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CHEF TIM MCQUINN – DEDICATED TO HIS CRAFT

CHEF TIM MCQUINN – DEDICATED TO HIS CRAFT

Commitment is an interesting word. How difficult is it to truly understand what is implied by this term? Are there degrees of commitment or is it simply a finite word? We use the term very loosely: chefs are looking for committed cooks, teachers try to encourage young people to aspire to it, employers insist upon it and guests tend to expect it. Can any of those who promote the need for commitment clearly describe what they mean? A quote that I have often used tends to sum up what most assume that it means: “when using the breakfast meal as an example; the chicken is INVOLVED while the pig is COMMITTED. (think about it for a minute)” Is this really what we are looking for in individuals?

Parents are committed to their children, spouses are committed to their partners and best friends are committed to another, but what does that really mean? There is no question that chefs work excessive hours, work in physically demanding environments, endure the emotional and mental stress of a demanding public and tight timelines, but are they committed? Can there be degrees of commitment?

Michael Jordan was truly an intense, extraordinary basketball player who worked incessantly at his craft, but was he committed? Jordan still had balance in his life. Thomas Edison was a brilliant inventor who was known to avoid contact with others, go days without sleep or food, all for the purpose of focusing on his craft. Both individuals were extraordinary but was one committed and the other simply involved at a high level?

I have worked with many chefs and managers who invest a significant portion of their lives to their profession. Some work 80 hours a week and still stay up at night thinking about food, planning events, working through problems and dreaming about the next great concept. Some who even when they take a day off are still reading about food, visiting other restaurants, sketching out ideas and working on recipes at home. Are they as committed as the pig in the breakfast analogy? Is total commitment even something to aspire to?

I admire all in the food business who dedicate their time, talent, passion and energy to what they do. Some are very involved and others go beyond that. They choose to dedicate whatever portion of their lives to something that they believe in, something that is an extension of who they are. One such chef is Tim McQuinn. I have known Tim since he was a student of mine many years ago. I have had the pleasure of teaching him, working with him in kitchens, discussing food with him and following every step of his career in restaurants. He has agreed to this interview so that others might understand what it means to demonstrate commitment and prepare them for the rigor of life behind the line.

1. What or who influenced you to pursue a career in the kitchen?

“My story doesn’t begin at home in the kitchen with my mother or grandmother or having always been cooking since the age of 10. That’s not to say that I wasn’t always curious about it at a young age, or trying to help out when mom was making Sunday dinner or baking cookies. But by the age of 16 my parents issued me two options; College or the army. I think they were only half serious but I understood the importance of a college education. What I lacked was focus. I was on the wrestling team all throughout high school which meant cutting weight; a lot of weight. I’d watch the Food Network to help satisfy my cravings. I’m not sure why or how it worked but it did. This was way back in the beginning of the “Essence of Emeril” days. So I guess I sort of gravitated towards Culinary Arts. Fortunate for me, I fell in love with the kitchen.”

2. Who mentored you in your pursuit of this career?

“I’ve been lucky in my career to have learned a great deal from cooking with a lot of great chefs and cooks in several kitchens. Chef Paul Sorgule has been my mentor from the start of my career and continues to be a tremendous influence on me to this day. First as the Dean of Culinary Arts/Hospitality at Paul Smith’s College, then as Executive Chef at The Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid, NY, and now as the President and Founder of Harvest America Ventures, he has always taken the time to teach me lessons in life and in the kitchen. Chef Tony Maws, Chef/Proprietor of Craigie on Main in Cambridge, MA and The Kirkland Tap and Trotter in Somerville, MA helped me to develop the ‘no compromise’ attitude within kitchens and myself I’ve managed since working for Chef Maws. And the relentless quest for doing things only one way, the right way. Chef Ranveer Brar, Senior Executive Chef at Accor in Mumbai, India; formerly Executive Chef of BanQ Restaurant in Boston, MA gave me my first Sous Chef position which later turned into a Chef de Cuisine position. Chef Brar taught me much about management as well as underlining principles of food and presentation.”

3. What style of cooking best portrays your passion?

“When I cook for guests, and family for that matter, I try to keep things simple. Combinations that make sense to their palette but also trying hard to create for them something they haven’t had before. Some sort of little twist in there that keeps them guessing and coming back for more.”

4. Do you have a food philosophy that drives your menu decisions? If so, can you describe this philosophy?

“For me the guest is the ultimate motivator that drives any menu decision. The menu needs to reflect the food that our guests are looking for. Common sense, right? With that in mind, I can create a menu that can both distinguish our restaurant from others and give the guest what they are looking for. Obviously we need to believe in the food and love what we are cooking, or we could be in big trouble as a kitchen and a business. At the same time, we need the guest to want to come through our doors, sit at our tables and spend their hard-earned money to eat our food. It can be tricky at times.”

5. Can you name a particular food experience in your life that was your epiphany? An experience that stands out as the moment when you said, yes, this is what I need to do.

“I spent the summer of 2001 doing a stage in the kitchen of Chef Marc Meneau’s L’Esperance in Saint Pere sous Vezelay in the Burgundy region of France. It was like all the romanticized stories of traveling abroad- the food, the wine. All absolutely amazing. It was my epiphany and I definitely need to go back.”

6. Who are your most valuable players in the restaurant where you currently work?

“It is without a doubt the line cooks and prep cooks that are our MVPs in the kitchen. They are the shock troops, the frontline soldiers, and the ones kicking grenades in the trenches, giving all the blood, sweat and tears. Without them and their commitment to the their job, getting the food out during service, or prepped before service, none of it is possible, and therefore the business would not be possible.”

7. If you had an opportunity to provide some guiding light to young cooks looking to make their mark in kitchens, what would you tell them?

“Cooking is all about attitude and commitment. You will never know it all, there is always more to learn and room to grow. Have a pen (and a sharpie for that matter) and notepad on you at all times and use them. Remember, humans are creatures of habit; routines are hard to start, but easy to maintain. That way you can avoid short cuts by developing good habits and stopping the bad.”

8. When you hire people to work in your kitchen what traits are you looking for?

“Attitude and commitment. You can always teach new skills and train employees the ways of the kitchen. But it’s much more difficult to develop the right kind of attitude in someone. It’s all about the attitude they bring to work – the desire to learn, that no job is too small. They also need to show initiative. Taste everything, see how the chef makes his or her sauces, purees, vinaigrettes, but take it upon yourself before someone asks you to taste it. This tells me you are thinking for yourself; you’re already ahead of the curve.”

9. If you were not cooking, what would you choose to do for a career?

“I have no idea. I’ve always thought about it and I’ve never really came up with anything. Maybe journalism? I don’t know why. Sounds like it might be interesting. Could be possibly exciting at times.”

10. What would you like people to know about your current restaurant and the food that you produce?

“The Merchant hasn’t opened just yet but Executive Chef Matt Foley has also worked at Craigie on Main and brings that “no compromise” approach to cooking and strives for the best food possible. It’s going to be a lot of fun and exciting. “
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Tim McQuinn is one of the most technically accomplished cooks that I know. He is truly a committed individual who, since his first time holding a French knife, knew that he was meant to work with food. He was an exceptional culinary student, participated in a French cooking internship, has worked with many accomplished chefs and stood beside me as my benchmark Chef Tournant at the Four-Diamond Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid. Tim spent time at BanQ Restaurant in Boston, Craigie on Main in Cambridge, The Tailor and the Cook in Utica, and the North Hero House in Vermont. I know I look forward to the opening of Merchant and hope to be one of the first in line to experience his food.

Although the Merchant website is not yet up and running, the following article in EATER-Boston will shed some light on what is to come.

http://boston.eater.com/archives/2013/11/20/this-is-what-the-merchant-could-look-like.php

SETTING THE HOLIDAY TABLE – A New Role for Restaurants

SETTING THE HOLIDAY TABLE - A New Role for Restaurants

Good, bad or indifferent, the reality for the holidays is that they mark some of the busiest days of the year for restaurants. To our guests it may simply reflect their desire to truly relax and avoid the hustle of pulling together their largest family meal of the year, it might reflect (another whole topic) their lack of skill or desire to cook, or it might simply be a interest in the local restaurant’s interpretation of a special meal. To the restaurant employee it becomes “another day” in a busy operation and one more instance where they are unable to spend time with their family. On the business side, this might be one of the few opportunities over the next two months to generate some sales since aside from those areas that are a shopping destination, people are somewhat reluctant to spend their discretionary income on dining out when there is a struggle to find the money to buy gifts.

The question is “how do we make something very positive out of this restaurant reality”? Restaurants live in a different climate today. Our role has sped past simply providing nourishment. We are now in the business of providing appropriate nutrition, looking out for guest health, accommodation of special dietary needs, a source of entertainment, a center for food education, a resource for rewarding guests when others outside the restaurant ignore their contributions to society, a place where individuals celebrate each other, and now a substitute for the family table. This is not a burden, it is a much broader role that allows restaurants to play an integral part in people’s lives and in turn create the chance for us to survive and occasionally thrive as a business. It behooves us to add this reality to the training that we offer employees – they need to be on-board and we need to create a reward system that recognizes their efforts and sacrifices.

It is now the role of restaurants to re-create that family table that was depicted in the Norman Rockwell painting of this American tradition. This cannot be simply another dinner out – it must be special and memorable. It must be our pleasure to provide this for every guest who chooses to share his or her family time with us. This may be cliché and seemingly unrealistic, but this is our role. So – how can we create this experience and feeling in our restaurants and do so with a real sense of caring?

A quote by: Sarah Henry in her novel: “A Cold and Lonely Place” sums up the answer to this question: “Sometimes home is where you’re at, and family is who you’re with.” Restaurant people, as I have previously mentioned, are some of the most thoughtful and caring people that I know – yet when asked what distresses them most about working in the business, the answer is almost always universal. What upsets them most goes beyond the hard physical work, beyond the hours that they must commit, even beyond the 5% of guests served who can be rude; the primary stressor is an employees inability to spend quality time with his or her family – especially during the holidays. As restaurateurs and chefs we cannot ignore this fact. The employee may be physically present but their hearts are miles away with their spouse, children, parents, siblings and friends. This feeling cannot be put aside, it is there and will, without a doubt, impact on the employees’ ability to put on a smiling face and provide that exceptional guest experience. So how can we take advantage of the wisdom in Sarah Henry’s quote?

The answer should be a focus of those in our human resource worlds, a topic of discussion and planning in manager meetings, and a commitment on the part of owners. We are, after all, in the service business. James Heskett from the Harvard Business School once said: “if you are not serving the guest directly you must serve those you are”. To provide that level of guest experience that fulfills our new business reality we must insure that our employees feel good about their role and feel that their time away from family is taken into account.

There are some excellent examples of ways that restaurants can, and in many cases have built on the premise of Sarah Henry’s quote. Re-creating opportunities for the “restaurant family” to break bread and celebrate each other with great food, comfortable family meal environments with all the trimmings, toasts to this and their biological families can go a long way. This should be built into the holiday schedule and focused on with the same enthusiasm and attention to detail that we put into the guest experience. Employee turkey’s and other products as a bonus for their families to enjoy at home is a small price to pay with a big return. Thank you cards from owners and managers and even in-kind donations to local charities and people in need that carry the names of your staff members will help them to sense the spirit of the season. Scheduling staff for shorter shifts on holidays so that they can spend time with their families is a considerate approach, especially for those with young children. I am sure that with a concerted effort, each restaurant can come up with their own ideas on how to turn lemons into lemonade.

On the guest side, building that environment of celebration will become real when an appreciated staff exudes the warmth of the holidays and a sincere approach towards service. Give it some thought this holiday season as we set the table for guests in our busy restaurants.

CURTISS HEMM – A TALENTED CHEF WITH A CAUSE AND A BIG HEART

CURTISS HEMM – A TALENTED CHEF WITH A CAUSE AND A BIG HEART

We sometimes wait our entire lives for that moment; the epiphany, the light bulb event that signals what our purpose is. As I continue to find new ways to love my involvement in the food business I am always amazed at how many chefs have experienced those life-changing moments. When they occur, a person’s passion and commitment grows exponentially. I suppose it is parallel to that age-old question: “why am I here”?

For a chef “why am I here” might be “to create, to nourish, to teach or to simply make people smile”. To a few, this question may even address all of those and more. When it does, a chef becomes so much more than his or her title. A chef becomes a portal for others to flock to and an example of what we should all aspire to become. Such is the case with Chef Curtiss Hemm of Pink Ribbon Cooking, LLC.

Pink Ribbon Cooking is a life-long journey for Chef Hemm who now spends his days developing recipes and delivering a message to thousands who are recovering from breast cancer or supporting someone who is. His belief that food should “Do no Harm” has become a message that he seeks to deliver to all who will listen. In essence, he goes beyond this statement and demonstrates how food can help to heal on all levels: physical, mental and emotional.

Chef Hemm has agreed to this interview that addresses his career path, what keeps him up at night and pushes him every day, and how this path might serve as an inspiration for other cooks and chefs seeking out that “purpose”.

1. What or who influenced you to pursue a career in the kitchen?

“There was no one person that led me down this path. I have always been a creative person and loved to build things without the influence of rigidity, rules or known outcomes. Ultimately I was interested in architecture but took a job cooking. I fell in love with the freedom, instant gratification and the fire that feeds a kitchen’s energy.

Having been raised in the northern tier of NY I had been a consumer of many forms of culinary media. Jacques Pepin has always influenced my cooking, probably more so than anyone else. Pepin’s regard for technique and his casual style were elements that resonated with me. The original Cook’s Illustrated also inspired me. I can remember making a lobster cake from the magazine using a mousseline as a binder instead of the normal 80’s bread crumbs and mayonnaise. I have a voracious appetite for technical literature about food and cooking. My appetite for anything related to food and cooking has led to a very large collection of cookbooks, memoirs and magazine, easily exceeding 3,000 books.

Another huge influence on my career and my life is my father. While he was not a large vocal advocate for my chosen career he always supported me as a person and he knew I was happy cooking. He allowed me to pursue my passion and allowed me to be me. I will always appreciate that and offer the same to my son.”

2. Who mentored you in your pursuit of this career?

“I did not pick up a culinary mentor until I enrolled in culinary school. At Paul Smith’s I was blessed to meet one of my longest standing mentors, Paul Sorgule. To this day Paul has inspired me to be prideful of my cuisine, to do it right the first time and to demonstrate the skills that make this a profession worthy of others.

I began working on culinary competitions at culinary school as a way to advance my skills and by exposure to ingredients and technique. These session instilled a love and passion for Garde Manger. Ultimately I ended up writing a culinary textbook, Garde Manger The Cold Kitchen with the world’s largest publishing house, Prentice Hall.”

3. What style of cooking best portrays your passion?

“I am really driven by technique and how a cook engages their medium. I openly admit to not being the most contemporary of chefs, leaving molecular gastronomy to the younger and the more ambitious chefs.

As I age I appreciate the simplicity of cooking and life. My cuisine and recipes reflect this. Life has become very busy and I seek to use my time in the kitchen to root myself to what makes me happy, to provide nourishment and love for my family and friends and to educate those living with illness on how to enjoy the table in a way that does not harm them.”

4. Do you have a food philosophy that drives your menu decisions? If so, can you describe this philosophy?

“Certainly I am a fan of cold foods; their subtle flavors, textures and nuances require you to engage your senses and explore the character of the ingredients.

More than anything I feel every ingredient has a voice and something to say, even the little ingredients like a bay leaf. It is my job as a chef to listen, interpret and present those voices in a way that showcases their truest character and qualities.

Our food should “DO NO HARM.”

Currently I am very focused on the nutritional side of cooking. More in how we remove processed foods from everyday life and engage fresh, natural and whole foods. There is a deficiency of culinary skill among the public. People think food is from a box or out of the freezer. This is killing us and we need to address it as a matter of life and death.”

5. Can you name a particular food experience in your life that was your epiphany? An experience that stands out as the moment when you said, yes, this is what I need to do.

“My time in France shaped a lot of my current thinking about food. Not that the food was better, but more how they engaged food as a society, it was a cultural importance to have good food.

I grew up not really having a culinary heritage. It was an experience to see how the French dined, cooked and shared the table. Spending time in France rooted technique into my culinary psyche. “

6. What is your pet peeve about working in restaurants?

“People think being chef is easy. IT IS ANYTHING BUT EASY. I have such mad respect for those in our industry that are able to balance family, work and career. I really was never able to do that. I chose education as a way to stay connected to food and cooking while staying married and raising my son.

Being a chef or being in our industry is a sacrifice. Chefs give up holidays, vacations and time with family and friends.

The public needs to respect these sacrifices and appreciate skill of the chefs that cook their meals and the function of restaurants within our society, communities and economy.

My other pet peeve is that I think there are too many restaurants that serve no purpose. These are owned by large corporations and do little to push our industry forward. They occupy space and dumb down food. The quick service causal genre has many of these establishments and I fail to see their value outside the economics of the business model.”

7. Who are your most valuable players in the restaurant where you currently work?

“Me. I do not currently have employees. When I left higher education and program administration I sought to be a very simple chef and business person. There are many aspects of my life that are challenging; my wife’s battle with breast cancer and my son’s issues related to Aspergers Syndrome. I require an amazing amount of flexibility. Being a business of one allows me to meet these primary responsibilities.
It is my goal to hire a culinary assistant in Q4 2014. I feel that being a manager is a huge commitment and I do not wish to become one again until I can do it on my terms and offer someone what I feel the position is worthy of, without compromise.”

8. If you had an opportunity to provide some guiding light to young cooks looking to make their mark in kitchens, what would you tell them?

a) Walk before you run. Know your stuff. Don’t become culinary fluff. You are better than that and you should want more for yourself. I have seen too many students come in and want to go straight to the most contemporary cooking styles and skip the basics. All cooking is rooted in technique, every aspect of it.
b) Be patient. Don’t rush to the top. It is not worth it. Enjoy cooking on the line. Build your skill-set, build your network and your culinary repertoire. All things come to those that deserve it.
c) DO NOT FOCUS ON THE MONEY. Money comes to those that earn it. Spend your 20’s building your skills and your 30’s building your career and name. This will allow you to build your fortune in your 40’s and 50’s.
d) You are nothing without the rest of your team. Lose the ego. Everyone in the restaurant industry is needed and should be respected for what they offer.
e) Find a mentor but don’t forget who you are. Find someone that inspires YOU, not just your food. I was fortunate to find this early in life, and in a few different people. It is a must.
f) Stay healthy. I wish I had embraced this earlier in life. Food is fuel, it can move your body, mind and soul, but it is still fuel. Fuel up properly, exercise and take care of yourself.”

9. When you hire people to work in your kitchen what traits are you looking for?

“Attention to detail, honesty, integrity, clarity of self and a good dose of confidence that falls short of arrogance or outright ego. I hire those that know life is balanced. Sometimes work requires a bit more and sometimes life does. We all live this and those that can manage it are the ones that succeed with me the best.”

10. If you were not cooking, what would you choose to do for a career?

“If I had a career mulligan I would be a doctor (orthopedic surgeon or cardiologist) or be a land and real estate developer.

I like the science and study of medicine and find that I know myself better now than in my youth and I would have really enjoyed that path.
Land development and real estate would allow me to engage the architect in me. I enjoy restoring my farm and managing my property and could easily see myself building beautiful houses and selling them to people that become their stewards. This would please me greatly.”

11. What would you like people to know about your current restaurant and the food that you produce?

“As a chef I feel obligated to serve food that is natural, whole and raised with humane treatment and harvesting practices. I have arrived to this position very late in life so I am more vocal about it than I rightfully should be but it would have to be the paradigm that food can both hurt and heal.

Our food should “Do no Harm.” Just as in medicine.”
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Curtiss Hemm is an accomplished father, chef, manager, teacher, author and advocate for Breast Cancer Prevention and Recovery. I have been honored to know and work with Chef Hemm since he was a culinary student at Paul Smith’s College. Since then we have collaborated on projects, taught together at both Paul Smith’s and New England Culinary Institute and continue to look for any and every opportunity to collaborate. He is an exceptional human being, one who has found his purpose.

If you are interested in learning more about Pink Ribbon Cooking and Chef Hemm’s efforts in delivering an important message, PLEASE visit his website at:

http://www.pinkribboncooking.com

EAMON LEE – A CHEF WHO INFLUENCES HUNDREDS OF OTHERS

EAMON LEE - A CHEF WHO INFLUENCES HUNDREDS OF OTHERS

There is a distinct difference between those who work in kitchens and those who choose to pursue a life-long career in food. Chefs tend to move in a variety of directions with their careers but typically all start out with the demands of prep and line work. Where they go from there will oftentimes depend on not just opportunity but where they feel they can have the greatest impact.

One of my favorite kitchen quotes came from Wolfgang Puck when he was asked by a reporter to describe why he was so successful in the food business. He said: “I buy the best raw materials and try not to screw them up”. This understanding of the source and the importance of the ingredient is a religion to many chefs and one of the most significant marketing tactics used by restaurants today. It goes beyond farm to plate and delves into a deeper understanding of quality, seasonality, carbon footprint, packaging, product maturity, understanding flavor profiles, handling and storage of ingredients, and how the ingredients fit with the concept of the restaurant. To this end, it is not just the chef who must take on the responsibility for understanding ingredients; it is of consummate importance that the distributor have an even greater understanding. The distributor, if competent, can help to educate the chef and the restaurateur and become their best friend and greatest contributor to restaurant success.

Over the years I have seen former students of mine move from the kitchen line to positions as executive chef, restaurateur, research chef, banquet chef, food writer and equipment rep. In a few cases, some of my more exceptional graduates have chosen a track that involves distribution. One such chef is Eamon Lee, CEC.

Eamon is currently the Corporate Chef for Maines Paper and Foodservice that distributes a full line of product and equipment out of Binghamton to New York and Pennsylvania. Chef Lee who is certified as an executive chef by the American Culinary Federation has agreed to the following interview that delves into his background, what drives him and his outlook for young aspiring cooks and chefs.

1. What or who influenced you to pursue a career in the kitchen?

“I worked at a high-end, on premise catering facility as a teenager and one night the chef could not make it into work. At 16 years old, I was the only one in the kitchen who could execute the wedding reception menu that evening. After the party, the newlyweds came into the kitchen and asked to see the chef. I said that the chef was gone and that I had prepared the meal. They looked at me in shock, gathered themselves, and stated it was the best meal they had ever had and that they would never forget it. I knew at that very moment I wanted to be a chef. “

2. What style of cooking best portrays your passion?

“Thoughtful, simple, seasonal, ingredient based American regional, with a farm to table feel. Basically, what they’ve been doing in Europe for 500 years.
3. Do you have a food philosophy that drives your menu decisions? If so, can you describe this philosophy?

“I usually ask myself these questions in this general order;

Create the palette-
*Where am I, and what is the “terroir?”
*What’s in season?
*Of these seasonal ingredients, which are the best for which I have to travel the least amount of distance to acquire?
*What staple ingredients does this particular “terroir” produce particularly well?

Identify the customer’s needs-
*Who am I feeding?
*What is the occasion?
*What is the level of formality?
*What is the importance of the food relative to the occasion?
*Are there any special dietary needs?

Choose the canvas-
*Where will they be eating?
*In what manner will they be eating? Family style, sit-down, buffet, etc…
*How will they be served?

Once this information is gathered, the menus write themselves. My job, as a chef, is to meet the customer’s needs (exceed them if the onus is on the food,) treat the ingredients with respect and dignity, and prepare a meal that dovetails perfectly with the needs of the customer, where and when they are eating it, and why. As a chef, humility is the most important ingredient I can bring to the kitchen, lest my needs supersede those of the customer’s and the potential of the ingredients. “

4. What is your pet peeve about working in restaurants?

“Missing family events and holidays.”

5. Who are your most valuable players in the restaurant where you currently work?

“In my last job as chef, the MVP’s were the people on my staff who “got it,” or, those who understood my answer to question #3. In a few words, or maybe even a look or gesture, they understood an entire philosophy or vision. Communication with MVP’s is effortless.”

6. If you had an opportunity to provide some guiding light to young cooks looking to make their mark in kitchens, what would you tell them?

“The same thing Jacques Pepin told me; essentially, cooking is a craft that needs to be mastered before in can be elevated to an art. Hone your craft, seek out masters, and do what they do. Rinse and repeat. After 10 years of this your own style may begin to develop. Then, and only then, will you be able to even think about making a mark.”

7. When you hire people to work in your kitchen what traits are you looking for?

“I look for an honest, open-minded and willing attitude and a dedication to the craft. A really, really strong work ethic helps too.

8. If you were not cooking, what would you choose to do for a career?

“Fine furniture making or a fly-fishing resort manager”.

9. What would you like people to know about your current restaurant and the food that you produce?

“I don’t work in a restaurant anymore, but in my current position I consult hundreds of restaurants throughout upstate New York. I try to be the chef some of them never had, or the source of inspiration they’ve never had. Instead of having one crew to inspire and manage, today, I have hundreds of crews. The food they all produce, in a small and sometimes-large measure, springs forth from the philosophy I described above. “
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I have followed Eamon and his career since he finished a culinary degree at Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondack’s of New York. He was one of those exceptionally talented students with a high level of confidence and the skills to back it up. Eamon was selected to represent his college as a member of the student culinary team that competed in Boston, MA. I will always remember this team with a special fondness because they were the first and only student team to win the New England Culinary Olympic Team cup for first place at that competition. Chef Lee is having an impact on the quality of food prepared at every restaurant that Maine’s touches. He is a true professional with an unwavering dedication to his craft.

For more information about Maines Paper and Foodservice, visit their website at:

http://www.maines.net

A WOMAN CHEF PREPARING TO MAKE HER MARK ON CENTRAL NEW YORK

A WOMAN CHEF PREPARING TO MAKE HER MARK ON CENTRAL NEW YORK

Creating a restaurant is a labor of love, a total commitment of time, energy, intellect, emotion, and passion. Unless you live this existence it is difficult to comprehend what it takes to make great food and serve the discriminating palates of a restaurant’s guests. One of the only fields that I would consider comparable is the life of a farmer. It was Dr. Scholl who said the keys to professional success are: “early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise”. This is the life of the farmer and the chef/restaurateur.

What is most interesting is that deep down, the farmer and the chef love what they do; not every day, not every moment, but overall it is passion and genetic work ethic that drives their personal engines.

As a chef by trade, I had always said that I would hire a farmer to work in my restaurants any day. Farmers know hard work and dedication, they are skilled and passionate and extremely dependable: they have to be.

What if you were to find a chef/restaurateur who grew up as part of a farm family and this person was accustomed to being up way before sunrise to milk cows, tend to daily farm chores and spend her summers mowing hay for winter forage. Well, such a person exists – her name is Rebekah Alford, chef/restaurateur at Rainbow Shores on Lake Ontario in Pulaski, New York.

In partnership with her mom, Renee, they operate this terrific restaurant offering beautifully prepared, highly flavorful, contemporary American cuisine just 100 feet from the shores of Lake Ontario. Mom, by the way, still works with Rebekah’s father and family operating their dairy farm in Central, New York. They milk 1,700 cows, three times every day.

Rebekah refers to her youth as: “the best of times and the worst of times”. The lifestyle made her teenage years different and challenging, but as she beams: “the experience made me the person I am today. Growing up on a farm helped me to understand the value of hard work.” Renee added: “it is hard to be passionate about a paycheck, but easy to become passionate about a hard earned dollar”. Rebekah’s entrepreneurial spirit is drawn from this reality.

Chef Rebekah attended Paul Smith’s College for culinary arts and later worked at the 4-Diamond Mirror Lake Inn Resort and Spa, the Relais and Chateaux Lake Placid Lodge as well other exceptional properties in Lake Placid, NY, before taking on the Rainbow Shores Project (now in their fourth year) with her mother and father.

Where her family finds the time to support this endeavor is beyond me. Their dairy farm encompasses 4,000 acres, a 2,800 head herd (1,700 are milked daily), producing 45 million pounds of milk each year (that’s right, I said 45 million). The farm grew from 43 cows to 1,700 milkers’ over the past couple of decades demonstrating the entrepreneurial spirit that Rebekah obviously inherited.

The kitchen at Rainbow Shores is brand new (a chef’s dream), the food is quite remarkable using the freshest ingredients, and the view is postcard perfect. The dirt road off of Route 3 that leads to the restaurant is deceiving. When the end of the road opens up for the restaurant, you find yourself stopping to breathe in the view that owns every guest the moment they arrive. Sunsets are hard to describe.

Rebekah lives by a Food Philosophy that drives all of her menu decisions and sums up her belief structure:

Food Philosophy for Rainbow Shores
__________________________________

It is our belief that food is more than sustenance and dining is more than simply eating. We are committed to starting with the finest, freshest, high quality ingredients; caring for these ingredients through proper cooking techniques and seasoning them to draw out exceptional, unique and memorable flavors.

The plate is our canvas and attention will always be paid to ensuring that the painting on this canvas reflects our passion for great food. Balance will always be achieved through complementary and equally passionate selection and preparation of wines, beers and unique cocktails that pair with our menu.

We believe in creating value and the complete dining experience framed by one of the most spectacular vistas on Lake Ontario and to serve our guests with the hospitality of family. This restaurant is our life calling and our staff are our ambassadors with guest satisfaction as their primary responsibility.

Rainbow Shores
Exceptional Dining on the Shores of Lake Ontario
_____________________________

I believe that this talented woman chef (oh, did I mention she has a son to raise as well) is destined to leave her mark on the Central New York Restaurant scene. Some chef’s talk about building relations with farmers, her relations with farmers are in her DNA.

In 2014, Chef Rebekah will offer culinary internships for a few select, dedicated students of regional culinary arts colleges. Those interested in working at Rainbow Shores can contact Chef Rebekah through the restaurant.

For more information, view their website or Facebook page at:

http://www.lakeontariovacations.com

http://www.facebook.com/rainbow.shores

For reservations, call: 315-298-5110

Rainbow Shores does close for the season after New Year’s Day 2014 and will reopen in the Spring of 2014.

THE COMPLEXITY OF BEING A RESORT CHEF – Chef Phil Flath Interview

THE COMPLEXITY OF BEING A RESORT CHEF – Chef Phil Flath Interview

One of the most interesting aspects of analyzing what it takes to be a professional chef lies in the uniqueness of each operation. Each chef has his or her own set of challenges and opportunities that would lead one to quickly understand that not every chef “fits” in every operation. Certain chefs are geared towards fine dining, others find a comfortable home in banquet houses or high volume family style restaurants. Clubs, resorts and convention hotels may provide some of the most interesting challenges for chef managers due to the complexity of facilitating such a broad variety of outlets and unique food requirements.

On any given day, a resort, club or convention hotel chef might find it necessary to address dozens of banquet meals, coffee hours, cocktail receptions, tastings for anxious wedding planners, and the ongoing operation of multiple venues from a breakfast restaurant to family style dining; from a fine dining outlet to special wine dinners and the never ending onslaught of room service orders. It is a jigsaw puzzle that demands that a chef spend the vast majority of his or her seventy hour work week in meetings, constantly changing staff schedules, designing custom menus, interacting with clients looking for guidance in arranging menus for their groups, insuring that enough of the right product is in house, staying on top of equipment maintenance, and staying in tune with a looming budget that requires constant monitoring of all associated costs. Time spent cooking is often times rare and always treasured. The chefs job to is to set the stage for the kitchen staff to execute food production at a consistently high level of quality.

Phillip Flath is the Executive Chef at Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club in Brewster, Massachusetts. He has agreed to an interview that sheds some light on his responsibilities, his career track, offer some words of advice for young culinarians and open the door to understanding what drives him on a daily basis.

What or who influenced you to pursue a career in the kitchen?

“I would have to say that my first job in a small restaurant in Saranac Lake, NY provided me with the opportunity to pursue a career that I had no idea existed. I was a dishwasher as a 16 year-old kid trying to make a few bucks for gas for my car. One night, the owner asked me to go work in the kitchen as one of the cooks called out. I was completely lost, he gave me the confidence to just listen to the other cooks and follow orders. Basically, I was a puppet for the evening, a set of hands being moved by another cook. I never washed another dish in that restaurant. I continued to learn basic aspects of cooking giving me an avenue to pursue an education at Paul Smith’s College (my hometown) and eventually a career as a Chef.”

Who mentored you in your pursuit of this career?

“ I would say that Paul Sorgule has been the biggest mentor and supporter in my career as a chef. His knowledge, passion, experience, and sense of humor are all traits that I have tried to emulate through my growth and experience as a chef. Getting to know him personally and building a friendship is something that I treasure each day I come to work.”

“I would also like to mention the team of chef educators who taught at Paul Smith’s College who were also very influential. They made learning the technical side of this business fun and exciting – Chefs John McBride, Dave Gotzmer, Curtiss Hemm, and Bob Brown to mention a few…”

What style of cooking best portrays your passion?

“Growing up in the Northeast and working in Boston for 10 years and now on Cape Cod for the last 6 years, I feel that autumn is the best for cooking. The slow cooking methods of braising and roasting, the wonderful root vegetables that can transform flavors depending on how you cook them and the hearty harvest of truly “new” potatoes makes for a wonderful meal, not to mention the wide variety of apples that can be utilized for any style of dessert.

Since I have had the opportunity to travel for recruiting my culinary intern team each year, I have found a strong passion for the street tacos and authentic food of Mexico; both Mexico City and Puebla, the “Culinary Capital” of Mexico.”

Do you have a food philosophy that drives your menu decisions? If so, can you describe this philosophy?

“With multiple outlets, menus vary. There are different food styles and customer bases which dictate how each menu is created. However, we utilize the freshest ingredients, make almost everything from scratch and stay current with culinary trends in each restaurant.”

Can you name a particular food experience in your life that was your epiphany? An experience that stands out as the moment when you said, yes, this is what I need to do.

“I would have to say that the two weeks spent in France in the Summer of 1991 sent me well on my way to understanding what it would take to become successful, a challenge that I was ready for. A few notes regarding that period of time stick out in my mind:
*A 10 course luncheon with Marc Meneau at the Three-Star restaurant: L’Esperance – a Life Changing Meal, not to mention how clean and organized the kitchen was

*Cooking with Paul and Sharon Sorgule and my Mom for the dignitaries of Entrains, France

*The dinner at a chateau – I ate escargot for the first time and I believe we closed the place – the kitchen looked like every other kitchen – used, but not abused
*Eating fresh baguettes and charcuterie in the car traveling through Burgundy visiting various wineries from Daniel Chotard in Sancerre to Pascal Jolivet in Poulliy.

*As a young American kid, having Coca-Cola served to me at breakfast with fresh croissants and Danish pastries

*This trip and all of the associated experiences gave me insight to many of the different aspects, challenges, and rewards of a career in restaurants.”

What is your pet peeve about working in restaurants?

“I’m not sure I have a pet peeve about working in restaurants; I have pet peeves about individuals that may work in restaurants. People that don’t have the respect for the business, passion for our guests or each other, desire to be the best all of the time, want to work hard, or be part of a team are things that bother me.”

Who are your most valuable players in the restaurant where you currently work?

“In this environment, my most valuable players are my sous chefs. With five different restaurants and banquet operations that are spread over 429 acres, I have to trust and rely on my sous chefs to carry my message to the team while delivering a consistent food product. This team of eight is essential to making sure each restaurant service and banquet function is executed with excellence by providing the necessary knowledge and tools to their immediate staff.

Two other positions that are critical in any hotel/resort environment: breakfast cook(s) – life is so much better if there is a solid breakfast cook that is reliable, fast, and efficient.

Stewards – They make all of us look better. An efficient team that works hard to clean up after us and take care of moving equipment all around allows me to focus on all aspects of cooking and presentation.”

If you had an opportunity to provide some guiding light to young cooks looking to make their mark in kitchens, what would you tell them?

“I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with young cooks each season as I employ 20-25 culinary interns from across the globe; Mexico, Philippines, Ireland, Chicago ILL, Providence RI, and Burlington VT, to name a few. There are two messages that I tell each “student:
1. Speak Up and make yourself known – your work ethic and habits, efficiency will only get you so far; you need to get the chef’s attention and show him/her what you have created and how it was prepared and be persistent in asking them to taste it. You also want to get face time with the chef to talk food, life, or just chat.
2. Have Fun – this is a grueling business with a lot of hours spent in the kitchen away from family and friends; make the best of it. If you can’t laugh through many of the challenges faced each day, the stress will overwhelm you.”

When you hire people to work in your kitchen what traits are you looking for.

“I look for individuals who are passionate, have a strong desire to work for me, act intelligent, are reasonable, have a sense of humor, and a knack for creativity. I believe that one doesn’t have to possess the strongest technical skills as long as they have these other traits.”

If you were not cooking, what would you choose to do for a career?

“If I had not chosen to be a chef, I would have pursued my childhood dream of becoming a pilot. I am fascinated with flying, airplanes, and the freedom goes with it.”

What would you like people to know about your current restaurant and the food that you produce?

“Ocean Edge Resort and Golf Club, Brewster, MA is host to multiple restaurants that are open to the public, not just our Club Members or Resort Guests. Our website contains sample menus and current hours of operation for each restaurant. This is a great spot for destination weddings. I offer a take on New England cuisine throughout the resort, whether in our restaurants or as part of banquets and other special events. “

___________________________________________________

I had the privilege of working with Chef Flath while he pursed a culinary education at Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. During his time in the program Phil was selected as a member of our student culinary team competing in Boston. After graduation, Chef Flath continued his education at Elmira College where he earned a baccalaureate in business and a master’s degree in adult education. I have admired him since he was a teenager and have followed his career with great pride. Throughout his time in the food industry he has been able to earn the respect of his employees, peers, supervisors and guests. Without exception he has been able to balance the strength of leadership with the temperament of a perfect gentleman.

For those who are interested in learning more about The Ocean Edge Resort and Golf Club, visit their website at:

http://www.oceanedge.com

SHARPEN YOUR CONTROL PENCILS – EVERYONE IS GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT

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Most of you are probably thinking: “what an awful statement to make”. The American mantra is always the opposite and has become the basis for our legal system, yet from experience, I would state that the best approach is to plan for the worst in an effort to prevent it. Allow me to explain how this works in restaurant operations.

The reality for management must be that everyone could be dishonest if given the opportunity. It becomes important to realize that managers should thus focus on taking away the temptation in an effort to help your employees and customers remain honest.

“There’s an old saying that’s long been accepted in fraud prevention circles called the 10-10-80 rule: 10 percent of people will never steal no matter what, 10 percent of people will steal at any opportunity, and the other 80 percent of employees will go either way depending on how they rationalize a particular opportunity. The good news is that there is much a business can do to sway this 80 percent to their side.
Another widely accepted theory is that of the late Dr. Donald R. Cressey called the “Fraud Triangle.” According to this theory, there are three factors — each a leg of a triangle — that, when combined, lead people to commit fraud.
One leg is an individual’s financial problem or need that they perceive is nonsharable; i.e., a gambling debt. The second leg is this individual’s perception that there exists at the place of business an opportunity to resolve the financial problem without getting caught. The third leg is the individual’s ability to rationalize or justify the intended illegal action (“After all I did for my company, they mistreated me. I was entitled to that money.”). In shorter terms, PRESSURE plus PERCEIVED OPPORTUNITY plus RATIONALIZATION equals FRAUD.”

http://www.businessknowhow.com/manage/employee-theft.htm

What is most telling about this quote is both the need to take away temptation and the employees’ mindset that they might be able to justify their dishonesty based on “after all I did for my company”. Let’s look at 100 (not literally) ways that people can and do steal from restaurants.

• Theft of cash from a register
• Servers or bartenders shorting the till by not recording certain items that are sold to guests
• Accepting favors from vendors in exchange for over-ordering or buying items at a cost that should be lower
• Walking out of the operation with product
• Over-portioning, not portioning, giving away free drinks (theft of service)
• Taking small equipment
• And the list goes on and on

By nature, most of us want to trust our staff and co-workers. To this end, restaurants in particular, tend to be physically set-up under the premise of trust. Look at your own operation in this regard:

• Do you have locks on your cooler doors?
• Do you require your cooks to requisition product from a central receiving area?
• Do you have a system of checks and balances where more than one person (from a different department ideally) is responsible for ordering, processing bills and taking inventory?
• Do you perform unscheduled inventories on alcoholic beverages?
• Do you require your cooks to scale out ingredients, especially high-cost center of plate items?
• Do you clearly state that those responsible for ordering abstain from accepting any gifts from vendors?
• Do you require those who order to solicit bid prices from various vendors?
• Do you use a system using purchase orders that match up to invoices?
• Have you implemented a portioning system in your bar?
• Do you limit only one person to access the cash register on any given shift?
• Do you require your staff to leave backpacks, or large carry bags in their cars or at home rather than bring them to work?
• Do you conduct daily inventories on high cost, portioned proteins?
• Do you conduct weekly or at least monthly inventories of all products used in generating sales?

If the answer is no to any of these questions, then there is an opportunity for your staff to steal. This does not mean they will, it simply points to a weakness in your system and a responsibility that you have not taken to help your staff to stay honest.

There are answers to this dilemma that allow trust in the workplace to exist and create an environment where employees (management included) are part of the solution, not the problem.

• Limit access to coolers and storerooms either by using locks or incorporating a system of planning using requisitions and delivery to various stations in the kitchen or bar
• Use cash registers that require employees to enter a password and management to lock out others during a shift
• Have cashiers count and sign for their bank at the beginning of a shift and sign off on their drawer at the end of a shift
• Require regular inventories conducted by two parties who do not report to each other
• Have all employees sign a terms of employment document that states that they are not allowed to accept favors from vendors
• Install a method of portioning in both the front and back of the house
• Watch patterns of over/short daily cash reports
• Offer orientation and training sessions for staff that outline your control procedures and how important it is for all to participate in the financial success of the business

The key to a successful program is to make it participatory rather than allowing employees to feel that they are being watched and pre-judged. Restaurants are businesses with very small margins for profit and they can only be successful if all staff members’ buy-in to the need for control. Control is a word that oftentimes poses negative connotations. Control should not be designed to control people, but rather control the environment that they work in. If it is presented in this fashion, your staff will see the merit and understand their role.

THE COMPLETE CHEF

THE COMPLETE CHEF

The restaurant industry in the United States is enormous with 2012 sales in excess of $450 billion. There are, among the 960,000 plus operations, varying degrees of quality and commitment to excellence. There are those that disappoint, many that meet guest expectations and a chosen few that consistently exceed expectations and make those of us who choose a career in cooking, proud to be part of a club that includes those few.

Without exception, those restaurants that exceed expectations are led by a chef who is passionate, extremely confident, creative and talented. One such restaurant is Café Boulud in New York City. As part of the Dinex Group of world-­‐renown restaurants led by Chef Daniel Boulud, this café holds the unique position of both an extraordinary fine dining destination and a neighborhood iconic spot to enjoy wonderful food and drink. At the helm of this truly great restaurant is a chef, and friend, Gavin Kaysen.

Chef Gavin agreed to the interview that follows, a brief summary of what makes him tick and how he is able to maintain his passion for cooking.

[] What or who influenced you to pursue a career in the kitchen?

“Many people have influenced my career, but my Grandmother was the first person I ever stepped into a kitchen with. She helped me understand what hospitality meant and how easy it can be to make people happy by breaking bread with them. “
[] Who mentored you in your pursuit of this career in food?

“George Serra was my first ever mentor, I met him in Minnesota when I was 16 years old, and he took me under his wing. He showed me what it meant to have passion in this industry and how to translate that to the guest, your fellow chefs and the people grinding it out everyday with you. From there, I have to say that Daniel Boulud has been my other mentor in many ways. He has taken me from a cook to a chef; he has guided me through how to run a restaurant to now running three for him. He has taught me the importance of a team and just how to build one. He has taught me the true meaning of hospitality and it is not just about the guest, and they’re dining experience, but rather about their entire experience with you, both in the restaurant an beyond. “
[] What style of cooking best portrays your passion?

“I cook French – American food…. I have been rooted in classic cooking my entire career, since the age of 16 (I am 34 now), but I am from MN, so I am as American as they come, for that reason, I love to see wild rice on my menu, and food that reminds me of my childhood growing up in the Midwest.”
[] Do you have a food philosophy that drives your menu decisions? If so, can you describe this philosophy?

“My philosophy on the menu is rather simple, I look at the season, I listen to my guests and I create the menu with my entire sous chef team. I think it is important to listen to the guest and see what it is that they want on the menu as well. We have a large amount of people who eat at Café Boulud 3 plus times per week, we want to give them variety, while maintaining the standards.”
[] Can you name a particular food experience in your life that was your epiphany? An experience that stands out as the moment when you said, “yes, this is what I need to do”.

“I can tell you the first time I ever had a real fine dining meal…before this, to me fine dining was the Red Lobster down the street or Steak & Ale in MN. I went to Napa Valley to do my externship for school; I was 21 years old and moved into a house with 9 roommates. One of them worked at this restaurant down the street called The French Laundry. She asked if I had ever been, I of course said no, and asked if I could come in with my parents the next day for lunch. She got us in and we sat next to the kitchen, long before their renovation. I had a meal that I will never forget, not because of the food, but the setting and how they made me feel…even though I had no clue what Foie Gras was, they didn’t judge, care of show it at the least. They saw I was excited, got to know me and learned I cooked for a living; they invited me to the kitchen to meet the chef…Thomas Keller. I should have known who he was, but I didn’t, I just knew that he was someone who created a memory for me that will last a lifetime. Now, Chef Keller is a friend and someone I work and talk with on a daily basis. It is full circle and incredible how simple food can bring people together. “
[] Who are your “most valuable players” in Café Boulud?

“Everyone, from the porters to my GM…. I value them all and owe everything we do to them, they would walk through a wall for me and I would do the same for them in a heartbeat. “
[] If you had an opportunity to provide some guiding light to young cooks looking to make their mark in kitchens, what would you tell them?

“Be patient; understand that cooking does not have an age limit. I know there are many awards to be won, and you have to be under a certain age…. I have won them…. while they are important and great milestones, they will not get you want you want any faster. You have to work for it, prepare yourself for success, and ask questions. If you strain the sauce 6 times, ask why, don’t just do it…. get to know the meaning of what you do every day, it will give you a new light on how to cook.”
[] When you hire people to work in your kitchen what traits are you looking for?

“I am looking for commitment; I am looking for genuine curiosity and strength. I want them to be strong enough to let us teach them, even if they think they know it, I want them to learn a new way, and ask why.”
[] If you were not cooking, what would you choose to do for a career?

“I am not good at music, but I love it, and would love to have been in that industry somehow.”
[] What would you like people to know about your current restaurant and the food that you produce?

“Café Boulud is a restaurant that was built in 1900 in Lyon, France. It has been transformed to fit the UES on Manhattan, Café Boulud has become an Upper East Side staple, whose menu is inspired by Daniel Boulud’ s four culinary muses: la tradition, classic French cuisine; la saison, seasonal delicacies; le potager, the vegetable garden; and le voyage, flavors of world cuisines. Having earned three stars in the New York Times as well as a star in the Michelin Guide, Café Boulud is both a destination and a neighborhood gem for casually elegant dining, seasonal wine tasting dinners, Sunday brunch and two salons for intimate, private events. The restaurant’ s adjacent Bar Pleiades serves some of the neighborhoods finest cocktails and is perfect for a group gathering or intimate get together.”

Chef Gavin Kaysen graduated from the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont. Prior to accepting his position at Café Boulud he worked at Domaine Chandon in Yountville, California; l”Auberge de Lavaux in Switzerland; l’Escargot in London with the notorious Chef Marco Pierre White; and Bizcocho in San Diego. Kaysen represented the United States at the Bocuse d’Or in Lyon, France and in 2007 was named by Food and Wine Magazine as one of the “10 Best New Chefs”. In 2008 he was additionally recognized by StarChefs.com and The James Beard Foundation as a “Rising Star Chef”. In 2009 Chef Kaysen successfully beat Chef Michael Symon on Iron Chef America and competed till the final round of “Chopped All-Stars” seeking to raise money for the Children’s Cancer Research Fund.

Gavin lives in New York City with his wife and two sons. If you are EVER in New York and are seeking an extraordinary dining experience, make sure to book a reservation at Café Boulud.

Visit Chef Gavin’s personal website and that of Café Boulud for more details.

http://www.gavinkaysen.com

http://www.cafeboulud.com/nyc/

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