The whole gingerbread-house undertaking has always had a certain mystery for us. As with midget horses or ships in bottles, we never really grasped the “why.” But having been recruited as a judge of the Marriott Marquis’ gingerbread-house contest, we now have a new appreciation for the things. Lovingly, or at least obsessively, rendered from pastry and candy, these models of Victorian houses were a little too realistic, with tiny marzipan people, brick fireplaces made of Trident gum pieces, and inverted candy canes representing street lights. Thirteen cooking schools from around the East Coast participated, but in the end, it was the house produced by the Culinary Institute of America, here in good old New York (State) that took the laurels. But even though we had to name a winner, the pictures show that they were all fit for immediate occupation by a wealthy gingerbread family, or as dessert.
Top Chef runner-up Sam Talbot is out at what was to be his debut restaurant, Spitzer’s Corner. [Eater]
The FDA is facing increasing ire about its having largely abdicated its regulatory role. Even the produce industry wants the agency to do its job; suppliers are “virtually begging for stronger intervention.” [NYT]
Salsa mogul gives the Culinary Institute of America $35 million to advance the careers of Latin cooks and kitchen workers and to “deepen the United States’ relationship with food from Latin America.” [NYT]
Recently, apropos nothing much, a prominent young chef we were chatting with launched into a tirade about the restaurant world’s “labor problem.” “None of us can get enough good cooks!” he exclaimed, by way of explanation. Between 2000 and 2006, only a handful of high-end restaurants — Lespinasse, Meigas, Quilty’s — have closed, and there has been an avalanche of major openings: Robuchon, Ramsay, Per Se, Masa, Craft, Del Posto, Morimoto, A Voce, the Modern, Lever House, Buddakan, Cafe Gray, Alto — the list goes on and on. “And it’s not just the massive boom of restaurants,” Adam Platt tells us. “They also have to be either bigger, or chefs have to open multiple places, so that they can enjoy the economies of scale they need to compete.”