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McDonalds on the Strip

Originally published on


I’m a child of the sixties, and like most of my generation, I have a love-hate relationship with McDonalds. 

I’ve  known B.McD and A.McD.—Before McDonalds and After McDonalds. As a pre-teen, I danced on the grave of Gardiner’s in Ft. Wayne, eating my 45-cent All-American meal on the same spot where the icon of integrity and good food gave way to googie architecture and Golden Arches. 

In college  McDonalds was cuisine de choice as antidote for nefarious drugs. Only Crescent Doughnuts in Bloomington trumped McDonalds. 

When I lived on the Swiss/French border, I counted the days until McD’s opened its first restaurant in Geneva. On inauguration, I lined up for a Big Mac. A couple bites, satisfied, I returned to French cuisine.  Once a month, I’d run into town for a “Mac Royale” fix. An imperfect love, but love nonetheless. 

Just this once, just this one time. 

Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation changed.all that. He painted the picture; he showed me what I didn’t want to see. McDonalds was a lyin’, cheatin’ no count cad. Together with Ronald Reagan, McDonalds stomped on and trampled on everything sacred and American. 

 I’m dumping you, McDonalds. No more slumming, we’re over. 

Then Michael Pollan wrote Omnivore’s Dilemma. McDonalds and red-state corn are villains causing all aches, pains, ennui and obesity plaguing Americans.  I started working as a cook next door to McDonald’s. 

I hate you McDonalds. I’m going to put you out of business, one salad, one sandwich at a time. 

Lately though, McDonalds tried to lure me back. What was it about this wayward lover that made me remember the good times and forget the bad? Coffee. Great coffee priced much less than Starbucks. McDonalds coffee, $1.00, Starbucks $1.85. There’s also iced coffee, salads, and no more supersizing. 

Okay, we can never be lovers, but we cah be friends. 

Then I was stuck on the Strip. Vegas is no longer Sin City, it’s a destination. And a destination is a marketing machine designed to empty your pockets while giving little in return. I was walking down the Strip looking for a people watching sight, but the cabanas around the megaresorts charge $6-8 for soda and wait staff push you out as fast as possible so more customers will sit down and spend money.

Then I saw it. McDonalds. Nestled between Harrah’s and Casino Royale, it sat atop a Panda Express and Chipotle, like a treehouse with Golden Arches. The sign at the foot of the steps said, “Water $1.00.” 

McDonalds I love you. Take me back. 

I climbed the steps, went into the restaurant and ordered a medium Sprite for a $1.49. I sat for an hour on the terrace, under the shade of a red umbrella, people watching. 

Why was I taken it by that Berkley liberocrap, that slow food lingo? Price is everything. What took me so long to come to my senses? 

Excited by my discovery, and still not finished with the Strip, I came back the next morning for breakfast. Yes, the coffee, a $1.00 in Indianapolis was $1.49, yes the person at the counter and I had trouble communicating, but so what? Anywhere else in Vegas, coffee and a breakfast burrito costs $20 plus tax and gratuity.   

I walked over to the condiment table, there was no cream. I looked back, everyone was having trouble communicating with the counter staff.  I didn’t want to stand in line again so I decided to drink my coffee black. 

As I made my way to the terrace, I saw a sign that said, “42 ounce soft drink, $.69.”

It’s the new Hugo

:A new McDonald’s menu item is a bit of a stunner. Remember Supersize sodas? They’re back, except this time the chain is trying a new name. Meet the “Hugo,” a 42-ounce drink now available for as little as 89 cents in some markets. A Hugo soda contains about 410 calories. McDonald’s might as well have called it the Tubbo.

 (Huffington Post,  July 23, 2007)

McDonalds didn’t reform, it’s up to its old tricks. 

McDonalds, I hate you.


Written by Susan Gillie

September 24, 2007 at 2:36 am


Originally published on

I went to Vegas for a needed and earned vacation. 

The Strip morphed since the first time I visited in the early ‘90’s. Changes in states’ gambling laws allowing local casinos, threatened extinction for Sin City. So Las Vegas went family friendly. Gone are the Dunes, the Sands, the Stardust, the tired old ladies of casinos, replaced by McMansion hotels/casinos. 

Paris is not Paris. The hotel/casino occupies the block south of Bally’s, with a façade suggesting the Paris Opera House and Louvre merged like Siammese twins. A half-scale Eiffel Tower straddles the building, a hot-air balloon a la Jules Verne, squished in for good measure. 

Mon Ami Gabi, an al fresco restaurant in front of the casino, invokes Paris sidewalk cafes. Invoke is all it does. The menu is middle America at premium prices, pasta cavatelli appetizer costs $15.00 plus tax and gratuity. 

Bellagio isn’t Lake Como, the Venetian isn’t Venice and New York, New York isn’t Manhattan. 

What Vegas is, is Florida. Its DisneyWorld combined with Miami’s South Beach. Instead of Cadillac El Dorados, hotel parking lots are lined with silver S cars. There’s no body of water or yachts. Las Vegas was built in a desert, but I’m sure someone’s working on small-scale replicas of the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf.  

When developers imploded swarthy old casinos, they swept away the buffets of yesteryear and brought haute cuisine to town. Buffets are still around, but they’ve added ethnic foods and cardboard sushi to appease all tastes. Casinos now have restaurant rows filled with Marios, Emeril’s, Wolfgangs and Chef this-and-that and so-and-so to create half-scale replicas of their famous restaurants. 

Kate Silver writes in Las Vegas Weekly about an emerging local foods movement in Vegas, but you won’t find it on the Strip. Food is shipped in by tonnage from all over the world without concern for miles traveled. Culinary elites put their stamp on hotel food.  

On Topicana Boulvard, a few miles east of the Strip, old Vegas lives. The Vegas we know from Martin Scorsese’s Casino survives in the Liberace Museum. Glitz, glamour, feathers and furs housed in a strip mall tell the story of a time when the town was strictly for adults.

Museum volunteers, and visitors who knew Liberace reminisce, telling tales of the man and the era.  Liberace worked half the year. The other half he devoted to antique collecting, caring for his dogs, cooking and entertaining.

According to Karan and Michael Feder, authors of Joy of Liberace, the great man loved to cook and entertain. It’s cuisine of his heritage—Italian, Eastern European, Midwest/Middle American comfort food.  

Tablecloths, silverware, dinnerware were over-the-top, but the kitchen was simple and modern. He cooked lasagna, stroganoff, meat loaf, cucumbers-and-cream, Brawny Austrian Torte. Liberace entertained in the meat-and-gin era when guests didn’t worry about cholesterol.  

Vegas, threatened with extinction, thrives. The operative word is “theme” and each hotel’s is different. But the insides are the same, slot machines, malls, mega-theatres, food courts and restaurant rows. Spaces designed to maximize consumption and spending. 

Restaurants are flush with patrons, millions spent on high-concept décor, overpriced, absent chefs with little effort directed to diners’ enjoyment.  

Food evokes a time, a mood, a place. It won’t be Olives or Japonais that reminds me of Vegas. It will be Liberace’s Noodles with Cottage Cheese. 

That’s Vegas.

Written by Susan Gillie

September 21, 2007 at 2:34 am

Kitchen Rat

Originally posted on, July 11. 2007.

Okay, I admit it. I am a bad person.  

I didn’t like the movie Ratatouille. 

Just kidding, I loved Ratatouille, but I’m still a bad person because I didn’t want to like it.  

When everyone was banging drums over Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, I sat it out. Reviews were about ideology; nobody said anything about whether or not it was a good movie. 

In Braveheart, Gibson misses on historical accuracy, but makes up with luscious cinematography and tales of heroic deeds. I suspect it’s the same deal with The Passion.

I’ll go see the movie in ten years when tempers cool off. Besides, I’m still trying to figure out why I’m so fond of Gone with the Wind, a movie that denigrates hard-working black women, glorifies the KKK and enables the behavior of skinny, sedity white bitches. 

To me, all the noise about Ratatouille was suspicious. You know the culinary/politico patter, “chefs are geniuses,” blither blather about food being art. No one was saying anything about whether or not it’s a good movie. I planned to sit it out and see it in a few years. 

The owner of this blog had other plans. She’d seen the film with her grandson, Gabe, and insisted we go. Bribed with a lunch of custardy asparagus/swiss cheese quiche at Stardust Terrace Café, I was dragged down the streets of Indy and up escalators and elevators like a cat on a leash to this movie.  

As insurance, I purchased a big bag of popcorn. In case the movie was a clunker, I at least had stale popcorn drenched in artificial butter to keep me entertained.

When the ad for No Reservations lit up the screen, my inner curmudgeon mumbled, “even this boner has to be better that what we’re going to see.” 

The pale blue shutters of the French farmhouse in the first scene, melted my cynicism, warmed my heart and won me over.

Everything that’s being said and written about this movie is true and more so.

It captures kitchen culture, down to the detail of how cooks fold and wear their aprons. It captures the balance between vocational discipline (“follow the recipe”) with culinary spontaneity and improvisation. 

It honors decent food. 

For all the computer animation technology, it’s pure Disney. Like Lady and the Tramp. it’s about good vs bad, weak and disenfranchised overcoming obstacles; it’s lots of scenes of little critters almost getting squished.  Despite danger and hairpin twists of plots, the movie ends with everyone enjoying their meal in a relaxed atmosphere.  

The story is about cooks and cooking and restaurants, but it’s so much more. It’s about those who love what they do, whether they are cooks, mechanics, teachers, priests, nuns or ministers. It’s about the call to avocation, dedication to service, the will to do good, the power of pleasing and making others happy.    

Critics are praising Anton Ego’s (the restaurant critic) epiphany about critics versus chefs, but the real epiphany is Ego’s first taste of ratatouille. It throws him back in time, scraping off the barnacles of age and disappointment.  It brings sunshine into his shadowy existence. It alters him, makes him a new man and reminds him why he loves food.

He’s changed, willing to toss caution to the wind and stand up for principle. One bite of humble vegetable stew brings him back to life. 

Remy, the little rat that could, embodies the spirit and the soul of Every Cook.  

He builds a repertoire based on reading Chef Gusteau’s cookbook “Anyone Can Cook,” he practices diligently, he improvises intelligently. Remy is true to the vocation. The desire to walk up to the stage and get into the film was so great; I had to grab the seat in front of me to contain myself. 

For those not initiated in kitchen culture, the scene where the cooks walk out is puzzling.  Commercial kitchens create order out of chaos. There’s a rhythm and a dance; otherwise nothing would get done and no one would ever eat. God is in the details when it comes to food and cooks are forced to focus on minutiae. They’re not big picture people.

Sadly, many cooks prefer the monotony of preparing mediocre food to the challenge of improving, changing or creating the sublime. The film captures that reality. 

Like Anton Ego, Ratatouille lifted my spirits and my soul.

I’ll go to this movie again, and probably again and again. Thanks for good movies and good friends. 

Vive le France. Vive les Etats Unis. Vive Fernand Point & Thomas Keller

Vive the geeks, dorks, wussies and food nerds who made this film happen.


Oops, oops, I forgot. Reviews of Ratatouille, the movie, are supposed to have a recipe of ratatouille, the vegetable stew.

I’m not going to give one because I think there are better uses for eggplant, and besides, ratatouille has a gaggy texture.

You have two options:

1) Go to MTAOFC for a classic, authenic recipe.

 If you don’t own MTAOFC (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child) what better time to buy it?

2) Make Confit Byaldi. This is Thomas Keller’s recipe used in the movie.

You can find it at:

Bon appetit.

Written by Susan Gillie

July 11, 2007 at 2:32 am


Oringinally published on

I said I wasn’t going to do restaurant reviews. I changed my mind. 

WB and I were supposed to go to Al Green’s Indy Jazz Fest concert. For a myriad of reasons, it didn’t happen. Being the wise, prudent man he is, he sensed danger and set about to repair the potential damage to the relationship. 

We spent an entire day doing what I wanted to do. 

BARcelona Tapas, a St. Louis based restaurant, opened a second restaurant at the corner of Ohio and Delaware. I wanted to find out if all the buzz is warranted. 

I warned WB the restaurant was new and initial impressions were mixed. 

We walked into a long, narrow space. Outside seating wasn’t available, so we dined indoors. Décor was warm and cheery. Although BARcelona has a lunch menu of soups, salad and sandwiches, we wanted tapas.  

We ordered four dishes: Champinon con Mahon (chilled marinated mushrooms in Mahon cheese); Bacalao (crispy codfish and potato cakes with lemon garlic sauce); Callifor al Azafran (roasted cauliflower with saffron, raisins and pine nuts); and Plato de Embutides (assorted grilled Spanish sausages). 

Service, as others noticed, was spotty. They were out of artichokes, the first dish we ordered. Instead of Campinon con Mahon, we were served another mushroom tapas. WB ordered coke; I ordered diet coke. The waiter repeated two diet cokes. WB carefully explained he wanted coke not diet coke, but the waiter brought him a diet coke.  

We ate, paid the bill and left the restaurant to drive over to the Indiana Historical Society. 

As we walked to the car, we shared our opinion of the food. We both agreed: the dishes were greasy, pasty and unseasoned. The Bacalao was passable. I’d love to peek into the kitchen. I suspect the dishes are bagged at a commissary and shipped to the restaurant, then “assembled” rather than cooked. That would explain why the food was unseasoned. 

We don’t want to go back, but we wish the restaurant well.  The fact that it’s not a steakhouse is a step up for Indianapolis dining. Lunch customers and the evening bar scene should keep BARcelona in business. 

At the historical society, we located archives and found Little League All-Star pictures of WB’s brothers. We flipped through microfiche newspapers until we found an article about his All-Star team. We laughed at the fashions and gasped at the grocery food prices. 

It’s a beautiful facility, with friendly, helpful staff. After we were done, we took the spiral staircase past the conference center, to the canal level. We strolled along the canal to the parking lot.  

Hoaglin to Go is the museum’s new caterer and they manage the restaurant. Another reason to revisit the museum. 

When you eat food that doesn’t satisfy you, you may be full initially, but you’re soon hungry. We had an early supper.

I picked up some eggs earlier in the day at the City’s Farmers Market, so I whisked up an omelet mixture. As the liquid hit the heated pan, the eggs puffed up into golden clouds. I chopped some herbs, vegetables and leftover roasted chicken, quickly sautéed the mixture and sprinkled them over the omelets. My version of comfort food. 

WB set the table and poured glasses of honeyed iced tea. We savored the food and our conversation. 

Relationship repaired.  

BARcelona Tapas Restaurant

201 N. Delaware

Indianapolis IN 46204


Lunch Hours


Dinner Hours


Indiana Historical Society

Stardust Terrace Café

By Hoaglin to Go




Susan Gillie is a professional cook and freelance food writer. You can email her at

Written by Susan Gillie

July 9, 2007 at 2:30 am


Orignally published on

It’s been an an interesting year in the food blog world. San Franciso Gate ran an article about out of control bloggers.

Some indulge in vampiric feasts of failing restaurants, playing a newly minted version of dead-pool, “guess which turkey will fold next. Others extort chefs and restaurateurs, threatening their reputations and sales if their victims don’t cough up free meals or advertise on their blog. 

Michael Bauer, food critic for SF Gate dismissed food bloggers as amateurs unqualified to judge let alone write about food. Mario Batali, chef extraordinaire of Food Network fame finds ‘floggers” vicious and pernicious. 

My dopey little food column has not been immune from controversy or criticism. Gastroguzzler, an irate reader, took exception to Food Fantasy #1 about the Columbia Club. 

After years in the corporate world, I’m thick skinned. Aside from telling a line cook who earns $10.18 an hour she doesn’t know what she’s talking about because she can’t afford to eat where he does is offensive to the working class, I chalked up his comments to being humor challenged. 

This week, after posting “Why Does Wedding Food Suck,” I received an angry email from another gastrowindbag.  

It’s the same tone-deaf, scolding, patronizing rant as Gastroguzzler. A page-long lecture about food costs, margins, yada….yada….yada.

I was astonished. All I could think was: 

“Did you read the column?” 

If she had, she would understand.  Food writer Anna Bauer so aptly described the secret “food as the prism through which to view other issues.”  

That’s why I named the column The Unfood Food Column. Food is a vehicle to talk about other things. 

In the case of wedding food, I was hoping readers would read Salon’s interview with Rebecca Mead. Better yet, maybe a few will pick up her book, One Perfect Day. It’s also an unabashed plug for my alma mater, Second Helpings. 

It’s about a far deeper issue.  

Weddings are just one day, marriage is forever (as Joan Didion said, “marriage is time.”).  I hope, that by showing how silly wedding food could be, couples will lighten up and concentrate on marriage. 

As I said, tone deaf. 

Gastroguzzlers are the victims of food porn. Like victims of sex porn, their time, money and energy is used up by their addiction.   

The writing of Gastroguzzlers is lazy and condescending. Snark masks the absence of ideas and creativity. It’s all about the A-list, and as one journalist put it, “it’s sooooooo obvious.” 

Good taste and accomplishment have never been the hallmarks of success in America, and Gastroguzzling is wildly popular. Just watch Gordon Ramsey or read Anthony Bourdain and you realize that America loves posturing and bullies. 

Molly O’Neill wrote:

Food has carried us into the vortex of cool. There, the urge to become part of the story is stronger than the duty to detach and observe and report the story.”

Food Porn, CJR, 2003 

Gastroguzzling has its place and maybe it can lead us to a better food scene. Gastroguzzlers can point out the obvious to us rubes. Steakhouses are not fine dining. They can shame us into the realization that there’s too much drunkfood in Indy and we’d all be better off if the Peterson administration passes an ordinance requiring eateries to serve only vinaigrettes and salad dressings made fresh on premise (“that’s balsamic to you, Bubba”). 

Gastroguzzlers have the potential to bully and scold us toward better food. We’ll eat less (because it costs more), lose weight and save on insurance premiums. 

Who am I to quibble?

Written by Susan Gillie

July 4, 2007 at 2:27 am

Why Does Wedding Food Suck?

Originally posted on

We’ve all been there. Waiting, we have a few drinks, some cashews or mints. Then we wait and wait and wait. Finally, the wedding party shows up. Dinner was scheduled for six, but the bride and groom, giddy after months of over planning and bickering about details, want another toast. It’s 7:30, we’re ravaged by hunger, finally dinner arrives.  

Iceburg lettuce showing its age, dressed in an orangey “French” dressing, the entrée–rubbery chicken with rice and a gloppy, pasty sauce.  

Once again, we’ve suffered through wedding food.  

In her new book, “One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding,” Rebecca Mead exposes the truth: 

Mead made her way from Walt Disney World’s Wedding Pavilion (where brides regularly spend $2,500 extra to rent the Cinderella Coach) to the ersatz wedding town of Hebron, Mich., and a crowded bridal dress factory in Xiamen, China. She also attended trade shows, hung out with newly minted bridal consultants and trailed a celebrity wedding planner, a “multifaith” minister and a wedding dress magnate — all to illustrate the ways in which the industry preys upon both a bride’s hopes and her insecurities by aggressively marketing products that promise to make her day “perfect.”  The result is a concise but searing skewering of the marriage marketplace and the “Bridezilla” culture that has sprung up around it, written in the spirit of the great muck-raking journalists.

Salon, May 21, 2007 

Mead discovered what we all know, America is maniacal about weddings.  

Sentimentality, over-the–top consumerism, gullible parents, spoiled children, with all the excess surrounding weddings, why does the food suck? Wouldn’t you think for $27,875 (average cost last year for a wedding) you could get some decent grub? 

Proof’s in the pudding, or should we say the wedding cake? I asked real-life people about real-life wedding food experiences, the good, the bad and the ugly. 

I asked the Vulgarians. 

These women meet on a semi-regular (monthly) basis for lunch. They’re traveled, with educated palates, sophisticated tastes and they’ve been to many, many weddings.  

So the question, “what was the best and worst weddings food you’d ever had?” 

First glazed looks of profound boredom as they searched their memories for wedding food. Faces began to light up.

Ellen remembered fried apple fritters as the only thing served at one wedding. Sammy said it was bad kosher food at a cousin’s wedding: black-eyed pea fritters and a chicken breast so dry it took three glasses of water to get it down. 

Gail remembered a wedding she attended at a toney Hilton in Denver.  A new chef created his version of nouvelle cuisine, lots of weird colors, big plates/little portions, odd looking mushrooms. The wedding crowd was gourmand, but they couldn’t figure out what the food was.  It was inedible and expensive. 

In Soulless Food Why Is What’s Served at Weddings So Wretched? writes: 

Given that more planning goes into the average small wedding than went into the invasion of Baghdad, the mystery remains: Why is such an essential element of hospitality kissed off so uniformly?

Slate Magazine, June 12, 2007 

Schrambling offers three reasons: quantity trumps quality, pleasing everyone and offering too many choices, choosing receptions based on location, “often the trendiest venue is saddled with the lamest caterer.” 

Schrambling sees another reason wedding food is lame: 

“my cynical side sees more insidious reasons for food that is inevitably for worse rather than for better. Wedding couples are different from the average party planners, thinking primarily of themselves, and choosing menus for meals they will not eat. They’re far too distracted as stars of the show, and know no one will say anything except how wonderful everything is. Why should they care that the sole amandine goes untouched?”

Slate Magazine, June 12, 2007 

The Vulgarians agreed that the best wedding food was served at Marcia’s son’s wedding. 

I asked her son, Joe Dayan, new executive director of the Indianapolis City Market, why the food was so good.

 “My brother is a caterer, I have years of experience and planned everything” he said. “We had lots of hors d’oeuvres; we passed plates of fruit, cheese and vegetables before the entrée was served.” Dayan said. “We wanted everyone to have fun and enjoy themselves..” 

Local food professionals agree that the quality of food is the responsibility of the caterer, but they have tips for couples planning a wedding. 

Select a good caterer. The quality of the food depends upon the expertise and commitment of the caterer. If you’ve been to a party or function and were impressed by the food, use that caterer. 

If location trumps caterer, be realistic. If your heart is set on having your reception in an historic landmark or museum, recognize limitations. Does the location have on-site cooking facilities? If your caterer has to transport the food, sit-down dinners are hard to pull off; better to go with a buffet. 

Stay on task, stay on schedule. Months of stress, coupled with exhaustion make even level-headed brides disoriented. If you’ve told your caterer dinner at six and you’re wandering around toasting guests at 7:00, the food suffers. Asparagus waits for no one. 

Pick what you like, trust your own tastes. Don’t be afraid to be original. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Consider lighter, more contemporary food. It’s easier to prepare and guests appreciate it. 

Here’s the best tip, though.  

Select Just Cause Catering as your caterer. “Eat Well. Do Good.” is their motto. Just Cause Catering provides fresh, creative food crafted by experienced catering professionals.

You can expect a high-quality product for a reasonable price and all profits go to support Second Helpings, a food-rescue, job-training not for profit organization.

Weddings, after all are the celebration of marriage, a sacrament of the special bond between two separate souls. What better way to show your love and commitment to your guests than to hire a caterer whose purpose is to give back to our community? 

Information About Just Cause Catering 

Contact Marcella McMasters

Executive Catering Manager

The Eugene & Marilyn Glick Center

1121 Southeastern Avenue, Indianapolis In 46202

317-632-2664 x29 

Marcella will arrange a tasting session for you. 

========================================================================= Susan Susan Gillie is a professional cook and free-lance food writer. She is a graduate of Second Helpings Culinary Training. Feel free to leave comments on this blog, or you can reach her at

Written by Susan Gillie

July 1, 2007 at 2:25 am

Culinary Education in Indy

Originally published on, May 26.

Indy’s blogworld glowed toxic this week and inserted in the drama was moi.  

Ruth Holladay ( posted an entry about Carol D’Amico’s severance package, citing a source that provided her with insight into the sad history and current state of affairs at Ivy Tech. 

Out came the wiggo, wongo, bongo blogworld, seeomg imaginary demons and conjuriiing up more conspiracy theories than Dodi’s dad.

In the interest of journalistic integrity, hell, in the interest of common sense, I came forward as the source. My short life as Deep Throat is over. 

It appears I’m critical of Ivy Tech.

I am.

Tuition is high. Facilities are dirty and inadequate. Graduation rates are low, not enough full-time faculty. Region VIII is the worst in a lackluster system. The list goes on and on. 

An exception to all that is wrong with Ivy Tech is the hospitality program. Faculty is strong—experienced professionals with tough standards. Kitchens, though located in an old building, are clean. Students suit up (wear the uniform of a professional kitchen); they are held to high standards. 

A few weeks ago, Kim Severson wrote “‘Top Chef’ Dreams Crushed by Student Loan Debt” for the New York Times. Lured by the glamour of Food Network and celebrity chefs, students are enrolling in private culinary schools, acquiring substantial debt in private loans (cost of 2-year programs, $48,000), only to graduate and work at $10/hr cooks’ jobs.  

The practice is so egregious; the debt so severe, New York Times published this op-ed” 

“culinary students default on their loans at high rates because the bulk of the jobs available pay so poorly, while the cost of their training outstrips the limits for low-interest federal loans, leaving many with high-interest loans beyond their means to repay.”

(New York Times, May 10, 2007) 

This month one of Ivy Tech’s faculty members, Chef Thom England, is on the campus of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), the most prestigious and advanced school in the United States.

Chef England takes time to share his experiences. Click over to Feedmedrinkme ( and you’ll find his astute observations.  

This is what he says about the article: 

Without a doubt many culinary schools are overpriced. I see schools, even in the Midwest that are charging over $40,000 for a 2 year culinary degree. It is insane for me to think about a recent high school grad going to these schools. They will graduate thinking they are going to be the next Emeril and end up making $10.00/hr working a line. They will wash out of the business in months. As the person mentioned on Ruhlman’s blog, go to a community college and spend the $2,000., May 10, 2007 

Chef England provides those of us in the profession, and others contemplating entering the field, with valuable knowledge of the changes coming to our industry. He will bring that knowledge back to Indiana and share it with colleagues and students. It’s just one of many examples of how solid our culinary program is and how much better it will become. 


So bloggers, for all the sad, tacky baggage surrounding Ivy Tech, there is hope.

Written by Susan Gillie

May 26, 2007 at 1:14 am

That Time of Year

Orginally published on

 It’s that time of the year. Yes, next Sunday is Mother’s Day, but no, I’m not talking about Mother’s Day, or the Mini-Marathon or the Indy 500.  

I’m talking about the May issue of Indianapolis Monthly yearly “Best Restaurants.” It’s on newsstands. 

In 2002, when I relocated from Ann Arbor to Indianapolis, I was in culinary shock. Atlas closed the month I moved here and my good friend, Whole Foods, reneged on their written promise to open a store. Indy Monthly was a glimmer of hope. It provided much needed information about where to shop and eat. I looked forward to the annual “Best Restaurants.” 

Now that I’ve found my favorite haunts, though, “Best Restaurants” provokes irritation. I’m grateful Indy most popular and glitzy shelter/lifestyle magazine devotes so much space to restaurants—after all, I’m a cook and anything that supports my industry is appreciated.  

It’s time, though, for some cosmetics. This is what’s needed for next year’s “Best Restaurants.” 

·        Eliminate steakhouses. Six of the 32 “best restaurants” are steakhouses (actually seven, but one has pretensions to haute cuisine, so we’ll give ‘em a pass). I respect the skill it takes to select, prepare and present a hunk of beef, but steakhouses are concerned with grilling, not cuisine. They are temples worshipping power, status and money. They are eateries for businessmen, lawyers, rug-headed lawmakers and lobbyists. If they want to reintroduce smoking and ban all women except hookers and strippers, that’s alright. Indianapolis Monthly can do a separate cover feature on “Best Steakhouses.” Just don’t pretend they are high-end, white-tablecloth restaurants. Besides, eliminating 19% of nominees leaves slots for up-and-coming ethnic restaurants, the real hope for a dynamic Indy food scene. 

·        Create meaningful categories. The restaurants were divided into categories that don’t make sense. “A Classic Good Time,” “People Pleasing,” “Worldly Pleasures” are clever titles but don’t provide readers with information. Use categories average readers understand—the star system, or Grand, Family-Style, Casual, Ethnic. The Washington Post revised categories to facilitate better understanding and use of its dining guide. Time to define and simplify dining categories. 

·        Give readers the criteria critics use to select “best restaurants.” Indianapolis Monthly invested considerable resources; Christine Speer edited and nine journalists wrote the feature. Maybe I missed something, but nowhere did I find out how they came to their conclusions. Was it service, décor, food, food presentation? What made the writers, and the magazine, select these restaurants over others?  

·        Conduct research. One restaurant’s is described as serving food made with fresh ingredients. That’s true for some dishes, but deserts are pre-made frozen Sysco products with premium prices normally charged for handmade deserts. (See Slate magazine’s February 21st article, “Every Bite You Take.”) Careful reading of the menu and a quick tour of the kitchen tells writers what is really being served. Restaurants benefit financially from best ratings and should be willing to subject themselves to scrutiny. 

·        Quit praising restaurants serving too much food. Indy restaurant-goers are paralyzed by a bargain shopping mentality toward dining. Restaurants are pressured to serve quantity over quality. Several restaurants, both high-end and casual, were recognized for serving generous portions. Quit enabling this behavior. Support restaurants that reign in the tendency to overfeed patrons.  

So there you have it. A few simple changes to make this entertaining feature better in the future.

Written by Susan Gillie

May 6, 2007 at 1:11 am

More Goo in the Organic Poo

Originally published on 

Whole Foods is coming to town, what’s going to happen and when?

That’s been on our minds for the past few months. 

Cards on the table, prior to Indy, I lived in Ann Arbor Michigan. I emailed Whole Food’s corporate folks to find out if/when they would have a store in Indianapolis. They emailed back, assuring me that plans were underway 

Now you know how shallow I am. I make life decisions based on the quality of grocery store options.  

That email was 1999, the Indy store was supposed to be operational by 2001.  

It’s now 2007. Hurdles cleared with the neighborhood association, Whole Foods announced a 2008 timeline for opening a megastore at 86th and Haverstick. 

The plot thickens. Whole Foods is buying Wild Oats, so we’ll have three Whole Foods stores. Really? 

Saturday’s Indianapolis Star reported another twist in this tale. According to Dan McFeely:

 A Northside community group is appealing a city planning agency’s decision to ignore certain zoning commitments made more than a decade ago on a hot corner property being developed as a Whole Foods Market.The land, at 86th Street and Haverstick Road, was the subject of a lengthy battle in 1995, at which time the city struck a deal with neighborhood activists that would force developers to meet certain requirements — such as preserving trees, using brick for exterior walls and erecting a wrought-iron fence.


The Board of Zoning Appeals hearing to appeal the director’s decision is set for April 10, but Hayes believes it will likely be continued. 

It’s hard to tell how this will sort out. I have no crystal ball, or inside trader information, but I witnessed Whole Foods’ buyout of a small chain. It wasn’t pretty, resulting in bitterness and ill-will toward the corporate giant.  What happened in Ann Arbor may help us understand what’s going to happen here. 

Ann Arbor is a small city (population around 100,000) highly educated, affluent and well traveled. It is home to one of Whole Foods’ most successful stores. It was also the home of Merchant of Vino, premier merchandisers of wine and specialty food items in Southeast Michigan. 

Whole Foods was vegetarian, vegan; Merchant of Vino was wine, pate and terrines. Whole Foods was “New Ann Arbor,” Merchant-of-Vino’s was “Old Ann Arbor.” Whole Foods was young couples and kooky old ladies; Merchant of Vino’s was old money. Whole Foods shoppers cared about the environment; Merchant of Vino’s customers cared about preparing elaborate meals, clinging to their copies of Craig Claiborne, James Beard and Julia Child cookbooks. 

November, 1997 Whole Foods announced they were purchasing the Merchant of Vino mini-chain.

Starting with a single party store in suburban Detroit, the Jonnas built a highly successful wine business. But when they took over the former Showerman’s IGA in 1992, they expanded to a whole new level, inviting other merchants to build on their base of wine and gourmet items with fresh produce, meat, and prepared foods. (Arborfoods) 

Prior to the sale, the owners rid themselves of small vendors whose products were loved and cherished by customers and were a cornerstone of the store’s appeal.

Worse was yet to come.  

Whole Foods cleaned up the place. Merchant of Vino’s had the look and feel of Atlas, only bigger and a brighter. Wine and food were interspersed, wine on the right, food on the left. You’d rifle through the Spanish reds, turn around and spot some food item you’d eaten in Barcelona and didn’t know anyone in the States carried it.  

Whole Foods came in, put all the wine in one section (and organized them, ruining the fun of sorting through the chaos to find your special treasure). They cleaned out the store of one-of-a-kind European delicacies and put in healthy foods.  

That wasn’t the end of the carnage. The delectable deli, glistening with pates, terrines, fresh buffalo mozzarella was bulldozed. In its place were Whole Foods icky, grainy, vinegary green-green-lima-bean salads. Merchant’s clientele were upscale, red-meat Republicans who didn’t cotton to such fare. 

Whole Foods, a benevolent employer, kept employees, but the best soon left.  

The corporate giant was never able to instill life after the massacre. A store once filled with shoppers was empty; a parking lot so crowded it was dangerous was still.  

At the time of the acquisition, there were plans to build another Merchant of Vino/Whole Foods which meant there would be three Whole Foods stores in Ann Arbor.

Arborites, a skeptical lot, questioned whether such a plan was overkill.

At Whole Foods, however, people are thinking positive. “At this time, we’re planning to open and maintain all three stores,” says Whole Foods Chicago-Metro marketing director Alison Williams. (Arborfood)

Whole Foods did a quick turn around and by July, 1998

marketing director Susan Bellinson says that although nothing has been finalized, it looks as though plans for the Stadium store have fallen through. “We have had a research team look at how viable it would be for Ann Arbor to support three stores,” she says. “And it’s questionable. We don’t know yet how we’re going to proceed, but we don’t want to mislead people into thinking we’re opening a new store when in fact we may not.”

Bellinson couldn’t say whether public opinion was a factor in Whole Foods’ decision, but a source inside the Merchant of Vino/Whole Foods Market operation on Plymouth Road says that Whole Foods management has been dismayed by the Ann Arbor community’s negative reaction to the purchase of the Merchant of Vino stores. “They say, `Geez, we’ve never seen anything like this. Why are people so down on us?’ “according to this source.

(Laura McReynolds Arborfood) 

Today, Merchant of Vino/Whole Food Market on Plymouth Road and the original Lamp Light Plaza Whole Foods are gone, replaced by a megawonder just down the road. 

In the end, Ann Arbor was left with one Whole Foods store. It’s bigger, but it’s just more of the same stuff. Whole Foods gained wine expertise and key locations in toney Detroit suburbs; Arborites lost panache and consumer choice.

As in any good soap opera, the plot twists and the dead come back to life. The Jonna’s, original owners of  Merchant of Vino,  five-year noncompete clause is up. Last week they opened Plum Market in Bloomfield Township and are opening two more stores, one in Royal Oak, one in Ann Arbor.

Plum Market stocks most items found in a traditional supermarket: produce, a large wine selection, fresh fish, meats, dairy products, carry-out food, health and beauty products, frozen foods, paper products, specialty chocolates and even imported, long-stemmed roses at $19.95 a dozen.

Joel J. Smith, Detroit-News, March 8, 2007 

One of my customers teaches business strategy at IUPUI and we talked about what Whole Foods is going to do here. He says Whole Foods bought Wild Oats for their locations. If the locations compete, somebody goes. 

My prediction? Like Ann Arbor, we’ll end up with one store.

Informaton for this article came from an Arborfood article,

You can find out about Plum Market at their website,

Written by Susan Gillie

March 26, 2007 at 1:09 am

Good News, Bad News

Originally posted on

Good news, bad news for Indy food shoppers.

The bad news? I.Farm (Indiana Farmers Retail Market) will not be opening at City Market this summer. According to Stanley Poe, sheep purveyor and president of I.Farm, the cooperative declined the City Market lease.

Now the good news. I.Farm is still opening a store. The timeline has changed, but they’re on track. They continue seeking members, reviewing possible locations and hiring a General Manager this fall. Spring 2008 is the new date for the store’s opening.

Bad timing is the reason for the delay. Farm produce follows the seasons; opening mid-summer doesn’t allow the farmers to build momentum with a full spectrum of their harvest.

City Market is still a possible location if space is available.

Thanks to reader, Charles Hanon, for notifying us of this story. You can read his comment in the original column.

Written by Susan Gillie

March 23, 2007 at 1:06 am