Newsletters

July Newsletter 2018

Posted by on Jul 10, 2018 in Newsletter | 0 comments

Chips

When I was in boarding school, we were routinely served three starches with our meals: white bread with breakfast, or roasted potatoes or chips with everything else. When I say chips, I mean English potatoes “chipped” and fried. You may know them as pommes frites or French fries. I was just back in England and of course changed my eating routine, which has been to avoid the starches on the side of the plate replaced by a salad. I wanted to see if there was a real difference between “proper chips” and fries. I can tell you that there most certainly is. I was surprised by the quality as well as the constraint in the portion. Personally, I am fed up with the massive pile of frozen fries on my plate that require a freezer, over-processed oil and a timer. Loading a plate up with below-average offerings is not a great indication of culinary skill.

There is a skill in making good chips! I had wonderful hand-cut potatoes that were perfectly cooked and crispy, finished with sea salt and wonderfully aged malt vinegar. I don’t think I touched a ketchup bottle all week. We ate out most days for at least one meal and these were not fine dining experiences but local pubs and cafés. Chips made their way onto most plates, as is the case in the US. It was enlightening from a culinary perspective, as there was a uniquely surprised by what I was served. There are differences in the approach to making chips and fries, and the characteristics in flavor and appearance are remarkable. There are great places hand-making hand-cut fries in the US, but we still “fill ‘er up” and focus on them as a cheap way of filling up the plate to make money. There are few places making chips on our side of the pond.

July Newsletter

June Newsletter 2018

Posted by on Jun 5, 2018 in Newsletter | 0 comments

What Do You Want For Dinner?

How many times can you ask the same question and get the same answer? “You’re the chef, you choose.” It frustrates me, as it always falls on me to figure something out. Dinner in, dinner out, delivery, pick up, or “you order for the table”; you know the routine! I think they are cautious about making a decision thinking that I am going to be disappointed in their choice.

I have always tried to accommodate those at the table! I try to process the situation at hand; timing, weather, other activities, what’s in the fridge and a slew of other things going through my mind. I want to make sure that I can satisfy all of their needs and cook something or choose a restaurant to please their palates at that particular moment. I don’t mail it in. I want to make sure we sit at a table as family and eat off the appropriate serviceware, and god forbid if the beer is not served in the correct glass. I can eat a nice meal off a paper plate, but a beer in a red plastic cup is sacrilege! For me going out, it is sometimes a painful process.

June Newsletter

May Newsletter 2018

Posted by on May 1, 2018 in Newsletter | 0 comments

Give It a Second Chance!

Organic butter, stone ground whole wheat unbleached flour, free range chicken stock made from GMO-free vegetables and natural sea salt-sounds like a pretty clean list of ingredients and is highly appropriate for today’s food-conscious society. However, if I were back in the late ’70s and early ’80s and combined these ingredients together, I would have been shunned by the cutting-edge chefs of the time. OMG a sauce made with roux! Yes, this is an ingredient list for Velouté.

Velouté, Béchamel, Tomato, and Espagnole, four of the five major French mother sauces, are all roux-based. Roux, the cooked combination of fat and flour, has been condemned since the rise of the Nouvelle and Modernistic cuisines. However, the time for it to rise again is here, and it should be taken a little more seriously as part of current cooking processes.

May Newsletter

April Newsletter 2018

Posted by on Apr 3, 2018 in Newsletter | 0 comments

What is a Tradition Anyway?

You might have known by now that I spend a lot of time studying the history and traditions of the food I cook. I have used this forum to discuss the hows and whys of Asian sauces and mayonnaise and the classical dictates of French cooking and urban BBQ. For me, the understanding of why things have evolved helps me cook food in our time.

So, I started thinking about what a tradition in the world of food means and whether it matters. I began with our house and traditions we have in our home. I asked around hoping to be enlightened by family. The thought of sitting back in my lawn chair sipping a cold beer and smiling to myself that I have created lasting memories of traditions for my family-it was a wonderful vision. Then I realized that specific meal traditions focused on holidays, birthdays or seasons are uniquely my own. However, they are not really traditions in a food sense, but more personal experience derived from flavors and smells that provoke memories from a different time. These “traditions” are really only personal experiences, not foods that influence food culture on a broader basis. The smell of homemade soffrito sparked deep emotions for my wife and her mother of a time of their youth and memories of a traditional way of seasoning food in a Cuban household.

April Newsletter

March Newsletter 2018

Posted by on Mar 2, 2018 in Newsletter | 0 comments

Tempering

Many people may be put off by the thought of Indian food and the perception of it all being monotone in color and spice. I have been going through the memory bank and all the research I have done (it’s been a lot) to help figure out a way to incorporate the long history of the cuisine and its amazing techniques into my food. I cook Indian on a regular basis and feel comfortable with the dishes I can make and most of the ingredients.

When I look at a cuisine and start diving deep into it, I can get lost in the number of recipes and dishes that you can find-especially in Indian cuisine, where you have great dividing lines between north and south. However, if you cut through that and get down to fundamentals and key techniques, you can start to climb the ladder of the cuisine’s core. In Indian cooking, there is a key fundamental technique called Tadka. This is a widely used traditional method of extracting the full flavor of spices at key stages of flavor development. It is generally described in the English language as tempering.

March Newsletter

February Newsletter 2018

Posted by on Feb 2, 2018 in Newsletter | 0 comments

Hashiri, Shun and Nagori

Japanese food has been interesting to me ever since I first ate a real teriyaki steak in 1981 and tasted sushi for the first time in 1984. My understanding of the cuisine grows all the time. I don’t define my style as Japanese, but I do draw influence from philosophies that drive traditional foods, especially those surrounding the multicourse Japanese meal the Kaiseki.

One of the key components of elevated Japanese cooking is the understanding of Shun. The concept of Shun is based on seasonality and the quality of the natural state of ingredients at specific points in their usefulness as menu components.

February Newsletter

January Newsletter 2018

Posted by on Jan 3, 2018 in Newsletter | 0 comments

Onward and Upward

So, it’s that time of year again-resolutions, reflections, trends, what’s in and out and a bunch of subject matters to get us thinking about the next 12 months. In reality, most resolutions are shot after about a month, and trends are usually made up by a bunch of marketing folks who have other motives, such as selling more of the next superfruit! I hate getting sucked into putting those personal goals down on paper. I do think about my business and tasks that need to get done to meet the needs of modern life, bills, vacations, education, retirement, taxes and anything that is going to force you to put money aside. Not very motivating. I know we like spending money in December, and then we save like hell the rest of the year. Gets tiring.

Recently, I was hit with the question “2017 reflections?” My answer was “upward and onward.” The past is the past; I can’t change what happened and don’t want to dwell on it. However, you can learn from it, and thus onward and upward. Self-reflection is important, and great things come from it. So, after my initial answer, I did do a little reflection. Thanks Tim! By the way, it wasn’t the Foggy Geezers I had that made me look through the bottom of my glass and think about things in a semi-relaxed state. They did help, as well as the 100 proof bourbon, to get me in the mood. It was the desire to always get better in life.

January Newsletter

December Newsletter 2017

Posted by on Dec 5, 2017 in Newsletter | 0 comments

A Sense of Hospitality

I think I am getting old and may have lost my bearings. I have realized that what I once considered commonplace or a given-giving that little extra something-has been lost, or I have become blind to it. I am not talking about customer service. Customer service is where you go when you want to complain. That term has become the dumping grounds for paid employees to listen to problems of dissatisfied customers. Do you think that the people on the other end of the phone enjoy being complained to all day long? I want to go back to the way things were. If you have good hospitality and passion about your craft, you shouldn’t need to hear complaints.

First and foremost, hospitality is not a given, nor is it free. It is the only cost of truly doing business in the world of food, drink and at the places where you rest your head for the evening. As a cook, my internal “DNA” cannot think about not doing some extra at every occasion. I want to give my guests that one little extra something on the plate or in the glass. There are many ways of offering something unexpected. The problem has become that our business thinking gets in the way and we blindly follow the pennies versus understanding the unreconciled value of our craft. Consumers want value for the dollar spent. Prices keep going up but we get less. What ever happened to putting the value of hospitality first?

December Newsletter

November Newsletter 2017

Posted by on Nov 1, 2017 in Newsletter | 0 comments

A United Team

I made the commitment to witness the CMC® (Certified Master Chef) exam in person before attempting to take it. First and foremost, congratulations to Joseph Leonardi, CMC®, Shawn Loving, CMC®, and Gerald Ford, CMC® for the amazing accomplishment. The dedication it takes to mentally and physically prepare, and having the amassed skills to cook at the highest level over eight days with at least 30 other CMCs® watching your every move is daunting!

I look at the things and knowledge that I have collected over these many years. As this exam is structured, you must be able to take a collective skill set and bring it all together for a two-week stretch of your career. To do so, you must focus on the things that matter at that moment and dig deep into muscle memories, forgotten tastes, or techniques you may have only seen a few times. You must cook and lead with confidence, like a song you can sing in your head because you know all the words by heart. Those who do have the best chance of success. You don’t need to be perfect, but you must be at a high level of consistency over a wide range of disciplines.

November Newsletter

October Newsletter 2017

Posted by on Oct 3, 2017 in Newsletter | 0 comments

Ranch Dressing on Everything

I must say that ranch dressing is somewhat addictive and goes with all the bad choices one can make-cold pizza, chicken wings, French fries, burgers and anything you may want to smother, such as something bland or lifeless on your plate. Just think of all the times Guy Fieri has said he could put something on a flip-flop and eat it. It can cover a lot of mistakes. Commercial ranch dressing is one of those things. I am not advocating that you go out and stock your shelves with every shelf-stable brand on the market and have it with your dry-aged strip.

Growing up on the east coast in the ’70s, ranch dressing wasn’t a common thing; it was seen more as part of a marketing plan to get your kids to eat more vegetables versus the next great flavor. With that said, go down any grocery store aisle today and you will see a minimum of 10 different producers and flavor variations, from buttermilk to sriracha. Living in the midwest, it is everywhere. While I was sipping a nice local märzen (it is fall, of course), I started to remember how many variations of ranch I wrote for menus: chipotle, wasabi, horseradish and on and on and on! I started to think a little deeper on why and what makes ranch such an iconic condiment. Remember, it is no longer a salad dressing; it is a condiment just as popular as ketchup and salsa.
October Newsletter