New Internal Temperature For Cooking Pork.

May 31, 2011

I hope everyone is feeling okay and enjoyed their Memorial Day Weekend. This is just a quick post that includes an article forwarded to me from Chef John DiGiovanni. It talks about how the USDA is now allowing pork to be cooked to 145F and we all thought it would be worthwhile to post this to the blog.

The article reads that the previously required internal temperature of 160 degrees F is no longer necessary. The agency now says 145 degrees will suffice followed by a three-minute rest before carving.

For the full report and further thoughts about how this impacts chefs and the taste of pork, read the full article.


Hang The Flag and Hug A Vet.

May 28, 2011

As Memorial Day approaches, it is important we remember those American Soldiers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to defend others and this wonderful country. As I visit ballparks and watch the celebrations on the field and what we do to honor our Soldiers, Sailors and Marines who serve now and served in the past, it gives me great pride to be one who has served.

This weekend we will be offering backyard BBQ food in some of our locations and in our homes. I always like a good picnic menu, and when I do them I’m brought back to my Navy days, grilling and BBQs were a staple in the Service as we have a lot of open air at sea and in the field.

When I write my menus, it always brings me back to those times of a “Steel Beach Picnic,” — that’s what we called it in the Navy. Some of the food I did back then I still do today, but with some modern twists. You know, beans and franks, BBQ chicken, ribs, coleslaw, potato salad, melon salad, corn on the cob…the list goes on.  But, no matter what you do, enjoy it and enjoy your friends, family and weekend.

Hang the flag and hug a vet,

Chef James Major

Chef Profile – John DiGiovanni CCC, PC II

May 27, 2011

I want to thank Chef John DiGiovanni for taking time to answer the below questions as part of our ongoing Chef Profile series. I found Chef DiGiovanni’s answers to be interesting and educational for other chefs. Please take time to read this post and forward it to others who would be interested.

What Motivated You To Become A Chef?

Becoming a Chef gave me an opportunity to obtain a set of skills I could use for the rest of my life. To be able to go anywhere in the world and be able to find a job; To learn something new everyday, even if I thought I knew a lot about something; To realize I actually knew very little about it.

What achievement are you most proud of from your time as a chef?

The achievement I am most proud of is not my own. Wade Smith, one of my culinary supervisors, accepted a Sous Chef position at Sequoia National Park. I am proud to have been part of his career advancement.

How is the role of the chef changing?

A chef is more than just a leader in the kitchen. A chef is involved more in the community , donating their time and talents to others as well as reaping the benefits of exposure.

What do you think will be the major issues chefs face over the next 20 years?

Rising food prices. Chefs will be challenged to spin the straw into gold.

What are you looking forward to this year as a Delaware North chef?

Continuing to produce better food than we did last year and to further my personal and my teammates’ goals in the kitchen.

What do you believe is the most controversial topic in the culinary world?

I think the Modernist Cuisine/Molecular Gastronomy movement would be considered the most controversial as it is often misunderstood and only a very small portion of chefs are knowledgeable in it. Sous Vide cooking created the most interest at the ACF Regional Conference I attended. Both Chefs and Cooks want to drive the Modernist cuisine Ferrari yet ignore the basic fundamental all cuisines are built upon. Some chefs feel that it is only a fad and will die out in time.

History always seems to repeat itself. I imagine how those who first began using tomatoes in cooking felt when they heard others talk about them as poisonous. I believe these products and techniques will be woven into our culinary fabric.

Were there any personal or professional obstacles that almost prevented you from becoming a chef?

I was unsure what I wanted to do out of high school and enlisted to become a mechanic in the Marine Corps. Right before I was to leave for bootcamp, I found my love of cooking and went through many obstacles to nullify my enlistment and continue my education at Walt Disney World, where I was working at the time.

What is the most important piece of advice you could offer someone just setting out to culinary school?

What you learn in the beginning of culinary school are the habits, discipline and techniques that will become the foundation of your career. Pay particular attention to your knife skills. In addition to schooling, working alongside the best Chefs in your community will give you an advantage over those you are graduating with. You get out of  this industry what you put in it. Never stop learning.

A Social Network For Chefs and Restaurants.

May 26, 2011

I am not on many social networks – just the blog and LinkedIn, but I may need to check out this new site called Restaurant Reason which has just been launched. The site is profiled in the Wall Street Journal article that talks about how the site enables restaurants to train staff, do online scheduling and provide an internal discussion forum.

I’m not sure how useful chefs/restaurant owners will find the site but I do think there are some important issues talked about in the article. There is a section that says, “gone are the days when a waiter could simply say he recommends the catch of the day with the chef’s special sauce. An interesting level of sophistication among chefs is matched, if not surpassed by demands from diners.”

I think this is true and its vital for chefs to know their menus and know their foods. Diners are so much more educated and interested in where there food is coming from, how its prepared, etc. Some people want to eat local, some just want to eat healthy. And, a chef needs to be able to answer all the questions.

Read this article to learn about the social network – but more importantly, take time to learn about all the food you prepare.

Another Look At Sustainable Seafood.

May 24, 2011

I found this article from Holland Brown about choosing to eat local and sustainable food very interesting and worthwhile for chefs and everyone else to read. Brown is based out of California and talks about purchasing grass-fed beef from a Santa Barbara-area ranch and fruits and vegetables through Tanaka Farm’s CSA program and farmers markets. Brown uses the majority of the article to dive into the topic of sustainable seafood. Brown admits to being skeptical about how clean local fish would be but then talks of feeling confident in the local offerings.

Brown also talks about Seafood Watch, part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which maintains a sustainable seafood guide by region of the country. Delaware North has worked with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and I can tell you that Brown has found a great resource for her sustainable seafood decisions.

There are definitely different schools of thought on sustainable seafood but I think Brown’s article is good because it’s from the perspective of someone who is skeptical but later learns more and more about the important topic.

Please share your thoughts on this topic.

Sustainable Seafood – Another Perspective

May 21, 2011

If you read this blog frequently you know that I encourage discussion on the topic of sustainable seafood and eating locally. I try to offer as many different views as possible on the subject so that the readers (you guys) can make your own opinions and thoughts on the topic.

Someone forwarded me this NPR article about Chef Barton Seaver and how he has released a new cookbook that highlights the importance of sustainable seafood for both our environment and our diet. In the article, Seaver offers tips for picking out seafood, his own personal thoughts on the subject and recipe.

One of the more interesting comments comes when Seaver talks about how he picks out his seafood.

“I always look at the eyes,” he says. Look for fish with clear eyes that are sunken in – that “still look like they’re looking at you, inviting you to dinner.”

Read the full article and share any thoughts/comments you have below.

Chef Thomas Keller On Seasonings.

May 19, 2011

The Los Angeles Times is running a series of articles about well-known chefs and their thoughts on certain techniques, culinary ideas, etc. The most recent features Chef Thomas Keller and his thoughts on how to improve dishes with proper seasoning. I found it interesting and informative to read and would encourage other chefs to do the same. There is even a video in which Chef Keller talks about how to prepare Meyer lemon-cured fillet of salmon.

I found one of the more interesting sections of the article to read:

“Season with salt and pepper” is a common way to end a recipe (it’s even something that I’ve written in my books), but as culinary advice it’s a bit misleading. In the kitchen it’s helpful to separate the concept of “seasoning” from that of “enhancing flavor.” One is a way to add flavor to a dish, and the other is a way to intensify flavors without changing them, though we typically use the verb “season” to describe both processes. A true seasoning ingredient can be anything that brings a new flavor to what you’re preparing; pepper, piment d’espelette and mustard are just a few seasonings that I like to use.”

Give the entire article a read and post your thoughts below.