As president of the Culinary Institute of America, I read your May 2006 issue ("Eat This!") with great interest. It was a provocative snapshot of the many trends and opportunities in the food industry today. The food-service and hospitality sector is now the number-one private employer in the United States, and the cutting-edge topics you covered—flavor innovation, technology, and sustainability—are inspiring us to look ahead and take command of the future. I've given each of our instructors a copy of the issue to help them lead spirited explorations of these very subjects with tomorrow's culinary leaders and further the dialogue.
L. Timothy Ryan
Hyde Park, New York
Weird but Cool Science
Cool article on Homaro Cantu ("Weird Science," May). You really cracked what's happening on the culinary edge.
Wellington, New Zealand
Great article on Chef Cantu. Inspirational reading. Moto is now on my list as the first restaurant to hit on my next trip to Chicago. Thank you for being a sustainable resource of inspiration and insights.
Drinking In Your Lessons
I thoroughly enjoyed Mark Borden's short article on wine-lover Michael Jordan and Disney ("Oenophile in a Strange Land," May). I particularly took note at the end of the piece where he discusses Mr. Jordan's teaching principles, how Jordan prepares his employees to the point that they could easily leave his employment for theoretically greener pastures. I've used this same approach in my career and have received the same surprising results: Employees actually tend to stay, and show more job satisfaction, when you actively work to increase their marketability by helping them improve their skills. I believe it has to do with matching the individual's goals with the organization's and getting them to work in tandem.
Consider this: We presently expend 10 calories of fossil-fuel-based energy to produce 1 calorie of food, and the average meal in the United States travels nearly 2,000 miles to get to your dinner table. Given that, I believe the widespread and pervasive growth of organic agriculture is something that will happen sooner than Gene Kahn might believe possible ("A Farming Fairy Tale," May).
The use of chemicals in agriculture is largely responsible for the increase of human cancers, the creation of superweeds, the depletion of soil minerals, and the destruction of the natural fertility of soil. Mr. Kahn says that weed control is one of the most challenging problems that makes chemicals laudable. There are alternatives. Food production will become a localized activity again, as it was up until the mid-20th century. And small-scale agriculture will become profitable again, as it was before agribusiness and corporate food monopolists such as General Mills created unsustainable mass markets based on cheap energy. Mr. Kahn may have some organic farming experience, but his spin on the future is unfortunately tainted by his unsustainable corporate agribusiness relations.
"A Farming Fairy Tale" was written by someone who had not done his homework on organics. Most farmers use chemicals because they want to do the job the cheapest way. There are organic solutions to those problems mentioned. Most farmers don't use them because they don't believe that there are alternatives. Most don't believe in organics. They don't want to believe it. The problem is not in the field; it is in the farmer's head.
I enjoyed "Taming the Alpha Exec" (May). As an executive coach working primarily with alpha female executives, I support the article's claim that men and women manifest alpha tendencies quite differently. In my experience, the difference lies in the core assumptions that give rise to this unhelpful behavior. By and large, my alpha male clients' behavior comes from a deep confidence in their own value. Thus, they tend to be arrogant. Female alpha behavior, on the other hand, tends to be rooted in the opposite assumption: that nothing they do will be perceived as good enough. Thus, they adopt a pattern of critical hypercontrol aimed at eliminating any vulnerability that could open them up to criticism.
Shepherdstown, West Virginia
Imagine my surprise when I sat down with the May edition expecting to be intellectually stimulated. That happened up until page 87 and the photo of the man tearing into a bloody, raw steak. Then, quite honestly, I was shocked, repulsed, quite disappointed, and a little pissed off. Because you've decided that vulgarity works, I'll be less than civil myself and say "pissed off" as opposed to "upset."
Heidi Lambert Reed
East Aurora, New York
I have subscribed to Fast Company for some time and enjoy it so much that I rave about it to others and even include a link to it on my blog. With that said, I have been offended by the use of some objectionable images in the last few issues, namely the picture of the disturbing "baby suit" on page 56 in the March issue and the gory "steak" eater on page 87 of the May issue. I sincerely hope the use of such artwork is an aberration.
Mount Dora, Florida
Scott Ginsburg made a great observation in your May Watercooler about how "people don't understand the difference between a Web site and a Web presence." I've been researching social networks and their effect on the workplace through a recent study of 1,000-plus businesswomen, and found nearly a third of the respondents have never Googled themselves or, if they had, they couldn't find themselves. Despite all the press MySpace gets, there are still many individuals who need to be educated on how online networks and search engines work, and even why they should be found on the Internet in the first place. (Obviously, these are not Fast Company readers!) Furthermore, for those employees whose eyes glaze over when talk turns tech, it's likely that with the entrance of Generation Y into the marketplace, they are going to be obsolete in less than five years.
Diane K. Danielson
A Main Course of Mayo
I thoroughly enjoyed "A Prescription for Innovation" (April). In my work, I deal with health-care providers, from solo practices to large multispecialty practices, hospitals, nursing homes, etc. Your article speaks to the problem that affects all practitioners—quality of care and meeting clients' expectations. It certainly shows how Mayo got its reputation and has been able to live up to it. I plan on sharing this with clients.
Larry A. Lencz
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A version of this article appeared in the July/August 2006 issue of Fast Company magazine.