The Future of Food: Meatless Butchers, Single-Subject Cookbooks, and More

Recently, I chatted with some of the most exciting folks writing, thinking, and talking about food today. Here’s some of what I learned from them.

Published Mar. 9, 2017.

Last weekend, I headed down to Louisville, Kentucky, to attend the 39th annual IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) Conference. The jam-packed few days included field trips (such as a tour of the city’s hottest fried chicken spots, natch); sessions on everything from food styling to dispelling barbecue myths; and networking with some of the most influential members of the culinary world, such as Dorie Greenspan and Peter Reinhart. It all led up to the IACP Awards on Sunday night, a glitzy affair honoring excellence in cookbook writing and publishing.

As an editor and recipe developer on the ATK books team, I had already planned on attending the conference, so it was a bonus when I found out our recent publication, Bread Illustrated, was nominated for an award in the “Baking: Savory or Sweet” category. (Spoiler alert: we won!) My colleague Dan Souza was also there representing the team behind Cook’s Science: How to Unlock Flavor in 50 of Our Favorite Ingredients and Cook’s Science, which were nominated for Best Reference & Technical Cookbook and Best Culinary Website, respectively. (Check out the complete list of winners.)

Between bourbon tastings, I squeezed in a few sessions and chatted with some of the most exciting folks writing, thinking, and talking about food today. Here’s some of what I learned from them.

1. The Science Behind Sticky Fingers

We all know that food companies spend a lot of time and money to engineer their products to be memorable, delicious, and inexpensive to produce. But the lengths they go to leave an impression can be mind-boggling. Land O’Lakes provides the cheese for Cheetos products, and the company specifically designed these addictive treats to leave you with more than a good taste in your mouth. You know that cheese residue that’s leftover on your fingers after eating Cheetos? That was done on purpose. Whether it’s to frustrate parents everywhere or to live up to the cliché of “finger-licking good,” they’re certainly doing their job.

2. Ugly Is the New Beautiful

About 40% of all food produced in the United States ends up in a landfill. Farmer Lee Jones (below, left) of Chef’s Garden in Ohio is trying to change hearts and minds by providing so called “ugly” vegetables to high-end restaurants around the country. He’s hoping that if enough people get behind the idea that a carrot doesn’t have to look perfect to taste amazing, produce buyers will start stocking grocery stores with the same thing, instead of sending them to the landfill.

Steph Pixley with Farmer LeeSteph Pixley and Peter Reinhart

Above left: Author Stephanie Pixley with Farmer Lee Jones. Above right: Stephanie with longtime friend of the test kitchen, Peter Reinhart.

3. Butcher Your Vegetables

Everyone’s looking for a faster way to get a healthy dinner on the table without sacrificing quality or flavor. Whole Foods Market has found a new way to get you one step closer to that home-cooked meal by introducing a Produce Butcher at a location in New York City. Yup, you can grab your vegetables from the produce department, drop them off at the butcher, and for $1 a pound their chefs will slice and dice your products to your specifications.

4. Single-Subject Cookbooks Are All the Rage

Comprehensive cookbooks are great resources—having a recipe for any craving is always reassuring. But sometimes a deep dive into a specific topic is necessary to master specific techniques or flavors, or just to impress your friends with your vast knowledge on a specific subject. These types of cookbooks are incredibly popular right now, and ATK is right on trend. We’ve recently launched a new series of single subject cookbooks called All-Time Best, which includes a book devoted to soups and another devoted to appetizers. Looking to learn all you can about bread? Look no further than our award-winning volume, Bread Illustrated. Keep your eyes open for more single-subject cookbooks coming soon!

Cookbooks at the IACP awardsCookbooks at the IACP awards

Above: IACP Award-nominated cookbooks, including Bread Illustrated and Cook's Science, on display at the conference.

5. “Q” Means Chew

How would you describe the bouncy, springy texture found in many noodles, fish balls, mochi, and other starch-based Taiwanese dishes? The correct descriptor is “Q.” And if something is extra bouncy? That’s called “Q-Q.”

6. Chocolate Is Better for You than Going to the Gym

Just kidding! Fake news is everywhere these days, and it’s especially apparent in online health forums. The conference addressed this issue during a session titled “Navigating the Choppy Waters of Health Information on the Web.” One of the panelists cited biologist and science journalist John Bohannon’s stunt from a few years ago as evidence. You might recall that Bohannon posed as a researcher at a fake research institute and published a “study” that posited “chocolate with high cocoa content” could be used “as a weight-loss accelerator.” He did this to expose just how easy it is to get even experienced journalists foaming at the mouth over junk science, and to educate the public about how these articles make it online in the first place. The good news for the home cook is that following common sense won’t lead you astray. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Bake Beautiful Bread at Home

Bread Illustrated

IACP Award-winning Bread Illustrated—our first cookbook devoted solely to bread baking—is a fully illustrated handbook with more than 100 meticulously tested recipes that will enable you to bake artisan bakery–quality bread at home. Each recipe is a hands-on tutorial with a timeline and photos that break down the recipe step by step, because seeing the process from start to finish helps make any recipe more approachable.  
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