This week’s Foodie Friday is Pat Cobe, senior editor for Winsight Media. That means she gets to eat and enjoy the food and personalities at restaurants around the country as she explores and writes about the food we all love to eat, trends we are just learning about and issues of concern to those in the food industry. You can find her articles in Restaurant Business and FoodService Director magazines.
What is your role in the food industry?
I am the Senior Editor in charge of Menu, Food & Drink content for Restaurant Business and FoodService Director, both print magazine and digital. I also provide content for our conferences, including Menu Directions, Restaurant Directions and Restaurant Leadership Conference, where I am asked to moderate panels and make presentations.
How did you first get involved in the food industry?
My first job was at Good Housekeeping magazine, where I worked in the test kitchen developing recipes. Since I have a journalism degree, I also was asked to write some small food pieces.
What/who inspired your current role in the food industry?
I worked on the consumer side for many years, writing for the women’s magazines and co-authoring a couple of cookbooks. I was introduced to the foodservice side by Anita Fial, then president of Lewis & Neale Public Relations. I worked for her on staff as the editorial director, writing press releases and creating press packages geared to chefs, pitching products from commodity boards and food companies.
But journalism was my first love, so when the job of food editor opened at Restaurant Business, I applied and landed it! I have been here for 17 years and love this side of the industry. I have since expanded to the noncommercial side with FoodService Director, which goes out to chefs/operators in health care, college dining, corporate dining, K-12 and senior living.
What food trends are most influential in what you do?
Menu trends in restaurants. Recently, plant-forward eating, craft cocktails, niche global cuisines (Malaysian, Israeli, regional Mexican and regional Indian) and the zero-waste movement have been very influential.
What is the most significant change you’ve witnessed in the food industry?
Fresh, local, clean ingredients are an expectation by consumers, even at the fast-casual and QSR (quick service restaurant) level.
Describe a food fad/trend you would love to start.
Pay for the portion size you want. I would rather have a smaller amount of a pasta dish or entrée, and pay less. I know some restaurants do this now, but not enough!
What's your big splurge food item? Any particular brand you're willing to pay more for?
I splurge on cheese and wine. No particular brands, but I love a good, runny cheese, a nice, crisp white wine with a little oakiness and a crusty baguette. That is my perfect meal and I wouldn’t hesitate to spend big bucks to get the best quality and taste.
What keeps you going as a food professional?
I am inspired by the enthusiasm chefs have for their work, no matter the segment they work in—from fine dining to college dining. They are constantly inspired and that inspires me.
What’s your favorite food to make at home?
Desserts. I make killer lemon bars, fruit tarts, chocolate cake, cookies, etc.
What’s your favorite meal to order in a restaurant?
What three ingredients could you not live without?
Fresh ginger, fresh garlic, butter
Name the food/ingredient you can’t live without.
Cheese and ice cream are tied! But if I had to pick one, I’d say cheese.
Tell us about a memorable meal you’ve had.
I was lucky enough to eat at Alinea in Chicago, seated at the Chefs’ Table with seven friends. I really don’t remember exactly what we ate, but I will never forget the experience. I especially enjoyed the part where they brought us into the kitchen and one of the chefs crafted a cocktail using this one-of-a-kind piece of equipment. They served it to us in glasses at the kitchen counter with little canapes. And for dessert, the servers created a sweet Jackson Pollack-style presentation on a piece of Lucite, all edible.
Who in the food industry do you most admire?
All the brave women who came forth in the #metoo movement to end harassment in restaurant kitchens and front-of-house.
What food or meal makes you happiest?
Eating a lobster roll near the beach in Long Island or Cape Cod. The best ones are from there, made with big chunks of fresh lobster meat and a little celery mixed with just enough mayo to hold it together, piled on a buttered and grilled hot dog bun.
What food or ingredient would you never use or eat?
Where would you most like to live?
Why? San Francisco. So many great restaurants, ethnic eateries and stellar local seafood, cheeses and produce to cook with at home. Also, there’s easy access to California wine country and the ocean.
Tell us about your favorite vacation destination.
Hawaii. I love the ocean and Hawaii has that and much, much more. Hiking, amazing local food products, fabulous weather, memorable sunsets and more.
But I also love exploring Paris, Rome and the surrounding Italian countryside and many parts of the U.S.
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