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Saturday, September 12, 2015

$15 minimum wage for fast-food workers?

New York OKs $15 minimum wage for fast-food workers

NEW YORK (AP) — New York state will gradually raise the minimum wage for fast-food workers to $15 an hour — the first time any state has set the minimum that high.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration formally approved the increase Thursday, a move the Democratic governor announced at a labor rally with Vice President Joe Biden. Cuomo said he would work to pass legislation setting a $15 minimum for all industries, a promise that comes as more and more cities around the country move toward a $15 minimum wage.
"Every working man and woman in the state of New York deserves $15 an hour," the governor told the enthusiastic crowd of union members. "We're not going to stop until we get it done."
Biden predicted the $15 wage for fast-food workers would galvanize efforts across the country.
"You're going to make every single governor in every single state in America look at themselves," he said at the rally in New York City. "It's going to have a profound impact."
He said he and President Barack Obama remain committed to raising the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour.
The wage increase for fast-food workers in New York will be phased in over three years in New York City and over six years elsewhere in the state. It will apply to some 200,000 employees at large chain restaurants.
So far, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco and the California cities of Oakland and Berkeley have approved phased-in increases that eventually will take their minimum wage to $15 an hour, or about $31,200 a year.
New York's increase was recommended by an unelected Wage Board created by Cuomo — a tactic that allowed the governor to circumvent the Legislature, where the Republican-led Senate has blocked big increases in recent years. The current $8.75 minimum is already set to rise to $9 at year's end under a law passed by lawmakers in 2013.
Republicans held a hearing Thursday into the process behind the fast-food wage increase, which some restaurant owners have said they may challenge in court.
Fast-food workers had pushed for the increase, noting their industry employs more low-wage workers than any other sector of the workforce. They say that unlike landscaping companies or child care services, the fast-food business is dominated by multinational companies with billion-dollar profits.
Franchise owners, however, say the increase singles them out and gives an unfair advantage to mom-and-pop competitors that won't have to raise wages.
Pat Pipino, owner of a Ben & Jerry's ice cream shop in Saratoga Springs, said some franchise owners could be forced out of business by the increase. He predicted that others may be forced to raise prices or cut positions to absorb the higher labor costs.
"By executive fiat, with the stroke of a pen, our financial model goes to pot," he said.
Opposition by business groups and Senate Republicans will pose a significant hurdle for Cuomo's proposed $15 minimum for all workers.
"Raising the wage floor in New York that far that fast could lead to unintended consequences such as severe job losses and negatively impact many businesses who are already struggling just to keep their heads above water," said Republican Senate Leader John Flanagan of Long Island.
Democrats in the state Assembly and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have long supported a $15 minimum. On Thursday, de Blasio welcomed Cuomo's call for a higher minimum wage and said he would "urge Albany to act quickly."

Friday, August 2, 2013

One reason airline food is so bad? Your own tastebuds

One reason airline food is so bad? Your own tastebuds

Jordan Gaines

When’s the last time you enjoyed your in-flight meal? Your answer is probably “never.” And with the first weekend in August being one of the busiest times of year to fly, flight attendants are likely bracing themselves for a new onslaught of complaints about flavorless airline grub.

But is in-flight food really so bad, or is our perception of it just a little off? As it turns out, there’s a scientific reason why food is less savory at 30,000 feet.

Even before takeoff, cabin humidity decreases to about 12 percent. Once at altitude, the combination of the dry air and pressure change reduces our taste bud sensitivity. In fact, our perception of saltiness and sweetness drops by around 30 percent at high altitude, according to a 2010 study by the German airline Lufthansa. If you ate airline food at sea level, you might be surprised by how liberally the chefs have actually spiced it.

But high altitudes’ impact on our taste buds is just part of the bland in-flight food story. Another puzzle piece has to do with the fact that “flavor” is, in fact, a combination of both taste and smell.

“When you put something in your mouth, the vapors from this pass through the nasopharynx to reach the olfactory receptors high in the nose,” explains Dr. Tom Finger, professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and co-director of the Rocky Mountain Taste and Smell Center.

In addition to reduced taste bud sensitivity, cabin pressurization causes our mucus membranes to swell, blocking this pathway (remember the last stuffy nose you had and how difficult it was to enjoy your chicken noodle soup?). Cabin pressure also decreases the volatility of odor molecules, or their ability to vaporize and enter the nose.

Dry air doesn’t help our sense of smell, either. Typically, odorants are transported to olfactory receptors in the nose via the mucus lining. When the nasal cavity is dried out, the efficiency at which odorants are detected by the brain is reduced. When you “lose the olfactory component,” explains Finger, “you lose much of the flavor component of food.”

Interestingly, a 2011 study published in the journal “Food Quality and Preference” suggests an alternative hypothesis behind the blandness of airplane food: the loud, constant hum of the aircraft engine.

During the experiment, 48 participants listened to either silence or white noise with headphones while snacking on sweet and salty foods. They were asked to rate the intensity of the flavors and several other characteristics.

With background noise, food was rated as less salty and less sweet than in silence. White noise, however, increased the perceived crunchiness. Andy Woods and colleagues at the University of Manchester posit that noise distracts eaters, making it difficult to concentrate on the taste and properties of their food.

Is there a way to combat all of these sensory changes and actually enjoy some munchies while miles in the air? Not really, although some airlines are working to create morepalatable in-flight products, such as British Airways’ new teabag specifically developed for use at 35,000 feet.

Just go in prepared with the knowledge that your food might not be so delicious for a couple hours. Or bring your own food like the majority of travelers are doing these days. But no matter how you prefer to snack on-board -- and no matter how delicious the snack -- it’ll probably still taste a bit like cardboard.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The App That Knows Your Food Likes Better Than You Do

The App That Knows Your Food Likes Better Than You Do

By Adam Tanner
Two weeks ago I arrived late in the day in Singapore after a long flight. I had not done much research about restaurants in town, so I dropped off my bags and wandered to Club Street, a hilly lane of restored traditional shop houses in Chinatown. Lively, attractive restaurants lined the street. I randomly picked one place. It was pretty good as well as expensive, as are many things in super modern Singapore. But I left feeling I might have done better with a little more planning.
I thought about that meal after I learned about Nara Logics, a company that promises to find restaurants that you love anywhere, based on your own preferences. The site calls itself a “personal discovery engine,” which means it painlessly leads you to restaurants based on the data you have entered into the site.

There plenty of apps to help you find a place to eat: Foursquare, OpenTable, UrbanSpoon, Yelp. Nara claims it uses a new type of neural-network algorithm to do the job better, using more sensitive analysis of your (and everyone’s) picks and pans. To date it has made its money through revenue-sharing deals with OpenTable , Uber and GrubHub. The service is opt-in only and Nara says it does not share any data about its end users. The company started in 2010 and last year raised $7 million from angel investors.
On Tuesday, the Cambridge, Mass. company announced a deal to license its technology to Asia’s leading telecommunications group,SingTel . The deal, the first of its kind for Nara, marks the latest step in greater personalization of the Internet. It also raises questions about how companies will use the ever greater amount of personal data they are learning about us.
SingTel is not disclosing details about how it will use Nara’s recommendation engine, saying only that it will deploy first in Malaysia, then Australia and Singapore, for restaurant recommendations. But Nara is planning to move beyond dining into financial services and other commerce categories and sees SingTel as a way to do that. SingTel has made a greater effort to buy and license apps for its 468 million mobile customers than typical U.S. wireless carriers. It even bought a mobile advertising business last year.
As more people enter their likes and dislikes in Nara’s engine, the overall data network will improve in its sensitivity. “An important component of Nara’s engine is its ability to learn from all of its users across the platform,” Nara CEO and founder Thomas Copeman said. “Eventually, all users across all businesses that are powered by Nara can improve our knowledge about both user tastes and preferences and related venues and entities.”
As its sophistication grows, the service should be able to recognize national differences in taste. For example, it would steer Brits and residents of its former colonies toward restaurants that doled out the Marmite while sparing Americans the unpleasant sensation of eating it for the first time. “Over time, we believe that this could be an incredible hyper-local value-add to SingTelGroup’s half a billion mobile customers,” said Loo Cheng Chuan, head of SingTel’s Digital Life.

But blending services into one huge personal profile may not go down well with those who don’t like being data-profiled as they move around Asia and across multiple apps. Nara sees itself more as part of the solution, not the problem. “Nara provides a ‘privacy silo’ where the system can work and transact on the behalf of the user,” Copeman said. “We almost imagine it as a personal anonymizing avatar that acts on your behalf to gather information and act with the internet, which is especially crucial given the growing number of services who are dedicated to linking your transactions to your identity.”

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wendy's to sell restaurants

Wendy's tops expectations; to sell restaurants

Wendy's reported a quarterly profit above Wall Street expectations and said it's selling 425 of its restaurants to franchisees, a move that's expected to help boost its profit margins. The move isn't unusual; fast-food companies often own only a small percentage of their restaurants. This helps keep their operating costs in check and gives them a more stable stream of income that's tilted toward royalty fees and rent, rather sales at restaurants. 

Wendy's, based in Dublin, Ohio, also raised its dividend by 25 percent to 5 cents per share. Its stock was up 10 percent at $7.32. CEO Emil Brolick said that the sale of the restaurants will also help expand adoption of the company's new restaurant designs. That's because Wendy's plans to sell the restaurants to "well-capitalized" franchisees willing to pay for the remodeling.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

New York pastrami: America's best regional food?

Sarah Green,

If you've ever visited New York, or are lucky enough to live here, you know that there is no city more deserving of the name "the city that never sleeps." With thousands of restaurants and delis open around the clock, there is certainly no shortage of good food, and perhaps the most iconic is pastrami.
Pastrami has a strong presence in New York, one that can be traced back to the Romanian Jews who immigrated here in 1872, bringing the traditions of their homeland with them. Once in America they found beef to be more affordable than pastrami typically made from goose breast, and soon adapted their recipe.
Today you see pastrami from all different cuts of beef in different parts of the country, but the most popular is the belly, and brisket in particular. It takes bringing, numerous spices (including a lot of pepper), smoking, and finally steaming to make this typically tough piece of meat worth the wait, and New Yorkers stand in line for a good pastrami sandwich day in and day out.
Seek out a traditional institution like Katz's Delicatessen on Houston St. and you'll find heaping sandwiches, perfectly prepared, of pastrami on rye. The recently reopened 2nd Ave Deli at 162 East 33rd Street has garnered much acclaim, and for good reason: it takes two hands to hold its pastrami sandwich. Blooms Deli, in the heart of the city on Lexington Avenue, is one of the few places to enjoy a pastrami sandwich on gluten-free bread.
Each place has a committed following of customers who keep coming back for more. While anything can be put between two slices of bread and called a sandwich, it's the ingredients that count, and these delis offer some of the very best.
Are you a fan of New York pastrami? Vote for it at, as your favorite iconic American food in the 10Best Readers' Choice Awards contest.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Chef makes eating fresh, local seem easy

Chef makes eating fresh, local seem easy

Paul Buchanan is one of the city's premier chefs. An educator, culinary consultant and caterer, Buchanan runs Primal Alchemy, which promotes using fresh food, in season, grown locally, whenever possible. You can check it all out on

Q: Growing your own food or buying it at farmers markets is fine for produce, but what if you eat the occasional animal?

A: You can do that locally, too, or at least you can know where it's coming from. We have livestock raised for us by the Buena Park FFA (Future Farmers of America). We recently butchered a 240-pound Red Duroc pig.

Q: You didn't name it, did you?

A: No, of course not. "Pig" is what we called it.

Q: What did you have for breakfast?

A: Let's see ... I had lowfat yogurt with blueberries and granola. I bought the granola from Sconeage Bakery at the farmers market on Sunday. It's a local business.

Q: What's the best farmers market in the area?

A: It used to be the Friday one in downtown, but now it's been taken over by leaps and bounds by the Sunday farmers market at Alamitos Bay Landing behind the Whole Foods.

Q: Do you buy all your produce there?the farmers there. I'm not a health nut, but I want to know where my food comes from.

A: We grow a lot of our produce at gardens around town just for my family - me, my wife and our daughter. But I buy everything that we use in the business mostly at the farmers market. I know and am friends with most of

Q: I've seen some of the tomatoes you grow. They're beautiful, but don't they kind of gang up on you this time of year?

A: They do, but there are things you can do with them when you get too many. I grow about 15 varieties of heirloom tomatoes and several non-hybrid varieties. You can can them, make sauce, dry them. There's nothing easier than making tomato soup.

Q: Easy for you, or easy for me?

A: You just fill up a blender with tomatoes. Just take the stems out and throw them in to the top. Put in a teaspoon of sugar, a teaspoon of kosher salt, three cloves of garlic and set the blender on high for one or two minutes. And after it's smooth, pour a slow stream of olive oil - two tablespoons at the most - down the center of the funnel. All you do then is pour it through a fine strainer to remove the seeds and the skin and you're done. You can make soup in all different colors - red, yellow, orange, green.

Q: Before I forget: Dogs or cats? I mean as a pet, not an ingredient. Or, you can do it as an ingredient if you'd like, but you're gonna get letters from the cat people.

A: I'm a dog person, definitely, for pets. We have a 13-year-old dachshund, a brindle named Ziggy, and we have another dachshund named Dasher.

Q: Labor Day is coming up. If I wanted you to cater it, what would you make?

A: I'd probably go with barbecued chicken chili. Chicken is good, but sometimes it takes too long to grill, so it's good to go with the chili. I'd serve it with sweet corn pudding; the corn is really good right now. Not too much bread, because it's too filling and not that great, unless it's a killer garlic bread, then it's worth it. I just smear some fresh garlic and butter on a good sourdough and grill it. Then, a big salad, or a big platter of heirloom tomatoes with a little basil and sea salt and balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I go to We Olive on Second Street in Belmont Shore and get their peach white balsamic vinegar. For a salad dressing all you need is that, with olive oil and salt and pepper. Maybe some diced shallots, and that's all you need.

Q: You ever just go out and grab a burger somewhere?

A: I'll eat at In-N-Out about once every three or four months. I have steak maybe about as often. Short ribs a little more often. In general, we try to eat better quality. I pay about twice as much for meat than you would at a grocery store, but I only eat about half as much beef as most people, so it comes out about the same.

Q: Where do you do all your cooking for catering?

A: My kitchen is at 19 39th Place. Anyone can come by. If the curtains are open, we're there.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

'MasterChef' axes chef after failure to replicate Gordon Ramsay dish

'MasterChef' axes chef after failure to replicate Gordon Ramsay dish
By Lara Martin

Ben Starr has been eliminated from theMasterChef kitchen.

The travel writer from Dallas, TX lost his chance to scoop the $250,000 prize and title of 'MasterChef' on Tuesday night's episode of the Fox competition.

Ben had started the episode on a high, winning the Mystery Box challenge with a shepherd's pie that Gordon Ramsay called "delicious". The Mystery Box ingredients had included ground pork, ground veal, ground beef, vegetables, potato and rice, and Gordon admitted that he had never had a shepherd's pie made with veal until now.

Adrien and Jennifer were also in the top three for the Mystery Box challenge. The former made three different meatballs with three different sauces, although the judges thought it was too salty, and the latter made a meatloaf with roasted corn and homemade ketchup.

Ben's prize for winning the Mystery Box was to choose which dish personally created by Gordon the cooks would replicate in the elimination challenge. As an added advantage, he could ask Gordon three questions about the dish that would help his cooking, while the other chefs would have to cook without a recipe. He chose for the contestants to cook roasted loin of venison.

Unfortunately for Ben, he was forced to admit he "squandered his advantage" when he served an overcooked venison. Graham said: "This is a far cry from Chef Ramsay's dish and it's a shame to see a beautiful animal and a lovely cut go to waste."

Christian, Jennifer and Adrien were also criticized for their offerings. Christian's venison was too peppery and not the star of the dish, while Jennifer overcooked her meat, and Adrien was so unhappy with his dish he told the panel there were "no excuses" and apologized to Chef Ramsay for wrecking his signature creation.

Suzy, however, fared much better, despite earlier admitting she's never cooked or tasted venison before. She was named the winner for her well thought-out dish that was the closest to what Gordon had presented.

Jennifer, Adrien and Christian scooped the remaining places in the final four, meaning Ben was sent home. Before eliminating him, Gordon said the judges had "truly thought" he had a shot of making the final two or three.

Gordon said: "Your excitement and enthusiasm is legendary. You have a career in this industry and you have to take that and reach for the stars."

Before exiting, Ben predicted that Adrien would win MasterChef. He later said: "This has been a life changing experience for me and ultimately I go home with happiness and incredible friendship and such intense education because cooking is my life and I'm walking away from this whole experience much the richer for having spent the last few weeks of my life here at MasterChef."