Saturday, March 29, 2008

INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF THE POTATO

Some of you may not know that the United Nations declared 2008 as the Inter- national Year of the Potato. Personally, I have to admit I was a little surprised until I found out why. Apparently the intent of the declaration was to raise awareness of the potato as a means to fight existing poverty and hunger throughout the world. It makes sense when you consider that the humble spud ranks as the fourth major food crop in the world after corn, wheat, and rice. Here in the U.S. we are very fortunate to have an abundance of the beloved potato.

Recently, I spoke at the U.S. Potato Board's annual meeting where I met plenty of potato farmers and self professing potato lovers who are simply passionate about the tuber. It was inspiring to be around these folks. It caused me to think about several dinners where potatoes took a starring role when I was at the White House. For example, at the first Bush State Dinner that honored Mexican President Vicente Fox, I created a menu which included ingredients that were mutual to both the U.S. and Mexico. We served pepita-crusted bison with poblano mashed potatoes and fava-chanterelle ragout. The potatoes gave this dish a perfect comfort food profile.

In a house like the White House comfort food was always a welcome guest, especially with the first families. One of Chelsea Clinton's favorite meals was a dish called the potato roesti (originally from Switzerland). For all intents and purposes I would describe it as a 3/4 inch high pancake size tater tot. The potato roesti is easy to make and great anytime of the day or night. Basically, you grate a pound of potatoes (yukon golds are beautiful in this dish) and season it with salt and pepper. Allow the juices to drain and then fry it up pancake style in hot cast iron pan with butter or olive oil until it is golden brown. You can serve your own roesti with poached eggs, a sprinkle of cheese, and fresh herbs.

One of the best sites to get recipes, stories, and general facts on the potato is the U.S. Potato Board's website: potatounderground.com. If you would like to try the recipe I created for the Vicente Fox dinner, you can find it in my book, White House Chef.

DAVIS FARMER'S MARKET - PHOTOGRAPH BY KIYOMI


Monday, March 10, 2008

SERVING THOSE IN NEED


My personality is such that I am an overall good natured talkative extrovert/optimist . This technically makes me a Sanguine. Much has been written about the Sanguine's personality type weaknesses, but I won't use this forum to discuss them here since I'm trying to be optimistic

The strengths of the Sanguine personality type define people like me as being sincere at heart, forever curious, enthusiastic, an engaging storyteller with a good sense of humor, and the life of the party. These traits are a perfect fit for what I do at The American Chef. I travel around this beautiful country entertaining audiences typically for a fee. I've enjoyed a very favorable set of circumstances which have allowed me to integrate my persona with my business. However, it is still – business.


Within the last couple of weeks I've been able to do two very worthwhile pro-bono engage- ments. The first event took place in Harrisburg, PA for culinary and technical students. The event was hosted by the Pennsylvania Tourism and Lodging Association. I loved having the opportunity to help fuel the fire for the next generation of chefs and hospitality workers.


The next event took me to Ridgely, Maryland - home of St. Martin's Ministries. I think I'm particularly fond of St. Martin and the sisters who run it because their mission statement reads that they "help meet the basic human needs of impoverished people, respect and affirm their dignity, and address the root problems that perpetuate the cycle of poverty." The proceeds of the Authors' Luncheon event went towards helping the sisters meet this goal. Not everyone has the ability to make monetary donations. But, if you feel so inclined, you can give even the smallest of items including everything from diapers to toothpaste. You'll find their humble wish list on their website: www.stmartinsministries.org