Tag Archives: Celebrity

Some Pretty Fancy Food

A few weeks ago I got the opportunity to attend the NASFT Fancy Food Show in Washington, D.C.  A mecca trade-show for all artisan and ‘fancy food’ products.  What it really comes down to is a huge networking event for people in the industry and a bunch of free samples!  On a more serious note, I did have a moment of realization that no matter what is going on in the world, no matter the differences, people come to the NASFT Fancy Food Show on the same platform and with the same spirit and curiosity to learn and support what others are doing in the specialty food industry.  Industries cross as cheese people meet the cookie people, BBQ people meet pasta people.  And international countries who are millions of miles apart from each other share a reserved sense of pride and specialty food items close to their culture.

Every corner showcases originality, creativity and perseverance to educate participants of the show.  There is a divine entrepreneurial spirit behind each booth, a story that led then to where they are today and a common goal to share their labors of love.

Many of the participants are just starting out, some have been around for a very long time and are launching new products.  And it is also fun to spot celebrity chefs promoting their product lines.  Lydia was serving pasta, Duff Goldman was promoting fun decorating supplies like cake tattoos, Richard Bayless  was at his Frontera Mexican food product booth.  And the lovely Cat Cora was promoting a variety of tapenades, olive oils and kitchen utensils.

Cat was also the Keynote speaker at the Sofi awards which stands for specialty outstanding food innovation.  There are more than 2,600 entries which are narrowed down to 125 silver finalists and then 33 gold winners in each category.  Cat’s keynote speech was a rally call for all of us who have made sacrifices and believed in ourselves to do what we love.  Her advice was to push yourself to obtain the best possible education in your field, to give back to your community, to reach and develop your sense of self, and to know at everyday is a series of small steps that will get you to your goal.  “Have fun, and keep cooking!”

The show itself was definitely like the Academy Awards of specialty food.  However in this case the acceptance speeches are much shorter and thanks is given to key family members, employees and even the cows! People were truly gracious, touched and confirmed that their hard work has been recognized by industry leaders.

Here are links to some vendors and winners that caught my attention:

Sir Kensington’s Gourmet Scooping Ketchup – Awesome packaging, and a delicious  product!  They’ve also done a really great job with branding their product.  The website is so well designed and gives Sir Kensington a real personality!

The Brooklyn Salsa Company – Again, great package design, delicious and they’re from Brooklyn!!!  Bonus they use as much direct trade, local, and organic ingredients as possible.

Theo Chocolate – Ghost Chile Caramels was a Gold winner in the Confection category of the Sofi Awards.  They say the Ghost Chile is one of the hottest peppers in the world combined with silky caramel, sounds right up  my alley!

Ajiri Tea – Kenyan Black Tea – The word ajiri means “to employ” in Swahili, and that’s the goal of Ajiri Tea: to create employment for women in western Kenya.  They were also the Sofi Gold winner in the innovation in Packaging Design or Function category.

Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company – This family won the Sofi Award and literally thanked the cows.  Gotta try this!

To see all the Sofi Gold Winner Click Here

One of my favorite parts of the show is the is the International ‘pavilions.’  Each country gets several devoted rows of booths to showcase their products.  It is clear that the Italians had the most robust set of showcases and most likely the first pioneers of getting their products to the United States.  I’d walk by and over-hear the Italian business transactions like the melody of an Italian love song.  That and anything to snatch another sample of cured meats and mozzarella cheese.  You know you’re in love with food when you can look at a hunk of cured meat and admire it’s beauty.

I had a really great time, and hopefully next year I will have more time to play around and visit more booths!  I’m sure I’ll be low on my free samples by then!

Isn't she beautiful!

Isn't she beautiful!

This was a great campaign for Principe Prosciutto, and I just love the pig.

Harry Potter made out of Jelly Belly Jelly Beans. Great branding for their Bertie Bott`s Brand.


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From Big Screen to Big Eats

As a young girl I was always fascinated by people who had libraries in their homes, or big, extensive book shelves.  It seemed to be a mark of intelligence or being highly cultured.  You can tell so much about a person based on the books they’ve collected.  So naturally, my shelves are lined with cookbooks!  There are the classics like Larousse Gastronomique, or James Peterson’s Sauces or references like the Flavor Bible.  And then come some of the more modern books from chef’s like Mario Batali and Rick Bayless.  Wedged in at the ends are a couple no-name authors from the days of my low-carb diet and the classic In the Kitchen with Miss Piggy.  One might mock this collection as its seems antiquated to have recipe books when you can find most anything online.  But there is something about the tangible reference and stunning photography that is preserved in these books of art.  And recently, the category is getting a little lift from Hollywood!

For those of you fellow cookbook collectors out there make some room on the shelf for the latest from celebrity cookbooks.  Gwyneth Paltrow, Sheryl Crow, Eva Longoria and now rumored Matthew McConaughey are sharing their family tables with the masses.  Not surprising as it is in the nature of home-cooks to feel an overwhelming joy when they can share a meal or a recipe with friends and family.  Why celebrity cookbook writing has become an industry trend is still unresolved.  One thought is actors or musicians have a natural desire to express themselves, and writing a cookbook is just another creative outlet.  Also, returning to the kitchen has been socially acceptable and as Gwyneth Paltrow literally demonstrates, ‘in vogue’ with her recent coverage from Jeffery Steingarten, Vogue Magazine’s food editor.  People across the country are calling themselves foodies, lining up at food trucks, DVRing Top Chef and writing their own food blogs.  And if you can call Matthew McConaughey a real person, it’s likely he’s caught hold of movement as well based on his recent appearance on Guy Fieri’s Food Network show.  The celebrities that have talent in the kitchen are at an advantage to tap into this market.  What’s inspiring is most of the books have a positive social message whether it be about family, or eating responsibly.  Rather than writing a full-out biography, these celebrities have chosen to share their lives with us through something we all have in common, eating.

Gwyneth’s book, My Father’s Daughter is meant to stress the importance of togetherness at mealtime, emphasizing that cooking for your family is the ultimate expression of love.  The book pays homage to her father who imparted an appreciation and passion for food onto her.  Her father’s motto was: “Invest in what’s real. Clean as you go. Drink while you cook. Make it fun. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It will be what it will be.”  Her removal from reality is seen as charming.  Her kids didn’t know what soda was until they were 4-years-old, and she cooks her pizza in the wood-burning oven in the backyard.  The main challenge of cooking from her book is finding some of the obscure ingredients she mentions such as spelt flour, agave nectar, and organic duck bacon.  But it is hard not to enjoy her honest self-parody sprinkled throughout the book: “Could I use some butter and cheese and eggs in my cooking without going down some kind of hippie shame spiral? Yes. Of course I could.”

Sheryl Crow’s book is entitled, If It Makes You Healthy:  More Than 100 Delicious Recipes Inspired by the Seasons.  The book is a collaboration with Nashville chef Chuck White who Crow had adopted as her own personal chef in 1996.  Crow was inspired to eat healthier after she was diagnosed with breast cancer and since then has taken an honest and healthy approach to eating.   The book has an ‘all-American’ feel to it as Crow reminisces about her childhood family tables and shares anecdotes of eating with her children.  The book has an apparent ‘eat responsibly’ undertone as it is organized by seasons and Chef White communicates his passion about the responsibility of raising honest animals and shopping from farmers markets.

Eva Longoria shares Mexican inspired recipes with a Texas flare in her book, Eva’s Kitchen: Cooking with Love for Family and Friends.  Next to Gwyneth, it seems Eva had the most convincing to do as fans associate her with her flighty role on Desperate Housewives.  The book is a true diary of her childhood cooking, recalling the first time she made eggs and the feeling of accomplishment.  She also dedicates the book to her beloved Aunt Elsa who truly shaped her culinary destiny.  Throughout the book, Eva shares technical tips from Aunt Elsa that really prove the authenticity of this housewife.  The book jumps off the page with it’s vibrant colors and vivid photography covering the basics of garlic green beans, all the way to sweet potato empanadas, and the most talked about tortilla soup.

It will be interesting to see the direction this trend will take.  Matthew McConaughey will surely add some variety to the category if he goes through with it.  Who will be next?  Brad Pitt has been taking lessons from Jamie Oliver, anyone need to know the best way to get a family of eight to agree on the same meal?

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Gwenth Paltro Likes to Eat!

In the late 90s I was pretty obsessed with two  Gwenth Paltro’s films, Shakespeare in Love and Great Expectations which I still own on VHS!  As I flipped through the August edition of Vogue I saw the article they did about her upcoming cookbook.  Normally I don’t read these celebrity features but thought it was pretty unique that an Academy Award winning actress was putting a cookbook together that stands for something you rarely hear about in Hollywood: family.  The book is meant to stress the  importance of togetherness at mealtime, emphasizing that cooking for your family is the ultimate expression of love.  Couldn’t have said it better myself. 

In her introduction to the book she writes about her father:

Health food was never really on the agenda, it was about fun and deliciousness and togetherness. . . . The most striking aspect about his cooking was how much joy he derived from feeding people that he loved. I mean, genuine, bursting happiness…This book is meant to channel the ethos of my father by sharing the greatest gifts that he imparted to me. Invest in what’s real. Clean as you go. Drink while you cook. Make it fun. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It will be what it will be.

Paltrow may be the only celebrity I’ve ever heard of that openly admits she loves pizza, french fries and pancakes.  The book also is said to have some healthy recipes and an ‘eat responsibly’ undertone. 

Looking forward to the release!


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