NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg Commencement Speech 2011

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg Commencement Speech 2011

Good morning, everyone. And thank you, President Knapp, for that kind introduction. I really am honored to be this year's GW commencement speaker, even though I hear I was your second choice after Charlie Sheen. Apparently he was already booked to speak at a warlock convention.

Seriously, I was very excited when I got a call from President Knapp inviting me. I was hoping he was inviting me to stay a night at his legendary sheep farm. Not that I'm saying president Knapp is full of sheep. I just want to be clear about that. Although, ultimately I decided not to stay overnight even though some enterprising student did offer to rent me his single in Hensley for $10,000. He said that was half of what he got for the inauguration weekend.

Now, I know this is a bittersweet day for all of you who are graduating. It won't be easy to leave a place where you can rub a hippo's nose, break-dance with big George, sit in Einstein's lap, pet a dog named Ruffles, or buy a hot dog from a guy named Manouch! I can see why you love it here. However, I can also see from up here that some of you look a little tired this morning. Maybe you haven't recovered yet from last night at McFadden's? So I promise to be brief. And besides, I don't want to be the biggest hurdle between you and your degree.

Now, before I offer you some thoughts that you graduates will undoubtedly remember word for word decades from now, let me first thank another very important group here. And I'm talking about the group sitting out there this morning beaming proudly, not even thinking about what it cost to get you to this day. Or what happens if you can't find a job and you have to move back home. Why don't you give your parents and relatives a big hand.

With their support, all of you are joining a distinguished list of alums, including Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy and Colin Powell. So take a look at the people sitting around you. The guy sitting to your left could be a future Secretary of State, and the girl sitting to your right could be a future President of the United States.

Also, take a moment to look around this National Mall. We gather not only at the foot of the Washington Monument, but also in President Lincoln's long shadow. Last month, our nation marked the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. It was fought to preserve the union, to preserve America's bold experiment with democratic self-government. But Lincoln's war for Union grew into something even larger, a struggle for freedom. And while more than a century of struggle for equal rights and equal opportunity would follow his death, Lincoln's leadership redeemed America's original sin and allowed us to fulfill our destiny as a land of freedom and opportunity.

Ten years ago, while many of you were in the sixth or seventh grade, the freedom that Lincoln secured for all Americans and that generations of Americans have fought to protect came under attack by terrorists, the most deadly foreign attack in our Nation's history. I'm sure some of you remember where you were or what you were doing that September day when you first heard the news, and I'm sure all of you will remember for the rest of your lives what you'd been doing when you heard the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed.

There are certain moments in the life of our country that stay with us forever. For my generation, it was the assassination of President Kennedy, then Bobby Kennedy, and then Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For my parents' generation, it was Pearl Harbor. For my grandparents, Armistice Day. There have been other moments of celebration and crisis. The landing on the moon, the explosion of the Challenger Space Shuttle, the inauguration of America's first African American President. And there will be many more.

But before this most recent memory becomes a memory of this -- this recent moment becomes a memory, and because all of you have had such a big part in it, let's take a moment to reflect on the legacy of 9/11 beyond the ongoing war on terror and what it means for the future of our democracy. I was elected mayor just two months after the attacks of 9/11, when smoke was still rising from the rubble of Ground Zero. Back then, the conventional wisdom was that it would take New York decades to recover, if it ever would.

People thought businesses would flee, and that there would be a mass exodus to the suburbs and that crime would return. None of that happened, and I will tell you why. Our city, in fact our whole country, did not give into fear. We came together as never before and did everything we could to help the victims and their families. We offered our prayers. We donated our blood. We opened our wallets. Firefighters and iron workers around the country came to New York to pitch in. People around the world gave us their support. And by making smart investments in our future, we brought the city back faster and smarter than anyone thought possible.

Today, Osama bin Laden is dead, and New York City has never been more alive. The unity that defined our nation in the wake of the attacks was critical to revitalizing our city, and it also led to two other very positive developments for our country.

First, it reminded us that we agree on far more than we disagree on. Especially here in Washington, that can be easy to forget. Now, I know many of you interned on the Hill or in the White House, proudly wearing your ID badges at all times of the day and night and probably annoying your housemates in the process. But you've seen first-hand how consuming and counter-productive partisanship can be. But in New York, we didn't bring our city back as Democrats or Republicans, as liberals or conservatives. We brought it back as New Yorkers and as Americans.

As we head into the next election cycle, our leaders would do well to remember that although our hard-earned freedoms give us the right to disagree, they also give us the right to agree. The idea that Democrats and Republicans hold diametrically opposing views is just not true. You can be a Democrat or Republican -- as a matter of fact, I've been both --or you can be anything else. But never make the mistake of thinking that any particular party has a monopoly on good ideas or God is on its side.

Even though the unity that existed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks has had no lasting impact on Washington, it did have a lasting impact on Americans, especially young people. Your generation, more than any other before it, recognizes the truth of what John F. Kennedy's wisdom was when he said, "Sometimes party loyalty asks too much." And I think that's a big reason why independents are the fastest growing block of voters in this country.

As usual, the people are a step ahead of the politicians, especially young people. I believe that it takes a generation in this town to change, and I have no doubt that many of you will occupy some of its most powerful seats, you will begin moving the country away from this period of hyper partisanship, which is preventing us from accomplishing so many urgent needs, and towards a new era where more independent thinking allows for consensus-driven solutions.

The second lasting, positive development that grew out of the 9/11 attacks was just as encouraging, a growth in service and volunteering. Americans of all backgrounds, but especially your generation, wanted to do more to help, so they signed up to volunteer at a school, hospital or a homeless center. And, as a result, volunteering has become a bigger part of our culture. I know there are a lot of opportunities here at GW, and I'm told your school not only met but exceeded the challenge that First Lady Michelle Obama set for you last year to perform a combined 100,000 hours of service. And I think that deserves a round of applause.

I would also like to add my applause to those graduates who volunteered for the most dangerous and selfless assignment, serving our nation in uniform. We can never take their service and sacrifice for granted, and we should never make the mistake of thinking that the defense of freedom is solely a concern for the military. The freedom our Founding Fathers secured, the freedom that Lincoln extended, the freedom our Armed Forces now protect, the freedom that billions of people are yearning every day to experience, is a freedom that all of us must defend. Even when it's not popular, especially when it's not popular, we have a responsibility to stand up for the rights of people to express themselves as they wish, to worship how and where they wish, and to love who they wish.

That's why, two weeks ago, I spoke out in support of an artist who was scheduled to open an exhibit in New York City but who has been detained indefinitely by the Chinese authorities. It is why, ten months ago, I strongly defended the rights of New York's Muslim community to build a mosque and community center in Lower Manhattan. And it's why, on Tuesday, I'm going up to our state capitol in Albany to support legislation that would grant marriage equality to all men and all women.

The freer we are to expressing ourselves as individuals, the stronger we become as a nation. Earlier, I met Todd Belok, who was expelled from the ROTC program because of his sexual orientation. But because he and so many others stood up for change, including one of today's graduates, Michael Komo, Congress recently passed, and President Obama signed, a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Now, let me give a perspective from somebody that's a lot older than you. It takes courage to stand up to power, to take an unpopular stand, to risk life and limb and livelihood for your ideals. But that's the courage that led to Lexington and Concord, to Fort Sumter and to Seneca Falls, to Selma, Alabama, to the Stonewall Inn, and to this National Mall, where Martin Luther King shared his dream with America. Today, thanks to all of those who had the courage to march and fight and speak out for freedom, there is no road that you can't travel. No future you can't create. No dream you can't realize. You are bound only by the limits of your imagination. The question for all of you graduates is, how will you use that freedom?

Don't worry if you don't have all the answers right now. Your life, your career path will not be a straight line. When I graduated from college, no one would have believed, least of all my professors, that I would start a media company and later become the mayor of New York City. Even my mother can hardly believe it.

But as you think about your career, whatever you do, don't worry about mapping it all out. Just don't play it safe. Don't be the person who quits a startup company, or a band, before giving it a chance to make it big. And don't be afraid to start over or change direction. The more risks you take, the happier you will be, even if they don't work out. And I can assure you, sometimes they won't. But I can also assure you this: No matter what job you have, no matter who your employer is, the harder you work, the luckier you will get.

And whether you feel ready to begin a career or not, the education that you received here at George Washington has prepared you for success. And I just don't mean the education you've gotten in the classroom. You've heard from some of the most important and influential leaders of our time. You have been given unprecedented access to the power center of government. And I will bet you learned a few other things, too. Like what the meals to avoid are at J street, and what exactly you are allowed to do in each of those Gellman study areas, where you can use laptops, where you can study in groups, where you can eat snacks and where you can do none of those things. Whatever you are going to do next, there will be new rules to master, and new frontiers to conquer. And my advice is relatively simple: Continue learning. Continue asking difficult questions. Continue thinking independently. Continue volunteering your time to help others. Continuing defending, and enjoying, the freedoms that make America great.

Tonight, before you begin this new phase of your life, enjoy one last happy hour at McFadden's, one last hot dog from Manouch, and one last hail to the Buff and Blue, because tomorrow the real work begins.

Congratulations to you all. Best of luck. And God bless.

Baby Food: Lots of Concerns Packed in That Little Jar

One researcher explores how baby food can prime a child to have an “industrial palette” from an early age in University Seminar on Food.

GW Recognized for its Sustainability Efforts

The Sierra Club recognized GW as one of the nation’s top environmentally-friendly universities as the campus implements a new minor and Ecosystems Plan.



Grow Garden Party

Upcoming Events

Check back soon for upcoming events.

Past Events

Spring 2013

April 15, 2014 - Marion Nestle

Fall 2013

October 24, 2013- Food Day activities
Learn about our week long celebration of food in the DC Community. What is Food Day?

Solar Decathlon

Spring 2013

Fall 2012

Spring 2012

  • The Chef and the Garden, May 30 - July 11, 2012
  • Reel Couscous: The Migrant's Table on Screen in Maghrebi-French Cinema, April 30
  • University Seminar on Food
    • An Appetite for Baby Food with NYU Professor Amy Bentley, March 26
    • The Unnatural History of Freshness with Dartmouth Professor Susanne Freidberg, April 19

Fall 2011

  • Let’s Eat! Works from the GW Permanent Collection (Art Exhibit at the Luther Brady Gallery), December 7, 2011 through February 10, 2012
  • "An Evening with the Honey Bees" with the Biology Department, December 6
  • "State of the Plate" Conference with Animal Welfare Approved, October 19
  • Fall 2011 Film Series on Food
    • Screening of "El Bulli: Cooking in Progress," September 19
    • Screening of "Miss Representation" and Q&A with filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom, November 29

Spring 2011

  • Big Night, Big Jobs: Local Chefs Talk About Their Work in Setting America's Table, March 19
  • University Seminar on Food
    • "Saving School Lunch," October 12
    • "Monopoly Meat," November 21
    • Collaborative Workshop," December 8

Fall 2010

  • "An Eye On Food," 2010 Food Documentary Film Series
    • Screening of "A Community of Gardeners" and discussion with director and producer Cintia Cabib, September 28
    • Screening of "FRESH" and discussion with director and producer Ana Sofia Joanes, October 26
    • Screening of "Supercharge Me!" and discussion with filmmaker Jenna Norwood, November 16
  • Healthy eating class taught by Diane Robinson Knapp and University Chef Robert Donis, Fall Semester

Photo: Restaurateurs and chef sharing their experiences at the "State of the Plate" Conference in October 2011, with Dan Rosenthal (Green Chicago Restaurant Coop), Michael Babin (Neighborhood Restaurant Group), Michael Curtin (DC Central Kitchen), Todd Gray (Equinox), Nora Pouillon (Restaurant Nora), Andy Shallal (Bus Boys and Poets), and Michael Sternberg (Market Tavern).

In the News

UFTF Prize Winners
UFTF staff prize and student research award winners, from left to right: Diane Robinson Knapp; Andrew Bernhard, SEAS '13, UFTF Student Research Prize Winner; Cassandra Phillips, Staff Prize Winner; President Steven Knapp

Fall 2014

Diane Knapp Turns Healthy Eating into a Campaign
The Urban Food Task Force chair discusses designing a sustainable F Street House, creating a healthy food agenda and the modern food system.

Building George Washington University’s ‘Food Revolution’
Researchers, practitioners, faculty members and students analyze what, why and how we eat, propelling GW to the forefront of food studies.

The Food Day Challenge: Eat Well to Be Well
The Urban Food Task Force extravaganza spotlights nutrition, food policy and food security.

Spring 2013

Urban Food Task Force Hosts Food Day
The weeklong celebration will promote healthy, affordable and sustainable food.

University Hosts Food and Nutrition Expo
Urban Food Task Force event highlighted the many ways food touches people’s lives.


Fall 2012

Urban Food Task Force Establishes Award Fund for Students
All students may apply by submitting a description of research or projects on food or nutrition.

Chef José Andrés to Teach Food Class
The spring course, “The World on a Plate: How Food Shapes Civilization,” is open to all students and explores the intersections of food and society.

Video: Food Day
Student and local groups promoted health and sustainable food in University Yard.

GW Recognized for its Sustainability Efforts
The Sierra Club recognized GW as one of the nation’s top environmentally-friendly universities as the campus implements a new minor and Ecosystems Plan.


Spring 2012

Calling All Green Thumbs
In the last year, George Washington University’s Foggy Bottom GroW Garden has tripled in size.

GW, Founding Farmers Partner to Host Beehives
The shared urban apiary, or bee colony, serves as a research tool for GW students and faculty.

GW Works to Restore D.C.’s Natural Ecosystem
Pollinator-friendly plants, ladybugs and praying mantises are among the latest environmental enhancements on the Foggy Bottom Campus.

Time honors Jose Andres as influential ‘activist’?
Andres is working with the university’s Graduate School of Education and Washington’s School Without Walls to create an interdisciplinary food curriculum.

University Chef to Lead Summer Cooking Class
Registration for the six-week “Chef & the Garden” course is underway.

Farmers Market to take GWorld This Year
George Washington students, faculty and staff can now use their GWorld cards to purchase fresh and local food at the Foggy Bottom FRESHFARM Market.

Baby Food: Lots of Concerns Packed in That Little Jar
One researcher explores how baby food can prime a child to have an “industrial palette” from an early age in University Seminar on Food.

Meatless Mondays
The GW community can compete for prizes, including lunch with the Knapps, by eating veggies and grains at J Street and Pelham Commons in February.
Fall 2011

An Examination of Honeybees
GW student and biology professor tends hives to learn more about buzzing insects.

Art Exhibition Promotes Healthy Eating
“Let’s Eat!” features works from George Washington University’s permanent collection paired with healthy recipes.

Honeybees descend on campus as cold weather nears
50,000 honey bees on the roof of Lisner Hall prepare for the cold weather.

Lessons from a Master Chef
Ferran Adrià spoke to a sold-out crowd at Lisner

Spring 2011

City Bees
GW and Founding Farmers restaurant partner on urban apiary project.

A Café for the Community
A co-op that sells locally grown food wins the inaugural Knapp Fellowship

Urban Food
Sometimes doing the right thing isn’t so simple, says panel of area chefs.

Fall 2010

Sustainable Dining
Biodegradable and reusable products are now in Sodexo-run facilities on campus.

A Campus Abuzz
GW’s Mount Vernon Campus welcomes four beehives.

Photo: Mrs. Theresa Dezcallar, Joe Yonan (Travel and Food Editor, The Washington Post), Chef Ferran Adria, Chef Jose Andres, GW President Steven Knapp, Diane Robinson Knapp, Ambassador of Spain Jorge Dezcallar at the GW Lisner Auditorium for the Chef Adria's book launch

Tips from Chef Rob

GW University Chef Robert Donis offers helpful tips and answers to various food- and cooking-related questions.

Q: I'm sure you're a busy guy, but even chefs probably don't eat gourmet every single night of the week, right? So, what’s your ultimate quick meal or favorite comfort food?

A: Truer words were never written. Most chefs rarely eat "gourmet" meals any night of the week. They  might taste components of "gourmet" meals they are putting together that day.  Some may sit down at the end of the service period and enjoy one of their dishes, though not very often. More often, chefs will gobble down meals standing up when they get really busy.  Many Chefs in restaurants will eat what is called "family meal" with their staff members.  These meals are usually composed of scraps, leftovers, rice or pasta, and the parts of salads you didn't use for the paying guests.

My ultimate quick meal is a typical chef's salad with lemon juice and good olive oil, or I'll make a "margherita style" pizza on a flour quesadilla with fresh mozzarella, home grown tomatoes and basilabout 6 minutes total time.  Comfort food for me is a roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, a green salad or roasted vegetables, an overcast, drizzly, cold Sunday, some decent wine, family and a scoop of vanilla ice cream I'll soften a bit to put over some sautéed apples or fruit pie. I love comfort food with high quality ingredients. The less time to put together the better, meaning prep work. It can take all day to cook in my slow cooker as long as I don't have to be there to watch ityou've inspired me to make some pot roast tonight and I'll make sure to eat it sitting down.


Q: Can eggs be kept outside of the refrigerator? 

A: Eggs need to be refrigerated in the coldest part of your refrigerator, meaning the back of it, next to your well-wrapped butter, and, certainly not in that oh so chic egg holder by the door, and not at room temperature for longer than 2 hours.

Eggs are susceptible to bacteria when left out. It is always a good idea to keep them just as they arrived, in their sanitized carton. Now you have more space on your countertops to keep bananas or that ceramic country rooster you've been pining for. What to do with that newly found refrigerated space you might ask? I keep my hot peppers, baby eggplants, and basil there.

Egg facts you need to know:

  • Check the side of the box for three numbers. This number represents the day the eggs were packed (f.e., 010 means the eggs were packed on Jan 10th. The eggs are good for about 30 to 40 days after this date).
  • When you crack open the egg, look for the yolk to stand up. Color of the yolk has to do with chicken feed more than freshness.
  • Have you ever noticed that the egg carton is one of the most dizzying items on the supermarket shelf (like, Times Square on a carton). I, personally, want to purchase eggs that carry the Animal Welfare Approved label. If I can't find these, I buy certified organic. All the other programs are there to catch your eye and make you feel good about your purchase.
  • To warm up an egg for cooking or baking I take them out of the back of my refrigerator and place them in moderately hot water for 5 minutes. This solves the problem of egg storage. No yolk, that's what I do.


Q: What is your favorite method for poaching eggs?

A:  There are a few easy to follow steps to poach eggs properly. The simplest of details makes a huge difference when poaching eggs. The most critical and first step is to buy the freshest eggs possible, because the whites of older eggs tend to spread through the poaching bath and will not envelop the egg yolk properly.

The next step is to bring a few inches of water to a boil in a wide mouth pot.  Do not fill with much more water then it takes to completely cover the eggs. How much water depends on the size of your pot. To start the cooking process boil the eggs in their shell for 30 seconds.  No more no less.  Take out the eggs with slotted spoon, leave the water in the pot, and place the eggs in an ice bath (8 ice cubes to a pint of cold water shall do) to cool down.  Now, some people like to add vinegar to the boiling water at this point because it helps firm up the white around the yolk. I don’t because I can taste the vinegar in the finished product.  If you must add vinegar it is about 3T of rice vinegar to about 1.5 qt. of your previously boiled water.  Break the chilled eggs into a small shallow saucer or bowl.  Turn down the heat of the water so it isn’t at a rolling boil.  Gently slip the eggs out of its individual saucers at the level of the water. Now, very gently create a gentle wave next to the borders of the egg white to aid in covering the yolk. Cook the eggs for about 3 minutes (here is where personal taste comes into the picture) and remove with a slotted spoon onto a serving plate.  Dot the eggs gently with paper towel or a very thin tea towel to soak up any excess water on the egg and on the plate next to the egg. Do not cook more than 3 eggs at a time.


Q:  I cook quite often, and I have become comfortable with roasting and grilling a variety of meats. However, I would like to experiment with duck, since I absolutely love it but am afraid to try to cook it on my own.  Any tips for cooking duck at home, either on the grill or the stove? 

A:  Cooking duck is not any more difficult than cooking other meats, so fear not. Before you get started cooking duck, you need to identify the type of duck it is. Examine what you purchase to see how much fat covers the flesh, total weight and proportion of its parts.  We’ll concentrate on the three commercially available breeds: Moulard, Pekin, and Muscovy.    

The Moulard is used for its magret (breast), because it is larger than other duck breeds. It should be cooked on the rarer side, because if you cook it too much, its meat will get stringy and taste and feel like rubber bands.  Pekin (Long Island Duck, and not Peking Duck, which is a style of preparation) is the most popular that I see in the markets. It is milder in flavor than the other two breeds we are discussing, and its meat is tender. They are usually about 4 to 5 lbs. in weight. They will shrink in the oven, due to their high fat content. Do not expect to feed the same amount of people as you would with a chicken this size. Finally, the Muscovy duck (Barbary Duck) is leaner than Pekin and Moulard ducks. Their meat is redder and stronger in flavor. The average weight of a male Muscovy duck is 7 to 8 lbs. (a female Muscovy is half this weight) and its breast accounts for 2 lbs. of this weight.  The breast is protected by less fat, too.  It takes almost twice the amount of time to breed than Pekin, so it will cost more.  It is the only domesticated breed that is not a descendent of the Mallard.   

Now that you have chosen which duck to prepare, here are a few tips:

1) Make sure your bird is dry before cooking. You can leave uncovered over night to help the bird dry off. 

2) Don’t think of cooking a duck breast like a chicken breast; it needs to be cooked like a steak. Slash only the fat of the breast making little diamonds all over to help in the rendering process, cook in a very heavy pan, skin-side down, until the fat crisps up, about 10 minutes for a Pekin and 14 minutes for a Moulard, flip over and cook for 2 minutes more, rest and serve. 

3) When grilling a duck breast, make sure the heat is indirect so that burning fat doesn’t start a fire and char your duck.

4) Cook duck legs separately by browning on the stove and then braising slowly in a 325º oven until the meat is tender and coming off the bone.  Cooking duck is all its quacked up to be--hiss--which is what Muscovy ducks do!


Q: When I was growing up, my mom never kept the butter dish in the fridge, so we always had soft butter that was easy to spread. I’ve continued to do that now that I live on my own, but it freaks some of my friends out when I serve butter that hasn’t been refrigerated. Is it safe to use unrefrigerated butter?

A: Does mom really know best, or is there a misguided old wives’ tale somewhere that warns against the perils of room temperature butter? Well, for 20-plus years, I’ve worked in kitchens and bake shops that also kept pounds of butter out at cool room temperatures. I needed to make sure these are safe practices, so I consulted with the FDA food safety division.

This is what they told me: “There is no evidence that using butter without time/temperature control is unsafe.” Why?

Butter is composed of mostly fat (European-style butters are usually higher in fat), little amounts of water, and sometimes salt. For salted butter, the proportion of salt to water is nearly 10%, which helps fight bacterial growth.

Although keeping the butter dish outside of the refrigerator is safe, the best place for butter storage is in the freezer, wrapped tightly. When butter is exposed to air, it may oxidize, take on odors or change in quality.

Here’s a tip to satisfy your freaked out friends: take your very well wrapped butter out of your freezer or the back of your refrigerator and microwave for 5 seconds intervals on 30% power until softened.

So, it is safe to store your butter at a reasonable room temperature though if you see mold, throw the butter out). You may need to consult with an etiquette columnist on the best method to convey this to your friends and still keep them!


Q: I am frustrated that the food I buy doesn’t stay fresh for long. I am deterred from buying fresh produce, etc., because I never can seem to use it all before it goes rotten and I must throw it out. Are there any helpful tips or techniques to storing food to keep it fresh and safe to eat for longer?

A: There are some helpful tips to store certain items longer. Before I talk about these techniques, I’d start with the idea of thinking about what you are purchasing, planning a meal or a few meals and buying less. Some of the joy I receive from cooking comes from the anticipation of the meal, thinking about the process not as a necessary chore, and connecting to food in a way which brings me closer to the seasons. The planning will be more enjoyable and less wasteful if you think about what is in season (fresher) and how to best use it. You will start to eagerly await the first crop of asparagus, cherries, peaches, apricots, etc. Some tips are as follows:

  • Root vegetables are best deprived of oxygen and light (think sandbox or plastic bag in refrigerator).
  • Cut green tops off of roots before storing.
  • Dry lettuce in paper towel and store in Ziploc bag tightly to prevent air from getting in.
  • Store potatoes and onions (except sweet onions) in a cool, dark, dry place away from each other and never in the refrigerator.
  • Do not refrigerate tomatoes, sweet potatoes or garlic.
  • Store oranges at room temperature
  • Eggplants and peppers hate the cold, so store them in crisper drawer of refrigerator wrapped with paper towels. They damage easily, so use quickly.
  • Keep asparagus in a humid environment in the refrigerator like cut flowers: 1” of stem in water with a plastic bag draped around tips.
  • Unripe stone fruits, melons, and avocados are better at room temperature. When ripe you may refrigerate these briefly.

Get more involved with the process and you will be rewarded with tasty meals and more loot.


Q: I like cooking with olive oil over vegetable oil because it’s healthier, but I find low smoke point can make it difficult to cook things all the way through without them coming out wilted or soggy. Is there a way to avoid this?

A: The idea that “a fat is a fat is a fat” is both true and false. One must consider the extra caloric intake from fat is the same for olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, butter, and lard, approximately 9 calories of energy per gram. This goes for light olive oil as well--be careful about reading your labels. Now, they differ in their varying levels of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acids and lower in saturated fatty acids (not the lowest of all oils). The argument continues over the health benefits of olive oil over, say, canola and flax seed oil, and there is passion on both sides. I like cooking with olive oil for its flavor. The range of refinement and composition of olive oil is insanely large. The smoking point of oils is determined by the level of refining and saturation. Most fats smoke at temperatures much above 400ºF. Olive oil, depending on what type you are using smokes at around 410ºF. This should do the job for you. I need to find out what you are cooking in order to specifically address this issue.

The warmer weather has my mind drifting into baseball analogies. Have you ever watched your favorite baseball player angrily stare down at his bat after striking out? Sometimes he’ll even go so far as to break the bat over his knee. Perhaps, there was a crack in the bat. More often than not he just struck out. It’s the same with cooking. Sometimes you strike out with a dish because of technique, other times you can blame the pan for being too thin, or the ingredients you are cooking for being too large, or the oil for smoking too early. I need video replay for assessing this specific problem so that I may provide you with a hit.


Q: I’m not 21, but when I go out to eat, restaurants serve entrees and desserts with alcoholic sauces (which taste great). What can I do to mimic those flavors at home legally when cooking at home?

A: Have you ever been asked to provide proof of legal age for ordering the beef with sauce vin rouge or the bananas foster for dessert? I didn’t think so. The truth is that cooking does not eliminate all alcohol from a dish made with wine or spirits. In fact, that delicious flambeed banana dessert you just enjoyed may retain up to 75 percent of its alcohol, and after simmering that beef in red wine for 2.5 hours, 5 percent still will remain. I won’t tell if you won’t!

Now, back to your question. Fortified wines (madeira, marsala, Chinese rice wine, sherry) share a nutty quality. I would suggest substituting a little nut oil to finish the dish. For example, instead of finishing a chicken dish with marsala, try a little hazelnut oil at the end of cooking. Also, you can substitute wine with wine vinegar. Substitute 1C of red wine with 1/4C of red wine vinegar plus 3/4C of red grape juice. You can also substitute wine with sparkling cider and sparkling grape juice. Be aware that these items are sweeter, so you will need to balance this out by being judicious in how much you use and by using ingredients that counter this sweetness, e.g., lemon juice, tomatillo juice, etc. Also, reducing apple cider is a good idea for creating a sauce without using alcohol and getting that tart mouth feel in return.

When cooking for desserts, a substitute for rum is rum extract. Substitute an ounce of rum with 1 tsp. of rum extract and 1 oz. of apple cider. A healthy idea is to use wine that is non-alcoholic for your underage dishes. This ingredient tends to be a little sweeter, so again, you must counter this. Remember substitutions are not always possible, especially if the dish is centered around the wine: think coq au vin or red wine braised short ribs (just cook with a good beef or chicken stock and leave the wine out). Wine is so much more than tart water + alcohol. It contains hundreds of different molecules and associated aromas. It is hard to replicate, even when substituting the same varietal of wine from one vineyard to the next. Successful and tasty cooking can be had without wine. It will just be a bit different.


Q: What’s your best time saver in the kitchen?

A: The biggest time savers in the kitchen is a frequent question people ask. I usually say my hands and my kitchen experience save the most time. For simple tools, I would suggest a sharp chef’s knife, serrated knife, paring knife, a microplane for zesting citrus fruits, and a stick blender(easy to clean, use, and store). My programmable slow cooker saves time from standing over the stove. For the rare occasion when I am cooking for one, the microwave is a handy appliance. I do not like buying precut food or too many processed items. Short cuts for food items: Canned beans are low in sodium and good for salads. I’ll cook with frozen peas and frozen fruit for quick fruit purees and sorbets. I’ll use flour tortillas to make quick pizzas.

There are a lot of tricks of the trade too numerous to mention (there are books on this subject alone). I might add, I am an advocate for relaxing, putting on some tunes, and enjoying your time in the kitchen.


Q: How do I get more flavor out of my food without adding more fat, salt, and sugar?

A: Enhancing flavor without adding more fat, sugar, or especially salt is a good question. There are many ingredients, methods of cooking, and techniques to cover. For this answer, I will cover spices and herbs only, since it is one of easiest and most economical ways to achieve this.

Sharp ingredients can help replace salt if you’re concerned about sodium intake. These are citrus fruits, mustards, onions and garlic. Certain spices enhance sweetness in foods, like: cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, allspice, clove, and ginger. These are a few immediate ideas that come to mind. Fat can be substituted by ingredients that have mouth feel and help carry flavor. A few of these are: fromage blanc (lower fat white cheese), quark, yogurt, and vegetable/fruit purees (apples, bananas, prunes, etc.).

Make sure you experiment by adding a little of these flavor boosters at a time, and do not stick to just the same standard flavor enhancers. Visit your local international markets and give lemon balm, lemongrass, epazote, sorrel, and kaffir lime leaf a try.


Q: I love to cook but never really considered going to Culinary School (I like GW too much). Is there a certificate I could get to get a job as a chef, or do I need a culinary degree?

A: It is wonderful that you enjoy cooking. There are no quick certificates I’m aware of that can get you a job as a “chef” outside of culinary programs. You may be able to land a job without a culinary degree and become successful in a professional kitchen. The trick is to show great desire to learn and start off slow, by washing pots and learning how to prep foods quickly. I graduated from an accredited college (very helpful in many ways) then went to the Culinary Institute of America to get my “certificate.” This provided a good starting point and a strong foundation to help “learn on the job.”


Q: I’m always confused when people talk about the fruits and vegetables that are “in season” or not. Can you list the best times/seasons to get certain things? For example, are peaches going to taste a lot better (and be more inexpensive) in the summer than in the spring?

A: There are exact seasons for  when most vegetables/fruits are ready to be eaten. These are specific to the region and the climate you live in. For example, Florida’s tomato season is strongest in March. In our area of the country, most wouldn’t think about planting a tomato in March let alone harvest it. Tomatoes in this area are harvested in July and August. You can find many fruits and vegetables year round in the supermarket. This doesn’t mean it is any good. Seasonal produce is best and most economical at the same time (if the varietal and growing conditions are good) when production is high. Get to know the bounty of the seasons by going to a local farmer’s market, because they are selling and growing what is in season here. This will give you a better understanding of the seasons, and your cooking will adapt to them and become second nature. Often, due to weather conditions, crops change from year to year with regard to what is available from one week/month to the next. And, sign up for my class “The Chef and the Garden.” I will go into more detail on regional and seasonal cooking.


During its first year, The Urban Food Task Force (UFTF) focused on identifying ways in which GW might further support scholarship and instruction on food and health issues, sustainable food policies and related issues; provided practical information on and training in healthy eating and food preparation to interested students and the greater GW community; and worked with campus food service providers to develop healthier and more sustainable offerings. Throughout the year, task force members met with deans and senior administrators to keep them abreast of UFTF’s goals and activities.

Learn more about the Urban Food Task Force's first year by reading the full 2012-2014 Report.

Mission Statement

The Urban Food Task Force is an initiative of George Washington faculty, students, staff, and volunteers who share an interest in healthy eating, sustainable food production, and food policy. Its mission is to identify and recommend ways in which the university might further support scholarship and instruction on sustainable urban food policies and related issues; provide practical information on, and training in, healthy eating and food preparation to interested students and the greater GW community; and offer healthy and sustainable food choices to students, faculty and staff.

Urban Food Task Force Members, 2012 - 2014

Diane Robinson Knapp

Dawnita Altieri
Co-Chair, Office of the President

Adele Ashkar
Director, Landscape and Design Programs

Matt Banks
Assistant Vice-President, Development & Alumni Relations

Margot Bolon
Graduate Student

Alison Brooks
Professor of Anthropology

Amy Butler
Executive Director, Foundation Relations

Haley Burns

Leo Chalupa
Vice President for Research

Maralee Csellar
Director, Media Relations

Mari-Claire Dart
Student, President of the Food Justice Alliance

Ronda Chapman-Duer
Sustainability Project Facilitator

Rob Donis
University Chef

Kirsten Gercke
Partnership Coordinator, Office for Research

Nancy Haaga
Managing Director, Campus Support Services

Jenna Weissman Joselit
Charles E. Smith Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of History

Marni Karlin
Alumni Member

Miles Milliken
Student, Eco Rep Coordinator

Angela Olson
Media Relations Specialist

Marissa Price

Christina Puchalski
Professor of Medicine and Health Sciences

Kim Robien
Associate Professor, Miliken Institute for Public Health

Jesse Schaffer
Student, Food Justice Alliance

Michelle Suarez
Presidential Administrative Fellow, Office of the President

Contact the Urban Food Task Force directly by emailing

Student Speaker Competition 2012

The deadline has been extended to Thursday, March 8, 2012!

The George Washington University Office of University Events is holding an open competition for the 2012 Commencement student speaker.


  • Any student (undergraduate, graduate, on-campus, distance learning, etc.) who has completed or will complete graduation requirements after May 15, 2011 (i.e. students who earned their degrees in Fall 2011 or will earn their degree in Spring 2012 or Summer 2012) is eligible.
  • Good academic standing


Click here to submit the following materials by March 1, 2012:

  1. Biography (150 words or less)
  2. Video link (Youtube, vimeo, etc.) – speech three minutes in duration
  3. Note: This video is an audition designed to evaluate the students’ speaking and presentation skills, so the speech in the video should be the speech that the student will give on the National Mall.
  4. Text of your speech

Up to ten finalists will be asked to audition in person (or live Skype) their speeches to the Commencement Student Speaker Committee on April 20, 2012. The committee will select a winner shortly thereafter.


  • Six reserved seating Commencement tickets on the National Mall
  • Photo with Commencement speaker
  • Invitation to special receptions for self and two guests
  • Commemorative Commencement photo CD

Questions, comments or concerns, contact Office of University Events at 202-994-7129 or