Food Informants is a week-in-the-life series profiling fascinating people in the food world. We hope it will give you a first-hand look at the many different corners of the food industry. Know someone who would make a great Food Informant? Tell us why.
Ben Potts, 28, is the lead brewer at Dogfish Head Brewing & Eats in Rehoboth Beach, De. After Ben discovered craft beer, there was no turning back. His first forays into this world were Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Bigfoot Barleywine, as well as Dogfish Head's Midas Touch and 90 Minute IPA. Talk about full circle! When a friend started homebrewing, he thought, "Hey, I can do this," and picked up his first kit. His first professional gig came about five years later. He was in art school studying to become a painter, but decided brewing might be a more achievable -- but equally creative -- career, so he dropped out and started volunteering at Dock Street Brewing Co. "I worked my ass off until they hired me as assistant brewer," he says. "Then I took over as head brewer in October 2008."
Ben moved from Philadelphia to Rehoboth this fall to work at Dogfish Head's brewpub. Outside of the brewhouse, he enjoys hiking, camping, mountain biking, roller hockey, movies, fantasy novels, cooking and having a pint with friends and family.
Read Ben's diary below to learn about how he crafts experimental beers for Dogfish Head.
Monday, December 5
9:30am: I arrive at the pub to prepare for the busy week ahead. Most of what I'll be doing is getting ready for our top-secret brew day on Friday with BeerAdvocate founders Jason and Todd Alstrom. Dogfish Head is the primary sponsor of BeerAdvocate's annual Extreme Beer Fest, a festival of the boldest and most exotic brews around. Each year, Dogfish founder Sam Calagione and the Alstrom brothers collaborate on an exciting beer that gets brewed here at the pub. Even though I've only been on the job for a little over the month, I get the pleasure of taking part and coordinating everything for this special brew -- making sure all of the grain and specialty ingredients are ready, prepping the equipment, and finally, brewing the beer with Sam and the Alstrom brothers. Since the beer will have been announced by the time this posts, I can reveal that it's a dirty martini beer inspired by the small-batch gin that's distilled here at the pub. An olive puree will be added to the beer along with the botanicals we use in our Dogfish Head Jin.
9:35am: I run into Alison, the distiller, and we go over our schedules for the week. She uses the brewhouse as well to make wash for our small-batch distillery upstairs, so on busy weeks like this we really have to coordinate both of our schedules.
9:45am: Coffee. The coffee machine was the first piece of equipment I familiarized myself with when I started working here.
9:50am: Head down to the office to go over the week with Jason, the pub's general manager and a fine brewer himself, and review everything needed for the big brew day on Friday. Answer any emails and tie up loose ends for the month of November, including finalizing inventory and making sure all invoices pertaining to the brewery are coded and filed. Not everything a brewer does is glamorous.
10:55am: Office work out of the way, it's time to check on the beer that Sam and I brewed last week, a beer named Positive Contact. It's an imperial Belgian wit brewed with hand-pressed cider, cayenne pepper and cilantro. I check the gravity, or the amount of sugar in the brew. By monitoring the amount of sugars through fermentation I can see how the beer is progressing. I also taste the beer to evaluate the flavors, see how the specialty ingredients play out, and check for any possible off flavors. Tasting good so far!
12:15pm: Preparing to keg off the final test batch of Tweason'ale, a new gluten-free beer we're about to release.
12:45pm: Mmmmm. Braised pork shank, one of the food specials for the day. So delicious.
1:30pm: I get the Tweason'ale kegged off so I can clean and sanitize the Grundy tank, the tank we condition and carbonate our beers in. I'm doing this so I can transfer a finished beer out from one of the two fermenters we have, which will free it up for the brew on Friday. It's a momentous occasion for me, because the beer I'll be transferring is my first beer brewed here at Dogfish Head! Dubbed Low Rider, it's an English-style mild ale.
3:30pm: I get the tank set up to be CIP'ed, or "cleaned in place." This is the process we use for cleaning and sanitizing most of our equipment. The Tweason'ale really gunked up the tank, so it takes a little longer than expected.
6:15pm: The beer is transferred, and it's time to clean up. Everything gets rinsed thoroughly and put away in its proper home. Since Alison will be busy using hoses and equipment in the brewery tomorrow, I'll save the fermenter cleaning for Wednesday.
6:45pm: Time for the after-shift beer! What shall I have? Decisions, decisions. How about Bitches Brew.
Tuesday, December 6
9:15am: Time to clean some draft lines. We love flavorful beers here, but sometimes all of those bold flavors require some extra attention when it comes to cleaning the draft lines. I run cleaner into the line and then stop it to let it get a good soak.
9:30am: It's time to carbonate/nitrogenize the Low Rider ale that I transferred to the holding tank yesterday. This process takes anywhere from 2-4 hours. I set up the first step of the process and get carbon dioxide flowing through the beer. Since this beer is going to be poured through the nitro line, nitrogen will also be dissolved into the beer, but this will come after the small dose of carbon dioxide.
9:45am: While the C02 runs through the beer, I have some time to get down to the office and check all of my emails and do some paperwork. I just recently passed my 30-day mark with company, so it's time to enroll in the insurance plan. Woo-hoo!
10:30am: Time to add nitrogen to Low Rider.
10:40am: The delivery truck arrives from the Dogfish Head production brewery about 10 miles away in Milton. It has a bunch of grain for upcoming brews -- including Friday's -- that gets loaded into the grain shed. I send a sample of the Low Rider back on the truck so the lab can get a precise final ABV and gravity reading. One of the great luxuries not available to many brewpubs is having access to the Milton quality control lab.
12:30pm: I go in to check on the Low Rider. I find beer foaming out of the top pressure-relief valves. It has spilled all over the tank onto the floor. Doh! Time for some cleanup. I turn off the nitrogen and close all of the valves in order to let the beer settle.
1:20pm: Email! There is a lot of back-and-forth as we nail down details of the recipe for our special brew on Friday.
1:50pm: I finish cleaning the tap line that had been soaking and rinse it thoroughly. I taste the water coming out to check and see if any flavor from the previous beer carried over. Tastes fine. I switch the Tweason'ale over to that freshly cleaned line and get ready to tap and test the Low Rider.
2:50pm: Finally the Low Rider is run through the tap. The beer cascades beautifully as it flows from the tap into the pint glass. My first brew is a success! Nice and malty, with a subtle herbal hoppiness and incredibly silky/creamy mouth feel due to the nitrogenization. I couldn't be more excited! A real milestone, my first Dogfish beer!
3:15pm: Check in on Positive Contact. I check the gravity and take a little taste. Everything coming along nicely.
3:25pm: Even more email. Finalizing last-minute tweaks to the recipe for Friday and making sure everything will be ready and all set to go. One less thing to worry about.
5:00pm: Jesse, the brewing supervisor up at the Milton brewery, arrives with a special gift: 6 pounds of olive powder, one of the specialty ingredients that I will prep for Friday's brew.
Wednesday, December 7
10:15am: I get in to the pub and immediately start prepping the olive powder. To do this I get out the propane cooker and a 5-gallon stockpot. First I give the pot a good cleaning and then fill it with 3 gallons of water. I light the burner and start heating up the water. While this is going I run down to the office to check email. Because of the innovative nature of some of our beers, there are often lengthy discussions and prep work that lead right up to the point of action. Sometimes the process changes several times in one day. This is one of those brews, and I go over emails with Tim, the brewmaster at our Milton brewery. Once I get the plan straight with Tim, I run back upstairs and get the tunes cranking. The soundtrack for this part of the day is DJ Shadow's "Miami Bass Mix." Helps get the blood flowing.
12:42pm: After some technical problems with our digital scale, I finally get the olive powder weighed out and added to the boiling water.
1:01pm: The 15-minute boil of the olive solution is done. The heat is turned off and I let the mixture rest for 30-45 minutes before taking it to the beer walk-in cooler to sit overnight.
2:00pm: I get back down to the office to answer more emails. There are always lots of emails.
2:30pm: One of the sales reps stops by with some folks from a couple of the distributors who buy our beer in Maryland, so I give them a tour of the brewery and chat beer for a bit.
3:30pm: I get the fermenter set up for cleaning. There are lots of hoses and valves involved so this can take a while.
5:40pm: One last task for the day: check in on the Positive Contact and take another gravity reading. Still fermenting, slowly but surely.
6:00pm: Of course, you know what comes next -- beer! Bitches Brew had my heart the past two nights, but tonight I think I'll go with My Antonia. This should be a good pregame to get home and watch the Flyers play Buffalo.
Thursday, December 8
9:30am: I get started constructing a vessel that we can use to deliver the olive solution to the brew tomorrow. For all the homebrewers out there, it's basically a racking bucket, but constructed from a clear plastic 5-gallon water jug so that we can monitor the level of the liquid as it drains into the kettle.
11:40am: Today I join the restaurant staff for their pre-shift meeting. I try to do this as often as I can, but some days I just have too many things to do.
12:00pm: Go to the walk-in and retrieve the olive "soup" so I can skim any excess fats/oils from the surface.
12:20pm: Upon skimming the liquid and stirring up the olive mixture, I realize we're going to have to do things a little differently then planned. As I mentioned yesterday, with new ingredients and processes, things can evolve day to day. Sometimes with things like this it really is trial and error. So, I head down to the office to email brewmaster Tim about my thoughts on changing the process for adding the olive mixture to the beer.
1:50pm: At this point I have some time to get the grain together for tomorrow's brew. So I get the mill running and grind the grain (necessary to release the starches in the malted barley, which will be converted to sugars during the brewing process tomorrow).
2:30pm: I head down to the office to check email, get the brew sheet ready for tomorrow, and also to email Marne up in Milton about the past couple of beers we transferred so she can fill out the state and federal tax reports accordingly.
3:30pm: I take the time to prep the fermenter for the brew tomorrow so I don't have to worry about it in the morning. I cleaned the fermenter yesterday, but it now it has to be sanitized.
4:30pm: With the tank sanitized, the grain prepped, and the olive solution skimmed and back in the cooler, I'm all set for tomorrow's brew. I'll leave the spices until tomorrow so that Sam and the BeerAdvocate crew can help prep those.
4:45pm: One more gravity reading on the Positive Contact before I head out.
7:30pm: Catch the beginning of the Flyers vs. Penguins game before heading to the welcoming gathering for the BeerAdvocate folks.
8:30pm: Text from Tim: "Where are you???? We're here hanging out!" I head over to the Henlopen Oyster House to enjoy some beers with everyone. Have to be careful, though - early day tomorrow.
Friday, December 9
6:55am: I get over to the pub and begin setting up for the day's brew. I fill the kettle with water and get the burner fired up to get the water to the proper temperature we need for the first step in the brewing process: mashing in.
7:15am: With the kettle filled with water I have some time to get some stuff ready for the day. Since I took the time yesterday to sanitize the fermenter (which I would usually do during this time) I get a pot of coffee going and move on.
7:45am: I weigh out the hops that we'll need for the brew. For this recipe, we're using whole-leaf Cascade, which is also one of the botanicals used for the Dogfish Jin.
8:00am: I get all of the hoses set up for mashing in. I set up to get hot water from the kettle where I have water heating, and hook the cold water up so I can blend to get the right water temperature for the mash, which is crucial to get the right type of mouth feel and body for the beer.
8:40am: Tim arrives at the pub. We taste some of the Positive Contact. This is the first time he's able to get a taste since Sam and I brewed it the week before. He helped come up with the amounts for some of the ingredients used, so we check to see how they come through.
9:15am: Tim and I move on to finishing up the milling of the grain for the day. Sam arrives at the pub.
9:24am: The Beer Advocate crew arrives. Time to get started!
9:45am: With everyone settled in, we get started mashing in. This is the part of the brew where we mix malted barley together with hot water to convert the starches to sugars, which the yeast will eat later during fermentation to create alcohol and C02.
10:15am: Once we're all mashed in, I juggle hoses and get set up for the next part of the brew process. Once I'm done I join everyone out in the dining area where we taste teas made from all of the different spices we'll be using to see what they'll contribute to the beer. We also taste the test batch for the brew which I made a couple of weeks earlier to get an idea of how the finished beer will taste, and to see if we want to modify any of the spice additions. We all agree the beer needs more of the olive flavor, and that the Juniper berry addition is a little subtle. We adjust the amounts that we'll be adding to the beer to reflect these changes.
10:48am: Now that the mash has rested for enough time I start the vorlauf, which is a German term for basically filtering the wort (the pre-fermented sugary liquid we created) by recirculating through the mash and naturally filtering the liquid using the husks of the barley malt.
11:15am: Once the beer has vorlaufed long enough and the wort has cleared, we begin the sparge where water is added and the wort is transferred to the kettle to be boiled.
11:58am: The transfer finishes and I break apart the set to clean everything up and put everything away. I spill wort all over myself. Making messes is all part of the fun of working in the brewery.
12:30pm: Now that the wort has been transferred out of the mash tun, we need to get the spent grain out and into buckets so the pig farmer who feeds his pigs our grain can come pick it up. The pigs eventually come back to our pub as the bacon in our BLTs. Sam and the rest of BA crew jump in and shovel out the mash tun.
2:10pm: The wort is finally up to boil, so now we can begin with the kettle additions.
2:22pm: We add the Cascade hops, which will lend a touch of bitterness to the final brew. Cascade hops are just one of the several botanicals used in our Jin, which will also be added to this brew.
2:47pm: 25 minutes later we add the Juniper berries and black peppercorns. These are added earlier in the boil than some of the other spice additions to extract more flavor.
3:07pm: 20 minutes later we add the rest of the spices -- Curacao orange peel, lemon peel, angelica root and coriander.
3:22pm: 15 minutes later the boil is finished and we turn off the heat. The total boil time is 60 minutes, which fully dissolves the bittering oils from the hops and drives off certain unwanted flavors from the wort. At this point we add the olive solution. This is added at the very end to retain as much of the flavor and aroma properties of the olives as possible.
4:35pm: With the brew finished and transferred over to the fermenting vessel, it is time for cleanup. What a mess we've made today!
5:45pm: With the brewery looking sparkly clean, it's time to head upstairs and join everyone for the Dogfish/BeerAdvocate happy hour and enjoy some beer and good company.
9:00pm: I meet up with the BeerAdvocate gang for a last round before they head up to Brooklyn early the next morning. All in a day's work!
See previous Food Informants below:
Bob Tuschman is the general manager/SVP of the Food Network. He previously served as senior vice president, programming and production for Food Network, heading up all programming aspects for the network. He was instrumental in discovering, developing and producing many of the network's biggest stars including Rachael Ray, Giada De Laurentiis and Guy Fieri, and led the network to record viewership levels. Prior to joining the Food Network, Tuschman worked at ABC News as a producer for Good Morning America, as well as on specials and numerous pilots. He also produced pilot, series and documentary projects for HBO, ABC, American Movie Classics and CNBC. Tuschman is a graduate of Princeton University and currently lives in New York City. Read Bob Tuschman's diary here.
Dorothy Neagle and Taylor Cocalis met while attending Cornell University in 2004, and immediately bonded over food -- namely, ice cream cones. While Taylor's studies eventually took her to Italy for a Master's degree in Food Culture, and Dorothy's work as an interior designer led her to New York City, they stayed in touch and eventually became neighbors in New York once again. Taylor was running the classroom at Murray's Cheese shop with unbridled enthusiasm when Dorothy discovered that her passion for environmentalism was stirring up an interest in food and agriculture. It didn't take long for the two of them to brainstorm an idea that would satisfy their interests in sustainability, food culture, and making a difference in other people's livelihoods. Good Food Jobs launched in October 2010. As of January 2012 the site has amassed over 16,000 registered followers and posted over 3,000 jobs. Read Taylor and Dorothy's diary here.
One of the biggest college football games of the year was the BCS National Championship. Louisiana State University (ranked number 1) was pitted against rival University of Alabama (number 2), a match-up that also occurred earlier in the season, resulting in LSU's win. But for the championship round, things ended up a little differently. The competition wasn't just between Alabama and LSU though -- chefs had their reputations at stake as well. The Boudin vs. BBQ tailgate pitted Drew Robinson of Jim 'N Nick's Bar-BQ in Alabama against Chris Barbato's Café Adelaide in New Orleans. The diary chronicles Chef Drew Robinson from Jim 'N Nick's, he details how one preps for such a big barbecue feast on someone else's turf. At the same time as Drew was preparing his porky goodness, Tory McPhail, executive chef of Commander's Palace, one of New Orlean's most institutional fine dining restaurants, was preparing for an influx of guests in town for the game. Read Drew and Tory's diary here.
Irene Wong is the Executive Producer of "Unique Eats" and "Unique Sweets," two hit series on the Cooking Channel. Irene's career in food television started in 1999 when she joined the Food Network and created and directed "Everyday Italian" with Giada De Laurentiis, "Ciao America" with Mario Batali, "My Country My Kitchen" and "Melting Pot." In 2006 she started her own production company, IW Productions LLC, which is based in New York City. She was the Co-Executive Producer and Director for several seasons of "Everyday Food," "Everyday Baking," "Mad Hungry" and "Martha Bakes." Read Irene Wong's diary here.
Ben Potts, 28, is the lead brewer at Dogfish Head Brewing & Eats in Rehoboth Beach, De. After Ben discovered craft beer, there was no turning back. His first forays into this world were Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Bigfoot Barleywine, as well as Dogfish Head's Midas Touch and 90 Minute IPA. Talk about full circle! When a friend started homebrewing, he thought, "Hey, I can do this," and picked up his first kit. His first professional gig came about five years later. He was in art school studying to become a painter, but decided brewing might be a more achievable -- but equally creative -- career, so he dropped out and started volunteering at Dock Street Brewing Co. "I worked my ass off until they hired me as assistant brewer," he says. "Then I took over as head brewer in October 2008." Ben moved from Philadelphia to Rehoboth this fall to work at Dogfish Head's brewpub. Outside of the brewhouse, he enjoys hiking, camping, mountain biking, roller hockey, movies, fantasy novels, cooking and having a pint with friends and family. Read Ben Potts' diary here.
Brian Noyes left 25 years of magazine art-direction (Smithsonian, House & Garden, The Washington Post) to launch a rural bakery in the Virginia Piedmont hunt country 50 miles west of Washington, DC. Trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, and at L'Academie de Cuisine in Maryland, he bought a red 1954 Ford pickup from designer Tommy Hilfiger, renovated a 1921 Esso service station in Old Town Warrenton, Va., and threw open the Red Truck Bakery doors in August 2009 just as the economy started to plummet. Rave reviews by The New York Times, Garden & Gun, Southern Living and other publications turned this three-chef bakery into a small town coffee stop with a big online presence, sending out hundreds of orders nationwide each month. He lives in Arlington, Va., with his partner Dwight McNeill and has a farmhouse 20 minutes from the bakery in Orlean, Va. where he usually stays during the week. Two bakers, CIA graduate Kevin Powers and Ryan Glendenning from the Restaurant School in Philadelphia, round out the kitchen staff, with Nicole O'Brien on sandwiches and granola. Read about Brian Noyes' week here.
John T. Edge writes a monthly column, "United Tastes," for the New York Times. He is a contributing editor at Garden & Gun and a longtime columnist for the Oxford American. His magazine and newspaper work has been featured in eight editions of the Best Food Writing compilation. He has been nominated for five James Beard Foundation Awards, including two M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Awards. Edge holds a master's degree in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi. He is director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, an institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, where he documents, studies and celebrates the diverse food cultures of the American South. Read John T. Edge's diary here.
Chris Jones and Richie Farina are chefs at Moto, a fine dining restaurant in Chicago that focuses on innovative and futuristic cuisine. They are both contestants on this season of "Top Chef: Texas." After attending Johnson and Wales University, Farina, the executive sous chef, started cooking in several Boston restaurants, and then joined Moto in 2008. In his spare time, he trains in mixed martial arts, a mixture of Ju Jistu wrestling and boxing. Jones, got his start cooking in his grandmother's kitchen. After working his way up the ladder in several restaurants, Jones is now the chef de cuisine of Moto. He lives with his wife and young daughter, Savannah. Read Chris and Richie's diary here.
Sean Henry is the owner of Houndstooth Coffee in Austin, Texas. Not until graduating from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Radio, Television and Film, did Sean even begin drinking coffee. While working at a local grocery store, Sean began to explore the coffee world region by region. After the initial broad strokes of regional coffees, he began working at local cafes, learning the art of being a barista. At Houndstooth, Sean aims to provide customers with the sophisticated taste and presentation of a perfect cup of Joe. He not only finds value in a well-crafted cup, but in the coffee drinking experience as well. Read Sean Henry's diary here.
Jean K. Reilly MW is the Wine Director for the Morrell Wine Bar and the Wine Buyer at Morrell Wine Co. She is a 10-year veteran of the wine business and has worked in numerous parts of the trade. In 2010, Jean became this country's 26th Master of Wine, only the sixth American woman to hold this prestigious title. Jean's interest in wine began as a hobby while pursuing a career in corporate finance at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi and Deloitte & Touche. Abandoning the corporate track in 2001, Jean plunged into wine full-time, traveling the vineyards of Europe and the U.S. After a stint as sommelier at a small French restaurant in Manhattan, she worked as a wine instructor for several culinary schools, including Schiller International University in Switzerland. From 2007 to 2008, she also served as the Wine Consultant for Hilton Hotels. Read Jean Reilly's diary here.
Todd Coleman is the executive food editor of Saveur magazine, where for six years he's run the food side of things, including recipe selection, and overseeing the test kitchen. He's also an accomplished photographer who props, styles and photographs the majority of Saveur's covers, as well as frequently shooting and producing stories both in studio and on location. A graduate of the CIA, he's worked in restaurants, has been a private chef, edited at Everyday Food, produced shows for the Food Network, and has photographed cookbooks like The Japanese Grill by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat, and the forthcoming Katie Workman book The Mom 100. He lives in Brooklyn, loves the Strand bookstore, hoards photo lenses and is a fiend for Indian food. Read Todd Coleman's diary here.
Chef Stephen Kalil joined PepsiCo and Frito-Lay in 2007 as their first ever corporate chef. In his role, he leads and inspires product development through the application of "Culinology", the blending of culinary arts and food science and technology. He is based at Frito-Lay headquarters in Plano, Texas. Read Stephen Kalil's diary here.
Food maintains a nearly constant presence in the life of 34-year-old competitive eating champion Timothy Janus, known to his fans as Eater X. Ranked #3 in the world by Major League Eating, Janus spends many of his weekends on the road, competing in contests across the country and around the world. A seven-year veteran of the sport, Janus has competed in over 100 events, owns seven world records, and yet still looks pretty good in a pair of pants. At night, Janus is a waiter at a pizza shop in Manhattan's East Village. His life, he says, has been a very good adventure. Read Eater X's diary here.
Geoff Bartakovics, 34, is the co-founder and CEO of Tasting Table, the free daily email publication all about food & drink culture. Before starting Tasting Table, Geoff was a business manager in asset-backed finance at UBS Investment Bank, where he coordinated business activities among the fixed income trading desk and the bank's middle- and back-office functions. Geoff was formerly a business analyst at Deloitte Consulting. He attended The University of Chicago, from which he graduated with honors in English. He was a Fulbright Scholar in comparative literature and philosophy in Berlin and Hamburg. He's an obsessive dinner party entertainer and a serious home cook. Read Geoff's diary here.
Elizabeth Laseter, an aspiring food journalist, is a recent graduate of Johns Hopkins University and lives in Washington, D.C. She received her diploma in Writing and Art History and is now pursuing a Culinary Arts Degree at L'Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, Md. The one-year program includes six months of learning techniques in the classroom and six months at an externship in a D.C. fine dining restaurant. Elizabeth documents her food adventures through two blogs, The Baltimore Food Rag and The D.C. Food Rag. She decided to attend culinary school after interning at Baltimore magazine and working with the food editor. Read Elizabeth's full diary here.
Jane and Terry Levan operate a 20-acre pastured poultry farm outside of Lexington, Texas called Dewberry Hills Farm, after the dewberry vines that grow wild on their land. They raise antibiotic- and hormone-free meat chickens for sale. Their chickens mostly live outdoors. The Devans call themselves "omnivores with a conscience;" Jane won't eat any meat unless she personally knowns who raised it and how it was processed. Jane and Terry began farming in 2003, after reading Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore's Dilemma. The pair had always wanted to farm, but they didn't want to follow the industrial agricultural model. Jane and Terry built a processing building on-site and became state certified so they could sell their birds commercially in May 2008. Read Jane's diary here.
"James" is an Apple employee. He works at Caffe Macs, the on-site cafeteria of Apple's campus in Cupertino, Ca. Reminiscent of Google's epic food offerings, Caffe Macs is pretty much a corporate food court dream-come-true. Read James' diary here.
Brooklyn-based Aaron Lefkove used to work in book publishing and as a freelance writer. After his office re-located to New Jersey, Lefkove decided he didn't want to do the commute. Lefkove and his business partner, Andy Curtin, had the idea for a Cape Cod-style seafood joint for awhile. One day at a barbecue, they decided to commit to opening a restaurant, Littleneck, Brooklyn's first and only classic New England-style beach side seafood shack. Besides working in restaurants growing up, Lefkove had no experience as a restaurateur. He acknowledges that the process has been a major learning curve, but so far, there haven't been any obstacles they couldn't get around. At first, he thought opening up a clam shack would be easier than finding a new job but it turns it that it is actually "WAY WAY WAY harder." Despite this being the "hardest, most stressful, most frustrating, most time consuming, most ambitious thing" he has ever done, it isn't nearly as hard as he thought it would be. Plus, he says he loves working for himself, working toward something he has "always dreamed about," and building something really exciting. Read Aaron Lefkove's diary here.
Jonathan Stich, 29, is a third generation farmer from Burlington, Wisconsin. He grew weary of the corporate world, went traveling and decided to become a farmer. After reading about how heirloom tomato grower Tim Stark in Pennsylvania sells his products to New York restaurants, Stich made the decision to spend a night in restaurants in Milwaukee and Chicago asking if they'd be interesting in buying local produce. Read more about Jonathan Stich's week here.
Erika Nakamura and Amelia Posada are the owners, managers and butchers in chief of LA's artisanal butcher shop Lindy and Grundy. (Erika is Grundy and Amelia is Lindy.) The two, who also live together and are a couple, opened their store on Fairfax last spring (profiled on HuffPost Food). Lindy and Grundy has already been feted as one of the most best butchers in Southern California -- and quite possibly its most sustainable. Read about a week in the life of Erika Nakamura and Amelia Posada's here.
Recently, inspired by a meeting at the San Francisco Food Bank, chef Karl Wilder started the food stamp challenge: living and eating on a food stamp budget. What began as a one week project has turned into a two-month long commitment. Wilder calculated that a family has $1.33 to spend per meal, and decided that when using oil and seasonings, the cost would be $1.22. In total, he has less than $4 to spend on food per day. He monitors his nutrition and caloric intake on FitDay. You can read more about his daily experiences at on his blog, Fusion On The Fly. Read about a week in the life of Karl Wilder here.
Chris Cosentino is the executive chef of San Francisco's Incanto, an offal-heavy (not sure what offal is? Check out our Whole Animal Guide here) rustic Italian restaurant located in San Francisco. While encouraging patrons to try different cuts of meat, Cosentino also champions eating locally. He's previously cooked at such renowned restaurants as Kinkead's and Chez Panisse, and cites Jean-Louis Palladin as a big influence on his cooking style. He also co-owns Boccalone, which sells various cured meats and house-made salami. To learn more about Cosentino, check out his website, Offal Good. Read about a week in the life of Chris Cosentino here.
"Jane," 24, has been working for Trader Joe's since 2007, though in 2009 she left for over a year to go work for Whole Foods. She did not like it there and returned to TJ's. At Trader Joe's, every employee does a range of tasks, but Jane's speciality is dairy. Below is her explanation of the pros and cons of the job: I like working for Trader Joe's because they pay me well and offer great benefits. They also respect me as an employee and make me feel like I'm useful and needed and not just another part-time employee that can be replaced (which has been the case at other retail jobs I've had). Trader Joe's is really good at hiring great people and I'm lucky to have so many wonderful co-workers. I don't like working at Trader Joe's because the work can be strenuous on my back and wrists. Being on a register for several hours at a time is tiring and somewhat soul crushing due to ignorant people who feel the need to be condescending to me because I work at a grocery store. I also feel that the company is becoming more and more corporate as it grows and it is beginning to have an impact on the enjoyability of being a part-time "crew member." I also work in a very busy store which causes the managers to stress out a lot and I don't enjoy being surrounded by it. Read about a week in the life of a Trader Joe's employee here.
Chef Nate Appleman is the Culinary Manager at Chipotle. This involves a range of tasks including developing new menu items, opening ShopHouse (Chipotle's upcoming Asian fast-casual chain) and furthering Chipotle's commitment to sustainable sourcing. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Appleman was previously executive chef and co-owner of San Francisco's super popular Italian restaurants A16 and SPQR. Appleman moved to New York in 2010 to open Pulino's. After leaving, Appleman took his current position at Chipotle. He has received a James Beard award for Rising Star Chef, been anointed Best New Chef by Food & Wine and is the champion of Food Network's Chopped All-Stars. Read about a week in the life of Nate Appleman here.
Freeganism is a lifestyle in which one employs "alternative strategies for living based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources." Gio Andollo is a writer, artist, musician and freegan. Andollo became a freegan when he realized that artists don't get paid much, but he didn't like the idea of working a "crappy, part-time job" to pay the bills. So he found another way. Andollo performs on the subway for about 20 hours a week, typically in two-hour intervals. He makes $10 to $50 per shift and has a love/hate relationship with busking. Andollo will buy food, but very rarely. The majority of his food comes from trash touring, or dumpster diving. He's become increasingly concerned with the abuses inherent in current economic systems: waste of resources, exploitation of people, degradation of the environment, calloused treatment of animals, commodification of time, labor, even war (thus human life in wholesale). In addition to busking part-time, he writes songs, blogs and books about these issues. Read about a week in the life of Gio Andollo here.
Captain Jason Joyce is an eighth-generation resident of Swan's Island, Maine. He is a Coast Guard Licensed Captain and a registered Maine Tidewater Guide. He has done lobster and fish research with the University of Maine, the University of Massachusetts, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and the Lobster Institute. Joyce is currently doing a lot of work with the Penobscot East Resource Center, which works to secure a viable future for the fishing communities of eastern Maine. Each week, he records HD video of lobstering that he gives to restaurants to educate customers about sustainable lobster fisheries in Maine. Captain Joyce is married to his high school sweetheart and they have four children. Learn more about Captain Jason Joyce here. Read about a week in the life of Jason Joyce here.
Martin Kastner is a serviceware designer extraordinaire/jack-of-all-design-trades for Grant Achatz's Alinea, Next and The Aviary. Kastner creates custom pieces that work with Achatz's elaborate and intricate food. Born in the Czech Republic, Kastner trained as a blacksmith and received an MFA in sculpture. (His thesis was about air). He met his American wife in Prague and moved to the US in 1998. In 2003, Kastner received an unexpected email from Grant Achatz, who had emailed a host of designers. Kastner was the only one to respond. They've partnered not only on serviceware, but also on web design, video and the Alinea cookbook. Kastner's other clients include L20 (an upscale, seafood-focused Chicago restaurant), Le Bernardin (Eric Ripert's homage to seafood) and Empellon (Alex Stupak's new Mexican restaurant in New York). Read about a week in the life of Martin Kastner here.