Friday, May 20, 2011

Guadalajara…a journey into a new emotional place

Let me tell you about a morning I had last week. And it revolves and around joy…the joy of children…none of them spoke English except with their smiles, and hugs which needed no language. I spent my morning at Guadalajara’s Lorena Ochoa School, painting and gardening with Site Chicago members and the children of the school. After this exercise my jeans are now paint splattered and my wonderful Ecco shoes even more so and I DON”T CARE. It was great. It was fun.

And after painting and planting we joined the executives of the school and the Lorena Ochoa Foundation (do you know who she is, she the great golfer from Mexico?) to give uniforms and shoes to 18 students in need. The children of this school are from a very underprivileged area. They need things. The school is beautiful. And it has an unbelievably creative system of education that combines academics with exercise and both with art in various forms. They exercise in the early morning to get rid of their special anxieties which might stem from their environment, then they are served breakfast which parents are required to prepare in weekly shifts, and then they study. After school there are programs for things like judo, and yoga and more.

We gave out these uniforms, courtesy of Chicago Site’s generosity, each interacting with the 18 kids who beamed and then hugged us before rushing to try on their new shoes. After we had gifted them, in turn they gave us each a customized piece of art they had created along with a letter explaining what that gift meant to them. And if that wasn’t enough, they came back over and over again to hug us, to thank us and hug us some more. Those faces will live in my teary eyed memory a long time. What special kids those were.

Social responsibility brought to life means a lot to me, and when as business people we can really make a difference, it’s an incredibly rewarding feeling. You all know how committed EE as a company (and me personally) is to making a difference, and this was once again pure unadulterated joy. I want to track some of those youngsters in the future, because from a life that offered little promise, this school will change their lives, and you could read this in their faces, and in their compositions to all of us.

If any of you are inclined to make any donations, each uniform is around $30 and each pair of shoes around $15. These things go a long way to boosting morale and giving these children a sense of worth.  Can each of you remember when receiving some act of generosity boosted your self esteem and outlook on life dramatically? If so, consider a small gift to this courageous and innovative school. We’d be happy to collect some donations and forward them on.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Oscars of the Food World

EE is proud to once again have acted as the technical producer for the 2011 James Beard Awards; a program deemed “the Oscars of the food world,” by Time Magazine. The awards were held May 9th in New York City and featured several stars of the culinary world, both up and comers and those who are well established.
For the fifth consecutive year, EE produced the media awards and gala awards, managing audio, video, lighting, electrical distribution, staging and union labor for two awards shows: one at e-space in NY co-hosted by television personalities Tim Allen and Gail Simmons and the other at Avery Fisher Hall, hosted by Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio. 

Below are a few of this year’s winners; for the full list follow this link:

Cookbook of the Year
Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy
by Diana Kennedy
(University of Texas Press)

TV Food Personality/Host
Alton Brown
Show: Good Eats
Network: Food Network

Television Program, In Studio or Fixed Location
Top Chef: Season 7
Host: Padma Lakshmi
Network: Bravo
Producers: Tom Colicchio, Dan Cutforth, Jane Lipsitz, and Dave Serwatka

Group Food Blog
Grub Street New York
Daniel Maurer, Jenny Miller, and Alan Sytsma

Health and Nutrition
Rachael Moeller Gorman
“Captain of the Happier Meal”

Individual Food Blog
Politics of the Plate
Barry Estabrook

Best New Restaurant, Presented by Mercedes-Benz
ABC Kitchen
Chef/Owner: Jean-Georges Vongerichten
Owners: Paulette Cole, ABC Home and Phil Suarez

Outstanding Chef Award
José Andrés
minibar by josé andrés
Washington, D.C.

Outstanding Restaurant Award
Eleven Madison Park
Owner: Danny Meyer

Outstanding Service Award, Presented By Stella Artois
Per Se
Chef/Owner: Thomas Keller and Laura Cunningham

Rising Star Chef of the Year Award
Gabriel Rucker
Le Pigeon
Portland, OR

Best Chef: New York City (Five Boroughs)
Gabrielle Hamilton

Best Chef: Pacific (CA, HI)
Michael Tusk
San Francisco

Best Chef: Southwest (AZ, CO, NM, NV, OK, TX , UT)
Saipin Chutima
Lotus of Siam
Las Vegas
Tyson Cole
Austin, TX

Friday, May 13, 2011

The MINI Countryman Wanderlust Campaign Continues...Eastbound and Down

As Avantgarde/EE’s MINI Countryman Wanderlust campaign nears its end, check out the below article from which details the latest Wanderlust adventures in Chicago and New York.

Wanderlust is stomping its way across the U.S. towards the East Coast, where the inevitable April showers are just giving way to their May progeny: trees afluff with budding blossoms, shyly bonneted daffodils. Smiling through our sneezes, we in the later-blooming states are finally getting our chance to crawl out of hibernation, stuff a picnic basket full of treats and indulge our own fantasies of escape and adventure.

So far we've seen that Wanderlust is all about dreaming beyond your usual horizons, while still taking full advantage of what the landscape around you already has to offer. While our friends in Austin were scheming up desert camping trips and food-truck tours, the Southern Californians fantasized about beach barbecues, and had already strapped their surfboards to the luggage rack of their Countryman before you could say "Malibu." As Wanderlust fever now sweeps eastward through the Midwest and beyond, its symptoms adapt to the local climate, changing gears slightly to a vibe of dewy springtime pastures and countryside romance.

By day, Clayton Hauck is a photographer whose pictures have run in most of the big ones: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Village Voice. In the wee hours he is a DJ and party promoter, and somehow has time left over to run the well-trafficked Chicago nightlife blog But tuned in as he is to the hustle and bustle of Chicago's art and music scenes, his heart belongs to hometown Milwaukee. Just in time for Easter, his Wanderlust event had him homeward bound.

Also on-board was Cody Hudson, whose graphic-designer alter-ego - Struggle Inc. crafts fabulous logos and imagery that has regaled snowboards for Burton, album covers, books and T-shirts. In the fine arts realm, he works on everything from pencil drawings to large-scale pieces commissioned by the city of Chicago, but it all started when he designed his own poster for a rave he was throwing in Wisconsin in the 90s.

Like Clayton's, Cody's Wanderlust journey was about paying tribute to his humble but awesome origins. If these two are any indicator, it seems you can take the boy out of Wisconsin but you can't...well, you know the rest. In parallel (but unrelated) road trips, these Midwestern move-makers took advantage of the holiday weekend to MINI Countryman it back to their home state to reconnect with family and friends while exploring the oddball sights and flavors along the way. Clayton's trip (with his sister as copilot) included pit stops at American Science and Surplus to stock up on weird/rad flotsam & jetsam, Superdawg for a hot dog lunch, Onan's Pyramid House (exactly what it sounds like) and the Seven Mile Fair, a flea market where the photographer trawled for useful vintage camera gear. Once in Milwaukee, it was family time, culminating in a nostalgic dinner with the parentals at Pfister Hotel.

While Clayton may have sampled some franks along the way, Cody's trip was quite literally a sausage fest-a sausage tour, to be exact. The artist and his crew stocked up on every imaginable kind of wurst along their route, with prime destinations including Bobby Nelson's in Kenosha, WI, Mader's German Restaurant in Milwaukee and Dietzler Farm in Elkhorn. Interestingly, neither fellow could make the trek without stopping at the famed and aptly named Mars' Cheese Castle, which for Clayton offers unmissable curds and beer, and in Cody's case was just a necessary stop on the sausage tour.

In New York, downtown royal Melia Marden has been called an "intellectual sensualist," which in her case seems to mean simply that she's smart and she likes nice things. That already puts her in high standing in our book. After graduating Harvard and surviving a brief stint as a fashion journalist, she attended the French Culinary Institute and went on to found her own catering company, regaling the city's art and theater crowds with mouthwatering spreads that maintained a back-to-basics, homecooked flair. These days, Melia is bringing her studiedly rustic culinary chic to The Smile , a deservedly buzzed-about downtown dining destination that serves as both general store and eatery to the art elite. On any given day in its East Village kitchen, Melia might be found lovingly balancing a quail's egg on a thicket of frisee, or snowing a side of sugar snap peas with a delicate rime of sea salt.

In this spirit of combining homespun simplicity with urban sophistication and style (and amazing flavors), Melia's Wanderlust journey began with an early morning coffee at The Smile, then sashayed upstate for an elegant country picnic. Melia's chosen destination was Lyndhurst , one of America's most beautiful Gothic revival mansions. And by mansion we mean castle. She likes the spot because it's both accessible and exotic: "I love that you can create your own magical adventure so close to the city." Packing her friends and a delicious lunch into a MINI Countryman, Melia and co. spent the afternoon on Lyndhurst's lavish grounds, lingering a while over drinks and dessert before plunging back into the clamor of city life.

Have these urban creatives' delicious and peaceful escapes triggered a flare-up of your own wild Wanderlust?