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Archive for December, 2009

As many of you already know I am a big fan of pork. I am not talking about the boring pork loin or pork tenderloin. Sure you can do some fun things with them but they are pretty one-dimensional. I can have even more fun with a shoulder or a fresh ham. But when you give any chef “worth his salt” the option of any cut of pig they want to cook, they will all tell you the belly. My little girls, Natalie and Ava (twin  4 1/2 year olds) laugh when I sit at the breakfast table the following morning from after a long day cooking for a charity food event and I tell them that we were the hit at the food show because we served pork belly. They laugh because they think I’m just joking cause belly is silly. They ask who would eat that? My wife knows better. Sure I could have went to the charity event and just seared a scallop and served it over polenta, and that would have been fine. I learned many years ago while attending numerous food expos and shows that people always huddled around the booth that was cooking the bacon. The smell was always intoxicating especially with a bunch of chefs running around. This is what a chef thinks while at these long drawn out shows. Do I really want to listen to another salesman try to sell me better hand sanitizer because his will save me hundreds of dollars a month or do I wanna find the bacon stand. Let my nose lead the way! I take generally the same idea and use it to my advantage at the charity events.

You have to understand that I do these events to get the restaurants name out there and it is great to help out with the local communities charity. This is all true but I like to have fun and stretch my wings at these events. I sit down several months in advance and talk with my guys and ask them what they want to cook. We usually kick around a few ideas but lately we have all being coming up with the same pork belly dish. It is amazing how soft and tender it turn out, we cook it for 48 hours at 175*. Low and slow, I mean slow!!! People are amazed when we tell them that we cooked it for two days. We try to take the food very serious but not ourselves at these events. I want everyone to have a blast and walk away talking about how delicious our food was. I always bring at least one cook and one of my  sous chefs with me. We could do it with less, but it is good for them to get out of the kitchen and talk with the guests. My guys know me very well by now and they know that we go there to blow people away. We say our 30 second spiel and tell them how we came up with the idea. I love watching my guys faces light up when guests come back for their third and fourth time. It shows them how their hard work pays off. They think it is funny when people come up an “beg”,  I mean ask  to please don’t change the dish for the following year. So next winter we will again be serving Pumpkin Seed Crusted Pork Belly with a Smoked Bourbon-Maple Glaze over a Butternut Squash Puree. Hopefully my little girls won’t laugh at me next year when I tell them again that we were the hit at the show.

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I have noticed a huge increase the last few years of customers who ask for a gluten-free meals. This is what Wikipedia says: A gluten-free diet is a diet completely free of ingredients derived from gluten-containing cerealswheat (including kamut and spelt), barleyrye, and triticale, as well as the use of gluten as a food additive in the form of a flavoring, stabilizing or thickening agent. It is recommended amongst other things in the treatment of coeliac disease, non-coeliac gluten intolerance, dermatitis herpetiformismigrainesLyme disease and wheat allergy. Additionally, the diet may exclude oats. Some people for whom the diet is recommended can tolerate oat products and some medical practitioners say they may be permitted,but there is some controversy about including them in a gluten-free diet because studies on the subject are incomplete. Even if oats are included, it is important to source these from a facility that is gluten-free, as most oats are contaminated during processing. Look for oats which are certified gluten-free if you are following a gluten-free diet.

Does that sound a little confusing to you? It does to me!  I am not looking to make anyone sick. What I like to do whenever I am unsure about a food allergy, is to go walk out to the dining room and talk to the customer. I hope that this makes them understand how important I feel their situation is. I don’t want it to be translated through a server or another manager. I want them to speak directly to me, so no little detail is over looked. The first thing I always do is reassure them that I personally will do whatever it takes to make sure that they can relax and enjoy their dining experience. Too many chefs act like an expert (god forbid they admit to not knowing everything) when they are confronted with a customer about their allergy. I want them to free comfortable and I ask a lot of questions. The last thing I want them to feel is that they should bless themselves and hope that the level of motivation in the kitchen is at a weekly high! Lol.

First, I ask them what are you allergic to and what do you eat at home? This is the time to listen closely. This is where I am building their menu in my head. This is no place to act like a big shot and act like you know everything. If it was your child who had a serious allergy, would you feel 100% confident if their food allergy just got passed on back to the kitchen? I wouldn’t! I want to talk to the chef. There has been numerous times when a customer asked me about a nut allergy in a cookie for example. I would immediately go in the back and ask the pastry chef. Better yet I bring them out with me to speak with the guest. It is all about the little details, I could have just run in the back and asked but it is more professional to bring out the pastry chef so they can also reassure the guest. We don’t want to leave out any small details. I will never tell them what they can eat if I am not completely sure, it is best to avoid it. I hope that we can make them feel relaxed so they can enjoy their dining experience. I hope this helped.

Bill

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Thank you!!!

Just a super quick post.I want to thank everyone who has stopped by and looked at http://www.eatdrinkandroll.wordpress.com . I never thought that I would have gotten any views. Seriously  who cares what I think? The out pouring of support has been tremendous. All of you who have posted a comment, thank you for taking two minutes aside from your hectic day to care. That’s what it is all about!!  Please leave me a comment on what you want me to discuss next. Anything, I’m up for it. I also have some real cool friends who are lined up in the next few weeks who have asked me if they could contribute to writing some fun blogs about food and wine. Thanks guys! You guys are going to love what they have to say, they are the real deal.

Thanks again

Bill

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My first question is why? There is so much useless, negative energy that moves in and out of those swinging doors. Endless amounts of he said, she said. Why does this battle continue in hundreds of thousands of restaurants across the country? I am going to be brutally honest. I think jealousy is a huge part of it! Cooks years ago were looked at as  blue-collar, rough, uneducated guys who worked hard, but didn’t know much of anything else (not always true, but this was how they were perceived). Many cooks were jealous of the smooth, slick servers and captains who rolled in at 4:00 p.m and sat down for staff meal and then complained about it. After the shift while the cooks were wiping down their stations, servers would come in and start emptying their pockets with their nights tips. God forbid if they complained about only making $150 on a Saturday night. Can you see where some frustration begins? The cooks on the other side of the story, would be chomping at the bit to publically embarrass any servers who didn’t know the menu. So then for payback the servers would fire all their tables at the same exact time and watch the cooks go down in flames. Back and forth, back and forth but who suffers, the guest!! Poor quality of food and poor service. I have working in several top 50 restaurants in the country, this happens significantly less in these restaurants. The cooks in these restaurants are highly trained and many have put in numerous years building their craft. There is defiantly a “don’t mess with a cook  mentality” in these restaurants, which is supported by the upper management. Nowadays many cooks have college degrees from amazing cooking schools like The Culinary Institute of America and Johnson and Wales. They are highly educated and passionate, most could have picked any white-collar CPA job but instead followed their heart into the kitchen.

I have been in the restaurant business for over 15 years now. It doesn’t seem like that long ago when I was waiting on tables six nights a week in high school. I am very lucky that the first ten years in the restaurant business, I worked as a server, bartender and an assistant manager. It brings an entirely different perspective, that is “PRICELESS.” Seriously, how many chefs can you picture who would feel just as comfortable at a table in the dining room explaining the difference between the Cote Rotie and the Crozes Hermitage?  Are all you “front of the house” still with me? I know I lost of few of you. I speak your language too! I can also then turn around and explain to a young cook how to make “light as a pillow” gnocchi. Don’t under-estimate us hard-working cooks, some of us have serious chops. Please, can we put away this stupid bickering and give the guest the most enjoyable dining experience. That should be the kitchen staffs and front of the house staffs number one goal. If it isn’t you will never be successful.  Please tell me how you feel! I love reading the comments!

Thanks,

Bill

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If you aren’t from New Jersey you may not know what I am talking about when I say that the Pork Roll Egg & Cheese (P.R.E.& C) is the signature breakfast sandwich on the planet. Ok, maybe not the planet, but at least the best breakfast sandwich on the east coast. Wikipedia describes it as a  is a type of sausage-like meat product commonly available in and around New Jersey. In North Jersey  it is usually called Taylor Ham. The product, as it is made today, was developed in 1856 by John Taylor of Trenton, New Jersey, though several firms produce their own versions. Ok, not sure if a sausage-like type of meat product sounds very appetizing, it clearly sounds like it was written by someone who has never had. I would describe it as a slice of heaven. lol. It is amazing, if you are from Pennsylvania don’t even start to say that it is like Scrapple. You are crazy, that is like comparing Michael Jordan’s skills to mine. NO CONTEST!

Pork Roll is generally eaten sliced and pan-fried or grilled. A common practice is to slice four cuts from the outer edges inwards about 3/4 inch to an inch towards the center, evenly spaced around the circumference. These cuts prevent the pork roll from curling up in the middle, which causes it to cook unevenly. With these cuts, the cooked slices have become known by many different names such as fireman’s badges, Pac-Man bacon, and notch meat. All you really need to know is that it is delicious and should be served on a hard roll. When the gentleman over the counter asks you  if you want it with salt, pepper and ketchup you say, “yes.”  Pork Roll is also on the list of approved meats that vegetarians can eat. I’m serious, if you ask any vegetarian if they miss eating pork roll, they will will whisper in your ear how they have never  given up eating it. I used to work for a chef in North Carolina, a very talented James Beard Award Winning chef, his license plate read “PIGDADDY” as you can imagine he was very passionate about pork. From nose to toes  he loved ever part of it, it was very fun to show him what he had been missing out on his entire life when we made him his very first Pork Roll, Egg and Cheese Sandwich. I know what I’m making tonight for dinner!

QUESTION ON THE DAY (QOTD)

WHAT FOOD DID YOU GROW UP WITH THAT IS A LOCAL CLASSIC?

THANKS

BILL

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Here is another great question. Should I answer this as the customer or should I answer it as an employee or as an owner of a business? We have all heard this question a thousand times before, especially all of us in the hospitality industry. Some of us have even been lucky enough to have been called out in front of dozens of people when the “customer” is reminding you that they are always right. They start talking louder and louder to eventually you feel so uncomfortable that you give in and give them what they want just so they stop yelling in your face. I’m sorry, I’m not trying to bring up any bad memories you may have buried in the back of you mind. On the other hand, I am sure that there are some of us, yes, some of you who have thought that you were always right because you were the customer.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I care deeply about what I do. I want every guest to have a fantastic dining experience. I want everyone to have a great time from the second they walk in the door until they make it home. It used to be said that if you go out to dinner and loved it you may tell 3-5 people. On the other hand, it is also said that if you go out and have a bad experience you tell ten times that many people. Hmm. That tells me everything! In today’s world with sites like Twitter and Facebook, I think those numbers are very conservative. If I go out tonight and have a bad time because the service is lousy, bathrooms are filthy and the food is bad, how many people can I tell now? Within seconds I can hop on the internet and post my bad experience at “Restaurant X”, and with the few hundred of people who are following me on those sites the word spreads a lot faster than the thirty or so people I could have told years ago. Not only that but I could whip at my cell phone and take a picture of your filthy ass bathrooms. Think about how that could spread, nothing is a secret anymore! All eyes are wide open.

Now that you know that the power of the internet is massive, and your business is under the microscope. I hope you think twice before you decide to argue with the customer when they want to substitute the polenta for the risotto. Why would you not want to make them happy? You are going to let your business suffer because the chef thinks that the polenta is the only thing that would go well with the lamb chops. He can blow it out his a..!! We are in the hospitality business, people are coming out to have a good time and relax. They are not there to argue with the waiter because the stubborn ass chef who is sitting in the back is too lazy to go into the walk-in to get the risotto off the lunch shelf. See how motivated he is to go to unemployment when the restaurant goes out of business. He doesn’t care, and it’s your money invested into the restaurant. Fire him!! I don’t allow anyone to say “no” to the customer, I try my best to give them what they are looking for. Sometimes it is tough, you can be shorted handed or buried with tickets in the kitchen but it goes a long way to give them what they want. I know that there are certain customers that are always looking for something free. They are the ones that are always miserable and never happy. I doesn’t do anyone any good for the chef or the front of the house manager to argue with them if the customer thinks his filet mignon is overcooked. It doesn’t matter that the filet mignon may be cooked perfectly, they are obviously not happy, and we need to give them what they want immediately. Next time you are in this situation please think about who is right before you answer them. You may be right, but put on a smile and give them what they want. That is the most important thing to do if you want to succeed in business.

QUESTION OF THE DAY (QOTD) WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU WERE RIGHT, BUT GAVE IN ?

THANKS,

BILL

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This is a very serious question, I ask myself this all the time. There is a simple answer and a more complex one. It’s so easy to say that the chef is the one who runs the kitchen. He does the ordering, purchasing, scheduling,writes menus, blah… blah…blah. This is all true, what I have found in my experiences is that the most important person in any good restaurant is the chef who has worked in the best possible restaurants he could work in as a young cook. Good restaurants throughout the country are run by these chefs. Do you think I’m wrong? First, let me say that there are absolutely amazing front of the house managers in our country. Ladies and gentleman who are so good at what they do, they make it look effortless. It’s not!! They are passionate and highly trained professionals. There are just as many bad chefs out there as there are bad front of the house managers (captains, sommeliers, maitre ‘d etc.) Why does everyone think that the front of the house has all the answers, because they walk around wearing a suit? Hmm? Another topic or another day…

There are so many “chefs” out there that can’t cook! They basically rushed through the early part of their career trying to become the executive chef as soon as possible. Why do you think? Seriously why do you think? Is it because all they really want is to make more money? Wrong business to enter into if you wanna be a millionaire, stay in school and get your law degree. And trust me it’s not because all these young cooks are trying to help their mom and dad pay back their school loans faster. Most of them are blowing their money sitting in the bar after work, not running to Barnes & Noble reading about Thomas Keller or Daniel Boulud. Why do so many young guys and girls get out of culinary school and not work in the best possible restaurant? Cause it’s hard!!! It’s a place where they have to keep their mouth shut and work hard, fast and clean. Do they think that they earned something? The culinary degree that they have hanging in their parents foyer basically just got them an interview. The Food Network has been the best thing for culinary schools in this country. Every fresh-faced kid who wants to be the next Emeril is entering into school at an alarming rate. Wake up!! Emeril paid his dues working in the best restaurants in the world, he has busted his ass since a teenager working 18 hours a day. He has what most young cooks don’t. PASSION!!!! He lives, eats and breathes food. He is passionate as hell and he would rather be talking about food and wine than doing anything else. This is the secret, nothing else.

95% of young cooks have no idea what career they just entered into and it scares the living crap of them the first time they walk into a real kitchen. It is very intimidating when you walk into a four star restaurant for your first day of work, within seconds you know that your in a different world. Mom and dad arent there to protect you and these types of situations aren’t in the fancy brochures that the CIA hands out to prospective students. You will never work harder in your life, and there is tons of pressure and stress. After working a long day you would think that falling asleep would be easy, it’s not. Most young, passionate cooks are laying in bed for hours worrying about how they are going to finish prepping their station before service. If they are like me they are trying to figure out how they can carry all of their food prep, quart containers and ladles to their station in one step. Every single seconds counts. It’s a race every single day, you versus the clock. After six months of doing the same exact thing everyday you will be faster, this is where you learn how to cook. Now put in 5-7 years of doing this, it may break you but I guarantee 100% if you do this in the best possible restaurants you will one day be a great chef. It will also make you a bad ass line cook and this is where so many guys who are running around today calling themselves “chef” didn’t do. It’s hard but it is the only way. Ask any good chef how he got to where he did, and he will tell you the exact same thing I am telling you. I can sniff the guys who didn’t pay their dues from a mile away. They never spent the time asking questions, learning or tasting. They got out of some culinary school thinking that they were entitled to something because mommy and daddy spent 80k to get them through school.It is easy to see why there are so many “chefs” out there that can’t cook… they didn’t put in the hard work early in their career. Nice win GIANTS!!!

QUESTION OF THE DAY (QOTD)

WHAT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT? ANYTHING? WHAT DRIVES YOU TO GET UP EVERYDAY AND CRUSH IT?

THANKS! BILL

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