Back To Basics.

January 28, 2011

This is a post that Chef Kevin Doherty put together for the blog.

It’s always good to come face to face with reality.

Regardless of your craft or pursuit in life, it’s easy to become overconfident and think you know it all (or at least most of what there is to know). I’ve always fought this and I think I’ve done well. But, as we move on to knew areas in our career and achieve different goals…it’s hard to not fall victim to it a bit.

That’s why it was wonderful to have Chef Roland Henin visit me in Boston for three days last week. He brought with him one simple message – let’s get back to the basics.

In the past few years I’ve helped out at incredible high-profile events like the NBA Finals, the Democratic National Convention and the opening of New Meadowlands Stadium. I also competed in the Culinary Olympics and several other competitions. These are events that test you. And, if you’re not good enough, they will reveal it.

Those events were challenges for me, but maybe they also left me feeling I was at the top of the food chain (no pun intended). I had a taste of success and excellence…but Chef Henin quickly reminded me how much I have to learn.

In the pursuit of excellence, you’re never as close as you think. I realize I am far from perfection and need to work triple time to get back on course.

Please don’t think I’m complaining…I’m grateful for such a realization. It’s eye-opening and will allow me to grow and achieve even more. All of our success is based on our ability to never forget the basics and build upon them.

Chef Henin is an incredible teacher and leader of our culinary team. He’s also a motivator. His visit lit a fire under my butt. It’s time to learn more. It’s time to take on my shortcomings.

It’s time to get back to basics.

Advertisements

Genetically Modified Foods – A Must Read For Chefs.

January 25, 2011

I wanted to share the below article that I read in the Environmental Nutrition Newsletter. Genetically modified foods are a very relevant topic and issue that chefs will need to address.

Genetically Modified Foods: The Uninvited Guests At Your Dinner Table

A recent documentary entitled The Future of Food was shown in theaters around the country. It detailed how genetically modified (GM) foods are creeping into the food supply with the help of giant corporations like Monsanto and DuPont. Should you be alarmed? Is it true that the growing presence of GM foods affects your health and ultimately the environment, as the movie suggests? Here’s what you need to know.

Tampering With Mother Nature
Whether called genetically modified, genetically engineered, bioengineered or biotech, the process involves taking a gen from one plant, animal or microorganism and inserting it into the DNA of another. The goal is to improve a certain characteristic of a food, for instance, to make it grow faster, resist disease, be more nutritious, repel insects or be more able to withstand harsh growing conditions.

The debate over whether any of this is necessary, helpful or even safe was raged for over a decade now. In Europe, it’s a volatile issue; labeling is mandatory in the European Union, while several countries have banned GM crops.

In The Mainstream
Americans have not been as outspoken. Is it because GM foods are less prevalent here? Think again. Experts estimate that 70 percent of food products in the supermarket contain at least one GM ingredient, most commonly from corn, soy, cottonseed, or canola. No one knows for sure, because foods sold in the U.S. don’t have to reveal whether ingredients are GM. Does it matter? It does if you believe in knowing what you put in your mouth.

One of the health concerns surrounding GM foods are worries about allergic reactions to new proteins created as part of the GM process. Most experts say there’s no evidence that eating GM foods poses a health risk. But many experts are concerned about the long-term effects of altering the genetic make-up of plants and animals – both on us and on the environment.

The chief concern is that genes from bioengineered plants or animals might inadvertently mix with natural genes, forever altering the planet’s ecosystem in ways that are impossible to predict.

What To Do
First and foremost, don’t panic. Genetically modified ingredients have been our foods for almost a decade with no obvious untoward effects. Still, if you want to opt out of GM foods – whether out of personal health concerns or concern for the environment – here is EN’s advice:

Go Organic – As part of USDA organic regulations, certified organic foods may contain GM ingredients.

Scan labels for common GM ingredients like corn oil, corn syrup, cornstarch, soy protein, soy, oil, soy sauce, lecithin, cottonseed oil and canola oil.

Shop at supermarkets with a storewide policy against GM ingredients, such as Whole Foods, Wild Oats and Trader Joe’s.

Check Out “The True Food Shopping List” from Greenpeace, a non-profit environmental advocacy group at www.greenpeace.org. It’s an extensive list of foods with and without GM ingredients. Among those with a green light: Health Valley Granola Bars, Nature’s Path Honey’d Raisin Bran, Hain Wheatettes crackers and Garden Vegan Gardenburger.


So we made it

January 23, 2011

The below post comes from Chef Beth Brown, who helped with all the culinary efforts at New Meadowlands Stadium over the past year. I enjoyed reading it.

So we made it. We did it. We survived the opening of the New Meadowlands Stadium. We began the journey as a group of chefs, strangers to one another with one mission, a single goal, let’s get this stadium up and running successfully.  We were like an army led by Chef Eric Borgia, only we had never assembled before and we were going into battle for the first time.

There were many times it felt like just that – battle.  Countless days (and I will speak for the group here) we came out of the stadium feeling beat up, wounded and defeated.  We did what we knew how to do and that is put our heads down and keep pushing forward.  In the process we lost some chefs…maybe they wanted the glory without all the guts?  I don’t know, but what I do know is we gained better chefs and with that, a team really started to emerge.

It sounds gruesome and for the first few months and events it truly was.  As we began to find systems, teams began to form and everything started to fall into place…we all got into a groove.  The army of chefs, no longer strangers began to take on their own projects, a single entity inside this huge building.  The success of the building as a whole truly counted on the success of these individuals.

Rick Melfi headed up the Coaches Club, a premier venue feeding up to 2,000 people. Carlos Rimolo took on the Catering Department, an operation that runs seven days a week year round.  Camilo Baquero, Chris Pfeifer and Jason DeSiervo were in charge of 200 suites, a huge operation in itself.  Kevin Leibfred along with Marc Eyman and Jason Schofield fed the majority of the 85,000 people managing Concessions, the Grid Iron and Touchdown Clubs.  Jeff Wheaton was in charge of feeding four owner suites, overseeing all operations of the Food Network Project, and The Great West Hall which feeds up to 700 people.  I was responsible for The Commissioners Club (which I talked about in my previous blog) and with the help of Effie Spiegler ran the Legacy and Green Rooms.  Chef Eric oversaw it all!

In the beginning it was an upward battle and many times we weren’t positive we could win.  Throughout the season we all had our low and high points, but in the end, with the guidance of Chef Eric, we proved to be successful.  Things of course are still changing…evolving and I suspect they will continue to do so for the next several seasons.  As a whole, the hungry guests were fed and satisfied and when there are 85,000 of them…that’s quite a feat.

Now is no time to rest on our laurels. As we wind down here at the New Meadowlands Stadium we begin the opening of Camden Yards.  Jeff and I have traveled to Baltimore once with plans to continue until they are up and running.  While baseball is a whole different ball game, I can’t help but feel a slight bit of déjà vu…



Are Those Really Jersey Plates on My Truck?

January 19, 2011

A very nice post from Chef Jeff Wheaton.

I left one of the most beautiful places on Earth for this? Are those really New Jersey plates on my truck? Am I really cooking for the arch-nemesis of “my team?” Silently repeat for six months.

In March 2010, I left Yosemite National Park in search of a challenge, a new adventure, a sure-fire rocket to propel me out of my comfort zone. I found just that and more in my new position as Sous Chef at the New Meadowlands Stadium.

Before my arrival, I knew very little about the state of New Jersey, aside from “The Jersey Shore,” and I knew even less about Sportservice. Fortunately, I was now working for a man who knows a whole lot about both: Chef Eric Borgia. While we didn’t know what to make of each other for quite some time (he actually asked my fellow chef and wife, Beth, if I was always so quiet. If he only knew then the silence would soon end and never return), I trusted his judgment and character from day one and have never wavered in this conviction.

He assembled a team of chefs whose diversity, talents, experiences and personal quirks could not be found outside of Hell’s Kitchen. While it took months of occasional squabbling, miles of late-night equipment relocation missions and countless humbling moments for all, I feel we emerged the strongest team to call the New Meadowlands home.

The amount of work, dedication, trial and error, and pure hustle it takes to open and successfully operate a stadium of this magnitude is something very few outside this corner of the industry can truly fathom. On numerous occasions guests have asked me what my “other job” is, having no idea I was working for the 14th day in a row with no rest on the horizon. However, as the season progressed, time off became a reality, aside for a blur of time and turkey that encompassed three games in one week in late November.

Another aspect of interest and the source of much speculation, confusion and humor has been my actual job description. With the help and understanding of my fellow sous chefs, and vast amounts of overtime for my staff of two cooks (the fastest, smartest, sneakiest and most loyal cooks in the building), I was able to oversee a diverse portfolio of the culinary operation. Throughout the season, I’ve been responsible for the food for the owners of both teams, oversaw all of the Food Network operations and ran the Great West Hall Club. Game days would involve endless calls and texts and over 14 miles of walking. I am proud of what my team (aka Team 1-2-3) has accomplished during this season and I feel all three of us learned countless culinary and life lessons.

Lastly, I would like to recognize all of the Delaware North chefs across the country who came to support us during the opening. They set aside their titles and did what ever task needed to be done, no matter how menial or tedious, to help us achieve success. While a massive company, Delaware North has a tightly knit group of some of the smartest (and funniest) chefs in the business, and I couldn’t imagine the opening without their help and insight.


2010 Accomplishments — Keep Them Coming.

January 14, 2011

I recently asked chefs across Delaware North Companies to e-mail me their favorite accomplishment from 2010. Here is what I received from Chef John DiGiovanni CCC, PC II. I will continue to post these as I receive them from our chefs.

Every day in the kitchen, regardless of whether a chef is executing another successful event, reading up on a new product or technique or teaching one of his/her younger cooks some of the basics…we are all striving to learn something new. We take inspiration from, but do not dwell on the past. The party’s over, it’s time to get ready for the next one. What did we learn today? What can we improve upon? I am proud to work for a company that encourage us to develop ourselves and to be surrounded by great people who want to see us succeed and push us to get there

Chef John at work.

There were two major accomplishments for Columbus Sportservice that I had the opportunity of overseeing this year. They were obtaining our ISO 14001:2004 certification for our GreenPath program and our part in the NHL’s Rock and Wrap it Up program.

As a chef, I rely on Mother Nature, as well as my purveyors, to deliver the best product to me for our guests. Is it important in return to do what I can to return the favor, not only to Mother Nature but to my community.  Buying local and sustainable products is a start, but through the GreenPath environmental management system, we have brought in environmentally friendly materials, started a recycling program, reused office paper and when you look at the big picture…it all really starts to add up. There was a great deal of preparation for the ISO audit in addition to the day-to-day operations of the kitchen. It was a great feeling to excel in the audit and receive the ISO certification, but it would not have been possible without the hard work and support of the management team!

I was also involved in heading up the NHL’s Rock and Wrap it Up program for Nationwide Arena. Just as the other 29 NHL teams do in their community, our culinary team takes leftover food (that which meets our high-quality standards) and donate it to the Mid-Ohio Food Bank as part of its Second Servings Program. There has been a great deal of positive feedback, not only from the media, but from our guests as well for this program.

Here is an article from the Columbus Dispatch and here is a video seen on Blue Jackets TV and the NHL Green Website.

But, enough about 2010, that’s so last year. It’s time to focus on the next event which will see Detroit come to town. It’s time to focus on 2011. On a personal note, January 2011 will be the month during which I welcome my fourth son, Vincenzo, into the world. In the kitchen, the daily questions will be asked and answered.

What are we going to learn today?

What are we going to do to achieve our personal and team goals?

Stay tuned or attend a Blue Jackets game to find out.

 


2010 Accomplishments

January 12, 2011

 

I recently asked chefs across Delaware North Companies to e-mail me their favorite accomplishment from 2010. Here is what I received from Chef Ed Kowalski. I will continue to post these as I receive them from our chefs.

At first thought, selecting a “Best Accomplishment” for the past year would seem relatively simple, right?

To quote ESPN’s Lee Corso: “Not So fast, my friend.

The year 2010 saw numerous accomplishments in both my personal and professional lives, each one of which I am equally proud. To select ONE as my “Best” is akin to answering the question, “Which one of your children is your favorite?”

I have discovered many of my personal achievements this year have been directly influenced by my professional life as a chef. For example, planning and organizing a family reunion in June 2010 (including family members who have not seen each other in decades or, in some cases, NEVER), and managing to incorporate some of my late grandmother’s dishes into the menu is one of the most treasured times of my LIFE (not just 2010). My grandmother was the inspiration for my career choice and, although she was not with us in person, she was no doubt looking over my shoulder as I cooked.

Another proud moment of 2010 occurred while sitting at a baseball game with my 13-year-old son. During the course of our conversation, which had turned toward the upcoming school year, Noah announced that when he went to college he wanted to go to culinary school and become a chef like me (what father doesn’t tear up when his child says he/she wants to follow in his footsteps?) either that, or a crypto-zoologist, so that he could study Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster.

It is much easier to narrow down my professional choices. Although it is always a great accomplishment to serve our guests and client at the standards they have come to expect from us, my favorite accomplishments took place outside of Nationwide Arena. I had the opportunity to travel and assist with the openings of two new venues in 2010: Metro Bank Park in Harrisburg, PA, and the New Meadowlands Stadium. I have enjoyed working alongside my fellow chefs and culinary minds at each of the venues I have been fortunate enough to visit during my career with Delaware North. Still, there is something special to me about a new stadium opening. The hard work that goes into preparing for Opening Day and the anticipation, both of the staff and the fans, makes it an electric event.

It is a great thrill to watch as our guests enter a venue for the first time. I love the look of wonder in their eyes as they take in the gleaming facility and the excitement in their voices when they see a favorite item in the concessions. Assisting at any venue, new or old, is also an opportunity for me to take notes and incorporate new ideas once I get back home

So, what lies ahead in 2011? What am I most looking forward to? Aside from (hopefully) a deep playoff run by our Columbus Blue Jackets, I think I am most excited about working with a local school as part of the Chefs Move to Schools program instituted by First Lady Michelle Obama.

As a parent, I realize the importance of a good education for our children, and it is just as important for them to learn healthy eating habits as it is to learn algebra. As a chef, I believe it is one of our duties to teach….whether it is teaching one of my cooks to brunoise a bell pepper or teaching a middle-schooler (and their parents and school kitchen staff) the importance of making good choices when eating. Education is important for the welfare of our youth.  Who knows, maybe some of those same students will be inspired to become chefs themselves?

 


Meats and Veggies.

January 5, 2011

Similar to my last post, I wanted to share a brief discussion that myself and Chef Peter Bailey had after Chef Percy Whatley sent us a link.

This link is to an article/video that addresses the value of eating as a vegetarian or also meat. It is well worth reading if you are interested in cooking and/or eating. Myself and Chef Bailey launched into debate.

I started by saying:

Well…the debate has been going on for quite a while and I suspect will be going on quite a bit longer. My reasoning goes as follows:

Mother Nature has not designed us to be strictly vegetarian…we have teeth that are designed to cut and chew on meats. We have a stomach that has been designed to digest meats. We have a full body that has been designed to grow and develop  with the help of meat protein…and I am confident there is probably a few m ore reasons that were designed right from the get go from Mother Nature; Such as…Eskimos and Alaskans could not really survive very long on a vegetarian diet.

My point is as follows…you can try to mess with Mother Nature for a while, but you know what, she will eventually and always come back on top. She’s been there way before us and will certainly be there after us. Whether we follow a vegetarian diet or not. So, might as well go along with her instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. Have some meats and fishes in moderation. It’s good for you as well as the planet.

 

Chef Peter then responded:

I totally agree with you to some degree but being omnivores, our bodies can digest any kind of food stuffs and I think that we should strive for a diet of 80 percent vegetable and only 20 percent animal product. They did a study on the Black Bears here in Yosemite and they are also omnivores. They found out that 80 percent of their diet was indeed vegetable in nature (nuts, berries and grasses) which surprised the researchers (as they assumed bears were mostly meat eaters).

As I get older I am finding that this ratio is what makes me feel better and my whole body seems to function much better to boot. When I go to a restaurant I am always disappointed with the paltry amount of vegetables I received compared to the slab of animal protein on the plate. Living in France, when you ate out, an 8 oz. steak was considered a large piece of meat and always seems to be accompanied by a well-balanced array of either salad or vegetables and a starch (though not always presented at the same time as the vegetables were often served as a course by themselves). I never seemed to feel bloated when I left the restaurant but always satisfied at the same time.

With that said, the whole world would all be much better off if the factory farms and all the bad practices that go along with them were done away with and the farmers got back to multi-culture instead of the monoculture they practice now.

Then I responded:

Absolutely Chef Peter…I totally agree with you. Thank you.

This is a really good discussion and my hope would be that in the coming year, that is shared and contributed by many and I do mean many DNC chefs. We have so many areas we can talk about…it is terrific and mind-boggling.

Finally, Chef Percy shared this:

I love this stuff. If this is sparking interest at all to anyone and you want to pick up some books to read by some very interesting authors, please see the following:

“Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food”, Michael Pollan

“Real Food – What to eat and why”, Nina Planck

“Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”, Barbara Kingsolver

“Closing the Food Gap”, Mark Winne