Bryan Miller / January 2011
Food Arts presents the January/February 2011 Silver Spoon Award for sterling performance to Michael Ginor, who for more than 20 years has been a whirling hard drive of culinary influence and innovation in his multiple roles as food producer, product advocate, chef, author, consultant, public speaker, and television journalist. In culinary circles, he's best known as the co-founder of Hudson Valley Foie Gras in Ferndale, New York, the company responsible for acquainting Americans with a luxury fresh product that at the time of its founding in 1989 was virtually unknown, unavailable (apart from in an imported can), and feathered in secrecy.
Starting in the early 1990s as little more than a small farm experiment utilizing scientific advances developed in Israel, Ginor, 47, and his partner, Izzy Yanay, built an enterprise that today processes nearly 10,000 ducks a week, supplying restaurants and specialty markets nationwide with foie gras and other duck products. And while this delicacy that dates to the pharaohs of ancient Egypt has achieved considerable success in gastronomic circles, it's by no means universally embraced. Along with supporters like Ariane Daguin--owner of the Gascon- influenced food company D'Artagnan, a purveyor of Hudson Valley's products--Ginor is regularly called upon to defend his industry from accusations that foie gras production, which involves force feeding of ducks and geese, amounts to animal cruelty. "It's hard to explain," says Ginor, who in 1999 wrote the cookbook Foie Gras: A Passion. "We do the right thing, and we do it right for the industry. There is no abuse. No negligence."
Ginor studied at Brandeis University, then picked up an MBA at New York University. This was followed by a hot-shot Wall Street post. As if the titanic clashes of the financial world were not sufficiently adrenal, he sought a different kind of excitement--in the Israeli army, as a captain in the Gaza Strip. While off duty he acquainted himself with the local foie gras.
In 2008, Ginor donned an apron and opened his first restaurant, TLV, in Great Neck, Long Island, which features his take on Israeli street food and modern kosher cooking; a year later came Lola, with a global menu inspired by his travels. Lola also is the name of the wild-flavored small duck--a cross between a white Pekin and a mallard--Ginor helped develop for Hudson Valley. While running two operations has somewhat curtailed his travels, he remains visible on the food festival circuit and as a consultant.
His most recent project is an hour-long television program called Runaway Chef that aired late last year on PBS. While modestly questioning his "star presence" on the small screen, Ginor says he is grateful for the chance to educate and entertain viewers about something he loves. "The food world is the best place you could ever be." Amen.