Thank You Chefs.

October 29, 2011

The baseball playoffs finished last night in St. Louis in exciting fashion. Most people probably don’t realize that both teams in the World Series are teams who utilize Delaware North Companies Sportservice culinary talents. Many of our best chefs have been traveling back and forth and working incredibly long hours to serve the many thousands and thousands of fans who love baseball so dearly. It takes an incredible effort and I want to thank them for everything they’ve done and the energy they’ve put forth. I am very hopeful that many of them will write something for the blog that talks about their experiences. Over the past few weeks, while all these chefs were making their playoff runs – there simply wasn’t enough time for the chefs to stop and download their thoughts to the blog. But, stay tuned. We will be getting thoughts and insight from all of them.

Thank you again for all your efforts.

A Thank You From Chef Torres.

October 24, 2011

A few weeks ago I posted a recap of the International Jeunes Chefs Rotisseurs Competition that Chef Reilly Meehan won. I mentioned that myself and Chef Randy Torres were very helpful in training and working with Meehan, who is a very talented you chef. The other day, I received this note from Chef Torres.

Hello Chef Henin,

Thank you for the nice e-mail, and once again, knowing you has really paid off. Thank you for all your help and guidance with Reilly. He really took to hear all you had to say, especially about the butchery and was even commended for his butchering skills by the judges. Because of your extra push, Reilly was really able to become the best of the competition. Our relationship over these years has made be a better cook, competitor and coach. I may be asking for your help again on keeping a promise I made to Reilly in that if he was the win the prestigious completion, we would celebrate at the French Laundry – and we were hoping with your influence, we might be able to make that celebration dinner extra special. More importantly, we would be honored to have you with us on the night we visit the restaurant if that’s at all possible.

Once again Chef, thank you for the years of knowledge and support.

Randy Torres

Latin Flavors, American Kitchens

October 19, 2011

This is a very important post from Chef Percy Whatley. He attended an event focused on Latin cuisine which is a growing segment in American food.  Enjoy.

I recently had the privilege of attending  the annual “Latin Flavors, American Kitchens,” – a professional development seminar at the new Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio, TX.

The seminar was a tightly held agenda of short demonstrations with prominent chefs from various countries.  Peru, Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Equador, Cuba, Guatemala and the Southwestern United States were all represented.

Some like it hot, others don’t.  What was eye-opening for me was the variety of spice levels the different countries desire.   There was everything from quite spicy, to almost no heat at all, just using the mild chilies for flavor only.

Many of the cuisines use similar in ingredients, however, just a different ratio to signify the unique flavor profile of the culture.  These ingredients include well known and widely used items such as:  cilantro, tomatoes, onions, masa harina, corn, pumpkin, mushrooms, etc.  The chilies are where it became new: aji Amarillo, chile tepin, chile pasado, chile Colorado, and the wider known, ancho, guajillo, arbol, negro and New Mexico.  The fresh ones included habanero, jalapeno, Serrano, Fresno, Hatch, Pablano, red and yellow sweet bells, etc.  The variety was colorful and inviting and each had their own flavor profile which added to each particular dish.

Many of the cooking styles are familiar to most of us.  There was, however, the iconic meat skewered on a cross, cooked over an open fire there though.  Something we don’t see very often.  This time it was a baby goat, or Cabrito, which was tender and juicy.  Lots of different kinds of salsas and salads, and an amazing Amazonian fish called Pirarucu that was amazingly tasty.  It is a gigantic, and prehistoric, fish.

Overall, the experience brought to light the diversity of Latin American cuisine.  Given that it is a major market segment within the United States, and an ever-growing population segment, we cannot ignore the fact our ability to deliver food inspired by this style of cooking has to continually evolve and improve.  It is not just tacos and burritos anymore, it is much, much deeper…OLÉ!!!

Saratoga Farmers’ Market.

October 10, 2011

I received an e-mail from Chef Brian Sterner a bit back that talked about Farmers Markets across New York State and how they were doing this year and season. I found it interesting to note that the Saratoga Farmers’ Market has been named the best farmers market in New York State. I know that Chef Sterner and his staff at Gideon Putnam often use this market for produce. It’s exciting to learn they have such a strong source of food and partner in this farmers market. Here’s a link to the best farmers markets for 2011 around the country. Give it a read and find one near you where you can being to shop for produce.

International Jeunes Chefs Rotisseurs Competition.

October 6, 2011

I wanted to post a link just as an FYI from La Chaine des Rotisseurs USA regarding a “young chef” who was selected to represent the United States last month in Istanbul. This is the very first time the USA won the first place/golf medal in the competition in its existence. I am happy to have been instrumental and helpful in the process of “fine-tuning” the candidate (Reilly Meehan).

Reilly has just graduated from the Professional Culinary Institute in Northern California and has many great talents and skills and will do well in his culinary future. Read the full write-up on Reilly here.

Three Tips to Hone your Creative and Culinary Edge

October 5, 2011

Thanks so much for these strong tips from Chef Scott Green. He read them on the Ideas In Food blog and was kind enough to pass them along. I encourage everyone to read them below and also the full post at Ideas In Food. Every chef should read and take something from these tips.

1. Be curious. Our favorite question in the kitchen is “why?” Finding out why things work or why they interact the way they do or simply why something tastes so good often leads to those inspirational “a-ha” moments. Never assume you know the answer to someone else’s question. If you’re curious about how someone did something then (respectfully) ask them. Their approach may surprise you. In this world of social media and shallow relationships, being able to reach out and make an actual connection with someone by sharing ideas is priceless. Creativity doesn’t flourish in a vacuum. We all need stimulation to stay motivated.

2. Be a problem solver. Never be afraid to try something new. Failure is your biggest success in the kitchen. Sound counterintuitive? Failures force us to look at things from a new perspective and take some chances. Success breeds complacency. The long road uphill is a lot more rewarding than the quick tumble down a slippery slope. Never assume something won’t work until you try it yourself. Even if you don’t get the results you want you will probably learn something valuable in the process. Time is never wasted if you gain new insights that will help you toward your goal.

3. Relax and enjoy yourself. Try to have fun with whatever you’re doing. Enjoy the hot breeze on your cheeks from the grill or the sizzle of the sauté pan. Look around the kitchen and revel in knowing that you’re part of a team sharing a common goal, to create a wonderful dining experience, be it at home or in a restaurant. Inhale and enjoy the scent of food cooking. Relax at the table with friends and family and take the time to really enjoy your meal. The memories you create will make you a better cook. The times when we get stuck creatively are the times when we think too much, put too much pressure on the idea of success and try to carry the load by ourselves. Smile, roll your shoulders and enjoy the process. Once you conquer this challenge there will be another. Might as well have fun with it.

More Thoughts On Culinary Cup.

October 3, 2011

This is feedback from the commis for the Delaware North Culinary Cup team. He is a student at the Cordon Bleu Culinary School in Boston. He also works part time with Chef Kevin Doherty. He is a well-disciplined young culinarian and I think he does a strong job of relating his experience.

Dear Chefs,

As le cummis for Team Delaware North, I learned a number of different things but some of the most valuable ones I learned are the following: I saw the importance of teamwork and using every person for a different job (not just the four chefs who are cooking and cutting and then le cummis stands around and cleans dishes like I’ve seen on other teams). Every member of the team has value that can be added even if it’s cutting mirepoix and then sweeping and cleaning then jumping right back into the fight to help out as needed. To be successful in a competition, you have to be quick, accurate and clean. Always be on top of what you are doing in case of a hiccup so that it can be corrected as quickly as possible. Equipment should be checked half way through just to make sure everything is working properly. We also has a proper plan of action to correct mishaps just in case something did go wrong.

When working, you shouldn’t have more than tone tool and one type of product on your cutting board. It truly is easier to complete the task at hand than to be jumping all over the place with different products and equipment. Make sure to separate garbage and compostable materials and try to minimize waste as much as possible t show the different values each part of the food we use can contribute to the dishes. If the judge asks you why you are using a certain method to do something, have a good answer and explanation as to why you are doing it that specific way. Training is an important key to be successful in any aspect of life. If we train as we fight, the outcome will always be known. But, when training under unexpected or harsher conditions, it will help the team develop and be able to adjust, adapt and overcome in any situation.

Having incredible and talented chefs to critique you beforehand and tell you what they think is wrong and what needs to be done to achieve your best and most excellent effort helps a lot. Being able to hear advice from a master chef as to how to be better truly is a priceless experience and the most important thing is when the experts speak and listen because rank is achieved with hard work and mastering ones trade and one would be dumb not to pay close attention to them. Proper time management is also an important role while competing and having a good and strong time sheet cal also help a lot in finishing in timely fashion.

Another thing I learned is that many chefs are backyard mechanics – they create their own tools to facilitate the job and still have a proper outcome – that can be an important key of creativity. When a budget is in place it is important to follow it to every last penny needed. If it gets bad, eat an MRE (meal ready to eat) or a salad, cheap and inexpensive can take you a long way and Golden Corral has unlimited food for $12.00. Lastly, the two most important things I learned from all the great chefs I had the pleasure of working with and learning from is to have fun and a passion for what you do. Without those two, there is no purpose in doing this. You would just be another cook in the masses.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Jonathan Restrepo