Posts Tagged ‘Jay Weinstein’

Natural Gourmet Institute CEO and founder, Annemarie Colbin

November 9 marked another milestone for Natural Gourmet Institute – 35 years since our founder Annemarie Colbin anticipated  the current trend by starting a cooking school in her home that emphasized the connection between food and healing.

While “whole,” “local,” “seasonal,” “organic,” and “sustainable” are the watchwords of the day, they’ve been a way of life and a commitment for NGI instructors, students, and graduates for over three decades. 2500 Chef’s Training and several thousand public class students later, we’re still at it and growing stronger.

The anniversary celebration was held at the school with NGI staff, instructors, graduates, and students in attendance. Kudos and thanks go out to NGI staffers Mollie Berliss, Mark Mace, Brandon Reichert, Sue Baldassano, Jeri Rostron, and Merle Brown, who worked together to create a warm, memorable, and festive evening.

The evening kicked off with a reception featuring elegant seasonal appetizers prepared by Chefs Jay Weinstein and Olivia Roszkowski, with the help and talent of Chef’s Training Program students. While guests feasted, schmoozed, and reminisced, they were entertained by the quartet Violet (featuring our own Assistant Director of Admissions Meredith Minogue) and classical guitarist Rudolph Vernaz-Colas.

The evening was also an occasion for recognition. The Natural Gourmet Institute Award for Excellence in Health-Supportive Education went to two outstanding people in our field – NGI grad, chef and author Louisa Shafia and whole foods chef, author, teacher, and media personality Andrea Beaman.

Our founder, Annemarie Colbin, of course, was our other honoree. Check out our tribute video where colleagues, students, and instructors share their thoughts and feelings about Annemarie’s contribution,  foresight and leadership in the field of health-supportive eating.

The evening’s festivities were capped by raffle prizes, courtesy of our friends at Maimonide of Brooklyn, Dirt Candy, Pure Food and Wine/Lucky Duck, Fort Reno, Palo Santo, and Chef Rich LaMarita. A gong ritual finished the ceremonial portion of the evening, followed by champagne and celebratory cupcakes topped with the stunning fondant creations of our graduate Sachiko Windbeil of Mimicafe Union. All in all, a good way to kick off the next 35 years.

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Our very own Olivia Roszkowski holding down the fort at the Natural Gourmet table

On Saturday, May 12, Natural Gourmet participated in the Brooklyn Food Conference, hosted by Brooklyn Technical High School in Ft Greene, Brooklyn. The event was sponsored by City Harvest, Edible Brooklyn, Edible Manhattan, Food & Water Watch, Food Bank for New York City, Park Slope Food Coop, and Small Planet Institute.

While the conference’s stated aim was to combat the harm caused by the industrial food system, it also celebrated “food sovereignty” in the form of healthy local food systems focusing on urban gardens, CSAs, animal rights, a healthier environment and growing food without pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, or GMOs.

The festival boasted a bustling expo of organizations and workshops about food policy, food culture, business development, labor and social justice, farming, agriculture, and health and nutrition education.

Among the – literally – hundreds of workshops and speakers, Natural Gourmet provided a day of cooking demonstrations from graduates Bryant Terry (author of The Inspired Vegan), Jacques Gautier (chef/owner of Palo Santo and Fort Reno in Brooklyn),  and Madea Allen (Organic Soul Chef). Natural Gourmet instructors Jay Weinstein and Rich LaMarita also did cooking demos.

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Be A Humanimal: Interview with CTP 205 Students Maggie Callahan and Nate Marcus

Chef's Training students Maggie Callahan and Nate Marcus, the archtiects of Humane Week

Two Natural Gourmet students Maggie Callahan and Nate Marcus have coined the term “Humanimal” and are  watching it take off. With other members of their class they formed HumaneWeek.org which sponsors the 0% To Factory Farms Pledge, asking consumers to choose humanely raised animal products for a whole week. Their first campaign is Humane Week NYC which runs from January 16 – 22.

What is Humane Week?

Humane Week is a call to action for consumers to stop supporting factory farms. Animals living on factory farms suffer from severe mistreatment.

We started Humane Week to encourage people to think about their choices. Our goal is help participants navigate the market aisles and understand the tricky labels so that they can make an impact by supporting family farms for a whole week.

What is a Humanimal?

We love the definition of  “humane” which is characterized by tenderness, compassion, and sympathy for people and animals, especially for the suffering or distressed. A “Humanimal” is one who always makes the most humane choice.

What are the goals of Humane Week?

Humane Week is a way to spread awareness about the cruelty of factory farming, and to make humanely raised meat, dairy and eggs the rule, not the exception.

When we created the organization, we wanted to educate everyone about how terrible factory farming is, but focus more on how bright the future could be when it’s a thing of the past. We wanted our message to be positive and optimistic – one where no one feels alienated. There were no examples of campaigns that brought everyone under the same umbrella – vegetarians, vegans, and omnivores – to fight for smaller farms and the better treatment of animals. There is more strength in numbers. So we decided to create the campaign we wanted to be a part of.

Right now a lot of people don’t think about where meat comes from, and that’s because they wouldn’t want to. Factory farms are secretive for a reason. Factory farming is “institutionalized animal cruelty,” according to the Farm Animal Welfare Council. These animals don’t have enough space to move or turn around, see the light of day, breathe fresh air, and can’t experience natural behaviors, like socialization. It’s all about the bottom line. High output, lower costs. And these conditions are the norm. In the U.S., factory farming accounts for more than 99 percent of all animals raised for slaughter. Factory farms have the ability to close down family farms, influence law makers and policy, all because they are so wealthy – because we buy their products.

At the same time, family farms find it hard to compete. Their products are humane and much higher quality, but more expensive. This pledge isn’t without an impact on your wallet. It costs more to raise an animal humanely. But we believe that is the responsibility that comes with eating animal products.

So Humane Week is about addressing all of it – the demand, the infrastructure – asking people to redirect money normally going to factory farming and to support instead a small but growing network of family farms.

Did the idea come about while at the Natural Gourmet Institute?

Yes! The Natural Gourmet has been a real inspiration to us. Chef Jay Weinstein, author of The Ethical Gourmet, taught our animal protein classes and endorsed humanely treated animal products. To think that the Natural Gourmet has been doing this for years— the school is a real pioneer. So it got the conversation started and from there, we created Humane Week.

Are you planning on expanding beyond NYC?

Definitely! At first, we thought to launch a national campaign. But we realized we would have greater results by going more grassroots. We want to empower other people – vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores – to bring Humane Week to their cities. We are making it easy to get started. Someone picks a week and forms a committee, and then everyone works to get the word out. They can provide their own newsletters and local information. Grassroots is the way to go.

Our goal is by the end of 2012 to see 52 Humane Weeks up and running – one for every week of the year.

What about eating in restaurants?

Yes, the pledge definitely includes eating in restaurants. We have volunteers who are calling restaurants in NYC to find out where they source their animal products. Even if a restaurant doesn’t carry humane food products, the inquiries are a great wake-up call. Many restaurants may never have gotten a call bringing this issue to their attention.

We are compiling all of our findings on our website in the link “What To Buy & Eat.” The recommendations are separated by omnivore, vegetarian and vegan titles. The idea is to feel great about eating at any of these establishments. Not only are people withdrawing support from factory farms this week, but they get to support forward-thinking farms and businesses.

How do you differentiate between humane and inhumane practices?

Great question. Actually, that one doesn’t have a definitive answer. Ask different people and you’ll get a different opinion. Ask the factory farming industry and you’ll get a shockingly narrower definition. There isn’t one definition, and as far as we can tell, we’re breaking real ground with our campaign by introducing “Humane” as a criteria for restaurants.

Unfortunately, a lot of labels are misleading. Is it enough that a product is labeled “organic”? Organic means the animal eats organic food and is not injected with antibiotics and hormones. However it might not ensure outdoor space or the ability to engage in natural behaviors. “Free-range” is another misguiding label. It only means animals have access to outdoor space, which in practice might mean a very small patch for a huge amount of chickens, which in reality is no outdoor space at all. “Cage free” is another one. These chickens usually have had their beaks and claws removed to live out of a cage and in close proximity to other birds.

Then there are different “humane” labels. There is a very real difference between them. This is what we are researching and trying to make available to the consumer.

Humane is something consumers have to decide for themselves, but we all have intuitive gauges when it comes to what is humane and what isn’t. Our goal is to give out information so consumers can vote with their dollars for the practices that they believe are humane.

We hope to see 5,000 people take the pledge. We definitely think we’ll be even more inspired by all the Humanimals that are out there.

What are your next steps?

There are many pieces that we have to put together, and we are so grateful for all of the support that we’ve already gotten. We are looking for donations so we can create promotional materials for restaurants. Advertisements, commercials, celebrities, the morning shows – anything is possible.

By signing up for the pledge, you will get a newsletter detailing where to go to get humanely treated animal products in the city.

To take the NYC pledge: visit http://www.HumaneWeek.org and click on “Take The Pledge!!” on the links at the top.

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NGI Instructor Jay Weinstein is a food writer, editor, culinary instructor, and cookbook author. His food articles and recipes have been featured in The New York Times, Travel & Leisure, Newsday, Time Out New York, National Geographic Traveler, and numerous other publications. Jay’s latest book, The Ethical Gourmet (Random House/Broadway Books), focuses on ecologically sustainable fine foods. He is also author of The Everything Vegetarian Cookbook (Adams), and A Cup of Comfort Cookbook (Adams). He is a veteran of some of America’s top restaurant kitchens, including New York’s Le Bernardin and Orso, and Boston’s Jasper’s and The Four Seasons Hotel.

Eggs are warm when you collect them from the nest. Piglets have personalities. Chickens kick a lot after their throats are slit. Maple syrup is darker at the end of the season (grade “B”) because it has to be concentrated more to achieve equal sweetness to early season syrup (grade “A”).

These nuggets of farm life are among the many I gleaned from a weekend touring small and mid-size farms in upstate New York in October. Jen Small and Mike Yezzi of Flying Pigs Farm in Shushan, New York hosted nineteen food professionals, journalists, and nonprofit food system advocates to offer exposure to things that non-farmers might not know. And what an exposure it was.

Within hours of arrival at the farm, an hour north of Albany, three miles from the Vermont border, I had held a live chicken for the first time, collected the aforementioned eggs, and held down a piglet as Mike castrated it (an important part of ensuring domestic tranquility in the barn, and developing marketable meat – the little fellow was playing minutes later with his brothers and sisters as if nothing had happened).

Jen and Mike took us to two types of dairy farm – a Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO), and a pasture-raised dairy. We saw cheese being made, and talked maple syrup in a sun-bleached sugar shack. Along the way, we heard about the realities, good and bad, of agriculture in New York State. We learned how land was being converted from farm use to residential development. We came to know the importance of fruit and dairy production to New York’s economy. And we sampled some of the freshest food I’ve ever tasted. Even the egg whites had flavor.

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This past weekend, Chef Jay Weinstein shared and demonstrated his extensive knowledge of Southeast Asian cuisines at Bloomingdale’s Hackensack, New Jersey store.  The purpose of the demonstration was to highlight WorldFoods products, a company that produces all-natural sauces, seasonings, and condiments made of authentic ingredients prepared in traditional ways.  WorldFoods is also notable, according to Jay,  for promoting sustainable use of resources in Southeast Asia, employing workers at a good living wage, and shipping only in minimal packaging and glass, not plastic.

The alchemy of authentic ethnic flavors with fresh food produced the stunning results you see in this album . . .

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