Category Archives: food

A Conversation with Mike Bagale / Alinea / Executive Chef / Chicago, IL

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Mike Bagale combines a unique mix of a broadly artistic mind with a calm, pragmatic, and practical approach to running a complex kitchen.

Mike’s artistic interests began in film school, attending Ryerson University in Toronto and the New York Film Academy. In 2002 his interest in cooking began when he enrolled at Florida Culinary in Palm Beach.

In 2004 he began working at the Four Seasons hotels and spent 4 years in their programs from Palm Beach, Washington D.C., and Miami, ending up as the Chef de Cuisine of the 5 Diamond Resort at the Palm Beach property. In 2009, after a successful 2-day tryout, he joined the team at Alinea as chef de partie.

His relentless drive and work ethic moved him quickly up the ladder at Alinea. He was a constant creative collaborator in the kitchen and was promoted to sous chef quickly in 2010. It was that year that he cracked the code to ‘floating food’ with the famous Balloon course. Mike was named Executive Chef of Alinea in 2012.

Follow Mike on Instagram and learn more about Alinea here.

You stream or download this conversation at AshtonGustafson.comiTunes, and Stitcher.

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Meaningful Work with Shawn Askinosie

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In 2005, Shawn Askinosie left a successful career as a criminal defense lawyer to start a bean to bar chocolate factory and never looked back.

Askinosie Chocolate is a small batch, award winning chocolate factory located in Springfield, Missouri, sourcing 100% of their beans directly from farmers. The only chocolate maker working directly with cocoa farmers on four continents, Shawn travels to regions of Ecuador, the Philippines and Tanzania to source cocoa beans for his chocolate. This allows the chocolate to be traced to the source and labeled authentic single origin. It also enables Askinosie Chocolate to profit share with the farmers, giving them a “Stake In the Outcome,” a principle he learned from author/entrepreneur Jack Stack.

Recently named by Forbes “One of the 25 Best Small Companies in America”, Askinosie Chocolate has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, on Bloomberg, MSNBC, and numerous other national and international media outlets.

The Askinosie Chocolate mission is to serve their farmers, their neighborhood, their customers and each other, sharing the Askinosie Chocolate experience by leaving the world a better place than they found it. The company is currently sustainably feeding over 1,600 students per day in Tanzania and the Philippines, without any donations. Founded at the forefront of the American craft chocolate revolution and regarded by many as a vanguard in the industry, Askinosie Chocolate sets the standard: they are one of the few chocolate makers in the world who press their own cocoa butter (to make their chocolate truly single origin) and the only American craft chocolate maker to produce a natural cocoa powder; they were the first American craft chocolate makers to create white chocolate, as well as a chocolate hazelnut spread (says The New York Times: “one spoonful of Askinosie’s Chocolate Hazelnut Spread and all memory of Nutella is gone”).

Shawn was named by O, The Oprah Magazine “One of 15 Guys Who Are Saving the World.” They said, “Why we’re fans: The philanthropically-minded chocolate entrepreneur aims to get students thinking about business ethics in a way that could have ripple effects for generations.” For his efforts in “Advancing food standards… by creating social, economic, and environmental impact”, Shawn was awarded Top Business Leader of the Year in 2013 by the Specialty Food Association. Shawn has been awarded honorary doctorates from University of Missouri-Columbia and Missouri State University. In 2015, Askinosie Chocolate was awarded a complimentary membership to the Clinton Global Initiative for the company’s social efforts around the world. Seth Godin, entrepreneur and author, recently praised the company’s model: “[Shawn] has built a practice of creating a worthwhile luxury good that directly benefits people. Not sort of. Not a little. But directly.”

Askinosie Chocolate has received 3 Good Food Awards, considered to be the Oscars of food; 6 silver awards from the Specialty Food Association; and 7 International Chocolate Awards, including the Gold World Award for the Dark Chocolate + Licorice bar. The small team at Askinosie works directly with all of their retailers and sells their chocolate into specialty food stores, luxury boutiques, and high-end grocery chains throughout the US in nearly all fifty states and across the globe.

Shawn’s book, recently released, co-written with his daughter Lawren, published by Penguin titled “Meaningful Work: The Quest To Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, and Feed Your Soul” is an Amazon #1 New Release. Read Seth Godin’s review of the book here.

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He is a Family Brother at Assumption Abbey, a Trappist monastery near Ava, Missouri and the co-founder of Lost & Found, a grief center serving children and families in Southwest Missouri.

You stream or download this conversation at AshtonGustafson.com, iTunes, and Stitcher.

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The Chef Sessions with Hugo Ortega – Caracol – Houston, TX

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Hugo Ortega is executive chef/co-owner of four of Houston’s top restaurants – Backstreet Cafe, Hugo’s, Caracol and Xochi, and winner of Best Chef: Southwest at the prestigious 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards.  (He was a finalist for the award for six consecutive years, 2012- 2017.)  Ortega has been recognized locally, nationally and globally for his inspirational story and his passion for sharing traditional Mexican cooking and culture.

Ortega’s American Dream story started at Backstreet Cafe, a neighborhood bistro started by Tracy Vaught in 1983. He began his career in the restaurant business first as dishwasher and busboy and later as a line cook before graduating from culinary school and later becoming Backstreet’s executive chef. He and Vaught married, and together, they have created an award-winning Houston restaurant family that also includes Hugo’s and Caracol.

Chef joins us in this episode of Let The Music Play Podcast as we discuss his journey to where he is today, how he cultivates his creativity, and his simplistic wisdom on life, relationships, and great food.

You can stream this episode and all other episodes of Let The Music Play Podcast at AshtonGustafson.com, iTunes, and Stitcher.

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The Chef Sessions No. 4 with Adana’s Shota Nakajima – Seattle, WA

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Chef Shota Nakajima began his culinary journey at the age of sixteen, working for a well-acclaimed sushi restaurant in his hometown of Seattle, WA. At the age of eighteen, Nakajima moved to Osaka, Japan to learn about the art of Japanese cuisine. In Japan, Nakajima had the opportunity to work for Michelin Star rated Chef Yasuhiko Sakamoto. As one would expect, this experience changed Chef Shota’s perspective on cooking.

Since returning to Seattle, it has been Nakajima’s dream to convey Chef Sakamoto’s approach to hospitality and Japanese cuisine in the United States.

Learn more about Chef Shota and Adana below.

You stream this episode and all other episodes of Let The Music Play Podcast in iTunes and Stitcher.

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The Chef Sessions No. 4 with Greg Wade | Publican Bread Co.

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America’s in the midst of a bread renaissance – just ask Publican Quality Bread’s Head Baker, Greg Wade. Growing up outside Milwaukee, Greg was raised baking with his mother and grandmother, but it wasn’t until years later that he discovered his passion for whole grains, long fermentation and all the other things he speaks effortlessly about under the humble guise of “nerding out.”

After enrolling in The Illinois Institute of Art’s Culinary Program, Greg began to notice a void in the Chicago dining scene – excellent restaurants had the desire to serve quality breads made from hydrated doughs and whole grains, but they were hard-pressed to find the space and expertise necessary to bake in their already-bustling kitchens. From that epiphany, Greg found his first home as a baker at Wicker Park’s Taxim, where he specialized in breads and pastries. As his knowledge continued to grow, Greg joined the opening team at Girl & the Goat in 2010. Wade excelled under Chef Stephanie Izard’s tutelage, and in 2013, he moved to Little Goat to oversee bread baking at Girl & the Goat, Little Goat and Little Goat French Market.

Now at the helm of Publican Quality Bread, Greg works hand in hand with Chefs de Cuisine, farmers and retail owners to develop breads to fit restaurant menus and storefronts within and outside the One Off family. Since joining our team in 2014, Greg has grown Publican Quality Bread from a seedling operation within the kitchen of sister restaurant Publican Quality Meats, to a full-fledged wholesale wing. In 2017, Greg’s passion and skills were recognized with a James Beard finalist nomination for Outstanding Baker, alongside people he’s admired greatly throughout the course of his career.

As Publican Quality Bread’s Head Baker, Greg oversees the bread program for all of One Off Hospitality Group, with a focus on whole grains and fermentation. Apart from his day-to-day leadership, Greg is an active member of the local, regional and national farming communities – every July, you can find him leading a two-day Bread Camp along with Marty and Will Travis at Spence Farm in Fairbury, IL. Online, you can witness his technique and commitment to ethical, quality ingredients in the newly released documentary, Sustainable.

You can listen to this episode and all other episodes of Let The Music Play Podcast at Sticher or iTunes.

Show Notes

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