Why This Restaurant Critic is Not Afraid of Losing His Job to Yelpers

In the age of social media platforms and user-created content, is there still a place for the restaurant food critic as we used to know it?

On this episode of Chef AF, our host Chef Jim Berman, sits down with Jason Sheehan, a former professional chef turned food writer— a venture that lead him to win a James Beard Award and later author several books.

Sheehan, who’s now a restaurant critic for Philadelphia magazine, likes “the idea of someone going to a restaurant, having something good or having something awful and then telling people about it.”

“There is a part of me that likes Yelp and other platforms like it. I like the notion of the democratization of restaurant criticism…I have no problem with that whatsoever,” says Sheehan. “What kills me is the weight that it’s given…”

Listen in to this entertaining episode as these two chefs/writers debate the role of media and restaurants in the modern age and why Jason Sheehan is not worried about losing his job to Yelpers!

Hosted by:

Jim Berman

JIM BERMAN

Expert Columnist / Show Host


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Why are CBD Edibles Being Pulled Off Restaurants in Some Parts of the Country?

Across various parts of the country, health department officials are asking restaurants to voluntarily pull CBD-infused foods and drinks off menus.

The latest local and regional governments that have reportedly taken steps against CBD are New York City, California, Texas, and Ohio banning the substance from restaurants and retail stores.

For example, according to the New York City’s official government website, beginning July 1, New York City restaurants that don’t comply with the CBD ban voluntarily could be embargoed of their CBD products by the health department... and by October 1, officials “will begin issuing violations to restaurants and retailers for offering CBD-laced foods and drinks. Violations may be subject to fines as well as violation points that count toward the establishment’s letter grade.”

CBD, or cannabidiol, which derives from cannabis, doesn’t cause the psychoactive effects for the lack of enough THC—the compound that gives people the “high” sensation.

In fact, CBD proponents claim the substance is mainly used for its therapeutic benefits helping people relax, ease pain, anxiety, insomnia, and even depression.

Despite the fact that not many studies have been done on cannabidiol in human trials, as pointed out by a recent New York Times article, we are seeing an immense amount of CBD products being sold across the country, with Walgreens as the latest retailer to announce plans to sell creams, patches, and sprays in nearly 1,500 stores in select states.

So, why is it being pulled out of the restaurant space, specifically?

Although, the farm bill that was passed in December 2018 legalized industrial hemp in the U.S., this only means industrial hemp was removed from the controlled substance category. Anything that is put in foods and drinks has to be regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and, as of right now, CBD is not determined safe or effective for other health conditions aside from being an active ingredient in an approved drug that treats two rare and severe forms of epilepsy.

The FDA regulations are something different and there’s a huge push from lawmakers to change this.

Since there is no federal law specifically addressing CBD-laced edibles, some states, like Colorado and Maine, have already attempted to clarify the status of the substance by passing laws allowing the addition of CBD to food, as reported by Reuters. California and Texas have introduced bi-partisan legislation to do the same, as reported by the Associated Press.

Last week, the FDA slated the first public hearing to take place May 31 to discuss how to regulate CBD food and beverage products.

In the meantime, here at Foodable, we are tracking the latest in this arena:

In a podcast episode of Chef AF, Chef Brandon Foster shares with us a personal anecdote about how CBD has positively affected a local farmer to The point where this person wanted to dedicate the rest of his available land to grow hemp for the CBD industry.

In an On Foodable Feature episode, our host Layla Harrison breaks down for our audience some of the CBD-infused products that have stood out from the rest.

And in a Barron Report podcast episode, we learned about Azuca— a company offering CBD and THC products ranging from edibles to sweet syrups.

We expect to continue hearing about ‘Culinary Cannabis’ and its impact on the restaurant business and society as a whole. so, stay tuned for more interesting content!

The Rebel Yell: Saying "No" To Diners

On this episode of Chef AF, our host Chef Jim Berman sits down with the unapologetic Chef Norrawit “Wit” Milburn, who claims “I don’t do hospitality, I just make bomb-ass food.” Wit, as he prefers to be called, is the Chef and Co-Owner of Delaware’s Ubon Thai Cuisine, Kapow Kitchen and two food trucks, alongside his wife.

The two restaurant industry veterans share their insights on how to go about encouraging “picky eaters” about trying new foods and tips for chef and operators who are not sure what they should serve kids at restaurants.

One of the questions our host, Chef Berman, poses is “Is it our job, is it our responsibility to educate customers? Is that a fool’s errand? Is that a higher calling that maybe we just can’t answer to?”

Chef Wit eloquently responds: “As a business person? No. But, as a Chef? Yes!”

Take a listen to this fun episode to make sense of all this information and laugh alongside these two cooks as they help us understand a chef’s creative mindset!


Hosted by:

Jim Berman

JIM BERMAN

Expert Columnist / Show Host


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Why the Food Scene in “Forgotten Cities” Is As Important As Those in New York, Chicago, and L.A.

On this episode of Chef AF, our host Chef Jim Berman sits down with Chef Derek Stevens— a Steel City “burning star,” as he calls him, for shining bright in the local food scene. Stevens is the co-owner and executive chef of Pittsburgh’s Union Standard. Both gentlemen are Pittsburgh-natives and they focus their conversation around those cites that seem “forgotten” in the food world.

The two agree that as chefs they are always on the hunt for honest food. Chef Stevens is candid about his favorite Pittsburgh food spots, highlighting establishments like LeoGretta located in the Carnegie neighborhood and ran by Chef Greg Alauzen; as well as, DiAnoia’s Eatery in the Strip District and ran by Chef Dave DiAnoia.

“When I talk about those chefs… when I eat their food, I think ‘Damn, I wish I could cook like this guy’ you know?,” says Chef Stevens. “It’s really heartwarming in a way, you know? They really got it figured out. And sometimes they’re thinking the same thing [about other chefs].”

Listen to the podcast above to hear the full conversation, Chef Steven’s thoughts on the resurgence of downtown areas in cities like Detroit and Milwaukee, and how to cultivate interest for a local food scene in a “forgotten city.”


Show Notes:

  • 1:55 - Chef Derek Stevens’ Background

  • 4:07 - Favorite Pittsburgh food spots

  • 7:37 - Comfort Food vs. Fine-Dining

  • 12:47 - Cultivating Interest for local food scene

  • 17:19 - Incubators and the food scene

  • 23:13 - Labor Shortage

Hosted by:

Jim Berman

JIM BERMAN

Expert Columnist / Show Host


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How The World's First OatMeals Cafe Has Reimagined The Use of The Traditional Grain

“I really believe that if you start your day with oatmeal you normally make better decisions throughout the rest of your day… So, this brand has a lot of legs in today’s world,” says Stephens.


On this episode of Emerging Brands, Samantha Stephens, chef and founder of OatMeals shares with Foodable the origins of her single-ingredient fast casual concept and how she built it from the ground up.

OatMeals is the world’s first oatmeal cafe located in Greenwich Village, a neighborhood in New York known for its brownstones buildings. Stephens believes her brand in very on-trend right now especially with the rise of the health movement and all the benefits and versatility that oats have to offer.

What sets this concept apart is the fact that not only it is a business concept that revolves around oats, but also the fact that it aims to evaluate the way traditional breakfast meals involving oats have been regarded for decades.

“So, it’s a build-your-own toppings bar. We’re sort of putting a non-traditional twist on old-fashioned oatmeals...,” says Stephens. “The more and more I ate oatmeal the more I realized it’s very similar to risotto or rice… You could really think about it as like a savory side dish. It’s so versatile! It sort of adapts well to any kind of topping you put on it…”

Stephens went on to explain how she experimented with the grain by adding parmesan cheese, cheddar cheese, truffle oil, goat cheese, eggs, and bacon. She offers savory oatmeals as well as the traditional breakfast and sweet oatmeal offerings.

Listen to the podcast above to learn about how Samantha Stephens gained the confidence to build this business, the challenges she faces when figuring out a reasonable price point for her menu items, and how her concept aims to stay relevant in the food world in terms of trends.

To learn more about the Shark Tank-backed concept—OatMeals— check out the The Barron Report Live video interview below!