You don’t have to be an Iron Chef to have a rewarding culinary career

The popularity of “Top Chef,” “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Iron Chef America,” “Cupcake Wars,” “Chopped” and my favorite “Food Network Star” proves that the food scene remains on the forefront of entertainment.

The astounding fall lineup of new food shows, thousands of food blogs, new cookbooks and the big-screen movies about food and chefs, support the fact that people are hungry to learn more about cooking.

Food TV shows have elevated the awareness of the industry as a viable profession. Once August arrives, and school is on the front burner of people’s minds, I receive dozens of phone calls about how to get started in the culinary and hospitality fields.

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Chef du Jour: Meet Frank Proto of Barcelona in New Haven

Editor’s note: Chef du Jour is an occasional profile of an area food professional.

Name: Frank Proto, 43, executive chef, Barcelona, 155 Temple St., New Haven, next to the Omni,

Type of food prepared: Spanish/Mediterranean.

Background/education: Nassau Community College, Culinary Institute of America.

Q. How would you describe the concept of the restaurant?

A. Tapas.

Q. What’s the most memorable meal you have ever eaten?

A. When we were on our honeymoon in Paris, my wife and I had an amazing breakfast at a local bakery. Warm bread and eggs cooked in a ton of butter.

Q. What’s the most memorable meal you have ever prepared?

A. I did a wine dinner in Oregon for 600 people. It was by far the largest meal and one of the most memorable.

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‘Chopped’ champ, 13, put on show at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital

I was surrounded by food celebrities recently at the Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital. The standing-room-only activities room was the set for a cooking demonstration featuring 13-year-old Chef Hunter Zampa of Stamford, who was the champion of Food Network’s “Chopped Teen Talent.”

This earned him a $40,000 college scholarship to an Art Institute International Culinary School. He would like to go to the one located in British Columbia. The young chef said, “the most important thing to winning is to have a positive attitude. It’s mind over matter.”

“Chopped” was not his debut on Food Network; Hunter was also on “Rachael vs. Guy: Kids Cook-Off.” Hunter’s love of cooking began when his dad taught him how to cook his Italian-American grandma’s recipes. Hunter didn’t get the chance to cook with her as she passed away when he was very young. What a wonderful way to pass those family recipes and secrets to future generations.To see the rest of the column and recipes.please go to

Here’s one guy who will be celebrating National Cheesecake Day


Today is National Cheesecake Day, a day of celebration for cheesecake lovers; but who doesn’t love a slice of this creamy dessert? We all have a favorite dessert or two or three; Cheesecake happens to be one of mine.

First, a bit of history about this dessert. Was the treat invented in New York, thus New York Cheesecake? No, it’s actually believed to have its roots in Greece. Perhaps that is why the cheesecake in Greek-owned diners is always delicious.

Alan Davidson, author of the “Oxford Companion to Food,” wrote that, “Cheesecake was mentioned in Marcus Porcius Cato’s de Re Rustica around 200 BCE, and that Cato described making his cheese libum (cake) with results very similar to modern cheesecake.”

No matter who invented it or when, each region of the country and the world has put its own spin on the dessert: baked or no-bake, New York-style or Philadelphia-style, German or Italian, plain or flavored with fruit, chocolate or peanut butter.

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Photos courtesy of Junior’s Cheesecake Cookbook/Taunton Press

Photographer: Mark Ferri

Save room for Pie On9 pie contest Aug. 1 in Ninth Square


National Pie Day might be celebrated in January, but New Haven’s celebration of the all-American dessert takes place in the heat of summer from 6-8 p.m. Aug. 1 on Orange at Crown Street. City Seed’s second Pie On 9 pie contest and block party features all-you-can-eat pie, Ashley’s Ice Cream, cash bar by 116 Crown and entertainment thanks to DJ Tootskee. And while you are indulging, you will also be benefiting CitySeed’s food stamp program.

Pies such as Shaker lemon pie are often associated with a group of people and, of course, others like pumpkin and mincemeat are synonymous with Thanksgiving and Christmas, respectively. There seems to be a pie for all seasons as well as pies for all regions. Think key lime pie and Mississippi mud pie.

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photos courtesy of Tagan Engel/CitySeed


When at Michael’s Trattoria in Wallingford, try the Eggplant Rollatini


Found: Pat Abrams of Orange wrote, “I attended the Cooking for CASA event, the fundraiser for Children in Placement where many restaurants were showcased. I would love to have the recipe for the eggplant rollatini served by Michael’s Trattoria in Wallingford.”

Pat, go buy those eggplants, because Michael Tiscia , owner/chef of the restaurant at 344 Center St., Wallingford,, 203-269-5303, was happy to share his recipe for the most popular appetizer. To see the rest of this column and recipe, please go to

Celebrate July 4th with ‘Porch Parties,’ ‘Perfect Pops,’ ‘Scoop Adventures’

Friday is a day for celebration and relaxation, whether it be participating in a parade or watching fireworks. I find something inherently relaxing about a porch, where you can chill out with friends, family or, on your own, watch the world go by while sipping a cool drink, nibbling on delicious snacks and cooling off with ice pops or an ice cream cone.

I remember those sweltering summer days of childhood, when the Good Humor man rang his bell on the bicycle-powered cart, and I would run outside to buy an ice pop. The rocket-shaped red and blue pops and the double-stick pops were my favorites. I recall making my own “homemade” pops as well, taking Kool-Aid and freezing it in an ice cube tray.

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Columnist takes us to Amy’s Bread, one of his New York City favorites

As a native New Yorker, I remember as a child, my parents taking me to experience all the Big Apple has to offer which, of course, included the food scene.

We went to the typical touristy places like Carmine’s, Mama Leone’s and Horn & Hardart, the famous automat restaurant known for its macaroni and cheese, Boston baked beans, chicken potpie and pies, all served through coin-operated doors; think a huge wall-to-wall vending machine.

We also went to many eclectic ethnic restaurants like Bernstein’s on Essex aka Shmulka Bernstein’s in the lower East Side where the kosher delicatessen served up great corned beef sandwiches and the like, as well as kosher Chinese food.

To this day, I am asked by many, “What are your favorite food places in New York City?” We are fortunate to be only a train ride away, and on the weekend, if I-95 traffic is in your favor, you can make the 80-mile trip in under 90 minutes.

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Those buttery Corn Bread Biscuits from Millwright’s in Simsbury

Found: Susan Burstein of Guilford wrote, “I recently had dinner at Millwright’s, (77 West St., Simsbury, 860-651-5500). While everything was delicious – not one complaint from our party of six – I would love to get the recipe for the corn bread, which is served in the table bread basket.

“I was disappointed at first to see what the bread selection was, since corn bread is often dry, but one taste of this melt-in-your-mouth corn bread quickly banished any disappointment. I hope you are able to persuade them to part with the recipe.”

The restaurant, a gathering spot to enjoy inspired New England cuisine in a beautiful, historic setting, was rated a New York Times “Don’t Miss” restaurant. The Hop Brook Mill, built in 1680 and now Millwright’s home, overlooks a sparkling pond and rushing waterfall.

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In the ’60s, astronauts launched Tang into product placement stratosphere

I am delighted to receive requests for columns devoted to recipes from my ever-growing vintage food product recipe pamphlet collection. The pamphlets, such as “Flavor Sparkling Recipes with Tang,” published in 1965, bring back feelings of nostalgia and thoughts about when life seemed much simpler.

What I find intriguing, is how so many of these products still exist, decades later, albeit in contemporary packaging, such as Tang, introduced in 1957, not as a juice or juice product, but as an instant breakfast drink with natural orange flavor.

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