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Features Feel Good Food Trucks

Stranger Creates Crowdfunding Campaign to Give Street Vendor a Vacation

On the morning of Tuesday, April 18th, Jennifer Nelson leafed through her copy of The New York Times like she would any other dayAs the eight-year manager of Brooklyn bistro, Buttermilk Channel, Nelson always made it her business to read the “Food” section of every Times she got — it is literally her business, after all.

But this morning, one particular story stood out to Nelson. It was titled “The Day in the Life of a Food Vendor,” written by Tejal Rao, and it appropriately followed one New York City food vendor through a typical day in his life.

The food vendor in question? Kabir Ahmed, a 46-year-old immigrant who came from Bangladesh 23 years ago. Ahmed now runs a halal food cart near the World Trade Center, mainly selling chicken and rice-based dishes.

Photo: Tejal Rao

The photo above was taken by Rao and posted on Twitter. It shows Mr. Ahmed proudly holding the Times article — the article that gave a very real look into his life, and by doing so, gave us a feel for how the near 10,000 food vendors in NYC live day-to-day.

It was that deeply personal insight that stuck with Jennifer Nelson.

More than anything, Nelson was struck by a brief conversation that Ahmed had with his wife, included towards the end of the Times piece.

“His [Kabir’s] wife mentioned that they should go on a Caribbean cruise with their six kids this summer, basically saying how nice it would be to take a real vacation,” Nelson recalls. “But Kabir told her that they couldn’t afford it. That really struck a chord with me. I just thought, ‘It would be so nice if we could make that happen for this family.'”

Like so many of us do when we read a story that touches us, Nelson decided to share the piece on Facebook. She included with the post her wish that she could somehow raise the money for this family vacation.

Within hours, Nelson’s Facebook friends had rallied around the idea. She remembers the post getting flooded with comments, all encouraging her to take action.

“Friends began commenting that they’d contribute if I decided to raise the money, and I started to realize that I could do this,” Nelson said. “I mean, how many crazy ideas do you push aside in a day? But I decided to just go for this one.”

That was how the GoFundMe campaign, “A Caribbean Cruise for Kabir Ahmed,” was born.

Nelson made the campaign, shared it all over social media, and went to bed, hoping that within a week or so they could raise a couple thousand for the Ahmed family. When Nelson checked the campaign the next morning, she was baffled to see $2,300 had already been raised.

By the end of the day (Nelson remembers they were preparing for the dinner rush when she received the notification) she saw the campaign had earned over $3,000 in less than 48 hours. Now, a little over a week after its inception, the campaign has raised over $6,000 for Kabir Ahmed and his family.

Photo: GoFundMe

And the good deeds just keep on flooding in.

A friend of Nelson’s who formerly worked at Royal Caribbean cruise lines offered to personally book the family an amazing vacation package. Some of Nelson’s friends even offered to man the food stand during the cruise, an issue which was making it difficult for Ahmed to get away.

After speaking to both Ahmed and Rao, Nelson has confirmed that the family will be using the money to take the Caribbean cruise they’ve always wanted. She is unsure, however, when they’ll take the long-awaited vacation.

But at the heart of the story, it doesn’t matter when the Ahmed family is going on vacation or if Nelson knows about it. She puts it best herself:

“I don’t think this story is about me or about Mr. Ahmed,” She said. “It’s about hundreds of strangers on the internet, many of whom have never met Kabir, deciding to do something totally random and kind. I’m not sure if I’m more touched by the people in my life who have supported the campaign, or those total strangers who decided to do something good.”

It’s stories like these, ones that show our innate kindness and generosity, that give a glimmer of hope to what would otherwise be a newsfeed of seemingly endless bad news. And no matter who’s to thank, we’re grateful for that.

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Hit-Or-Miss Humor The Katchup Video

Crowdfunding For Tacos And The Burger King Sauna [THE KATCHUP]

Half of our office is conducting research on the other side of the world right now while the other half stays behind to keep the gears at the office grinding, but we still come together to bring you the most exciting, odd, heartwarming and cringeworthy stories on this week’s episode of The Katchup!

A gay pastor wrote a homophobic slur on his own cake from Whole Foods so that he could sue them. Why? To win a lifetime supply of Whole Foods cakes? What’s the endgame? One woman asked the world to pay for her to get some tacos. You might be surprised to see how the world responded.

China has made eating bananas erotically illegal. Who do you think you are, North Korea? The good people of Finland take their saunas so seriously that they put one in a Burger King. Just right there, right in the middle of it. Hey, some people like to soak with their Whoppers, who am I to judge? Finally, our boys out exploring the foods of the world created an ENORMOUS burger at the Guy Fieiri spot on their Carnival Cruise ship. Was it good? You’re about to find out.

This is…THE KATCHUP!

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Features

This Celebrity Chef Teamed With A Cruise Line To Open A Family-Style Restaurant On The Water

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Celebrity chef Curtis Stone is heading to the water. Stone announced that he’ll be partnering with Princess Cruises to create his first-ever restaurant at sea.

So the thing with Princess Cruises is that they’re really into fresh food. So who better to tap than the dude that grows his own vegetables and uses the produce to create his restaurants’ dishes?

Folks may know chef Stone from his television appearances like Celebrity Apprentice and Top Chef Masters.

Stone’s concept, SHARE, will make its debut on the Golden Princess this fall and the Ruby Princess and Emerald Princess in December.

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Focusing on a communal theme, SHARE puts patrons together at a large community table where they’ll be able to share small plates with one another. Y’know, family style. If you’re not about sharing, however, there’s also an option to dine in a slightly more private location a few feet away.

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SHARE will source fresh ingredients from vendors all around the world. This is actually a huge plus for the restaurant. Imagine getting foods from tons of different places around the world all in one kitchen and cooking an amazing dish with it.

Dishes include a butter-poached lobster with endive foam, twice-cooked duck legs and roasted halibut. While there isn’t a fixed menu price for the new restaurants yet, Princess says it’ll be reasonable enough for the average cruise guest.

The only downside we’re seeing is trying to figure out the bill when everyone is sharing food.

Who knows whether SHARE will do well with Princess guests. While some folks save up to enjoy eating privately and at their leisure, others are more than happy to spend time getting to know perfect strangers and trying as many new foods as they can.

If you’re interested, maybe hit up Princess Cruises soon.

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Hit-Or-Miss

Carnival Cruise Plans To Stop Booze Smuggling By Banning Carry-On Bottles

Carnival-Bottles

Carnival Cruise Line has announced that they’re banning customers from bringing carry-on beverage bottles onto their cruise liners. This is in an effort to minimize guests sneaking alcohol onto the ship disguised as water.

Bottles must now be in unopened cans or cartons and can not exceed a 12-pack. This means passengers can no longer bring carry-on bottles. Even cooler sizes have been limited for fear of sneaking drinks. So far, the only exception is a single bottle of fine wine or champagne.

According to Carnival Cruise Line, bottled drinks are a major way for guests to sneak booze onto the cruise. Carnival states that instances of bad behavior during the cruise is usually traced back to alcohol smuggled onto the line. While it definitely makes it harder for folks to get drunk on the cheap, it understandable creates a safer and overall better guest experience.

The ban will be in effect starting July 9. To ease things for guests who actually bring water on board, Carnival has lowered the price of water bottles.

Because cheap booze doesn’t look like it’ll be an option anymore, check out some all of the foods  you can get at Carnival Cruise.

Seriously, it’s a lot.

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Video

All the Food You’ll Eat On a Carnival Cruise [WATCH]

I’ve never given food on a cruise ship any credit. Zero. Mostly because it’s an afterthought. If you avoid the dozens of up-sells throughout the duration, you can have a bed, unlimited food, and transportation to multiple tropical locales for easily under $500. At that price, they could serve me dog food and I wouldn’t have grounds to complain about much.

So when Carnival approached us with an opportunity to check out the food on one of their newest decked-out ships (they get mad if you call it a boat), we weren’t too sure what we would even talk about.

While wary as to whether a trip on a Carnival Cruise would be worthy fodder for Foodbeast, a cruise with stops in Honduras and Belize helped relieve some of this uncertainty.

Two years ago I sailed with Carnival on a local booze-cruise departing from Los Angeles.

“The food on that prior trip reminded me of a typical buffet. Consistently mediocre. Ample. Value.”

And that’s not a jab. I didn’t book the cruise for its food offering. I booked it because it was an easy way to bring people together, mostly due to its low cost.

The fact that the Carnival PR Team was booking a “foodie cruise” press trip seemed to represent a new direction. But the cruise line business model is drastically different than the restaurant model, even when comparing it to a large restaurant chain.

Food capacity on board isn’t vertical like a fast food or restaurant operation where you have to be able to serve the same items in small transactions across hundreds or thousands of locations. The scalability is horizontal: feeding nearly 4,000 people from a single vessel (albeit in multiple restaurants), practically 24/7.

Any scalable type of food infrastructure stifles growth and creativity, the essential ingredients to impressing our millennial generation. This is because the food and recipes ultimately have to be re-created thousands of times in different restaurants on different ships. Translation: hiring multiple rising culinary stars, hip to the novel progression of food, like a new restaurant would do, doesn’t solve cruise lines’ quality problem. The change has to be at the organization’s core, then trickle down to the vessels of operation. The scalability obstacle is what made me skeptical.

But we called their bluff and coordinated the trip.

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One cross-country flight and randomly bomb pizza at Kelsey’s in Port Canaveral, FL, later (the last place we would think of for good pizza), we boarded the ship just in time to walk into a place called JiJi Asian Kitchen.

“At the time, all we knew is that we were heading the ship’s ‘Asian Restaurant.'”

I didn’t really think anything of it since it only makes sense to have Asian options on a ship, similar to having a Burger option or an Italian option. Then I read the menu…

Slow Braised Pork Belly (pictured above).

Nanjing Style Duck (pictured below).

Jade Shrimp Har Gow.

Bo Kho, Vietnamese Slow Braised Wagyu Beef Short Rib.

The map on the menu bragged of pan-Asian cuisine from nine different regions including Mongolia, four regions of China, Vietnam, Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia. The menu impressed me as much as I could be without seeing, smelling and tasting actual food.

Then, seemingly out of left field: the food shattered our expectations above and beyond what we thought possible from a kitchen sitting atop a body of water.

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“Just look at the pictures. The menu came fucking through. We were so impressed that we laughed about it.”

I got this same feeling two other times during this trip. First, at the premium Italian Restaurant Cucina Del Capitano. Definitely go ahead and order the Spaghetti Carbonara (pictured below) because it won’t be your only entree. We would recommend Nonna’s Meatballs, Fried Risotto Balls, Pollo Parmigiana and Grilled Shrimp/Gambretti Alla Pizzaiola (also pictured below).

This quality comes with a bit of an asterisk for patrons. The meals just described from JiJi and Cucina are not complimentary with your Carnival Cruise purchase. But for a $15 upgrade per session, you get to order whatever you want. We encourage you to order the entire menu. Also JiJi is only available on the Carnival Sunshine. Cucina del Capitano is available on three ships, the Carnival Sunshine, Magic and Breeze.

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The third time ours jaws dropped came from a tour of the galley before our dining experience in the main dining room.

The galley, connected sections of the ship where a majority of the food preparation takes place, is stunningly huge. Imagine a kitchen that has to serve 3,500 guests ordering 5,000 appetizers, 4,200 entrees and 2,800 desserts every night. You bet it’s huge and efficient.

Then in the main dining room, just imagine a wondrous land where upon sitting down to a white tablecloth dinner, instead of ordering a single entree, you get to order three. This place, while hungry, can represent the utopia of sustenance. Yet only minutes later, whilst full, represent everything you hate about the world. I know you know what I’m talking about.

It’s an experience related to eating eight slices of pizza. It takes an intense craving to even think about consuming eight slices of pizza as a good idea. But when that craving comes, usually from the lack of nutrition throughout an entire day, it consumes your mind, body and soul. It is in this way absolutely consuming. So, by the time you’re looking at an entire pizza all to yourself, there’s nothing that will stop you from eating it all. And then, 10 minutes later, you vow to never eat pizza again. #Murica

But when you consider that any patron can order whatever the fuck they want off of the dinner menu, yet still expect a near-fine-dining experience…the fact that Carnival and our specific server Andrew could pull it off is downright amazing.

Then, this is what breakfast looks like:

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Fruit Loop French Toast-7214

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Pictured above are the Fried Chicken and Bacon Mac N’ Cheese, Fruit Loop Crusted French Toast and the Huevos Rancheros.

Other notable stops along the way included Guy Fieri’s Burger Joint, Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse, Bonsai Sushi and the adventurous Chef’s Table. Outside of the Burger Bar, all the aforementioned restaurants come with various add-on fees, but definitely add quality and diversity to the trip.

For those specifically looking for a one-of-a-kind eating experience, the Chef’s Table brings Carnival Executive Chefs straight to the patron with a custom menu developed for that evening. Only 14 spots are available per evening for a $75 price tag. Our tasting included seven courses with talented iterations of Crab, Duck, Seasonal Tomato Bisque, Sea Bass, Wagyu Beef and multiple desserts.

Cruise on.

 Blue Cheese Rolls – The Chef’s Table

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Beet Blanket in Spiced Grape Tea – The Chef’s Table

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Two Tomato Bisque – The Chef’s Table

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Beef Carpaccio On A Literal Stick – The Chef’s Table

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Raspberry Mojito Cake – The Chef’s Table

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This Wagyu Doe – The Chef’s Table

Wagyu Steak

Himalayan Basmati Fried Rice – JiJi Asian Kitchen

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Jiozi Shrimp Dumpling – JiJi Asian Kitchen

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The Ringer BBQ Burger – Guy’s Burger Joint

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Arancini Fried Risotto Balls – Cucina del Capitano

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This Garlic Bread Doe – Cucina del Capitano

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Nonna’s Linguine – Cucina del Capitano

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This Rib-Eye Doe – Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse

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Ahi Tuna Tartare – Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse

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