Join Karen and Andrew for a #MeatlessMondayChat on Twitter — Monday, May 11th, at 8 pm ET

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New to vegetarian cooking, or simply want to pick up some kitchen tricks for Meatless Monday?

Join us on Monday, May 11th at 8pm ET for a Twitter chat hosted by @MeatlessMonday.  

We’ll share lots of tips from firsthand experience as well as THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE, the heart of which is an A –Z guide of ingredients (Acai to Zucchini blossoms) and the produce, spices, herbs, and other seasonings that best pair with and enhance their flavors. Not sure what to do with those ramps you scored at the farmers market? Consult THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE and you’ll learn that they go well with asparagus, peas, eggs, parsley and cheese. Sounds like the beginnings of a Meatless Monday Spring Frittata to us!

Monday’s Twitter chat is not only your chance to share your favorite vegetarian flavor pairings, but also to confess what stumps you in the kitchen and get some advice from us as well as other Twitterers! Plus, two lucky participants will win copies of THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE.

To join the conversation, log on to Twitter at 8pm ET on Monday, May 11th. Follow @MeatlessMonday for the chat questions and use the hashtag #MeatlessMondayChat in all of your responses.  Hope to see you there!

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Meatless Monday is at meatlessmonday.com.

President William Jefferson Clinton Inadvertently Gives Karen The Perfect Birthday Present

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“Thank you for…the copy of THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE.  I’m delighted that you’re helping to make vegetarian and vegan lifestyles more accessible and achievable for as many people as possible.”
President Bill Clinton

Today is Karen’s birthday — but it would have been a red-letter day anyway.  After all, it’s not every day you receive a letter from the former President of the United States.

Karen had mentioned President William Jefferson Clinton in THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE twice on the historical timeline in Chapter 1, so we thought to send him a copy of the book.

One mention is in relation to the November 4, 2010, publication of BusinessWeek‘s article “The Rise of the Power Vegans”:

“…spotlighting the growing number of prominent Americans who have adopted veganism, including former President Bill Clinton, automotive scion Bill Ford, venture capitalist Joi Ito, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, hip hop pioneer Russell Simmons, Twitter cofounder Biz Stone (who credits a 2000 visit to Farm Sanctuary in upstate New York with his conversion), boxer Mike Tyson, hotelier Steve Wynn, and media magnate Mort Zuckerman.”

Another mention under 2011 reads:

“Sixty-five-year-old former President William Jefferson Clinton (b. 1946), whose love of foods ranging from barbecue to hamburgers during his presidency was well known and who had undergone quadruple bypass surgery in 2004 and stent surgery in 2010, speaks out about his veganism, saying that his vegan diet led to his dropping twenty-four pounds.  On CNN, Clinton credits his conversion to a low-fat, plant-based diet with inspiration from a number of doctors, including Dr. Dean Ornish, one of clinton’s doctors for nearly two decades, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., both of whomo have promoted the ability of a whole-food, plant-based diet to prevent and even reverse heart disease.”

His thank-you note acknowledging the book ended up being the perfect birthday present.

After seeing THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE recognized as one of the five best cookbooks of 2014 in the Los Angeles Times, which was reporting on an amalgamation by EatYourBooks.com of more than 300 “Best of 2014” lists in media such as Bloomberg, the Chicago Tribune, Food & Wine, Miami Herald, and the Washington Post, Karen was sad to see that the book didn’t receive a single book award nomination.

It was interesting to see which book beat out THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE in its category for both a nomination and the win from both the 2015 International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) and the 2015 James Beard Foundation Cookbook Awards:  Butchering  Poultry,  Rabbit,  Lamb,  Goat,  and  Pork:  The  Comprehensive  Photographic Guide  to  Humane  Slaughtering  and  Butchering.

On the heels of this sadness, we took steps to move forward, attending the 25th Annual James Beard Foundation Awards on Monday night for their first time in Chicago and connecting with beloved colleagues from all across the country at the majestic Lyric Opera House.

As the opening song “And the Meat Goes On” was performed at the black-tie event by emcee Alton Brown, a spoof on the Sonny and Cher classic, we were taken aback:

Vegetarians scowl when I walk by,
vegans try to tempt me with their kale pie…
I’ll devour bacon until I’m blue,
And the meat goes on….”

In her article onThe Best and Worst of the 2015 James Beard Awards,” Chicago magazine’s Carrie Schedler characterized the song among the worst aspects of Monday’s Awards ceremony.

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OK, we are not without senses of humor, and we’re otherwise fond of Alton Brown, but this song made us even sadder.

The rest of the Awards ceremony was stellar (if a bit long, as per usual), and the reception afterward fantastically fun (if a bit crowded, as per usual — with delicious highlights served up by chefs Brooks Headley of NYC’s Del Posto, Daniel Patterson of San Francisco’s CoiNancy Silverton of LA’s Osteria Mozza, and Vikram Sunderam of DC’s Rasika), as was the after-party we attended at Deann and Rick Bayless‘s Frontera Grill / Topolobampo.

But the saddest part of all was yet to come:  learning the shocking news in the wee hours of the morning that our food writer colleague Josh Ozersky had died while in Chicago to cover the Awards.  He was just 47.

And just like that, his wife is now a widow.

Why did he die?  The honest truth is, we still don’t know:

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And does it matter?  When someone is gone, they’re gone forever — and loved ones are left with the same grief and heartache.

But why do most people die?  Having lost three parents and a stepmother between 2000 and 2009 — all to cancer — we were shocked to discover a few years ago that the number-one cause of death in America is nutritionally-controllable diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.  We were equally surprised to learn that diets that forego animal protein in favor of plant protein are associated with a lower risk of all three.

“In all my interviews with nutritional experts, the benefits of a plant-based diet provided the only point of universal consensus.”
Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food (2008)

And given our typical meat-three-times-a-day (and-bring-on-the-butter-cream- and-eggs-please) diet as food writers, it suddenly dawned on us that we might be well on our way to eating ourselves into early graves.

So we emulated President Clinton and others like him, and embraced a plant-strong diet three years ago today on May 8, 2012.  And we’ve never felt better.

We never want to lose another food world colleague far too soon.  (It was just a year ago that we had to mourn the loss of 44-year-old food writer Steven Shaw, a founder of eGullet.com and Fat-Guy.com, who died of an apparent heart attack in April 2014, leaving behind a wife and son.)

We want all our food-world colleagues to feel better than they’ve ever felt before — and to lead long and healthy lives.

As vegetarians (as of three years ago today), we scowl at no one when they walk by.  After all, omnivores are simply people just like we were on May 7, 2012.  We honestly don’t judge.

We only hope to be able to serve as resources to everyone — including and especially our food world colleagues — to help people understand that nutritional science suggests that they can help to save their own lives, and the lives of those they love, through shifting toward a plant-heavy diet emphasizing vegetables, legumes, fruits, and whole (not refined) grains and low in sugar.

And the great news is that doing so is more flavorful and delicious than any of us ever previously dreamed possible.

Monday night provided a poignant reminder of how fond we are of all of you — and how much we hope to see all of you at the 50th Anniversary of the James Beard Foundation Awards.

President Clinton was lucky:  He got a wake-up call that caused him to make life-saving dietary changes.  Others of us might not be so fortunate.  Seize the day!

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President William Jefferson Clinton established the Clinton Foundation, which can be found at clintonfoundation.org.

Kisses On Opening Night at Untitled at the Whitney Museum of American Art

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Opening night at Untitled at the Whitney Museum of American Art

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Top left: Shaved Chips and Dip; Top right: Chef de Cuisine Suzanne Cupps; Middle: Karen Page with Danny Meyer; Bottom left: Beverage Director Eduardo Porto Carreiro; Bottom right: Carrots with chili and peanuts

“Truer than ever: a restaurant is never as hot as it is the day before it opens! Now: on to being good!”
Danny Meyer‘s last Tweet before Untitled opened its doors at the Whitney Museum (May 1, 2015)

As observers and chroniclers of the American restaurant scene for more than 20 years now, we can think of few — if any — people from whom we’ve learned more about what makes a great restaurant great than Danny Meyer.

His final Tweet as his Union Square Hospitality Group creation Untitled opened its doors Friday night at the Whitney Museum speaks volumes about his wisdom and humility just as his newest restaurant was being named on Grub Street as the #1 “most talked-about, must-visit” restaurant in New York City.

While dining at Untitled on its — and the new downtown Whitney Museum’s — opening night, we were studying the secrets of how the USHG team works its magic.

None of them are truly secret to the observant and well-read, of course.  Meyer’s characteristic generosity led him to share hundreds of pages of his greatest tips on providing the level of hospitality that wins respect from colleagues and guests alike in his bestselling book Setting the Table, now a restaurant-world classic.

Part of the secret — which Meyer shares in our own book DINING OUT: Secrets from America’s Leading Critics, Chefs and Restaurateurs — is hiring the right people:

Selection is 80 percent of the game, training is 15 percent, and managing is probably 5 percent.  The basis for success in this business is great hospitality.  But the basis for being able to deliver great hospitality are an employee’s emotional strengths, that which we could not teach them if we had all 20 years of our lease….Prospective employees should be 1) extremely nice, 2) intelligent, 3) infused with an extraordinary work ethic, 4) empathetic, and 5) emotionally self-aware.  When one of these five characteristics is absent, that person is probably going to be unable to provide the kind of hospitality we are looking for.”
Danny Meyer, in DINING OUT

Meyer and his USHG partner Richard Coraine have long had a gift for attracting some of the very best and brightest — not to mention the warmest and most present — professionals in the business.

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Top left: Spring onion flatbread; Top right: USHG’s Richard Coraine with Andrew Dornenburg; Middle: Karen Page, Mike Anthony, and Andrew Dornenburg; Bottom left: Strawberry pound cake with pistachios and ricotta; Bottom right: Cauliflower, curry and crushed black sesame

At Untitled, executive chef Michael Anthonyone of five finalists for the James Beard Foundation’s 2015 Outstanding Chef Award, which will be announced tomorrow night in Chicago — does what he’s long done best everywhere from Blue Hill to Gramercy Tavern:  celebrate vegetables, elevating them from side dishes to rightful stars of their own plates.  His trusted Gramercy Tavern compatriot Suzanne Cupps takes her own star turn as Untitled’s Chef de Cuisine, and appears to have picked up Mike’s magic touch.  At Untitled, irresistible snacks like shaved chips and dip (pictured above) and lightly cured vegetables are gently priced from $7-12.  Small plates (from carrots with chili and peanuts to spring onion flatbread) run $9-15, while entrees are $23-27.  We happily made a meal of our small plates, the highlight of which was the deliciously earthy cauliflower, curry and crushed black sesame, satisfying enough to fulfill the role of an entree.

The USHG team also includes two of our favorite sommeliers — John Ragan (ex-Eleven Madison Park and Campton Place) and Sabato Sagaria (ex-Inn at Little Washington and Inn at Little Nell) — both of whom we interviewed for our 2011 book THE FOOD LOVER’S GUIDE TO WINE and both of whom have since gone on to earn the coveted and hard-won title of Master Sommelier.  Untitled’s beverage director Eduardo Porto Carreiro (an alum of Daniel Boulud’s restaurants Bar Boulud and Boulud Sud) immediately won our hearts with the Mary Poppins analogy he used to characterize our bottle of wine.

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Top left: Executive Chef Mike Anthony with Danny Meyer; Top right: Our foursome’s view from the 8th Floor after dinner; Center: USHG’s CRO Sabato Sagaria, MS, with Andrew Dornenburg; Bottom left: +1ed with Hershey Kisses paired with our Madeira; Bottom right: Triple chocolate chunk cookie with vanilla milk

Across the board, service at Untitled is vintage USHG.  Case in point:  The happy occasion of sipping Madeira at the end of dinner led to our offhand comment to Sabato Sagaria that all we were missing were Hershey Kisses — an insider reference to his collegiate fondness for the pairing, as shared on page 267 of our book THE FOOD LOVER’S GUIDE TO WINE:

“While I was in college at Cornell, I was a teaching assistant for a wine course; I got paid $5.50 an hour and got to bring home two wines.  One day, they sent me home with a bottle of Bual Madeira, and my mom had just sent me a care package for exams that had some Hershey Kisses with almonds in them.  So I was studying late, and popped some Kisses while sipping my Madeira.  That pairing is what turned me on to Madeira!”
Sabato Sagaria, MS, in THE FOOD LOVER’S GUIDE TO WINE

What seemed to us to be mere moments later, we were stunned when a plate of Hershey Kisses was placed on our table so that we could enjoy the pairing!  (No idea how on earth they procured some so quickly!)  This was another a classic USHG “+1” case study in proactively seizing opportunities to make diners’ experiences even more pleasurable and memorable whenever possible.  Mission accomplished!

During opening night with a roomful of heavy-hitters (like the Whitney Museum’s own director Adam Weinberg, who was seated with guests at a window table) and curiosity-seekers alike, to our palates the kitchen service seemed virtually flawless.  But a few times during the course of the evening, the lighting flickered back and forth from dim to bright, as the staff strove to get the ambiance just right.

Because that’s what opening nights — not to mention USHG’s quality-obsessed team members — are all about.  Other top restaurateurs might use opening night as a time to celebrate.  However, it’s very telling that Richard Coraine mentioned to Andrew that he and Meyer were headed out for their usual restaurant opening-night ritual:  sitting down over a cup of coffee and making lists of everything they still wanted to tweak.

We’d have loved to be flies on the wall to overhear that conversation, given how polished we found the restaurant on May 1st.  Untitled is already very, very, very good.  So apparently now: it’s on to being great!

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P.S.  Is it any wonder that such a magical night (on the heels of a magical day) ended up inspiring one of Andrew’s most magical photographs ever from the window of our taxi on the ride home from Untitled?

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Untitled at the Whitney Museum of American Art is on the first floor of 99 Gansevoort Street between Washington and West.  Website:  untitledatthewhitney.com

StudioCafe at the Whitney Museum of American Art is on the 8th floor of 99 Gansevoort Street between Washington and West.  Website:  untitledatthewhitney.com/page/studiocafe

There’s No Place Like Home — And No Better Welcome Than A Lovely Letter!

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Cory Booker is a genius. I could sense it the first day I met him. His enormous intelligence is surpassed only by his heart. He is compassionate, committed, charismatic and generous of spirit.”
Oprah Winfrey, writing in Time magazine, which named him to the Time 100

“When you find yourself trying to avoid the truth about something because it’s inconvenient, because you know it doesn’t align with your values and your moral compass….I wasn’t living my truth….But also a strong part of me is, like, no judgment. I don’t want to judge other people for their decisions….Everybody struggles. We’re all working to live our best selves, and we should do less judging and more encouraging.”
Senator Cory Booker, in an interview with Vance Lehmkuhl on Philly.com, on why he went vegan

You rock!  Thanks for lifting me with your brilliant book.”
Senator Cory Booker, in an April 16th letter thanking Karen for THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE

We’ve both been traveling so much of late, we thought the highlight of our day would be finally getting to sleep in our own bed tonight.

But Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) changed all that.

We arrived home in Manhattan to find his very kind, not to mention hand-personalized, letter thanking Karen for the copy of THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE she’d sent to him upon learning of his effort to adopt a vegan diet.

We didn’t think there was anything else this man could do to impress us:  He holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford (where he also played on the football team), was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, and graduated from Yale Law School.  While serving as Mayor of the City of Newark (where he spent eight years living in a low-income housing complex), he’d once saved a neighbor from a burning building.  We remembered reading that when he released his 2013 tax returns, it was revealed that Booker had earned $540,341 that year — and had given away $440,000 of it to charitable causes (such as the AIDS Resource Foundation for Children in Newark, the American Cancer Society, Newark churches, and Omni Prep Academy, a charter school founded by his brother Cary).

But to have taken the time to thank Karen for the book, and to add a personal note, shows incredible class.  We’re both very impressed.

Senator Cory Booker rocks!

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Senator Cory A. Booker‘s website is at booker.senate.gov.

Pastry Chef Emily Luchetti Launches #Dessertworthy, and Features Us In Today’s Interview

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Pastry chef Emily Luchetti (left), whose insights were featured in THE FLAVOR BIBLE (center), and who was named the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Pastry Chef of 2004 (right, at the 2011 awards with Karen Page and Susan Feniger)

Emily Luchetti is one of best — and best-loved — pastry chefs in America.”
–Dorie Greenspan, author of Baking with Julia and Paris Sweets

You already know Emily Luchetti — she’s the James Beard Award-winning pastry chef who’s amazed your sweet tooth at restaurants ranging from Stars to Farallon, whose cookbooks (from Stars Desserts to The Fearless Baker) you’ve collected, and whose insights into creating desserts you read and loved in THE FLAVOR BIBLE.

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#dessertworthy:  a social media movement to empower individuals to make healthier lifestyle choices and to be mindful of their dessert and sugar indulgences
Emily Luchetti, pastry chef

But meet Emily’s latest, greatest creation.  After tickling our tastebuds with her dessert creations for so long, Emily’s on a new mission:  To make sure we all remember that desserts should be an occasional treat and not an everyday indulgence — and to keep us mindful about our sugar intake, which has reached dangerous levels here in the United States.

To this end, Emily has launched #dessertworthy, which is a social media movement you can follow on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

It’s been receiving wide media coverage, including Russ Parsons’ article “Why does one of America’s top pastry chefs want you to skip dessert?” in the Los Angeles Times, Bonnie Benwick‘s “Dessert under attack! How to keep the last course from disappearing at your house” in The Washington Post, and this Q&A with Maggie Borden on the James Beard Foundation’s blog — not to mention Emily’s own first-person essay on the Huffington Post entitled “Why We Need To Improve Our Perception (And Consumption) Of Dessert.”

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The #dessertworthy team is also featuring interviews with various culinary professionals on how they keep their sugar cravings in check, and what desserts they consider to be #dessertworthy.

We’re delighted to have been interviewed for today’s #dessertworthy feature (above), which you can read in full on Facebook here.

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Emily Luchetti‘s #dessertworthy “Manifesto” can be found here:  www.emilyluchetti.com

Meatless Monday Gets A Shout-Out During Jon Stewart’s Interview with Gene Baur on “The Daily Show”

“The Dietary Council just released on the heels of this book [Baur’s new Living the Farm Sancutary Life] that this vegan lifestyle is sort of the solution to so many of the issues that are going on in the world….[To get started], even as you say, just do it once a week.”
–Jon Stewart, talking with Gene Baur on “The Daily Show” (4/5/15)

“We could save 70 percent on healthcare costs if we shifted to a whole-foods, plant-based diet in this country….Meatless Monday is a great program.”
–Gene Baur, being interviewed by Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show” (4/5/15)

Happy Meatless Monday!

If you missed out on seeing Jon Stewart‘s “Daily Show” interview with Gene Baur live last Monday night, you can catch the recording (above) as we did.

We loved hearing Meatless Monday get such a great shout-out during the segment.  By the way, we’ll be hosted by Meatless Monday for a Twitter chat about THE VEGETARIAN FLAVOR BIBLE on Monday, May 11th, so mark your calendars now!

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Gene Baur‘s new book is Living the Farm Sanctuary Life:  The Ultimate Guide to Eating Mindfully, Living Longer, and Feeling Better Every Day.  Jon Stewart says, “It’s really a terrific book.  It lays it out so simply and incredibly [with] tons of great recipes.”

Farm Sanctuary is at FarmSanctuary.org.

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Meatless Monday is at 215 Lexington Ave #1001, New York, NY 10016.  MeatlessMonday.com

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“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” is at TheDailyShow.cc.com.

The Beauty of Produce Is In the Eye of The Beholder: Don’t Overlook Buying Fruits and Veggies That Were “Born This Way”

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Above: Andrew shot — and bought! — this lovable bunny-shaped potato at the Union Square Greenmarket

“AWESOME!”
Jordan Figueiredo @UglyFruitAndVeg, a food waste activist based in northern California, commenting via Twitter on Andrew’s potato photo above

“Let’s reshape the world!”
Dana Cowin @fwscout, editor-in-chief of Food & Wine magazine, commenting via Twitter on Andrew’s carrot photos below

We love that others (including Jordan Figueiredo @UglyFruitAndVeg) shared our enthusiasm yesterday (via Facebook and Twitter) for the shot Andrew took (above) at the Union Square Greenmarket of a “perfectly-shaped potato” for an Easter celebration.

While we reveled in this potato’s uniqueness — especially given the Easter holiday — we’re aware that we’ve long been too conditioned to prize uniformity in our produce.

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This has led to a sad waste of more than 20 percent of produce based simply on its size, shape, color, or appearance — produce that is at least as delicious and nutritious as its more conventional-looking cousins.

This, in turn, has led to EndFoodWaste.org‘s creation of the “Ugly Fruit & Veg” campaign to encourage major retailers to sell unusual-looking produce, and to encourage consumers to buy it — so that 20 percent can be significantly reduced.

The next time you’re at the Union Square Greenmarket or your own local farmers market, be sure to include some so-called “ugly” fruits and vegetables in your purchase to do your part to help shrink the pressing problem of food waste.  We bet you’ll find a lot to love about them.

More on Reducing Food Waste Through Buying “Ugly” Fruit and Vegetables:

Jordan Figueiredo‘s EndFoodWaste.org, an organization that’s striving “to end food waste, hunger, and climate change – all at the same time.”

NPR’s The Salt: Maria Godoy‘s “Think Nobody Wants To Buy Ugly Fruits And Veggies? Think Again.”  (3.26.15)

Time magazine’s Dan Mitchell on “Why People Are Falling In Love with Ugly Food.”  (3.27.15)

Forbes magazine’s Todd Essig underscores the gist of the “X Factor” portion of our Flavor Equation (i.e., Flavor = Taste + Mouthfeel + Aroma + The X Factor) in his article “Don’t Waste ‘wastED’:  Changing Food Stories Leads To Happier, Healthier Eating.”

In March 2015, Food & Wine editor-in-chief Dana Cowin launched the hashtag campaign #LoveUglyFood and delivered a TEDx talk in Manhattan titled How Ugly, Unloved Food Can Change the World,” which you can watch here: