Thursday, October 31, 2013


Almost scarier than things that go boo during Halloween is the article I just finished reading about the deconstruction of chicken nuggets.  "Mechanically separated chicken" and "Associated supportive tissue" are phrases that can easily give rise to a bit of consumer fear.  Thankfully, however, there are a few non-profit groups that are helping to navigate some of the rising concerns in the marketplace. 

The Center for Food Integrity was designed to build trust and confidence between consumers and food companies.  Recently, I was asked to participate in the CFI 2013 Food Integrity Summit where presenters gave solutions for transparency in the food system and tackling global hunger. During the conference, CFI unveiled its 2013 Consumer Trust in the Food System Research.  The research highlights 7 key attributes needed to develop and maintain consumer trust.  For instance, listed under the Motivation tab is:  When making decisions, the company takes public interest into consideration rather than only considering profit. And, under Credibility:  The company is willing to take responsibility when it makes a mistake.
During the month of November, CFI will be presenting 3 webinars:

November 1 - Breaking Through Consumer Skepticism (1-2 pm CDT).
November 8 - Millennials and Food Information - What They Want and Where They Get It (1-2 pm CDT).
November 15 - Consumers on the Animal Ag - The Trends and Tipping Points (1-2 pm CDT).
The webinars are free of charge, but require registration.  You can do that through the links found here. 

Monday, October 7, 2013


Frieda Rapoport Caplan may not be a household name, but she has played a key role in introducing unusual and exotic produce in your local grocery store. Frieda is most well known for introducing kiwifruit to the U.S. She is the founder of Frieda's Specialty Produce in Southern California.

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting her daughter Karen Caplan who is now the president and CEO of Frieda's, Inc. at dinner that took place in D.C. Karen is also the writer behind the blog called What's On Karen's Plate. She sent me the link to her recent blog entry. 

This week was an interesting one to be in Washington D.C. I was there as part of the produce industry's annual Public Policy Conference, and of course we had visits scheduled with our elected congresspersons. But, many were cancelled as part of the government shutdown. 

As it turns out, the highlight of the week was a special dinner at the Newseum the official Museum of Journalism, and I have written about it here before

On Monday evening, I was invited to a dinner prepared and narrated by Chef Walter Scheib, who was the White House Executive Chef from 1994-2005. He served both the Clinton and George W. Bush families and had more than a few funny stories to share. You can see the four course dinner we enjoyed on this personalized menu.
Since I am a part time (90%) vegan, it was fun to hear about the first course, Red Curried Sweet Potato Soup, which the chef created when Chelsea Clinton went vegan in high school. And to learn that Britain's Tony Blair suggested that the chef add "a piece of halibut" to the soup to make it a main course meal was so interesting.
Red Curried Sweet Potato Soup with Halibut
The third course (the salad), was created when President George W. Bush told the chef that he didn't like anything green (much to the chagrin of the first lady, Laura Bush), so the "salad" was a tamale tart (aka a quiche), on top of slices avocado, orange and sweet onion. 

The chef has an interesting personal story, starting with flunking out of college. He learned his love of cooking from his mother, and as a fluke, applied to the CIA (The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY), and was a last minute acceptance to his class. Not a surprise to me, he finished at the top of his class. And how did he end up as the White House Executive Chef? He sent out his resume, along with more than 2,000 other chefs, but it turns out it was his persistence and a follow-up phone call to the office of the White House Usher that got got him an audience with the First Lady and her "Kitchen Cabinet" who chose the chef. 

My daughter Alex and almost 200 other guests enjoyed the dinner and the fun anecdotal stories the chef shared about his experience at the White House. He told a few stories before each course, shared his inspiration for each recipe, and then eight servers magically appeared from the kitchen and served each course in a synchronized fashion. 

When he stopped by our table, between one of the courses, I asked him about the synchronized serving. He told me that was one of the techniques he perfected while at the White House.  It was so nice to personally meet the chef when he stopped by our table. So, dinner with Chef Walter Scheib has once again inspired me to cook and entertain more, maybe not with the style and flourish of the former White House Executive Chef, but I will have to think up some fun stories to tell before my dinners.
My daughter Alex, Chef Scheib and me.
Bon Apetit! Karen