Pucker Up, Film Fans!

And the Winner REALLY Is…: The definitive ranking of the greatest actors and actresses in Oscar history

By Ken Grout

Lemon Yellow Books

http://lemonyellowbooks.com

While my readers and listeners may wonder why a review of a book about the Academy Awards is on my food-related blog, older fans will remember that, before I was talking about food with Jordan Rich as part of “Connoisseur’s Corner” (weekdays at 11:55 AM on WBZ AM 1030), I was a film reviewer for multiple publications and have always been a fan. Also, in addition to the fact that the publisher of this book is LEMON Yellow Books, it is just a DARN FINE BOOK- so there!

As an actor, teacher, and bon vivant, Ken Grout knows how to communicate ideas and engage audiences. And that is proven in this book as much as it is in any of his classes or performances. While there still may be uncomfortable giggles about the “La La Land” / “Moonlight” fiasco, Grout uses his encyclopedic knowledge of film along with a tiebreaking scheme that is the stuff of “Good Will Hunting” or “A Beautiful Mind” to establish a series of lists that serve as the mic-dropping ends to the “who is better?” conversations all film fans have.

Whether you want to know who has the most nominations in which categories 9and so “rank” higher in Grout’s impressive and comprehensive system), the gender, last name, or even the first initial of the most winners, or who dominated the silver screen decade by decade, Grout’s slim and bright (inside and out) volume has the answers. In addition to providing this information (in a way that admittedly hearkens to “Rain Man”), the book is also a great way to find out more about favorite stars and films and also to discover new ones, compete with recommendations for “must see” roles for each winner. There is even a section on film stars who crossed over to TV (and vice versa). So whether you like the big or small screen (or waiting for big screen pics to be available on the small one), this Lemon Yellow Book is absolutely sweet!

Andy Husbands- A (Pit) Master of Service (Originally posted 5/17)

After moving to the Boston area from his native Seattle, Andy Husbands quickly found his calling in the kitchen. In fact, his fist food-related job began when he was 14, just months after he became a Bay Stater.

“It’s something that I’ve kinda’ always been passionate about as I look back,” Husbands explains, recalling donut making in fourth grade and steady restaurant work in high school. In fact, he says, it was during high school that his food service dream began to take shape.

“In my junior year,” he says, “I took a tour of Johnson & Wales University and I realized that I could go to school for the thing I wanted to do!”
As here were not as many chef-owners or, as Husbands puts it, “rock star chefs” in those days, Husbands studied hard and made all the productive connections he could in the food service community. Among these was one professor who took him aside one day and encouraged Husbands to do more in the community at large.

“I thought about that a lot,” Husbands says. “I knew that he had taken an interest and spoken with me about this like a mentor.”
After graduating, Husbands was soon able to find another mentor in “rock star” Chris Schlesinger, owner and chef at the famed East Coast Grille

“It was an unbelievable serendipitous landing of a job,” Husbands beams. “[Chris] challenged me, but also encouraged me to look at the business in a different way and to treat people really well.”
Husbands also credits Schlesinger with opening his eyes to entire new worlds of flavor.

“This was the 1980’s,” Husbands explains. “I had never seen an African Peri-Peri sauce before!”

In addition to teaching him the way around the kitchen, Schlesinger also advised Husbands on how to not only run the kitchen but the restaurant as well.

“He showed me what a family-run neighborhood place was,” Husbands suggests, noting that his “neighborhood” was the demanding international melting pot of Cambridge, MA.

Heading back west on a cross-country motorcycle trip, Husbands expanded his palette and his menu of talents in San Francisco and New Mexico, where he got back to the land by living on a farm where he grew produce for his recipes. Upon returning again to MA, Husbands opened Tremont 647 (www.tremont647.com) in 1996 and then took over the spot next door in 2000, turning it into the popular sister space (that is named for his sister) Sorel. Most recently, Husbands revolutionized the MA barbecue scene with his mouth-watering Smoke Shop (www.thesmokeshopbbq.com).

When asked what made him want to open his own place, Husbands maintains that it was simply part of the evolution of his life.

“I didn’t really have a plan, per se,” he admits. “I am a guy who walks down many paths and sometimes one leads somewhere and sometimes it turns back and you try another one.”
Having originally returned to the Boston area to take advantage of a proposed partnership with an established restaurateur, Husbands ended up sitting down with long-time friend and barbecue buddy Chris Hart and blue sky-ing about their futures.

“We started dreaming big,” Husbands recalls, “and all of a sudden, there we are signing the lease!”

While Husbands takes flavors and flair from both coasts, his greatest fame may be from his perennial victories of nationwide barbecue contests, from an appearance on season 6 of “Hell’s Kitchen,” and from his growing library of popular cookbooks (including the latest, Pitmaster, which he co-wrote with Hart).

“Barbecue is about celebration, family, [and] heritage,” Husbands observes. And while he realizes that people may not think of Boston when they think barbecue (though he has been changing that), Husbands points out that when people think of Chinese or French food, they may not think of (or even know of) restaurants in China or France.

“Barbecue is growing everywhere,” he maintains, “and I think it’s really great!”

When asked what stoked the fire in his belly, Husbands again credits Schlesinger.

“Working with Chris,” he says, “I learned what a killer craft it is. When you do a brisket right, it is one of the greatest moments, no matter where you are. So I got passionate about it and started competing with Chris and got deep into the culture and- from there, there has been no looking back.”

As the barbecue passion had so rubbed off on Husbands, when he began to look for a third venue, the format was an easy choice to make.

“Smoke Shop is a passion project,” he says. “I owned Tremont for 20 years, so wanted to make sure my next thing was something to be excited about.”

As passionate as he is about food (perhaps particularly barbecue) and in sharing the lesson she has learned from his many mentors, Husbands is at least just as passionate about giving back to the neighborhood and sharing his success with others. That is why, throughout his career, Husbands has been using his talents to support not only his customers, but his community as well.
“My family’s always been helpful of others and caring for neighbors,” Husbands maintains. “Growing up, I saw that.”

While in RI at school, Husbands worked with a restaurant group the principal of which was on the board of Share Our Strength (www.nokidhungry.org), which strives to combat hunger nationwide. His ties to the organization have been strong ever since. In fact, for over 20 years, Husbands has lent his name and talents to multiple fundraising efforts for SOS, including an annual event that he hosts at Tremont 647 for which both he and his entire staff donate their time and passion to help those who cannot always enjoy a delicious meal. In the process, Husbands and his friends have raised over $200,000 to support the thousands of children in MA and elsewhere who deal with hunger every day.

“As a food service professional,” Husbands reasons, “I feed people so a food-related charity makes sense to me and it is easy to get our team on board about that.”
As his first two venues are in Boston’s South End, Husbands has also worked to help his neighbors through AIDS Action Committee.

“AIDS has affected a lot of people in our community,” he observes, “so we felt that was important to support as well.”
When asked how the two causes go together, Husbands chooses instead to point out a provocative difference.

“An interesting juxtaposition,” he says, “is that between AIDS and hunger, there is a cure for one of them.”

As a host of SOS’s Cooking Matters and honorary chair of the organization’s annual Taste of the Nation fundraisers, Husbands regularly calls upon his many friends and colleagues to use their talents in the kitchen to support those who may have little in theirs.

“The chefs I hang out with are all naturally giving,” Husbands says. “And it is a win-win for everyone involved! I don’t care if you do charity because you are passionate, as I am, or because it is a good marketing plan. It doesn’t matter to me, as long as people benefit.”

After all, Husbands reasons, it costs the same to buy an ad as to feed people, “so why not do what we do?”
When asked what his favorite charity event is, Husbands (who also does work for the Rodman Ride for Kids (www.rodmanforkids.org) and the Forsythe Institute (www.forsyth.org)) humbly replies, “I have done so many, but I am always honored to be asked to cook, because- how cool is it that I get to do what I love and that’ s my donation?”

Get Your Workout at the Diner: Boston landmark is now part of Pokemon world (Originally posted 7/16)

 

For decades, the South Street Diner (www.southstreetdiner.com) has been a staple on the Boston food scene. As the only 24-hour eatery in the downtown area (Ed note: Sad but true!), it offers traditional diner fare (e.g., corned beef hash, omelets, pancakes, etc.) as well as a surprisingly diverse and always delicious menu that includes their famed Chocolate Fantasy French Toast, a slew of subs, wraps, burgers, and kabobs, freshly-baked pies, and over 15 types of eggs Benedict. And did we mention a full beer and wine menu (another rarity in Boston)?

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Perhaps it is no wonder, then, that Sol Sidell’s super servery has been spotted in television commercials, films, and even in a recent Batgirl comic book. While it has recently been featured in the wolrd-crushing video game Fallout 4, the latest big news is the appearance of the Diner as a “gym” in the smash hit Pokemon Go! game.

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“This is a great way of new customers finding you,” says Sidell. “It’s an old school diner staying current.”

Though he is not exactly sure which friend helped turn his corner diner into a Pokemon training center, the well-connected and well-loved Sidell is greatful for the opportunity, even if it is only a virtual one.

“I am not sure how it happened or how long it will stay because the gyms move,” he explains, noting that, for the time being, the Diner is to be found on Level 4.

In addition to bringing throngs of new customers in (and tons of regulars back), Sidell says the game has also had the added advantage of expanding the profile of the already world-famous restaurant.

“It’s just cool to be involved international phenomenon,” he says.

Winners All Around: A night of Music Bingo @ Hancock Tavern in Quincy (Originally posted 5/16)

 

I was not sure what to expect as I pulled up in front of Hancock Tavern in Quincy (www.hancock-tavern.com) on a rainy Wednesday night around 8:30. Even through the rain, I could see the many flat-screen TVs blaring games from all major leagues. So maybe it was to be another night at a sports bar.

Oh no, Dear Reader- This was MUCH more!

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Tea for Two (or MORE): MEM Tea offers classes for the curious and the connoisseur (Originally posted 4/16)

 

With its ancient history and contemporary health benefits, tea has grown much larger than the British Empire and is now a delicious and nutritious part of many daily regimens.

Sadly, what many think of as tea is merely the dust that is left behind when the real plant is properly processed. Often, any remnants are mixed with additives, corn syrup, and who knows what else in order to make a brown tea-like beverage of questionable value and taste.

Fortunately, we in MA have more ties to tea than a 300-year-old Tea Party (though that is fun to explore too!). Among our strongest links in the ancient chain of authentic tea is MEM Tea Imports in Watertown (https://memteaimports.com).

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Jonesin’ for Joslin’ : 12th annual Taste of Ginger makes for a delicious fundraiser for Asian American Diabetes Initiative (Originally posted 4/16)

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As the Taiko drums called to every corner of the Museum of Fine Arts, the gustatory perfumes from 30 of the region’s most popular eateries grabbed hundreds of guests by the nose and took them through the grand hall in the MFA’s Art of the Americas Wing, where Ai Weiwei’s cycle-ical sculpture shared space with Dale Chihuly’s glowing emerald tower and an artistic take on the traditional Asian Wishing Tree that promised good fortune for all who came near.

Though the evening did an impressive job of raising awareness of and support for the Asian American Diabetes Initiative at the world-famous Joslin Diabetes Center (www.joslin.org), the promise of over two dozen top chefs in one room may have had at least something to do with the fact that, despite a late snow, hundreds of people turned out in their finest to eat, meat, and mingle. From the eternally youthful seafood Sultan Jasper White and the thankfully ageless Jacky Robert to kitchen giant Jose Duarte of Taranta and the ever-shrinking chickpea champ Avi Shemtov, to the Needham-based one-two-three punch of Dave Becker from Sweet Basil, Vinod and Shukha Kapoor from Masala Art, and the Lord of Tremont Street Andy Husbands (who is soon to open his long-awaited BBQ capital in Kendall Square) and both local legend Joanne Chang and Top Chef champ Karen Akunowicz from Myers & Chang and Flour, the bursting Greater Boston food scene was well represented. And, as befit the evening, there was a special focus on Asian fare, as highlighted by international TV star Ming Tsai and a raft of restaurateurs from Boston’s historic Chinatown. No matter which table guests stopped at or how many times, they were sure to be nearly as amazed and impressed with the edible innovations as those that are part of daily life at Joslin.

This year’s event honorees were founding event committee member Bik Fung Ng who has been integral in assembling not only the menu and chefs but also the silent auction and Joslin VP Dr. William C. Hsu. Despite the mouth-watering buzz, when the honorees spoke, the room fell respectfully silent, eager to hear about all the latest advances that are helping the Asian American community in particular battle a condition that seems to pick on them disproportionally. Once the speeches were through, however, the restaurant-fuel revelry continued long into the snowy night and everyone went home as full of food as they were of hope for the future for those struggling with diabetes.

Thought for Food: Babson College program promotes the “food expert” in everyone (Originally posted 5/15)

 

From the Toll House Cookie to the Fig Newton, Massachusetts has long been a hub for entrepreneurship and innovation in the food space. For nearly as long, Babson College has been pumping out some of the best and brightest entrepreneurs and leaders in all sectors.
That is why it may be no surprise that one of the nation’s most successful food-related incubators and support centers is located on the Babson campus.

Meeting weekly in a room that features a giant chicken and cookie to celebrate such notable contributors at Frank Purdue and Wally Amos, Jr. of “Famous Amos” fame, Food Sol (which can be found at the school website, www.babson.edu) positions itself as an “action tank” for food entrepreneurship. Considering anyone who eats to be a “food expert,” the organization which is led by 2011 MBA Rachel Greenberger, is intended to help uncover what people love about food and encourage them to bring it forth.

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