Wednesday, October 22, 2008

At the Table with Anthony Bourdain

This weeks episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations was a change from the original recipe. At the Table is a concept where Tony sits down for dinner with a few big-shots in the food world and they discuss food, food service, travel and culture. Of course, since it's Tony Bourdain, it isn't surprising that they cover a wide variety of topics and many war stories will be discussed.

For the first episode, Tony is joined at Wylie Dufresne's WD-50 by writer Bill Buford, "Nightlife Queen of New York" Amy Sacco, Ted Allen, and magazine editor and former gossip columnist Chris Wilson (he wrote his own blog for Tony). They talk about the morality of an $1800 meal, whether we should feel guilt for eating certain foods, the most disgusting things they've seen in a restaurant/bar, the place of celebrity chefs in the world and the typical chef question ... what's your last meal?

Oh, and if you're looking for some of the recipes from Wylie, look no further. Grilled Corn Pebbles, Lime Mayo and Scallions or Foie gras, Fennel, Malt, Sherry and Vinegar Jam or Sweetbreads, Peanut, Beet-pomegranate and Pickled Sweet Potato.

This was a fantastic episode, and I'm disappointed that it's only a one-off (or two or three-off).

I tweeted the entire episode, and here are the things that really caught my attention:
  • Anthony Bourdain's new show's pilot is hosted at WD50 with Wylie Dufresne. So.Jealous.
  • "Is it ethically okay to blow $1800 bucks on dinner?" Bill Buford argues that dinner serves 2 purposes, nutrition and culture, making it ok
  • Love Bourdain's blog:
  • Ted Allen: "$1800 will get you one hell of a hooker"
  • Why does the US lack the streetfood scene so prevalent in the rest of the world? Ted Allen thinks it's the lawyers and nanny state mentality
  • Bourdain counters saying that there is no more oppressive nanny state than Singapore, and every night govt agents watch the hawkers clean
  • Amy Sacco blames fast food corps for killing the street-food vendor. That makes sense. I can see how corp america could kill street food
  • Ted Allen: Too many Americans think the only way to eat cheaply is to eat crap in a box filled with high-fructose corn syrup and chemicals
  • @donmball Exactly. There are maybe three outside vendors in St. Paul. One hot dog guy, the grill outside of Dunn Bros and another
  • These four believe London is the new European home of cutting-edge cuisine.
  • Should shame or guilty pleasure be an important part of a fine meal?
  • Ted Allen: "The critter should have the best life it can have" Bourdain: "A happy animal more often than not means better food"
  • Chocolate is like salt, cod or coffee; a prime mover of civilization. Hmm, methinks Mark Kurlansky has a new subject for his next book!
  • Hmm, Amy Sacco says that celebs are much better customers than the regular public. Protecting her clients maybe?
  • Is the celebrtiy chef phenomenon a good thing? Bourdain says post Rachael Ray probably better than pre-Rachael Ray, though he hates to admit
  • Ted Allen: Anyone encouraging people to get in the kitchen, make good food and use natural ingredients has made the world a better place
  • Wylie Dufresne says a blessing and a curse. Turned a lot of people onto cooking better at home. Created a lot of egos though.
  • As citizens of the world, should we know how to cook? Should you be mocked if you can't? No, but don't just eat fast-food and crap
  • Great section! When asked what they would make if having company over: Risotto, Meatloaf, Texas BBQ, Roast chicken. Comfort food wins
  • More and more men are watching Food Network and cooking well. Does this mean fewer women? And if so, is it a change in gender roles?
  • Last meal? Amy Sacco-Mom's spaghetti & meatballs. Backup-KFC or Popeye's. Ted Allen-Baby back ribs.
  • Biggest sellers in New York? Comfort food. Ted Allen says New Yorkers need a hug.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

ExactTarget's new study misses the point of social media

In a study released by ExactTarget, and done in collaboration with Ball State Universitys Center for Media Design, provides new insight into the media consumption habits and marketing preferences of six commonly targeted groups. They argue that email and direct mail is more impactful in purchasing habits than social media. I argue that they're missing the social media point.
One of the key findings in this research is that 18- to 34-year-olds claim they are more likely to be influenced to make purchases based on e-mail marketing messages and direct mail than from marketing messages on social networks, said Mike Bloxham, director, insight and research, Ball State Universitys Center for Media Design. It is too easy to assume that the media consumers choose for their own news, information and entertainment are, by default, the best media to use for marketing messages. This is a dangerous assumption to make in a time when consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their level of control over their media experiences."

Read the release on the study here.
My Take:
The original study didn't differentiate if they were testing B2B or B2C. The advantage of email is that using in collaboration with a powerful CRM, you can target the message based upon the purchasing profile and demographics of the individual. Social media (facebook, twitter, linkedin, etc) doesn't offer the specifics, nor closed-loop metrics of email and CRM combined. It's scalable, and targeted, but in order to be taken seriously, needs to be personal and manual. Social media is better suited to be used to develop a sense of community. Zappos, Comcast, WholeFoods, for example, have done an exceptional job in the social media world, and Amazon has developed a community within their own site (reviews, etc). However, I feel the study is flawed because it doesn't test the main purpose behind using social media as a marketing/PR tool.

In addition to what I see as a flaw in the overall concept of the study, one needs to evaluate who conducted the study. ExactTarget, while an exceptional email marketing and one-to-one marketing tool, makes their money on email marketing. It would be in their interest to skew the study to achieve the results they desire. Of course they would want to say email is much more efficient at delivering the message the customer wants to hear and to drive sales. It's in their best interest. If they were to find that social media marketing drives sales better than email, they would have to change their entire business model.

Now, email marketing isn't going anywhere. I'd be in trouble if it did. However, that doesn't mean that social media isn't as powerful, or in certain cases, more powerful than email, but what this study examines is simply the wrong usage of social media marketing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008 - Poverty

Many posts today are about causes of poverty, anecdotal evidence of abject poverty, maybe even grandiose ideas of how government or non-governmental agencies should be required to end poverty before building bombs. Frankly, they'd all be right, and I completely support the causes behind the posts. I, however, will be looking at possible solutions with much more granularity. How can we affect change to the world if we can't affect change in one person's life?

Growing up, my father was the executive director of an emergency food shelf and clothing closet. Through the United Way they also ran a meals on wheels service to seniors and the housebound. In his 15 years at that organization, he took them from a place to go when people had no other place to go to a place where the abject and working poor were able to work toward self-sufficiency. They met with case-workers, received assistance to obtain vehicles, shelter, holiday gifts, back to school clothing as well as assistance writing resumes, taking ESL classes and prepping for interviews and learning work skills. This was a strange concept in the Minneapolis metro area at the time. Most places wanted to get people in the door, feed them, clothe them and send them on their way. Dad wanted to help these people so they could pay it forward. He learned that concept from his father, as I did from him. So, how can I pass this on to others?

Hubert H. Humphrey once said "compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism" and "it was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped." What kind of Minnesotan would I be if I didn't echo the thoughts of the great statesman?

As government fails to figure out how to stop its own bleeding pocketbook, how can we expect it to support those who need help? It's time to turn to the people of affluence. Now, you may not consider yourself affluent, but compared to billions across the planet, you are, based upon the simple notion that you are able to read this post, hell, that you know how to read! You can affect change, not necessarily on a wide-scale, but individually, you can touch the lives of people who need your help. I'm not talking about those in need of emergency assistance, but rather those who wish to strive toward self-sufficiency, but need a little push or a little hand-holding along the way. Do you want to be the change in the world? Try microlending. Here are a few examples of ways to donate using microlending. For those who aren't exactly certain what microlending entails, here's a bit about it.

Microcredit is the extension of very small loans (microloans) to the unemployed, to poor entrepreneurs and to others living in poverty who are not considered bankable. These individuals lack collateral, steady employment and a verifiable credit history and therefore cannot meet even the most minimal qualifications to gain access to traditional credit. Microcredit is a part of microfinance, which is the provision of a wider range of financial services to the very poor.

Microcredit is a financial innovation which originated in Bangladesh where it has successfully enabled extremely impoverished people to engage in self-employment projects that allow them to generate an income and, in many cases, begin to build wealth and exit poverty. Due to the success of microcredit, many in the traditional banking industry have begun to realize that these microcredit borrowers should more correctly be categorized as pre-bankable; thus, microcredit is increasingly gaining credibility in the mainstream finance industry and many traditional large finance organizations are contemplating microcredit projects as a source of future growth. Although almost everyone in larger development organizations discounted the likelihood of success of microcredit when it was begun. The United Nations declared 2005 the International Year of Microcredit.
Some of the many purveyors of microcredit are:
  1. Kiva
  2. Make Poverty History
  3. Poverty Fighters
  4. Microplace
  5. FINCA International
The vast majority of the clients of microlending are women in developing countries. However, some microlending agencies (like Microplace) actually allow you to specify the level of poverty you would like to help, your financial return, terms of repayments and location. So you can actually help a family in the delta build a fence, whether it's the Mekong Delta or the Mississippi Delta is completely up to you. Hopefully some day that person can pay it forward to help the next generation. As Hubert H. Humphrey (yes, again) said, "the impersonal hand of government can never replace the helping hand of a neighbor."