jamie oliver food revolution

Review: Chuck’s Day Off

I finally got a little more quality time with the Cooking Channel so I am attempting to review several of the shows I have not seen.  This time around Chuck’s Day Off.

My first experience with the cooking of Chuck Hughes was when he defeated Bobby Flay in Battle: Canadian Lobster on Iron Chef America.  In my pregame for that episode I wrote:

Chuck's Day OffChuck Hughes is a veteran of the Montreal food scene.  He’s been working in “The City of Saints” since he left culinary school culminating in Garde Manger – an Old Town Montreal restaurant he opened with two friends in 2006.

Then came Chuck’s Day Off one of those outsourced Food Canada shows that make up a large part of the Cooking Channel’s initial line-up.    Here’s what they have to say about their star, “Chuck was on the fast track to a career in advertising, but somewhere along the way, fell in love with the restaurant business. He enrolled in culinary school, started working in the city’s hottest kitchens and hasn’t looked back since.”

Chuck’s Day Off has a raw energy to it not unlike the old Naked Chef series that introduced the world to Jaime Oliver.  His recipes are rustic yet elegant in presentation.  The food Chuck cooks is the kind of stuff a chef loves to eat in his off hours, a little different from the average person’s menu but still familiar enough not to scare off mortals.  It’s foodie food.  Hughes’ passion is evident in every scene.  I really dig that the show is shot while his restaurant is closed.

As far as the cinematography goes the colors and lighting both seem a bit muted though not dull.  On the contrary the dankness of the shoot plays well with Hughes’ style.  This is definitely a show I can get into.  It’s apparent why it is one of the Cooking Channel’s most popular offerings.

BH Chef Sasha’s Tahitian Vanilla Cake

Tahitian Vanilla CakeSo the Private Chefs of Beverly Hills is blowing up.  People are eating it up (pun intended).  Gal-pal Sasha Perl-Raver is the leading search item in conjunction with the show and in episode three she unveiled a cake that is all the buzz.  Sasha recently published the recipe for her much talked about Tahitian Vanilla Cake.

After having suffered hundreds of hours of boring Food Network Cake Challenges I have finally seen a cake that I would actually like to try.  Why does this cake sound better to me than those lame Disney cakes or even the masterpieces churned out by the talented gang at Charmed City Cakes?  No F’ing fondant!  Sure it makes the cake prettier but fondant is devoid of flavor and has an uncomfortable texture.  It’s like eating glue and the last time I checked we are not supposed to eat glue.  Anyway, here is Sasha’s recipe for Tahitian Vanilla Cake.

Bake Me  A Wish, gourmet birthday cakes, cake delivery

7 Questions with Beverly Hills Chef Sasha Perl-Raver

7 Questions is a series of interviews with the culinary movers and shakers you want or ought to know better.

On Friday April 9th Food Network premieres one of it’s most highly anticipated and hyped series in quite some time.  Taking a cue from Bravo’s Real House Wives franchise they have developed Private Chefs of Beverly Hills – an inside look at Tinsel Town shindigs from the point of view of the culinary teams that put them together.

At age 16 Sasha Perl-Raver started her own catering business.  Since then she has graduated from USC with a minor in cinema, guest starred on the Lifetime drama Strong Medicine, was crowned Miss San Francisco, baked Lindsay Lohan’s 18th birthday cupcakes, been a senior writer for a Hollywood gossip web site and been named “funniest in LA” by a newspaper in New York.  Designer Randolph Duke once called Sasha a chubbier Angelina Jolie.  A year from now people might be referring to Jolie as an emaciated Sasha Perl-Raver.

Today Sasha combines show business and the culinary arts as a member of the team at Big City Chefs.  Big City is a private chef operation that caters to the whims of demanding and eclectic stars.  It is also the subject of Food Network’s latest venture into reality programming.

Chef Sasha was nice enough to answer 7 Questions:

1. How old were you when you first started to cook?

Chef SashaSasha: I took my first foray into cooking when I was 7. I was latchkey kid in Manhattan who took the bus home from school. My bus stop was in front of this amazing pizza parlor and it always smelled insanely good but I only had enough money for the bus, not a snack. So I would go home and make pizza from scratch. I made the dough, the sauce, everything. I got all kinds of Wolfgang Puck! Those early pizzas were usually unbelievably delicious, but one time my dad cracked a tooth on the crust. You live and learn.

2. When did you decide that you could make food your career?

Sasha:  I was 16 when I graduated from high school and I didn’t have any marketable skills except my obsession with food. I’d been in charge of Thanksgiving dinner since I was 11, read cookbooks out loud constantly to my parents, fixated on things like how to make roasted garlic flan. A family friend who’d eaten my food for years offered me a job as her personal chef. Word of mouth spread really quickly about this 16 year old wunderkind and soon I had a roster of clients and my obsession became my profession.

3. Which chefs have influenced you the most?

Sasha:  Alice Waters is my road dawg! I love her more than words can say and my food philosophy is entirely based on hers. And who doesn’t bow at the feet of Thomas Keller? When I was a kid, I was all about The Frugal Gourmet, Martin Yan and Two Hot Tamales. Nowadays, I would do just about anything to sit down at a table with Rick Bayless, but mainly because I have a big ol’ crush on him.

4. If you hadn’t followed this career path, what other career could you see yourself in?

Sasha:  Well, I always really wanted to be a dancer but I fear that will never happen. The truth is my passions have always been food, film and writing and I’ve been lucky enough to work in all those fields whether it’s been cooking for or interviewing celebrities, writing film and food reviews or doing this show. But I still think it would be pretty rad to be a ballerina.

5. What’s the highlight of your career so far?

Sasha:  Being on “Private Chefs of Beverly Hills” is pretty major and up at the top but I think it was actually a party I catered a few years ago. With less than 36 hours notice, I catered the US Weekly Young Hot Hollywood Party for 1500 people. I did all the prep alone, had just two line cooks to help me out the night of, slept maybe two hours before the party, there were reporters there from every major entertainment news organization and the whole place was VIP.

About two hours into the party, my boss comes in and kisses me on the face because everyone was so thrilled with the food. I walk out of the kitchen and there’s Jessica Alba eating my tuna tartar and Justin Timberlake stuffing a piece of my cotton candy into his mouth. As my mother would say, I was kvelling.

6. Of all the crazy things you’ve seen at Big City Chefs what’s the craziest?

Sasha:  The cast. I kid, I kid!

Every time we do an event, it’s pretty nuts but I have to say, the event Chef Brian Hill and I did, which I believe is in the first episode, was completely insane.

We had to go “Glamping,” which is glamorous camping, and cook a gourmet meal for these millionaires. First of all, I hate camping! My parents are major hippies and took me camping all the time when I was a kid. Don’t get me wrong, I love nature. I just don’t like cooking, sleeping and showering in nature. I haven’t gone camping in years but, there we were, at this beautiful camp site, just off a lake, so picturesque, but all we had was a spigot and a fire pit.  No fire, no burners, no oven, no warm water, no prep area; just logs and really high expectations. It was madness.

7. What’s next for Chef Sasha?

Sasha:  For about a year and a half I’ve been working on my first book, Hungry for Love. It’s a foodoir (part memoir, part food book), and my agent is sending it out to publishers on Wednesday so I’ve got my fingers majorly crossed for that. Big money, no whammies! And, of course I’m very excited for Private Chefs of Beverly Hills to premiere on April 9th. I’ve dreamed of being on Food Network for as long as I’ve known about it and now I can say that Paula Deen, Tyler Florence and I are one big happy family.

Private Chefs of Beverly Hills airs Fridays at 10p/9c on the Food Network.

Can’t get enough Sasha?  At the beginning of season two, Sasha was nice enough to give me an inside look at the Private Chefs of Beverly Hills.  Check it out HERE.

Check out Chef Sasha on Fox News’ Strategy Room where she discusses the show, Jamie Oliver, diets and Michelle Obama.

View my complete catalog of interviews and bios for the Private Chefs of Beverly Hills by clinking HERE.

FDA’s Michael Taylor Promotes Himself

On Jan. 13, 2010 Michael Taylor, who was only recently hired as Food Safety Czar by President Obama, has now promoted himself to the new title Deputy Commissioner for Foods.  He created this position to head his newly created Office of Foods for the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

Michael TaylorAccording to an FDA press release Taylor’s new mission is, “to develop and implement a prevention based strategy for food safety, plan implementation of new food safety legislation, and ensure that food labels contain clear and accurate information on nutrition.”  The web site also goes on to suggest that Taylor is a nationally recognized food safety expert.  Of course legitimate nationally recognized food safety experts point out that he is anything but.

As part of Taylor’s credentials the press release cites his previous experience in the FDA and USDA.  It also attempts to add authenticity by mentioning that he has served on several National Academy of Sciences expert committees.  What it fails to mention is that he has spent most of the past 30 years as a lawyer and lobbyist for the nefarious Monsanto Company.  It was Monsanto’s genetically modified corn process that introduced humanity to e coli.  And they used your tax dollars to do it.

So while the FDA’s web site tries to convince people that Michael Taylor is the right person to have governing their food safety, the reality is that he is likely just securing more amnesty and tax dollars for Monsanto.  That, after all, was the result of the his previous tenures in public service.

The Huffington Post has called Taylor, “The person who may be responsible for more food-related illness and death than anyone in history,” and that tends to be the consensus throughout the food safety world.  Only the future knows how many more Americans will have to die before Taylor is done.  One thing is for sure, no good will ever come of this.

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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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