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ICA: Garces vs. Pomeroy

Someone call the FBI and cancel the APB on Jose Garces!  Last year’s Next Iron Chef winner makes an appearance with just his third battle as an Iron Chef.

Naomi Pomeroy on WannabeTVchef.comChef Naomi Pomeroy comes to town to do battle from her acclaimed restaurant Beast in Portland, Oregon.  Beast is a six-course prix-fixe restaurant that celebrates the glories of meat.  The menu changes based on what is in season with one exception, a footnote that reads “Substitutions politely declined.”  Amen!

Fresh off an appearance on the Cooking Channel’s Food(ography) in June, this one-time vegetarian now boasts a meat-centric menu that recently landed her in O Magazine as one of “10 Women on the Rise.”  In 2009 Food & Wine honored Pomeroy with a Best New Chef Award for the cuisine she calls “refined French grandmother.”  In 2008 Portland Monthly magazine named her, Chef of the Year.  That same year she was one of six ladies featured in a Food & Wine article entitled Women Chefs: The Next Generation and the restaurant she co-owns with Micah Camden, Beast, was named co-Restaurant of the Year by Diner.

Chef Naomi is a genuine individual crediting neither apprenticeship nor culinary school for her success but rather reading.  She is obsessed with cookbooks and food history.  She attributes Richard Olney, Larousse and Harold McGee for her culinary education.  She is famous for her Smoky Tomato Soup with Maple-Candied Bacon.  Her cuisine was once described by Karen Brooks of the Oregonian as being like, “a blind date between Julia Child and Anthony Bourdain.”

Pomeroy’s appearance should squelch rumors that Jose Garces is no longer on the show.  Or does it?  In a June interview at OregonLive.com Pomeroy reveals that the episode was actually shot in October of ’09.  Probably around the same time that the other Garces battles would have been taped.  So again the questions pops up, “Is Garces still an Iron Chef?”  Why are they doing The Next Iron Chef 3?  The plot thickens.

The judges for Battle Truffle were Jose Andres, Karine Bakhoum and Jeffrey Chodorow.

Click HERE for the outcome.

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Past NFNS Finale Foul-ups

This Sunday night is the final of season six of the Next Food Network Star.  The finalist are Aarti, Herb and Tom but I’m guessing you already knew that.  The fact that the show has only produced one legitimate star in it’s first five tries has not stopped viewers from tuning in each week to follow the ups and downs of the contestants vying for the chance to be the second.  NFNS remains the number one rated show on the Food Network.

That is strange because of the history of, let’s say, questionable endings to some of the past seasons.  The first two seasons went OK, not much controversy but in season three the fireworks started.  Set the way back machine:

Season one was historical in a couple of ways.  It was the first such contest of it’s kind.  Second, the winners were a gay couple which, too, made it ground breaking.  Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh are bright and talented caterers from Chicago.  Their winning show, Party Line with the Hearty Boys, was not very entertaining but that wasn’t as important as the standards set by that first season.

Season two yielded the only Next Food Network Star winner to ever actually become a Food Network star, Guy Fieri.  And a star he has become.  Those TGIFriday’s commercials speak to the California culinarians mass appeal.  He has hosted Guy’s Big Bite, Guy Off the Hook, Ultimate Recipe Showdown and another show you may have heard of, Diner’s Drive-ins and Dives.

JAGSeason three is where things started getting – what’s the word? -oh, yeah, suspicious.  JAG would have won, should have won, but for the last minute revelation that he had exaggerated his resumé.  This resulted in an 11th hour return of recently booted Amy Finley who, given a second chance, ended up winning the contest (just like in a Hollywood script).

Why is this suspicious?  Having been through the NFNS process I know how thorough their background checks are.  Honestly, it’s easier to slip something past the FBI than it is The Food Network.  With that in mind the idea that FN hadn’t bothered to check the accuracy of resumés just doesn’t wash.  I do know this, the inncident was huge for the ratings.

Season four the shinannigans were even more outlandish.  A stand-up comedian who was so unfunny it was actually painful, a boorish elitest who described anyone who has ever eaten boxed macaroni and cheese as “white trash” and a chef who was scared of fish and stayed weeks too long because she was pretty and satisfied a missing demographic at TFN, Indian cuisine.

Next Food Network StarThere were two contestants who blew away the competition every single week.  Shane Lyons and Kelsey Nixon were both perfect packages, however the judges (Bob Tuschman in particular) kept harping on their youth.  It didn’t matter how well they performed, they were too young to take seriously.  That of course begs the question, why let them into the contest at all?  Nixon, by the way, won TFN’s fan poll on their own web site in a land slide and is to this day one of the most popular talents in the Food Network stables.

After eliminating the two best contestants, in successive weeks no less, we were left with the trio of Liza Garza, Aaron McCargo Jr. and Adam Gertler.  Garza arrived as a foppish diva with serious cooking chops who, more than anyone else on the show, listened to the judges and turned herself into exactly what they said they were looking for.  Gertler was good on camera but had limited culinary skills.  McCargo was a passable cook but was terrible on camera; still is.

In an episode designed to whittle it down to two contestants McCargo, who had been a model of mediocrity, bombed.  He bombed hard.  In fact, it was without a doubt the single worst performance in the history of the show.  Adam was okay and Garza blew the doors off the studio.  Easy choice right?  Boot the guy who bombed, right?  Nope, the judges decided to change the rules and bring all three back for the finale.  Aaron should have been gone but given a second chance brought home victory (just like in a Hollywood script).

Speaking of Lisa Garza she recently announced that she has signed a contract for her own cooking show.

Then there was the slip on the web site.  Apparently, some web geek accidentally revealed the outcome of the show days before the final episode was to premiere.  The web fiasco turned into a boon as fans who had tuned out because of the questionable antics (the elimination of Kelsey Nixon, especially) tuned back in to see if the web screw-up was a publicity stunt.

Season five was a little more tame with the exception of contestant Debbie Lee.  Considered by many to be the most vile and despicable person in the history of reality cooking shows, Lee cheated, back-stabbed and sabotaged herself all the way to the next-to-last episode. At least that’s how it appeared after a few days in the editing room anyway.  Melissa D’Arabian won and as her reward was given a TV show called $10 Dinners.  Which oddly enough was not the show concept that won her the NFNS title.  Coincidentally there was a national casting call back in 2008 for a cooking show called $10 Dinners that was surprisingly similar to the show D’Arabian now hosts.

So that brings us to season six and who knows what stunts, if any, Food Network has up it’s metaphorical sleeve.

Review: The Coconut Oil Miracle

The set-up to this simple book review is a little long.  Bare with me, there is an amazing payoff.  The issues of health are quite complex and we simply can no longer afford to sum them up in 300 words.

For decades now Americans have mistakenly associated “skinny” with “healthy.” They are not the same thing. You can be perfectly healthy while still sporting a belly roll. Six packs abs, though sexy, are usually the result of dehydration. However, you will be healthier if you reduce the excess body weight and that, unquestionably, is where the confusion comes in.

Actual Fake Newspaper HeadlineIn their quest to get your attention the national media comes up with headlines that confuse health issues.  For instance, the media has erroneously reported that salt causes heart disease, hypertension and any number of ailments, not true at all.  What research has determined is that salt aggravates existing conditions but there is no evidence that it causes them.  Salt can aggravate  high blood pressure doesn’t sell newspapers like Salt, the silent killer.  The downside is there are idiot law makers out there that only bother to read headlines when deciding public policy (yes I am talking about you, New York State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz).

One of the most egregious examples of the national media twisting scientific research in pursuit of the almighty dollar is the assault on fats that began in the early 1990’s.  First they reported that we should eliminate all fats from our diets.  When enough nutritionists complained they revamped it to say that saturated fats were evil and we should eat more unsaturated fats.  What science has determined (and the media ignored) is that it is not an issue with fats at all.

It is all about fatty acids – a fatty acid is a carboxylic acid consisting of four or more carbon atoms connected by a unbranched aliphatic tail called a chain.  These chains can be short, medium or long.

Does that sound confusing?  It is.  And simply put the average journalist cannot comprehend it, not without studying the science involved anyway.  Therefore we get summaries like, “eliminate saturated fats from your diet.”  Our bodies require two types of fatty acids to perform properly, Omega 6 (usually found in saturated fats) and Omega 3 (usually found in unsaturated fats).  Obesity occurs when there are significantly more Omega 6’s than Omega 3’s.

One of the casualties of the assault on fats, aside from the truth, is the assumption certain botanicals are bad for you because they are high in them.  Avocado springs to mind.  For most of the 90’s we were told not to eat avocado because it has too much fat.  As it turns out, avocado is quite healthy.  Another item we were told to avoid was coconut oil; it’s a saturated fat.

The Payoff

Bruce Fife, a certified nutritionist and naturopathic doctor, has written an eye-opening book on coconut oil and its unmatched health attributes.  The medical shock journalists are right, coconut oil is a saturated fat, but, as Fife explains, it is a remarkably healthy one.  In The Coconut Oil Miracle (Avery, 2004), Fife examines the science the media has chosen to ignore.

The author explains the three kinds of fatty acid chains in depth, short (olive and canola oil), long (butter, lard) and medium (coconut oil).  He illustrates how medium chain fatty acids (MCFA’s) have been proven to promote weight loss, defend against heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis, prevents premature aging of the skin, bolsters the immune system and can even improve digestion.

As it turns out pan fried chicken cooked in coconut oil is is better for you than grilled chicken.  Gravy made with coconut oil and organic flour is better for you than gravy made with low sodium stock and corn starch made from genetically modified corn.  What’s even better about cooking with coconut oil is that the taste and texture are exactly what you would expect with unhealthy fats.  There is no coconut flavor either.

Coconut oil does have its drawback though it is mainly functional.  It has a low smoke point, 350 degrees, which is too low for most deep frying.  Seafood should be fried at 360 to 375.  You can deep fry at 350 but do not expect your batter to be as crispy (this can be helped by using rice flour instead of wheat flour).  Breaded items tend to do ok.  You can use coconut oil for anything you sauté.

Fife relies on tons of research citing each by name so you can check the results yourself.  There have been countless studies done on isolated cultures in the Pacific where coconut makes up a large portion of the daily diet.  The findings reveal that these societies have an astoundingly low occurrence of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

The Coconut Oil Miracle is an example of the kind of research each of us should be doing ourselves.  Trusting in hit-and-run journalism in magazines and on the nightly news has done more harm than good to our society.  Fife’s book is a testimony to proper research but it does have one drawback, the recipes.  I have tested a few and they have been at best okay and at worst an utter disaster (like the coconut oil mayonnaise).

This does not surprise me.  Most nutritionists I have known do not care if something doesn’t taste good or has a funky texture as long as it is healthy.  If this were not true it is doubtful anyone would have ever had to endure a rice cake or tofu.  The key to cooking with coconut oil is to simply use it where you would other fats, especially saturated fats.  Fried chicken , biscuits, gravy, et al can be a part of your everyday diet if you use coconut oil.

If you are serious about eating healthy then you need to stop relying on articles (like this one) and start reading books (like The Coconut Oil Miracle).  You have to do research – in-depth, time consuming research – otherwise don’t bother.  Eat whatever you want and suffer the consequences because flowing from one fad to another is far worse for you than just not giving a damn.

Other suggested reading to help you do your own research:
The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten
Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth
Substitute Yourself Skinny by Susan Irby

ICA: Garces vs. Pomeroy – Outcome

SPOILER ALERT: The following information is the outcome of Garces vs. Pomeroy.  If you want information on the combatants click HERE.  If you are only interested in the outcome read on.

The judges for Battle Truffle were Jose Andres, Karine Bakhoum and Jeffrey Chodorow.  Alton Brown had the quote of the century when he stated that white truffle is, “better than 97% of the sex you will have in your lifetime.”

Garces                         Pomeroy
Taste: 19                     Taste: 22
Plating: 10                    Plating:  7
Originality: 11               Originality: 8
Total: 40                      Total: 37

That is one of the lowest scoring ICA’s of all time.  Apparently the judges weren’t pleased.

Garces vs. Pomeroy

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up

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