I knew there was something special about Jennifer Iannolo (aka @foodphilosophy) when she once tweeted her favorite meal. The details have long since been forgotten except for the fact it started with “when me and Charlie” sat down for a meal.
Now, for the rest of you who aren’t on a first name basis with the culinary greats, the “Charlie” she spoke of, was none other than Charlie Trotter, one of the best chefs in the world. And the restaurant they ate at belonged to Alain Ducasse.
I knew she was a great podcaster and food vlogger and I had visited her site at the Culinary Media Network (CMN) many times. I just had no idea she was so close with Charlie (that’s Chef Trotter to the rest of us) and that she had so many great stories to tell.
From listening to her podcasts and watching her vlogs, I always had this romantic notion that her days are filled with hob knobbing with chefs, eating their delicious foods, and then coming home at night to Tweet about it. This, of course, would be her regular schedule. On special days she’s jet setting halfway across the world to hob knob with chefs, eat their delicious foods, and then go back to the hotel to Tweet about it.
When I finally chased her down, she slightly disabused me of the notion. Apparently, there is more to being the CEO of the CMN than the whole hob knobbing/eating/jet setting thing, though that is a very visible part of what she does because she podcasts and vlogs about it. (If you’re interested, you can see some of her work on the CMN site and on her own FoodPhilosophy.com.) Still, despite all of that work, she’s a businesswoman first.
Using the business degree she earned from the Stern School of Business at New York University, she offers food consulting to various restaurants. While she already has a presence in Web 2.0 consulting and media, there’s something else in the works that she hinted at, but now all I can say is that it is coming soon. This project will allow her to consult with restaurants on the full range of Social Media marketing opportunities. More to come…
In the meantime, she’ll have to content herself with all her other jobs. Like the food consulting and being a cookbook author. Together with her Culinary Media Network associates (including Chef Mark Tafoya who was interviewed earlier on the blog), she assembled The Gilded Fork Cookbook, a cookbook containing 3-4 years’ worth of recipes from the website. Even though the recipes are on the web, “there’s something about a physical cookbook,” she says.
The goal of the book was simple. “We wanted to convey our idea of entertaining.” Jennifer, Mark and the others all believe the entertaining should be fun and stress-free, which is why they’ve taken care of all the details, even the wine pairings in their book. (A full review is coming, I promise.)
She also runs an online boutique, the Gilded Fork (shop.gildedfork.com), where she offers artisan products that are hard to find anywhere else. The site features brownies, oils, flor de sel, truffle salt, black garlic, and a special Italian olive oil that “people buy by the case,” she says. It’s a store “for foodies” by people who know food.
So podcaster, vlogger, social media master, online store owner, cookbook author, and a woman who rubs elbows with the finest chefs in the world, all describe Jennifer, but they still don’t form the complete picture because they don’t explain her philosophy. For a woman known to many as @foodphilosophy, it’s important to know what drives her, because beliefs about food drive everything she does.
At heart, Jennifer is a sensualist who believes that food is something that can excite every sense: smell, sight, touch, sound, and, of course, taste. It was something she experienced while working in the kitchens and in the businesses of some of the greatest chefs in the world : Thomas Keller, Charlie, Daniel Boulud, just to name a few.
While working with these great chefs, she also learned quickly that being a chef is not a glamorous business, so she wanted to find out “what moved their [the chefs] souls.” She wanted to find what it was about cooking that got them through the tough times and share that with her readers, listeners, and watchers. She wanted to give them a chef’s point of view.
All of this culminated in, what she calls, a “moment of truth.” She sat down and wrote an article called “On Food and Sensuality,” (read about it here) which was a phrase she used to describe food that was as pleasing to the mind and body as sex. It was something chefs grasped intuitively, but as she wrote the article, she was not sure how the idea would be received.
Fast forward five years and her article continues to captivate readers and is opening up avenues which may or may not be suitable for a G-rated blog like this one, she explains while laughing. It’s also allowed her to open “Bachelor Bootcamp” so that she can teach us guys a few things about the sensual pleasures of food and how to use it to accentuate the sensual pleasures of …other things.
Ultimately, though, I save the best for last. After all the time in the kitchen, directing a “space camp for foodies” called L’Ecole des Chefs from Relais & Chateaux, managing the James Beard Award, and writing an article that is changing the way people think about food, there is one thing that amazes me about Jennifer: she has no formal culinary training.
When compared to being on a first name basis with Michelin-rated chefs or getting a cookbook out in three months (which is seriously how long it took to get The Gilded Fork out), it may not seem like much to anyone else, but she and Chef Mark are inspirations to any of us who want to play with a food for a living. It may take some hardwork, but it can be done and for that bit of inspiration, we owe Jennifer a big thanks.
So when you’re done here, check out her site. You can get a feeling for her recipes by checking out the cocktail below. Oh, if you do go to the FoodPhilosophy.com website, that is actually her with the grapes. Most importantly read her words, watch her have fun and know that this is a women who has inspired chefs to keep cooking, people to learn to be chefs, and more than one blogger to think about living and playing with his food.
Now, ready for that cocktail? The Vanilla Vixen Cocktail originally appear on The Culinary Media Network and it and its picture were stolen (with permission from there). For variations and a bit about this cocktail, check out the link!
The cocktail recipe makes 1 drink, but the syrup and the sugar yield enough for multiple drinks
For the vanilla syrup:
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean, split in half and seeds scraped
For the vanilla sugar, (optional garnish):
2 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean, used and reserved vanilla bean from the syrup
For the cocktail:
1½ oz vanilla syrup
2 oz vodka
splash of lime juice
1 oz sparkling water (or club soda)
Vanilla Bean (fresh or dried), optional for garnish
Airtight jar or container
Prepare the vanilla syrup:
Combine the water, sugar and vanilla bean in a medium pot and bring the mixture to a simmer, dissolving the sugar. Turn off the heat, cover and let the mixture steep for 1 hour. Remove the vanilla bean (there is no need to strain because the seeds will pass through a sieve, and they add a lovely speckled appearance to the cocktail). Reserve the vanilla pod for use in the sugar. Cool the syrup to room temperature and set aside until ready to serve. This will keep refrigerated for 1 month.
Prepare the vanilla sugar:
Place 1 cup of the sugar in a large container with an airtight lid. Cut each half of the vanilla bean in half again, this time width-wise, and add the pieces to the sugar. Cover with the remaining 1 cup of sugar and seal the lid tightly. Place in a cool area and shake the container several times per day to distribute the vanilla essence. Continue this process for at least 1 week, and up to 1 month.
Prepare the cocktail:
Pour some of the vanilla sugar onto a small plate that is wide enough to fit the rim of the martini glass. Lightly wet the rim of the glass with water, then dip into the sugar plate, making sure to coat the entire rim with sugar.
Pour all ingredients except the vanilla bean into a cocktail shaker about ½ full of ice. Shake vigorously for about 30 seconds. Strain into the sugared martini glass and garnish with a dried vanilla bean.
Recipe and photo by Monica Glass
The picture of Jennifer was taken from FoodPhilosophy.com.