Newsletters

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

September Newsletter 2017

Posted by on Sep 6, 2017 in Newsletter | 0 comments

Da “Jang’s” Unleashed

This is not the name of a movie my eldest son thinks I should see! It is a reference to getting the word out about the big three ingredients in Korean cooking.

For those of you who may not know by the title, the big three are the “jangs”: Gochujang, Doenjang and Ganjang. Hence the name “Da jangs.”

In my last post, I talked about the variations in soy sauce from the major cuisines in Asia: Chinese, Japanese and Korean. In diving deeper into the cuisines, I became focused on the core ingredients of Korean cooking. Pop quiz: Soy sauce in Korea is called what? That’s right, Ganjang. You would know if you read the RBDK.

September Newsletter

August Newsletter 2017

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

Soy Tasting

I have been doing research on different cuisines to fine-tune my understanding of core flavors and techniques. Every region or cuisine has nuances, but one should know the iconic dishes that best exemplify the cuisines. I was reviewing Asian cuisine and started breaking down the key pantry items that one would want to have in the cupboard. In my world, you may never know when the urge to make yakitori, Thai red duck curry or Bulgogi will strike!

A common element across the Asian subcontinent is soy sauce and/or fermented fish/seafood sauces-two very different ingredients. Soy sauces are used to build flavor and contribute color, creating richness to sauces via reduction and or thickening, or as a table sauce. They are huge contributors to the umami flavors we enjoy. In digging a little deeper into the subject, I wanted to really understand the key components of the raw ingredient. I entertained the idea of doing a vertical tasting of soy sauce from across the region. I wanted to select the key countries of Japan, Korea and China to start with. Little to my surprise, I opened a “can of worms,” as the variations and levels of flavor, production and usages got even more involved.

August Newsletter

July Newsletter 2017

Posted by on Jul 6, 2017 in Newsletter | 0 comments

Sobia

When the air temperature is 109F in the morning, you approach the day a little differently. That is the case as I look out at the Saudi skyline from my hotel. Being in Saudi Arabia during Ramadan is an interesting food experience. Ramadan is a special time for the Muslim world. For a month, your eating schedule is completely turned around, as you must fast from sun up to sun down without drink or food. Then you enjoy a daily break-fast meal called the Iftar.

The Iftar is a communal event meant to be shared. The mood was described to me as more of a holiday with joy permeating the evening events. The day is quiet, ending at 4:00 PM, and the streets are quiet! At night, it is a completely different story. After 10, everyone goes out and the streets are packed. It kind of reminded me of going to the mall just before Christmas.

July Newsletter

June Newsletter 2017

Posted by on Jun 8, 2017 in Newsletter | 0 comments

A Shoemaker

It is an unfair assumption that all shoemakers are bad. However, the term “shoemaker” had a place in the culinary world that I grew up in. It was a statement/insult about not doing something to the best of your ability or having it done by someone who was not properly trained to do what was expected. Some say that it goes back to a Shakespearean verse about a cobbler in Julius Caesar. I just know that I had it thrown my way several times at an early stage in my career when the quality of my work was not its best.

Why bring this up? Well, it is the start of the grilling season, and there are many chances that you might come across a “shoemaker” burning bricks at the next cook-out or holiday BBQ. I am very confident that those of you who read this will do the outdoor grilling world a favor by intervening when you see the crime about to go down. I want you to be able to pass the “grill master” a beer and relieve the host of the impending doom by saying “I got this, you should be enjoying yourself, not working so hard!”

June Newsletter

May Newsletter 2017

Posted by on May 2, 2017 in Newsletter | 0 comments

Civet

Civet, a braised rabbit dish, is one of my favorite to prepare when I get a chance. It requires some old-school techniques as well as some skill and perfect timing to master. Look up Civet de Liêvre, Escoffier Recipe #1821 for those who are really “geeky” and want to check my facts. A civet is a braised dish usually made with hare with a sauce finished with a liaison of fresh blood.

When “whole hog” butchery was normal, animals may have been brought to the kitchen in a state of rigor with little or no field dressing. The processing of small game and birds was normally done in-house. The blood of hares was drained and reserved. Blood, as we know from the scratches and cuts we have had, coagulates well. In preparing a civet, which can be also done with other animals (such as venison and grouse), there are several steps involved, but the finishing of the sauce at the end is where the skill of mastering time and temperature comes into play. If the sauce is done too early or not at the right temp, it won’t thicken, or it will curdle if too hot.

May Newsletter

April Newsletter 2017

Posted by on Apr 4, 2017 in Newsletter | 0 comments

My Morning Ritual

I asked my growing boys if they could remember one constant in our lives over the years of getting them to school on time. They really couldn’t think of anything, but after a little prodding, there was a vague glimmer. From the first day I started to walk my kids to the bus stop or fight the chaos of the morning drop-off lane, there was cup of coffee. There was always a cup.

I drink a few cups in the morning, but by midday I am done. I don’t know what was going on inside my head to think that standing in a pair of shorts on a sub-zero Chicago morning waiting for a bus was enjoyable, but my cup of coffee made me happy and makes me think of my kids. Why drink it? Is it the caffeine, the flavor of roasted beans, or the counterbalance of the richness of the whole milk?

April Newsletter

March Newsletter 2017

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

The Game Within the Game

Cooking on a regular basis in a commercial kitchen is a tough sport (if you want to call it that. I do!). With any sport, there is a level of preparation that needs to go into being ready when you need to be at your best. In today’s world, you cannot get away from the fact that media, advertising, education and the medical profession are all promoting a healthy lifestyle through imagery, engineered foods, new drugs, and in some cases, guilt. To work the hours in a busy kitchen and not burn out at the end of the day, you need to think about diet, staying hydrated, maintaining a specific weight and keeping up good stamina.

Other professionals outside of foodservice have a little easier time at their office unless their workplace decides to put coolers of food and snacks 20 feet from every desk. The kitchen environment is a mine field of good and bad choices when it comes to a healthy lifestyle. From the butter, foie gras, bacon and salt to the red wine and beer at the bar, you are constantly exposed to the fat and empty calories.

March Newsletter

February Newsletter 2017

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

My Chicago Food Bucket List

Over the years, I have written and talked about how great a food city we have in Chicago. So, I started contemplating my own Chicago food experiences and realized that I have not yet completed my bucket list. In anticipation of the ACF conference coming to town, I thought I would list out some of the iconic food experiences that I have enjoyed-and those I have yet to accomplish-for those of my readers who may visit the Windy City this year.

What makes a place or menu item Iconic? There are those things that are only associated with a certain city, like fish tacos in San Diego, Media Noche in Miami, or Sky Line Chili in Cincinnati. Chicago has its deep dish pizza, hot dogs, and Italian beef, but it’s not just about eating it at any old restaurant or street-side stand. Cities say you should eat at certain places because they have been around for years, but they are not necessarily good food experiences. It’s about the atmosphere, time of day, and location all thrown together that makes something worthy of a bucket list. These places are also very personal and have meaning, as they may represent a moment in your life that intuitively lives in your psyche.

February Newsletter