Tuesday, May 19, 2009

East Meets Midwest!

I got to share with Chef Ming our Vision for making Chicago Restaurants "Safe and Sound" one bite at a time!
I attended the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Show over the weekend and have so much to share with my favorite allergenistas!

Alas, I thought there weren’t enough products that specifically targeted the food-allergen community. However, there were several booths with a food-allergen focus and all reported good traffic. Bottom line: we’re getting there!

The show also featured a panel on food allergies and food service with Ming Tsai, the Emmy-award winning host of the PBS cooking show Simply Ming and chef/owner of Blue Ginger, a Wellesley, Massachusetts-based restaurant that was honored by the James Beard Foundation as best new restaurant in 1998 and winner of the IMFA’s Silver Plate Award in 2009.
In addition to his kitchen and television duties, Tsai has been a long-time advocate for the country’s food allergy community. Collaborating with State Senator Cynthia Stone Creem, Tsai helped draft a food allergy bill that passed this February.

The law, which will take effect on January 1, 2010, mandates that restaurants in Massachusetts inform their staff about food allergies and requires them to include a statement on their menus urging customers to notify servers of any food-allergen needs, as well as other safety precautions.

"I'm so proud that Massachusetts is the first state to pass such comprehensive legislation," said Tsai, whose son suffers from severe food allergies. "I've always said if you are in the restaurant industry, it's your duty to serve everyone safe food."

A favorite on Moto's menu, this Cuban pork sandwich that resembles a cigar is smoking!
Graduates from Chicago’s Cordon Bleu also presented at the show. I assisted one of the contestants from Top Chef -- Radhika Desai, Chef at Between Boutique Cafe & Lounge -- as well as the world-renowned Homaro Cantu, who has helped import molecular gastronomy, which applies art and science to food, to the Windy City. Cantu is the heart and soul of Moto, which serves a Cuban pork sandwich served in an ashtray and other whimsical delights. At Moto, one can even eat the menu!

Cantu was accompanied by his pastry chef, Ben Roche, whose reconfigured marshmallow s’more resembled a cherry bomb with its birthday candle and authentic campfire flavor. I am eagerly anticipating my first visit to Moto, though Chef Roche recommends those with food allergies call two weeks in advance since the menu is set each night.

Aaron McCargo cooks with love and sizzle!
Last, but certainly not least, I had the pleasure of introducing Aaron McCargo, whose Big Daddy’s Place airs Sundays at 1:30pm/12:30c on the Food Network. He generates so much excitement and energy and believe me, the dish he prepared was out of this world! I am buying the ingredients this weekend and I’ll let you know how the allergen-free version turns out.

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