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10 Useful Tips to Become a Professional Chef

 

For the Blog history  See the Archives

Monday, June 23, 2014

by Rebecca Hurst at The Hurst Campus

Whether you wish to be a Professional Chef in South Africa or in some other part of the globe, there are a few essential attributes that are required for an aspiring chef to possess. Possessing world class Chef Training classes go hand in hand with the qualities that a Professional Chef is looked upon to own. Thus, to make our opinion more clear, mentioned below are 10 useful tips and advices that will pave a successful path to become an unbeaten chef.

1. Passion

Passion is among the top most important quality that one needs to possess if he/she desires to be a Professional Chef. Just taking chef classes will not better one's position if he/she lacks the obsession for food preparation. Starting from internationally renowned recipes to locally known dishes there are a lot of techniques that one needs to pay attention to while expertly preparing meals, selecting food and creating menus. Thus, lacking interest and fervour for it will turn everything boring and dull.

2. Creativity

Creativity is an attribute that will not only enhance food preparation but is also needed to experiment with various cooking techniques and ingredients. It is only due to creativity that many renowned chefs have come up with a number of delectable dishes. To offer a never before dining experience one should always be ready to try something outside the box.

3. Business Sense

No matter from where one has undergone his/her Chef Training, to climb the ladder of success he/she should be gifted with business sense. It will be this factor that will help expand the zone and establish you as a well known chef. One should know how to run a cost effective restaurant along with offering mouth watering dishes.

4. Multitasking

A good chef is one who can swiftly arrange his/her cooking items and blend them accordingly. While preparing dishes for restaurants and hotels, a number of tasks need to be carried along at the same time. Thus multitasking is an essential talent to posses.

5. Team Player

An efficient and cooperative chef will always understand that he is part of a larger food preparation team which needs to work harmoniously so that everything gets prepared at the right time. Lacking such a spirit can cause moral & production problems and you may never be in a position to win others and attain success.

6. Attention for Details

Cooking is just like science. To prepare the finest dish, each ingredient and amount has a role to play in enhancing its taste. So, one needs an eye for each detail. Moreover, while experimenting, he/she should know which ingredient can create magic and result in a new taste.

7. Practice

It requires a lot of practice to present the best dish. One has to practice so much so that he/she gets used to the techniques so that they remain in finger tips while taking any order.

8. Quick Decision

To be a professional chef one should as well possess the ability for quick thinking. This becomes especially handy when any sort of crisis or problem arises. Moreover, to maintain customer satisfaction, timely decisions play an imperative role in this industry.

9. Commitment to Quality

To seek out the finest ingredients and to make use of the best techniques to cook the best dish possible, commitment for quality is a must and where there is quality, success will surely follow.

10. Handle Criticism

There is no field in which one does not have to face criticism and this is true in the culinary industry as well. It is not possible that every customer will love what you prepare, but being able to accept that with a positive attitude will push you towards success.

 

The FOG Tank - Degrease, Decarbonize Pans

Sunday, June 15, 2014

FOG_Tank_2.jpgThe FOG Tank is a heated soak tank that safely and easily cleans metal cookware and kitchen equipment. The thermostatically controlled, stainless steel FOG Tank is fully insulated, and safely cleans all types of metal, including aluminum. FOG is an acronym for Fat, Oil, and Grease, and the FOG Tank removes these substances (along with carbon buildup) from kitchen equipment through the use of the safe and proprietary Tiger Carbon Remover Powder, an environmentally safe cleaning agent that is non-toxic and completely safe for humans.

For a successful commercial kitchen, having clean equipment is a necessity, not an option. But cleaning using traditional methods can be expensive, time consuming, and wasteful. With the FOG Tank, commercial kitchens in restaurants, hotels, casinos, schools, and more, can save money, increase staff productivity, and reduce their carbon footprint. The FOG Tank’s Tiger Carbon Remover Powder cleans equipment with little scrubbing, eliminating daily work for a kitchen’s stewarding department by 3 or more hours.  Since the cleaning solution in the tank lasts a full thirty days, the FOG tank also lowers energy bills and water usage by eliminating the need to continuously fill and heat 3-compartment sinks. 

With only 5 simple steps, anyone can use the FOG Tank. So how does it work? First fill the FOG Tank, then add the Tiger Carbon Remover Powder, and then load the tank with your dirty pots, pans, vent hood filters, etc. After the FOG Tank is loaded just close the lid and let it work! Once the tank has run through its cycle, simply rinse off any loose or softened fragments, and your equipment will look brand new.

The FOG Tank comes in four different sizes (25, 40, 80, and 120 gallons) to fit any size kitchen, from a small bakery to a huge hotel and casino. To find out why this product is the top choice for companies like In-n-Out Burger, Hyatt Hotels, The Venetian, and Texas Road House, or to sign up for a Risk Free Trial period, visit www.fogtank.com.

About Hyginix

FOG_Tank_1.jpg

The FOG Tank® is developed by Hyginix, a company dedicated to developing environmentally friendly advanced cleaning solutions that provide sanitary, operational, and financial benefits to the restaurant, bakery, and food service industries. Hyginix LLC is a woman-owned business with corporate headquarters in San Diego, CA and a prestigious customer base throughout the USA.

 

Some Thoughts Should be Aborted Rather than Spoken...‘$15 Now’ is One of Those Thoughts.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Prospect_Street_Cafe_500.jpgSeattle Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council is pushing a plan to change the King County minimum wage from Washington's minimum wage of $9.32 to $15.00! Washington already has the highest minimum wage of any state in the country, but they want a 61% increase, and they want it now!

From what I can see, Ed Murray has zero business experience and is utterly unqualified to make business decisions for Seattle's  businesses. He clearly has no concept of the impact that a 61% increase in the cost of labor will have upon all the businesses in Seattle. Is the Seattle city council really so “business illiterate” that they don’t understand what a 61% cost increase means? Apparently they have no clue.

And one of the staunchest supporters of $15Now is...wait for it...an socialist activist! City councilwoman Kshama Sawant is an immigrant from India who actively supports the socialist agenda, is involved in this process to raise wages to $15, and calls small businesses liars when they say this change will hurt them.

I heard the Tom & Curley radio show today and John Curley said that of all the city council members who are involved in this decision-making process for King County, only one of them has experience in the private sector. All the rest have spent their careers in the public service sector, being paid by us the taxpayers. They are good at taking other people’s money and redistributing it as they see fit. They have no idea how to run a business, and are utterly unqualified for deciding what is best for the businesses of Seattle.
 
John Curley used a vivid example (7:26 into the segment) to describe the type of participation which local government officials have offered to Seattle businesses as they work through this process:

“To me it’s like the private sector (businesses) are brought to the table and the city council is basically saying, “OK, which finger do you want to have cut off?  Do you want us to cut your thumb off, pinky off, middle finger, index finger…’cause we’re going to cut one of them off, we just need to know which one you’d be ok with losing. Because it’s coming, but at least we’re letting you sit at the table.”

Remember also that part of Ed Murray’s platform when running for Seattle Mayor was the $15 minimum wage concept. Again, this is a man who has no business background! He is blind to the ramifications, unable to see past his hand redistributing cash.

To be fair, a 60% increase in labor cost is not the same as an overall 60% increase in total operating expenses. But it is akin to a 60% increase in your mortgage payment. Or alternately, would you have a problem with Ed Murray declaring that he was raising your property taxes by 60%? That’s what he is doing to businesses.
 
Here are my predictions of what will happen if the minimum-wage goes to $15 an hour in Seattle:

  • Approximately 102,000 people who currently earn less than $15/hr in King County will temporarily experience some relief to their cost of living in Seattle...the remaining 1,942,000 people will experience a tightening of the belt as everything begins to cost more.
  • Low-wage jobs will be greatly reduced as small businesses try to eliminate low-wage workers
  • Entry level jobs for teens and unskilled workers will evaporate
  • Job descriptions will change so that more experienced workers will take on the duties of previously lower paid positions
    • busboys will be eliminated and servers will pick up that task
    • prep cooks will be eliminated and cooks will take up that task
    • grocery baggers will be eliminated
  • The cost of almost everything in Seattle will increase by 10% to 20%
  • Employers will cut healthcare coverage, vacation time, and other employee benefits to cover this new cost
  • Many small businesses will go out of business because they cannot afford the change
  • Economic growth in Seattle will decrease as new businesses avoid Seattle and choose outlying areas because of the high cost of labor in Seattle. Walmart has already declared they would do this in SeaTac.
  • Businesses will lose volume and sales revenue as customers go outside Seattle, or choose not to even come into Seattle, in order to save money. Likewise, tourists will spend less or choose outlying areas to go because their dollar will go 10% to 20% further outside Seattle.
  • After tips, servers at good restaurants will earn somewhere between $35-$50 an hour! This will cause more competition among servers, but will also cause more cooks to leave the kitchen for the better cash of the FOH, resulting in more difficulty hiring qualified cooks.
  • Restaurants will be very hard hit by this change as their profit margins are typically only somewhere between 3% to 8%, which allows very little room for additional expenses…certainly no room for a 61% increase in labor costs! Restaurants will close, prices will escalate.
  • Low-wage and unskilled workers will be very happy…experienced workers will not. The guy who was making $15 an hour had a six dollar difference between him and the inexperienced worker... now suddenly they're both making the same wage even though the more experienced worker has the harder job which requires more skill,  more responsibility, more stress, and so on.
  • Businesses in the border counties at the edge of King County will see an increase of business as people travel "across the border" for cheaper restaurants, coffee, groceries, almost everything.
  • 5 years after everyone is forced to pay the higher wage and prices for services & goods have adjusted, the cost of living (as a percentage of wages) in Seattle will be equal or higher to what it is today. This is the definition of a failed idea.
  • For me personally, I'll have a very hard time adding a 15-20% tip to a restaurant meal. The whole premise of tipping is that its a way to off-set the (supposed) lower wage of servers. But if they are suddenly getting paid the same as the previously higher-paid cooks then why should we tip them for doing their job? Servers work hard...but they do not deserve to earn significantly more than the cooks who prepare the food.

The ‘$15 Now’ measure promotes a sense of underachievement and lack of ambition. The purpose of “starting positions” is to provide work for both unskilled workers and “new to the work-force” workers, who will eventually learn new skills, become more valuable employees, and move up the chain. Giving them a $5.68 instantaneous raise “cheats” the people who have worked to earn a higher wage. Minimum wage assumes that people will take the initiative to make themselves more valuable through education (at work or via formal schooling) and personal ambition.
For instance, a busboy's incentive to earn more money is to learn new skills and move up in the business. But if a busboy is suddenly earning the same amount as a line cook why would he want to change? Busing requires a small amount of physical ability, has very low stress, and requires minimal skill and training compared to other positions in the restaurant. “$15 Now” promotes a mentality of low-wage unskilled workers in Seattle (however, those jobs will disappear).

I could see the implementation of a two wage system, where there are “Starting Wage Positions” and “Minimum Wage” positions. The Minimum Wage positions would earn $15/hour and would be defined perhaps as “a position which the average person enters into and continues in for 5 or more years” (not necessarily in the same work-place, but in the same job description). Cooks would certainly fit into this category, but bussers, baristas, grocery baggers, and dishwashers would not as those tend to be more transitory positions which people more on from.

“Starting Wage Positions” could perhaps be defined as “a typically entry level position which the average person transitions out of within 2-3 years as they pursue a career”. In my opinion, these might include fast food workers, baristas, dishwashers, bussers, grocery baggers, prep cooks, movie theater workers, Walmart greeters (seriously, even though this company makes money doesn't mean that the position of saying, "Hello, welcome to Walmart" is worth $15).

Final comment: "$15 Now" needs to take a trip to Planned Parenthood in order to save the families, and businesses, of Seattle.

 

Follow David Buchanan on Google +
David Buchanan is a professional chef and author of Chefs-Resources.com, a site geared towards providing chefs and culinarians useful info to help in their kitchens.

The VUDE - Promoting Culinary Inspiration in Seattle

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

 

 

The_VUDE_Dining_Room_800.gifWhat a cool concept Jon Staenberg has in The VUDE (The Velvet Underground Dining Experiment) in downtown Seattle. It is a unique venue where both established chefs, and up-and-coming chefs, can have the opportunity to showcase their talents to a small group of seasoned culinarians. It is designed in an intimate, warm setting which seats about 45 people at 3 long community tables. The kitchen is open to the guests, providing them with the opportunity to flow freely from the dining room into the kitchen just as they would if you were making dinner for friends at home. This allows guests to interact with the chef during the evening, making for a unique, fun experience for both the chef and the diners. The standard menu (created by each chef) is at least 6 courses, plus many chefs will also serve hors d'oeuvres as well.

Guests_in_the_kitchen_800.gifFor the chef, the intimacy of The VUDE makes for a warm, friendly, casual evening of cooking and provides a chance for the guests to interact with the man/woman responsible for the evening's culinary fare.

So, who would make a guest chef appearance at The VUDE? Well, the culinary bar has already been set pretty high! Seasoned Seattle favorites such as Jason Wilson of Crush and John Sundstrom of Lark have done a stint at the VUDE (see the full lineup of previous chefs below). The draw for established chefs to the venue is that it offers a place for them to "get out of the box" of their normal kitchen to play a little bit and to interact in a more intimate way with their guests. And for those up-and-coming "undiscovered" chefs it is a chance to show off what you have, a place where you can test your metal and make your mark.

In fact, in an effort to to feature and promote new chefs (as in chefs with limited or no previous media coverage, not new to cooking), Jon has started a new series called Up and Comer Sunday Suppers which highlights undiscovered chefs in the Seattle region. So, if you're an experienced chef and you know of a talented chef who has a good reputation amongst his guests and peers but who hasn't gotten his chance in the spotlight yet, or perhaps a sous chef who needs to take a step forward, talk with them and contact Jon Staenberg about the possibility of an appearance at The VUDE.

Potential candidates must have experience plating upscale multi-course menus for 50 or more people. A chef-mentor is allowed (perhaps expected) to assist in making sure the event runs smoothly (after all, guests are paying!)

If you are interested in being a guest chef and want to know how the kitchen is equipped jump to that section.

VELVET UNDERGROUND DINING EXPERIENCE

After gathering this basic info about The VUDE I had some interview questions for owner Jon Staenberg.

Plate-up_800.gifQ: As regards your long-term vision, what reputation do you hope to have among chefs? What do you hope chefs will think about cooking at the VUDE?
Jon:
For chefs, we want to be a place equivalent to On The Boards or Townhall in Seattle; the kind of place to do things that are outside the box, that is reflective of where they are now, what they have been thinking about and brings together new ideas and a great, enthusiastic and appreciative (though critical) audience.  The VUDE wants to be a blank slate where new “art” can be tried and trialed.  And most importantly we want to respect and celebrate all that is part of this amazing food culture that is changing the world today.

Q: Same question but for your diners. What do you hope diners will think of the VUDE?
Jon:
Years ago someone said “kill the restaurant.”  We do NOT want to do that but we do want the opportunity to help shape what people think of as a great dining experience.  We believe that deeper connections with the food, the wines, the chefs and even the other diners can create a more memorable experience.  Diners want and are starting to want more.  They want the stories behind the stories.  They want personal moments.  They want a total experience.  And we should not forget what they expect, and we want to deliver great food and wine.

Q: What is the ultimate goal of the VUDE?
Jon:
It is an experiment and The VUDE is our laboratory.  Is there ever any ultimate goal?  It is a work in progress.  We have learned a lot and inspired many.  If we keep doing that, then we will be good.

Q: How can a guest chef appearance at the VUDE benefit the chef's business?
Jon:
One of the main goals of The VUDE is to help people discover.  Like a TED talk perhaps.  Sure we have a large list of foodies who hear about every event and we are active on social media and we create great content of the event itself, but we now are starting to hear people say, “Yeah that chef has cooked at The VUDE” as if that is also a pretty good stamp of excellence.  We are curators and I think people get that we are only doing events and bringing in chefs that are new, fresh and original.

Q: Does the guest chef have to pay for all the food?
Jon:
No!  We don’t expect any chef to be out of pocket ever and we hope depending on the chef, theme, event etc that we can provide a few shekels for their time and effort.  We really have three kinds of events (loosely categorized):

  • Celebrity Chefs
  • Up and Comers
  • Private event chef-ing opportunities

Each of these is a bit of a different model.  Generally, the more a chef helps us drive the marketing and sales the more we share in the net proceeds.

Let's Check It Out!

Cocktails_3_300.gifJon invited me down to actually attend one of the events. So on Tuesday February 4th I made the 2 hour trek to Seattle for an enjoyable evening of food and wine. Specialty cocktails this night were prepared by an up-and-coming chef, Jonathan Jason Proville, who is on the list to make a guest chef appearance at The VUDE. His cocktails included 2 creations: The Rye & Smoke had Old Overholt Rye whiskey, Lemon, Black Tea, and Smoked Olive Oil! A very cool, complex, satisfying drink. The Sherry Cider had a Washington Apple Cider, Amontillado Sherry, and Lillet Blanc...a refreshing cocktail.

Chef_Bill_Patterson_800.gifThis particular night's guest chef was Bill Patterson, chef/owner of Orcas Island's Sazio di Notte, a restaurant with strong Italian roots. Chef Patterson uses local products as much as is possible, and raises his own pigs for the restaurant. He is passionate about his food, and unafraid to tell you his opinion about food! When I asked if he was using Penn Cove Mussels, he exclaimed "Oh no no! Those are much too small. I prefer Taylor Shellfish oysters because they are larger, more mature, and therefore have more flavor. The same is true of baby vegetables… they are immature and lacking in flavor." And true to form, Chef Patterson's food was delicious and not lacking in good flavor!

It's difficult for us chefs when someone else critiques our food saying things like, "Oh it needed a little bit more of this" or "It could have used a little less of that" etc. And because we are chefs, we tend to be hyper critical of everyone's food...even our own (if we're honest!) So I'm not going to go through and critique each one of chef Bill's courses. Instead, I'll simply say that he is clearly passionate about his food and he has excellent technique and flavors. The mussels were served just as they opened, the salad had a perfect balance of flavor, his pasta (freshly made on premises) was exquisite! And the osso bucco was perfectly fork tender. If you find yourself on Orcas Island, you must plan to dine at Chef Patterson's place, you won't be disappointed.

THE MENU

Chef William Patterson
Sazio di Notte
February 4, 2014

-PASSED APPETIZERS-

Tartines Agrodolce
Bruschetta
Ceci con Gamberi

App_1_800.gif App_2_800.gif App_3_800.gif App_4_800.gif

 

-COCKTAILS-

Rye and Smoke
Sherry Cider

-PRIMA PIATTA-

Cozzi Siciliano
Inama, Soave Classico Foscarino

Course_1_800.gif
 

-INSALATA-

Panzanella
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Course_2_800.gif
 

-PASTA-

Tagliatelle Pastore
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Course_3_800.gif
 

-POLENTA-

Polenta con Gorgonzola
2010 Hand of God, Fingerprint Series Red

Course_4_800.gif
 

-PIATTO FORTE-

Cinghiale
2010 Hand of God, Old Vine Malbec

Course_5_800.gif
 

-DOLCE-

Tiramisu
Caffe Ladro, Hand of God Unico Blend Coffee

 

The Kitchen Layout

The kitchen has one commercial Viking gas range with a full-size oven and six top burners. Commercial size pots, pans and brazier/rondos are available. There is a fair amount of counter space with an 8 foot prep table against the wall and a center prep/plating table about 12 feet long. There is a commercial dish machine and dish racks, and one over-sized refrigerator with a lower freezer compartment, so refrigeration is a little limited...plan accordingly.

For guest chefs, servers are provided by The VUDE so the chefs only have to focus on cooking and plating. A variety of nice plates, bowls, silver, glasses, Riedel wine glasses, cloth napkins, and other standard service essentials are provided, as well as someone who will do the dishes. However, if you want to use platters you should bring your own.

The_VUDE_Kitchen_1_800.gif The_VUDE_Kitchen2_800.gif The_VUDE_Kitchen3_800.gif

 

Past Guest Chefs at The VUDE

Plate-up_2_800.gifChef Thomas Black
Bill the Butcher
Michael Strate
Cormac Mahoney - Madison Park Conservatory
Jason Wilson - Crush
John Howie - John Howie Steak
Tibeiero Simone - "La Figa" cookbook
Maxime Bilet
John Payne - formerly of Herb Farm
David Barzelay - Lazy Bear
Tomer Shneor - Nomad Dinners
Renee Erickson - Boat St Café
Chris Keff  - Flying Fish
Zoi Antonitsas - Westward
Jason Vickers - FEZ Food Truck
Chris Blanco - Raikes Foundation
Jason Stratton - Aragona
John Sundstrom - Lark Restaurant
John and Caprial Pence
Tha Marc Restaurant
Chris Lobkovich - Brass Tacks
Mike Easton - Il Corvo Pasta
Chris Opsata - Brass Tacks
Meeru Dhalwala - Shanik
William Belikis – Mistra

Want to join the ranks of guest chefs who have appeared at The VUDE? Contact Jon Staenberg to discuss the possibiliies!
Have you been a guest chef, or have you attended one of the dinners? Leave a comment below!

Follow David Buchanan on Google +
David Buchanan is a professional chef and author of Chefs-Resources.com, a site geared towards providing chefs and culinarians useful info to help in their kitchens.

 


Challenges Faced in the Restaurant Management Industry

Monday, November 25, 2013

With the American food-serving industry facing a variety of challenges, restaurant management schools are addressing the issue in a proactive manner. More and more diners are demanding healthy meals and becoming aware of the role that diet plays in overall health and wellness. While many people have a penchant for foods that are filled with sugar and fat, others may have a hard time finding an establishment that caters to their dietary restrictions, and this is especially true for anyone who has allergies. Restaurant managers are responsible for the overall success of a particular facility, and it's important that they completely understand the issue of food allergies and diners who are interested in finding healthy meals that are prepared according to their dietary goals.

The Challenges in a Career as a Restaurant Manager

One of the chief challenges in the restaurant industry is the fact that more diners are beginning to understand how processed foods can lead to a host of health problems. The human body has been slow to adapt to processed food, and this leaves many dining establishments in a precarious position. In order to keep sales high, restaurants need to cater to clients who are demanding fresh food that is prepared with local ingredients. Today, diners have more choices than ever, from bakeries that produce fresh breads without gluten to cafes that rely on freshly harvested produce to make their dishes.

Addressing Allergies

One of the biggest challenges that a person who is interested in a career as a restaurant manager faces has to do with the issue of food allergies. Proper training and education are an essential aspect of making sure that people with allergies have their meals prepared in a proper manner. Knowledge helps to reduce mistakes and ensures that misinformation is addressed at a fundamental level. Restaurant management schools can help address the problem because they provide the training that is essential for staff members while ensuring that management is fully aware of how allergies can be dealt with in a restaurant that provides meals to a variety of different patrons.

Diet-Specific Restaurants

While enrolled in one of the accredited restaurant management schools, students can gain more information about the features of today's diet-specific restaurants. Because more consumers are becoming aware of the difficulty that is involved with preparing foods that are gluten or peanut free, it is essential for managers to cater to these patrons, and many bakeries have made the move to eliminate gluten from all of their products. The biggest challenge has to do with creating tasty entrees that are prepared in a manner that respects dietary restrictions.

Increasing Consumer Confidence

If you're considering a career as a restaurant manager, it is imperative to understand what customers are searching for when they are looking to dine out. While most restaurants can accommodate clients with special requests, there is a growing trend in the industry for facilities that cater to people who demand certain diets. The reason behind this has to do with the consumer confidence of customers. As more information becomes available to consumers, many people are searching for establishments that provide outstanding fare that is prepared in a safe, sanitary and healthy manner.

The major role and responsibility of a restaurant manager is to manage the restaurant. He/she needs to ensure efficient and effective operations of the restaurant while taking care of its ethos and reputation. Further, he/she need to maintain the high standards of food, safety, health and service. A restaurant manager needs to work as an intermediate between the diners and the chefs.

If you are already a restaurant manager in a renowned restaurant and want to establish your name to get success and fame, then you need to focus on two important aspects required in restaurant management industry i.e. work experience and practical experience. Both of them are valuable and play a vital role in boosting your professional career growth. It helps in developing subject specific and transferable skills. Further, you can participate in various contests to prove your capabilities and set an example for future employees. In case you have any specialist in mind, then be close to him and find out how he handles all his management tasks efficiently and hold expertise in his respective domain. This way, you can achieve specialization in your work and grow at a faster rate. By practicing harder with willingness to learn something new every day, you can perform your job well and gain huge appreciation.

So it will be not wrong to say or predict that in the coming years, the restaurant management career outlook will focus more on experienced professionals and bring lots of other amazing career opportunities for them.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Zac Parker is a very creative writer and an active contributor who focuses on culinary oriented writings and brings great cooking related information to his readers. He loves cooking, eating, and writing about foods as his field of expertise.

 

 

Huckleberry Sockeye Lox and Dungeness Crab Salad with Cucumber Wrap

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dungeness_Crab_Roll_with_Sockeye_Lox_800.jpg

This lox recipe is one which I have developed over several years. It has a mild saltiness, a bit of sweetness, and is versatile in that it can be served as is, or added as an additional component to another dish. The lox can also be smoked if you wish, or served as is without smoking. In the picture, I served it as an appetizer in the restaurant. But I first served this dish as an individual amuse bouche for the 2013 Washington Wine & Food Show. We made about 2,500 of these little hummers! It took us 10 solid man hours just to slice the salmon! (My crew hated me.) But, we received HUGE accolades at the event, rave reviews, with people coming over saying, "I was told I had to come try your dish!", or, "Is it ok to have thirds?" Now my staff was all smiles, knowing that all our work had paid off.

For the Huckleberry Sockeye Lox

Ingredients:

1 2 lb Side Thawed, previously frozen Sockeye Salmon, skin-off, pin bones removed

10 Tbl Light Brown Sugar
3 Tbl Kosher Salt
1 Tbl Orange Peel
2 Tbl Fresh Lemon Zest
4 Tbl Granulated Sugar
2 Tbl Fresh Tarragon Leaves
2 Tbl Fresh Dill, chopped
2 Cups Huckleberries, crushed (or Blackberries)

Procedure:

1) Trim the salmon of excess fat. Pat dry.
2) Cut 2 pieces of aluminum foil which are about 6” longer than the salmon fillet.
3) Combine the sugars, salt, and lemon zest. Mix well. Divide the mixture in half. Reserve.
4) Place the salmon in the center of one of the sheets of foil.
5) You will apply half of the ingredients to each side of the fillet:

  • Evenly sprinkle the top of the fillet with half of the tarragon and dill.Evenly sprinkle with half of the orange peel, lemon zest, sugar, and salt mixture.Place second piece of foil over all and carefully turn the salmon over. Remove the top piece of foil and repeat the above process of adding the ingredients on this side of the salmon. Replace foil and fold it multiple times on all sides so as to form a good seal.
  • For day one place on a flat pan (such as a cookie sheet) with at least a ½” raised edge and store in refrigerator overnight.
  • On day two place another flat pan on top of the salmon and add about 7 lbs of weight on top of it. Return to the refrigerator overnight.
  • On day three drain any liquid from the bottom pan, flip the salmon over, cover with the pan and weights, and return to the refrigerator overnight again.
  • On day four, remove the weights and the foil. Gently scrape the huckleberries and herbs from the fillet. Pat the salmon dry with paper towels.
  • Slice thinly and serve!

Store in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 5 days.

Notes: Because this is an uncooked product you should use a quality, frozen (and thawed) side of salmon so as to eliminate any possible danger from parasites.

 

For the Dungeness Crab Salad

Ingredients:

½ Cup Fresh Corn, cut from cob, roasted, cooled
12 Oz Dungeness Crab meat, lightly pressed but not squeezed
12 Oz Red Crab meat, lightly pressed but not squeezed
4 Tbl Shallot, minced
2 Tbl Fresh Chives, minced
1 Tbl Parsley, chopped
1 ½ Tbl Fresh Tarragon, chopped
3 Tbl Red Bell Pepper, brunoise
3 Tbl Yellow Bell Pepper, brunoise
2 Tsp Dijon
3 Tbl Panko
6 Tbl Apple Bacon, cooked, cooled, 1/4" cut
¾ Cup Mayo
Pinch Sea Salt
Pinch Cayenne

Procedure:

Lightly press some of the excess liquid from the crab meats, but do not squeeze it all out. Combine all the ingredients and gently fold together. Adjust consistency with a little more mayo (to loosen) or panko (to tighten) as needed. Chill.

 

For the Cucumber Wrap

Ingredients:

About 5 ea. English Cucumbers, ends trimmed

Procedure:

Using a mandolin, thinly shave the cucumber into long, thin ribbons. Do not use the first few ribbons or the seeded section of the cucumber. You should be able to cut each ribbon in half and make 2 separate crab salad rolls from each ribbon. Form the crab salad into a ball about 1 oz, then roll into a cylindrical shape. Place on a cucumber ribbon, roll, set aside until service. You should have enough cucumber ribbon to go about 1.5 times around the filling to ensure that it will hold.

At service, top each roll with a slice of Huckleberry Los. Add fried taro root for “crunch”. I used Hearts of Fire leaves as a garnish, which I believe are a type of sorrel because they have a nice lemony flavor which accents the dish nicely. And I laid down a line of lemon aioli under the rolls in order to add a visual "anchor" to the presentation and to give the dish a little extra "zip" of citrus.

And finally, Time to Munch!

 

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Sous Vide New York Steaks and Salmon

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sous-Vide-Supreme-Chef.jpgGot my new Sous Vide Supreme Chef and VacMaster VP-112 the other day and have been playing with it at work ever since! I'm hoping to be able to do Sockeye Salmon to order, cooked to 115° within 13 minutes and served within 15 minutes of getting the order. In the Pacific Northwest we love our Salmon cooked medium-rare, and doing it sous vide makes the flesh so delicate it melts like butter in your mouth! I'll give details of my experiments below.

I'm also toying with the idea of doing our fabulous 14 oz Double "R" Ranch New York steak using the sous vide process. It would guarantee that the steaks were perfectly cooked to whatever temperature we determine for rare, medium-rare, etc. Of course, this would not eliminate steaks being returned to the kitchen...what the guest thinks is a medium-rare and what we know to be a medium-rare are not always the same thing (makes me want to play Gorden Ramsey with the customers sometimes!). But it would greatly reduce errors by cooks either over-cooking or under-cooking the steaks. I'll share my lessons so far below.11

VacMaster.jpg

Salmon Sous Vide

OK, changing gears back to Salmon! We are a seafood restaurant so I tried Salmon first. The goal was to cook the Salmon to an internal temp of 115° within 14 minutes in order to meet our self-imposed 15 minute ticket time for entrees. I took our 7 oz portions of Sockeye and cut it on a severe bias into 3 medallions no more than 1/4" thick. Then I seasoned them as normal, placed them in the bags with some extra-virgin olive oil, fresh sprig of tarragon, and squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and vac-sealed them using the VacMaster VP-112. The vac-seal process takes about 35-45 seconds, but is very simple.

Next, I placed the fish into the sous vide machine set to my desired temp of 115° and hoped that after 14 minutes it would reach an internal temp of 115°. What happened?...Failure!! It was at 101° which meant I'd have to increase ticket times (not good), or go back to the drawing board. So, back to the drawing board I went! Next, I tried setting the machine to 125° and did the same process. This time...almost success!! The Salmon was actually at 120° after 14 minutes. So I learned that achieving a 15 minute ticket time with 1/4" medallions is possible...just need to fine-tune the timing to hit the 115° cooked mark.

Sous-Vide-Salmon-in-bag.jpgThe next challenge to overcome with the Salmon during dinner service is this: I'll have multiple orders rung in over the span of 15 minutes, meaning that all night long we will have multiple Salmon cooking in the machine, all with different time frames. As each new order comes into the kitchen, I could theoretically have 15 different orders all space one minute apart! How the hell do I keep track of this mess, especially when dinner service is for 6-7 hours long?! Solution (thanks Chef John Jadamec): add a second digital clock set 14 minutes fast. Explanation: we currently use a digital clock to keep tickets on a 15 minute ticket time. Each ticket is automatically time stamped when we receive it, and we pace tickets so they "hit the window" after 15 minutes. By adding a second clock which is set 14 fast (the time it takes to cook our sous vide Salmon to 114°), it makes it possible for the Wheelman (Expeditor...the guy/gal calling the Wheel/tickets) to simply look at the pull time for the Salmon, write it on the vacuum packed bag, fire it into the sous vide machine, and know which Salmon to pull at exactly what time. This way multiple orders can be working with no confusion about what gets pulled when.

New York Steak Sous Vide

SV-VacMaster-New-York-Steak.jpgSous-Vide-NY-Steak-105-115.jpg

Preparing the New York sous vide is definitely more challenging, especially from a restaurant perspective. It takes approximately one hour to cook a 1" thick steak to rare, medim-rare, and medium. Are you willing to wait an hour for your steak? That has epic failure written all over it. And since we can sell up to 45 NY's in a night, to make this process work using the sous vide method means we'll have to prep today for what we'll need tomorrow. And I'll have to get the re-therm process to work with-in about a 15 minute ticket time for dinner service.

So with this challenge to overcome, I tried two variations of NY. I wanted to know if a pre-seared steak or a raw steak worked better. The first steak I seasoned as normal, charred on the grill blue-rare, and chilled to 34°. The second, I seasoned as normal and left raw. Both were then vacuum-sealed and cooked sous vide to 125° (our medium). I then put them into an ice bath (still in their bags) to chill to 34°. The next day I re-thermed them as follows: the charred steak I placed in a 325° convection oven (low fan setting) until it reached 115° (about 10 minutes) and let the carry-over heat finish it out to 125°. The raw steak we seared in the Montegue broiler (top and bottom heat) for about 9 minutes. We let them rest then carved them up. We liked the raw-then-char preparation better because it had a more smoky, charred, grill flavor than the one we pre-seared then finished in the oven.

Knowing that the raw, un-seared version worked better, today we did our second test. I had two steaks, both raw, seasoned, vacuum sealed, and cooked sous vide then charred to finish. One was sous vide to rare 105°, the other to medium-rare 115°. Both were immediately chilled in their bags to 34° (a safety step for HAACP). I then used the Montegue broiler (top and bottom intense heat) and cooked the rare steak to 90° (about 5 minutes) and the medium-rare to 100° (about 7 minutes), let both rest for 3 minutes, and found that both rested out to their ideal temps of 105° and 115°...success!!

Sous-Vide NY-Steaks-sliced-105-115.jpg
Rare is on the left, medium-rare on the right

Additional restaurant service challenges to overcome: since it takes about an hour to cook these puppies, ideally I would have at least 3 machines, one for cooking each temperature of steak (R, MR, M). I still have to see how many I can cook at once in the Sous Vide Supreme Chef machine... I think 10-14, but the cooking time will probably increase. Another HUGE, MONSTROUS, obstacle...if I am going to cook steaks for about an hour in a vacuum sealed bag, then chill them, and then re-thermalize them to order, I will probably have to get an approved HAACP plan by the local health department to verify that I am using/applying appropriate health and safety procedures. ?@#&%*! A necessary trip through pergatory...but holy crap what a pain in the a__ to accomplish! I heard that it took Chef Jason Wilson of Seattle's Crush 90 hours to complete his! Not something I'm looking forward to, although I have already started the process.

As a note, here are our steak temps: rare 105° (60 minutes), medium-rare 115° (70 minutes), medium 125° (80 minutes), medium-well (not going to do MW sous vide), well-done (WTF?! Sorry if you like your steak this way, but I STRONGLY disagree. However, as a paying customer, if you want to put an automatic transmission in your Lamborghini I'll do it for you.)

 

 

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