The French Broad
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  • February9th

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  • February22nd

    Breaking News!  February 21, 2012

    KITHCEN ABOUT TO COME TO LIFE

    COUNTY FUNDS GO – KITCHEN READY TRAINING PROGRAM

    From the Project Director:

    Yesterday afternoon, the Green Opportunities “GO – Kitchen Ready Training” program achieved Low Earth Orbit, after a successful lift-off earlier this year.  GO Mission Control, located at the W.C. Reid Center on Livingston Street announced the support of the Buncombe County Commissioners.  County support was unanimous for start up funding for the project, propelling the program into its final stage before the start of classes.

    There are many tasks remaining prior to the first class – student applications have been coming in everyday and the program is assured of being full.  AB Tech has been accepting applications for chef-instructor over the past week and interviewing for that position will begin next week.  Finally, kitchen rennovations and equipment placement will need to happen quickly, to meet a late March or early April deadline.  Based on the projects progress to date, these goals will be met.

    A big “thanks” to the Commissioners and the County Manager for taking quick action in support of this workforce development project.  Knowing the challenges they face, balancing the needs of our community, the County’s support is no small thing.  Much work remains for our first class to begin, Tuesday’s action has guaranteed the training will take place this spring.

    Read more about the GO – Kitchen Ready program in Mackensy Lunsford’s MountainX report: “Ready to Take Off”.

    To say it again – THANK YOU! Buncombe County.

    -Mark Rosenstein GO-KITHCEN READY Project Manager

  • January12th

    THE FULL PRESS RELEASE

    GO-Kitchen Ready Program To Provide Launching Pad For Food Service Careers And Life Skills Training

    ASHEVILLE, NC (January 10, 2012) – An innovative joint venture between Green Opportunities, Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina, Inc., Asheville City Schools Foundation, AB-Technical Community College, the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association and MANNA FoodBank will provide career opportunities in the food service industry, life skills training and potential job placement for future students of the new GO – Kitchen Ready Training Program.

    The program, managed by Green Opportunities, will offer training in basic food service and technical skills in culinary, baking, food safety and sanitation, nutrition instruction, food vocabulary and kitchen math. A portion of the class will focus on such life skills training as interviewing, job search and retention skills, resume writing and management of personal finances. The use of local food products will be a key component of the program.

    Students completing the program will be certified with “kitchen-ready” skills, including a SERV-SAFE certification and a mentoring program supported by Asheville area restaurants. GO, in association with the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association, Goodwill Industries and Asheville City Schools Foundation, will provide job placement support.

    Classes are scheduled to begin in March 2012 and will be held Monday through Thursday on the campus of William Randolph School. The curriculum includes 192 hours of hands-on kitchen instruction as well as 96 hours of classroom instruction over a twelve-week period. Two twelve-week sessions will be conducted in the first year of the program and classes will be limited to 15 students.

    Costs for participating in the program will be covered for qualified applicants. GO will use the training to produce meals for distribution through MANNA FoodBank as well as for some school meals for students and their families at William Randolph School.

    The GO Kitchen-Ready program is modeled after similar programs in other communities organized under the umbrella of Catalyst Kitchens, a network of organizations with a shared vision of empowering lives through job training, self-generating revenue through social enterprise and nourishing bodies and minds through quality food service. The Asheville initiative was launched with a start-up financial gift from the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association, with leadership and vision for the project originating with Michel Baudouin of Bouchon Restaurant. Other key supporters of the project are Steve Frabitore of Tupelo Honey Cafe, Anthony Cerrato of Fiore’s and BB&T.

    Mark Rosenstein, founder and former owner of The Market Place, is spearheading the research, development and launch of the Asheville program as its project manager.

    Green Opportunities is an Asheville-based nonprofit organization dedicated to improving lives, communities and the environment through innovative green collar job training and placement programs.  The Asheville Independent Restaurant Association’s mission is to unite the independent restaurant community as committed to local people, local philanthropies, local businesses, local food and the local economy through genuine food and signature hospitality.

    For more information about the program: GO – KITCHEN READY or contact Mark Rosenstein at 828-335-3328 or mark@greenopportunities.org

  • January11th

    The next food trend is for everyone.  I call it “One Simple Truth.”

    Earlier this month I was contacted by Mackensy Lunsford.  She wanted to pick my brain about “big ideas” in food trends.  Needless to say, Food constantly is on my mind.  I shared my thoughts in an article for Mountain Express (read the article here).

    Her email came at the same moment that Green Opportunities (GO), Asheville City Schools, AB Technical Community College, MANNA Food Bank and Goodwill Industries of NW North Carolina had a meeting of the minds resulting in a training program, which was initiated by Michel Baudouin of Bouchon and supported by the Asheville Independent Restaurant association (AIR).  I have been working on the project for a year-and-a-half, resulting in the adoption of the proposal by GO on December 13.  Today, the project has been formally announced.  GO-Kitchen Ready Press Release

    The AIR led initiative is a pivotal event.  In the time I have been working on this project I have learned much and have arrived at a new relationship with Food.  I  learned is that food based training for individuals at risk has been happening for more than 25 years.  Here in Buncombe County, ABCCM and AB Tech have been collaborating for over 5 years, training veterans at the Veterans Restoration Quarters in east Asheville, the project is led by Eric Cox and Rachael Wilson. Culinary training is ongoing at Craggy Prison, AB Tech supports that as well.

    The first part of my food adventure was taken up with the creative and the particular.  The second, mature adventure will be about wholesome food for everyone.  It is no surprise that I will be training individuals at risk and working on  cooking based family training. Running a restaurant has many parrellels to both of these endeavors. It is a natural progression.

    Wholesome food habits are the foundation of good health.  I mean this is the broadest sense possible – physical, mental, spiritual, and communal.  If I had been lucky enough to be one of the framers of the Constitution, the First Bill of Rights would be access to wholesome food.  Then, you would be free to talk about it (like the French who are either talking about what they are eating, what they ate or what they are going to eat). Culinary training, on many levels, is keystone.

    Wholesome food cannot be an exclusive club.

    As we are getting ready to launch the GO – Kitchen Ready Training program, I want to thank everyone who has pulled together to make the project happen.  The board of AIR had the vision to support the feasibility study and the formation of the steering committee.  The work of steering committee comprised of Michel, Rick Jackson, Tom Ruff, Sheila Tilman, Kitty Schaller and Jen Waite was awesome.  Allen Johnson, Fletcher Comer and Eric Howard at Asheville City Schools worked to make the William Randolph campus available for the training.  AB Tech is providing instruction and Josh Pierce at Goodwill has been nothing but supportive.  Two chefs – Eric Cox and Jeff Bacon have shared everything they have learned form their own training programs.Giant thanks to Dan Leroy and Dewayne Barton of GO for taking the project on.  There are many others who have stepped up.

    As Allen Johnson, Superintendent of ACS said the other day, “it sure is nice to be working on a project that everyone is pulling together on.”  But, best and most humbling are the people I have met who are in training.

    Thank you.

    -Mark Rosenstein

  • November20th

    BENNIE,  Your phone call this week has been on my mind.  I completely understand how you feel, some days you wake up and question your self worth.  I have been doing that for fiftynine years two hundred and seventytwo days.  We all do.  There are two intertwined emotions that can jump up and are hard to shake: doubt and fear.  Anyone who claims not to experience them are in denial or they are compensating with another behavior, usually by bragging or picking on someone else.

    So, I have another song to share with you.  It is one of my theme songs.  I realize that it is ALWAYS playing in my head, but often is drowned out by those bad vibes I let creep in – especially from other people.  I never knew where the song came from until today.  I looked it up because I only know bits and pieces of the lyrics.  The song is I Whistle a Hapypy Tune and I found out it came from the Broadway musical The King and IThe King and I was based on Margaret Landon’s novel, Anna and the King of Siam. I have never seen the play or the movie, so I have no idea how it got into my head.

    Whenever I feel afraid
    I hold my head erect
    And whistle a happy tune
    So no one will suspect
    I’m afraid.

    I can hear you saying it: “Cheesey”.

    You are right, it is cheesey, but amazing how a few words can stick.  I don’t even know the melody, but I sing it anyway, I’m singing it now.

    Just like the encouragement to “keep your chin up” is equally cheesey, it works. I can’t say it eradicates the dark seed of doubt, but it sure changes things. Little practices can have big results.

    Make believe you’re brave
    And the trick will take you far.
    You may be as brave
    As you make believe you are

    You may be as brave
    As you make believe you are

    The other thing that is important to remember, I think you are fantastic.  It is ok to feel the way you do, but when it starts to get you down, just whistle.

    Love, Boomer.

     

     

  • November9th

    A 20 minute video of the Blind Pig dinner in September.  A night to remember.

  • November1st

    ONE SIMPLE TRUTH

    Email from Bennie, Sunday October 29, 2011

    celebrated my b-day with my friends last night and i had an absolute blast. we didn’t really do much of anything but eat greasy Chinese take out and drink lots of cream soda. what i’m discovering more and more is how much i enjoy sitting at a table with friends and eating ( even if i didn’t cook the meal) me and my friends sat there for a good 2 hours talking, laughing and making stupid jokes….it was an absolute blast that i wouldn’t trade for the world. there’s something very connecting for me to eat with people, eating by myself is so depressing and when i sit down and munch away with friends i feel so fucking good!!! we were all eating each others food and sharing egg roles and it was awesome. i plan to stay in touch with these people, they’re my Guilford family and i feel so good with them, they like me for me and that, let me tell ya, is a rare and beautiful thing. i can be 100% bennie around them and not feel stupid for being weird and corky…because they are too!

    xoxo’s
    #2#1
    ps~ i know the storm clouds will clear, i know this, i do, i just wish it would happen faster is all.

     

    #2#1,

    Yeah, eating alone sucks sometimes.

    I had dinner with friends last night as well.  A big topic of discussion was food, sitting at the table with family and the writing that you and I are sharing.  We also laughed a lot and finally decided to call it a night so we could rest our stomach muscles.

    Having spent my adult life cooking professionally, running a restaurant, I came to realize what is important is not the food or my culinary skill as it was about bringing people together around the table.  The common lore is that the “hearth is the center of the home”, this is mostly true. It should be the “Table” is the center of home and community. (One of the reasons why I insisted on a “family meal” at work prior to our evening shift).

    A few years back when your sister was just joining Teach For America, I had a young waiter, Justin, planning on a teaching career.  He was at UNC-A in his senior year. The topic of discussion at family meal one evening was the importance of teaching and teachers.  I know I have told you this story before, as well as similar “table stories“, but it is worth repeating.

    Justin recounted what he had just learned in class that day.  “At the end of third grade, the state of North Carolina conducts end-of-year testing.  The results of that testing are used to plan how many jail cells to build in 12 years, as they are able to predict future outcomes for these children, based on their test results.”  This was disturbing news.  He continued; “in addition to that, there are two main factors that predict success on the test, first; the socioeconomic status of the child and second; what they eat!”  I was floored.  It was hard to believe, it still drops my jaw.

    I asked Brenna about this and she confirmed this to be a “fact” that TFA bandied about in their message.

    Over the next few months, I searched the internet for the exact citation of this finding, even contacting TFA.  I have never been able to verify that particular fact.

    A few months ago, I was contacted to submit a proposal for a TED talk here in Asheville.  Of course I thought about our own experience of “recreating the home cooked meal in the 21st century” – Bennie and Boomer’s story as a topic.  The importance of food, what we cook and how we cook it is always present in my thinking.  I needed to sharpen this thought and find the essential truth.

    So back to my research about the influence of food on children’s lives.

    This time, I was far more successful in finding quantitative research that confirmed what I have known intuitively for a long time.

    Here’s what I found.  There were five major studies published around the end of the 20th century, big stuff: Council of Economic Advisors, Harvard Medical School, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, and Columbia University.  From there, I dove into the local reports about food issues in Buncombe County.

    None of them said exactly what Justin and Brenna said.  They said more, tons more.  And they all said the same thing, “More mealtime at home is the single strongest factor in better achievement scores and fewer behavioral problems in children of all ages.”

    The findings reported that children who spent five dinners at the table with at least one parent had greater academic success, better psychological adjustment, lower rates of alcoholism, drug use, early sexual behavior and suicidal risk.  Levels of obesity were also reduced and a healthier diet was followed. This was the golden nugget of truth.  I titled my TED talk “ONE SIMPLE TRUTH”.

    A fact of life is that our eating habits reflect the dysfunctional nature of our culture.  According to a study published this August, in Western North Carolina 29% of school age children go hungry.  Additionally, in Bunbcombe County grades K – 5, 30% are overweight or obese.  Looking only at fifth grade that number jumps to 39%!  This is bizarre.  60% of school age children suffer from a debilitating diet.  Even more bizarre, if we could help parents and children sit down and dine together 30 minutes a day 5 days a week, we would be well on our way to solving so many other problems.

    Frank Zappa was right – kill your TV set, or in this case your gameboy, xbox, smartphone and all the other distractions that impose on mealtime.  Instead, we have killed the family table, we have destroyed the ritual of the shared meal.

    I am convinced that this simple truth has an even broader affect.  I believe that sitting down to dine – meaning taking the time to be present at the meal with no distractions, benefits anyone who joins the Table.  I have even come to believe that while it is important WHAT we eat, it is even more vital HOW we eat, which is to say, take our time and share.

    We have work to do.

    I apologize for telling this story again.  You email and your messages of sharing food with your friends bring real joy to me.  To quote you “there’s something very connecting for me to eat with people.”

    I didn’t get selected for TED this year, something about they only had room for a science talk.

     

    -Boomer

     

    Here’s the research:

    Changes in American Children’s Time 1981 – 1997, Sandra L. Hofferth & John F. Sandberg, University of Michigan 1999

    Teens and Their Parents in the 21st Century: An Examination in Teen Behavior and The Role of Parental Involvement, Council of Economic Advisors, Federal Government 2000

    Family Dinner and Diet Among Older Children and Adolescents, Matthew W. Gillman, M.D., et al, Harvard University 2000

    The Importance of Family Dinner, Colombia University, The National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse 203-2011 (on going research)

    Correlations Between Family Meals and Psychosocial Well-Being Among Adolescents, Marla E. Eisenberg, ScD, et al, University of Minnesota 2004

     

    And here’s a simple soup.

    Take a small (coconut sized) squash, (I used a sunshine squash because I like the sweetness of that variety) and put it on a foil lined baking sheet.  Put it in the oven whole at 350° F for about 45 minutes.  You have to check it once in awhile.  Roast it until it is soft when you squeeze it.  It may even crack and begin to weep a little liquid, but no more.  Let it cool.  Cut it in half and scoop out the seeds, (you can wash the seeds and roast them if you like, sprinkled with a little salt or curry powder or ground ancho chili powder they make tasty snacks – cheap ones) then scoop out the flesh and mash it with a fork or potato masher.

    Peel and cut two large potatoes into ½” cubes.  Cut two leeks into thin circles, washing out any dirt.  In a saucepan, heat some oil or butter, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan.  Add the leeks, cook over medium heat until they are soft, add the potatoes and the mashed squash.  Cover with chicken stock, vegetable stock or plain water.  Add one teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of ground pepper.  Bring to a simmer, stir a few times and cook everything until it is quite soft and you can mash it up.  Taste it and add more salt and pepper if necessary.  Serve it with a salad, piece of good bread. You can add some ½ & ½ to it.  Yesterday at lunch, I chopped up some of the blanched greens that I cooked on Saturday and ate the remainder of the pumpkin brownie, sat it the sun.  It made eating alone not so bad and clean up was easy.

     

     

     

     

  • October30th

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Takin’ To The Streets

    Bennie,

    I hope you read your aunt’s response to “On the Edge” as well as Dan’s.  Some of my thoughts follow.

    I know what you are feeling.  Seems like I am standing on the same precipice, just at a different spot.  A lifetime in the restaurant business, gobs of experience and ten thousand connections and still I struggle day to day, trying to gain a new momentum.  So, when I read Tina and Dan’s letters to you, I felt they were written to me as well.  Funny how life is.

    We are in a storm, a worldwide storm, and this storm is causing wide spread destruction.  We can’t stop it.  This much is certain, it will pass and there will be a new dawn.  What is less certain is how you and I come out of it.  Some of my days have been dark, but it never remains, I always am able to find the bright spot.  So it is O.K. to fret, but don’t fret too much or too long.

    In 1970, I was a sophomore at Northwestern University.  Students around the country were protesting the war in Vietnam.  At Kent State University on May 4, 1970 four students; Allison Krause, Sandra Scheuer, Jeffery Miller and William Schroeder were murdered by a group of National Guardsman, nine other students were injured.  This led to a student strike at Northwestern, which effectively closed the school, the remainder of the term.  It was a time of turmoil and uncertainty.

    During our strike, students barricaded Sheridan Road, the main road through Evanston. I was a photographer for the yearbook.  To gain perspective of the crowd gathered in front of the library on Deering Meadow, I was perched out a second story balcony window, looking out over the crowd and facing Sheridan Road.  We heard rumors that the National Guard had been called out.  Close friends beside me, we speculated if our own deaths were imminent.  Fortunately, the Guard never materialized, nor did they later that day at a large rally at our football stadium. Except for one incident, the student protest at NWU was non-violent. .

    The nation-wide campus protests of May 1970 brought a new level of attention to the anti-war sentiment of the American public; in this way, they were responsible in some part for the eventual withdrawal of American forces from Vietnam in 1973.

    It was the summer 0f 1970 that I moved to North Carolina. Having taken to the streets, I then took to the mountains.

    There is a different war out there today.  It is a more subtle enemy, but equally ingrained in our behavior as the war of violence.  It is the war of greed.  Both require a similar response – nonviolent protest.  I found myself surprised and dismayed in 2008, wondering where your generation was – the country was involved in a war of insanity in Iraq and Afghanistan.  No protest, no one in the streets.  (I am still trying to comprehend the rationale for these wars, as I was in 1970 regarding Vietnam.)  Fortunately, today, there is a howl against greed that is gaining ground.  We are out of balance, as we were in 1970.

    I understand that this war of greed is not your chosen war.  Your war is the war of social injustice and you are protesting that injustice. The war of social injustice is also the war of financial inequality. Greed is part of both wars.

    You think a year goes by quickly, imagine what the passing of forty years of cooking is like – pssst, a puff of steam and cracker burnt to carbon.  Having spent that time at the stove, stirring pots and making friends, following my passion has put me exactly where I planned to be as I dreamt of the future.  The world of cooking has become a tiny soap box to stand on, not a very tall one.  This does not matter.  The box is made of the wood of integrity, balance and compassion.  It was never for money, though sometimes I wish it were (like how to afford that new hip?).  Now, after all that rattling around, the few things I have to say, when I stand on the little platform, the truths I am trying to share are listened to and considered.  I can ask for no more.  Your real work is the same, to find those truths, test them with the fire of life and carry them forward, making your realm better than the way you found it.

    So you see, there really isn’t much to worry about.  There is ample work in the days following school.  You seek truth, justice and equality.  There is no greater goal. Will it land you a job?  Will it pay your student loans?  Most likely not.  Those things are kinda important, but they are not essentially important. What matters it that you are finding your passion.  You have youthful energy, intelligence and the search for truth on your side.  And my respect and love.

    What’s ahead is time in the streets.  See you there.

    -Boomer

    Some Other Matters: You shared some of your music with me.  I have two songs for you: Volunteers by Jefferson Airplane and Something Happening Here by Buffalo Springfield.

    Here are the lyrics.

    Volunteers

    Look what’s happening out in the streets
    Got a revolution Got to revolution
    Hey I’m dancing down the streets
    Got a revolution Got to revolution
    Ain’t it amazing all the people I meet
    Got a revolution Got to revolution
    One generation got old
    One generation got soul
    This generation got no destination to hold
    Pick up the cry
    Hey now it’s time for you and me
    Got a revolution Got to revolution
    Come on now we’re marching to the sea
    Got a revolution Got to revolution
    Who will take it from you
    We will and who are we
    We are volunteers of America

    Something Happening Here

    There’s something happening here
    What it is ain’t exactly clear
    There’s a man with a gun over there
    Telling me I got to beware

    I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
    Everybody look what’s going down

    There’s battle lines being drawn
    Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
    Young people speaking their minds
    Getting so much resistance from behind

    I think it’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
    Everybody look what’s going down

    What a field-day for the heat
    A thousand people in the street
    Singing songs and carrying signs
    Mostly say, hooray for our side

    It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
    Everybody look what’s going down

    Paranoia strikes deep
    Into your life it will creep
    It starts when you’re always afraid
    You step out of line, the man come and take you away

    We better stop, hey, what’s that sound

    Everybody look what’s going down
    Stop, hey, what’s that sound
    Everybody look what’s going down
    Stop, now, what’s that sound
    Everybody look what’s going down
    Stop, children, what’s that sound
    Everybody look what’s going down

    Finally, what I had for dinner tonight.  After all, I am supposed to be helping you with cooking.

    Of course, I shopped at the tailgate this morning, elitist foodie-pig that I am. (More on THAT later).  I bought 3 very large heads of greens – tatsoi, lacinato kale and Russian kale, a bunch of carrots, a bunch of turnips, one pound of onions, one pound of butterball potatoes, two sunshine squash, a loaf of heirloom grit bread, a tub of fresh goat cheese and a brownie.  I spent $44, ($6 for the bread, $8 for the cheese and $3 for the brownie, $15 for the greens and the remainder on potatoes, carrots and turnips and sunshine squash).  When I got home I immediately put on a large pot of salted water and blanched all the greens, rinsed them with cold water, allowed them to drain, dried them and put them in the refrigerator.  They will keep well until Wednesday and are ample for 7 or 8 meals.  I cut the loaf of bread in half, wrapped it well in foil and froze half of it.  It might not last until Wednesday, but I am cooking tomorrow or Monday and will make another loaf, which will only cost 75¢ in materials.

    So for dinner, I cut 2 potatoes into quarters, put them in a small roasting dish, tossed them with 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, dusted them with some salt, pepper and paprika.  Into the oven at 400° F for twenty minutes, then added one small onion sliced (I know you hate onion, actually it was a leek I had out of the garden), and roasted them for another 30 minutes at a reduced temperature of 350° F.  I took them out of the oven while I went upstairs and took a shower.  Came down, chopped a handful of the greens, tossed them into the same roasting pan, a little salt and pepper and back in the oven for 10 minutes.  Out of the oven, some toasted sesame seeds on the greens, sliced a piece of bread; which I spread with half a tablespoon of goat cheese.  This was dinner.  Dessert was half of the pumpkin brownie.  I am guessing total cost was about $4.  I am full and happy.  Two pots to clean up, the one I boiled the water in to cook the greens and the small roasting dish.

    Breakfast will be coffee, a piece of toast with goat cheese and fig preserves.  Lunch, some sunshine squash soup I made yesterday, bread, a little cheese and an apple.

    -Boomer