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Thysia Huisman describes alleged rape by Jean-Luc Brunel

Ex-model is one of three women accusing the model scout and friend of Jeffrey Epstein

Thysia Huisman had just turned 18 when, late one evening in September 1991, she arrived before the door of an imposing apartment building on avenue Hoche in central Paris carrying a small backpack and three photographs from her portfolio.

A young would-be model from Leiden in the Netherlands, she was impressed, but also alarmed. It was very grand, she says. A vast, grand apartment, right by the Arc de Triomphe. Fancy furniture, paintings on the walls. But it was his home.

Not long before, Huisman had met Jean-Luc Brunel in a chocolate shop round the corner from Models Office, the Brussels agency that had just begun to represent her. Its owners, Pierre and Marielou Eggermont, had said she must see him.

He was in his mid-40s and a charmer. He said: Youre unbelievable. Youre stunning. You must come to Paris, right away. I can make you a star, says Huisman, now a TV editor-in-chief, sitting in the kitchen of her home in a neat new suburb of Amsterdam.

Her agents were sure: Brunel could launch her. Karin Models, his agency, had done it before and would do it again: Monica Bellucci, Sharon Stone, Christy Turlington, Jerry Hall, Milla Jovovich all, Brunel has since claimed, owe their careers to him.

So Huisman, 46, went to Paris. She was so special that she was to stay in his apartment, Brunel told her. But within a week she had left, because on her fourth or fifth night, she says, Brunel who has been accused of supplying the late Jeffrey Epstein, his close friend, with underage girls spiked her drink and raped her.

Allegations of misconduct against Brunel date back decades, but he has faced no action. Huisman and two other former models have told the Guardian they were sexually assaulted by Brunel in the 1980s and 1990s in and around Paris, where he was a power player in the global fashion industry.

Brunel and his attorney did not respond to requests for comment. In a 2015 statement, Brunel vehemently denied involvement directly or indirectly in Epsteins crimes. I strongly deny having committed any illicit act or any wrongdoing in the course of my work as a scouter or model agencies manager, he said then.

But from the first evening Huisman met Brunel, she says, relating the events of 28 years ago with calm but clearly painful precision, the Frenchman was coming on to me. Really flirting. Like in a jokey way on one level, saying I was so lovely, that wed get married one day. But then also more menacing.

So when I asked where I was supposed to sleep, he said: Oh, my bed, of course. One time, later, he came into the closet where I was, locked the door behind him, and told me: You know, one day were going to have sex. I kept him away, made a joke of it, told him he was too old for me, and too short. A short, old Frenchman.

But Huisman felt deeply uncomfortable. There were lots of other girls there, some I recognised from magazines, she says. Maybe half a dozen. Young girls, certainly some underage, from Czechoslovakia, Russia, Yugoslavia. They looked sad. And these older, much older businessmen. It was obvious they were sleeping together.

Part of her wondered whether this was all simply normal for the fashion industry. Part of her realised it could not possibly be right. And part of her thought: I want to be a model, the whole world awaits, and this man can make it happen. I just have to be careful. Not drink. Stay in control. Keep focused. I thought I could handle it.

Thysia Huisman was an 18-year-old model in 1991 who stayed at Jean-Luc Brunels apartment. Photograph: Courtesy Thysia Huisman

The first night, she slept on blankets on the floor of another girls room. The next day, Brunels assistant Pamela took her to the agency and to lunch. The third day there was a test shoot, and a couple of go-sees preliminary castings for multiple jobs. Every night there were dinners, groups of 15 or 20, in expensive restaurants.

One night, Brunel told Huisman that she could have a career in the movies too, and that his good friend the CEO of Miramax I realised later, Harvey Weinstein would be in Paris the following week, so I should really meet him.

Another evening, there was a man with wavy hair, in a black turtleneck sweater, black-and-white checked trousers. Quite striking. It was Im not 100% sure, I couldnt swear it, she says. But years later, when Epstein was in jail for 13 months, all over the news I saw him and I thought, I know that man.

On what was to be her final night in Paris, after a restaurant and nightclub, the party returned to Brunels flat, Huisman says. He gave me a drink. I dont know what it was, a mixed drink of some kind, he said he made it specially for me. I drank it and straight away I started feeling tired, woozy.

Her recollections after that, she says, are vague, but with really clear, like, snapshots like a fuzzy, unclear movie, all in slow motion, but with a few super-sharp stills. I remember he took me to his room, laid me on his bed, said I should relax. I recall him lying on top of me, me trying to push him off.

I remember trying to move, but not really being able to. Like almost being paralysed. I heard the sound of my blouse, a black blouse, ripping. I had a black skirt, too. I felt him this is difficult between my legs. Pushing.

She was awoken the next morning, Huisman says, when Brunels butler (he employed an Indian couple as cook and factotum) came in with a cup of tea. He didnt seem surprised to see me there, she says. Jean-Luc wasnt there. But I felt we had had sex. I had marks, bruises, on my inner thighs. I knew. I know.

She was naked but for a kimono that was not hers, her clothes in a pile on the floor. I just ran, she says. I was scared. I grabbed my clothes, rushed to the other girls room, got my backpack and left. Like a thief in the night. He was on the phone in the living room. I was scared what he would say.

On the street, she says, all the buildings were like moving. Everything sounded really loud. I felt totally disconnected.

Huisman mentioned the incident to her Dutch boyfriend, she said, but in the vaguest terms, and told no one else. I was really ashamed, she says. I felt really stupid. Guilty. Angry with myself. Over the years, she said, she told various friends of an unpleasant incident in Paris. I buried it, really, she says.

Her current partner, whom she met eight years ago, says she told him soon after they got together that she had been molested. More details emerged gradually over time, he says, until, two years ago, he heard the whole ugly story.

A lot of things happened at the same time, says Huisman. I started therapy and it came up. The #MeToo movement really stirred something in me. I began looking into Brunel; saw the scandals he was implicated in; realised the ties to Epstein; talked to women with similar experiences It feels good to have brought it all out of the dark, to realise I was not the only one and it was not my fault.

Justice may be too late for Epstein, who was found dead in his cell earlier this month while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. But she hopes Brunel will be prosecuted, even if he is now in his 70s. She has consulted a French lawyer and is considering filing a formal complaint in Paris.

I hope he gets punished, and the whole modelling industry gets a shake-up, she says. Im not deluded; I dont imagine my story will change everything. But if a few more parents are made aware, if a few more industry figures realise these predators exist Because, look, what really makes me angry I called Marielou [Eggermont], from my very first agency in Brussels, this winter.

I recorded the call. I asked, did they still work with Brunel? She said: Yes, as a matter of fact he was over a few months ago. So I told her exactly what had happened, why Id come back in such a rush. And she said: You know, he cant have done that. He would never do that. Jean-Luc, hes just too sweet.

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Launching from YC, Eclipse Foods casts a long shadow over the $336 billion dairy industry

Eclipse Foods may be the company that finally takes milk out of the dairy business.

Ever since the acquisition of WhiteWave Foods by the French dairy giant Danone for more than $10 billion, investors have been thirsting for a technology that would give consumers a better tasting, more milky (for lack of a better word) milk substitute than the highly valuable (but not very tasty) almond, soy and other plant-based dairy alternatives.

There are at least $37.5 billion worth of other reasons for investors’ interest in the milk-alternative category. That’s how much money will be spent on dairy alternatives by 2025, according to a newly released study by the market research firm Global Market Insights.

Enter Eclipse Foods. Founded by two veterans of the alternative sugars and proteins business, the company is going after the whole dairy industry, starting with a line of spreads and select additives for restaurants around San Francisco.

“We had an ‘oh shit’ moment when we got our plant-based milk to act just like the real thing,” says Thomas Bowman, Eclipse Foods co-founder and the former director of product development at Hampton Creek (now known as Just Foods). “We’re not pureeing nuts or seeds or legumes. We asked, ‘What are the properties of milk?’ and built this dairy base of the exact amino acids and fat profile.”

Thomas Bowman in the kitchen (Courtesy Eclipse Foods)

Joining Bowman on the journey to create the perfect milk substitute is Aylon Steinhart, a former specialist working with the Y Combinator -aligned food technology incubator and think tank, the Good Food Institute.

The two men met at the launch event for Just Egg, the fourth product to debut from Just Egg after the release of the company’s mayonnaise alternative, cookie dough and porridge.

“We started talking about ideas and landed on this dairy platform,” recalls Steinhart. “It’s a place where we can make a big change very fast given the technological breakthroughs that we solved for early on.”

The demand is certainly coming on strong. According to Steinhart about 80 percent of millennials are consuming dairy replacements at least once a week.

Aylon Steinhart (Courtesy Eclipse Foods)

Humans didn’t start out drinking milk. Over the 300,000-odd years that some form of homo sapiens has been stalking the planet, it has only been in the past 10,000-odd years that people decided to squirt the liquid out of a cow’s udders to consume it.

At first, humans couldn’t even consume the stuff without getting at least a little nauseous. They needed to develop a genetic mutation to even process the lactose sugars properly.

“The first time that we see the lactase persistence allele in Europe arising is around 5,000 years BP [before present] in southern Europe, and then it starts to kick in in central Europe around 3,000 years ago,” assistant professor Laure Ségurel of the Museum of Humankind in Paris, told the BBC earlier this year.

Ségurel speculates that the health benefits of consuming milk might have been related to the exposure (and potential inoculation) to various diseases that may have otherwise spread from the animals to the humans that were raising them.

If that was the rationale, it’s increasingly unnecessary for modern living, and may indeed be more of a hazard to human health.

Global meat and dairy producers could count among the largest contributors to climate change if their growth remains unchecked, according to a report from the nonprofit Grain.

They estimate that meat and dairy consumption should be reduced by 81 percent in order to meet global emissions reduction targets.

With the production of Eclipse’s dairy alternative, there’s no animal required.

“We have an off-the-shelf platform right now. The only additive will be water,” says Bowman.

And unlike other alternative dairy products, Bowman and Steinhart claim that theirs actually tastes good. And, as a Michelin-starred chef, Bowman should know.

The company’s first line of products will be a line of cream cheeses, including one for the bagel and schmear-loving crowd. However, the majority will be more millennial-focused, according to Steinhart.

“There will be various unique flavors that are culinarily focused,” he said.

Expect the first products to debut in an exclusive pilot with Wise Sons and through the ice cream maker Humphry Slocombe, a leader in high-end ice cream in SF.

However companies decide to label their Eclipse-based products, they certainly shouldn’t call them vegan, according to Bowman.

“Vegan cheese is gross,” he says.

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Osteria FrancescanaIs the Best Restaurant in the World, Again

Osteria Francescana is the best restaurant in the world, on a night that had a sense of déjà vu, especially for the Top 10.

Chef Massimo Bottura’s modern Italian restaurant in the back streets of Modena was the World’s No. 1 Restaurant in 2016; last year it was No. 2. The biggest movement in the Top 10 was a drop by last year’s No. 1 winner, Eleven Madison Park. They fell to No. 4, after a year that saw a major renovation and a much-buzzed-about pop-up in East Hampton

The flamboyant Bottura is known for his playful approach to classic dishes. His creations include a lasagna with only the crispy bits and a deconstructed dessert called “Oops I Dropped the Lemon Tart.” Bottura is an art lover and his food is visually exciting as well as delicious. More recently, he has become known for Feed the Soul, an international non-profit organization to feed the homeless and hungry that grew out of a community kitchen in Milan.

Bottura accepted the award on stage with his American-born wife Lara Gilmore. He said that chefs and everyone in the restaurant business must realize that they have the power to change the world.

“I am going to use this spotlight to make even stronger the changes there are going to be,” said Bottura at a press conference following his win. “Feed the planet. Fight waste. Last week Henry Kissinger asked me for a selfie. It is unbelievable. We have to involve all the community of chefs … pushing the spotlight you have to make the invisible visible is extremely important.”

Chef Massimo Bottura
Photographer: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP via Getty Images

The results of the annual World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards were announced before an invited audience in Bilbao, Spain. Although much was made about diversity in advance of the ceremony, there was little change in the Top 10 beyond a minor reshuffling of places. Apart from Eleven Madison Park’s drop, it was a good year for North America. The United States had four more restaurants in the Top 100, up from nine last year. Mexico had two restaurants in the top 15; in 2017 the country’s highest entry was 20.

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list is organized and compiled by William Reed Business Media. It is created from the votes of more than 1,000 restaurateurs, chefs, food writers, and gastronomes. The voters are split into 26 separate regions around the world. Each region has its own panel of 40 members. (Vines formerly chaired the U.K. and Ireland panel but is no longer involved.)

Winning the 50 Best is great for business. The day after El Celler de Can Roca first topped the list, in 2013, its website got 12 million visitors and the restaurant hired three extra staff just to turn down requests for tables. Noma’s Rene Redzepi said he could have filled his restaurant for almost 15 years with the booking requests the day after he first won, in 2010

The awards started in 2002 as a feature in , a U.K. publication founded the previous year. It grew out of a brainstorming session in a pub to promote the magazine. The editors sent emails to journalists and chefs to pick their favorite places, like a music magazine compiling a best-albums list. The response was overwhelming and the annual awards were born.

Ahead of Tuesday evening’s ceremony, three awards were announced: Clare Smyth, of Core by Clare Smyth in London, won Elit Vodka Best Female Chef; Gaston Acurio of Astrid & Gaston in Lima won Diners Club Lifetime Achievement; and SingleThread, a farm restaurant in Northern California won the Miele One to Watch. The second part of the list, 51-100, was also previously announced; the winners follow.

Here are the results (last year’s place in parentheses):

1. Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy (2)

2. El Celler de Can Roca, Girona, Spain (3)

3. Mirazur, Menton, France (4)

4. Eleven Madison Park, New York (1)

Thailand’s Gaggan is climbing up the list.
Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

5. Gaggan, Bangkok (7)

6. Central, Lima (5)

7. Maido, Lima (8)

8. Arpège, Paris (12)

9. Mugaritz, San Sebastian, Spain (9)

10. Asador Etxebarri, Axpe, Spain (6)

11. Quintonil, Mexico City (22)

A post shared by BlueHillFarm (@bluehillfarm) on

12. Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, U.S. (11)

13. Pujol, Mexico City (20)

14. Steirereck, Vienna (10)

15. White Rabbit, Moscow (23)

16. Piazza Duomo, Alba, Italy (15)

At No. 17, Den’s garden salad with a single ant.
Photographer: Shinichito Fujii

17. Den, Tokyo (45)

18. Disfrutar, Barcelona, Spain (55)

19. Geranium, Copenhagen (19)

20. Attica, Melbourne (32)

21. Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, Paris (13)

22. Narisawa, Tokyo (18)

23. Le Calandre, Rubano, Italy (29)

24. Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet, Shanghai (41)

25. Cosme, New York (40) 

26. Le Bernardin, New York (17)

27. Boragó, Santiago (42)

Singapore’s Odette was a big mover on the list.
Source: The Lo & Behold Group

28. Odette, Singapore (86)

29. Pavillon Ledoyen, Paris (31)

30. D.O.M., São Paulo (16)

31. Arzak, San Sebastian, Spain (30)

32. Tickets, Barcelona (25)

33. The Clove Club, London (26)

34. Alinea, Chicago (21)

35. Maaemo, Oslo (79)

36.  Reale, Castel di Sangro, Italy (43)

37. Restaurant Tim Raue, Berlin (48)

Chef James Lowe’s simple modern cooking, here a bloodcake, at No. 38 Lyle’s.
Photographer: James Lowe/Lyle's

38. Lyle’s, London (54)

39. Astrid y Gastón, Lima (33)

40. Septime, Paris (35)

41. Nihonryori  RyuGin, Tokyo (52)

42. The Ledbury, London (27)

43.  Azurmendi, Larrabetzu, Spain (38)

44. Mikla, Istanbul (51)

45. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London (36)

46. Saison, San Francisco (37)

47. Schloss Schauenstein, Fürstenau, Switzerland (72)

48. Hiša Franko, Kobarid, Slovenia (69)

49. Nahm, Bangkok (28)

50. The Test Kitchen, Cape Town (63)


And here are the previously announced winners of places 51 to 100. 

“NEW ENTRY” indicates the first time the restaurant has appeared on the list. “RE-ENTRY” indicates its reappearance in list after a year of absence (i.e. due to a closing/renovation). 

51. De Librije, Zwolle, Netherlands (34)

52. L'Astrance, Paris (46)

53.  Benu, San Francisco (67)

54.  Sühring, Bangkok 

55.  Don Julio, Buenos Aires 

56. Amber, Hong Kong (24)

57.  Nerua, Bilbao, Spain (56)

58. Brae, Birregurra, Australia (44)

59. Florilège, Tokyo (99)

60. Tegui, Buenos Aires (49)

61. Burnt EndsSingapore (53)

62. Momofuku Ko, New York (58)

63. Hof Van Cleve, Kruishoutem, Belgium (50)

64. Sud 777, Mexico City (75)

65. Frantzén, Stockholm 

66. Vendôme, Bergisch Gladbach, Germany (47)

67. Fäviken, Järpen, Sweden (57)

68. Quique Dacosta, Denia, Spain (62)

69. Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, New York (82)

70. Selfie, Moscow (88)

71. Relae, Copenhagen (39)

72. Twins Garden, Moscow (92)

73. Aqua, Wolfsburg, Germany (70)

74. The Fat Duck, Bray, U.K.

75. Belcanto, Lisbon (85)

76. Martin Berasategui, Lasarte-Oria, Spain (77)

77.  Elkano, Getaria, Spain

78. Mingles, Seoul (89)

79. A Casa do Porco, São Paulo 

80. Lung King Heen, Hong Kong (71)

81. Per Se, New York (87)

82. Hedone, London (98)

83. Estela, New York (67)

84. St John, London (91)

85.  Le Coucou, New York

86. The French Laundry, Yountville, U.S. (68)

87. Maní, São Paulo (81)

88. Nobelhart & Schmutzig, Berlin 

89. The Jane, Antwerp, Belgium (74)

90. Indian Accent, New Delhi (78)

91.  SingleThread, Healdsburg, U.S.

92. L’Effervescence, Tokyo

93. 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana, Hong Kong (60)

94. Alo, Toronto

95. Enigma, Barcelona, Spain 

96. DiverXo, Madrid 

97. Atelier, Munich

98.  108, Copenhagen

99. Leo, Bogotá, Colombia 

100. Lasai, Rio de Janeiro (76)

(Adds quote from Bottura, photos, and analysis in 6th paragraph.)

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    In Japan, Samurai Cuisine Is Racking Up Michelin Stars

    In the town of Shiogama in Miyagi Prefecture, there’s a residential neighborhood overlooking Matsushima Bay, the epicenter of Japan’s catastrophic March 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. On a quiet street there, chef Hideyuki Irakawa and his wife, Michiko, have been serving samurai food from their restaurant, Chimatsushima, for the past two decades. The smoky, wholesome cuisine has given fighters a nutritional leg up for hundreds of years, but now its varied flavors are tempting a wide array of locals and tourists. The Irakawas have made it relevant for the 21st century by adding touches of artistry that feel distinctive to the Tohoku region; last year, when Miyagi prefecture celebrated its inaugural Michelin Guide, theirs was one of 11 local restaurants to earn an initial star.

     Chef Hideyuki Irakawa’s kitchen overlooks the dining room of Chimatsushima.
    Photographer: Ross Kenneth Urken

    Tohoku, which makes up the entire northeast of Honshu, Japan’s main island, is essentially the country’s New England, with colorful foliage in the fall and extremely snowy winters. It’s also where samurai cuisine rose to prominence in the 1600s, during the important Edo period. Back then, Japan’s prized athletes typically ate a simple diet of miso soup and brown rice to carbo-load for battle. Adding textural variety and strong flavors helped encourage them to consume more grain, so kitchens of the era experimented with adding distinctive, salty side dishes: pickled vegetables and plums, seaweed, and natto, a fermented soybean paste.

    Both samurai cuisine and the Tohoku region remain wildly under the radar. Only 1.3 percent of foreign tourists to Japan venture to Miyagi or Tohoku’s five other prefectures—Akita, Aomori, Fukushima, Iwate, and Yamagata. But some of the world’s most recognized chefs, from Daniel Boulud to David Bouley, have taken a fascination with Tohoku’s culinary history, and Michelin’s support is only catalyzing the prefecture’s reputation as a bastion for top-notch, warrior-worthy eats.

    An old samurai house in Kakunodate, a city in Akita prefecture. 
    Photographer: Ross Kenneth Urken


    A variety of traditional tsukemono, or Japanese pickles.
    Photographer: David Clapp/Photolibrary RM

    The Building Blocks of a Butt-Kicking Diet

    The rise of samurai cuisine is largely credited to Masamune Date, a feudal warlord known as the One-Eyed Dragon of Oshu. In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, he was the most powerful samurai in Tohoku—but he was also known as a culinary innovator.

    To this day, cooks produce a strong red miso made with soybeans and (a mold that replaces malt) that’s fermented and aged at a brewery near the base of Sendai Castle, which Date built in 1593. It’s the star ingredient at restaurants like Nacrée, a Michelin one-star spot designed by Kengo Kuma. There, Chef Minoru Ogata—a former sous chef at the three-star L’Astrance, in Paris—uses the miso to marinade thick cuts of roasted bacon.

    This condiment is also a bit of a status symbol. Eric C. Rath, a University of Kansas professor specializing in dietary cultures of premodern Japan, says that because miso improves with age, it traditionally carried a socio-economic heft among the warrior class. “If you want to demonstrate that you have wealth as a samurai, you bring out a three-year-old miso—it’s like bringing out an aged Bordeaux,” he said.

    A selection of mochi, or Japanese rice cakes, includes yukiwari (“snow-breaking) natto in the bottom left corner.
    Photographer: Ross Kenneth Urken

    Another key element to Tohoku’s samurai diet is  (“snow-breaking”) soybean paste, which includes more salt and koji than the traditional version. Versions of the dish have been consumed since the 11th century; it has the texture of caramel and the pungency of a stinky cheese, and is meant to efficiently fill up your belly, restore warmth, and provide the energy for battle. (As a side bonus, it’s also a known-probiotic and immune system booster.) At Chimatsushima, Chef Irakawa serves yukiwari natto with a dollop of red beans and rice—then the whole dish is garnished with gold leaf, lotus root, wasabi, ginkgo nuts, seaweed jelly, and the Japanese citrus .

    , or pickled vegetables, are the last pillar of a complete samurai diet. Given the lack of refrigeration, pickling helped the warriors eat vegetables out of season, and the brininess and crunch helped break up the monotony of rice. In Tohoku, the most common variety is made with daikon radishes that are smoldered over chestnut and cherry wood chips, then pickled in rice bran, salt, and sugar for several months. The result is called , or “wood-smoldered pickles,” and it’s more homey and smoky than your typical, vinegary cucumber.

    In the Global Spotlight

    Kamaishi, a little-visited town in the Iwate prefecture of Tohoku.
    Photographer: Getty Images/MIXA

    Despite the broader attention, restaurateurs and other hospitality industry leaders have had trouble fully capitalizing on the region’s recent renown, says Elizabeth Andoh, author of Kibō: Recipes and Stories from Japan’s Tohoku. “To some extent, a shadow of concern still remains regarding the safety of Tohoku’s food and possible radiation contamination.” This sentiment persists, she says, despite Japan’s rigorous food-safety monitoring.

    And though the 2011 Fukushima disaster brought much tragedy, it did result in added attention to the region and its food from notable sources: famed chefs Daniel Boulud, David Bouley, Patrice Martineau, and Michael Romano all traveled to Tohoku to show solidarity with the region and promote its food. Romano, a chef-partner of Union Square Cafe and director of culinary development for Union Square Hospitality Group, says his visit to the Tohoku town of Kamaishi was “one of the most memorable events of my life.”

    The new-found accolades from Michelin are poised to reinforce that message. So, too, is a project called “New Tohoku,” whose aim is to revitalize the region and welcome tourists; it’s run by a government entity called the Reconstruction Agency that’s repositioning Tohoku around its samurai culinary offerings and rich warrior traditions such as swordsmanship.

    The Ochanoma Lounge at the Hoshinoya Tokyo.
    Source: Hoshinoya Tokyo

    Awareness of samurai cuisine is spreading beyond Tohoku. In Tokyo, the new Hoshinoya hotel was constructed on top of an old samurai house of the Sekai family, and chef Noriyuki Hamada serves his food, including plenty of pickled radishes, on reclaimed wood dishes made from the former structure. At Elements, a Michelin one-star in Bangkok that features French food with hints of Japanese influence, the chef serves . And , the wildly popular fictional series that began streaming on Netflix last year, is about the pickled food cravings of a Japanese retiree with a samurai alter ego.

    “All of these communities across [Japan] are scratching their heads: “‘What kinds of foods do we have to draw visitors?’” says Rath, the professor. “In the wake of the 3/11 disaster, accentuating the samurai connection with Tohoku foods certainly places them in a more positive light.”

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    The Many Faces of Five Star Are Winning Votes All Over Italy

    In Daniele Abate’s Sicilian home town, many people don’t even have running water, and he blames the politicians. So the former cook will be voting for Five Star on March 4.

    At the other end of the country, across the economic divide that runs through Italy, a third of small company owners in Vicenza plan to do the same, according to Luigino Bari, who runs a local business association. They want tax cuts and deregulation, he says.

    As an uncertain country gears up for a crucial election, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement is demonstrating a rare ability to appeal to disaffected voters across geography and social strata. Its eclectic mix of environmentalism, euro-skepticism and widely questioned promises on taxes and benefits offers something for anyone with an ax to grind about the way Italy has been run.

    Luigi Di Maio, leader of Five Star.
    Photographer: Tiziana Fabi/AFP via Getty Images

    “It’s a catch-all party,” said Piergiorgio Corbetta, a political science professor at the University of Bologna. “There are many reasons to vote for Five Star.”

    With four weeks to go, polls show Five Star may have provided enough reasons to secure one of the biggest victories yet for populists in western Europe. With an outright majority still a distant prospect and few natural allies in parliament, the party is still likely to be kept out of office by an alliance of establishment groups. But their success highlights the challenge facing the next administration.

    “Whatever color of government Italy ends up with, they will weigh heavily on the debate,” said Marc Lazar, a professor at Sciences Po in Paris. “When you take almost 30 percent of the vote, you are a reality that must be dealt with.”

    Since starting as an internet-based campaign group in 2009, Five Star’s rise has been driven by support in places like Abate’s home region of Trapani, which was found to have the lowest quality of life among Italy’s 110 provinces by La Sapienza University last year.

    Abate has been living off a 280-euro ($350) disability pension each month since his knee gave out a few years ago, forcing him to give up kitchen work. He’s 53, but looks older and struggles to stand. For Abate, the appeal of Five Star is its pledge to take on the privileges of lawmakers and civil servants in Rome.

    QuicktakeItaly’s Election

    “We work for many years and barely get a thing,” he said, sitting in the main square of his hometown of Alcamo near a 17th century church. “They serve for a few months and can retire.’’

    The key to electoral success for Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio will be pushing into Italy’s wealthier north. While the party won 40 percent of the vote in Trapani in the last national elections 2013, it got 25 percent in the manufacturing center of Vicenza near Venice.

    Vicenza’s entrepreneurs are also frustrated with the status quo, regardless of the recent pickup in growth. They are demanding cuts to business taxes and regulations, and investment in the single-lane roads crowded with trucks carrying products from the region’s factories.

    “It’s clear that the traditional parties have made promises that they haven’t kept,” said Bari, 64, who wouldn’t say who he’ll be voting for.

    Roberto Castiglion
    Source: Comune di Sarego

    Just down the road, the 7,000 inhabitants of Sarego elected the first Five Star mayor in the northeastern Italy in 2012. Roberto Castiglion, a 37-year-old IT manager, was re-elected last year with an increased vote.

    Most of Castiglion’s work as mayor has involved the environment, installing solar panels and increasing recycling, but he says the party is very keen to help local businesses which ship factory machinery, adult diapers and leather goods around the world.

    “In this country, we are drowning in norms and regulations,” he said.

    “Five Star is saying the right things to small businesses, but there is some hesitancy,” said Remigio Bisognin, the 63-year-old founder of a 14-employee Sarego firm that stamps plastic parts. “We don’t really know these people.’’

    One source of concern for business leaders has been Five Star’s past threats to pull Italy out of the euro. Bisognin says mistakes were made introducing the single currency but it’s too late to go back now, and Di Maio has walked back his comments. It’s a move that broadens the party’s appeal in the north without hurting its base in the south.

    “The euro is not something we worry about,” said Gaetano Milazzo, a 40-year-old tax collector as he talked to friends where the warren of narrow streets opens out into Alcamo’s square. “Some houses here get water one day a week and there’s hardly any public transport.”

    Indeed, parts of the sprawling town of 45,000 aren’t even connected to the water mains and Domenico Surdi, the 34-year-old lawyer Five Star mayor since in 2016, says the existing pipes hadn’t been maintained for decades when he took office.

    With no budget for repairs, Surdi has had to improvise. He’s aiming to raise the amount of garbage that’s recycled to 70 percent from about 60 percent to save about 1 million euros a year on trash hauling.

    “We’ve been mismanaged for so long,” said Abate. “The problems won’t go away overnight.”

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