May 042015

When people ask me what I do for a living, I usually hesitate before answering. Writer? Journalist? Chef? Cook? Teacher? Story teller? Food advocate? Environmentalist? All of those descriptives are true for me, as they are for so many of us. Food can’t be separated from its source and what happens to it on its way to our plates. Chefs Collaborative, a nonprofit that educates about a better food system and celebrates the best in American cooking, is made up of hundreds of chefs, cooks, growers, farmers, fisher people, ranchers, cheese makers, artisans, writers, reporters, publishers, educators, activists — and it’s a mighty brain trust. Its latest gathering, “MeatMatters,” a fundraiser at the Food Network Kitchen in NYC about producing and eating meat, was an extravaganza — demos, tastings, and live lessons presented by a stellar collection of chefs and experts from around the country. Between bites, it gave everyone food for fodder. Wish you were there.

Rick Bayless, turns up the heat. Photo: Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

Chef Rick Bayless of Chicago’s Frontera, Xoco, and Topolobambo (reputedly President Obama’s favorite restaurant) fires up the crowd. “Sell sustainable on your menus through its deliciousness — it’s all about how the food tastes,” he told the gathering.

At the Food Network Kitchen, Sara Brito, Executive Director of Chefs Collaborative, brings together authors, journalists, media people, and shakers in the food world for a briefing before the party.

Chefs Collaborative Executive Director, Sara Brito, introduces the subject to journalists prior to the event.

A partial view of press and members at the roundtable include, from left to right, master butcher Adam Danforth of Oregon, Sara Brito, founding member and luminary Chef Rick Bayless of Chicago, Mel Coleman of Niman Ranch in Colorado, environmental advocate Chef Gabe Kennedy, board member and organic farmer Sylvia Tawse of Colorado (right, standing), Julia della Croce

Heritage Radio

Left, Kathy Keiffer of Heritage Radio Network, right, Piper Davis of Grand Central Bakery, Seattle.

This crowd doesn’t sit for long. Preliminaries over quickly and it’s on to the chef stations for tastings of what they  have prepared with a little help from Food Network Kitchen staff.

Chef Howard Kalachnifoff's Lamb Meatballs with Spiced Yogurt and Carrot, Gramercy Tavern. Photo: Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

Lamb meatballs with spiced yogurt and carrot made by Chef Howard Kalachnikoff of NYC’s Gramercy Tavern.

Gramercy Tavern

The Gramercy Tavern team assembling the delicious meatball sliders.

Journalist and New York Times best-selling author Michael Moss who won a Pulitzer Prize for his investigation of the dangers of contaminated meat, working the line.


Journalist Michael Moss going for the fried chicken.

Chef Shanna Pacifico, NYC, 2016 Chefs Collaborative Scholarship recipient, serving up her chicharone de pollo.

Chef Shanna Pacifico, NYC, Chefs Collaborative Scholarship recipient, serving up her fantastic chicharone de pollo with spring vegetable slaw.

Bill Telepan tossing favas

Michelin star Chef Bill Telepan of Telepan NYC flipping favas. Considering he pioneered WITS, Wellness In The Schools, promoting healthy eating, environmental awareness and fitness as a way of life for kids in public schools, it’s not surprising he wants you to eat your vegetables..


Telepan’s peas and fava beans with nettles and almonds — one of the most luscious dishes I ever ate (that’s saying a lot!).

It was about learning from leading change-makers in the culinary world as much as eating great food. People stop at individual stations to talk to them.

Chef Stephen Stryjewski, Cochon, Cochon Butcher, and Peche, New Orleans.

Chef Stephen Stryjewski of Cochon, Cochon Butcher, Peche, New Orleans, serves up blissful stone ground smoked grits with braised pork cheeks, onion gravy, and crushed herbs.

Chicago’s legendary restauranteur Rick Bayless, known for his traditional and innovative Mexican food, raises awareness about sustainable meats through his advocacy work, and on his menus. He carefully sources all the ingredients he uses, and has some of it, such as corn, produced especially for his restaurants. Because all conventional maize from the U.S. and Mexico alike is GMO, he hires local farmers to produce crops without genetically modified seeds for his restaurants. His soft skillet tacos with skirt steak, green adobo, and fresh lime, are a revelation about Mexican food.

Julia talking GMO with Rick Bayless

Talking about the GMO and corn with Rick Bayless.

Rick Bayles, lessons

Some beef pointers from Chef Rick Bayless.

Piper Davis

Pastry chef Piper Davis offered rhubarb tart with a flaky leaf lard crust topped with whipping cream topped and fresh strawberry. She talks about how her thinking evolved about using lard and whole grains in baking.

Demos included a lesson on goat butchery with Adam Danforth, who just won a James Beard Award for his masterful, Butchering Poultry, Rabbit, Lamb, Goat & Pork: The Comprehensive Guide to Humane Slaughtering and Butchering. He talks about about the practical importance of utilizing the meat from nose-to-tail and the flavor attributes of lesser known muscles. Mature meat is cheaper to produce, tastes better, and takes into account animal welfare, he says. His motto: “Eat better meat and less of it.”

Adam Danforth

As hands-on as it gets. Adam Danforth butchers a goat at MeatMatters while a fascinated audience observes.

Derek Wagner

Chef Derek Wagner of Nick’s on Broadway, Providence RI, gives a cooking demonstration using the butchered goat.

Not surprisingly, people in the food business are serious partiers. The bash is also a great opportunity for discussing the issues with like-minded people who are at once doing important work and creating delicious food.


Food Network Kitchen mixologist offering drinks and cocktails using local wines and spirits.

Photo Op

Photo op for Chefs Collaborative’s Christine Kim, Sara Brito, and Alisha Fowler.

Peter Hoffman

Seen: Chef Peter Hoffman, farm-to-table pioneer of Back Forty and Back Forty West, NYC.

Alisha Fowler

“Best Chef” James Beard Award winner and Chef Collaborative board member Evan Mallet of Black Trumpet, New Hampshire, with the Collaborative’s program director, Alisha Fowler.


Left, Kelly Whittaker of Denver’s Basta and Cart Driver, nominated one of America’s Best Chefs by his peers.

Sylvia Tawse

Chefs Collaborative Board member, Colorado farmer, natural food advocate and mover Sylvia Tawse, left, with Erin Bates from Basta and Cart-Driver in Denver.

“You must get people to think about where their meat comes from,” Rick Bayless summarized. 

Sara Brito and Rick

Sara Brito and Rick Bayless getting out the message together.

Niman Ranch

Right, Mel Coleman of Niman Ranch, pioneers in sustainable ranching, talking about how to raise meat responsibly.

Matt, Corie, Rick, etc.

Left, Chef Collaborative’s current president Matt Weingartnen, and Zester Daily publisher Corie Brown.

Matt Weingarten

Current Chef Collaborative president, chef, author and activist Matt Weingarten wraps up the evening.

Even with all the partying, we are on a serious mission: nothing less than changing the way people eat.

All photos by Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

Nov 202014


If you missed my broadcast on NPR this time last year about how I came to invent sweet potato gnocchi, tune in today. NPR is re-running the show on “All Things Considered,” the “Found Recipe” series, in time for Thanksgiving. You just may want these little beauties on your holiday table, dressed with sage butter and a veil of grated cheese. Serve them the way the Italians would, as a first course before the turkey.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi | Photo: Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

Sweet Potato Gnocchi, From Pasta Classica: The Art of Italian Pasta Cooking, by Julia della Croce (Chronicle Books) | Photo: Nathan Hoyt/Forktales

For the recipe, continue reading here

Jan 132014
Julia's Stories Make 2013 Zester Daily Top Picks, Site for the "Weird and Wonderful" in Food and Drink

Judging by the top picks of the savvy food crowd that reads Zester Daily, it looks like people just can’t get enough of Italian food. Good thing, because there are endless more tales to tell and dishes to make you smile, up my proverbial sleeve. Zester Daily is not any ordinary food publication, but a cooperative of experienced writers from around the world who bring you the fresh, the undiscovered, the “weird and the wonderful,” writes founder and editor, Corie Brown. Contributors don’t have to fit into any magazine template to sound and look like everyone else, or be muzzled […more…]

Oct 202013
 How to Become a Food Writer

In thirty years of writing about food and cooking, people have so often asked me how I became a food writer. A few weeks ago I was invited by my friend Carol Durst-Wertheim to talk about cooking the Italian harvest to the Pleasantville Garden Club in that bucolic village in Westchester County, NY. A few days later, Carol interviewed me on PCTV, Pleasantville’s hometown television station, about how I found my way to food writing. It was the kind of talk you’d have with a neighbor over a cup of tea at your kitchen table. How I merged a predilection for art, […more…]

Aug 232013
Lost Recipe, Mother of Spaghetti al Pomodoro, Found in Brooklyn

It’s not every day that you find a missing link to history–in this case, pasta history. Read about how I found a lost recipe, progenitor of the union of pasta and the tomato in, of all places, Brooklyn, New York. Then again, the site of the find was D. Coluccio & Sons, the iconic Bensonhurst Italian grocery. Maybe not such a surprise after all. After reading the new article, you may never again take for granted spaghetti and meatballs, or any other variation on the theme of pasta and tomato sauce. You wouldn’t imagine such a simple dish could be so splendid–and […more…]

Aug 152013
Zucchini Need Live Up to Their Name: "ini" Means Small, Very Small

  Zucca, in Italian, means squash; zucchini, the diminutive, “small squash” (the Italians snap them off the mother vine at three-and-a-half inches). So why are zucchini so often the size of baseball bats? You’ll have to ask the British about that, who call them “marrows,” and win the world records for growing giant vegetables at the Great Yorkshire Showground every summer. To read about the long and short of it, and learn to look forward  to a bumper baby zucchini crop every summer, go to my new article for Zester Daily. There you’ll find the whole story of America’s gift to Italy, and the recipe […more…]

Jul 022013
Secrets of Italian Tomato Sauce

If you’re like me and love a good tomato sauce, you’ll want to read my new article in Zester Daily, “How to Master the Tomato Sauces of Italy” for tomato sauce wisdom and maybe, just maybe, my favorite “red sauce” recipe.   I wrote it because—I kid you not–even after having written thirteen cookbooks about Italian food—four of them about pasta and the sauces it wears–and one about how to make tomato sauce specifically*, people still ask me what prepared tomato sauce I buy! My answer, “I wouldn’t dream of eating tomato sauce from a bottle!” The response, inevitably: “You make tomato sauce from […more…]

Mar 062013
In case you missed it: "The ultimate in literary food porn"

Well, this morning I “googled” myself and what pops up?  a New York Times “Diner’s Journal” entry dated April 2012 calling my post, An Unordinary Cooking Lesson, “The ultimate in literary food porn”! I’m flattered, I guess! If you missed that one, read it HERE. The ultimate in literary food porn: photos of a day spent cooking with the Duchess of Palma in her Sicilian palazzo. Click to find the connection to “Il Gattopardo,” the great novel of the end of European aristocracy. — Julia Moskin