Trends in food service – Student Loans

There has been a surge of culinary students since Food Network and various other cooking channels and shows have hit the television screens. With these culinary students desiring to enter the workforce across the globe, there will inevitably be an increased level of education in production kitchens. This is a trend already happening. More line cooks nowadays have degrees from culinary institutions than in previous years. These same cooks are also working at line cook wages. That is to say, they are not making much money, and still have student loans to pay.

Now, I know I have been told many times, the food service industry is unforgiving, difficult and competitive. This will play a key factor for the future. More food service establishments will be filled with educated persons preparing your food. Does this mean you egg is going to come out from the back more perfectly “over easy”?

I think one trend is going to involve management and HR decisions based on this level of education. When competing for a line cook position between two candidates, one with a culinary degree, and subsequent student loan; hiring managers will be paying more attention to applications instead of just knowledge and skills. Say, for example, applicant (a) has no formal education, but knows how to make a perfect egg. Applicant (a) demands minimum wage and has a solid work history, and minimal debt. Applicant (b) has an Associate’s Degree from an acredited culinary institution, has a dream of owning their own restaurant someday, knows how to flip a mean egg, has minimal food service experience, and has a $50K education debt “With Honors”, and has unwillingly agreed to accept minimum wage for employment in your kitchen.

Just as many raised security jobs do a background investigation because of a propensity of security risk, and those being investigated to take risk based on their debt (i.e. stealing and reselling products or information), this education trend could lead to the same risk in the food establishment. I anticipate education in the food service industry will result in an increase in background investigations and drug testing. You see . . . these kind of go hand in hand. Along the same lines, there will be a significant trend in culinary graduates changing professional directions based on the level of their debt, or an increase in the failure rate of start-up restaurants (the educated student gets tired of making minimum wage and opens his/her own establishment without a solid business acumen).

I strongly believe that education is a foundation, but education alone does not steer the course for a career. Money steers the course of careers. The education may point an initial direction (i.e. working in the kitchen), but salary drives the career (i.e. food sales for a wholesale food distributor). So, applicant (b) was given the job in your kitchen, and is pursuing their dream course; but while checking the kitchen’s food order coming in that day, talks with the truck driver about a sales position opening at the distributor. Next thing you know (a couple years later), applicant (b) is now a regional sales supervisor for a major food distributor making $50K and driving a used, but newer model of BMW. Applicant (b), (many years later) shows up to eat in your restaurant with his whole family. Applicant (b) tells you they are now the Regional Vice President of Marketing for Thompson’s Sheet Metal. Applicant (b) now has a Masters of Business Administration, makes $120K and drives a new, much larger model of BMW. You see, the education pointed the direction, but money grabbed hold of the wheel; because the sheet metal business supplies the sheet metal used in the fabrication of the ventilation hoods used in the kitchen. Remembering their dream, applicant (b) now wants to buy your business, and fulfill that dream.

Happy ending!

Foodie

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Overbooking – Get even!!! Squeeze the Platypus’ nose!

Mr. and Mrs. Traveler and their family had long planned a vacation to a popular resort destination in a popular city that is often host to very large, worldly popular conventions during certain times of the year. 

As this has been Mr. Traveler’s first lengthy vacation since his recent move to a new company he was eager to make reservations and secure it with his credit card. Mr. Traveler books his hotel and then books a flight to the destination city that services multiple flights and multiple airline flights daily. Because of his traveling with the family and the areas local attraction, he also books a rental car and dinner reservations for one night at a popular, trendy and romantic restaurant in the downtown area. Since the family will be eager to hit some local area attractions, Mr. Traveler also purchases single day passes for the entire family at a popular area theme park. This is to be the vacation the entire family will remember. Remember it . . . they will!

Overbooking is common in the hospitality industry. It is an essential part of operations management designed to keep facilities full at maximum capacity ensuring maximum revenue is obtained, especially at times of high demand to help offset times of lower demand. This vacation takes the Travelers to Popular City, USA during the week of the Knuckle Draggers Convention. A hugely popular annual convention attended by knuckle draggers from around the world.  Mr. Traveler was not aware of the convention and arrives in Popular City ready to vacation!!!

Mr. Traveler arrives  . . . oh yeah, his flight was bumped due to overbooking, but he was happy to take the free family upgrade to first class on the next flight out of Dodge. Once in the Popular City airport terminal, he grabs his bags and heads to the rental car agency. There he is given a sub-compact car, because that’s all he really needed, and was told that the hotel he’s staying at has an office in the lobby, where he can upgrade later if he desires.

Mr. Traveler and his family attempt to check into the hotel but are again told of an overbooking. Mr. Traveler remains calm and asks what other arrangements have been made for his stay, as he knows that hotels often have alternative arrangements with other area hotels for such instances.

Since this is the weekend of the Knuckle Draggers Convention, Mr. Traveler is just now being made aware of the event, as it is sponsored by the major hotel chain in which he made reservations. He now knows of this huge event, that the hotel had overbooked, all of its rooms have already been checked into because of the “Super Showdown Knucklehead Extravaganza” this evening at the convention. But, the hotel was ready, because they have just informed him that they made alternate reservations at “Never Popular This Time of Year Resort and Spa” just outside of the city limits, also owned by the hotel.

Mr. Traveler is not happy about having to travel the additional mileage to and from the city area close to the romantic restaurant he was taking his family to the next evening . . . this now meant he needed to drive. Politely expressing his concern to the reservation staff, they upgrade his car to the Luxury Bomb SUV, book him a suite at the “Never Popular This Time of Year Resort and Spa”, give him free passes to the Knuckle Draggers Convention, free passes to “The Tasmanian Experience”, another popular theme park in which they are a sponsor, AND, a free spa treatment for her and a message for him. The Traveler’s part very happy. The hotel chain has not lost any money because they have several sets of passes to the Knuckle Draggers Convention given to them as sponsors, for just this reason. The hotel also owns the “Never Popular This Time of Year Resort and Spa”; and since it’s not busy this time of year, their staff is happy because the spa is able to pump more money from the Travelers for an additional bunion removal pedicure and hot rock facial. The kids are happy because they get to go to TWO theme parks and ride the “Death Trap” roller coaster with Dad and squeeze the famous life-sized Platypus’ nose. 

The facts speak for themselves. Overbooking is part of smart business when you’re in the Hospitability business, because customers cancel or unforeseeable events happen. It’s also something to be aware of when you’re a traveler. What you’ll find is that most hospitality businesses are smart enough, and savvy to the needs of the customer to keep options available to the customer, because they want your return visit and your recommendation to friends and family. They have options so you need to ask for the options when an overbooking occurs.

Go Ahead . . . Squeeze the Platypus’ nose.

Foodie

Feelin’ like a JACKASS! – Tartare vs. Carpaccio.

I thought myself privileged enough to have enjoyed an appetizer from Flemings in San Diego’s “Gas Lamp District”, just before learning to make the same dish in school. I thought I was going to see “the standard” just before my attempt at a similar rendition. BTW (by the way), Flemings is one of my absolute favorite happy hours to attend. It’s called the 5 for 6 ’til 7. That’s five excellent bar drinks, five finely prepared appetizers for $6 each, until 7pm. And Flemings usually also has a Prime Angus burger ($6) and beer special to accompany that as well. Every time I’ve been to Flemings, I have enjoyed the happy hour with 3 or 4 friends. We have always got out of there with two drinks per person and ordering one of each “app”; and walked away full and only paying about $45-$60, including tip. The “apps” are plenty of food for us . . . walking away very pleased with the exquisite offerings. Very good! Flemings has not let me down yet.

I thought my privilege was to have eaten something the day before I was to prepare the same dish in Garde Manger (basically, the cold preparation of food) class in which I’m currently taking at school. Now I know why I’m in school . . . ’cause I’m still a culinary idiot. So today the Chef asks if anyone has had Tartare. Tartare is a preparation of finely chopped raw meat optionally with seasonings and sauces (Wikipedia, Baby, 2012 ). I raise my hand and say I had it last night. The Chef keys in on me and I answer almost all of his inquiry’s precisely as he hoped. I was even proud enough to tell him that I took a picture of the plating because I thought it to be exceptional. Later during the class I ask the Chef if he’d like to see my picture…of course he say’s ok. I whip out my Android and show him the picture and he asks, “is that Carpaccio?” I slump slightly and say, “yes”. Now feeling like a heel, I immediately identify the difference and realize my exuberance has been diminished to that of a floundering squirrel about to get his head chopped off by the hunter. The Chef calmly says, “that’s a nice plate . . . , big serving of Carpaccio” . . . and goes on like nothing ever happened. He knows I write, yet he also treats all of his students as students. I anticipated he would expect a bit more from me, though he never batted an eye . . ., he just kept going. Very professional when dealing with an egotistical jackass like my self. Yet I too, demand a lot from myself . . . I still felt as though I now needed to provide him the difference by writing about this, so I would learn my lesson. Without, going into history or some long explanations, I found simple adequate explanations on Wikipedia. After all, it IS the resource to be trusted . . .

Carpaccio is is a dish of raw meat or fish (such as beef, veal venison, salmon or tuna), thinly sliced or pounded thin and served as an appetizer (thanks again Wikipedia, 2012). Similar . . . I guess, but prepared differently with possible different accoutrements and garnishes. Sheesh!, I’m a student for God sake . . . give me a break. If I knew all of this stuff I wouldn’t be in school. Thank God for Chef’s like him . . . they just keep teaching and don’t make you feel like the idiot you really are.

Now you’ve learned my lesson for the day. Lesson: EAT  AT  FLEMINGS  FOR  HAPPY  HOUR, in the bar, “5 for 6, til 7”!

I give them my ass swat for messing up my game! Only one, ’cause I know it’s going to hurt!

Bad student! Now shut-up and get back to class!

Foodie

“Sir. Yes Sir!”… (GySgt Hartman) “Bullshit I can’t hear you. Sound off like you got a pair!”

Ever go to a restaurant, or a friend’s house and served a meal that was a let down? Maybe not all of a let down, but perhaps less than expected. Maybe it was far greater than anticipated. Maybe it was the best meal you’ve ever  had. Maybe it just purely sucked.

Full Metal Jacket, a 1987 film about U. S. Marines in the Vietnam era. This film, very popular amongst almost every Marine, features Gunnery Sergent Hartmen (R. Lee Ermy) as a drill instructor for Marines during their basic training (boot camp). Hartman employs draconian tactics to turn the recruits into hardened Marines prepared for combat. (Wikipedia, 2012). A classic…especially if you’re a Marine. I think Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, R. Lee Ermy, frequents several Marine Corps installations to give back to the troops.

It’s not an easy task…doing what I do…or don’t do. Then again…, just what do I do? I’m not quite sure anymore. But when Lee says to sound off like I “got a pair”, I have to think for a moment before I speak. And speaking about what I think is what I do here. Sometimes my thoughts turn to words….sometime they’re repressed. Try for a moment to fit in my shoes. I might know a little of what I speak. Maybe…, I even know better from worse.

People are, or become, aware that I write. Heck, I make it as obvious as possible to help grow my website and hopefully gain a future sponsor. Even if they are not yet aware that I write about this stuff, almost everyone serving food will ask “what did you think of…?” or “how was everything?”. Maybe even a family member BBQing something up in the back yard may ask you, “hey, what did you think of the (chicken, steak, ribs etc.) food”. Some people and restaurants do a fantastic job at food, yet others are downright unserviceable. I have eaten a some 4-star restaurants that served wonderful meals, yet missed on one item that should have never left the kitchen. Where’s the quality control? Did the expediter go to the bathroom as my meal left the kitchen? Who’s training the service staff to identify substandard items coming out of the kitchen? Did anyone let the server know, that at a four-star restaurant, this is unacceptable; yet the server will almost always ask how the meal was. Sometimes I tell them honestly, other times I may just say everything was fine. Was it? “Sound off  like you got a pair”!

When I cook I catch myself identifying things that I could’ve been better. Any chef should identify with me right now. If you’re serving something to a guest and you know you could’ve done better, or you wish you had better timing, or that steak could’ve been cooked just a little more rare; I normally think that I wash I could have made a better impression. When I’m asked, “how was everything”, I almost impulsively say, “fine”. But sometimes I open up the butterflies all the way and let ’em have “everything she’s got”.  Trying to be polite and not too offensive is hard, especially when you’re me.

When something is really delicious, or maybe a service is exceptional, I will almost always identify a standout. Recent trips to restaurants have unveiled just regular food quality, yet great service and maybe even a great location, a great facility, but mediocre food. Then I’m turned to by the host and asked “. . ., what did you think?” Recently visiting Wood Ranch in Irvine, CA http://woodranch.com/about/, I was impressed with the styling and quality of the decor, service staff, and facility. Heck the men’s bathroom even had pictures of cowgirls on the walls. I later asked if the women’s bathroom had cowboys on the walls. My suspicion was confirmed. A nice place with an atmosphere, business model and decor level that resembled the “Yard House”. People might say, “what’s wrong with the Yard House?” I say it’s “fine”. Yet, I don’t go out of my way to eat there. There is a Yard House 20 minutes drive from my house, yet I don’t run there for a great meal. I may meet someone there for a beer (what… like a hundred?) The Wood Ranch was kind of like that . . ., just without the beer. I think they only had a few decent beers on tap. And in today’s age of craft beers being offered, and the competition for beer drinker’s business, I find it difficult that Wood Ranch only served one IPA on tap. In a BBQ place? Really? In a BBQ place that appears to be targeting a demographic that would like to pair great beers with great BBQ. Perhaps I’m wrong here…because the food was not that good either. It was “fine”.

Wood Ranch served a couple of things to note. The french fries we were served were probably the most perfectly cooked fry I have ever had. But is a flawless french fry your claim to fame. I think we just got really lucky. Another two things stood out. First, as an appetizer, we tasted the Cuban sandwich. What? What the heck is a cuban sandwich doing on the menu of a BBQ joint? Maybe the guy is Cuban. It was a pretty tasty Cuban. Very tasty! Finally the coleslaw was delicious. A blend of cabbage and other stuff including green onions, in a light vinaigrette. Again, very good. All of the meats were a let down. We were even told that we have to try the Tri-Tip. Ok, bring that to me . . . it was just ok.

Wood Ranch is just another ok place to eat. Nothing worthy of running out of the house so fast, that you realize you’re wearing two different colored shoes.

Today…I’m going to give Wood Ranch two-and-a-half gallons of milk. Get it? It’s what cows drink.

Foodie

Fresh tomato marinara – how to make! – pictorial

So check this out. We have these psycho tomato plants growing in our back yard.Today, although not Sunday, as would be traditionally and biblically correct for Italians, I decided to make a fresh marinara…from fresh tomatoes. I just decided to give you the pics…with an occasional smattering of words for simplistic understanding for all of the non-Italians (I think I’ll just leave that one alone). Enjoy!

Had fun making this…so throw that sauce over top o’some pasta and you’re done!!!

Foodie

Prosciutto – how it’s really made!… I made my first!!!

Prosciutto /prəˈʃt/,[1] Italian: [proʃˈʃutto], Italian ham) or Parma ham is a dry-cured ham that is usually thinly sliced and served uncooked; this style is called prosciutto crudo in Italian and is distinguished from cooked ham, prosciutto cotto.

Enough of that Wikipedia BS. I made mine from that leg right there!!!

I de-boned that sucker (pretty hard), actually quite quickly. Chef was impressed! Sprinkled the inside meat with glue. “Transglutaminase is an enzyme approved for use as a binder to form smaller cuts of meat into a larger serving of meat. It is a natural substance derived from fermented bacteria, a non-toxigenic and non-pathogenic strain of the organism Streptoverticillium mobaraense, and it is often used in a blend of binders to form a bond between meat and poultry proteins, holding smaller pieces together.” I got that from http://askkaren.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/5399/~/what-is-transglutaminase-enzyme-(tg-enzyme)%3F. It seemed like the easiest to translate in layman’s terms.

 

Anyway, I guess we’ll have to wait and see how it turns out. I’m hungry just thinking about it. Yes, I’ll save you some…not!

 

Check out the rest of my pig story in one of the previous posts.

Foodie

 

Heads are gonna roll!

I’m not pissed! Yes I have had issues with temper in the past, and I still deal with issues that may bring on a slight rage; but I can’t hold back any longer, and heads are gonna roll.

So I’m back in school. I’m taking Garde Manger (pronounced garde–man·ger  noun \ˌgärd-ˌmäⁿ-ˈzhā\…something like that). On the first day we have to fabricate (cut up and prepare for cooking/preparation) a whole suckling pig. By the picture you’re thinking “Luau baby”! Yeah that would be great also; but today, we’re gonna hack this little guy’s head off.

The Chef instructor…whom will probably be featured in a future”Recognizing Awesomeness” feature of mine, shows the class, in very basic, meticulous detail, how to properly hold the knife, separate (cut) the various primal cuts of the animal and explain what the cuts will be used for (i.e. ribs, tenderloin, butt, etc.). The Chef is cutting through a still semi-frozen carcass and explains that it is difficult to manipulate the various areas of the carcass to gain access to other areas to be cut away. He pulls and pushes, sticking his knife along bones and between various meat sections. Cracking bones and frozen sections, he comes to the head.

Since this is the first day of a new class…you know the routine, the Chef had explained about class policies and the syllabus; how each of us was responsible to show up to class etc. He explains that being late is unacceptable and points will be taken away from our grade. He further explains that he can’t really remove grade points for doing a procedure incorrectly because this is a school…and we’re expected to make mistakes in the kitchen process. He goes on to say that if we were a brain surgeon and dropped the brain…well, that would kinda be unacceptable; but if we were to drop the head of the pig, we would have only a minor setback, wash it off, and we’d still be able to work with it and still make “head cheese”.

So he’s cutting up the still slightly frozen pig. Gets to the head and sticks his knife deep into the flesh and bones, cutting pushing and pulling at the flesh. He places the head off the end of the table to push the head down  and break it off at the bones. He gives a good push and it just slightly cracks but doesn’t break free. He sticks the pig back on the cutting surface and cuts a bit more into the carcass. Goes again to place the head off the edge of the table to crack it off…braces the pigs body with his elbow, and suddenly, “plop” off comes the head, surprising himself and the class, as the head just kinda fell off onto the floor and rolled away. So I look at the Chef and laugh. So I give my typical smart-ass remark, “Chef…you dropped the head”. He looks up and just laughs…”yeah, I guess we’ll have to make some cheese”.

It was much funnier if you were there. I tried to bring it to you, but instead I’ll just show you pictures instead.

Have fun and keep the dreams alive!

Foodie

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