March: GMO’s, Michael Symon & the new Ergo/Symon knives

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Symon knivesWe here at Ergo have a great announcement for you all. Later this year you’ll be able to add Michael Symon knives to your kitchen. Cleveland’s Iron Chef and co-host of ABC-TV’s daytime hit show “The Chew” inked a deal with Ergo Chef to create a line of signature blades.

We will produce five individual knives for the Symon series. The blades will include a 9-inch chef knife; a 6-inch chef knife; a 6-inch serrated utility knife; a 7-inch vegetable cleaver; and a 3.5-inch paring knife. A four-piece steak knife set will also be available. Symon says that the opportunity to produce his own line of knives was appealing because of the quality of the tools Ergo Chef produced for a small number of other celebrity chefs.

“They sent me a knife years ago which has always been one of mine and Lizzie’s [wife Liz Symon’s] favorites in the kitchen – even though it is sitting next to knives 5 times its price,” Symon describes the knives as providing “good balance and strength of blade.” The knives will be ground in the conventional Western-style, rather than with a Japanese beveled edge that is growing in popularity. He’s opted for a small selection of blades, rather than an extensive collection of knives. “I’m of the belief you don’t need a giant set of knives – just a couple that perform at a high level,” Symon added. “It will have a unique handle that is not only stunning but also very comfortable and durable,” Symon said. We are very excited to partner with Michael and will keep you all up to date as to when the knives will be available.

Food Tricks & Kitchen Tips
gmo-cartoonThis month we are going to cover what is a very controversial topic, GMOs. We’ll take a look at the What’s Why’s, When and How’s of this topic. We are definitely in the NON GMO camp here at Ergo and thought you should have the facts so you can make the right food decisions for your family. There are two very diverse camps, for and against to GMOs and we’ll explore both sides to be fair.

So what exactly are GMOs?
Genetically modified foods (or GM foods) are foods produced from organisms that have had specific changes introduced into their DNA using the methods of genetic engineering. These techniques have allowed for the introduction of new traits as well as a far greater control over a food’s genetic structure than previously afforded by methods such as selective breeding and mutation breeding.

Commercial sale of genetically modified crops began in 1994, when Calgene first marketed its Flavr Savr delayed ripening tomato. To date, most genetic modification of foods have primarily focused on cash crops in high demand by farmers such as soybean, corn, canola, and cotton seed oil. These have been engineered for resistance to pathogens and herbicides and better nutrient profiles. GM livestock have also been experimentally developed, although as of November 2013 none were on the market.

There is broad scientific consensus that food on the market derived from GM crops poses no greater risk to human health than conventional food. However, opponents have objected to GM foods on several grounds, including safety issues, environmental concerns, and economic concerns raised by the fact that GM seeds (and potentially animals) that are food sources are subject to intellectual property rights owned by corporations, so we’ll look at both sides pf this controversial coin:

On The Plus Side:

keep-calm-gmo-safeThese plants can help farmers boost their yield by making crops that can live through a drought or the cold and resist disease. Backers say GM products will help us feed the extra 2 billion people that will fill the planet by 2050. GMO supporters believe that using science to make the changes is better for the planet than older farming methods. Crops built to resist pests lower farmers’ need for toxic chemical pesticides. They also require less soil to be tilled, reduce runoff, and keep the soil in place. Scientists can create crops that contain vital nutrients. Swiss researchers created a strain of “golden” rice with high amounts of beta-carotene. Monsanto produced soybeans with lots of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Other crops, like papaya and cassava, can be made to withstand disease.

On the Negative side:

ban-gmo1Crops built to withstand herbicides could breed with each other and transfer their genes to weeds. These “superweeds” would also beat the herbicides. On the other hand, GM fans say this is nothing new. Even nonchemical technologies create superweeds. The process often mixes or adds proteins that don’t exist in the original plant. GMO foes fear these will create new allergic reactions. They also worry that foods made to resist disease and viruses will linger in your system after you eat them, and that could make antibiotics less effective. But no studies confirm this claim. The long-term effects of adding new genes to common crops are still unclear. While the industry and health leaders cite hundreds of studies to support its safety, not to mention 20 years of animal data, experts say studies that show bad effects on animals — like harm to the kidneys, liver, heart, or other organs — should carry more weight.

So Are GMOs safe?
Most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe. In more than 60 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs. In the U.S., the government has approved GMOs based on studies conducted by the same corporations that created them and profit from their sale. Increasingly, Americans are taking matters into their own hands and choosing to opt out of the GMO experiment.

Are GMOs labeled?
Unfortunately, even though polls consistently show that a significant majority of Americans want to know if the food they’re purchasing contains GMOs, the powerful biotech lobby has succeeded in keeping this information from the public. 64 countries with over 40% of the world’s population already label genetically engineered foods, including the entire European Union. China labels genetically engineered foods. The same companies that fight GMO labeling in the US reformulate or label GMOs in the foods they sell overseas. Labelling was introduced to give consumers the freedom to choose between GMOs and conventional products. Essentially, if a foodstuff is produced using genetic engineering, this must be indicated on its label. Actual labelling practice, however, is far more complicated – and must be planned and regulated with issues such as feasibility, legal responsibilities, coherence and standardisation in mind.

How common are GMOs?
In the U.S., GMOs are in as much as 80% of conventional processed food.
Alfalfa (first planting 2011)
Canola (approx. 90% of U.S. crop)
Corn (approx. 88% of U.S. crop in 2011)
Cotton (approx. 90% of U.S. crop in 2011)
Papaya (most of Hawaiian crop; approximately 988 acres)
Soy (approx. 94% of U.S. crop in 2011)
Sugar Beets (approx. 95% of U.S. crop in 2010)
Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash (approx. 25,000 acres)

Some ingredients that seem low-risk may have less-visible high-risk ingredients.  Take, for example, dried fruit.  Raisins and similar fruit are sometimes packed with a small quantity of oil to keep them moist.  This oil, when used, is sometimes high-GMO-risk.  As such, it is critical that we do take the time to look carefully at ingredient spec sheets during the verification process, to ensure that risks like this are effectively mitigated, even in apparently low-risk products. Contamination incidents have occurred with seemingly “low-risk” products (rice, starling corn, flax). Non-GMO Project Verification supports manufacturers in being able to quickly and proactively respond to unexpected contamination issues. Verifying only high-risk products puts a heavy burden on consumers to know what products are at risk of containing GMOs.  Many people, even in the world of Natural Foods, don’t know what a GMO is, let alone which crops and processed ingredients are high-risk.

Through verifying low-risk products, the Non-GMO Project’s work builds consumer interest and industry investment in Non-GMO, even for crops that aren’t genetically engineered yet.  Biotech is constantly working to patent and commercialize new organisms (salmon, apples, etc.), and the more companies that have committed to Non-GMO production, the more resistance these new developments will see prior to release.

What are the impacts of GMOs on the environment?
Over 80% of all GMOs grown worldwide are engineered for herbicide tolerance. As a result, use of toxic herbicides like Roundup has increased 15 times since GMOs were introduced. GMO crops are also responsible for the emergence of “super weeds” and “super bugs:’ which can only be killed with ever more toxic poisons like 2,4-D (a major ingredient in Agent Orange). GMOs are a direct extension of chemical agriculture, and are developed and sold by the world’s biggest chemical companies. The long-term impacts of GMOs are unknown, and once released into the environment these novel organisms cannot be recalled.

How do GMOs affect farmers?
Because GMOs are novel life forms, biotechnology companies have been able to obtain patents with which to restrict their use. As a result, the companies that make GMOs now have the power to sue farmers whose fields are contaminated with GMOs, even when it is the result of inevitable drift from neighboring fields. GMOs therefore pose a serious threat to farmer sovereignty and to the national food security of any country where they are grown, including the United States.

Chef’s Spotlight
0002957Chef Michael Symon cooks with soul. Growing up in a Greek and Sicilian family, the Cleveland native creates boldly flavored, deeply satisfying dishes at his four restaurants in America’s heartland: Lola, Lolita, Roast and B Spot. He also shares his exuberant, approachable cooking style and infectious laugh with viewers as an Iron Chef on the Food Network.

Since being named a Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine in 1998, Michael and his restaurants have been awarded numerous honors: In 2010, he was the first chef ever to host the annual Farm Aid benefit concert; Bon Appetit magazine included B Spot on their list of “Top 10 Best New Burger Joints”; and B Spot’s Fat Doug burger won the People’s Choice Award at the SoBe Wine & Food Festival. In 2009, Michael earned The James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef Great Lakes and the Detroit Free Press named Roast “Restaurant of the Year.” In 2000, Gourmet magazine chose Lola as one of “America’s Best Restaurants.”

In 2010, Michael appeared on four Food Network/Cooking Channel shows, hosting Food Feuds and Cook Like an Iron Chef, judging season three of The Next Iron Chef and competing on Iron Chef America. Michael won season 1 of The Next Iron Chef in 2008, earning him a permanent spot on the panel of esteemed Iron Chefs. He made his debut on the network in 1998 with appearances on Sara’s Secrets with Sara Moulton, Ready, Set, Cook and Food Nation with Bobby Flay, before being tapped to host more than 100 episodes of The Melting Pot.  He is now the co-host of ABC’s popular daytime show “The Chew” and can be seen in a new Foodnetwork’s new hit show “All Star Academy

While Michael shines on television, he is a genuine hometown guy who made his name cooking in his Midwestern restaurants, all of which became critically acclaimed. Lola opened in 1997 and is now the cornerstone of Cleveland’s dining scene. Lolita, a Mediterranean-style bistro in Cleveland’s historic Tremont neighborhood, opened in 2005. Roast brought Michael’s meat-centric cooking to Detroit’s Westin Book Cadillac in 2008, and two Cleveland locations of B Spot opened in 2009, showcasing his passion for burgers, bratwurst and beer.

Michael published his first cookbook, Michael Symon’s Live to Cook: Recipes and Techniques to Rock Your Kitchen, in 2009, sharing home cook-friendly recipes that draw on the flavors of his heritage. In 2012 he published Michael Symon’s Carnivore: 120 Recipes for Meat Lovers, and his latest book in 2013,  Michael Symon’s 5 in 5: 5 Fresh Ingredients + 5 Minutes = 120 Fantastic Dinners

When he’s not working, Michael is riding his motorcycle through Cleveland, cooking at home, playing golf, thinking about his next tattoo, gardening in the backyard and spending time with his wife, Liz, and their bullmastiff, Ruby, and Old English bulldog, Ozzy.

Recipe
This month, rather than just give you one recipe we thought we’d spotlight our new partner Michael Symon, who gives us some great recipes from his Cooking Channel Show, Symon’s Suppers, using bacon. We hope you enjoy!

Till next Time,

Ergo

Mike StaibMarch: GMO’s, Michael Symon & the new Ergo/Symon knives

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