There’s lots of convergence—harmonic and otherwise this week. Food and Wine Magazine announced its 2012 Best New Chefs, one of the most prestigious awards in the food world (local luminaries such as SethBixby Daugherty, Tim McKee, and Stewart Woodman are among the recent past designees). Chefs such as Bloomfield, Keller, Chang, Boulud, Bouley, and Matsuhisa are past winners as well. I am thrilled for Kluger, Lee, Ng, and Torrisi/Carbone. These are chefs whose food I have eaten and who cook some amazing grub.
As a contributing editor to F&W I have a little bit of insight into this process, and what I can tell you is that the editorial staff at the magazine, led by Cowin, Krader, Heddings, Simmons et al, have done an insanely impossible feat, creating a list that’s hard to argue with, making this feather the one everyone wants for their cap. Recognize any names? Yup, Josh Habiger and Erik Anderson who left the Twin Cities to globe trek as stagieres, partnered on the restaurant of their dreams and nailed it. I last saw Josh one night at Alinea, and I saw Erik one evening when he made an amazing meal for my wife and I at Sea Change. You could tell on both occasions that these guys had something special going on. When they were opening The Catbird Seat I wrote that this was going to be a really important restaurant in a few years, and I was wrong. That day happened way sooner than anyone could have predicted. Congrats to all, but especially to The Catbird crew.
2012 F&W Best New Chefs
· Erik Anderson & Josh Habiger, The Catbird Seat, Nashville, TN
· Danny Grant, RIA, Chicago
· Dan Kluger, ABC Kitchen, New York City
· Corey Lee, Benu, San Francisco
· Jenn Louis, Lincoln Restaurant and Sunshine Tavern, Portland, OR
· Cormac Mahoney, Madison Park Conservatory, Seattle
· Bryant Ng, The Spice Table, Los Angeles
· Karen Nicolas, Equinox, Washington, DC
· Rich Torrisi & Mario Carbone, Torrisi Italian Specialties, New York City
· Blaine Wetzel, Willows Inn, Lummi Island, WA
More convergence? Good Friday and Passover fall on same night and Sunday is Easter. All my Passover recipes are on andrewzimmern.com and foodandwine.com. My Easter recipes are non-existent, but I roast a mean ham. This year for Easter I am joining the dude from Biggest Loser who made an ass of himself last year here in the Twin Cities by trying to bully his way into Bar La Grassa one night. Marcus Samuelsson, Brian Voltaggio, Richard Blais, Carla Hall, Paul Qui, The Neely’s, and the First Family will be on the White House Lawn for the 137th Easter Egg Roll. I am doing two demos (Steamed Shanghai Rice Ball Dumplings and Guangzhou Style Lettuce Package) and rolling eggs with my family. Most humbling will be an opportunity to spend some time with the First Family and meet President and Mrs. Obama. I think the greatest honor you can have is to serve your country, the second is to meet those who have dedicated their lives to doing so. Regardless of political leanings, to be invited to meet with the First Family is the greatest of blessings, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude.
I have been thinking all week of what to ask the President and what I would want to talk to him about: My work at Babson trying to restore economic and cultural sustainability to our damaged food system by motivating young entrepreneurs at the Lewis Institute? Discussing the issues with current mental health parity legislation and trying to bend his ear about affordable recovery services for addicts and alcoholics? Maybe the valuable work that Services for the Underserved does in NYC and the new jobs training program there for homeless veterans? Open Arms? National Youth Recovery Foundation? The Retreat? Hazelden? Hundred Thousand Homes? Pacer? Washburn Center for Family Services? So many places need help.
Today I was at the annual meeting of Health Partners, a local non-profit based “consumer led” HMO and was once again mesmerized listening to Mary Brainerd, the company president/CEO and a real visionary leader in the field. She reached out to me last year to help her foment social change around the wellness issues surrounding food. If people ate better, she reasoned, they would live healthier and longer lives, require less medical assistance, healthcare could be targeted to the most needy, and HMO costs would decrease. Today she addressed a few thousand of us, and in her speech, she offered some staggering research. Clinical care, both access and quality, only makes up 20 percent of the value associated with healthy living and overall wellness according to a new study at the University of Wisconsin. Think about it. According to the study, behaviors (alcohol use, unprotected sex, tobacco use, diet/exercise) affected 30 percent, environment affected 10 percent, and SOCIAL/ECONOMIC FACTORS affected 40 percent.
So in 2012 in Minnesota, it turns out that the largest deciding factor set in whether or not you live a long healthy life with respect to wellness and quality is made up of your education/employment/family/community safety/income history. Health and wellness in America is indeed a class issue and that is a sad piece of news. Add this little nugget—obesity rates have tripled in our state—to the mix and I think I know what I want to talk to my president about, right after I thank him for his courage and leadership and the high standards with which he carries out the duties of the office of the President of the United States. And yes, I can’t wait to get a picture of him with my son . . . once in a lifetime. Wow.