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What the Hell is a Foodie? 3 local eaters on what food means to them

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Rebel Mariposa in her kitchen - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Rebel Mariposa in her kitchen
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There are meet-ups, Reddit sub-groups, gift guides and “spots” for the gaggle of food-loving fiends known as “foodies.” While the term might have originally encouraged would-be diners to explore a world of eating as a hobby rather than for, you know, nourishment, being labeled a foodie hasn’t had the best connotation in several years.

For some, foodies are assholes, who hold up dinner by as king exactly where the tomatoes for the red sauce came from, who snap several glamour shots of their dish to share across social media platforms (guilty, and what of it?) and come off, for lack of a better word, as snobbish for talking at length about the five-course seated dinner they enjoyed recently.

If I may defend my fellow “foodies” (because I, too, have turned my nose up at the misnomer), having a near-rabid love of food isn’t entirely driven by status or what others have labeled “hip.” I’m going to take photos of my food because I want to share the hard work that goes into making it, be it my own or a kitchen staff’s. I’m going to talk about great restaurants ad nauseum, whether they’re at the Pearl or not, if they’ve led me to tasting something extraordinary or helped me recall former bites with nostalgia-inducing flavors. I’m going to nerd out on my meals, dammit! We’ve tapped other local food lovers, gourmands and food adventurers to explain what drives them to dive into the world of food. From an artist turned chef, to culinary director at one of the city’s dining hot beds, to H-E-B’s director of global sourcing (who’s responsible for the fresh supply of chipotles and quality balsamic vinegar you’re buying), we asked them to tell us their story. Maybe they’ll turn you into a food lover yet.

Shelley Grieshaber (on left) during the Tamales! Holiday Festival at Pearl - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Shelley Grieshaber (on left) during the Tamales! Holiday Festival at Pearl

Name: Shelley Grieshaber
Job Title: Culinary Director at Pearl

When/how did you get into food? What was the process like?

I’m so fortunate to have a mother that’s an amazing cook, so my love of food started early. I started thinking about culinary school in high school, but at that time it wasn’t common for people, let alone women, to make that choice. Instead, I pursued a political science degree at a small college in Massachusetts while working in Boston law firms. I couldn’t shake the cooking-bug, and a few years after graduating from college I applied to The Culinary Institute of America’s Hyde Park campus, and much to my surprise was accepted. I’ve never looked back since! 

What appeals to you most about it?

I’m a creative soul at heart. Although I can’t draw, paint or sculpt to save my life, I find great satisfaction in creating food that pleases people. In my current role as Culinary Director of Pearl, I don’t get the opportunity to cook as much as I used to, but instead, get similar satisfaction in helping to change San Antonio’s culinary landscape, mentoring culinary students and helping some of the city’s premier chefs make their dream of opening their own restaurant a reality.

What are your thoughts on the word “foodie?” Love it, hate it, do you prefer another?

I definitely have mixed feeling about the term “foodie.” Before opening the Center for Foods of the Americas (now The Culinary Institute of America) at Pearl, I worked for five years with Central Market. If I’m not mistaken, the term wasn’t common before the original store opened in Austin, with their in-store experts called Foodies being the true pioneers of the term brought to life. I love the memories of the term in that context, but I often think it’s over-used today.

What’s your favorite place to eat in SA?

That is an impossible question to answer! My favorite restaurants can change based on the occasion, my current obsession and even the weather. Of course my support for all the restaurants at Pearl is unwavering, and I find myself in one, or sometimes several practically every day. If I’m not at Pearl you might find me on a beautiful day on the patio at Soluna sipping a margarita, or at Bliss, where I think Mark [Bliss] orchestrates the definition of a perfect dining experience or seeking out the latest addition to San Antonio’s growing diversity of ethnic cuisine options.

Where do you do the bulk of your grocery shopping?

Central Market, without a doubt.

What’s your go-to home-cooked meal?

Grilled salmon fillet and lentils sautéed with onions, spinach and bacon.

What does the city need more of to expand as a culinary destination?

Honestly, I think we have to look at it from a different angle. San Antonio’s success at becoming a culinary destination won’t hinge on having more restaurants or markets or pop-ups. It will be determined by the consistently exceptional quality of food, service and overall experience offered by not just the up-and-comers, but by the classic establishments as well. The second element necessary to achieving the moniker of being a great food city is having the local community support the efforts of its restaurateurs, growers and food artisans. With these two forces working together, San Antonio can make the leap from culinary underdog to its rightful place among the best food destinations in the country.

Jody Hall (third from left) at the SIAL global food marketplace in Paris - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Jody Hall (third from left) at the SIAL global food marketplace in Paris

Name: Jody Hall
Job Title: Director of Global Sourcing at H-E-B

When/how did you get into food? What was the process like?

For me, it started when I lived in Europe and South America coming out of my undergrad and going into grad school. It became a love affair—trying to cook the foods I grew up with at home. You know, they say distance makes the heart grow fonder. I grew up in South Texas with a tortilla in hand and when I found myself far away from fajitas, without ingredients I’m used to, I had to scrounge around or have family and friends bring [ingredients] with them when they visited, such as pinto beans, spices and even things like canned jalapeños were hard to find abroad. The world’s come a long way. As a Texan ranch boy, my love affair with food began when I found myself far away from home and I became adventurous and adventuresome with my eating. My host family would prepare haggis once a week.

What appeals to you most about it?

It goes back to bread being a staple of life. It’s about understanding the differences and the history [between cultures] … the heritage. Why a tortilla is what it is to Mexicans or naan to an Indian or focaccia to an Italian.

What are your thoughts on the word “foodie?” Love it, hate it, do you prefer another?

Hate is a strong word, but I don’t really love it either. I guess I do prefer another. Someone I met at a conference had a business card that read ‘Chief Food Adventurer’ and I thought, “That’s MY job title!” I am adventuresome and adventurous as part of my role at H-E-B. Whether we’re in Italy as olives are being harvested for olive oil or brining to create a perfect olive, I’m adventuresome in following that journey on how it’s processed to understanding the supplier and their passion behind it. Today’s consumer and public is becoming more adventuresome and adventurous—they’re reading more, whether it’s online or in magazines, they’re traveling more either down the street or across town to a farmers market. I think ‘foodie’ can be polarizing … it can be snobbish for some. But when you take adventurous individuals in history, Marco Polo for instance, and what he did in discovering exotic dishes from the East and bringing them back to Italy … it’s how Italians got their pasta. Christopher Columbus took potatoes to the New World and changed how we eat. The work of those predecessors is apropos and fitting to what me and the team are doing.

What’s your favorite place to eat in SA?

It could be Turquoise Grill for Mediterranean or Turkish food; we love Dough for pizza and other fine Italian cuisine; Moroccan Bites is one of our favorites. Jerusalem Grill on Wurzbach and 410. My wife is Indian by birth and British by nationality; she loves her fish and chips [she finds those at Lion & Rose] and India Oven.

Where do you do the bulk of your grocery shopping?

H-E-B, H-E-B, H-E-B … and I don’t go to just one. I go to multiple ones because we tailor our assortment. If I want Mediterranean I’ll go to the Alon Market … their international and British assortment is some of the biggest in town. If I want to find Lebkuchen [a German cookie] or other German projects I go to H-E-B near Randolph or Lackland. I go to the H-E-B on Culebra if I want some authentic Mexican products and we go to Central Market, which has 875 different cheeses and 13 of those come from my wife’s hometown in England.

What’s your go-to home-cooked meal?

We don’t have one, but we do a Moroccan chicken casserole as one of our staples … a lot of Tex-Mex, carne guisada. We grill fajita, salmon, which goes great with Balsamic vinegar, which you can put on everything and anything. My favorite home-cooked meal is barbecue. I’m a seventh-generation Texas so barbecue brisket is one of my staples of life.

What does the city need more of to expand as a culinary destination?

We’ve come a long way [from] when I first moved here 25 years ago. The assortment of foods has really changed around town. There’s still room to grow and part of that is through education, whether it’s through cooking schools or cooking awareness. There are things that we’re doing well, like Taste of the Northside or the Paella Challenge. I had friends in town from Barcelona and they were amazed they could fly in and have paellas as good, but with a South Texas twist. It’s about exposing the populous, local or tourists, in helping to make San Antonio a culinary destination. So much is coming toward the public in different formats, whether it’s social media, Instagram where people are taking photos of their food and others are oohing and ahhing.

Name: Rebel Mariposa
Job Title: Artist/Chef

When/how did you get into food? What was the process like?

Not till I was much older in my late 20s. For many years I didn’t want to be “stuck” in a kitchen. It wasn’t until I went raw vegan for three months and realized how crafting foods was very much a science [that] I began to love to prepare food for myself, friends and family. It was no longer about being “stuck.” I wanted to cook to heal myself and those around me. What appeals to you most about it? Like I said above, the healing aspect of food. It really can be a person’s poison or medicine. I also love the stories told about and around foods. It has brought me closer to my aunts and other women. Lots of secrets/stories are shared in a kitchen; it’s a magical place to be. It’s super-empowering.

What are your thoughts on the word “foodie?” Love it, hate it, do you prefer another?

Mixed. I don’t like it because it seems so bougie and at times used in a very arrogant manner. When it’s used to describe someone who has and likes to try different types of food then I am OK with it. Everyone deserves to eat good healthy delicious food, not just snobs.

What’s your favorite place to eat in SA?

In people’s homes. I love to cook and I love when other people cook, to be in different kitchens sharing and learning. I prefer it over [going to] restaurants. When I go out I like to go to Vegeria and Señor Veggie.

Where do you do the bulk of your grocery shopping?

Depends [on] what I am making. I go to the farmers markets, Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, Ali Baba and other small Asian markets in town.

What’s your go-to home-cooked meal?

I am super-simple when it comes to how I eat so my go-to meal normally is brown rice pasta topped with sautéed greens, fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil, sea salt and olive oil.

What does the city need more of to expand as a culinary destination?

I think it needs the people of SA to be more curious and demand more options and higher quality [goods] without being super-expensive. San Antonio can be so laid-back and I love that, but when you go to the West or East coast people are hustling to [own] a restaurant and [they] have to [serve] really good food because there is so much competition. You can’t offer a mediocre product or you will go out of business.

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