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Hooked on Cheese Chef Spotlight: Chef Tory Miller

Hooked on Cheese Chef Spotlight: Chef Tory Miller

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This is the fourth and final installment in Hooked on Cheese’s series focusing on outstanding chefs who reign at restaurants off the beaten path in smaller cities across the USA. Enjoy!

This week, Raymond interviewed chef Tory Miller, the executive chef and co-proprietor of l’Etoile, Graze, and Sujeo restaurants in Madison, Wisconsin. A James Beard Award winner, chef Miller uses Old World cooking methods and international influences to take local farm-raised ingredients to “the next level.” Discover how this culinary star rose so rapidly in the industry, why he loves working in Madison and what makes Wisconsin cheeses so spectacular.

Could you start off by telling us a little bit about your background?
I was born in South Korea and adopted by a family in Wisconsin. My grandparents had a restaurant so I kind of grew up in the business. I moved to NYC at 19 to go to The French Culinary Institute [now the International Culinary Center] then worked at Judson Grill with chef Bill Telepan. After six years in New York, I moved back to Madison and worked at l'Etoile under Odessa Piper, who introduced me to farmers in the area.

I love that the restaurant's website lists the specific local farms you source from.
Thanks. When I moved here I fell in love with working with local providers.

Our Chef Series focuses on each chef's connection to their city. Why did you choose to move back to Madison, specifically, after school?
Well, I wanted to get out of NYC and at the time, I was dating someone who loved Madison, so we moved here together. I found I loved the farmers market, the music scene, and the city in general. I still do!

Could you talk about winning the prestigious James Beard Award in 2012?
The experience was pretty incredible. You don't start off your career trying to win a Beard Award; you just want to have a good job in the industry. For me, winning the award was a culmination of all the work I'd done with all the people I'd worked with. I'm friends with Dan Barber [chef and co-owner of the storied Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns] and he presented it to me. Having Dan say my name was incredible — I almost blacked out!

How would you describe the type of cuisine at each of your three restaurants?
L'Etoile is a fine dining, multi-course restaurant with a farm-to-table focus. Graze is more of a gastropub, bistro-type place, but still using local ingredients. Sujeo just opened in August 2014. Its focus is also on using Wisconsin products, but with a Vietnamese/South Asian culinary influence.

[Note: Since this interview took place, chef Miller has announced that he's in the planning stages of an as-yet-unnamed tapas restaurant in downtown Madison to open in Summer 2015.]

Since I'm "The Cheese Guy" at The Daily Meal, which of your three restaurants uses the most cheese?
Definitely Graze. The extensive cheese board at Graze is very popular.

What are your favorite Wisconsin artisan cheeses? American artisan cheeses?
My absolute favorite Wisconsin cheese: the rich, flavorful, 15-year Cheddar from Hook’s Cheese Company. I also love Willi Lehner's cheeses from Bleu Mont Dairy. Pugliese is his newest; Willi’s cheeses are very distinctive. Pleasant Ridge Reserve is also great — the king of Wisconsin cheeses.

At my restaurants, we only use cheese from Wisco since the state gives us so many amazing choices. Grass and milk flavor are incredibly important and farmers here are becoming so adaptive and specific with the feed for their animals. Plus, in Wisconsin, a lot of people are willing to experiment with their cheeses, so they’re always exciting.

You can make your own Hook’s 10-Year Mac & Cheese by following chef Tory Miller’s recipe here. Enjoy!

You can follow Raymond's cheese adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and his website. Additional reporting by Madeleine James.

Hooked on Cheese Chef Spotlight: Chef Tory Miller - Recipes

Wisconsin's Culinary Scene: Learning the Basics

B rush up on your cooking skills while watching and working alongside Wisconsin&rsquos top professional chefs. The doors are open to a variety of classes, lessons and demonstrations &ndash whether it&rsquos in one of the state&rsquos restaurants, culinary schools or fine retail stores and farmer&rsquos markets. Here are some top picks to get a &ldquoculinary education&rdquo on your next vacation to Wisconsin. Spots fill up quickly and reservations are required for most of the schools and demonstration classes. Travelers are encouraged to call ahead.

Culinary and Cooking Schools

The Marcel Biró Culinary School (920-451-6940) in Sheboygan is the gold standard for culinary schools with its own nationally syndicated PBS cooking series &ldquoThe Kitchens of Biró.&rdquo It&rsquos a full-immersion cooking school dedicated to teaching classic European techniques, however, Chef Biró prides himself on individualized attention for all his students and wants to teach skills that anyone can take home and use in their kitchen. For $350, those wanting to really immerse in restaurant cooking can sign up for &ldquoChef for a Day&rdquo to be an apprentice at either Biró Restaurant or Ó. A sampling of classes from their extensive catalog includes intensives on sushi and advanced pastry to menus that feature light, healthy food to Rustic Italian. Travelers can make their experiences a getaway weekend at a variety of lodging properties in the area, which offer up to 25% off for class participants.

Terri Milligan, executive chef and owner of The Inn at Kristofer&rsquos (920-854-9419) in Sister Bay, has been instructing everyone from professional chefs to cooking novices for 20 years. Featured on the Food Channel's "Best of Holiday Cooking,&rdquo Milligan offers cooking class and demonstration theme dinners plus demonstration and participation classes.

Another Door County educational sojourn is the Savory Spoon Cooking School (920-854-6600) in Ellison Bay. Located in a 160 year-old historic schoolhouse, the Savory Spoon caters to the home cook who wants to learn by experience. Chef and owner Janice Thomas, along with her many visiting guest chefs, host classes up to 16 students in her spacious farmhouse kitchen from June through October. Dip your spoon into global cuisine from India, Asia, or Argentina. Or stay closer to home with an exploration of Door County&rsquos own unique flavors and ingredients. Classes are held in the evening and start at $50 per person.

Visitors to the historic Washington Island Hotel, Restaurant, & Culinary School (920-847-2169) can relax, hike, fish, boat &ndash and cook. Executive Chef Leah Caplan oversees a variety of classes, from one-hour demonstrations that are perfect for sightseers touring the island, to more intensive two-day hands-on classes. The Washington Island Hotel, Restaurant & Culinary School offers custom classes for up to 10 people and their regular class puts special emphasis on ingredients found locally. Guest chefs are brought in to teach specialties such as bread baking, cooking with chocolate and more.

Unique to Wisconsin&rsquos cooking school scene is the Braise Culinary School (414-241-9577). Unlike most cooking classes located at restaurants or homes, this is a traveling school that goes right to the location where food is grown and produced, showcasing Wisconsin products in their native settings, often on farms around the state. Braise Culinary School classes compliment the seasons and help participants reconnect with the land. A tour of the farm or facility, recipes and ample samplings of the dishes are all part of the class format. Classes focus on maple syrup, cheese, wine and chocolate.

Wisconsin's Top Chefs and Restaurants

Milwaukee&rsquos very own celebrity chef Sanford &ldquoSandy&rdquo D&rsquoAmato is sharing his experience and recipes in a series of culinary classes at his Historic Third Ward District restaurant, Coquette Café (414-291-2655). The $59 price includes the 3-hour evening class and tasting of a four course meal that includes inspired dishes such as Fennel Seared Tuna on Vegetable Spaghetti with Fig Onion Relish or Marsala Poached Pear with Vin Santo Zabaglione.

Madison &rsquos L&rsquoEtoile Restaurant (608-251-0500) has been a venerable fixture in the fine dining scene since 1976, when Chef Odessa Piper launched the restaurant after being inspired by the diversity and quality of the area&rsquos local ingredients. In a series of ongoing cooking classes, current owner and chef, Tory Miller, shares the inspiration and techniques behind L&rsquoEtoile&rsquos seasonal menus, putting the spotlight on local farmers and producers. Dinner classes include a three-course meal with wine, instruction and recipes to take home and cost $85 per person. Sign up to receive email announcements about upcoming classes.

Fondue has made a huge comeback in recent years, as retailers from Williams Sonoma to Target sell pots, accessories and cookbooks dedicated to this Swiss art of communal dining and cooking. In the village of New Glarus, where large numbers of Swiss immigrants settled in the mid-19th century, travelers can get the authentic fondue experience. Local Swiss-trained Chef Mike Neval shares his secrets for an authentic fondue during demonstrations at both the Chalet Laundhaus Inn & Restaurant (608-527-5234) and the New Glarus Hotel (608-527-5244). A fondue demonstration for groups of 10 or more includes a lesson behind the history of fondue and an overview on the cheese and the proper dipping accoutrements. Afterwards, guests can purchase all of the ingredients needed to make fondue at home. Contact the Chalet Landhaus to make reservations.

At The Dining Room (608-938-2200) in Monticello, Chef Dave "Wave" Kasprzak and his wife Jane Sybers offer two formats of culinary education. Observation classes cover ethnic cuisine, dinner party planning and kitchen techniques in a 1 ½-2 hour class. Guest&rsquos won&rsquot leave hungry after a hearty sampling and wine tasting. In a more intensive &ldquoChef for the Day&rdquo class, four students will prepare an entire five-course menu, under Chef Wave&rsquos supervision, of course. During the 3 ½ hour class, students might cover any number of topics depending on the menu, such as knife techniques, sauce creation, butchering, seafood preparation and more. Each student can bring a friend to enjoy the fruits of their labor. E-mail or call The Dining Room to be placed on a mailing list for more information and an upcoming class schedule.

Shopping and Demonstration Classes

For an informal dip into the culinary waters of Wisconsin, a number of retail shops specializing in gourmet food and cooking equipment offer mini-cooking sessions and demonstrations.

The Demonstration Kitchen at The Shops at Woodlake (1-800-344-2838) is a very casual working kitchen that allows up to 40 people to watch and interact with chefs from the seven Destination Kohler restaurants as the prepare a featured dish. Demonstrations are Saturdays, January-April at 11a.m. and 2p.m. and cost $25 per person.

Purchase all of your cooking equipment and supplies to make your kitchen the envy of all others at the Truly Delicious Chef Shop (715-934-8179) in Hayward, then stick around for a class that will help even the novice chef cook like a professional. Classes range from full menu preparation to focus on specific ingredients like venison, stout ale or olive oil.

The Milwaukee Public Market (414-336-1111), the urban farmer&rsquos market and gourmet food mecca, is not only a place to purchase the choicest cuts of meat and the freshest organic produce, but a destination to learn how to help you turn your ingredients into something really special. Classes are held in the evenings in a demonstration format and include printed recipes and tastings of each recipe.

Take a day to learn how to bake sourdough bread like you find in San Francisco at Madison Sourdough (608-833-8009). Get your hands covered in flour in this intense Saturday class that covers the basics from mixing and kneading to shaping and baking. Fee for the class, which includes snacks and lunch, is $250.

Basil Farmersfrom Decatur Dairy

"The Wisconsin cheese scene has grown so much since I started in this business and really exploded in the last 10 years. While we love new and exciting products, our customers also love the classics. The backbone of our cheese department is cheddars aged between two and 13 years. Another standout cheese is the fresh Basil Farmers from master cheesemaker Steve Stettler at Decatur Dairy. Skip Brennan collaborated with Steve on this cheese, and it&aposs delicious—wonderful by itself, or in a grilled cheese or hybrid Caprese Salad." Tim Mulcahy, owner, Brennan&aposs Cellars

The President’s Kitchen Cabinet by Adrian Miller

Even the busiest people in the world need to eat, and knowing how a good meal can serve as brain power, there’s no denying that food can energize, sustain, and certainly comfort those who need it. Today we’re focusing on a fascinating new project by Adrian Miller, his newly released book The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, From the Washingtons to the Obamas. Adrian, a food author and soul food scholar, combed through the stories of more than 150 black men and women who cooked in the White House kitchen throughout history — from George Washington’s “onions done in the Brazilian way” to a controversial beanless chili prepared for Lyndon Johnson — to shine light on how food played an important role in major events.

Including 20 recipes from black chefs who cooked in the presidential food service over the years, Adrian’s book celebrates those who nurtured the nation’s presidents while examining how the pivotal role of food-related work changed and developed for African Americans from before Emancipation to present day.

Today we’re thrilled to have Adrian tell us more about his book, the special stories he uncovered, and food’s meaningful influence on past presidencies. He’s also sharing a Jerk Chicken Pizza Recipe — beloved by Bill Clinton! — and it’s easy enough for anyone to make (White House chef or home cook novice). Check out my Q&A with Adrian and the recipe after the jump, and you can order a copy of his book here. —Kelli

All photography courtesy of Adrian Miller

Design*Sponge: What inspired you to write this book?

Adrian Miller: The short answer is “unemployment.” I was in between jobs when I was inspired to write a history of soul food. As I researched that book, I came across several references to African Americans who have cooked for our presidents. Even though I worked in the White House (for President Bill Clinton), I had never thought about this unique aspect of presidential history. I felt that someone needed to tell this story.

Can you shed light on how race and civil rights played into these jobs and roles? Did any of these chefs and cooks comment on what it was like to cook in a White House that didn’t fully support their civil rights?

The White House kitchen has often mirrored what was happening in our broader society. We had many slaveholding presidents, and they brought enslaved cooks with them to the White House. Most of the enslaved cooks spent the majority of their time in the White House basement where the kitchen is located. Understandably, most enslaved cooks were silent about their time in the White House. Yet, there is a remarkable interview of an unnamed, enslaved cook for President Tyler that was printed in an anti-slavery publication in July 1842. The cook makes quite clear to the interlocutor that he desires freedom more than the prestige of being a White House cook.

Image above: Gerald Ford’s staff preparing the Japanese state dinner

In your research, did you discover any stories of traditional African foodways and culture affecting or influencing the cuisine served at The White House?

Given that we have had so many southern-born-and-bred presidents, and that the White House lies in an area carved out of two southern states (Maryland and Virginia), southern cooking is the White House’s foundational cuisine. Though this point seems to be somewhat lost these days, African Americans made huge contributions to southern cuisine. In many cases, our First Families have given African American cooks free reign to make classic southern dishes, and historic newspapers are full of articles indicating how much presidents loved those dishes. My favorite story involves President Franklin Roosevelt serving sweet-and-sour pig’s feet to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill . . . in the White House!

How do you view the current food scene (in and out of the White House) as it relates to race history and culture?

All of those things — race, history and culture — are infused in our current food scene in terms of what we eat, how it is prepared, how it is perceived and its availability. I love the current discussions about food justice, cultural appropriation and culinary justice. I do believe that food has the power to bring us together, and I think a sustained, fruitful dialogue on such thorny issues will move us towards reconciliation and fellowship at the table. The biggest stumbling block to such progress is the reluctance of some to open their minds and exhibit a willingness to unpack how privilege (particularly in terms of class, gender, political power and race) have shaped our food system here and around the world.

Image above: Chef Charlie Redden and President Clinton

What is your favorite recipe from the book and why?

I actually like the Pedernales River chili recipe the most because of the backstory. The Lyndon Johnson White House created a firestorm when this recipe was released because it is a beanless chili. Most Americans are used to chili with beans, but Texans have a different philosophy. Given the public backlash, the White House went into damage control and worked to reassure the public that their president loved beans. That reassurance came from Zephyr Wright — President Johnson’s longtime, African American cook.

What was the most interesting story you discovered when researching this book?

There are so many. I really like the story of Laura “Dolly” Johnson who was hired by President Benjamin Harrison. Here’s an example of an African American cook at the height of her bargaining power. She had to be persuaded to work at the White House. When she was hired, the French woman already working in the White House kitchen filed a lawsuit against the president for unlawful discharge. Johnson’s hire made national headlines which was quite surprising for an African American living during those times.

Image above: Laura “Dolly” Johnson

There’s much to be said about the power of food and its comfort in trying situations. Did you see that play out through history in the meals these chefs prepared for their administrations?

Yes, absolutely! The president’s intense desire to indulge in comfort foods is a cornerstone of the presidential food story. The main objectives of the chefs were to please the presidents and keep them healthy. These goals were in conflict at times because the stress of the job makes presidents crave the comfort food of their childhood, or just plain old junk food. The only people standing in the president’s way — and keeping the president on a diet — have typically been the First Lady or the White House physician.

Who do you draw inspiration from to both cook and write?

In terms of food writing, I was first drawn to Calvin Trillin’s essays. I love his wry sense of humor, and I wanted to put my own spin on it by writing entertaining and slightly humorous culinary history. In terms of cooking, it’s definitely my late mother, Johnetta Miller, the late Edna Lewis and the southwestern cuisine that Bobby Flay put out earlier in his career.

Jerk Chicken Pita Pizza

Recipe by Chef Charlie Redden, the first certified executive chef of the White House Mess. This was the first thing that he prepared for President Bill Clinton — who loved it!


-4 pita breads
-12 tablespoons pizza sauce
-1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (optional)
-1/2 teaspoon dried basil (optional)
-Sliced chicken breast strips (pre-cooked)
-2 tablespoons of jerk seasoning (Recommend Island Jerk Seasoning by Tropical Pepper Co.)
-1 cup low-fat shredded mozzarella cheese
-4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
-1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion (optional)
-1/2 cup thinly sliced green bell peppers (optional)
-Red pepper flakes, to taste


Place the pita breads on a cookie sheet.

Spread 3 tablespoons of the pizza sauce onto each pita.

Sprinkle 1/8 tablespoon each of oregano and basil, if using, onto each pita.

Toss the chicken strips with the jerk seasoning and place them on the pizza.

Top each pita with 1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese and 1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese.

Top each pita with 1/4 cup each of the onions and bell peppers, if using. Season to taste with red pepper flakes.

The Joey Special

Season 4, Episode 23 – “The One With Ross’ Wedding (Part I)”

A joke made brilliant in its simplicity, the “Joey Special” is humorous both for Joey’s simple-minded nature and his never-ending appetite. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he’s a very Americanized version of an Italian, making pizza a perfect favorite for the often broke actor. When we first discover it &mdash as Phoebe tries to soothe Joey’s homesickness by assuring him she ordered the Joey Special for lunch &mdash it’s a passing remark. But the legacy of Joey’s insatiable appetite only grows as the seasons go on, making this two-pizzas order an early staple of this jam-loving lad’s character.

Recipe: It may seem odd to order a couple of za’s for Thanksgiving dinner &mdash either as your main course or a hearty appetizer &mdash but there are quite a few restaurants offering deals on the Joey Special (even if it’s not referred to as such).

The recipe below is our version of fried cheese curds prepared with a vodka-based batter.

At the last Cheese Days celebration in Monroe, Wis., the polka-rock-band powerhouse Copper Box piped out: “Who Stole My Cheese Curds?” The crowds dancing in the streets surrounding the courthouse square cheered them on, many savoring their own serving of this popular Midwestern treat made from fresh cheese curds. Every other year in September, Cheese Days turns our small town into one big, three-day party that showcases local cheese and Swiss heritage, with yodeling, cheese and cream puffs for all.

While we’ve been known to sample a few of the thousands of cheese curds fried up by the Monroe Optimists Club at Cheese Days, our all-time favorites are those prepared at Graze in Madison, Wis. Chef Tory Miller takes extra-large cheese curds from Sassy Cow Creamery and transforms them into melt-in-your-mouth heaven.

You’ll have to search your local cheese factory for the curds because using regular cheese won’t hold up to the frying process. Cheese curds are the result of the first step in making cheese when the milk is curdled with rennet. How the curds are salted and handled define the shape, flavor, texture and type of certain cheeses.

The recipe below is our version of fried cheese curds prepared with a vodka-based batter. (We tried to get Chef Tory’s actual recipe without luck.) Catch us in line in a couple weeks at Cheese Days for the Optimists’ Fried Cheese Curds. The line is shorter on Friday night.

Recipe: Fried Cheese Curds
“The batter itself is just a mixture of flour, some spices, and soda water,” explains Samantha Engelhoff at Graze. “It’s a super simple recipe. Most fried cheese curds are made with beer, but we use vodka because they fry up quicker and the cheese stays nice and gooey inside and crispy on the outside!” The key is getting fresh cheese curds and making sure that the fryer oil is hot.

Yield: 7 appetizer-sized portions

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 T. corn starch
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1½ T. milk
  • 1 T. soda water
  • 1 T. vodka
  • 12 ounces cheddar cheese curds (about 3/4-pound package)
  • 1½ cup canola oil for frying

In medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, corn starch and salt. In separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, soda water and vodka. Add the wet ingredients to dry ingredients, mixing until smooth.

Set a deep fryer temperature to 425 to 450 degrees F. Coat cheddar cheese curds with batter, and fry the individually coated cheese curds for approximately 1 minute each or until golden brown. Drain curds on paper towels.

Serve fried cheese curds in paper lined basket with ranch dressing for dipping.

At The Pass with Shiela Labao and Miguel Hernandez

At The Pass is a weekly series showcasing Toronto’s best chefs. You won’t find any celebrity chefs featured here. Perhaps you already know these fine cooks, but maybe not. They’re not famous - yet. But it’s time these talented, passionate, hard-working chefs got a bit of the spotlight.

Shiela Labao - Head Baker/Co-Owner at The New Pie Company, Office and HR Manager elsewhere

Miguel Hernandez - Baker/Co-Owner The New Pie Company

This is our first foray into the food industry, so we don’t have past work experiences.

Favourite dish to make right now

SL: I’m doing a deep dive to Filipino cuisine lately and I’ve resurrected my Grandmother’s Sinigang na Hipon recipe -. It’s a soup with a sour tamarind base broth, okras, snake beans, taro root, tomatoes, and shrimp. It’s incredibly satisfying!

MH: Crispy pan seared wild mushrooms finished with butter, garlic and rosemary, served on top of arugula with shaved pecorino and some lemon juice squeezed, on top. It's fresh and simple.

Last cookbook purchase

Have you read it/tried any recipes

SL: Not yet. She has many amazing summer fruit pie recipes so I’m waiting for the warmer season.

MH: Read it all, and tried the basic flour and water dough recipe. Hand rolling pasta is hard AF. And It gave me a lot of respect for what Chef Evan Funke does.

One dish or ingredient you’d like to see gone from menus

SL: Beets. I’ve tried so many different dishes but I just can’t convince my brain that it tastes delicious.

MH: I love all food, but anything gimmicky or over the top is a “No” for me.

And one dish or ingredient that you’re excited about right now and would like to see on more menus

SL: We need more pies on dessert menus!

MH: Mushrooms! I love cooking with mushrooms and would love to see them used in as many ways as possible.

Biggest influences

SL: Chef-wise: Christina Tosi. I love how playful her dishes are and I relate to her way of reaching into flavours from her childhood memories and recreating them. Also my grandmother, Angela - I used to go with her to the wet market. She introduced me to so many flavours and the joy of making food.

MH: Anyone who has been able to pursue their dreams and passions. Especially those who were able to persevere through this dumpster fire of a year.

If you could eat at any restaurant in the world

MH: Probably a small ramen shop tucked away in some random laneway or back alley in Japan.

Introducing Orange Honey Pie. Cardamom butter crust, orange and honey filling with candied oranges and cardamom syrup drizzle.

Last thing you ate

SL: A handful of sour key candies while listening to my boyfriend say that I may have a sugar addiction.

MH: Broccoli and hummus.

Three must-have ingredients always in your fridge

SL: Butter, heavy cream, and eggs.

MH: Anchovy fillets in oil, tomato paste in a squeeze tube, and butter!

Guilty pleasure

SL: A day to myself - sitting and drinking coffee at my own pace in a coffee shop, followed by a nail appointment, and then a shopping stroll on Queen W. I’m dreaming of the day this will happen again.

MH: I can inhale an entire box of PC White Cheddar Deluxe Macaroni & Cheese Dinner. And I have. on several occasions.

Top 3 favourite Toronto restaurants

MH: So many to choose from! If I had to pick the first three that come to mind: Ramen Isshin, Golden Turtle, Rosewood Asian Cuisine. (Bonus: Maizal. Shoutout to Ivan Wadgymar for making the best tortillas in the city!)

Top 3 favourite Toronto bars

SL: Vodka Soda on dancy nights and Bourbon on the rocks on quiet nights.

MH: A crisp cold Miller High Life.

One habit you have in the kitchen that you should lose, but can’t seem to shake

SL: I think I’m a little micro manager in the kitchen because I’ve always baked by myself, but now that I’m working with Miguel, I’m really trying to stay back and relax.

MH: Using way more dishes than I probably need to make a meal.

And one habit you have in the kitchen that will inspire young chefs

SL: I always try to figure out the “why” when it comes to ingredients and technique. When you know the science behind the recipe, you’ll be able to manipulate it properly.

MH: Adapting to things on the fly. Maybe I forgot to get a certain ingredient, or decided to change something last minute because the dish wasn't tasting right.

Hidden talent

SL: I don’t need a knife to peel and eat a whole ripe mango. Pretty proud of that one.

MH: I can remember and recite a lot of rap lyrics and Simpson's quotes

Best career advice you ever received

SL: “Communicate truthfully and respectfully” Literally one of the values we have at my current job. It applies to everything in life. Easy to say, but super hard to do. I tend to sugarcoat things, but I learned that people appreciate when you’re transparent but also kind.

MH: Life is full opportunities to learn something new, if you're willing to take them. - My Dad

Worst career advice you ever received

SL: I can’t think of any bad advice tbh.

MH: I try not to listen to negative people.

Your advice for a young cook starting out in the business

SL: Read, research, talk to people. It’s tempting to get carried away, especially if you’re doing something you’re very passionate about. But there’s nothing wrong with taking your time, planning accordingly and making sure you have a financial plan and goal on paper, and an exit strategy!

MH: Same thing my dad tells me. " Life is full opportunities to learn something new, if you're willing to take them."

In order to support chefs during this time, the monthly At The Pass series is now WEEKLY. Know someone in Toronto or GTA who should be featured? Submit their name for consideration.

Going Cold Tofu

And make no mistake: it is an addiction, says Neal Barnard, MD, VT’s “Ask the Doc” columnist, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, and author of Breaking the Food Seduction.

Actually, it’s more accurate to say I’m hooked on casomorphins, the tiny, biologically active compounds produced when my body breaks down milk proteins. “Casomorphins attach to the brain’s opiate receptors to cause a calming effect in much the same way heroin and morphine do,” Barnard explains. “In fact, since cheese is processed to express out all the liquid, it’s an incredibly concentrated source of casomorphins—you might call it dairy crack.”

What to do? “You do what you do with any drug you’re hooked on—you get away from it,” Barnard concludes. “You don’t look at it, you don’t smell it, and you certainly don’t eat it.” From Barnard’s point of view, cheese is simply an irredeemable source of calories and saturated fat.

Once addicted to cheese herself, vegan chef Isa Chandra Moskowitz, author of Veganomicon and Vegan with a Vengeance, echoes Barnard in counseling abstinence. “You need to give yourself a couple of months without cheese, some time to let your taste buds catch up with your ethics,” she says. “It might sound like deprivation at first, but your body will adjust. I started loving Brussels sprouts and butternut squash I could taste the subtle difference between a raw and a toasted pumpkin seed. Once you figure out that you don’t have to cover everything in cheese, you start to become almost like a supertaster.”

Jo Stepaniak, MSEd, author of The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook, calls this cooling-off period “going cold tofu.” But going without cheese doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some of the same sensations in your diet. “Avocados and nut butters impart a rich, creamy mouthfeel similar to cheese,” she says. “A baked sweet potato with peanut or almond butter will produce that same satisfying sensation without the unpleasant side effects. Arugula has a sharp bite that makes your taste buds sit up and go, ‘Wow!’ ” Buy prewashed baby arugula and eat it right out of the container whenever you get a cheese craving.

Another of Stepaniak’s favorite cheese weaners—and a great substitute for a grilled cheese sandwich—is an open-faced peanut butter-and-broccoli sandwich. “Simply spread warm toast with your favorite peanut butter, top it with steamed, bite-sized broccoli florets, and drizzle it with tamari. The combination of creamy peanut butter, pungent broccoli, and salty tamari is wonderful. Plant-based alternatives to cheese are not only delicious, they are creative and fun.”

After a month or two has passed, go ahead and start playing around with cheese substitutes, whether homemade or store-bought. Just don’t rush it. And blend the heck out of whatever you are adding to your substitute of choice. “Dairy molecules are as tiny as tiny can be, so when they hit your tongue, it gives you an immediate mmm,” Moskowitz explains. “When you do vegan versions of cheese sauces, you should use a good food processor or Vita-Mix and work to simulate that effect. And you have to manage your expectations.”

Bobby Flay Talks Brunch With Us + a Cookbook Giveaway!

We all love lazy Sundays, but perhaps no one loves them more than Bobby Flay. After all, the restaurateur, cookbook author, and TV chef has a whole show on Cooking Channel dedicated to it, Brunch @ Bobby’s . Now, he has a follow-up book to accompany it, out this month, titled Brunch @ Bobby’s: 140 Recipes for the Best Part of the Weekend. We caught up with the chef or a few minutes to talk about his cooking show, the new cookbook, and his personal brunch favorites.

Why is brunch your favorite meal of the week?

It’s a slow meal especially designed for lazy Sunday mornings. It’s the perfect time to catch up with friends, rehash the goings on of the night before, prepare yourself for the week ahead, and you get to have a cocktail before 5 p.m.!

What brunch creation of yours are you most proud of?

I don’t know that I have one that I am most proud of because I really do love all of my recipes, but one that I always enjoy eating and could eat every single day is the Creamy Polenta with Braised Greens, Poached Eggs and Chile Oil. It is comforting, decadent, and delicious, all things that brunch dishes should be.

How can we get people who dislike brunch to change their minds?

Why would anyone dislike brunch? There is just nothing to hate about it. Delicious egg dishes, fluffy pancakes, crisp waffles, bacon, maple syrup…cocktails! Enough said!

Can you share any fun facts about the making of Brunch @ Bobby’s?

It takes three and a half hours to tape one 24-minute [email protected]’s show.

That is a fun fact. All right: brunch lighting round! Tell us your top pick for each. First up: Bloody Mary or Mimosa?

Saturday or Sunday brunch?

Sunday…It is the one day of the week that I really do try to take for myself.

Brunch: before noon or after noon?

Sweet or savory brunch?

Savory, but I always order pancakes or waffles or French toast “for the table.”

To celebrate Bobby’s book, we’re giving away 10 signed copies of Brunch @ Bobby’s . To enter for a chance to win, leave a comment telling us your favorite brunch dish. We’ll randomly pick 10 winners next Wednesday, October 14. Good luck!

Spotlight: Jamestown and Chautauqua-Allegheny

Where else can you find two museums dedicated entirely to the art and history of comedy? Beyond this humorous theme, Jamestown, a friendly and historic town in Western New York, and its surrounding area are full of a variety of other fun, with restaurants, cultural activities, and outdoor adventures to please the whole family.

Jamestown’s exciting renaissance features the new-in-2018 National Comedy Center as well as classics like the Lucy-Desi Museum and the gorgeous Chautauqua Lake for views, boat rides, and performances and lectures at Chautauqua Institution. The surrounding region provides many opportunities for fun day trips, from exploring nature in some of the state’s most loved parks to winery tours to large-scale sculpture parks and ski resorts with year-round activities.

Remember to social distance and wear a mask as required by state guidelines. Call ahead and check websites and social media to make sure attractions are open and available. Be advised that New York hasਊ travel advisory in effect. 

Vegan Soul Food at NuVegan Café in Washington DC

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Marriage turned Vernon Woodland into a vegan.

The chef at and co-owner of the Washington, D.C., eatery NuVegan Café (formerly Woodland’s Vegan Bistro) grew up eating like other African-American youth in the city’s black neighborhoods: meals centered on chicken, beef, and pork. And there was plenty of macaroni and cheese.

His wife, Mickiyah Woodland, who spent her childhood years in Bermuda and in D.C., learned to cook at a young age in the vegan restaurants that her parents operated.

When the Woodlands, both 34, married 14 years ago, “she converted me over,” says Vernon, who trained at the New England Culinary Institute. “This whole vegan lifestyle was new to me and to a lot of people, especially in this area.”

A new wave of African-American vegans

Now the couple is among an increasing number of black vegan enthusiasts, from megawatt celebrities like husband-and-wife recording artists Jay Z and Beyoncé to ordinary moms intent on better family nutrition.

Plant-based cuisine is featured at black-owned restaurants and in cookbooks by black authors, like 2015 James Beard Foundation award winner Bryant Terry, chef-in-residence at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco.

Online, a host of African-American–centric venues tout the vegan lifestyle, including,, and On Facebook, thousands follow the pages Black Vegan Love and Beautiful Black Vegan Women.

The Woodlands serve vegan adaptations of the beloved mac and cheese, and barbecue roast and fried chicken, plus a slew of veggie sides, salads, and juices.

“We kind of made a name for ourselves as a soul-food vegan restaurant,” Vernon says proudly.

Patrons include producer and businessman Russell Simmons, and one of the best-known advocates—black or white—for a diet that shuns animal products and manufactured food in favor of fruits and vegetables: activist and comedian Dick Gregory.

Gregory’s 1974 book Dick Gregory’s Natural Diet for Folks Who Like to Eat: Cookin’ With Mother Nature remains popular. It influenced Darrin Wilkerson, a mental-health counselor in Los Angeles who administers the Facebook pages Beautiful Black Vegan Women and Positive Strong Black Vegan Men.

“We are all learning at the same time,” says Wilkerson, 48, who also launched the Black Vegan Community on Facebook to share vegan experiences.

The switch to plant-based foods

Wilkerson’s mom owned a fish market on the Jersey Shore, so he ate mostly seafood as a child. But for the past 10 years, he’s stuck to a plant-based diet.

He finds support in the social group Vegans of Color. If it seems odd that a man is behind Beautiful Black Vegan Women, consider Wilkerson’s goal: generational change. “My whole point is to educate the women because they make the food decisions in the household. They are in control of the diet and nutritional value,” he says.

Woodland learned from his wife, and in 2009 they took over the former Everlasting Life Café, changing the name to Woodland’s Vegan Bistro in 2013. It was rebranded as NuVegan Café this year.

Their adapted comfort foods hooked locals who were being told by their doctors to eat healthier in order to combat health conditions—hypertension, diabetes, and obesity—prevalent among blacks (and the U.S. population as a whole).

The Woodlands own a second NuVegan Café in College Park, MD, that caters to a younger crowd.

“Our whole mission,” Vernon says, “is to change the perception of what vegan food is.”



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