WBEZ | Food http://www.wbez.org/sections/food Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Thai Town opens at last in Albany Park http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/thai-town-opens-last-albany-park-112329 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 10.44.29 PM.png" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">After four years of delays, chef Arun Sampathavivat finally opened his <a href="http://www.wbez.org/can-arun-sampanthavivat-create-chicago-neighborhood-scratch-108701">Thai Town Center</a>&nbsp;in Albany Park.</p><p dir="ltr">The center is housed in an old police station and features a restaurant, noodle bar, wellness center, and Buddhist shrine. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">On Sunday evening the chef was working the dining room, serving dishes and explaining the long delays.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It has dragged on and on and we ran into dilemmas, one after another, he said. &quot;We almost lost funding in the middle and we had to stop and raise funds again.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The chef who brought upscale Thai food to Chicago with his elegant restaurant Arun says people had been asking him to open a casual place for years.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;For the first time people will have accessibility to eat my food and now they can&rsquo;t complain [about price and exclusivity],&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;This will appeal to the public with affordable prices and we want to welcome little kids to start them on this kind of food early on.&ldquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Currently only the shrine and the restaurant are open to the public, but Sampathavivat says that he hopes to open the noodle bar in the next month and the wellness center (which will be called Arunati) in 6 to 8 months.</p><p dir="ltr">In the meantime, the chef says he hopes food fans will come and enjoy his Thai cooking. He&#39;s especially proud of his &ldquo;sour curry and stewed pork ham hock.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I could never imagine that an American guest would have a stomach for sour curry,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;But [Saturday] after he finished it, he ordered another to take it home. And the ham hock is the very best dish of Thailand. We only cook it a day or two each week and then we rotate.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">In 2011, the Thai Town project was awarded more than $1 million in tax increment financing from Ald. Margaret Laurino, who faced criticism for the move. But she defended it saying that she believed it would add value to the neighborhood.</p><p dir="ltr">The chef says he hopes to use the Center to attract national and international visitors to the neighborhood.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Mon, 06 Jul 2015 22:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/thai-town-opens-last-albany-park-112329 Chicago snow cone vendor ditches artificial syrups http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-snow-cone-vendor-ditches-artificial-syrups-112287 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/17.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Some snow cone vendors in Chicago are ditching the traditional rainbow syrups and taking a more organic approach.</p><p>Since the year 2000, Guadalupe Pérez has made a living from his raspas--Mexican snow cones--in the Little Village neighborhood. He says he was one of the first Chicago street vendors to introduce natural fruit nectars to the shaved-ice business.</p><p>&ldquo;It&#39;s natural,&rdquo; Pérez said. &ldquo;It does have sugar, but artificial syrup has chemicals. This doesn&#39;t.&rdquo;</p><p>He says vendors used to just buy gallons of artificial syrup and pre-crush the ice.</p><p>&ldquo;But when people noticed that we were scraping the ice by hand, the cars would slow down and people walking by would stop to watch me,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;That&#39;s how we began getting our customer base.&rdquo;</p><p>Pérez brings his creativity from Veracruz, Mexico, where natural fruit and icy desserts have been sold on the street for centuries.</p><p>His technique is to buy fresh fruit, boil it and reduce it to a sap.</p><p>&ldquo;We have tamarind, strawberry, pineapple, the Mexican berry grosella, vanilla with eggnog--a favorite,&rdquo;&nbsp; Pérez said. &ldquo;Mango, guava, coconut, coffee... plus two artificial flavors because kids still ask for them.&rdquo;</p><p>He&rsquo;s noticing more raspa vendors who are adopting his style popping up in the West and Southwest sides. But Pérez doesn&rsquo;t mind the competition. He&rsquo;s expanding his business too.&nbsp; He&rsquo;s setting up raspa carts in other parts of the city.</p><p><em>Interview with Pérez translated from Spanish. </em></p></p> Tue, 30 Jun 2015 12:17:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-snow-cone-vendor-ditches-artificial-syrups-112287 As Whole Foods breaks ground, Englewood residents make their pitch http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/whole-foods-breaks-ground-englewood-residents-make-their-pitch-111995 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/wf.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>It&rsquo;s been more than a year-and-a-half since Whole Foods announced it was setting up shop in Chicago&rsquo;s Englewood neighborhood, and the store&rsquo;s opening is still more than a year away.</p><p>But that doesn&rsquo;t mean the community is sitting idly by. Residents are actively engaging with Whole Foods about the role of an organic grocery store chain in a food desert at the corner of 63rd and Halsted.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s been wonderful. I think that Whole Foods has been very committed to everything going on here,&rdquo; said Glen Fulton, executive director of the Greater Englewood Community Development Corporation, whose office is across the street in a U.S. Bank branch overlooking the construction site.</p><p>When the high-end grocer first announced it was moving to this high-poverty community some Chicagoans were shocked. But the company is trying to shed its elite label &mdash; it says part of its mission is bringing healthy options to areas riddled with junk food.</p><p>Store officials say prices will be competitive and affordable here. They also say Whole Foods is committed to being more than just an anchor tenant on a vacant lot.</p><p>The company first tested this food desert experiment a couple years ago in Detroit. It was the first national grocer to come into the city and so far it&rsquo;s been mostly a success.</p><p>In Englewood, Whole Foods has held community meetings and listened to residents who want classes on nutrition and shopping on a budget.</p><p>Fulton said he went straight to Whole Foods&rsquo; CEO with one request.</p><p>&ldquo;The first thing I wanted was for small businesses to be a part of this whole initiative for this Englewood community. Meaning that I need your support in trying to help them do business with Whole Food,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Fulton is a former director of supplier diversity at Albertsons, another major grocery chain.</p><p>&ldquo;And the second part is that we include diversity as far as diverse suppliers are concerned. So if you&rsquo;re a person of color or a woman, let&rsquo;s break down the barriers&nbsp;of trying to do business with Whole Foods,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Rachel Bernier-Green, a black South Sider, attended a free small business workshop series and learned about proper licensing and packaging. She owns &lsquo;Laine&rsquo;s Bake Shop and met a Whole Foods district manager.</p><p>&ldquo;He came out to our table and took the rest of the cookies of his favorite flavor, everything I had on display that day. So I think they enjoyed the texture of the cookies,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>So much so that Whole Foods worked with Bernier-Green to find a distributor.</p><p>Soon her mocha raspberry, citrus spritz and butter pecan bites will be in three Chicago Whole Foods. Next year the desserts will be in the store at 63rd and Halsted.</p><p>&ldquo;I think they were also impressed with the story of our company, why we exist and what we plan to do,&rdquo; Bernier-Green added.</p><p>Her small family-owned business has a social mission: hiring those who have struggled with homelessness as well as the formerly incarcerated. Each year hundreds of parolees with criminal records return to Englewood and can&rsquo;t find work.</p><p>&ldquo;We wanted to know, Whole Foods, are you going to hire people with records? We had been previously told that hands-down no, they aren&rsquo;t going to hire anybody with records,&rdquo; said Sonya Harper, executive director of Grow Greater Englewood, a food justice group. &ldquo;Whole Foods really heard our concerns as a community and they are now coming up with a program to hire people with records at that store.&rdquo;</p><p>Whole Foods says it wants to partner with social service agencies to increase opportunities for those facing employment barriers.</p><p>Meanwhile, &lsquo;Laine&rsquo;s Bake Shop is the only new confirmed supplier for the Englewood Whole Foods.</p><p>Store officials say more shelf space is available and they hope to develop some brand new businesses in the process.</p><p>There&rsquo;s still time. The next small business workshop series will be this fall.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author">Natalie Moore</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side Bureau reporter. <a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a></em></p><p><em>Follow Natalie on <a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me">Google+</a>, &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter</a></em></p></p> Thu, 07 May 2015 04:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/whole-foods-breaks-ground-englewood-residents-make-their-pitch-111995 Chipotle vs Xoco lunch delivery: Who won? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chipotle-vs-xoco-lunch-delivery-who-won-111953 <p><p>Chicago cubicle dwellers who dig sustainable Mexican food got great news recently.</p><p>Both Chipotle and Xoco now have services that will deliver a fresh lunch to your downtown office faster than you can say barbacoa.</p><p>Chipotle is using a service called <a href="https://postmates.com/chicago/spotlight/favorites">Postmates</a> and Xoco is using Uber.</p><p>Postmates already delivered food from a bunch of other Chicago restaurants, but late last week Chipotle announced it was joining forces with them.</p><p>Meanwhile, Uber launched a new feature called Uber Eats in Chicago and New York (after piloting it in Los Angeles).</p><p>This week we tried out both and here&rsquo;s how it went.</p><div id="fb-root">&nbsp;</div><script>(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.3"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script><div class="fb-video" data-allowfullscreen="true" data-href="/wbez915/videos/vb.13263980999/10153279389781000/?type=1"><div class="fb-xfbml-parse-ignore"><blockquote cite="/wbez915/videos/10153279389781000/"><p>Uber launched a new food delivery service in Chicago, after piloting Uber Eats in Lost Angeles. WBEZ&#39;s Monica Eng wanted to compare Uber&#39;s new service, which is featuring XOCO today with Postmates, which delivers Chipotle Mexican Grill. - http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chipotle-vs-xoco-lunch-delivery-who-won-111953</p>Posted by <a href="https://www.facebook.com/wbez915">WBEZ</a> on Tuesday, April 28, 2015</blockquote></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The Delivery</span></p><p><strong>Monday</strong></p><p><em>1:19 p.m.</em> I&rsquo;m hungry for some Chipotle guacamole so I google Postmates.</p><p><em>1:26</em> I successfully figure out their menu system (they have multiple restaurants and pretty complete menus), register for Postmates, enter my credit card information and request two orders of guacamole.</p><p><em>1:27</em> I get a message that Postmates has found a driver who will be here in about 28 minutes. I contact him to say that we are located in the middle of Navy Pier near the entrance for Chicago Shakespeare Theatre.</p><p><em>1:55</em> I see on my computer screen that the bike delivery will be here in 2 minutes.</p><p><em>1:58</em> I am met by a friendly guy on a bike who hands me my bag of guacamole and chips, lets me take picture of him and he rides off.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Food%20delivery%20postmates%20guy.jpg" title="Alex the delivery guy for Postmates, was prompt and cheerful and rode an eco-friendly bike to deliver the guac. (WBEZ/MONICA ENG)" /></div><p><strong>Tuesday</strong></p><p><em>10:58</em> a.m. I get my Uber app ready so I can be the first to order in the 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily window.</p><p><em>11:00</em> I can&rsquo;t get Uber Eats to work on my phone from WBEZ in the middle of Navy Pier*. I can see the menu and order but can&rsquo;t find a driver.</p><p><em>*Tuesday afternoon Uber clarified with us that currently the app is not supposed to work East of Lake Shore Drive.</em></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ubderfoodapp.jpg" style="height: 267px; width: 200px; float: right;" title="Monica orders food from her Uber app. (WBEZ/Tim Akimoff)" /><em>11:10</em> I walk west down Navy Pier and the Uber Eats icon has disappeared from my phone.</p><p><em>11:25</em> I get out to Lake Point Towers and the Uber Eats icon returns to my phone. I order but it won&rsquo;t find a driver.</p><p><em>11:30</em> I walk to Lake Shore Drive and Grand Avenue and the app starts to work. I click on the menu button, order both menu items of the day: a Pepito Torta ($12) and XOCO Salad ($9). I&rsquo;m told a driver will arrive in 5 minutes.</p><p><em>11:38</em> The driver arrives, hands me a hot sandwich and cold salad &mdash; no bag &mdash; and I trot back to the office, thaw out and eat.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The Bill</span></p><p><strong>Chipotle through Postmates</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tbody><tr><td style="width:319px;"><p>2 orders guacamole &amp; Chips</p></td><td style="width:319px;"><p>$7</p></td></tr><tr><td style="width:319px;"><p>Service fee (9%)</p></td><td style="width:319px;"><p>63 cents</p></td></tr><tr><td style="width:319px;"><p>Delivery fee</p></td><td style="width:319px;"><p>$8.25</p></td></tr><tr><td style="width:319px;"><p>Tip</p></td><td style="width:319px;"><p>$1.59</p></td></tr><tr><td style="width:319px;"><p>Discount</p></td><td style="width:319px;"><p>.26</p></td></tr><tr><td style="width:319px;"><p>Total</p></td><td style="width:319px;"><p>$18.02</p></td></tr></tbody></table><p><strong>XOCO through Uber</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tbody><tr><td style="width:319px;"><p>Pepito Torta</p></td><td style="width:319px;"><p>$12</p></td></tr><tr><td style="width:319px;"><p>XOCO Salad</p></td><td style="width:319px;"><p>$9</p></td></tr><tr><td style="width:319px;"><p>Delivery</p></td><td style="width:319px;"><p>$3</p></td></tr><tr><td style="width:319px;"><p>Total</p></td><td style="width:319px;"><p>$25.00</p></td></tr></tbody></table><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The Experience</span></p><p>While the Postmates delivery was wildly expensive, I did like that it was delivered by bike (although not always the case), that you can choose from several unique restaurants (think Cemitas Puebla, Le Colonial and Wow Bao) and that you can do it on a computer and keep track of your order history.</p><p>Uber Eats folks told me that the app should work at the end of Navy Pier, but I was not able to get it to work until another two blocks west. While Uber Eat&rsquo;s daily menu is limited to only two items a day, they have some great choices coming up from XOCO, DMK, Freshii and Cemitas. And while their geographic area is limited to River North and the Loop, Uber representatives say they hope to expand it in the future. &nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The Verdict</span></p><p>For adventurous budget diners who work in the Loop or River North and can&rsquo;t get away from their desk sometimes, Uber Eats wins for speed and price.</p><p>For out-of-Loop workers who have more cash, time and need for variety, Postmates may be the best choice.</p></p> Tue, 28 Apr 2015 13:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chipotle-vs-xoco-lunch-delivery-who-won-111953 Earth Day: 10 ways to eat greener in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/earth-day-10-ways-eat-greener-chicago-111918 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/lane aquaponics.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It&rsquo;s Earth Day again. And you can either drown your climate change sorrows in a bag of cookies or be part of the solution by changing your approach to food.</p><p>If you choose to do the latter, you&rsquo;ve got a lot of options in Chicago, where the food scene is getting a little greener all the time.</p><p><strong>Consider these 10 ways to start:</strong></p><p>1.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Walk, bike or take public transportation to the grocery store. For most of us, the environmental impact of driving there undoes the impact of using paper or cloth bags.<br /><br />2.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Perfect a <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-09-12/features/sc-food-0907-healthful-food-prices-20120912_1_food-dollars-bad-foods-key-nutrients">recipe using rice and lentils or beans</a>. The combo is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to deliver a complete protein to your body. And it can be super delicious.</p><p>3.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Bring your own container to restaurants for leftovers. Health department rules require that you pack the leftovers yourself, but you&rsquo;ll save the food and yourself that pile of plastic containers in your home and garbage can. Some places will even let you use your own container for takeout, but make sure you&rsquo;re not just dumping it from their takeout container to yours.<br /><br />4.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Get locally milled grains from places like <a href="http://www.bakermillerchicago.com/">Baker Miller</a> and <a href="http://www.hazzardfreefarm.com/">Hazzard Free Farm</a>. Their nutty taste and relatively high cost mean you will not want to waste a single grain.<br /><br />5.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Plan a series of meals based on cleaning out what&rsquo;s in your pantry, fridge and even backyard--lots of wild chives have already sprouted around Chicago.<br /><br />6.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Start a food plant indoors. No matter how small the plant, nurturing it for a season gives you a whole new appreciation for farmers and fresh food.&nbsp;<br /><br />7.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Gather ingredients for a totally local shrimp and greens dinner at The Plant, where they sell house-raised prawns and greens at their <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.plantchicago.com%2Fmonthly-market%2F&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHwIqifQTi20VwcwdrJfiu5avkiVA">Monthly Market</a>, on the first Saturday of each month. Kids at Lane Tech College Prep are learning to perfect this model with a full aquaponics lab that raises tilapia and grows many different kinds of greens.<br /><br />8.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Sign up for a <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.thelocalbeet.com%2F2015%2F02%2F26%2Fthe-2015-local-beet-list-of-community-support-agriculture-farms-csas%2F&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNE29cMubv5IlQRoZs4Eq70eXvgauQ">CSA (community supported agriculture) subscription</a>, which requires a payment to a local farmer upfront in exchange for regular deliveries of seasonal vegetables throughout the summer and fall.&nbsp;<br /><br />9. Check out Chicago restaurants and stores that emphasize local and sustainable produce. There are too many to single out here. But ask your favorite farmers in the farmers market who buys from them.</p><p>10.&nbsp;&nbsp; Join a <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.collectiveresource.us%2F&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNH0o_OVmpM7zP9M97VrZNpOVcY1Jg">composting service</a>, try a <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Furbanext.illinois.edu%2Fcompost%2F&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHrUq0LuaHIxY_DPQPXlkHzsteyhg">backyard compost pile</a> or pressure your elected officials to&nbsp; support municipal composting programs.</p><p>We&rsquo;d love to hear your tips, suggestions and favorite places for sustainable fare around town.</p><p><br />Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2Fmonicaeng&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGoYzy7NkmnMSoIdG75anzNVCJ90A">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</p></p> Tue, 21 Apr 2015 18:38:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/earth-day-10-ways-eat-greener-chicago-111918 Homaro Cantu was more than a showman http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/homaro-cantu-was-more-showman-111876 <p><p>To a lot of people, the <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-famed-chef-homaro-cantu-owner-of-moto-found-dead-on-northwest-side-20150414-story.html">late chef Homaro Cantu</a> was all about showmanship, gadgets and tricks of molecular gastronomy.</p><p>He was famous for edible menus, a fish that would cook itself on your table and fruit that became a carbonated juice box.</p><p>But what a lot of people didn&rsquo;t understand was that this mad scientist chef was about something even bigger: Homaru Cantu&nbsp;wanted to save the&nbsp;world.</p><p>When WBEZ reporters <a href="https://soundcloud.com/chewingthefat/ctf-ep-27-future-food">visited his Moto kitchens last year</a>, we were greeted by typical Cantu. He was playful, warm, articulate and bursting with ideas to make the world a cleaner, healthier more delicious place.</p><p>He showed us his digitally monitored indoor farm that he said could grow produce with astonishing efficiency.</p><p>&ldquo;All of these products are grown to such a precise degree that this stuff will grow 50 percent faster than their genetically modified counterparts in their best season,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;And it will all be composted by stuff that comes right from the kitchen.&rdquo;</p><p>He told us about plans to put a beehive on the roof with a path down to the indoor farm, &ldquo;So bees can come down here, then pollinate and leave.&rdquo;</p><p>He explained his strategy for &ldquo;smart composting&rdquo; that would customize the raw composting materials to the plants they&rsquo;d nourish.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_1792.JPG" style="height: 200px; width: 200px; float: left;" title="Chef Homaro Cantu at Moto with kitchen staff and Anthony Bourdain" /></p><p>&ldquo;Plants are like humans,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;They don&rsquo;t want the same diet&hellip;. When we start analyzing what plants really want and giving it to them, that&rsquo;s going to get us a more flavorful product, that&rsquo;s going to grow more efficiently without chemicals and genetic modification.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><div>He told us about his many ideas for saving energy and reducing food miles. And he shared his enthusiasm for the potential of the miracle berry (which makes sour things taste sweet) to help diabetics and cancer patients while improving overall public health.</div><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s been such a long road,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;But I think we are at a point where we can educate people about what they should be eating rather than what big companies want them to eat.&rdquo;</p><p>I realized I&rsquo;d had Cantu all wrong. Sure he was great at putting on a show. But his wild restaurants seemed to be just one way to showcase his plans to tackle some of the biggest problems our planet faces today.</p><p>Cantu stressed that, although he was patenting the research, he wanted it to be available to everyone.<br /><br />&ldquo;[After we file the initial patent] we want people to steal from us,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Food should not be owned. Food should be a collective effort for everyone, like open source software.&rdquo;</p><p>Like a lot of people in Chicago, I knew Cantu was facing a lawsuit from a former investor. But the news of his death Tuesday came as a great shock--and the suspected suicide even more so. Of all the chefs I&rsquo;ve known, few have had such ambitious technological plans, such a profound stake in the future and such visionary ideas for making the world a better place.&nbsp;</p><p>His cooking will be missed by diners. His heart and humor missed by his family and friends. But it&rsquo;s almost impossible to say what society will miss with the loss of Cantu&rsquo;s ideas and innovations, which he aimed at helping all of us.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at <a href="mailto:meng@wbez.org">meng@wbez.org</a></em></p></p> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 11:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/homaro-cantu-was-more-showman-111876 Moto chef Homaro Cantu found dead in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/moto-chef-homaro-cantu-found-dead-chicago-111875 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/homarocantuted2011.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chef Homaro Cantu has been found dead in Chicago.</p><p>The 38-year-old Cantu was known for blending science and fine dining at his Michelin starred restaurant Moto in the city&#39;s West Loop.</p><p>Authorities say Cantu&#39;s body was found Tuesday in a building where he had planned to open a brewery.</p><p>The Cook County medical examiner&#39;s office confirmed the death but did not release a cause. Authorities did not say his death was suspicious.</p><p>Cantu headed Moto, which focused on molecular gastronomy cuisine. Customers dined on edible menus, carbonated fruit and a fish preparation that cooked in a tabletop polymer box, among other foods.</p><p>Before opening Moto, Cantu spent four years as a chef at Charlie Trotter&#39;s Chicago restaurant. Trotter died in 2013.</p></p> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 08:11:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/moto-chef-homaro-cantu-found-dead-chicago-111875 Flamin' Hot Cheetos top some Chicago Public School vending machines http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/flamin-hot-cheetos-top-some-chicago-public-school-vending-machines-111773 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/cheetos.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Last week Michigan became the latest state to opt out of the federal Smart Snack standards. The rules regulate what can be sold in school fundraisers and vending machines that help schools pay the bill. More than 22 states have pushed for some kind of exemption from these rules since they went into effect last July.</p><p>So just how stringent are they?</p><p>The snacks must be:</p><ul><li>&ldquo;whole grain rich&rdquo; if they are grain-based, meaning 50 percent whole grain</li><li>no more than 200 calories</li><li>no more than 230 mgs of sodium</li><li>no more than 35 percent sugar, by weight</li><li>lower in fat, meaning no more than a third of their calories can come from fat</li></ul><p>So all that&rsquo;s left is kale, right?</p><p>Well, not really. In fact, under these new rules, two of the top sellers in some Chicago Public Schools are reformulated Flamin&rsquo; Hot Cheetos and Kellogg&rsquo;s Pop Tarts. This is not exactly what Dr. Virginia Stallings envisioned when she chaired the Institute of Medicine committee whose recommendations would form the backbone of the Smart Snack rules.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I thought the top sellers might be things that had more nutrients in them than Flamin&rsquo; Hot Cheetos,&rdquo; said Stallings, who is a professor of pediatrics at Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia. &ldquo;But let me say that one of the things we were absolutely expecting and appreciate is that the food companies would look at these recommendations and they would, in fact, reformulate their products.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>To Stallings, the reformulated Cheetos, in smaller portions, with more whole grain, less sodium and less fat, represent an evidence-based improvement over the old formula.</p><p>But to folks like Lindsey Haynes-Maslow, a health analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists, the snacks represent&nbsp;&nbsp; mixed messages to kids.<br /><br />&ldquo;I think it says to them that, of course, I can eat these. And when they are outside the school, if they see the same item at a grocery store, they don&rsquo;t recognize the difference,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Even more concerning, is that their parents don&rsquo;t either, according to a Rudd Center study showing that many parents are misguided into thinking that these [reformulated] items are good for their kids.&rdquo;</p><p>To see this in action, all you have to do is drop by a Chicago Public high school vending machine where reformulated Pop Tarts and Flamin&rsquo; Hot Cheeto Puffs occupy several slots. In an interview with WBEZ Wednesday, CPS&rsquo;s head of Nutrition Services Leslie Fowler said she had no idea schools were selling the snacks.</p><p>The district, she said, has prohibited reformulated snacks for about a year. Still, a list of approved snacks that CPS provided to WBEZ on Wednesday includes Baked Cheetos and Reduced Fat Nilla Wafers. Another list the district sent to WBEZ earlier Wednesday included reduced fat Cool Ranch Doritos as an approved snack. But when WBEZ noted that snack was also &ldquo;reformulated,&rdquo; the CPS official claimed she&rsquo;d given us the wrong list.</p><p>To add to the confusion, Fowler told WBEZ Wednesday that the &ldquo;only Cheeto that is approved is the whole grain puff,&rdquo; which are not included on the latest list but are featured in several district machines.</p><p>Regardless of what CPS rules actually are, it&rsquo;s clear that the much maligned Smart Snack rules still leave plenty of room for things like reformulated Flamin Hot Cheetos. And while it&rsquo;s true the reformulation reduces fat and salt, the snacks still feature six artificial colors and nearly 30 ingredients.</p><p>New York University Nutrition professor Marion Nestle thinks part of the problem is that the rules encourage companies to hit certain nutrient numbers rather than providing real food.&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /><br />&ldquo;This is a classic case of nutritionism,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;If you set up nutrition standards, the food industry can do anything to meet those standards and this is a perfect example of that...So this is a better-for-you junk food. And, of course, the question is: is that a good choice? And no, of course, it&rsquo;s not.&rdquo;&nbsp;<br /><br />When asked to discuss the issue, Cheeto maker Frito Lay would not grant WBEZ an interview. Instead, the company wrote &ldquo;We offer a variety of Smart Snack compliant products in schools in portion-controlled sizes to suit a variety of tastes, including the Reduced Fat, Whole Grain Rich Flamin&#39; Hot Cheetos.&rdquo;</p><p>Lane Tech Senior Tyra Bosnic said she&rsquo;s disappointed in the vending machines at her school. She wished they better mirrored the machines she&rsquo;s seen in Europe.<br /><br />&ldquo;They have better drinks there and there&rsquo;s more water accessible,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;There they have things like pumpkin seeds in the machines. Here we just have gross, whole grain Pop Tarts and Cheeto Puffs.&rdquo;<br /><br />The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it couldn&rsquo;t comment on the wisdom of selling Cheetos at school, but that its latest rules have already helped kids eat &ldquo;healthier.&rdquo;<br /><br />It&rsquo;s not just kids who are drawn to the&nbsp; orange curly snacks. For cash strapped school administrators, Cheetos can&nbsp; deliver plenty of green. Under the current CPS deal with Avcoa Vending, schools&nbsp; get a 20 percent commission on all sales; and that can add up to more than $10,000 in discretionary spending a year. So, why not stock this teenage favorite?</p><p>&ldquo;Because schools have an obligation to teach children how to be successful adults,&rdquo; says Rochelle Davis of Chicago&rsquo;s Healthy Schools Campaign. &ldquo;And learning about how to be healthy is a critical part of that.&rdquo;</p><p>Still, one vending machine rep noted that kids are going to buy Cheetos at the corner store and that few entities need money more than schools. Stallings, who wrote the original recommendations, questions whether schools should be selling any snacks at all.</p><p>&ldquo;Selling food to children outside of the school lunch and breakfast should not be a source of revenue for the school,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s exploiting the children&rsquo;s health.&rdquo;</p><p>Instead, advocates like Rochelle Davis of Chicago&rsquo;s Healthy Schools Campaign suggest raising the revenue through things like plant sales and dance-a-thons.</p><p>&ldquo;I just got an email about a school trying a dance-a-thon,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;So the kids are going to be up and moving and the community is going to be supporting that instead of a traditional fundraiser.&rdquo;</p><p>But can a dance-a-thon rake in the cash like Flamin&rsquo; Hot Cheetos? With all the resistance against even these initial rules, it may be some time before we get to find out.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Clarification, 3/26/2015: After this story was published Chicago Public Schools officials claimed CPS uses vendors other than Avcoa. They have not yet responded who those vendors are.</em></p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at</em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> <em>@monicaeng</em></a> <em>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 11:23:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/flamin-hot-cheetos-top-some-chicago-public-school-vending-machines-111773 In addressing food allergies, some Chicago schools fall through the cracks http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/addressing-food-allergies-some-chicago-schools-fall-through-cracks-111728 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Ravenswood-lunch.jpg" title="Students during lunch period at Ravenswood Elementary chow down on Doritos, nacho cheese and sunflower butter. The new nut-free policy means peanut butter isn’t allowed. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" /></div><p>It&rsquo;s a typical day in the Ravenswood Elementary cafeteria on Chicago&rsquo;s North Side. Middle schoolers catch up with friends, make jokes and chow down on a mishmosh of cafeteria food and brown bag lunches.</p><p>&ldquo;I have a Subway meatball sub,&rdquo; one says.</p><p>&ldquo;I have homemade soup with some rice,&rdquo; chirps another.</p><p>&ldquo;And I have some Doritos with peanut butter, I mean sunflower butter,&rdquo; their friend adds, catching himself as he remembers the school&rsquo;s new nut-free policy.</p><p>Starting in 2015, Ravenswood joined a small cadre of schools that have passed nut-free guidelines that go above and beyond the more common nut-free tables and nut-free menus.</p><p>That means no PBJs, no nutty granola bars, and no Snickers.</p><p>&ldquo;We are asking families and staff to make sure that no foods that have any nuts at all come into the building,&rdquo; says Principal Nate Menaen. And by nuts, he means, &ldquo;Brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews, peanuts of course.&rdquo;</p><p>In recent decades childhood food allergies have skyrocketed from 1 in 50 American children in 1990 to 1 in 13 today. That works out to about two kids in every American classroom &mdash; and that number is growing.</p><p>So how many schools are taking a hard stance against food allergies like Ravenswood?</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Food-Allergy-thumb.jpg" style="height: 206px; width: 280px; float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="Ravenswood Elementary is one of only a handful of CPS schools to ban nuts in the entire building. (WBEZ/Derek John)" />Chicago Public School officials say they don&rsquo;t know. But the district does say it offers nut-free meals to about 200 schools (or roughly a third of the district). Most of them are located in more affluent areas or on the North Side.</p><p>But those aren&rsquo;t necessarily the schools with the greatest need.</p><p>Research shows that potential food allergies are actually higher among minorities. <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3182844/" target="_blank">One Children&rsquo;s Memorial Hospital study</a> showed that those with African ancestry have a higher-than-average nut sensitivity. &nbsp;</p><p>Beverly Horne is the lead nurse in the south region of Chicago Public Schools. She oversees more than 100 schools on the South Side, but says that none have adopted the same kind of nut-free guidelines as Ravenswood.</p><p>In order to be allowed medical accommodations, students need documentation along with a doctor&rsquo;s diagnosis. But for many of the families she serves, Horne says, simply getting to the doctor is hard enough. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;It has a lot of do with access,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;If you look at it, several of the clinics in those neighborhoods were closed and the parents have to travel.&rdquo;</p><p>She says nurses do what they can to fill in the gaps on the one to two days a week they can visit a particular school but it&rsquo;s often not enough. Plus, she says, many parents don&rsquo;t always know what to look for.</p><p>&ldquo;I recall one incident where the parent wasn&rsquo;t even aware that it was an allergic reaction she was seeing in her child,&rdquo; Horne says, &ldquo;and so we had to reach out to that parent. And actually it was a food allergy and those symptoms she was experiencing could have been very serious.&rdquo;</p><p>Just how serious?</p><p>In 2010 7th grader Catelyn Karlson died after eating peanut-tainted food that was brought to her Northwest Side school. &nbsp;Since then, CPS became the first large urban district to put epinephrine injectors (or EpiPen) in every school.</p><p>There they can be used to treat anyone in anaphylactic shock &mdash; a severe allergic reaction that can stop a victim from breathing.</p><p>Dr. Ruchi Gupta, a pediatric allergist at Lurie Children&rsquo;s Hospital, helped lead the effort. <a href="http://www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2014/10/emergency-epinephrine-used-38-times-in-chicago-public-schools.html" target="_blank">In a report on its first year of progress</a>, she noted that 38 students and staff were treated with the injectors. More than half of them didn&rsquo;t even know they had a food allergy.</p><p>This lack of knowledge worries Gupta, who says policy makers need to ask more questions. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Why don&rsquo;t we we see [more allergy diagnoses] on the South or West Side and in predominantly African American or Hispanic populations?&rdquo; she wonders. &ldquo;Now, do they have more and is it as severe? Unfortunately, until now we have not truly been able to classify who is going to have what kind of reaction when they eat the food. So some kids may just break out in a couple of hives or have a little mouth tingling but other kids could have full blown anaphylaxis that could lead to death.&rdquo;</p><p>Minority students may be more vulnerable to food allergies, but Gupta says other factors contribute to how schools decide whether to implement nut-free policies.</p><p>&ldquo;The reason you see policies more on the North Side is probably because of the parents advocating for it so much,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;This gets the principal, school staff and teachers on board that this is a serious problem and we need to do something about it.&rdquo;</p><p>Most of these policies, she notes, are driven by parents in Local School Councils, which is exactly how Ravenswood ended up &ldquo;nut-free&rdquo; this year. Ravenswood principal Manaen says there was some push back as he worked to get his whole school community on board with the guidelines.&nbsp;</p><p>But, it&rsquo;s one thing to say you&rsquo;re nut-free, it&rsquo;s another to make it a reality. It&rsquo;s not as if you can install nut detectors at the door.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s [just] a guideline,&rdquo; Principal Menaen says. &ldquo;Because at the end of the day, maybe I brought in my leftovers from a restaurant I went to that cooked in products that also touched peanut product. And so it&rsquo;s never 100 percent safe.&rdquo;</p><p>It is, however, one step toward making schools a little more safe &mdash; at least in some parts of the city. &nbsp;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at</em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> <em>@monicaeng</em></a> <em>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Thu, 19 Mar 2015 07:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/addressing-food-allergies-some-chicago-schools-fall-through-cracks-111728 McDonalds to phase out chicken raised with certain antibiotics http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/mcdonalds-phase-out-chicken-raised-certain-antibiotics-111656 <p><p>Chicken McNuggets may never be the same--starting in two years.<br />Oak Brook-based McDonald&rsquo;s announced a new policy Wednesday&nbsp;that would ban chickens raised using antibiotics that are vital to treating infections in humans.</p><p>The chain&rsquo;s suppliers can still treat sick animals with antibiotics, but that meat can&rsquo;t end up in McDonald&rsquo;s food supply, according to the policy.&nbsp;</p><p>Health and environmental groups have been urging the world&rsquo;s largest fast food chain to make the move for almost two years. Among them is the Natural Resources Defense Council whose Food and Agriculture director Jonathan Kaplan had mixed feelings about the announcement.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s great news and I think its a game changer for the poultry industry here in the U.S.,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We are still concerned about [McDonald&rsquo;s] global policy that has a loophole that could allow the routine use of antibiotics to continue.&rdquo;</p><p>The move would affect the roughly 14,000 stores in the U.S. but not the 22,000 abroad. Additionally, it does not affect the chain&rsquo;s beef and pork suppliers.&nbsp;</p><p>Still, the company&rsquo;s thinking has evolved since it first released a policy on antibiotics in 2003. In its new Global Vision on Antibiotic Stewardship document McDonald&rsquo;s says &ldquo;As the body of scientific evidence grows and scientific consensus emerges, we recognize the importance of continuing to evolve our position on antimicrobial usage.&rdquo;</p><p>Indeed, the world&rsquo;s medical community now agrees that the overuse of antibiotics in human medicine, as well as meat production, has contributed to the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria and infections that kill 23,000 Americans a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p><p>When small regular doses of antibiotics are administered to animals--largely for growth promotion and disease prevention--some weak bacteria die, but stronger bacteria can survive, thrive and evolve into &ldquo;superbugs&rdquo; that can&rsquo;t be treated with the drugs.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/600Chicken_nuggets_-_10pc.jpg" style="float: left;" title="(J.smith Wikimedia Commons)" />Although Chik-Fil-A and Chipotle have already committed to sourcing meat raised without antibiotics, McDonalds is the first of the large chains to raise its antibiotics standards.</p><p>The move comes just three days after McDonald&rsquo;s new CEO Steve Easterbrook assumed leadership of the company, and just five months after the arrival of Mike Andres who heads the chain&rsquo;s U.S. division.&nbsp;</p><p>Wednesday Andres, released a statement saying&nbsp; &ldquo;Our customers want food that they feel great about eating... and these moves take a step toward better delivering on those expectations.&rdquo;</p><p>A coalition of health advocates called Keep Antibiotics Working applauded the move today and noted that it had been in talks with McDonald&rsquo;s on the issue since 2003.</p><p>Last month, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and its Illinois chapter, launched a campaign to urge the chain to get antibiotics out of its meat production. And just yesterday, Illinois PIRG&rsquo;s Dev Gowda, says he dropped off a petition in Oak Brook with 30,000 signatures to that effect. Still, he said the move took him completely by surprise. He now hopes the chain will follow suit with its beef and pork supplies.<br /><br />Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), who is the only microbiologist in Congress, praised the move and chalked it up to the power of pressure from the &ldquo;educated&rdquo; consumer.&nbsp; Still, she said that the country needs &ldquo;enforceable and verifiable limits on antibiotic use.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>She has often sponsored House legislation to restrict the use of all medically important antibiotics in livestock production. Another bill in the Senate aims to track where and how antibiotics are being used in the U.S. Estimates indicate that 70 to 80 percent of antibiotics purchased in the U.S. are currently used in meat production alone.</p><p>In December 2013 the US Food and Drug Administration issued guidance to pharmaceutical companies asking them to voluntarily stop labeling and selling the drugs exclusively for &ldquo;growth promotion.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Health advocates complain that voluntary guidance to end growth promotion uses is too weak. They worry that producers will continue to use the same drugs for &ldquo;disease prevention&rdquo; which they feel only enables farmers to raise animals in crowded unsanitary conditions.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 04 Mar 2015 16:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/mcdonalds-phase-out-chicken-raised-certain-antibiotics-111656