilson book stars her most outspoken, fiery and unforgettable heroine yet: Opal Plumstead: schoolgirl, sweet factory worker and Suffragette, fiercely intelligent yet thwarted in her ambitions of university. A timely meeting with Mrs Pankhurst and her fellow Suffragettes via the factory owner, a meeting with a man she feels is her soulmate and the start of the First World War all conspire to influence the adventures of a brand new role model for boys and girls.
Neil Gaiman’s ‘Hansel and Gretel’
It’s important for children’s books to reflect universal themes and emotions it makes them relatable but they also need to inspire and transport through fantasy. Many an adult will recount a grim childhood redeemed by the escape they found in books. In time for Christmas with an early December release is Neil Gaiman’s ‘Hansel and Gretel’, a retelling of The Brothers Grimm’ darkest and most enduring fairytale. Breathtaking and haunting illustrations from Lorenzo Mattotti complete a book to read and treasure and a book that indeed does transport the reader. Ruby Redfort, supercool secret agent, code-cracker and thirteen-year-old genius is the latest of Lauren Child’s creations for slightly older readers. In this, the fourth book of the series Ruby must pit her wits against a seemingly invisible foe. How do you set your sights on catching a light-fingered villain if you can’t even see him?
The Photicular process uses an innovative lenticular technology, sliding lenses, and original four-colour video imagery resulting in a book that is more movie in your hands. Ocean offers not only a refinement of inventor Dan Kainen’s Photicular technology, taking readers on a virtual deep sea dive but through a text by Carol Kaufmann it offers descriptions and information in the form of mini essays. Escape here is provided via fantastical explorations of a world most of us will never see, the science bit explained accessibly and in some detail.
Cozy Classics by Holman Wang are a new range of books for younger children that seek to reinterpret classical literature in easy to understand illustrations and keywords. Twelve stunning images of needle felted illustrations accompany twelve child friendly words. From Moby Dick to War and Peace, these little books will introduce the classics to a whole new generation of readers. Mick Inkpen has built up quite a backlist now and ‘The Blue Balloon’ remains one of our families most loved children’s book. This tired, old and soggy balloon becomes endowed with fantastic powers which are magically demonstrated via giant pull out and fold out pages as the balloon goes square, multi coloured and very very long.
Alongside these well known classics, there are some great debuts and books by authors in the earlier stages of their careers. ‘A Dog Day’ is the stylish pen and ink debut of author Emily Rand, perfectly depicting the frustration of having to wait for the grown ups via a friendly terrier. He just wants to go to the park with his friends to play ball, but his owner has other ideas. Young Manga lovers and fans of Graystripe will be very pleased to receive ‘The Warriors Manga Box set’ by Erin Hunter capturing in mythical intensity, the journey of Graystripe- the ThunderClan deputy, back home to the forest and his Clan after capture by Twolegs. A good bedtime story never dates and stories about children who won’t go to bed had particular appeal in our house. ‘Max and the Won’t Go To Bed Show’ by Mark Sperring is a bit more high octance than most- you have to perform it alongside the telling so perhaps not one for tired parents on a busy school and weekday night. A rollicking parody of a circus performance with Max (and you) taming wild animals and performing magic tricks, if timed right, will tire out the most energetic of children.
Finally, if you haven’t introduced your children to some fine fiction from <ahem> times past, then here’s my guide to some of my favourites. Rumer Godden’s ‘The Diddakoi‘ is a powerful and still relevant account of the prejudice towards the traveller and Romany community and its effects upon all class systems within a small country town when a young girl, half Romany, comes to live there. Godden’s ‘Miss Happiness and Miss Flower’ similarly deals with the loneliness and dislocation felt by Nona, sent to England from India and the two little Japanese dolls that help her. Another of her books dealing with the longing for a home in a strange place is ‘The Dolls House’ about the little penny doll, Tottie. Eve Garnetts ‘The Family From One End Street’ is a lovable chapter book about a large family living in working class loving poverty, somewhat romanticised but nonetheless a good starting point for discussions about this topic. A complete contrast in surroundings although not lacking in family love either are the ‘Milly Molly Mandy’ series by Joyce Lankester Brisley set in the pastoral idyll of an English village. Joan Aitken was one of my favourite short story writers for children and ‘From a Necklace of Raindrops’ contains eight classic stories conjuring up a world filled with magic, where wishes can come true. Well worth re-acquainting yourselves with her back catalogue too.
Travel, non fiction and nature writing for adults
The Little Toller publishing house have been putting out some exquisite redesigns of classic nature writing and monographs including gems from HE Bates, Adrian Bell, Richard Mabey, Joseph Conrad and Gavin Maxwell. Created in 2008 as an imprint of the Dovecote Press, a family-run publishing company that has specialised in books about rural life and local history since 1974. Little Toller was started with a singular purpose: to revive forgotten and classic books about nature and rural life in the British Isles and it has succeeded beautifully- these books are to be treasured forever. I dream of a bookcase filled with them. Some of my favourites? ‘Through the Woods‘ by HE Bates with its soft cover illustration of Bluebell woods set in Kent explores the woodlands that haunted his imagination and underpinned his writing. Bates reveals the changing character of a single woodland year and how precious they are to the English countryside and In ‘Men and the Fields’, local author Adrian Bell travels through East Anglia and lowland Britain, capturing the character of the countryside before modern agriculture altered the landscape and changed forever the way we eat and live. An introduction by his friend, Ronald Blythe enhances the literary desirability of this edition. Neil Ansell looks at what attaches us to a community in ‘Deer Island’ with his dual narrative of life in London and on a tiny isolated island near Jura. What do we mean when we call a place home? Are memories the only things we can ever truly own?
If you are looking to introduce somebody to good nature writing then I recommend purchasing the entire cannon of Roger Deakin, one of our best loved writers and sadly gone all too soon from this life. In his first book ‘Waterlog”, Deakin inspired a generation of swimmers to go ‘wild’ and get out among the rivers, lakes and seas of the United Kingdom, recording his experiences as he swam, combining dissent and observation perfectly in an often lament for our changing landscapes. ‘Wildwood: a Journey Through Trees” with its stunning jacket design takes us through a diverse yet connected series of essays among them musings on driftwood artists and contemplations on the economic value of wood classic pieces about his travels around great woods of the world and a study of the wooden beams of his home, whilst all the time establishing literary leylines to all the great nature writers and thinkers, from Thoreau to Blythe. Finally, published posthumously as an abridged collection of diary entries over the years in the form of one contiguous story of a year, we have ‘Notes From Walnut Tree Farm’ – full of relentless curiosity, sharp eyed in its observation and absolute poetry to read. I was, and remain, deeply sad that he has gone.
In her book ‘Wild’, Cheryl Strayed ‘Cancer Vixen’ by Marisa Acocella Marcettofollows the popular trope of journey as metaphor for self discovery and the vehicle by which we can develop an enhanced intrapersonal relationship, and reinvigorated this category of travel writing in the process. In her new book ‘Walking Home: a Pilgrimage from Humbled to Healed’, Sonia Choquette marries the historical sense of pilgrimage with travel writing, reinterpreting what pilgrimage means for a spiritual as opposed to religious generation. Keen to regain her own spiritual footing after a series of personal life crises, Sonia sets out to walk the legendary Camino de Santiago, an 820-kilometer trek over the Pyrenees and across northern Spain in the footsteps of the many who went before her.
I bought ‘Cancer Vixen’ by Marisa Acocella Marchetto as soon as it came out, drawn to the quirky and distinctive style of this smart New York based graphic artist and writer and the intensity of her story-what happens when a shoe-crazy, lipstick-obsessed, wine-swilling, pasta-slurping, fashion-fanatic, about-to-get-married big-city girl cartoonist with a fabulous life finds . . . a lump in her breast? We laugh, cry and get angry alongside Marisa as she faces up to a potentially deadly disease, finds love, loses a lump and shows her not everyone’s reaction is one of kindness. Soon to be made into a film, it’s time to get re-acquainted with the book.
Smart, modern writing on London with a great design ethos is surprisingly hard to find but Penguin Modern Classics is soon to re-publish Iain Nairn’s classic treatise, ‘London’, a record of what ‘moved him’ between Uxbridge and Dagenham and an idiosyncratic, poetic and intensely subjective meditation on a city and its buildings. Seeing the beauty where others see dirt, possessed of an unerring eye for character beyond the obvious and vivid in its writing, this is one for anybody living there and all who adore this great city. Part travel, part food writing ‘In Search of the Perfect Loaf’ by Samuel Fromartz ticks both boxes emphatically well in my opinion. From Paris, to Berlin, to Kansas, we follow Sam on his quest as he shares his love for bread and the ‘baking secrets’ he learned along the way over four years. Perfecting sourdough and whole grain rye, meeting and picking the brains of historians, millers, farmers, wheat geneticists, sourdough biochemists, and everyone in between, learning about the history of breadmaking, the science of fermentation, Fromartz meets the needs of the bread geek in me and educates along the way too.
I am a sucker from travel writing set in the USA and one of my absolute favourites is by Martin Fletcher and several years old now. ‘Almost Heaven: Travels in Backwood America’ satisfies my craving for the ‘other’ America and the less glamorous (and less obvious) everyday encounters with people. Written after completing his assignment as The Times correspondent in Washington DC, Fletcher possesses a reporters eye for detail and an absolute instinct for the story. My favourite section? His visit to Angola state prison and the interview with the editor of the famous in-house newspaper ‘The Angolite’. In complete contrast, Frances Mayes of ‘A Year Under the Tuscan Sun’ decided to take time off from her bucolic Italian life and travel around Europe, casting her poets eye over the history, culture and landscape of Portugal, Italy, Spain, Turkey, France and North Africa among others. Her observations in ‘A Year in the World’ are informed, lyrical and full of her love of poetry and art, perfect for cold winter days, spent dreaming of warmer climes, by a fire. Buy a copy of the poems of Lorca and Neruda to read straight afterwards because she loves them and quotes them often.
‘Charming Package’ by Norman Rockwell, one of the paintings explored in Deborah Solomon’s book.
Lovers of Americana in art will devour ‘American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell’ by Deborah Solomon in which Rockwell’s dedication through periods of self-doubt, depression and marital tumult is both explored and paid tribute to. “It’s a fine story, how this odd and fastidious young man worked his way up through a cartoonish phase to become the most beloved American artist of the 20th century, his very name a byword for sentimental Americana — Main Street, the village church, the ball field, the soda fountain, the barbershop, the freckle-faced Boy Scout, the garrulous grandpa, the blushing bride — an odd-duck artist yearning for normalcy and community” writes Deborah Solomon, “a small-town Arcadia of his own imagining.” And Solomon tells this fine story in her own fine way too.
Margaret Forster is not the first writer to explore the nature of houses, home and their history with relation to their own lived experiences but in ‘My Life in Houses’ we are shocked out of our contented enjoyment of her reminiscences by the sharp intrusion of reality (and I will not give the game away here save to say is it not something I could have predicted). Forster understands that the home is the bedrock of social and economic history and that a roof and four walls comprise a psychological framework to human existence. From her humble beginnings in a Carlisle local authority house which nonetheless is seen as aspirational by her parents and her own yearning to live in the private houses nearby with indoor toilets to her current Highgate home, Forster ends this book with an assertion that a house has an indefinable influence: it both reflects its inhabitants and affords them something in return. That indefinable sense of home is what we return to in our minds and hearts and exists independently of its walls.
Llareta from the Atacama Desert in Chile and over 3000 years of age
The artist, photographer, and Guggenheim Fellow Rachel Sussman has been traveling the globe for the best part of a decade to discover and photograph Very Old Things or to be more precise, living things over 2,000 years old. She has now collected the most breathtaking of these into a single volume of photographs and essays in The Oldest Living Things in the World.This is a powerful and exquisite piece of work that transcends a single definition, covering science, art, philosophy and spirituality over seven continents. It asks us about the meaning of life when such aged organisms face destruction at the hands of humankind and intersperses such weighty matters with well written accounts of her adventures as she explores the world. This is a coffee table book that will actually get read, will spook, enthrall and educate.
Fiction and short stories
Busy people (especially parents), commuters or those with shorter attention spans can all maintain their engagement with the written word via stories in short form and I have recently had the pleasure of reading some great anthologies, recently published and not so. Always keen to promote East Anglian writers and publishers, I discovered Salt Publishing and had a look at their list. The ‘Best British Short Stories’, edited by Nicholas Boyle aims to reprint the best short stories published in the previous calendar year by British writers, whether based in the UK or elsewhere (their words) and includes pieces by Elizabeth Baines, Johanna Walsh, Christopher Priest and Jay Griffiths. The introduction itself, in which Royle explains his editing process, what was left out and why, is a masterpiece in itself. Baines little vignette with its descriptions of black lapping sea, mud flats and the smells of Autumn is particularly apropos for readers like me, based in the watery counties of East Anglia.
Vampires in the Lemon Grove
From presidents reincarnated as horses to Japanese girls, drugged and producing silk from their bodies, the stories of Karen Russell weave the everyday emotions of folks into fantastical magical realism in her short story collection ‘Vampires in the Lemon Grove‘ and in her debut, “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves”. If you like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, then giver her a try. If you fancy reading Russell in long form, then go for ‘Swamplandia’, a tale of a Floridian alligator wrestling park owning family, left adrift after the mothers illness and defection of the heroines big brother to a rival park. Fantasy of a different kind abounds in Terry Pratchetts latest Discworld novel ‘Raising Steam’, still going strong after 30 years as Ankh-Morpork branches into the railway age. Packed with in jokes and references from the earlier novels, it is written with all the sly humour his fans have come to expect.
‘All Our Names’ by By Dinaw Mengestu brings together a Midwestern social worker and a bereft African immigrant and explores their relationship of shared dependency with truth, sadness and a keen, unsparing eye. Dinaw Mengestu continues to explore the violent uprooting and uneasy exile of his two previous novels, Children of the Revolution and How to Read the Air in this tale, riven with passion and an unshared narrative of the past. Isaac is from Africa and Helen is his social worker lover, although Isaac’s true name is never revealed to us, or her. The real Isaac is left behind in Uganda where 10 years of postcolonial rule are about to affirm the dictatorship of Idi Amin.
November 2014 brings us the latest novel from Stephen King who appears to be on a ‘revitalised’ roll (bad pun-sorry) with book releases coming thick and fast. His last book, ‘Mr Mercedes’ marked a departure from fantasy fiction and his own genre of horror into the wilds of crime fiction and was, as to be expected, readable with no great departure from the usual tropes- disillusioned and troubled detective, woman who (nearly) saves him, yet it was laced with his characteristic detailed characterisation and use of cultural iconography to enrich the stories sense of place. ‘Revival’ returns however to familiar ground- a novel about addiction, religion, music and what might exist on the other side of life- small boys, charismatic ministers, the passage of time and a pact between an addicted rock musician and an onstage showman who creates dazzling portraits with lightning. Another ‘big beast’ of the literary world, Haruki Murakami, publishes ‘ The Strange Library’ in early December, a story narrated by a young man who follows a strange old man into a subterranean reading room in the local library. The man has an appetite for human brains and with only the company of a sheep man and a girl who talks with her hands, how is he going to escape?
Fans of Marilynne Robinson will be delighted to know that in ‘Lila’, her latest book, we return to the town of Gilead in a story about a girl who lived on the fringes of society in fear, awe, and wonder. Due out early October and talking of sequels, Rachel Joyces ‘The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy’ takes up the story of the woman Harold Fry planned to walk the length of England to see before she died. I like eerie tales, perfect for those nights as they draw in and this, from Kate Mosse called ‘The Mistletoe Bride‘ is named for the famous old folk tale that told of the bride who hid in a wooden chest to surprise her new husband and was never found, dying entombed as he hunted for her, evermore. As Mosse’s introduction states, some of the tales have been printed elsewhere previously, and at the end of each she provides an insight into their inspiration. She also tracks how these short tales show how she would later develop into the writer of books such as Labyrinth.
In Jane Smiley’s ‘Some Luck’ we meet Frank, a difficult character to base the first of a planned trilogy of fiction upon, for Frank is a bit of a loner and disrupter with fraught connections to the wider cast of family members that populate the story. This first part of that projected trilogy called ‘The Last Hundred Years’ follows the story of a farming family from Iowa-the Langdons- from the early twenties to the mid fifties with a chapter for each year. Covering vast events, the Depression and Second World War to the start of the atomic age, we see these through the prism of the novels shifting point of view and as readers, we are kept on our toes by a narrative device that makes it hard to know what is going to happen next, no matter what our pre-existing knowledge of the wider historical content may be. The facade of family life, what it reveals, conceals and distorts is beautifully set against American life.
To the lives now, of immigrants to the USA, pitching up in a housing complex in Delaware in Christina Henriquez’s ‘The Book of Unknown Americans’. Arturo Rivera was the owner of a construction company in Pátzcuaro, México. One day, as his beautiful fifteen-year-old daughter, Maribel, is helping him at a work site, she sustains an injury that casts doubt on whether she’ll ever be the same again. And so, leaving all they have behind, the Riveras come to America with a single dream: that in this country of great opportunity and resources, Maribel can get better. For Mayor Toro, the first glimpse of Maribel is love at first sight and the beginning of a friendship between the two families. Woven into their stories are the testimonials of men and women who have come to the United States from all over Central and Latin America, filled with hopes, dreams and sometimes, disappointment.
During the summer of 1929 four children come together and change the course of their lives forever in a novel by Doris Grumbach, ‘The Book of Knowledge’ which examines the ways that childhood experiences create transformative resonance that lasts throughout adulthood and beyond and in a lighter read altogether, we become reacquainted with ‘Emma’, the famous Austen busy body in this revisiting by Alexander McCall Smith.
Think about re-reading some of those famous eighties ‘sex and shopping’ novels, all of them pure trivial and enjoyable fun. Highly recommended is the uber-book of its age ‘Lace’ by Shirley Conran, a sumptuously elaborate ‘ages and stages novel’ set across continents featuring five women- four friends and the secret daughter of one of them. The scene with the goldfish is one that all us women who read it in the eighties will remember. Others of that time include pretty much the entire oeuvre of Judith Krantz- ‘Scruples‘ and its sequels plus her ‘Princess Daisy‘ and ‘I’ll Take Manhattan’ The Watershed’ by Erin Pizzey and the many novels of Rona Jaffe but particularly ‘Class Reunion’, ‘After the Reunion’ and ‘The Best of Everything‘. ‘Decades’ by Ruth Harris and the ages and stages novels of Eric Segal’ -‘Doctors’ and ‘The Class’ are also worth reading too. All of these are effortless pleasure after the economic and time consuming vagaries of the festive season. Put on your pyjamas, a pair of woolly socks, sink into the sofa with some Christmas chocolates, a warm blanket and indulge yourself.
And finally, to some beautiful books that transcend age groups. The Folio Society produces over four hundred titles, all special or limited edition commissions of classic books for all age groups. With introductions from leading literary figures such as Jeannette Winterson and Michael Morpugo and illustrated by award winning artists and designers, these books with exquisitely set type, protective slipcases, premium paper and bindings are destined to be read, re-read and handed down like the treasures they are. Our choice? Charlottes Web with illustrations by Garth Williams in the classic style of the original and Ballet Shoes, introduced by Jacqueline Wilson and illustrated by Inga Moore. For adults, the stylish redesign of Truman Capote’s ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ with an introduction by Jay McInerney and artwork by Canadian Karen Klassen will definitely appeal. The blue cat on the spine of this edition is adorable and if American history is your passion, then the ‘History of the Indians of the United States‘ by Angie Debo with the sepia tinted cover image and gold and navy blue embossing, bound in buckram makes this meaty read something to treasure. For another sort of American history coupled with travel writing, Alistair Cooke’s ‘Letter from America’ is introduced by broadcaster James Naughtie and is bound on covers of cloth printed with a resplendent panorama of mid century New York City.
Charles Phoenix New Book: Addicted To Americana On Sale Now!
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 4/18/2018 – “Everywhere I go, I look at what’s unique about that town, what makes that town special. I have a theme park sensibility, so I look for the attractions, the talking points. The hidden treasures, collectables, where is the “there, there” there. What makes these towns unique. This book basically represents the highlights of all of those,” Charles Phoenix told The Hollywood Times today during a telephone interview.
The Hollywood Times (THT): “What have you been up to?”
Charles Phoenix (Charles): “I just got back from Austin, Texas. It was really, really fun. I mean this is a town that has completely embraced the Americana ascetic, the very vintage, retro and classic roadside American style. I called it “ramshackle roadside relic sheek” it’s kind of it. There is a music thing played everywhere, it’s a very indoors/outdoors kind of restaurants and old honky-tonk. They really embrace their lore there. They put it up on a pedestal and I love that. I love when towns treat themselves like a theme park.”
THT: Did you have a road show there?
Charles Phoenix Chicken neon sign in Austin Texas
Charles: “No, actually I had a book signing there.”
THT: So you were out promoting this amazing, wonderful and addictive book?
Charles: “Thank you, I’m glad that you like it. I am very proud of it and worked very hard on it. It was 25 years in the making, literally. All the travels, all the collecting of other people’s Kodachrome slides, which I started to do in 1992. This whole book is a combination of my travels and my collections of other people’s old slides and the stories that came along with them.”
THT: Talk about your live shows:
Charles: “I have an enthusiastic delivering of the material when I am live onstage talking about it. I have covered many elements of mid-century American culture, then and now. I think what people really love about my show is my enthusiasm. I think enthusiasm is a very saleable commodity and I have the enthusiasm for it! I have the info to back it up. I have been doing my retro slide show live onstage for over 20 years now and I have many topics and subjects, depending on what city I am performing, and the shows have various names. I always try to include stuff from the city that I am in, either vintage images or new images of vintage places, Mom and Pop shops, unsung local landmarks and maybe unnoticed local heroes and local foods. I also cover shopping malls, which is certainly on the change now, which makes them kind of interesting topic. There is a lot in this book and I am kind of shocked looking at it myself, frankly!”
THT: Talk a little about the history of your new book.
Charles: “This whole book represents treasure hunting. Looking for Americana, is what it is in search of. I go in search of it on two levels, both physically, by going out in the world and finding it and finding vintage images of it. In my case, I collect vintage Kodachrome slides and I have been collecting them since 1992. I first stumbled upon a collection in a thrift store in Pasadena and it was a little blue shoebox that I spotted and it said “Trip Across the United States 1957, which was on the side of it. I was originally attracted to the box, because it was an old-looking shoebox. I picked it up and there was a whole box full of some families slides from the trip across the United States in 1957. I held a few up and I knew immediately that this was a treasure with my name on it. So I was completely smitten from that moment on and I haven’t stopped collecting other people’s old Kodachrome slides since. I call my collection the “slibrary,” and I have a “slibrarian.” She has basically been organizing the entire thing for about 15 years now. This is in part the reason how I was able to do this book, because I have a lot of really unusual rare images. I take great pride in my territorial skills both out in the field and going out to find what is interesting and what isn’t.”
THT: You are like an investigator.
Charles: “I love playing detective to find the stuff, I love going to a town and having a hunt for something. There is always some treasure that has gone missing, a car, a vintage neon sign or something that needs to be portable in some way that deserves to be found. Occasionally I wind up going in search of some treasure that has been misplaced or no one knows where it went. Sometimes I recover them and occasionally they’re gone for good.”
I asked Charles if he had photos from when he was young and he said very few, because nobody in his family was a photographer. “I have to rely on other people’s photos, not my own,” Charles said.
Charles also has a line of his and her clothing called Sir Charles of Phoenix, which are retro inspired. Check it out here: https://www.pinupgirlclothing.com/pinup-girl-clothing-brands/charles-phoenix-for-couture-for-every-body.html
THT: Do you have any live stage shows coming up?
Charles: “Yes. I have one coming up in Las Vegas this weekend at the Orleans and another one in June called Catalinaland. A show all about the story and the glory of Catalina. It is going to be held inside the epic art deco theatre which is inside the legendary iconic casino building there on Catalina. That is going to be a rare threat to get inside that casino building and into that art deco theatre. That is coming up June 10th.”
“What I am covering is uniquely American, for the most part and it’s a part of our culture that isn’t fading away but is fading away, but not completely! That is why I am covering it. I think it is really an underrated time in our history and the type of stuff that I am covering is very underrated in the scheme of things and very under covered historically. It was made in the USA.”
“What a great idea, a book to share with your children and grandchildren. Get this book and share it with them. Make it a point to take a vacation to find these treasures, create your own memories with your children and grandchildren. What wonderful gift to give to your parents/grandparents, so that they can share memories of some of these places they may have seem in their early days. A great Mothers Day gift. This is such a colorful book, and belongs on everyone’s coffee table in every living room across America. We need a book like “Addicted to Americana” in our lives, color, nostalgia, American history and it’s fantastic,” The Hollywood Times.
Here is my favorite picture from the book:
Charles Phoenix is a showman, tour guide, food crafter, and author. He is known for his live comedy slide show performances, madcap Test Kitchen videos, “field trip” tours, and colorful coffee table books, all celebrating classic and kitschy American life and style. On TV, Charles has appeared as a judge on Food Network’s Cake Wars: Christmas. He’s also guested on Storage Wars, Jay Leno’s Garage, Conan, and Martha Stewart, and is often heard on NPR. The Los Angeles Times says, “Call him the King of Retro,” and LA Weekly anointed him “the Kodachrome King.”
Growing up in Ontario, California Charles was educated at theme parks, shopping malls, and his dad’s used car lots. As a teen he discovered thrift shops, which led to a lifelong vintage shopping spree. He calls thrift shops “schools of style, museums of merchandise, and the perfect place to study the underbelly of our mass consumerism culture.”
After moving to Los Angeles and enjoying careers as a fashion designer and classic car dealer, his life changed forever — in a thrift shop — when he discovered a shoebox full of vintage Kodachrome slides marked “Trip Across the United States, 1957.” Collecting orphaned vintage slide photography soon became an obsession that inspired his retro slide show performance career, beginning in 1998.
Charles’ slide show performances are supercharged, laugh-out-loud celebrations of retro American pop culture. Fans from coast to coast enjoy his spirited story telling, gracious wit and sharp eye for oddball detail.
He covers a dizzying array of subjects and themes, projecting both vintage Kodachrome images and contemporary photos documenting his retro road trip discoveries.
No two shows are ever the same. Many performances are tailored specifically to highlight the region he’s performing in, inspiring newfound appreciation for underrated local landmarks, unique attractions, “mom-and-pop” businesses, and extreme architecture.
Charles’ popular “Disneyland” Tour of Downtown Los Angeles proves the heart and soul of the city is like a great big theme park. Touring vintage landmarks and themed environments — including Old Chinatown, Olvera Street, Clifton’s Cafeteria, Angels Flight, Bob Baker Marionette Theater, Carroll Avenue and more, he proves “Southern California doesn’t have one Disneyland, it has two!” He also leads tours of Palm Spring’s iconic mid-century modern architecture during Modernism Week.
BIG RETRO SLIDE SHOW VIVA LAS VEGAS
Big Retro Slide Show Extravaganza
April 20, 2018 & April 22, 2018
Orleans Hotel Showroom
4500 W Tropicana Ave
Las Vegas, NV
Prepare for your national pride to swell when Ambassador of Americana, Charles Phoenix, launches retro pop culture into the stratosphere! With his keen expertise, unbridled enthusiasm and eagle eye for oddball detail, Charles shares the very best of his retro road-trip discoveries and colorful kaleidoscope of found vintage Kodachrome slides from the pages of his latest book, Addicted to Americana.
This is a marvelous mashup of mid-century of stories and glories of spectacular space-age style, amazing attractions, local landmarks, roadside wonders, festive foods, crazy car culture, futuristic transportation and more galore all in glorious Kodachrome COLOR! Your imagination will be inspired and your American spirit will soar!
NOTE: each show is different. Check Event schedule for show times.
CHARLES PHOENIX CATALINALAND
June 10, 2018 at 2:00 p.m.
Live Retro Slide Show Performance Celebrating SoCal’s Enchanted Island!
Avalon Casino Theatre
1 Casino Way
Avalon, CA 90704
Catalina Island Museum presents … Ambassador of Americana, Charles Phoenix, at the iconic Casino’s spectacular 1929 Art Deco movie palace.
Be prepared for your Catalina loving’ spirit to SOAR when Charles sweeps us away on a time-travel storytelling and retro slide show adventure extravaganza exploring the island’s classic landmarks, legends and lore.
Experience the backstories and glories of the S.S. Avalon, glass bottom boat, flying fish, Bird Park, Catalina Pottery, vintage souvenirs, Casino, Wrigley family, the mysterious Catalina-shaped swimming pool, and much more.
Charles also shares his vintage guide to today’s Catalina sightseeing, shopping, dining, and where to find the Island’s hidden treasures, time warps, and what not to miss as you discover Catalina as a great big theme park!
The performance is two-acts with an intermission. Festive dress is encouraged but not expected.
Aftershow Cake & Book Signing Party
You are invited to meet Charles following the performance at the Catalina Island Museum. Copies of his latest book, Addicted to Americana, will be available for purchase.
Charles is the author of many colorful, collectible coffee table books celebrating mid-century Southern California, Las Vegas, Hawaii, Kodachrome road trips and his native Pomona Valley. His latest is Addicted to Americana!
About Charles Phoenix
Addicted to Americana, author, chef, and retro pop culture humorist Charles Phoenix celebrates classic and kitschy American life and style. He is known for his live comedy slide show performances, eye-popping “test kitchen” videos, and colorful coffee table books.
On TV he is a judge on Food Network’s Cake Wars, and has appeared with Jay Leno, Martha Stewart, and Conan O’Brian. He is often heard on NPR.
Fans enjoy his clever spin and genuine reverence for Americana and trust his guide to attractions from coast to coast.
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