Things are scary out there. I was away last week and couldn’t chime in; thanks for all your patience. Here’s a double dose of “scary good” news:
Our food system in America is so scary that we actually have a national awareness raising memorial called Food Day and in celebration you can head over to Open Arms at 6:30 p.m. at 2500 Bloomington Avenue South and watch the documentary Food Stamped tonight, Monday, October 24. The movie is all about what happens to some folks looking to eat well on a food stamp budget. It’s also an interesting window into America’s insanely messed up food system. Popcorn is available, in fact someone told me it’s free despite the fact that corn might not be the best choice for a movie snack exploring our damaged food world. There is also a discussion of hunger in our nation led by OA director Kevin Winge. All in all, it’s something everyone should see. It’s even scarier that the majority of the people who need to be there most won’t even know about the screening. Help spread the word.
Here is a Halloween costume idea for anyone who hasn’t figured out what to be for the big day. The descriptions of the chefs is worth scrolling through and reading. Pretty hysterical stuff.
Cannibalism is scary, but it depends who is doing the eating and who is getting eaten. The Bill Murray story is very cool. And insightful.
It is crazy scary to me that a food such as foie gras is getting banned in California. It’s even scarier that feedlot beef, fast food, and a host of other dangerous foods are left on the table so to speak. I am a civil libertarian at heart; you can’t ban foie in an ad hoc way without defining what represents a danger to the public or figuring out what is ethically a boundary that you don’t want to cross. This is ready fire aim politics and it’s wrong. Let’s define our perimeters and then make some choices.
It’s scary that most people make hotel reservations for all the wrong reasons. I want to stay in places that offer something different than free HBO, crappy coffee in my room, and an Otis Spunkmeyer muffin in the lobby. Check out this killer site. It’s fast become one of my new favorite travel fetishes.
Hers something scary, most of you are food lovers and most don’t read this list of great bloggers. I read some, and plan on reading more. Check it out.
And finally, something that I hope isn’t as scary as parts of it sound . . .
Sunday, November 20, is the inaugural “CHARLIE AWARDS,” which invites everyone in the Twin Cities to GO ONLINE and vote for the one food item in each neighborhood they believe is the best.
Voting has already begun and it will end on October 28 at 5 p.m. The city is divided geographically and the two food items in each neighborhood receiving the most public votes will become finalists. One will ultimately be chosen the grand prize winner by a panel of food professionals and the awards will be given live on-stage at The Charlie Awards on Sunday, November 20, at the Pantages Theatre. There will also be specific awards given out by the restaurant community to their peers, including recognition of the food professional/chef who annually gives the most back to the community through time and talents, as well as back and front of the house recognitions according to all the information in The Charlie’s press materials and online data. Tickets are on sale at charliesexceptionale.com and a portion of the proceeds from the event benefit Second Harvest Heartland.
The omnipresent and indefatigable Sue Zelickson birthed the idea for these festivities after being inspired last year after attending the Ivey Awards and told Ivey maven Scott Mayer that she was eager to create something similar to throw some love and applause out toward our local chefs and restaurateurs. Great idea! I love it. But starting up something like this is tough.
First off, my initial reaction, was to ask Scott Mayer a ton of questions because I was fuzzy on whether this was an industry glad-handing love-in, a crowd sourced popularity contest or a way in which the best of the best restaurants in our cities would be recognized for excellence. Well, it’s all three. Go to the website and vote, because at the end of the day, the more we invest in this the better. Second, if you own a restaurant, you need to enter to be considered. So go and stick your name down, and a dish, so that the people can vote for you. You have to be in it to win it. I think that’s a silly way to run a deal like this but what do I know? Right now many of the best restaurants, chefs and dishes in the Twin Cities are not represented. Some of the categories of the Charlies are a juried competition.
Judges for the Charlies include local food editors from sponsoring magazines and media companies and a smattering of corporate folks (Someone from Open Table, US FOODS, and Walser Foundation . . . yes the car folks). Not sure what some of those folks know about food but hey, what do I know? I should also say that General Mills is giving an award of $1,000 for the restaurant that has the best ‘green initiative’ idea that will reduce food waste. I love that idea. But anyway, after a lot of back and forth, here is how it works:
Awards for the following will be determined by participating restaurants, which is why I think restaurant community participation is crucial. Right now there aren’t a lot of restos invested in this.
• Lifetime Achievement
• Community Hero
• Emerging Chef (a professional working for less than five years)
• Wait Staff
• Interior Design
Food awards are determined by both the public and the judges. Restaurants enter a food item they believe best represents what they do. The food items are grouped by neighborhood. I think that’s ridiculous since it not only unfairly weights averages against (or is it for?) neighborhoods with fewer actual quality restaurants and/or fewer participating restaurants. Here are the regions:
• Minneapolis Downtown
• Minneapolis NE
• Minneapolis South
• Twin Cities West
• St. Paul Area
Anyway, the public can vote online for their favorite food item, but remember, restaurants need to put themselves in to be considered. Then the two dishes in each region who get the most votes will become nominees. The panel looks at the foods and selects one to be recognized at the Charlie Awards. Seems really scary on the food side to me because someone will get a lot of press and attention for “BEST DISH” and it won’t actually be the best dish it will be the best dish out of the pool of participating restaurants that put a dish out and got the public (think Yelp) to vote for them and then were finally decided on by a panel that has some folks on it who may have no clue what they are looking for. I love the idea of recognizing community heroes and best restaurants and all the other awards in the non-food categories, but since only participating restaurants will vote in those categories and we have no clue what their criteria is, well, the problems begin to multiply.
Scott wrote me the following, and you need to hear this straight from his mouth. He and Sue and all the folks putting the Charlies together are some of the best folks I know, and they have to start somewhere, I just hope in the coming years we can simply award excellence and use some of the same criteria that we use for several of the more prestigious awards groups out there. Recognizing the restaurant and food community is crucial to ensure its continued growth and success, which is why I also care so much about how the event is organized.
Anyway, here is Scott:
It would be impossible for a panel to be able to choose food items without any parameters at all; no one group of individuals can visit virtually every restaurant in the TC. And without doing that, there would be restauranteurs (sic) who could easily say that the Charlie Awards are biased, discriminate, etc. “Why didn’t the panel visit my restaurant?”
By giving each restaurant an opportunity to participate, no restaurant can say that they weren’t given an opportunity to participate. Hopefully, more and more restaurants will participate as the word spreads about the Charlie Awards. As with almost any project of this type, it is always a work in progress. Having almost 80 restaurants participating at this stage of the game is commendable.
It needs to also be stressed that the Charlie Awards is about celebrating the MSP restaurant and food industry and the actual awards is just one component, and should not be over-emphasized. The restaurant themselves will determine the winners of the huge majority of awards; it is only the food item that has a public component, and the rationale for the public component is so that the general community has an opportunity to be invested in the event.
This should be interesting to see, and fascinating to see how the system works and who wins . . . stay tuned.