Is Agave Nectar Really Better Than Sugar?

Is Agave Nectar Really Better Than Sugar?

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Professional chefs, bakers and home cooks alike have been pleased to discover agave nectar, a sweet and pleasantly mild syrup made from the root of the agave plant (which, when fermented, becomes tequila). Marketed as an all-natural sugar substitute, at 32 dollars a gallon agave is turning an extremely good profit globally. But is agave better and healthier than sugar?

Origins of Agave

Agaves, a close relative of the aloe plant, are native to the southwest of the United States, Central America, as well as central and tropical South America. It is produced mainly in the Guadalajara region in Mexico, where it has been used by native Mexicans for centuries.

Commercial production of agave nectar began in the 1990’s, and since then bottles of this exotic golden syrup have been crowding the shelves of health food stores across the United States and Europe. Agave nectar can be found on the labels of many products from soda and ice cream to ketchup and granola. Now entering the mainstream culinary market, restaurants, cafes, bakeries and bars are serving agave in cocktails, smoothies, sauces, dressings and baked goods.

Agave Nectar: Health Benefits and Concerns

Despite many claims

What You Need to Know About Kombucha

What You Need to Know About Kombucha

Kombucha

Kombucha is sweet tea fermented with yeast and bacteria. It has a Japanese name, origins in ancient China, and an almost cult following in the United States.

Most people find kombucha either wonderfully enticing or absolutely disgusting. Followers of the kombucha movement laud the positive effects the beverage has on their bodies and many love the taste, but unless you’ve seen the light, the appeal of this drink remains a mystery. For those who love the stuff, are looking to convert, or are just squeamishly curious, read on to learn more about the drink’s origins, health benefits and mysterious life cycle.

What Is Kombucha?

Kombucha is made by adding some of the kombucha starter culture to a mixture of tea and sugar, and letting it ferment for seven to fourteen days. A mushroom-like bacteria and yeast growth develops in the form of a pink gelatinous pancake (referred to as “the mother”) that uses the tea and sugar for food. A chemical reaction produces the resulting drinkable substance known as kombucha. Smaller organisms called “babies” break off from the mother and are often given or sold to others looking to start growing kombucha.

3 Healthy Smoothies Perfect for the Holidays

It’s time to get out the blender and put it to work with these simple, delicious recipes for healthy, seasonal smoothies with an autumn twist. If you don’t already drink juices or blended drinks on a regular basis, smoothies are a great place to start. These simple blends are easy to love and even easier to integrate into your daily routine.

Here are a few tips on why smoothies are an easy way to incorporate some great nutrition into your daily diet:

  • Smoothies are one of those no-hassle treats you can whip up quickly, and with just a few ingredients you may already have on hand.
  • Drinking smoothies on a regular basis can be a really good habit to form, however you have to be smart about the ingredients you choose. Store-bought smoothies typically contain sweetened fruit juice, sugar and even ice cream, but making them at home with fresh fruit, vegetables and other ingredients can make for a very healthy snack.
  • Fewer than a quarter of Americans get enough fruits and vegetables, despite the USDA’s recommendations of at least five servings per day. With a smoothie, you can easily incorporate 1-2 cups of greens and 1-1.5 cups of fruit. “Drinking smoothies, especially

How science sizzles in the modern kitchen

Some of the world’s finest chemists don’t wear lab coats. Instead, they don aprons and toques, and masterfully meld their passion for cooking with a growing awareness of the science behind the culinary arts. The results are driving an extraordinary expansion of our cuisine and transforming ordinary meals into fabulous feasts. That’s according to a group of prominent chefs, authors and culinary educators who will speak on Sunday, August 10, at the 248th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in San Francisco.

“This is a great time to examine the intersection of culinary arts and science,” says César Vega, Ph.D., who is at Mars, Inc., and is editor-in-chief and co-author of The Kitchen as a Laboratory. “Science is helping to put a lot of new culinary experiences on our tables. With it, chefs have many new tools at their disposal to manipulate the sensation, the flavor and the color of the foods they’re able to put on a plate.”

Science is enabling culinary experts to see food differently, says Guy Crosby, Ph.D., the co-author of The Science of Good Cooking, who organized today’s symposium, called “Trends in Cooking Science.”

“Traditional methods of cooking are making way for new

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From Restaurant Failure to Culinary Success How the Recession Is Redefining the Food World

There’s no question that opening restaurants has been difficult over the past year. The balance of who is going to make it versus who’s going to fold has many chefs contemplating their futures. While every chef has his or her own take on the current economic situation, the harsh reality is that in today’s economy, people are spending less time eating out and more time at their own kitchen tables.

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When the stock market took a nosedive in October 2008, I was on the cusp of opening a four million dollar restaurant. I played a major role in both the business planning and the design of the restaurant, and was ready to get the ball rolling as soon as humanly possible. But when “D-Day” finally came, my partners decided that putting the project on hold was the best financial move–throwing me for a loop! But I realized that as with any disappointment, you have to pick up the pieces, regroup, and move forward.

Farm Fresh Recession

Soon after my initial setback,

Food Trucks The Latest Craze in the Cooking World

Catering trucks and street food don’t have the best reputations. In the past, you could count on food trucks to serve up suspect tuna salad on stale white bread with limp lettuce and coffee so strong it could strip the paint off your car. Today’s trucks, however, take a much different approach.

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Street Food Gets Social

The “food truck” invasion is taking over America’s street corners from LA to NYC and Portland to Austin. Once the haunt of blue collar workers, food trucks now attract generation Y technocrats who track elusive food truck locations via Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter. Rumor has it that tracking via GPS will be available all too soon.

Alice Shin, Kogi BBQ food truck creative director and blogger reports, “I Twittered…and within two minutes it was kind of like Night of the Living Dead when you see zombies. I saw all of these people walking out of buildings toward the truck, and they were all looking at their phones and BlackBerrys…it was sort of both cool

Green Cuisine Takes Root in America’s Kitchens

Sustainable cooking. Clean cuisine. Call it what you will, but cooking with a conscience has struck a chord with chefs and, in turn, their clientele.

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“Chefs must be at the forefront of helping people re-connect with real food,” says Chef Tom Leavett, personal chef and owner of Chicago’s White Oak Gourmet, who says Americans have lost touch with the sources of their food supply due to the convenience of industrialized agriculture.

But while sustainable may be a new buzzword in the media sphere, it’s tradition in the kitchen.

“Alice Waters talked about sustainable foods in the early 1970s,” says Chef Stuart Donald of the Mars Hill Cafe in Mobile, AL. “Since then, it has gone from being a quirky sentiment to a full blown movement.”

What Is Green Cuisine Anyway?

How chefs define sustainable cooking varies, but most emphasize producing healthy, natural foods, preferably from local growers who employ environmentally responsible agricultural techniques.

“To me, sustainability means not trying to outsmart Mother Nature,” says Donald. “Don’t mess with a plant’s genetic makeup. Don’t

The Debate Over Eating Exotic Meat

Humans like the excitement of uncharted territory. Perhaps this explains the surge in our appetite for exotic meat. Whether it’s selling lion burgers in Arizona, dipping tiger genitalia in soy sauce to improve fertility in China, or importing 24 tons of pangolin (a rare spiny anteater) to Vietnam from Indonesia for profit, people around the world are getting a thrill from hunting, selling, and eating exotic meat. But for many others, it’s an irresponsible and even barbaric practice.

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The Appeal of Cooking Exotic Meat

There have always been gourmands for whom taste trumps ethics. For them, the technique of force feeding birds to fatten their livers to make foie gras recipes is just a necessary culinary arts technique, not an inhumane act. Others will eat the flesh of unusual animals, but only if it’s farmed, like buffalo, elk, wild boar, ostrich, and emu. The appeal of exotic meats lies not only in their novelty but also their nutrition and because they’re often raised free-range on organic feed without antibiotics

Trends Indicate Increased Demand for Gluten free Menus and Recipes

the National Restaurant Association surveyed 1,527 American Culinary Federation (ACF) member chefs, asking them to rate 226 individual food items, beverages, cuisines and culinary themes as a “hot trend,” “yesterday’s news,” or a “perennial favorite” on restaurant menus in 2011. The “gluten-free and food allergy-conscious” topic ranked at number eight in the survey, putting it with some of the most prominent trends in the nation for next year. Nearly eight in 10 ACF chefs agreed that it’s a “hot trend.”

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What Is Gluten?

Gluten is the protein in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and a few other closely-related grains. It’s not found in corn, rice, or oats, although oats are commonly contaminated during processing, so it’s necessary to buy “certified gluten free” oats, meaning they were processed in a completely gluten-free environment. Gluten is hidden in many popular foods, including French fries, ice cream, bread, and pastries.

How Does Gluten Affect Baking?

Baked bread, the most common culprit, gets its elasticity from gluten, giving it the chewy texture when eaten. Gluten also keeps gases, released during fermentation, in the dough, enabling the bread to rise

The Rise of Reality Tv and Cake Decorating Themed Shows

Since the start of the The Real World on MTV in the early 1990s, the landscape of television programming has drastically changed. Reality television now accounts for more than one-quarter of prime time programming on broadcast networks. Culinary-themed shows like Top Chef, Food Network Challenge, and Cake Boss have been big names in the reality TV world. Ace of Cakes, for instance, debuted in 2006 on the Food Network and has since become one of the channel’s highest rated shows.

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Shows like these have put extreme cake decorating on the map, initiating mainstream viewers to techniques such as fondant, handcrafted sugar decorating, and the making of gum paste flowers. The success of reality TV shows about cake decorating competitions or business have made cake decorating a major culinary trend, leading to even more shows like Cupcake Wars, Top Chef Desserts, and the Next Great Baker–all evidence that viewers’ interest in decorating techniques are ever increasing.

Cake Decorating Techniques and the Art of Fondant

The use of fondant is at the

A Day in the Life of a Food Styling Expert

While the rest of us are sleeping, Bianca Henry is perfecting a tray of buttermilk fried chicken for its national television debut. The life of a food stylist can take you to some strange venues, like the set of NBC’s Today show, where Bianca lifts the daily cooking feature to high art with her creative styling.

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Meet Unusual Culinary Challenges as a Food Stylist

Fusing cooking and design, food styling makes food look as appetizing as possible. “It’s like a restaurant job, but opposite,” Bianca told the food blog Serious Eats. For her, the job means getting up before dawn every morning to create the treats Matt Lauer and Ann Curry drool over on television.

Studying the food styling trade gives you an idea of the tricks and techniques food stylists use to make that bowl of cereal look more attractive on television. For example:

  • Using motor oil instead of syrups for that perfect glistening shine
  • Pouring white glue instead of milk on cereal
  • Spreading brown shoe polish on roasted meats

Bite-Sized Treats Expand the Baking Business and Boost Pastry Chef Careers

Organics and sustainably-harvested foods. Whole grains. Artisan cheeses and chocolates. The food landscape has shifted considerably over the course of the last decade, and in the process, a number of hip comestibles that were virtually unknown ten years ago have now become ubiquitous, popping up everywhere from upscale eateries to mom ‘n’ pop corner stores. But according to key industry observers, the remarkable resurgence of the humble cupcake–and the resulting boom in the popularity of specialty bakeries–ranks among the most significant food trends to appear in recent years.

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According to The New York Times, the cupcake trend began to take off across the United States in the early 2000s when an episode of Sex and the City showed the chic female foursome at the center of the program noshing on frosted concoctions from local eatery Magnolia Bakery. The 2009 article reports that cupcake sales are slated to rise by up to twenty percent over the next five years, even as sales of traditional baked goods like cookies

How Culinary School Helped These Chefs Realize Their Dream

What would happen if you took your obsession with food and hosting and made it a way of life? With skills learned in culinary school, Lucia Osiecki and Deborah Jones turned their passion for treating guests to wonderful food in a beautiful and comfortable environment into a business.

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The Love of Cooking and Hosting

When Osiecki and Jones met 30 years ago, they were both midwives, but each had a love of cooking and hosting friends and family. To make more room for this passion, they bought an old farmhouse in 1986, and fixed it up, adding a fifth bedroom so there’d be even more room to have family and friends come to stay–usually for several nights at a time. It gave them pleasure to cook delicious meals with produce from their garden, make the beds with line-dried sheets, and leave sweet-smelling soaps on the dresser.

The Role of Culinary Schools in the Local Food Movement

According to the National Restaurant Association’s annual What’s Hot survey, which interviewed around 1,500 chefs, the top three food trends in 2011 are going to be locally sourced meats and seafood, locally grown produce and sustainability. As chefs and foodies alike scramble to learn about these three fundamentals, culinary schools lend a helping hand by incorporating them into their curriculum.

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Making the Switch to Local

As customers have become more concerned with their physical health, chefs have had to keep improving their recipes and menus to reflect these needs. Better fats, less salt, smaller portions and organic ingredients are just some of the improvements chefs are making to improve the nutritional value of their food. And in addition to being healthy, this trend toward local food is also socially responsible: it benefits the smaller, family farms and organic producers.

Chefs who are making the switch to local, seasonal ingredients need to know how to work with small producers and plan menus around the varying availability of products, which

Why Buying Fresh and Local is Not Enough

As the green movement enters the mainstream food industry, more customers are looking for choices that reflect higher levels of quality in their food. But for many diners, it’s no longer enough to eat ingredients that are local, certified organic, and free from genetic modification, hormones, chemicals and antibiotics.

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Now customers want meat, poultry, eggs, dairy and fish from animals that have been treated humanely–and not just for ethical reasons. They’re beginning to link food safety, nutrition and flavor to animal welfare practices. In fact, a 2007 survey conducted for the American Humane Certified (AHC) found that 58 percent of consumers felt the labeling of animal products as humane was more important than organic or natural. But is the food industry ready to meet these standards?

Chefs Are On Board

The concept of cooking with humane food is not new to professional chefs. In 2007, Wolfgang Puck promised to serve only humane animal products in his restaurants. Some chefs say they prefer humanely raised meat because the animals haven’t been

Chefs Value Healthy Kids

While most parents would agree it’s important to feed kids healthy food, many find it hard to stick to this goal in the face of time constraints, stress and limited choices. Fast food is easy and makes most kids happy (and quiet). Let’s face it, if left to their own devices, many kids often gravitate toward sweet, salty, and fried foods. Fortunately, there are tangible signs that the culinary arts world is starting to focus on children’s nutrition.

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A trend of healthy cooking for kids

Since her inauguration as First Lady in 2008, Michelle Obama has fought childhood obesity through successful programs like “Chefs Move to Schools” that have attracted the commitment of chefs across the country. And when the National Restaurant Association released its What’s Hot in 2011 survey, many parents were relieved to learn that restaurant chefs in 2010 predicted children’s nutrition will be one of the top 20 trends this year. As if to prove it, the Food Network’s hit show Secrets of a Restaurant Chef

Chef jobs will never be the same after Ferran Adria

After 26 years of continually creating new ways to astound and delight those patrons lucky enough to get a seat at his restaurant, El Bulli, in Roses, Spain, Ferran Adria is ready to do something new. As if his hazelnut “caviar,” artichoke flavored steamed rose petals, and hare liver-filled chocolate ravioli aren’t cutting enough edges, Adria will stop serving his 30 or 40 course multicultural meals in July 2104 to open the El Bulli Foundation in the same location.

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Famous for bringing molecular gastronomy to a whole new level, Adria didn’t learn his radical techniques in a culinary degree program. Instead this Catalonian-born chef learned his trade through chef jobs in French kitchens and quickly worked his way to head chef (by age 24) and then eventual owner of El Bulli.

Not your usual culinary school

The mission behind the private and non-profit El Bulli Foundation is summed up by a quote from the foundation’s press release as “constant evolution and permanent commitment to creativity … for all

How chefs can end food waste

Though most professional chefs are passionate about feeding people, the world needs more chefs that are just as excited about ending hunger. Anyone in food service knows that a huge amount of food gets wasted between the delivery dock and the customer’s plate. If you need further proof, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations commissioned a study that found that about “one third of the food that gets produced in the world for human consumption…is lost or wasted” and this number rises to almost one half in the United States. Ending food waste is one of the ways chefs can battle hunger.

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Why do we waste so much food in the United States?

In her blog on Civil Eats, Amber Turpin makes relevant connections between the way food is handled in the United States and food waste. She points out that because food (from vegetables to seafood) is farmed in massive quantities that must be stored and trucked all over the country, it leads to

Sustainable sushi in Florida a locavore’s guide

Sustainable food is all the rage these days. Culinary arts schools teach Farm to Table programs and grow local herb gardens, while restaurants scramble to find organic, local and fresh foods to serve to guests hungry for a little environmental change along with their lunch. Sushi can be hard to locally source, but the Florida restaurants below have figured out a way to do it.

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1. Sushi Maki South Miami, Florida

The king of local sushi in Miami is eco-conscious Sushi Maki, but responsibly sourced ingredients are just the beginning of what makes this fresh fish house special. You can grab lunch at one of their local restaurants in South Miami, Coral Gables and other locales or pick up a tray while you’re shopping at Whole Foods. Their 10,000 ft. fresh-fish operation features sushi-making robots — don’t get your hand stuck in one of those.

  • What to order: Try the rock shrimp tempura tossed in a spicy aioli or the miso-glazed sea bass.

2. Tampa Kaisen Sushi Tampa, Florida

This fun sushi

10 Best Cities to Start a Restaurant

The American dining scene has made leaps and bounds since the recession. In fact, March 2015 marked the first time that consumers spent more at restaurants and bars than they did on groceries. With so many people heading out to eat, now could be a great time for chefs and restaurateurs to think about opening a new establishment.

For those interested in starting a restaurant, selecting the right city can be crucial. “It’s a lifestyle,” says David Bravdica, the founder and co-owner of Brava! Pizzeria in Denver, Colorado. “You have to be in with both feet.” Bravdica started his business with one mobile wood-fired oven five years ago, and has since grown to have four mobile ovens and one stationary restaurant location. He says the entire food scene in Denver has evolved over the past ten years from a steak and potato city to one that has embraced new cuisines of all kinds. “You go out to a nice restaurant on a Tuesday night and it’s packed,” he says.

Ryan Nelson sees the same thing in Indianapolis. The chef/owner of Late Harvest Kitchen and The North End BBQ says, “For years and years Indianapolis really supported chain restaurants, but about 5-6 years

10 Jobs for Food-Lovers Who Can’t Cook

Who says you have to be a great cook to be a foodie? If you love great food — eating it, discussing it, studying it or just being around culinary creations — you could turn your passion into your profession. There are so many food jobs that don’t require a chef hat or working in a busy kitchen for which you can still earn a great living and be around food, glorious food, all day long.

Come sample our menu of food careers to see if any of them whet your appetite. Then, find out how to break in and whip up a huge batch of career success.


Brewmaster

While this profession is more about drink than food, how cool would it be to make beer for a living? With more and more microbreweries and craft beer businesses booming, brewmasters are like beer scientists, overseeing the production process of man’s favorite beverage. The job involves a bit more chemistry and heavy-lifting than most food jobs, and requires a huge amount of time and hard work. But it usually pays off. Depending on the size of the brewery you work for, salary can range widely, with large breweries offering as much as $100k,