Shop Gear for Chefs at our Online Store

August 25, 2019

Gear for Chefs now available at our new online store Chefs Resources Merch!

Chef’s Resources gear for chefs is finally available at our new online store! Over the past few years we have had requests for us to turn some of our MEMEs and kitchen charts into posters to hang in your kitchens. It’s been a long time coming but we have finally found a company which will produce our gear on an order by order basis, meaning we do not have stock inventory, they will simply make it as soon as it is ordered. Check-out our new store at Chefs-Resources-Merch.com!

Gear for Chefs

Chef gear includes a variety of mise en place posters to motivate your staff including “mise en place…ethos of the professional kitchen” and “mise en place…being able to tell that bitch Murphy’s Law to sit the #$!%@ down!” Posters are a available in a variety of sizes both in simple pin up versions and in higher quality framed versions.

Popular useful kitchen charts include “Wild Mushroom Foraging Seasons”, “Wild Foraged Produce Seasons“, “Disher Scoop Sizes & Volumes”, “Steamtable Pan Sizes & Capacities”, “Restaurant Can Sizes” and more. These are perfect to hang on the wall for reference for your crew, or in your office to help with planning menus according to the season.

And of course we have the obligatory coffee cups, water bottles, t-shirts, and utility bags for the small gear for chefs such as tweezers, peelers, oyster knives, sharpie markers, etc.

Tell me some of your favorite kitchen phrases which you would like to see on a T-shirt or poster. Some of my favorites include “Go cry in the walk-in”, “Don’t touch my mise”, and “Six stitches to go home early.”

If there is gear that you would like to see us carry, or a favorite kitchen phrase you’d like to see put on a T-shirt or poster, leave a comment below!

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restaurant competitive menu pricing strategy

February 5, 2019

How to Competitively Price Your Menu

restaurant competitive menu pricing strategyPricing a menu is tricky business: price dishes too high, and you’ll turn off patrons. Price it too low and you’ll cut deep into your profit margins. It’s a skill to find that delicate balance, but here are some tips to help you with your restaurant competitive menu pricing strategy.

Start By Understanding Your Food Costs

Your foundation begins by determining food costs. Each ingredient you purchase for your menu has a per-dish cost, which may vary depending on supply and demand or season. Pull your recipe apart, ingredient by ingredient. And don’t overlook anything, including a tablespoon of olive oil or a sprinkling of salt. These may seem insignificant costs, but they add up across all dishes.

If you use restaurant inventory management software, you should be able to easily see the per-dish cost, since it’s input into your system.

Take Into Account Seasonality

Watermelon doesn’t come cheap in the winter…if it can be found at all. As you’re building your menu, realize that some ingredients are seasonal. You have a decision here: offer the dish only when the produce is in season or replace that ingredient with another (risotto is a great platform for whatever is in season).

You can also factor the seasonal fluctuations in price for that ingredient into the price you set for the menu year ‘round. Rather than raising the price of that tomato salad in the winter by $1, you can offset the expected price increase for the dish throughout the year.

Check Out Local Competitors’ Pricing

There’s nothing wrong with doing a little research: find out what nearby restaurants are charging for similar dishes. If you can match or beat the price, you’ll be assured of plenty of business. Charge too much above the competition, and you’ll risk losing customers based on price.

Understand Each Dish’s Potential Profit

One key component of your restaurant competitive menu pricing strategy is to understand margin. Not every dish will have the same profit margin. High-end cuts of meat like steak can be marked up 50% above cost, but salads, appetizers, and desserts can be marked up as much as 80% or more. The strategy here is to sell the items with more margin. Even though your salads & desserts may have a better food cost percentage than your steaks, you will make more more from the steaks, albeit at a higher food cost percentage.

Factor in Other Costs

Beyond food costs, you also have to cover your staff’s payroll, overhead, marketing, utilities, et cetera. Factor in a little extra to help cover these costs when pricing dishes for your menu on top of your profit margin to ensure that not only can you pay your expenses, but you also have enough to cover your other expenses.

Get a Pricing Strategy

Now that you’ve got a general idea of what to set prices at for dishes on your menu, it’s time to employ a little psychology. Don’t end your prices with .99. Patrons prefer whole dollars. If you run a higher-end restaurant business, don’t use the $ sign. It’s understood.

Feature dishes that you struggle to sell by highlighting them on the menu or having your wait staff list them as the daily special. This is a great way to get rid of ingredients that will go to waste in a few days if they aren’t used.

Be Cautious When Raising Prices

Once you’ve set menu prices, pause before raising them again soon. People become used to your prices and may balk at paying even $1 more. If you do plan to raise prices, let customers know, especially if something like an egg shortage in your area has impacted what you pay for ingredients. You can always lower prices if you aren’t seeing sales as high of a particular dish as you’d like, or put it on special for a week to test out a lower price first.

Be aware of pricing “ceilings”. Most guests won’t notice a price increase from $26 to $27, but increasing it from $29 to $30 will be more noticeable psychologically. Price ceilings are typically crossing the increments of 10 (10, 20, 30 etc).

Pay Attention to Your Menu Sales Mix

Your menu’s sales mix is something that will change over time, but tracking sales of each menu item can help you better strategize your profitability.

Naturally, you want to maximize the Stars on your menu — those items that are in high demand and that have high profitability. Dogs, however, have low profitability and demand, so you should consider removing them from the menu.

Include a mix of Plowhorses, which have low profitability but high demand (they may drive business into your restaurant, but you’ll attract diners to other menu items while they’re there).

When it comes to Puzzles, those menu items with high profitability but low demand, do some experimenting to see if you can increase sales of them. Lowering the price or featuring these menu items as daily specials can boost sales.

Pricing your menu items isn’t a simple process. But having a solid restaurant competitive menu pricing strategy is key to being successful. Take your time to ensure you find the perfect price that will help you sell many dishes and still make a profit. restaurant competitive menu pricing strategy

 

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Career Alternatives for Chefs

January 22, 2019
by Morgan Walker Clarke

Love to Cook? 6 Science Careers That Could be a Recipe for Success

Career Alternatives for ChefsFood science is a rapidly growing industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The duties you perform depend on the position you accept. Everyone needs to eat! If you love cooking and food but also want to enjoy a career in the scientific sphere, have a look at these six awesome and rewarding career alternatives for chefs.

1. Meat scientist

As a meat scientist, you must understand the principles of biology, physiology and nutrition that make animals grow and be able to relate this to meat quality.

Meat scientists are well-versed in science, but they also have a great deal of practical experience. It is not a science entirely based in the laboratory. Research in meat science ranges from animal growth and development through fresh meats and processed and manufactured meat products.

Being familiar with factors from livestock management and welfare through to understanding how meat is processed and branded is essential to this role.

Meat scientists are involved in researching a wide variety of projects to increase production or to bring about new products. Some meat scientists study artificial meat grown in cultures, and you may be working with protein hydrolysis and how you can use enzymes to increase meat flavor and quality.

Most employers require a degree in meat science.

2. Bakery scientist

Chef Baker Career OptionsBaking has been around for centuries. Baked products vary in complexity from very simple pastries to cakes with a long list of ingredients and techniques involved in their creation.

As a bakery scientist, you will need to know about all the chemistry that goes into our baked goods–what role each ingredient has, how they work and what methods are involved.

There has been a rapid progression in the baking industry, and consumers have shown a preference for natural products. This has led to an increase in the use of enzymes within this sector. We now use enzymes to replace chemicals, and you will need to know how they can best benefit your business.

Bakery science involves the study of grains and cereals and how we can manipulate them to our advantage, so you will become familiar with the different production processes.

You will also hone your baking skills and work on some amazing new products and may be involved in modifying existing product lines.
Business management is also essential to a bakery scientist because you must learn how economic trends might impact this business.
Knowledge and implementation of government regulations and production guidelines will represent another aspect of your job.

A broad range of degrees is accepted in this field from bakery science and management to fermentation studies. There are a variety of jobs this role encompasses, such as a food chemistry researcher to work in a food processing plant.

3. Technical brewer

Do you enjoy a beer or two? Well, this is the ideal career alternative for chefs who love beer! You will have a hands-on role in the brewing process but will also be involved in the technical formulation of beers and possibly play a management role as well.
Brewing is similar to baking in that it has been around for centuries, and we enjoy beer all around the world. It also starts with cereal grains and science, just like baking.

Your work as a technical brewer will mean you manage the entire beer-making process from grain through to the finished and bottled product, working with your team to produce high quality and consistent product.

Thorough knowledge of the science underlying the brewing process and the ability to make improvements to it is required. An example of this would be that in recent years the use of enzymes in breweries and craft distilleries has increased to address issues such as low extract yields and flavor. You would be the person responsible for implementing their use and charting progress.

What will the role involve?

  • Manage the staff who work on the production of beer, including the technicians.
  • Responsible for the raw materials that go into the beer, including wheat and hops.
  • Safety and smooth running of the brewing plant.
  • Thinking up new products, recipes, and flavors.

If a large brewery employs you, it is more likely you will only be involved in one smaller aspect of the entire process. In a microbrewery, you might be overseeing the entire operation.

Your day-to-day responsibilities will depend on the type of brewery you work for and how specialized your role is, but it will include the following range of tasks:

  • Ensure the beer is brewing correctly and all parameters are routinely recorded–e.g., temperature. Adjust the process as needed.
  • Test the product to make improvements.
  • Understand and apply the correct chemicals and enzymes to the brewing process.
  • Design and formulate new products for specific markets or seasonal beers such as for the holidays.
  • Understand new technology and procedures and how to implement them.
  • Work with suppliers to ensure good relationships. Find new suppliers as necessary.
  • Manage resources and the workforce.
  • Maintenance and cleaning of all the brewery equipment.
  • Budget and stock control.
  • Keeping accurate inventories.

Qualifications

A typical degree for this role might be applied to chemistry, food science or biological science. Oregon State University offers a degree in the science of fermentation, and there are one-year certificate programs and shorter twenty-week master brewer programs at around 10 universities, including Central Michigan, San Diego State University and Auburn University.

As you progress in your career, you might be able to gain chartered scientist (CHsi) status. You will need to have worked in the field for around four years and have successfully completed ongoing continuing professional development (CPD).

4. Food technologist

Your job is to ensure the food products that end up on the plates of the consumers are produced within safety and legal guidelines. Keeping abreast of the vast number of ever-changing guidelines and regulations is key to this job.

Discovering new recipes and food concepts is also part of your job. Perhaps rethinking manufacturing processes to make them fit around new products or to make them more efficient might be part of your duties.

You might be working as part of the research and development (R&D) developing new items. Food technologists need to modify existing foods to create new versions such as low-fat or gluten-free versions.

Depending on the sector you work in, you may be dealing with customer complaints to determine what issues there are with the food products and how you can rectify these problems.

The Institute of Food Technology has a wealth of resources on food technology as a career.

Chef Science Jobs

5. Sensory scientist

A sensory scientist plays the role of a connection between the research and development department and the consumer. It is their job to find out exactly what the consumers are looking for in their food purchases. They can give technical recommendations because of their extensive knowledge of food chemistry. It is important they keep abreast of current advancements in the field and network with other colleagues and experts.

Sensory science has become more cutting-edge than the free samples they used to offer in malls. Generally, the sensory scientist works in partnership with product development and is responsible for conceiving, completing, analyzing and reporting a plethora of tests involved in consumer research. They can make the difference between the R&D department launching a successful product or a flop.

To become a sensory scientist, you will likely need a PhD in Food Science. You will also need a strong background in statistics, communications skills and business acumen. You might also need some good persuasion techniques to win over company executives!

6. Cereal scientist

Plants, including wheat, rice and corn, are classified as cereals. The grains that cereals produce is the foundation for the global food supply. This makes cereals a hugely important food for both humans and for animals, which are also part of our food chain. The availability of food worldwide would be drastically affected without cereal.

As a cereal scientist, you will study everything cereal! You will study how they grow, what their composition is, how their growth affects nutrition, their structure and how they transform under different conditions.

This field of study and research is continually expanding because cereals are so vital to our lives. This discipline encompasses a range of careers.

Your job may be testing cereals to determine their biochemistry. This would be their levels of carbohydrates, proteins, fats and enzymes. Alternatively, you could be involved in food production such as the manufacture of pasta or beer brewing.

A deep understanding of cereals and their make-up is necessary because the cereal scientist may be involved in product development or quality assurance.

Universities and the government undertake a great deal of research on cereal grains due to its massive importance. This research might involve developing new types and strains of cereal plants while working with the agricultural sector. It might be working to increase the nutritional yield of cereals that we already grow with success.

Not many universities offer education as a cereal scientist. Most scientists in this field qualify as food scientists or have qualifications in chemistry, biochemistry or agriculture.

There are many options for chefs who wish to turn their food passion into a science career. As technology grows and evolves so will the career alternatives for chefs.

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Foraged Foods Becoming Commonplace Restaurants

January 17, 2019
by Jennifer Dawson

Foraged Foods Becoming Commonplace in US Restaurants

Food trends are some of the fastest-changing in the world. In 2018 alone chefs have had to contend with everything from pickling, fermenting and veganism to nootropics, booze-free beverages and homemade condiments. Another trend that is becoming more commonplace across the globe is foraging which may sound suspiciously similar to hunting-gathering but does not entail giving up your day job to live in the wilderness.

Although it is true that a few chefs have been using foraged produce for decades, it has now become a food trend rather than a rarity. In fact, an increasing number of chefs in the USA are making regular use of foraged ingredients to set their menus apart from their competitors’. In order to have a better understanding of the role of foraging within the restaurant industry, it is important to take a closer look at how and why to include foraged ingredients on a menu as well as examining the increasing popularity of the trend.

Reasons to include foraged food on your menu

By searching for fruit, vegetables, herbs, and roots in the wild yourself (or by making use of a professional foraging service) you will be able to offer your patrons a unique dining experience and simultaneously contribute towards the well-being of the environment. Not only are indigenous crops generally more drought-resistant but your carbon footprint will also be significantly reduced due to there being a very short traveling distance between the farm and the restaurant. Foraged produce also contain significantly more nutrients as they tend to be less exposed to harmful chemicals than their commercially-farmed counterparts.

Cooking with foraged food

Dewberries Foraging Seasonal ChartThere are countless ways in which you can prepare your foraged foods and present them to your diners. On a colder day, you can prepare a fragrant slow-cooked dish or gather your pots and pans and make a delicious wintery broth filled with freshly-foraged vegetables and herbs. As a chef you are more than qualified to create tantalizing dishes using an array of foraged ingredients including wild mushrooms, nettles, sorrel, squash blossoms, and goosetongue. Don’t limit yourself to conventional cooking either as you can create delicious syrups, sauces, pickles, and condiments such as fennel sauerkraut, elderberry syrup, green onion kimchi, and walnut ketchup from your foraged produce.

How popular has foraging become?

There are a number of restaurants across the USA that have actively incorporated foraged food into their offerings. Chef Eddy Leroux of Restaurant Daniel in New York works closely with a professional forager to acquire wild shoots, stems, leaves and petals to create mind-blowing dishes such as wild herb ravioli and dandelion flower tempura.  Another chef who frequently makes use of foraged ingredients is Dan Barber from Blue Hill Stone Barns, also in New York, who went as far as to start his own seed company to ensure that he always has access to the freshest produce. He also has his team of chefs forage for ingredients and allows his geese to forage for figs, lupin bush seeds and acorns instead of force-feeding them.

And on Lummi Island in Washington Chef Blaine Wetzel at the Willows Inn has gained an impressive reputation for having his staff forage for local greens, berries, mushrooms, and seaweed as well as growing much of his produce.

Finding foraged products

As noble as it may be to forage for your own ingredients, it is not always practical. This is exactly why there are an increasing number of vendors offering their foraging services across the USA. While most states are home to a number of fresh produce markets that sell foraged produce, there are also numerous online stores that can be utilized for your convenience. Foraged & Found is an organization that supplies a number of the country’s most renowned restaurants as well as countless home cooks with foraged berries, wild greens, mushrooms and tea. Apart from having an online store, they also sell their produce at various markets in and around Seattle.  If you find yourself on the East Coast, you can enlist the services of Regalis Foods who pride themselves on their exquisite variety of foraged ingredients.

Seasonal foraging

One of the most important factors to consider when making use of foraged foods is their seasonality. While there are certain edibles such as mushrooms that are available year-round, others, including persimmons, chestnuts and asparagus are a lot more seasonal and are only available fresh during certain parts of the year. If you want to include foraged foods on your menu it is imperative to be very knowledgeable with regards to the seasonal availability of your local foraged produce. You can benefit greatly by printing out a foraging calendar or visiting a reputable online site that can supply you with accurate and relevant information.

Flavor profiles of foraged foods

While it has already been determined that foraged foods are more nutrient-dense than their store-bought counterparts, it is important to also understand the differences (and similarities) in flavor profiles. Wild watercress, for example, is known to have a lot more flavor than the supermarket variety while salmonberries can be most closely compared to gooseberries and raspberries. If you are looking for a foraged substitute to onion and garlic, you can make use of three-cornered leeks which has a very similar taste profile. Wild plantains look a lot like regular bananas but have a firmer texture that is quite starchy. When ripe they are sweet in flavor and can be prepared in a similar fashion as regular supermarket bananas. These are just a few examples of foraged foods and how they compare to commercially-purchased produce. The best way to draw similar comparisons is to either experiment yourself or to conduct further research on the topic.

Always remember to be safe while foraging. Don’t trespass on private property and make sure everything you bring back to the restaurant is, in fact, edible. If you can adhere to these basic guidelines your foraging can give you a nifty competitive advantage while presenting you with the opportunity to put your dish creativity skills to the test.

 

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Career Path of a Chef

The Career Path of a Chef

There are few, if any, professions that have stood the test of the time, unchanged and unaltered by modernity. The career path of a chef has more options today than in years past. Technology and cultural influences force all things to naturally evolve or become obsolete–think switchboard operators.

Fortunately for the culinary industry, food is at the heart of everything we do as human beings. The way we obsess, glorify and think about our meals has undoubtedly taken on a new dimension in the twenty-first century; fueling a desire for creativity, innovation and a demand for higher standards of food quality, presentation and overall dining experience.

If your ambition is to carve out a successful career as a chef, there are now more opportunities and avenues to pursue than ever before; however, while there are certainly many ways to claim the head chef title, there is consensus about one thing: you have to be prepared to eat a lot of humble pie on your way there.

Learning on the job

Career Path of a ChefThe temptation to bypass the academic approach of entering the cheffing profession is understandable and in some cases more gainful. Not everyone can afford to attend elite institutions or take time out from earning a salary to enter full-time education. Also, some individuals learn better through experience and observation in fast-paced environments than they would in a more academic set up.

Learning on the job exposes you to the real dynamics of a kitchen from the onset so that you can develop more robust skills while building your network and acquiring mentors from the early stages of your career.

There are three things to consider if you choose this approach:

  • There are no shortcuts – If you want to distinguish yourself as a chef, you will have to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the fundamentals of kitchen life. The only way to do that is to pay your dues. You will most likely start out as a commis chef or apprentice, chiefly concerned with food prep, cleaning and running errands. Showing that you are a dependable team player will go a long way to helping you work your way up from here.
  • Low pay – Depending on your location, the starting salaries at the bottom of the rung can be relatively low. The experience and qualifications you are able to gain on the job will determine how quickly you progress up the pay scale.
  • Sharp adjustment – For someone with no prior training or work experience, the long and demanding hours will undoubtedly take some getting used to. You need to ensure that you are a resilient and driven individual to keep motivated in this position.

Advanced training

Formal education is one of the best ways to enrich your knowledge of the industry, its requirements and most importantly, yourself in relation to all of these things. When you enroll on a catering course, you should expect to be provided with the tools, experiences and time to ruminate on your strengths and weaknesses – this is particularly helpful if you’d like to specialize in a specific cuisine or aspect of the profession. Many employers will value your achievements and experience, placing you in a better position to negotiate salary and progression.

On a culinary course, you will not only learn about food preparation, preservation, storage, science and hygiene; you will also explore elements of business management, marketing, leadership and research, making you a more well-rounded prospect for future employers.

Like everything else in life, you will get out what you put in. Some top chefs and restaurant owners have mixed opinions about the worth of a culinary degree or certification, but if you use your time wisely, make the most of the resources available to you and cultivate a determined work ethic, you will not only walk away with a degree or certificate, but also a well-developed resume or CV.

Something else worth considering when deliberating whether to get an official culinary qualification is whether you have ambitions to travel and work in different countries. Having accreditation will often be very useful when applying for certain overseas positions and, subsequently, the visas required to work in those countries.

Lastly, when choosing a culinary school, you need to make sure that you are making a worthwhile investment.

Here are three crucial things to look out for when choosing a culinary school:

  • What is the feedback from current and past students? Are their alumni working in similar roles and establishments to the ones you aspire to? If this information is scarce, outdated or mostly negative, this may not be the school for you.
  • Does the school have a good rapport with local restaurants and does it offer its students hands-on practical experience?
  • What is the experience and caliber of the faculty staff? Do they inspire creativity, encourage learning and what do they bring to the table in terms of know-how?

Taking up a new role

The career trajectory of a chef usually goes something like this:

  1. Commis Chef
  2. Chef de Partie
  3. Sous Chef
  4. Head Chef and Executive Chef

Assuming that you are striving for the highest post, you will have to carefully map out your journey to get there. However, you shouldn’t let being strategic overshadow the importance of fostering good relationships and building up an appropriate length of work experience in any given kitchen.

Learn to be a ChefIt can be tricky deciding on the best time to spread your wings and move on to a higher level position. Your next step will largely be determined by your abilities and experience.

Unless you have been taking on contract work, your resume or CV needs to demonstrate that you are, above all else, reliable.

In an industry that demands a lot of dedication, employers will not be keen to invest training hours into someone who flits from one establishment to another every year or couple of months. Particularly while you are in the beginning stages of your career – commis chef, chef de partie – don’t scrimp on the opportunity to hone your skills and master your craft.

As you assume more responsibility in roles such as sous chef and, eventually, executive chef, you will begin to seek out positions that offer either better pay and working conditions or more opportunities for creative expression. Either way, you will have to commit to at least two years in a new kitchen to establish yourself and make a worthwhile investment in your career progress.

With all of this in mind, it’s also crucial to recognize when you are being siloed and move on before your name becomes too synonymous with one kind of restaurant, cuisine or level of capability. Growth is key to self-fulfillment, and you will have to choose wisely when accepting new positions or preferring to stay where you are.

What are the essential tips to successfully integrating into a new kitchen?

  • Camaraderie is a word that often bounces around in the culinary vernacular. That’s probably because jobs in this industry genuinely require a one for all and all for one mentality. All roles are usually interdependent and directly affect the stress levels of one another. Being able to communicate and anticipate the needs of everyone, from the kitchen to front of house staff is essential.
  • When you start your new role, tread carefully before beginning to enforce your ideas, opinions and suggestions on how you think things should be done. Study your co-workers and superiors; anticipate when they might need your help and establish yourself as an approachable, trustworthy member of the team. Every kitchen will have its own personality, idiosyncrasies and best practices – you don’t want to rub anyone the wrong way by harping on about how you did things at your previous job.
  • Ultimately, the best advice when taking on a new role is to remind yourself of your goals and where you’d like to be in the future; then, align your intentions with your actions and be willing and open to learning at every level.

It’s not just about the destination

When choosing to work in this business, you need to really know what drives and motivates you. Negativity and poor work ethic can really destroy a kitchen and, ultimately, the establishment that kitchen caters to.

If you are passionate about working with food, the best way to find the most effective starting point for you is to get experience. Whether it’s through volunteering, taking on a low-level kitchen job or a short course, getting a taste for the environment is key.

Knowing how you learn and what drives you will help you to determine whether advanced training or learning on the job will be a more productive option for you. What matters most is that you choose a path which will keep you inspired but also present you with the opportunities to grow.

 

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Professional Buffet Set Up

How to Properly Arrange an Awe Inspiring Professional Buffet Set Up

Professional Buffet Set upIt is time to set up your buffet and prepare your guests for the ultimate dining experience! How? Here are a few useful pro tips guaranteed to help you plan a professional buffet set up and impress your guests.

In this era of technology and social media usage that we live in, one source of inspiration for social media posts comes through beautiful plating and buffet presentation. The dining experience you provide will first please the eyes of your invitees and afterwards their appetite.

Here are our thoughts for an unforgettable event:

Mind the Decoration and the Theme of your Buffet

Before you start planning your buffet, choose a theme or the kind of decoration you want to have. For example, do you want your buffet to be modern? Then choose geometrical patterns and vivid colors for the decoration. Do you want your buffet to be traditional? Then choose luxurious bronze and gold tones in combination with baroque patterns like flowers. Add some accent lighting, bows and flower decoration. However, don’t overdo it with the decoration because you want your buffet food arrangement to be the focal point. Arrange everything as one cohesive concept; your food, your decor, your buffet risers, plates and bowls so as to create a memorable experience for your guests.

Carefully Choose your Buffet Risers & Serving DishesBuffet Set-up Risers

All the details have to be well thought out and prepared in advance in order to surpass the expectations of your invitees. Consider purchasing quality modern glass dinnerware of different shapes and sizes which will catch everyone’s eye and trigger the desire to share the amazing set up on their social media with their friends. If they are inspired to share your buffet presentation with their friends it is like free advertising and may generate future customers.

Create levels in your presentation! Choose a variety of sizes and heights for your buffet risers arrangements which will break up the space, creating layers and make the presentation more appealing. Regardless of whether you use traditional or unconventional risers pick platters and bowls in different colors and shapes, playful so as to elevate the experience. Show something different to your customers and you can be sure that it will be appreciated.

Prepare your Venue to Welcome your Guests

Buffet Table Display StandsWhen choosing the arrangement of your buffet, keep in mind that long table arrangements set one next to the other against the wall will not allow a flawless movement of the guests. You need to have ample empty space for them to move around easily and not stiffly. The more space your customers have, the more they will enjoy the dining event you have organized for them.

Use different tables for glasses, water carafes, cutlery and napkins. Make sure that the utensils are enough for all of your guests and that your waiters keep an eye for any replenishment needs.

People tend to crowd around the beverages so it is a good idea to have the alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages in different areas. Even more important, have the beverages on a different table than the main buffet table.

Don’t create stress for your guests by forcing them to try to figure out how to hold the plate, the silver, and the drinks in one hand while they are trying to move around and get food. The best way, if you have a big enough room, is to separate the drinks from the food and the seating area. So imagine three separate areas in the room for your event. If you have the luxury of budget and space, it will make a significant difference in your guest’s dining experience!

Use Separate Tables for the Food Presentation

Buffet Table Food PresentationConsider having a multi table set up with different cuisines and different food variety. For example, have your salads, breads, appetizers, main dishes and desserts on separate tables, perhaps some 8’ tables, some 6’ tables, and/or some 4’ or perhaps round tables. If you are running a multi themed cuisine event, use different stations for Asian cuisine, Mediterranean cuisine, vegan, vegetarian etc. This will allow your guests to move from one buffet table/station to another without having to wait in one long line to get to their favorite cuisine.

It is important to place the table with the beverages next to the kitchen and the table with the plates before the food. It makes sense if you think about it..the beverages next to the kitchen because the staff should be able to replenish based on the needs an any given time and the plates before the table with the food as the guest should not be wondering “where are the plates”? Also put the cutlery at the end so the guests aren’t afraid that they will drop the cutlery while they try to serve themselves.

Follow the above mentioned professional buffet set up tips and you will have happier guests who have a better, more seamless dining experience rather than the typical crowded buffet with people waiting in a queue to serve themselves, which often results in guests becoming impatient and disappointed.

Remember to place explanatory tags in front of every dish so there is no guesswork in what they are eating and no-one will be mislead while they make their food choices!

 

Maria PloumidouAuthor’s Bio:

Maria Ploumidou
Maria is a buffet systems advisor at Buffetize – a world leading buffet display systems manufacturer. With good eye for details she provides quick aesthetic and functional solutions that improve hotel and restaurant operations. Maria brings over 10 years of experience in the hospitality market and has worked with chefs and F&B managers from major hotel chains such as Four Seasons, Marriott and Hilton. She has a good  understanding of buffet set ups and extensive experience in assisting clients create memorable buffet presentations. When she is not helping hotels improve their operations she loves to travel and organize occasional home cocktail parties herself.

 

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Anthony Bourdain Tribute – the Archetypal Cook

Anthony Bourdain pic 2Image source unknown

The passing of Anthony Bourdain on June 8, 2018 hit cooks & chefs worldwide with remorse and a great sense of sadness. Although most of us had never personally met Anthony Bourdain, the vast majority of cooks felt a sense of loss because we consider him to be a bother, a fellow comrade of the kitchen, a representation of both who we are and who we can be.

I think of Anthony Bourdain not as the stereotypical cook/chef but more so as the archetypal cook/chef. He represents so many aspects of who we are as cooks…brutally honest, somewhat (or a lot!) antisocial (because we are brutally honest), desiring honest human expression rather than political correct bullshit, having our own addictions & demons, beating some of our own addictions & demons, and so much more. Bourdain was above all else unapologetically human and honest. Something which most cooks either consciously or unconsciously endeavor to be. It’s what gives us our antisocial reputation.

After reading “Kitchen Confidential” many years ago I realized that here was a true person, willing to expose “the underbelly” of professional kitchens, giving legitimacy, expression, and identity to the normal cook’s life.  He had no shame in exposing his ego/arrogance in claiming that he was a fantastic grill cook in order to get a job (in Kitchen Confidential his assistant out performed him!). And he successfully revealed the commitment, pain, stress, and adrenaline needed to successfully survive in the professional kitchen.

To me, Anthony Bourdain is an icon and the archetypal cook because he made people realize what it is like to be a professional cook, what it takes, how hard it is to achieve the physical & mental fortitude needed in order to serve 300 – 500 demanding people (including some worthless pompous assholes who probably can’t cook ramen correctly!) a perfect meal.

If he recognized your educated opinion he gave you an honest, educated response. But if you were just a self-aggrandized prick he called you out. Chefs hate nothing more than someone who pretends to be someone who they are really not, or pretends to have talents which they actually lack. Bourdain was articulate to a fault for calling out culinary fakes, wannabes, or impostors.

Some of Anthony Bourdain’s famous quotes include:

“I assumed from the get-go that every minute I was on television was a freakish anomaly that would be over quickly. It came as a sobering and confusing moment when I realized I was still on the air. What the fuck is going on?”

“Don’t touch my dick, don’t touch my knife.” – Kitchen Confidential

 

Anthony Bourdain pic 7See image source

 

“Bad food is made without pride, by cooks who have no pride, and no love. Bad food is made by chefs who are indifferent, or who are trying to be everything to everybody, who are trying to please everyone… Bad food is fake food… food that shows fear and lack of confidence in people’s ability to discern or to make decisions about their lives.”

 

Anthony Bourdain pic 1See image source

 

“Anyone who’s a chef, who loves food, ultimately knows that all that matters is: ‘Is it good? Does it give pleasure?”

“There are people with otherwise chaotic and disorganized lives, a certain type of person that’s always found a home in the restaurant business in much the same way that a lot of people find a home in the military.”

“I’m not afraid to look like an idiot.”

 

Anthony Bourdain pic 4See image source

 

“Oh yes, there’s lots of great food in America. But the fast food is about as destructive and evil as it gets. It celebrates a mentality of sloth, convenience, and a cheerful embrace of food we know is hurting us.”

“Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans … are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit. Oh, I’ll accommodate them, I’ll rummage around for something to feed them, for a ‘vegetarian plate’, if called on to do so. Fourteen dollars for a few slices of grilled eggplant and zucchini suits my food cost fine.”

“Being a vegan is a first-world phenomenon, completely self-indulgent.”

“I’m sure that at no point in my life could I ever have shown the kind of focus and discipline and commitment necessary to work a station at elBulli or Le Bernardin. No. That ain’t me.”

 

Anthony Bourdain pic 6See image source

 

“I feel that if Jacques Pepin shows you how to make an omelet, the matter is pretty much settled. That’s God talking.”

“”[When I die], I will decidedly not be regretting missed opportunities for a good time. My regrets will be more along the lines of a sad list of people hurt, people let down, assets wasted, and advantages squandered.” – Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

 

Anthony Bourdain pic 5See image source

 

“Don’t lie about it. You made a mistake. Admit it and move on. Just don’t do it again. Ever”

“It seems that the more places I see and experience, the bigger I realize the world to be. The more I become aware of, the more I realize how relatively little I know of it, how many places I have still to go, how much more there is to learn. Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom … is realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.”

 

Anthony Bourdain pic 3Image source unknown

 

“Few things are more beautiful to me than a bunch of thuggish, heavily tattooed line cooks moving around each other like ballerinas on a busy Saturday night. Seeing two guys who’d just as soon cut each other’s throats in their off hours moving in unison with grace and ease can be as uplifting as any chemical stimulant or organized religion.”

“Life is complicated. It’s filled with nuance. It’s unsatisfying… If I believe in anything, it is doubt. The root cause of all life’s problems is looking for a simple fucking answer.”

 

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Kitchen Staff Management Tips

Kitchen Staff Management Tips

Kitchen Staff Management TipsToday’s chef has many hats to wear including managing the budget, creating new dishes, writing recipes, costing recipes, managing cooks, dealing with HR, and so much more.  But one of the most crucial roles of a chef is effective kitchen staff management and training.  You might be the greatest chef in the world, but during service a chef is no better than the cooks surrounding him/her.  If the kitchen staff isn’t properly trained then you will fail during service.

I have had the great fortune to be able to build some fantastic kitchen crews to work with, and the pleasure of mentoring some truly exceptional people. Following are 8 key actions which will improve your kitchen staff management effectiveness & improve the quality of your cooks (not in any specific order of importance):

8 Tips on How to Manage Kitchen Staff

  1. Always Give Clear, Specific Instructions Regarding Expectations & Standards
  2. Explain your Reasons and Why you Think the Way you Do
  3. Know When to Put Your Foot Down
  4. Always have a pre-service
  5. If the Shift is Going to be Ugly, Warn the Staff Early!
  6. Always be Mindful of the Way You Criticize/Instruct Your Staff
  7. Teach Self-Discipline & the Importance of Choices
  8. Do Your Best to Accommodate Their Life

Always Give Clear, Specific Instructions Regarding Your Expectations & Standards

Telling them that they are doing it wrong, or they need to do it better, or they need to make it look nicer is not clear instruction. You need to show them specifically what you expect and tell them exactly what you want and how to do it. Show them the nuances which take something from simply being good to being something exceptional.

Explain Your Reasons and Why You Think the Way You Do

One of the best ways to manage kitchen staff is to teach them to think like you do. If you want a solid crew then teach them at a deep level which will give them a solid culinary foundation. Simply telling them, “Do it because I told you to” is not good enough. If you want the crew to make the best decisions then teach them how to think like you do. Tell them, “this is how I want this done and these other reasons why.” By doing so you become a mentor, an instructor, a giver of knowledge, teaching the “how’s and whys” of culinary excellence.

Know When to Put Your Foot Down

Opposite of the above tip, there are definitely times when as the Chef you must tell a crew member “Do it because I told you to.” Someone asking questions because they want to learn is a good thing. But someone asking questions because they are challenging you is another thing. That person needs to recognize the chain of command and that they work for you. “This is what I expect, this is why I expect you to do it this way, and this is exactly the way you will do it. Do you understand?”

Put them in their place. If you have an HR process then go through the paperwork for insubordination. You are the instructor, the mentor, the teacher, but you are also the king. Always enforce your rules/standards/expectations.

Always have a pre-service

Always have a short pre-service meeting to cover the business of the day. Go over how many covers you expect, big tables, VIP tables, menu changes, potential challenges for the shift, solutions for those challenges, and so on. The pre-service is your battle plan for the shift.

The pre-service meeting is your chance to get the crew on the same page regarding today’s service and possible challenges. Do it early in the shift so the crew can plan and prep appropriately.

If the Shift is Going to be Ugly, Warn the Staff Early!

Giving them a heads up that the tonight is going to be painful gives them the opportunity to mentally prepare for it. And being mentally prepared is more than half the battle. Telling them that they are going to be bent over and beat with a stick may not be politically correct, but if you have a well-disciplined crew they will do everything in their power to prove you wrong and the night will then usually go smoother than expected. Being mentally prepared wins the toughest battle.

Always be Mindful of the Way You Criticize/Instruct Your Staff

Although publicly criticizing one or several of your staff over small things may be OK as a reminder to all that you are watching, it is imminently important to never publically humiliate one of your crew in front of others.

There is a significant difference between constructive criticism and punitive humiliation

Public constructive criticism can be stern or funny, sometimes it can be in the form of peer pressure, but the end result must always be that it is taken as positive instruction by the team member.

More personal/direct/disciplinary/painful conversations should always be done in private (with one supervisor witness). Never publicly humiliate a crew member by ripping them apart in front of others.  Your goal/intent should never be to humiliate/degrade/dominate/embarrass them. Rather, your goal should always be to mentor/edify/educate/instruct them on how to become better in your kitchen.

That’s not to say that these conversations are never harsh or painful, they just should not be cruel.  There is nothing wrong (in fact, perfectly legit) in telling them, “You keep doing it this way when I’ve told you to do it that way. If you continue to do it the wrong way then I will be showing you the door. Do you understand what I expect from you?”

But that is completely different from telling them, “You are an incompetent, shit cook.  Get it right or get the fuck out of my kitchen!” This type of interaction only expresses your anger and teaches them nothing other than the fact that you are an asshole.  They will stay with you long enough to learn as much as they can from you, and then get as far away as possible.



Teach Self-Discipline & the Importance of Choices

When you verbally discipline someone remind them that they have choices to make and that becoming a better professional cook is about self-discipline. “Dude, we’ve had this conversation before, I’ve shown you what the expectation is but you are not doing it. That indicates to me that you are either unable or unwilling to do it correctly. Since I’ve seen that you have the ability to do it properly, it means that you are simply choosing not to do it the correct way.”

“If you want to continue working in my kitchen then you will need to choose to do it my way. If not, then you are choosing to leave.”

Statements like this are clear, to the point, reinforce your standards and the need for discipline, showing that you believe they have the ability but ultimately it is their choice. They can choose to do it correctly or not. They can choose to continue to work in your kitchen, or they can choose to be fired. You are telling them what they need to do, and then giving them the ball and letting them decide what to do with it (assuming that they actually do have the ability…don’t bullshit them if they don’t).

This method enforces your standards but also reminds them that failing to meet your standards is a choice which they are making. This is one way that I teach my staff self-discipline. I don’t want mindless bodies who simply bend under my thumb and do my bidding simply because I tell them to. I want them to choose to do it because they understand that it results in a better product, a better dish, a better experience for the guest. This teaches them the process of learning to think like a chef and creates fantastic cooks and future chefs.

And of course, if they choose not to step up then they are the “dead wood” which you terminate.

Do Your Best to Accommodate Their Life

Trying to accommodate employee requests for days off in the restaurant business is always a massive challenge but one which is worth the effort.  The staff know that they are going to have to work most weekends and probably most holidays. And of course the events they want to attend (concerts, parties, etc) are almost always on the weekends which are of course the hardest days for us to give someone off. You need to balance the needs of the business with the needs of your crew to have a life.

If giving one person an occasional Saturday off will make life harder on the crew but will not impact your guests then it’s worth discussing with your crew. If it means that they all get an occasional weekend night off then they are likely to be willing to work harder and share the pain knowing that they will also get a chance for an occasional weekend night off.

And for major events such as the graduation of a child, a family medical emergency, the funeral of a loved one, etc, do not make them choose between their loyalty to their family and their loyalty to their job. That’s not a fair position to put them in. In fact, it’s morally reprehensible for an employer to consider themselves more important in these extreme situations.

What tips would you add which help to manage kitchen staff? Tell me your thoughts!

 

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Kitchen Knife Care Tips from the Experts

How to Prevent Knife Damage – Top Tips from the Experts

Top kitchen knife care tipsIt’s one thing having a good quality chef’s knife, it’s another ensuring that you get the best out of it. To discover some inside tips on kitchen knife care and maintenance, catering supplier Russums spoke to Robin Bailey at The Sharpening Service, former chef Andrew Green and The Sharpeners.

Here’s what knife experts had to say:

  1. “Always take your knives with you. When knives are left unattended, other chefs can use them and potentially cause damage.” — Robin Bailey, The Sharpening Service
  2. “Chopping against bones or other hard objects is a common way to cause knives to chip. To prevent this you must only chop down onto a wooden board or block.” — The Sharpeners
  3. “A lot of the kitchens that chefs work in tend to have stainless steel worktops and drawers. Knives are often thrown into these drawers, which can cause damage to the tip and blade.” — Andrew Green
  4. “Once you have a professionally sharpened knife, you need to maintain it daily. This will just need a couple of swipes with the steel. Eventually it will wear and cannot be kept sharp, at which point it is time to go back to the sharpener to put the edge back.” — The Sharpeners
  5. “Knives are often damaged by not using a steel correctly. I sharpen most knives at 15 degrees each side, most people use a steel at about 20-25 degrees, meaning that they very quickly remove the sharp edge I have put on.” — Robin
  6. “Chefs should use roll bags when not using their knives. Magnetic wall strips can also be used – these are great for protecting knives as this type of storage means that the blades don’t touch.” — Andrew
  7. “Blunt knives can cause repetitive strain injury to the wrist due to the extra pressure needed to cut, and there’s a higher risk of cutting yourself.” — The Sharpeners
  8. “Chefs should always clean their own knives after use. In most kitchens, knives just get handed over to the pot washer who doesn’t really care about protecting them and they are often just chucked into the bottom of a sink.” — Andrew
  9. “Match the knife to the work — don’t use a fragile thin-bladed knife to cut through chicken bones. I see a lot of Global and Kai knives that have bits missing because of this kind of misuse.”— Robin
  10. “Learn how to sharpen your own knives!” — Chefs Resources

 



 

What kitchen knife care tips do you have which we forgot to mention?

Did we forget something? Add your knife care tips in the comment section!

 

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Artisan Italian Cheesemaking – Ferndale Farmstead Artisanal Cheese

Artisan Italian Cheesemaking at Ferndale Farmstead Cheese

Ferndale Farmstead Asiago Pressa I’m here today with Daniel Wavrin co-owner and cheesemaker at Ferndale Farmstead Cheese and we’re going to discuss a number of questions about cheese making because he’s got some really fantastic cheeses and is clearly very knowledgeable about artisan Italian cheesemaking.

Chef David, “What awards have you won in the recent past for your cheeses?”

Daniel, “Well this year we were lucky to win 3 awards at the American Cheesemaker Society competition. The ACS is a national organization where all the owners and cheesemakers participate in an annual competition held in a different city each year and this year we won three awards in three different categories for our Scamorza cheese, our Caciotta cheese, and our Asiago Pressa.”

Chef David, “That’s awesome! So what makes a equality cheese? What should chefs look for?”

Daniel, “In my opinion, a quality cheese is defined not only by the skill of the cheesemaker but also by the quality of the ingredients.  Cheese is an amazing creation because it only includes 4 ingredients (milk, cultures, rennet, and salt) which give rise to the plethora of flavors and types of cheese available today.”

“Cheese is a concentration of milk via fermentation.  As with anything, it will be harder to concentrate low quality starting material into high quality finished product.  So starting with a high quality milk is #1.  To us, that means not only high components of fat and protein to give it rich flavor, but also low Somatic Cell Counts (SCC) and low bacterial populations which are naturally present in milk from the farm.  This rich but extremely clean milk allows for flavors that are enjoyable all the way through the tasting experience.”

“The first taste of the cheese should eventually give way to the flavor of the milk it was made from. This “finish” is the best way to judge the quality of cheese in my opinion, because it illustrates the quality of milk from whence it came.  There is much complexity around what goes into the science of milk production, but disciplined crop harvest and storage and the environment the animals live in are also essential to good quality milk.”

Ferndale Farmstead Mozzarella Cheese Artisan Italian Cheesemaking at Ferndale Farmstead

Chef David, “When you’re talking about quality milk how does the diet of the cows affect the flavor of their milk and the flavor of the cheese?”

Daniel, “The animal’s diet directly affects the cheese because milk is a vessel.  Flavors from the field will carry over to the milk, for example if a herd got into an onion patch, the milk may not be suitable for a proper quality cheese because the milk will cause off flavors of onion in the cheese.  This is why a quality farming practice and storage program are so important to ultimate cheese quality, especially for artisan Italian cheesemaking or any other artisan cheese.”

“A well known example in the cheese world is if spoilage organisms grow in silage, the butyric acid producing and spore forming bacteria can affect the aged cheese made from the milk produced from the spoiled feed.  The spores carry through the animals milk and are actually activated or woken up by the pasteurization temperatures.  Subsequently, these spores produce gas that creates defects in the cheese in the form of gas holes or cracks.  It can be so bad that the wheel of cheese will blow up like a basketball!”

Daniel, “So, the diet directly determines the quality of the milk and the cows need a balanced diet of many different nutrients in order to be healthy and produce quality milk. So for us that means having a feed ration that covers all of the nutritional requirements of the animals, as well as sourcing the ingredients for that ration and knowing that the feeds come from sources that we can understand and control. For this reason we produce about 90% of the feed that makes up the rations for our cows and in doing so we can ensure that the quality of the harvest and storage is superior.”

“Seed to Cheese”…this is the motto or ethos of Ferndale Farmstead Artisan Cheesemaker Daniel Wavrin

Chef David, “What is a common diet for cows raised for cheese making milk?”

Daniel, “A common milk production cow diet in the United States will include a mix of many different nutrients that will include grasses as a large basis of the diet. Our farm uses about a 60% grass-based diet along with legumes such as alfalfa hay which is a legume we grow, as well as dried cornflake for grain, dried distillers, soya, and other nutrient sources such as whey for protein.”

“My father is a veterinarian and he takes care of the health of our animals and develops the specific feed which both benefits our cows and yields high quality milk. We grow the majority of our own feed, control the storage of that feed, manage our own herd of cows, they are milked in the morning and 15 minutes later that milk is being tuned into cheese! We truly are a farm to table operation.”

Chef David, “Are there any cheese myths you would like to discredit?”

Daniel, “Many cheeses in the US are improving in quality, however Mozzarella is still a far cry from its original Italian version or quality.  Here in the USA, most producers make fresh Mozzarella with vinegar or citric acids added directly to the milk instead of using cheesemaking cultures as they do in Italy.  This diminishes the flavor as the cheese is essentially dead rather than a live cultured product.  Beyond that, a bleach is used to dye Mozzarella pure white with a compound known as Titanium Dioxide.  This nasty ingredient has no place in cheesemaking and is used to mask the natural yellowish color of rich cow’s milk cheeses.”

“A similar comparison can be made with Cheddar. In recent years White Cheddar has become popular but years ago everybody thought Cheddar was supposed to be orange, not realizing that the orange color was an additive. Today Mozzarella is sort of in a similar situation in that what the majority of US cheesemakers are currently producing for Mozzarella is quite a bit different from the original Mozzarella made with cow’s milk in Italy. True Italian Mozzarella cheese is known as Fior Di Latte Mozzarella and it is this traditional artisan Italian version which we make here at Ferndale Farmstead using cultures that we bring directly from Naples, Italy.”

“We are very proud to be making the traditional Fior Di Latte Mozzarella using true cultures, which yields an authentic Italian Mozzarella with a more forward flavor, a firmer bite, and a characteristic cream color (as opposed to the bleached white color of domestic Mozzarella). In doing so we are excited to be leading a revolution in flavor in fresh Mozzarella cheese within the United States.”

Chef David, “Tell me about the pasteurization process you prefer for your artisan Italian cheesemaking at Ferndale Farmstead.”

Artisanal Cheese PasteurizationFerndale Farmstead milks their cows in a barn across the way from their cheese making facility. It’s close enough that the fresh milk is pumped into the cheese making building in as little as 15 minutes after milking the cows.  Here it goes through a centrifuge which separates the cream from the milk. Then the milk is pumped through a high tech HTST High Temperature/Short Time Pasteurizer. HTST pasteurization heats the milk to around 161° for 15 seconds, versus the more standard Batch Pasteurizer which heats milk to 145° for 30 minutes or longer.

Daniel says that the HTST pasteurization method, although more costly to implement, yields milk which is more like raw milk in flavor and therefore yields a more quality finished product. And, it requires less energy to operate which is more consistent with their green footprint philosophy.

From there, the milk is pumped to the next stage in the process. We have 3 milk vats and each one holds about 700 gallons of milk. Up to the vat stage all the cheeses are basically the same. After that is when the process begins to be different for each unique cheese. Each of our cheeses uses a different culture and a different recipe to produce each unique cheese.

Chef David, “Describe the process of culture selection. How many different cheese cultures are there for any given cheese variety?”

Cheesemaking VatDaniel, “Depending on the type of cheese and where it is produced, cheese can have any number of cultures.  Raw milk cheeses may add none and instead utilize naturally present bacteria to drive the fermentation, especially in traditional cheesemaking regions in Europe. Some cheesemakers in the US may use a cocktail of several strains, perhaps 5-10 cultures to achieve this diversity in flora.  Some more simple cheeses may only use one.”

Chef David, “What separates one culture from another as far as quality/flavor goes?”

Daniel, “Different bacterial culture strains produce different effects in cheese in terms of flavor, texture, and appearance.  Gas producing cultures used in Swiss cheesemaking known as Propionic acid producing Shermanii provide the “eyes” or large holes found in the texture. Blue mold cultures known as Penicillium Roqueforti produce the veining found in blue cheese as well as the astringent flavor that results from the breakdown of certain parts of the fat and protein.  Many other types are used to create the various flavors in various cheese types.”

Chef David, “About how long does each cheese stay in the vat?”

Spinos Cheese CuttingDaniel, “Our cheeses take anywhere from 2 hours to make up to 12 hours to make it depending on the type. Our fresh Mozzarella is a slow fermented and cultured version which can take 10 to 15 hours in the vat to produce.”

“One of the most artisan of all aspects of our cheeses at Ferndale Farmstead is in the way that we cut. We cut with two separate cutters rather than using only cheese wire knives or cutters. We also use a second pair of knives known as Spinos or Lyres . This unique cut is done entirely by hand and by eye. It is a very difficult technique that took me nine months to learn cutting with my mentor Raffaele everyday.”

“Each Italian cheese that we make uses a different culture, a different amount of rennet, a different cut, a different aging time, different brines, and a different technique to produce.”

Chef David, “So how do you create different varieties of the same type of cheese? For instance, different varieties of bleu cheese.”

Daniel, “You can create different varieties of cheese by altering the process by which it is made, however you may still end up with a result which is similar in flavor profiles due to the lack of diversity within the cheese culture pool.”

“Almost all cheesemakers and artisan cheese makers in the US currently source their cultures from three producers: Cargill, Chris Hansen, and Danisco companies. This can lead to a similarity across the board in cheese flavors in American.”

“Many of the differences in flavor that we can taste in similar cheeses is based upon the taste of place or the terroir. This taste of place results from the environment where the animals, the crops, and the cheese is produced and living.”



Chef David, “What bad trends, if any, do you see happening?”

Daniel, “Some alarming trends that I am concerned with personally are the increasingly high costs of production.  Milk prices are high, cheesemakers must work extremely hard and are expensive to train, and food safety regulations are always increasing costs to the producer while the consumer wants to pay the same price or less than they are accustomed to.  This is true for all dairy products.”

Chef David, “What good trends, if any, are you glad to see in cheese making?”

Daniel, “I am happy to see a trend not only in artisan Italian cheesemaking but in the cheese making community in general towards the use of more diverse starter flora.  Starter cultures can be a source of similarity between producers or a source of great uniqueness.  Some artisans are experimenting now with natural fermentations and isolating strains of bacteria found on the farm that are desirable for cheese production.  This may open a whole New World of flavors, literally, since we Americans have been sourcing their cultures from only a few European origins up to this point.”

Chef David, “What is the best way to store various cheese varieties after opening?”

Daniel, “Bleu – Bleu Cheese is best stored in foil in my experience.  It needs to breath but not too much.

Asiago – aged cheese like Asiago can be stored in cheesepaper (formaticum) after it is removed from vacuum for a short period until it dries out.

Mozz – Mozzarella as a fresh cheese is best consumed fresh and never frozen.  Freezing and plastic wrap after removal from vacuum changes flavor.  Unfortunately true fresh Mozzarella is very difficult to store!”

 

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