Author’s note: This is a continuation of a series of blogs about the experience of watching my daughter, Chef Dakota Weiss, make her way through Bravo TV’s Top Chef Texas, currently airing on Wednesday nights.
If you own folding herb drying racks and kitchen tools that no one else understands, then you’re probably a foodie.
If you take pictures of the food in front of you and send it to your Facebook page before saying Grace, you’re probably a foodie.
Last week a dozen foodies, including myself, friended Sugar, Spice & Everything Nice—a brand new Facebook page. In barely seven days the page grew from a dozen to nearly 100 self-proclaimed foodies.
And like the calories in potato chips (gourmet, of course), foodie blogs, radio, columns, twitters, and television are irresistible pleasures for those who can’t wait to pick the fresh ginger from their garden and transform the brown root into a savory jam.
Recipes and food conversation blend faster on foodie web sites and Facebook than pesto in the Cuisinart.
Food writing was once relegated to a few magazines, weekly newspaper features, PBS, and maybe a holiday feature on morning shows. Famous chefs? Yes, but few. The moniker “celebrity chef” had yet to rise.
Actually, Chef Mark Miller, straight out of Water’s iconic Chez Panisse, thumbed his nose at the hierarchy of Eurocentric cooking and food when he recreated New World foods from Native America, Hispanics, Cajun, Creole and Tex-Mex. America’s palate opened wide and Miller inaugurated his signature restaurant, the Coyote Café in Santa Fe, in 1987.
Concurrent to Miller’s serving wild-morel tamales or a hibiscus-blossom marinated quail, the word foodie defined a new American passion.
By 1993 the TV Food Network began broadcasting and created not only celebrity chefs, but multi-media juggernauts.
A Nevada foodie on Sugar, Spice & Everything Nice, blames her foodie passion on television. “It was the Food Network’s fault,” she says.
Others, like a Maryland foodie, Joyce DeMonbron, explains, “I was raised a foodie. My parents had friends from different countries and cultures…I ate Italian, Chinese, Pacific Islands, Greek, Polish and Middle Eastern food, along with good old fashion cooking (from our family) garden, a cow for milk, and pigs and chickens.”
My foodie beginnings follow DeMonbron’s—it started when I was a kid regularly exposed to cultural dishes outside of our meat and potatoes tradition. And the cookbook that changed my life was a 1971 gift, “The How to Grow and Cook It Book of Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits and Nuts,” by Jacqueline Heriteau. I still reference it.
I joined the Iron Chef cult when The Food Network brought it to America. And when Bravo TV introduced the new Top Chef competition, I waited for each episode like a kid waiting for treats on Halloween.
By then, my daughter, Chef Dakota Weiss , was already inspired by her mentors, including her time at Coyote Café as sous chef, and eventually to the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta, where Iron Chef Japan, and three Michelin-starred Chef Bruno Menard, showed Dakota the fine essences of food and palette.
It excited us knowing that Dakota had found her passion and was, by then, developing her own foodie groupies.
Dakota’s cheftestant introduction video on Bravo TV’s Top Chef Season 9 website should not send me into some kind of crazy swirl of overly sweetened chocolate and caramel sugar high, but it does. The premier countdown is on. Oh good Lord, what will I do if I hear Tom Colicchio tell her, “Please pack your knives and go?” What will I do if she’s in the final three or less?
Next week I’ll share the drama of this Top Chef business that both concludes and begins on a hot summer Sunday evening in Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix.
Top Chef Season 9 premiers on Bravo TV, Wednesday, November 2.