It’s Okay to Chew the Fat!

BigFatSurprise2Have you heard about “The Big Fat Surprise” yet? It’s a new book which takes to task over a half century’s worth of bad fat rap.

Pursuant to nine years of trailing the research and conducting expert interviews, author Nina Teicholz’s challenging revelations on Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet is rattling the cage of many a diet guru and medical pundit.

Good Fat/Bad Fat

An independent investigative journalist, Teicholz relentlessly pursued a tedious journey of facts and fiction which began with a post-World War II rise in heart disease in America. Triggered in part by President Eisenhower’s 1955 heart attack, a WSJ review recounts Teicholz’s tracking of (government backed and tainted) clinical study results which were irrevocably embraced by the media and echoed forward by food manufacturers.

Teicholz describes the trail of historical data as “the blood sport of nutrition science” suggesting that decades of scientists would use extreme measures to shield their findings over contradictory others. Some of Teicholz’s provocative conclusions include:

* The health benefits of eating red meat high in saturated fat outweigh the benefits of eating lean red meat with less saturated fat.

* Red Meat is the only food which improves good HDL cholesterol levels

* Diets which are void of the saturated fats in meat, eggs and dairy have ultimately increased carbohydrate consumption thus contributing to diabetes and obesity

As you can imagine, contemporary proponents of cardiovascular health are quick to contradict. In a CNN interview, Doc du Jour, Dean Ornish, professes, “If you eat a diet that is high in animal protein, your risk of dying from everything goes up considerably. If you eat a plant-based diet, which is naturally low in fats and refined carbs, a whole foods plant-based diet, the disease risk decreases.”

Industry pub, Meating Place, notes that Teichholz’s book comes at a time when the 2015 issue of the DGA (Dietary Guidelines for Americans) is looming in the wings. Interestingly enough, no less than 20 government agencies (see the full list here) legislate and rely upon the DGA.

The odds of reversing current DGA guidelines from low intake of saturated fat echoed further (and lower) by the American Heart Association by next January are pretty slim.

Food for Thought

Ornish also says Teicholz’s book is “dangerous” because it tells “people what they want to hear.” And there’s the AMEN moment –who doesn’t want to eat bacon with great abandon?

You can’t help but wonder if the Atkins Diet wasn’t closer to the mark than decades of critics would have us think. Everyone I’ve ever known who tries it loses weight quickly—but as soon as they stop “doing Atkins,” they gain it all back.

Where swapping out sugar for fat may be a great accelerant for weight loss, it still always comes down to balance. Low fat, doesn’t mean no fat, and bacon, will always rule!

From the desk of John Cecala || Website  LinkedIn  @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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Meat Picks | 9.12.14

Hoftoberfest2014oktoberfest-v31

Tonight is THE night at Hofbräuhaus Chicago—the kick off to an amazing seven-week long celebration—Oktoberfest. Unlike any of those weekend tent events you may go to, there’s no better way to take in this annual German-pa-loosa than at Hofbräuhaus.

If you haven’t been to Hofbräuhaus yet, you absolutely don’t know what  you’re missing. From the inside view of their shiny micro-pretzelsbrewing vessels to the gigantic pretzels flown in from Germany and their amazing pork shanks and schnitzels, they take European ambience and cuisine to whole new level.

Celebrity keg tappers, food specials, live music (every day of the week), contests porkshankand more will elevate the routinely jovial Hofbräuhaus atmosphere through October 31st. And, of course, there will be “Oktoberfestbier”, a full-bodied lager with a “toffee like sweetness.” Hofbrähaus still uses recipes “handed down by the Duke of Bavaria, over 400 years ago”—you can’t get more authentic than that.

Make reservations online and check out their Sept/Oct newsletter here for more info. #HoftoberfestCHI

Foot Long Reaches New Lengths

100ftBratThe town of Bellville, Illinois plans on celebrating their 200th anniversary with a porkwurst of preposterous proportion. The town will attempt to cook a 200 foot “gluten-free lean pork” bratwurst at their bicentennial celebration on Saturday, September 21st.

In August, an attempt to do a 50 foot brat failed, but the town team of dedicated volunteers successfully cooked a 100 foot ‘wurst earlier this week in preparation for the 200 foot milestone. Read more at belleville200.com.

Craft for Conservancy

ChiAleFestA new festival will premiere at Grant Park next weekend. The Chicago Ale Fest, dedicated to the celebration of American craft beer, will run from Friday, September 19th through Saturday the 20th at Grant Park.

More than 200 beers from over 100 breweries will be featured, in addition to live music and food from area restaurants such as, Shaw’s Crab House and Tokio Pub, to name a few. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Grant Park Conservancy.

From the desk of John Cecala || Website  LinkedIn  @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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Quality Doesn’t Cost, It Pays

9.8Foodstuff IndexWe’re all paying more for food now than we did last year. According to a recent report by Bloomberg’s Chase van der Rhoer, food prices are up 19% from December of last year. In the meat industry, we’ve seen as much as 44% food cost inflation since 2012 on many popular cuts.

At the same time, average base pay increases for 2014 will remain at 3 percent for the second year in a row in the U.S.—roughly one percentage point below pre-recession levels, according to the seventh annual Compensation Planning Survey by Buck Consultants.

The dichotomy of faster food price escalation over wages presents major challenges for restaurateurs. How do you maintain profits with food costs escalating faster than your customer’s disposable income?

Quality Costs Customers

Restaurant patrons are faced with paying higher prices—myself included. I’m much more discerning about where I spend my money now. I want quality, and a dining experience that satisfies me—that makes me feel my hard earned money was well spent. People want to walk out of a restaurant saying, “We’d come back here!” no matter if it’s fast casual or fine dining.

Some of my favorite local restaurants have cut the quality on their food to deal with higher food costs this year. As a customer, it’s disappointing to me. I find myself saying, ‘No, let’s not go there. It’s not as good as it used to be.’ I’d rather spend a little more money and go to a place where I walk away feeling satisfied and delighted.

What gives customers that, ‘come back’ feeling? It’s a combination of great service and great quality food. When I have a bad experience with the service, but the food is delicious, I’m much more forgiving than when I have bad food experience. When the food quality is poor or less than what I expected, I’m hesitant to go back. Sure nobody’s perfect and there are times when something goes wrong, but if I give the place another try and I have the same poor quality food experience, I’m done—cross that place off my list.

How do you feel when you dine out and are met with disappointment?

How Quality Pays

9.8Quality EffectWhen buyers opt for lowest prices despite quality, customer experience problems often begin. Quality ultimately reduces costs and builds customer loyalty. While that’s hard to measure on comparative bid sheets, there are many studies that prove quality pays in the long run.

In the 1979 book, Quality is Free, author Philip B. Crosby explains the idea of understanding the true “cost of poor quality,” by illustrating out how much it really costs to do things badly. Crosby demonstrates the cost of bad quality is inevitably more than the higher costs of good quality from the onset.

Every dollar you don’t spend on making up for poor quality becomes a dollar right to your bottom line. In the food service industry, every dollar you don’t spend to comp a meal, replace spoilage or decrease yields on finished goods from cheaper products, are dollars going straight to your bottom line.

Good quality increases income by attracting more customers and repurchase probabilities. At the same time, good quality lowers costs by elimination of lost business, rework and waste. Some studies show that implementing quality-focused programs can increase profits by 5%-10% of sales. Quality is not only free; it pays.

Quality is Relative to Consistency

What most restaurant patrons look for is consistency. When it comes to food, consistency starts with the quality of the products purchased. They can be consistently good in quality, consistently bad in quality, or inconsistent in quality. When food is purchased consistently good or consistently bad, the result is predictable. The worst scenario is when there is inconsistent quality.

Inconsistent quality usually stems from shopping for the lowest price and being fooled by the promise of quality. We see this every day in the supply side of the food service industry. Potential customers send out bid sheets with generic descriptions of the products they want prices on like, “GROUND BEEF” or “CHOICE FILET—ben franklin28 OZ”, and then often buy the lowest bid. This is why shopping the ‘exact same item’ is so important; not all ‘GROUND BEEF’ or ‘CHOICE FILET—8 OZ’ are the same.

Any purveyor can quote a low price week to week using lower quality products to win the bid. But in the end, what do low quality, lower bid winning products really do for your restaurant? They deliver inconsistency and ultimately damage future returns.

Increase Quality & Consistency

Quality Doesn’t Cost, It Pays! was a tag line a friend of mine had painted on his produce trucks. I love this expression because it speaks directly to successful food cost management. Here are four cost savvy tips you can use to help increase quality and consistency:

  • Survey your staff. What does your wait staff hear from your guests about the food quality and consistency? What do your chefs and line cooks say about the quality of the food they prep?
  • Check your garbage. How much and what kind of foodstuffs are in your back of the house garbage? Low priced/Low quality food often spoils faster, has more waste and less yield. How much uneaten food are your bussers clearing off the table? Were your guests less hungry than they thought, or less happy with the quality of their meal?
  • Be specific and finite with your purchase specifications. Cite brand names or sources, specific quality grades and origins.
  • Work with suppliers that care about quality as much as you do. Define what quality means to you and how you measure it. If your suppliers don’t understand your true objectives, their guestimates can introduce inconsistent quality.

Paying a lower vendor price versus a higher one seems like a beneficial move—but the critical comparative here is that the purchase is for the exact same item. Look beyond price and focus on quality to improve your bottom line. You will reap positive results in the long run and be glad you did.

From the desk of John Cecala || Website  LinkedIn  @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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Meat Picks | 9.4.14

B2—Bookings

With the holidaLeadGenGraphy booking season in full swing, hospitality, event planners and suppliers may gain inspiration from a new report by Chief Marketer, which provides 67% of B2B marketers say content marketing is one of the top channels they rely on for lead generation.

In addition to content marketing, the survey cites website registrations, social media and pay-per-click advertising “posted the most significant gains” in seeking new leads. Only 12% of respondents say they rely on single channels for lead gen versus 64%, who rely on multiple channels to drum up new business. Read more about the report here.

Top Cluck

BuedelPoultryPicAccording to an Allegra Food Service trend report, chicken accounts for 31% of all restaurant main dishes. Easy prep, cost and religious preference, are cited as the reasons for the recent spike in poultry popularity.

Other noted trend categories include street food, all-you-can-eat, small plates, healthy choices, gluten-free labeling, craft beer, all day breakfast, artisan coffee and BBQ. Trends on their way out are fruit bars, bubble tea and gourmet hot dogs.

Bacon Bubbles

BaconGumYou love bacon. We love bacon. But do we really want to chew this fat—in the form of bubble gum? Believe it or not, there are meatball, foie gras and pickle flavors available too. For more bizarre bubble brands, check out the Daily Meal’s weirdest gum flavors list.

If you want to stick with the real thing (and who doesn’t when it comes to bacon), The Great American Bacon Festival takes place this Saturday at Union Station. Buy tickets online.

Those who can’t make it to the fest this weekend might want to check out Zagat’s best bacon spots in Chicago; among the top picks, David Burke’s Primehouse and Benny’s Chop House.

From the desk of John Cecala || Website  LinkedIn  @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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5 Ways to Tell if Your Rep is an Order Taker or a Value Provider

Risky contractSales representatives (still) play in an important role in our economy. Outside of self-serve sales, they facilitate transactions between buyers and sellers—they are the glue that binds tech, info, action and service together today. Yet most of us dread getting calls and emails from sales people for fear they’ll try to sell us something.

The big question is: Are you getting true value from your sales rep or mere transactions?

Sales Call, Line 2

Unfortunately, a lot of the bad rap came from the telemarketing industry. The statistical geniuses laid out a success plan for the ratio of outbound calls to sales results: the more people you call on will eventually lead to a sale. The funny thing is direct mail had been doing this for years. Send out enough pieces in mass, and you’ll get the coveted 2% return—on a good day. Something always sticks to the wall.

Companies rushed to hire banks of telemarketers armed with auto-dialers to plow through terabytes of databases in a non-stop effort to reach as many people as possible with their spiel. Consumers were bombarded with solicitation calls, usually beginning with the dinner hour and continuing throughout the evening.

It’s been about 10 years now since the Do Not Call Registry provided consumers with the ability to put an end to nuisance sales calls. That, combined with today’s digital channels, has all but put an end to telemarketing sales—unless you’re a charity seeking donations or an existing service provider (banks, credit cards, insurance) calling on your customers to offer them additional products and services.

At work, we’re called on by business-to-business (B2B) sales reps wanting to sell us something they believe will help our business. How many voice mails do you get each week from someone wanting a minute of your time to tell you about the benefits of their product or service? How many of those calls do you return? My guess is almost none of them.

When You Want a Call

When you have a need and want to buy something to meet that need, who do you want to talk to? That’s right, a sales rep …really? Yes, of course, you do, because it’s on your terms and not the other way around.

Ironically, even when we’re open to dialog with a sales rep we do so reluctantly assuming we’ll have to endure the pitch process to get to the information we really want—just a simple answer to our question.

Such reluctance stems from past experience with less than professional (just plain bad) sales reps who don’t listen and never shut up. They are the sales types who smother us with a spiel of what they assume we want and how great their company is. Sales reps worth their weight in gold (true professionals) don’t do this. They earn the trust of their customers first—they are the reps people want to do business with.

Good Rep/Bad Rep

The differences between the types of reps you want to do business with and the kind you don’t is simpler to spot than you may think. Here are the 5 top things to look for when seeking value providers vs. order takers:

1. They do their homework before they meet with you

Professional sales people who deliver real value take the time to do their research on you and/or your company. They spend time understanding your business to be able to explain the benefits of their product or service as it relates to your business.

In our business, we help chefs and restaurateurs with fine meat programs tailored to fit their needs. We take the time to learn as much as we can about our customers and prospects by studying their menus, eating at their venues, reading their customer reviews online and more. When we do our homework first, we can have more meaningful conversations with our customers about their business.

Reps who do their homework make better use of your valuable time and streamline the path to meeting your needs. If a sales rep opens the conversation with something like “…tell me about your business,” they probably didn’t do their homework beforehand.

2. They listen first and talk second

We set our aim to abide by the following expression at Buedel Fine Meats: We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Meaning, we should listen more than speak.

Professional sale reps deliver real value when they listen first. They ask quality questions (sincerely) about your needs and seek comprehension of your goals before talking about their company. They want to know what drives your company’s needs, your decision making process, how you’ll know if your needs are met, and so on.

Value based sales reps know they must demonstrate how their product or service could benefit you in the context of your needs. The only way for them to do this is by listening first. Of course, there is an appropriate time for the sales rep to do all the talking so you can understand how their product or service can meet your needs, but if a rep is talking more than listening first, it’s a sign they’re putting their commission before your needs.

3. They make it safe and earn your trust

Professionals who deliver real value create a safe environment for you and they work to earn your trust. What I mean by a ‘safe environment’ is they create an atmosphere of accommodation without risk. Value adding sales reps accommodate your needs, not theirs. They work with you on your terms, not theirs. They follow your buying process, not their selling process.

Most sales people are under pressure to make sales, but the sales reps that add real value accommodate you without risk. An example of risk would be something like “… you have to buy it today, or the deal is gone.” Really? I doubt it. Earning your trust involves avoiding ultimatums and high pressure tactics.

We generally prefer to do business with people we know and like—we give them our trust because we find it safe to do so. Earning your trust is a process, not an event. Professional sales reps who add value know how to earn your trust and create a safe, no-risk environment to do business with you.

4. They say, “No” and frame it

Quality sales reps expect a long-term relationship with you. They understand that after they’ve earned your trust and your business there should be more business with you down the road. They also know that saying “yes” to everything you ask for, want or need is virtually impossible to deliver on. Conversely, they have the intelligence to say “no” when necessary to avoid purchase disappointments—in reality, they tell the truth.

The best value providers don’t just say “no” when they know their company will be unable to deliver on something, they also frame it with reasons why and propose “yes” alternatives. This gives you, as a buyer, an understanding of what and why they are able to do things and the opportunity to consider buying alternatives.

When you get what you expect, you’re happy. When you don’t, you feel like you’ve been taken.   Professional value based sales reps say, “no” with alternative ways to say “yes” so that you get what you expect.

5. They follow up in a timely manner

Probably the most important attribute of all that distinguishes a value provider from a transactional one is that they follow up in a timely manner. How frustrating is it to you when you’re under deadlines to get things done, and you can’t because you’re waiting and waiting for someone to follow up with you? Very frustrating!

All of us from time to time forget things, lose track of a to-do or without intention let something slip between the cracks. That’s human nature. However, if lack of follow-up by your sales rep is the norm rather than the exception, he/she is not bringing value to your relationship.

True pros are responsive in a timely manner. If they promise to get you an answer to your question by tomorrow, they get your answer by tomorrow, not next week or next month. They do what they say they are going to do. They return your phone calls and emails within a reasonable time frame. They realize that your time is valuable and when you need something it’s important to you. If they can’t follow up in a timely manner personally, they coordinate someone else following up for you on their behalf because you’re important to them.

Wrap Up

Reps who do their homework, listen first, work to earn your trust, avoid false promises and consistently follow up with you in a timely manner are professional value providers. Order Takers are often unprepared, like listening to themselves talk and will say anything to get the sale.

Who would you rather do business with?

From the desk of John Cecala || Website  LinkedIn  @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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Meat Picks | 8.21.14

Menu Mayhem

esq-big-boy-081611-xlgAuthor William Poundstone’s four year old book, Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How To Take Advantage of It), is causing a new ruse for the hospitality community. Restaurant News penned a digital lead to a story published in the Daily Mail about it this week and the Food Network also blogged about it.

At task for restaurateurs, is a big reveal on what customers should keep an eye out for on menus—specifically spilling the beans on menu marketing tactics used by many restaurants and why.

One of the main points highlighted in both write ups, cites a 2009 study which showed that leaving the dollar sign off listed menu prices encouraged an 8% spend increase among customers. Which is why, as the UK press put it, “Pound signs are disappearing from menus as quickly as cod are vanishing from the oceans.”

Other coverage highlights included points on why certain items are set off in boxes on menus and why “specials of the day” really aren’t that special at all.

This is definitely one of those posts that any business cringes over. No company wants to advertise why they do or don’t include certain wording or aesthetics in things they publish for public consumption whether it be menus, ads, websites, etc.

Certainly, no one wants a server to say, “I’m going to try to up sell you right now,” right before they suggest more drinks, appetizers or dessert. Consumers are savvy—they understand the art of the deal. (They often try to use it to their advantage too.) Things like this needn’t be spelled out in neon.

Fests & Feasts

sausagefestThe bad news is summer is winding down. The good news is there are still some great festivals left on the calendar. Here a few:

Sausage Fest Chicago kicks off tomorrow at 5 pm in a new location, at St. Michael’s on N. Cleveland Ave. in Old Town and runs through Sunday.

What makes this event a stellar stand out is its “Sausage King of Chicago” competition. Contestants vie for the crown by raising money for charity—this year, for the Wounded Warrior Project. The contestant who raises the most donations for the cause is crowned king. In addition to the royal title, the winner also gets prizes and free food and drink throughout the festival weekend.

BashWabashLogo-300x284Also this weekend, the 11th anniversary of Bash on Wabash takes place between 13th Street and 14th Place on Wabash in the South Loop. The festival offers music, food, drink, vendor booths, arts and crafts, and is jam packed with lots of kid activities, including a 5k Run and 10 mile Bike.

Bash on Wabash brings neighbors and business together to benefit the GSLA (Greater South Loop Association) with a portion of the proceeds going to the South Loop Food Pantry.

Find more festival dates at Time Out Chicago.

From the desk of John Cecala || Website  LinkedIn  @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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SOHO Chicago

bldgChicago has evolved as a restaurant mecca of design, dining and overall guest experience. SOHO HOUSE CHICAGO—which opened last Monday—is all these things.

Soho House Chicago is the fourth location to open in the US, joining New York, Miami and Hollywood. It is part of a unique and stunning group of member based hotel-clubs that aim to “assemble communities of members that have something in common.”

Founded in London in 1995, Soho House was built to accommodate people working in the creative fields—film, fashion, advertising, music, art and media—the goal being to “assemble communities of members that have something in common.” Since then, the brand has grown to 13 locations worldwide.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Nestled neatly near “restaphoto 4urant row” in the Randolph Market District, Soho House Chicago is located across the street from Green City Smoked Meats, on Green Street.

Pictured left: Fresh lunch counter

Soho’s club/hotel accommodations include separate dining, bar and lounge areas, a rooftop pool, 15,000 square foot gym (with a boxing ring), an ultra plush screening room and more. Add to this, three restaurants open to the public located at street level which are dedicated to local sourcing, prime quality and casual cuisine:

photo 5Pizza East Modern wood-fired oven pizzeria: open B/L/D and brunch on the weekends

Chicken Shop Just free range rotisserie chicken (and sides) sold by the whole, half and quarter: open 5-11 M-F and 10-11 on the weekends

The Allis Bar & Lounge serving B/L, Afternoon Tea, cocktails and small plates  Pictured above: Homemade Porchetta

One other standout about Soho is the rich history of their location—and the fact they took the time and care to document it on their website:

Soho House Chicago is located in the Allis Building, a historic five-story industrial warehouse…The building was commissioned in 1907 by Charles Allis, an influential industrialist, art collector and philanthropist from Milwaukee, as the headquarters of the Chicago Belting Company. Close to the city’s Union Stock Yards, which supplied the raw animal hides for its products, the Allis Building is one of the city’s best examples of concrete industrial loft design.

More history here.

RAVE REVIEW

When you work in a business auto-tuned to all things restaurant, hospitality and food service, the next “latest and greatest” is often met with great scrutiny. But that wasn’t the case when James Melnychuk from Buedel took in Soho’s opening this week. Here’s how James describes the experience:

The atmospherePicture1 is that of relaxed sophistication, without the fussiness and pretense often encountered in downtown Chicago. They have activities (seminars and classes) posted daily. It’s not limited to the constraints of an exclusive club—it’s also a meeting place.

The Allis feels like a lounge, where you can have drinks and a selection of great fresh food from the café counter for a relaxing midday or afternoon work break. At Pizza East, the platters of the day’s offerings surround the open kitchen in an absolutely enticingly display.

The atmosphere and deliciousness of the food speak for itself. I’ve been back twice already since the opening for lunch!

We wish Soho House Chicago much success in the Windy City.

From the desk of John Cecala || Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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Retaining Pride & Passion in a Conglomerate World

Companies make acquisitions for a number of reasons; often to gain new market share, intellectual property, additional products and new revenue streams. Most of the time however, mergers and acquisitions are driven by a desire for higher stock prices under shareholder pressure.

We’ve seen plenty of consolidations in the food industry over the past year. The largest pork producer, Smithfield Foods, sold to the Chinese group, Shuanghui, Sysco is acquiring US Foods, Hillshire Brands moved to acquire Pinnacle Foods and then Tyson is acquiring Hillshire Brands.                                                        meat-knife-colorado-premium 

Lost in Transition

Acquired companies frequently lose their identity when they’re “synergized” into the large acquiring companies. (That’s code for grabbing the customers, products and profits while eliminating everything else that already exists within the acquiring company.) In essence, much of what made the acquired company valuable in the first place is tossed out, ultimately forcing the customer base into a commoditized system of doing business.

The not so synergistic trail has played out more than several times over in the meat industry. In recent years, privately held Chicago meat companies have been gobbled up by multi channel food industry companies. US Foods [now being acquired by Sysco as noted above] bought privately held Stockyards Packing and New City Meats and Allen Brothers was acquired by Chef’s Warehouse, a publically traded specialty foods distributor.

What would happen if two family run meat companies combined?

Buedel & CPF

Up until now, privately held meat companies have been largely acquired by food conglomerates with multiple lines of business. We are excited to share news of just the opposite: Colorado Premium Foods, a privately held family run fine meats processor, has acquired Buedel.

Buedel Fine Meats & Provisions will now operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Colorado Premium (CPF). Other than the change in entityPicture1 backing of our company, Buedel Fine Meats continues to operate with business as usual – abiding by our commitment to listen to our customers first, and deliver premium quality meats with professional services.

This marriage makes Buedel Fine Meats stronger than ever and gives us increased size, scale and capacity to continue to develop new offerings, expand into new markets and lead by example into the future.

Our profile now provides:

  • A complimentary customer base to serve larger multi-concept owners
  • Additional product lines, with more buying power benefits to our customers
  • Geographical expansion of the distribution footprint for both companies
  • Mutual growth potential to reach new customers with our value nationally
  • Additional capacity to support growth in both businesses across geographic markets

Wrap Up

Retaining value is a top priority for Buedel and CPF. Our respective customers will not experience the pitfalls of commodity service but gain the opportunity to reap new benefits from a combined product and resource pool solely dedicated to fine meats.

Unlike many of the acquisitions before us, Buedel will continue to operate with pride and passion in a conglomerate world – merging old world family traditions with the best modern practices of today.

From the desk of John Cecala || Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

About CPF: Colorado Premium Foods is a family run, privately held premier value added manufacturer of premium beef products focused on serving major U.S. retailers, restaurant chains and co-packing of specialty items for packers across the nation. Colorado Premium custom processes over 100 million pounds of beef annually, operates 2 production and 2 storage facilities with approximately 500 employees and over 100 customers nationwide.                                               Read more at: www.coloradopremium.com

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Meat Picks | 7.31.14

Book It Now!

TasteofNation2014The annual Taste of the Nation fund raising event dedicated to ending child hunger will be held on Wednesday, August 13th in the Navy Pier ballroom. Bill Rancic will be this year’s MC, along with close to 100 restaurant professionals who will be donating their time, talents, food and libations to the event. Buy tickets online.

Ill-Mobile Manners

Did you see the one about the restaurant that claims ill-mannered cell phone use is at the root of many lackluster reviews?

When a NYC venue felt they were on the bad end of way too many negative online reviews, they hired consultants to investigate the situation. A comparison of 2004 vs. 2014 surveillance tapes provided a new view of the entire siturestaurant cell phoneation.

The restaurant found that customer cell phone activities delayed and interrupted the flow of restaurant service from the point of arrival through departure of the premises. A spike in food return was tracked to customers who were too busy playing around with their phones to eat their food when it arrived. They sent their plates back to the kitchen for being cold and ultimately wrote unfavorable reviews online.

Delays in ordering and waiter assisted selfies, were some of the other disruptions attributed to cell phone use. Read all the gory details here.

Coming to the Mag Mile

Congrats to Alpana Singh, Master Sommelier and proprietor of The Boarding House on the new construction underway of her next venture. Seven Lions, will be an “American clubhouse” based in a comfortable atmosphere across the street from the Art Institute in the People’s Gas Building at 122 S. Michigan Ave. The opening date is currently being projected for the end of this year or early 2015. Good luck, Alpana!

Shake Shack2Also coming to Michigan Avenue (at Madison), a popular east coast chain that just made its way to the Windy City, Shake Shack. News broke earlier this week, amidst current renovation of its first location at Ohio & Rush (opening this fall) that the Shack will be adding a second location sometime early next year at the ground floor of the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel according to the Trib.

From the desk of John Cecala || Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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Big ‘Q in the City

10325158_738899809508482_1853034942772849674_nIs barbeque BIG in mainstream America? The simple answer to that is “Yessum.” To give you a feel for just how big, over five million reviews covering nearly 20,000 restaurants were tallied during Open Table’s Best BBQ survey this year.

Current trends have also stirred discussions on what’s authentic barbeque, and what’s not. Buedel Corporate Chef, Russ Kramer, (also a member of a local BBQ competition team) says authentic barbeque has an “honest approach” to it.

Authentic ‘Q

“BBQ definitely has gotten more popular not only in Chicago but all around the country,” says Russ. “Lots of places have opened up…chains are attaching [to it], and demand for beef brisket has dramatically increased.”

So what types of authenbrisket2tic things should people keep an eye out for? Kramer says authentic BBQ has more of a “rustic feel” to it. “They just concentrate on the food, the smoke, and the rest follows.”

That ‘rustic feel’ is highly void of frills. “If you go down south, to where BBQ was born, you order your food and go into another room to eat at benched tables – and some of those old time BBQ halls and parlors actually still exist.”

City ‘Q

Joining the ever growing list of barbeque branded restaurants in Chicago last February, Green Street Smoked Meats has been written up numerous times since opening. By May, it ranked in the fifth spot on Thrillist’s Top Ten BBQ Joints and continues to draw a steady flow of “best barbeque” guest reviews.

meatWhen Chef Russ walked into Green Street for the first time, he said he didn’t feel like he was in a restaurant but like he was actually inside a ‘BBQ hall.’ “It looks smells and feels like BBQ – they stay true to it. They present things on sheet pans and sell by weight. You can order a half pound [of meat], and it’s served on a tray with butcher paper.”

The restaurant keeps their meat wrapped in paper to keep it super moist. The meat is retrieved upon order and carved on the spot atop big butcher blocks. Part of their success can be credited to their in- house 12,000 pound Texas made J&R smoker, (J&R is a southern manufacturer with a global reputation for top quality) which can house well over fifty pork GreenStSMOKERbellies at once.

On the subject of authentic BBQ, Green Street suggests it’s really the “aficionados” who understand it outside of the average customer and for them, brisket is the highest in demand by far. So much so, the restaurant just added Creekstone Farms beef brisket to their menu this week.

On trend with high-end steakhouses and industry players, Green Street agrees there is a definite shift toward the Creekstone brand. From their perspective, it’s about premium quality and working with a company dedicated to über efficient and humane field to order protocols which also just happens to have a team of “really good people” on board too.

All Q’d Up

communualThere is no doubt that BBQ is big across the country these days and finding brisket is way easier than it used to be. (Picture: Open table seating area at Green Street Smoked Meats.)

Those who know something of barbeque history, understand authentic ‘Q is deeply attached to meat (“…you barbeque meat and grill vegetables,” as one foodie blogger put it) and society. It was the social aspect of barbeque that attracted people to congregate communal style to eat, visit and share the news of the day.

Wouldn’t it be great if restaurants like Green Street helped bring a little of that ole time congregatin’ back for good?

From the desk of John Cecala || Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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How Taste & Flavor Affect Your Beef Experience | Part II

TASTESFLAVORSIn Part 1 of our article, we examined what factors affect the way we perceive the taste and flavor of beef. (Remember, flavor is the quality of something you can taste.) We also talked about how beef with higher marbling (intramuscular fat) usually wins the taste test.

There are certain cuts of beef which may be more marbled than others and/or more tender. There are also ways of adding more flavor to beef with Marinades, Rubs and Brines and also increase tenderness.

Adding More Flavor

Marinade is a seasoned liquid that adds flavor and in some cases increases tenderness. Less tender beef cuts, such as several from the chuck, round, flank and skirt, benefit from a marinade with tenderizing ingredients such as food acids or enzymes combined with a long marinating time of 6 to 24 hours.

Tender beef cuts are marinated only to add flavor and, therefore, require short marinate times – 15 minutes to 2 hours. Less acidic marinade ingredients should be used since their tenderizing effects are not required.

Acidic marinade ingredients Marinadeinclude citrus juices, vinegar, vinaigrettes, salsa, yogurt and wine. Fresh ginger, pineapple, papaya, kiwi and figs, also contain natural tenderizing enzymes.

A highly acidic marinade can actually toughen meat fibers similar to overcooking.

Rubs are dry or paste-type seasoning mixtures used for flavoring applied to the surfaces of roasts, steaks and ground beef patties just prior to cooking, they often form a delicious crust during cooking.

Dry rubs consist of herbs, spices and other seasonings that are pressed onto the beef’s surface. Paste-type rubs are spread over the beef and use small amounts of wet ingredients, such as oil, crushed garlic, mustard, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce, to bind the dry seasonings.

Cures & Brines rely on salt mixtures/solutions. For dry cures, salt and sodium nitrate are applied directly to the beef’s surface. Beef is also cured by immersing it in pickling or brining solutions that may or may not contain nitrates.

Originally developed as a form of meat preservation, these methods are mainly used to produce distinctive flavors, such as in corned beef and pastrami today.

Flavor Pairings

When beef is paired with two or more uEpic Burgermami tastes, it creates an explosion of savory, delicious flavors in your mouth.

Popular umami accoutrements to beef are aged cheeses, bacon, barbeque sauce, mushrooms, garlic, onions, red wine, soy sauce, and tomatoes.  Burgers are highly indicative of this practice – cheese and bacon are among the most preferred toppers today. (Pictured above left: Epic Burger)

Less Than Perfect Flavors

There may be times when you experience less than desirable beef flavor. Some of the terms I’ve heard used to describe this are, “livery”, “irony” and “warmed over”. Here are some tips on what you can do to avoid these situations.

Livery Flavor in beef is a complex occurrence without one clear cause, but there are ways to minimize livery flavors. 1. Red blood cells contain iron which has notes of liver flavor. A proper purge of blood during processing will help remedy the situation. 2. Avoid too much aging. Beef does become more flavorful and tender with age, but too much age can also cause a liver flavor. One reason may be that fat oxidizes during the aging process and the affects of oxidation appear to accentuate the liver flavor. If possible, avoid cooking to a high degree of doneness.

Irony Flavor or a Metallic mouth feel or iron taste is attributed to high myoglobin and hemoglobin contents which release iron during cooking. This off-flavor may be reduced by cooking beef to a lower degree of doneness.

takeoutcontainerWarmed Over Flavor occurs from reheating previously cooked meat. (Like when you reheat that doggie bagged steak in the microwave from last night’s dinner.) This undesirable flavor is caused by cooking to a high degree of doneness, improper storage, microbial contamination and exposure of cooked meat to oxygen. Consider having leftovers cold in sandwiches or salads to help minimize the problem.

Flavor Wrap

The taste of beef can be enhanced. Here are our top five flavor tips for getting the most out of your next meal:

1. Choose higher grades of beef, USDA Prime or USDA Choice, that have more marbling  (the marbling score is a large factor in determining the beef quality grade)

2. Opt for Properly Aged beef – anywhere between 14-28 days depending on the cut

3. Keep your beef properly chilled under 40°F until cooking and avoid freezing/thawing

4. Avoid cooking to a high degree of doneness and reheating

5. Experiment with complimentary umami flavors to create a flavor explosion.

Enjoy the taste of beef and savor the flavor!

From the desk of John Cecala || Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

 

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How Taste & Flavor Affect Your Beef Experience | Part I

CreekstoneBeeffiletThe words taste and flavor are commonly used interchangeably to describe eating sensation but in reality they are very different. Appearance, smell, and personal judgment can also affect our beef experience. (Pictured right: Creekstone Farms Filet.)

Triggers & Sensations

If you were in grade school before the late 1990′s, you learned about the basic taste receptors on your tongue for sweet, salty, sour and bitter. In the late 1990′s a fifth taste receptor was confirmed as umami which is the way our body interprets and senses protein or savory taste.

Receptors on our tongue send signals to our brains when we experience certain tastes. The ability to detect these five tastes is instrumental to our decision making. We may decide something is too bitter, or nicely sweet, and then decide to keep eating it or to avoid it in the future.

How our innate survival instinct relates to our taste sensors directing us towards certain foods and away from others is further important. For example, sweet indicates energy-giving carbohydrates; sour indicates potential danger from spoilage; bitter indicates potential toxins.

Flavor is the quality UmamiTongueof something you can taste. It is the combination of the taste, plus the other sensations that influence our perception of food, such as aroma, texture, juiciness, color and feel in your mouth.

People sometimes use words such as, rich, buttery, silky, pungent and earthy, when describing something they eat or drink. When doing so, they are actually speaking of flavor. You may have used the term “off-flavor” when something didn’t taste quite right. That’s because the combination of taste and the other influences were not what you expected or experienced before.

Beef + Fat = Flavor

Beef without fat lacks flavor. Fat imparts juiciness and flavor in beef but all fat with meat is not equal. There are three types of fat in meat:

  • Subcutaneous or External fat that covers the outside of a carcass
  • Seam or Intermuscular fat that runs between muscles
  • Marbling or Intramuscular fat that is found within muscles

Marbling is the visible flecks of fat within muscles that are directly related to the flavor and juiciness of cooked beef. Marbling affects flavor in two ways. First, fatty acids (the building blocks of fat) experience chemical changes during cooking and produce potent flavor compounds. Second, fat acts as a container for aromatic compounds that are released during cooking. Many beef flavor components are found in these aromatic compounds.

There are ten degrees BeefFlavorBlogof marbling USDA graders use for evaluation, from Very Abundant to Practically Devoid. The marbling score is a large factor in determining the beef quality grade.   USDA Prime has the most abundant marbling, USDA Select has the least marbling and USDA Choice is right in the middle.

Part 1 Wrap Up

Our eating and flavor preferences can be altered by the ways we see, smell, taste and even think about foods. In a study conducted by the University of Nebraska, consumer opinion was put to the test with steak:

70% of respondents visually preferred low marbled steaks, but high marbled steaks were rated juicier, more flavorful and taste acceptable.

What’s most interesting about this result is the inertia between a visual and actual taste. By sight, lower marbled steaks may have been perceived as the better alternative, but it was the flavor profile of higher marbled steak that won out.

From a market perspective, grain fed beef tends to have more marbling whereas grass fed beef tends to have less marbling. Consequently the flavor of the beef is quite different.

Read on: How Taste & Flavor Affect Your Beef Experience Part II 

From the desk of John Cecala || Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook 

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Meat Picks | 7.9.14

New Food Show

CNBCA new CNBC show called, Restaurant Startup premiered this week, where famed Master Chef Judge, Joe Bastianich, and renown Chef Tim Love compete against each other investing (their own money) in restaurant concepts they think will hit it big.

Casting for the show (ala Shark Tank) is ongoing: www.restaurantstartupcasting.com. You may also appreciate this video segment Bastianich did with an established NYC restaurateur on survival in the restaurant industry.

Tenderloin in Taiwan

image003 image001The global food market is ever expansive and Taiwan is booming. Last month, a record 7,400 international buyers (up 13% from 2013) visited over 3,900 booths at the Taipei International Food Expo, which took place over four days at the end of June. The core sections of the expo were: food, food industry machinery and packaging, hospitality, laundry and halal markets.

According to Austrade.gov US Beef is considered higher quality in Taiwan and has a “special grade” rating, as opposed to other beef imports classified as a “general grade”. The quality of meat also determines where it is sold. US Beef is usually sold to Western cuisine restaurants and contemporary supermarkets. Tenderloin, Rib Eye, Strip Loin and Short Ribs are some of the most favored cuts in Taiwan. (Pictured: Buedel Fine Meats on display by Tzy Yao at the Taipei Expo last month.)

Shmooze Date

Thursday, August 7th is the next date for the free industry networking event at Drink in Schuamburg, organized by Food Industry News. The featured speaker at the event will be Rich Labriola, founder of Labriola Bakery Cafe and the most recently opened Chicago version of, Stan’s Donuts. All food industry professionals are welcome.

Magic KISS

Paul-Stanley-and-Gene-Simmons-of-KISS-Venue-friendly-Rock-Brews-RestaurantYou have to respect the marketing prowess of KISS legends Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. They have over 3,000 licensed merchandised items and Simmons has built a highly successful multi-faceted empire across the entertainment, hospitality and financial industries for the last forty years.

Four years ago this summer, Stanley, Simmons and three other friends (Restaurateur, Michael Zislis and Rock & Roll Magnates, Dell and Dave Furano) came up with the idea for the restaurant chain Rock & Brews. With locations in California, New Mexico, Hawaii, Kansas and Mexico, the ever expanding brand announced it will also be going into arenas and stadiums opening its first “venue-friendly” location at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA., this summer.

Love KISS or not, you can’t dismiss this perfect parody of food, music and marketing.

Deal of the Day

10488075_759259007448679_8136965851066997891_nGreat hump day deal on “Fried Chicken Wednesdays” at Takito Kitchen. Enjoy $3 fried chicken tacos (sesame or crispy) on a hot sauce tortilla, with cheddar, herb aioli and avocado lettuce. TK also has a Farm to Table Prix Fixe Dinner and offers a Farm to Table Brunch every Friday through Sunday.

From the desk of John Cecala || Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

 

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Outpost Road Trip

Buedel’s Corporate Chef, Rlogouss Kramer, Master Butcher, Peter Heflin, and Logistics Manager, Michael Tibbs, took a road trip to Outpost Natural Foods recently to help celebrate Outpost’s fourth store opening in Mequon, Wisconsin.

Outpost is the fourth largest natural foods co-op (by sales) in the U.S. They are known for providing a unique, fun and educational shopping experience of fresh, local and natural foods, including hard to find items. They are a IMG_20140621_104539444_HDR“locally-owned cooperative” committed to sustainable living, fair trade, local growers and community. Outpost stores are “year-round farmers markets.”

When you send a bunch of meat guys out to celebrate something (anything, for that matter) you have to know there’ll be loads of high quality meat on hand. Russ, Peter and Michael spent the day “slow-smoking” Niman Ranch St. Louis Ribs. (Russ used his competition BBQ team’s glaze and sauce. They won a Grand Champion title at the Glen Ellyn Backyard BBQ photo 3last year – and don’t even think about asking him for the recipes.) The Buedel team prepared “split” ribs (cut in half for appetizer sized servings) for the event.

The Huen Family, one of Niman Ranch’s family farms from Fulton, Illinois, was also on hand to talk to customers about the way they raise their hogs for Niman Ranch, and answer questions. (Buedel supplies Outpost with Niman Ranch products and organic poultry.) Peter says the Outpost people are just great to work with and are totally dedicated to keeping to their core vision. “The Outpost staff is behind the whole movement and their customer base is very supportive, giving a lot of feedback to all the departments about sustainability and humane practices.”

St. Louis Style Ribs were first pophoto 1pularized in the 1930′s by butchers in the St. Louis area. They are actually Spare Ribs with the rib tips cut off to dispose of cartilage and gristle with very little meat. St. Louis Ribs didn’t become an “official USDA standard” until the 1980’s. Both Spare and St. Louis Style Ribs are most commonly grilled and smoked in the southern regions of the U.S. For more info about ribs, check our Meat Up post on Ribs 101 for Summer Grilling. If you’d like to try some St. Louis Ribs in your own backyard, here’s a recipe from Russ:

St. Louis Spare Ribs at Home

Spread a light coating of yellow mustard and liberally sprinkle your favorite BBQ Spice/Rub on both sides of the ribs.

Bake ribs on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes until lightly brown. Transfer ribs to roasting pan with about an inch of water on the bottom, cover tightly and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour until meat is tender between the bones.

Preheat grill to a medium heat. Cook ribs until they are nice and brown on the outside. Brush your favorite BBQ sauce on both sides of ribs when they’re just about ready and let the sauce glaze.

Have a great Fourth of July everyone!

From the desk of John Cecala || Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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Meat Picks | 6.26.14

Ed’s Fest

ED Debevic FlyerMake a note of this date: Saturday, July 26th. You’re all invited to a party at Ed Debevic’s from 11-5, for a luau-themed food and fun fest for the whole family. What makes this (fifth) annual event extra special this year, is Ed’s 30th Anniversary! Hard to believe it’s already been three decades since Debevic’s has been open.

For those of us around (way back in 1984), Ed Debevic’s was an immediate hit. Their shakes, burgers, retro diner setting and wildly entertaining wait staff exploded onto the casual dining scene. People just loved it – and they still do today. What’s not to love about a “cheap and deep” menu?

Don’t miss Ed’s 30th Anniversary on July 26th! A portion of the party proceeds goes to local charities too!

Best Burger in the Nation

1-kuma-flickr_RLeeThe Daily Meal expanded their annual perfect patty list from 40 to a whopping 101 Best Burgers in America earlier this month. The top slot went to Kuma’s Corner in Chicago for their signature Kuma Burger complete with: bacon, sharp cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onion and a fried egg. As The Daily Meal put it, “It’s not as though there’s not enough flavor in the burger, but that egg… whoah.”

Gadget Giveaway

TailgaterTailgater Monthly is running a sweepstakes you might be interested in. They’re giving away $5,700 worth of outdoor tools, equipment and accessories you can use for barbeque and parties at home and on the go – everything from a compact portable generator to a floating cooler. Entry to the contest is free via online registration good through tomorrow, 6/27.

Fixin’ for the Fourth

carwfish boilLooking for something different to do on the 4th? How about a Crawfish Boil at Shaw’s? For $30, you can get an all-you-can-eat Louisiana style crawfish boil with potatoes, sausage and corn fixins’ from 12-9 on July 4th.

Find a complete list of July festivals and concerts at Time Out Chicago.

Post of the Week

Do you love this Facebook post from Niman Ranch as much as we do?

Post of the WeekFrom the desk of John Cecala || Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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The Latest on Finely Textured Beef

The Wall Street Journal called me last month for thoughts on a piece they were doing regarding the resurgence of finely textured beef (aka “pink slime”) in answer to rising beef prices.

Back in August of 2012,img-learn-packaging-overwrap we addressed the potential future impact on the industry due to the pink slime hysteria ignited by the media on consumer markets. (Read 1 of 10 Things (at the very least) the Foodservice Industry DOES want you to know.)

Thousands of good working people ultimately lost their jobs at companies producing Finely Textured Beef (FTB) who were forced to shut down from an avalanche of cancelled orders due to the misguided media frenzy. What made the situation even more exasperating was the fact that these production processes were USDA approved. All laws and regulations were followed, but it was the processors that bore the immediate brunt of the fallout.

When this occurred, the beef industry was experiencing its lowest herd numbers since 1955 due to drought, and the impact of removing FTB from the food supply required a substantially large amount of additional cattle to fill the demand gap for ground beef.

It was more than logical to predict these effects would likely drive up cattle futures and eventually the price of ground beef for all of us.

How Much is Too Much?

Before the pink slime hysteria in 2012, the average price of 100% ground beef in 2011 was $2.78/lb as per the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, which has been tracking ground beef prices since 1984. By May 2014, the average price of 100% ground beef was $3.85/lb, a 38% price increase compared to the 2% average annual rate of inflation in the United States. Just last weekend, a friend of mine told me she paid almost $5/lb. for 80/20 ground beef at her local grocery store. Consumers, retailers and regrill imagesstaurateurs are all paying much more now for ground beef.

Ground beef is the most bought and consumed type of beef by far. With that in mind, combined with the fact that beef prices are at record highs, it’s no wonder that finely textured beef is indeed making a comeback.  Retailers and consumers, perhaps now more properly educated on the subject, are purchasing products that include FTB in the ingredients.

FTB is currently sold to over 400 retail, food-service and food-processing customers, more than before the 2012 controversy, albeit overall in smaller amounts. Production of finely textured beef has also recently doubled at some manufacturing plants from its low point after the controversy.

Environmentally Sound

The production process for finely textured beef recovers lean beef from steak and roast fat trimmings that would otherwise be wasted. It is made the same way the dairy industry makes cream by using centrifugal force to separate the cream from milk. Cargill posted an easy to follow video outlining the start to finish process early this year; watch it here.

ftbThe maximized use of harvested animals, further popularized by “nose-to-tail” culinary trends, also makes the most of the limited natural resources used to produce beef. Conversely, in a market free of FTB, the following occurs: 1.5M more head of cattle are needed to fill the gap, 10.5M more acres of land is used for grazing those cattle, 375B more gallons of water is utilized to feed and process the cattle and 97M more bushels of corn is needed to feed them, which is grown on 600K more acres of land.

Wrap Up

On the surface, the return of FTB to the market would seem to indicate retailers and consumers are more concerned about cost than method. The good news is, environmentally sound USDA approved beef practices, which produce quality ground beef at better prices, is back.

From the desk of John Cecala || Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats Facebook

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The Grand Champions of BBQ Pitmasters

WINNER - RSSeason 5 of BBQ Pitmasters came to an end last Saturday night with Rescue Smokers taking the title of Grand Champion, $50,000 purse and an exclusive invitation to the prestigious Kingsford Invitational later this year.

Rescue Smokers and Squeal Like a Pig competed in a final showdown where they were challenged to cook an unprecedented four different meats for one turn-in box: chicken, spare ribs, brisket point and pork shoulder. At four hours out from the finish, a surprise “one bite challenge” for whole shrimp was added to the mix for a chance to win an extra point.

Rescue Smokers also won that challenge with a bacon wrapped grilled shrimp. Judge Myron Mixon told the team afterward it was risky adding “an extra protein” to RS-TURN IN BOXthe challenge because it had to be “cooked perfect too.” Squeal Like a Pig’s Pitmaster, Joe Pearce had never cooked shrimp before the challenge.

Robby says he knew their turn-in box looked perfect and affirms you have to be a hit with “appearance” because that’s where the judging begins. Pearce, the youngest competitor, to ever make it to the show’s finals, lost by an undisclosed margin. “Joe is an accomplished Pitmaster for his age,” says Royal, “and I respect him for that.”

BBQ Brothers

Where Joe Pearce actually competed with his brother, Robby says he and teammate Raymond Poore are definitely like brothers. “There’s always a front man, and I have the gift ofRS-TASTING gab,”describes Royal, “but Ray and I are equals…we also argue. You didn’t see this on air, but we had a disagreement in every episode.” Royal says it’s easy to disagree on things because it’s very frustrating when you have to cook something you’re not familiar with.

“The team that Robby and I used to compete on before we created Rescue Smokers believed that one man made it all happen, ” recalls Poore. “So when we got started we never put the “i” in team. If I need to do a comp and Robby needs to do a comp, we are confident that we both can make it happen. And if I make a change or Robby makes a change, we trust each others’ decision whether good or bad.”

Royal and Poore always kRescueSmokersnew each other, but never had a relationship before BBQ. Royal says he got into it because of his father. “My dad joined a cook team and my brother and I would go hang out with them. When my dad died in 2002, Ray came to me and asked if he could take my dad’s place.”

Their relationship blossomed as a social hobby at first. “When we originally started, it was Ray and our wives, then another couple joined us, and a younger couple was also with us for a while.” Both couples eventually dropped off according to Royal because, “…it doesn’t give you anything back. You’re lucky if you break even – it’s just been the four of us for the last 5 years. BBQ is a passion – it’s not about the money. I’d love to do this full time, but it doesn’t pay the bills.” And, there’s only one Myron Mixon, right? “Exactly!”

Winning Profile

RS-BRISKET AND BUTT ON THE PITWhen they’re not competing, Royal says he and Poore’s family get together in their backyards. “Our families taste test for us.” Their children take on the role of spectators, “They love BBQ, and they love to hang out.”

Having lost by a miniscule margin in the semi-finals last year, Robby professes the biggest difference between BBQ Pitmasters Season 4 and 5 was that he and Ray came back ready and prepared to cook anything. “We took swings to hit a home run and it paid off.” Some of that renewed readiness may be attributable to an experience they had late last year when Destination America was filming a new cook show in their home state of Georgia.

RS-BRISKET BURNT ENDSBBQ Pitwars would have four top crews (including Myron Mixon and Pitmasters co-judge, Moe Cason), competing against each other during BBQ circuit competitions. When Royal heard Pitwars would be filming at the Big Pig Jig® in Georgia last November, (his “home cook”), he called the show producer to tell them they better keep their eye on Rescue Smokers while filming because they were going to “take Myron down.” The gauntlet was somewhat brazen at the time given the fact that Rescue Smokers had come in 2nd behind Mixon for the last three consecutive years in a row at the competition.

Placing 9th in Ribs, 4th in Shoulder, 1st in Chicken and 1st in Whole Hog out of 130 teams, Robby and Ray did beat Mixon and won the 2013 BPJ Grand Champion title. [You can see the win in Episo2013BigPigJigChampionde 3 of BBQ Pitwars.] How did Myron react? “He was happy for us,” says Royal, “as he would be for himself.” After that win, Rescue Smokers was invited back to BBQ Pitmasters for Season 5.

Beating Mixon was a full circle moment for Robby who says it wasn’t until he went to Mixon’s cooking school in 2007, that he truly learned how to cook BBQ. “We never won anything before that time and at the very first competition after that, we won a state championship!” Royal is also quick to point out that winning championships Myron competes in is absolutely essential. “You want Myron there. If we’d won [the Big Pig Jig®] without him there, it would be like Barry Bonds’ home run record – there’d always be an asterisk after your name.”

In competitive BBQ, “you have to be extremely consistent,” offers Royal. “Don’t change anything, try it again – be very careful with timelines, and get the product out at the right time. Be confident, have fun, be consistent, and get lucky …in judging.”

Status ‘Q

RescueSmokehouseGrillIn 2007, Ray and Robby each put in $1,000 and have never put in anything since. “We’ve been blessed to have it pay for itself,” says Royal, who says they’ve been able to buy their equipment, supplies and cover expenses with their winnings.

In 2012, Ray opened a restaurant in Ashburn, Ga., Rescue’s Smokehouse Grill, on the same day Robby received a promotion to Director of EMS and County Fire Chief. Poore says winning BBQ Pitmasters has meant the world to him and his family, “…not only is it nice to see your dad or husband on TV, but it has greatly helped out my restaurant.” He likes “making people smile with great food” and the challenges that come along with that. “I have one customer that wants his steak med-rare with no blood, who would figure?”

Prior to restaurant openings aMyron & Ray outside restaurantnd promotions, Rescue Smokers used to compete over 28-30 weekends a year, now they limit it to 10-12. Royal says it’s always been a stress release for him, “The average working life in EMS is only 7-8 years. You see a lot of awful things.” He says the guys at the station have always been supportive of the team, “…and now I’m their boss.”

The team’s winning track record, BBQP experience, and lighter weekend travel schedule has also paved the way to new opportunities. Ray and Robby are getting ready to launch a line of sauces (in July) and have plans to open a cooking school in the very near future. “We don’t just cook in one sanction – we cook them all across a 3-4 state area,” points out Royal. “We were the first team to win in four different sanctioning bodies; your flavor profiles change so much by cuisine, region and requirement. We are one of the most versatile teams in the nation.” [Read more about sanctioning bodies here.]RS- RIBS OFF THE PIT

Royal is looking at the new endeavors as an opportunity to “make a little bit” from their competitive efforts. He also made a point in saying that Rescue Smokers has never had any sponsors until recently – kinda. “Last December, my wife and I bought a camper. Several weeks later, the guy we bought it from invited us to lunch. He wanted to know why with all the BBQ competitors in our area, he wasn’t selling more trailers.” Royal ended up buying a new trailer for Rescue Smokers (which they’d planned on doing) by striking a “better” deal with the dealership in exchange for putting their logo on the trailer.

That’s a Wrap

BBQ Pitmasters was filmed last January and February over a five week period. “Every 3-4 days they did a new round,” describes Royal, “we were there from sun up to sundown – at one point it was 32 degrees – it was really cold!”

BUEDEL FINALS MEATAfter the final episode was filmed, they brought their check home and hid the trophy. It wasn’t too tough keeping quiet about the results until after the first episode aired in April when people kept asking them how they ended up in the competition. Robby tooled a standard reply: No matter if we won or lost, we met some great people, cooked some great product and had a great time.

Royal says they didn’t do anything special for the first airing of the final episode last Saturday night. “We had a bigger crowd. I smoked some sausage; Ray cooked some pizzas. Afterwards, it was a blast.”

From the desk of John Cecala || Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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New Chew on the Block | Mikey’s Jerky

LOGO trimmedOf all the possible businesses, a young entrepreneur could get into these days (tech, being the most obvious choice) you can’t help but wonder why Mikey Allen chose jerky. Yet the decision to go into the snack biz was far more logical than you might think. At the ripe old age of 25, Allen has been making jerky for 20 years.

Family Passion

“I remember we [he and his siblings] got this tiny little hydrator for Christmas when I was 5 – it probably made about 2 lbs. worth of meat at a time,” says Allen. “My dad used to go hunting, so the first jerky we made was with venison. We made it a couple of times a year and gave it to friends and family.”

Allen says his father and grandfather always had a great appreciation for doing things by hand. “My dad grew up in Champaign and went hunting with my grandfather. The recipe we used to make jerky was the same recipe my dad used with his father, and it’s the same recipe I use for Mikey’s Or894030_230185417188667_608606519362212903_oiginal today.”

Pictured left: Mikey and his Dad at one of their first open market stands.

The youngest of three children, Allen’s family moved from St. Louis to Louisville so his father, then a general dentist, could go back to school for orthodontics. “My dad was unhappy with general dentistry, so he went back to school and my mom, who was a nurse at the time, supported us.” The family eventually planted permanent roots in Wheaton, Illinois when Mikey was 6.

Allen went to work after college for Groupon in sales and on to logistical and advertising sales after that. It was during this time when his lifelong “hobby” started taking on a different perspective. “I started selling jerky to co-workers and friends and they all said, ‘you really have something here’”.

Perfecting the Product  

A year ago last April, Mikey quit his job dedicating himself to turning his passion for jerky into a legitimate business. He executed extensive due diligence, went through the agonizing process of getting industry licensed, and set his goals on producing a healthy handcrafted all natural snack. “In the jerky business, there’s not much out there yet in this niche.”

10301430_243618842511991_2282074179221836951_n(Pictured right: One of Mikey’s customers started sending his jerky overseas to her brother in the Army. She says the soldiers  love it.)

Allen currently rents commercial kitchen space and contains production costs by pulling “all-nighters” working a perpetual graveyard shift. “The process is very labor intensive” he describes. “There’s slicing, trimming, marinating, hydrating and then packaging. I lay every piece out singly for hydrating. It takes about 10 hours per run, plus the 4-8 hours for prep and marinating. I can make about 250 pieces in a 24 hour turn around. If a batch doesn’t turn out right, I throw it out!”

Dedicated to producing healthy, all natural and antibiotic free products, Allen says he Googled “grass fed suppliers” and found Buedel. “James [Melnychuk] has been just awesome with me, showing me the ropes of the meat business – he treats me like I was ordering 1,000 pounds a week.”

Mikey uses eye of the round cuts for his jerky with little fat from grass fed cattle and Creekstone Farms Black Angus beef. “I admired the companies who used only eye of the round cuts when I first started out, because it’s super lean. You can use bottom round, but it’s more labor intensive to trim it.”

Flavor Profiles

Having made venison and bison jerky in the past, Allen says he’d also like to experiment with some exotic meats in the future too, but will keep his focus on handcrafting beef jerky for now. “A lot of my competitors outsource to mass production facilities.”

Mikey’s Jerky currently comes in three core flavors: Mikey’s Original – a smoky bite with a strong, lasting finish, Great Barrier Beef – a zesty exotic herb and spice blend, and Grim Beefer – a hot and spicy version, “not for the faint of heart”.10012228_226415907565618_1235124841889871716_o

Allen says most people say his Grim Beefer flavor has just the right amount of kick, and others tell him “it could be hotter.” Always experimenting with new flavors, feedback from family and friends often weigh in. “Someone wanted me to do a brown sugar and maple syrup version and at one point we tried a Paleo diet version – it had a LOT of pepper.”

The ingredients on a package of Mikey’s Original include beef, water, salt, crushed red pepper, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, Worchester, liquid smoke and hot sauce. The jerky has soy and wheat allergens, however Allen also plans on expanding into gluten free products in the future.

Until last week, Mikey’s Jerky was only available by word of mouth and at local area weekend markets. Two new access channels were launched this week: Online Order and a special Father’s Day Gift Offer good for three consecutive monthly deliveries.

After Father’s Day, customers will have the option of joining The Jerky of the Month Club, which will include new and limited flavor profiles. You can also buy a bag this weekend at the French Markets in Wheaton and Glen Ellyn.

Building a Brand

17-20 pieces of Mikey’s Jerky fill every brown bag which has a tested shelf life of three months. “People love the packaging because it gives you a clean feel,” he says. “I’m selling the week of production right now, but when I hit retail, I’ll have to have it retested.”

Already approached by a Whole Foods rep, Allen is busy laying the groundwork for production expansion refurbishing a kitchen to commercial standards to move into next fall and hiring his first employees. His immediate goal is to be cooking 24/7 while staying true to the handcrafted process. The new kitchen would allow him to produce 750 bags a day – three times his current 24 hour turn around.

Mother's Day promoThankful for the support he’s received from friends and family, Mikey credits his dad for coaching him, his mom for teaching him “Quick Books”, (and helping him with all the “cute packaging” he’s really bad at), his siblings for helping him sell and his college buddy, graphic designer Adam Vicarel, for creating his logo. (Pictured left: Mom’s ‘cute’ Mother’s Day packaging.)

As with many startups, crowd sourcing may also be on the horizon, but Allen is quick to mention the help he’s received from his friend, Bob Sorenson at Threadfunds.com. Thread Funds is a platform for “crowd funded apparel and merchandise”, where startups can sell logo branded items to raise awareness (and funding) for their products, services and/or events. You can buy a Mikey’s Jerky tank top here.1557590_203964463144096_1545155536_n

Allen says his biggest challenge is “time management”. He only pulls two ‘all-nighters’ a week, but they wipe him out the next day. It’s about meeting supply and demand, and he says he’s trying to “work smarter”.

Mikey’s big vision is to keep the company family operated and handcrafted within the healthy/all natural retail market. “I want to provide a quality product people will appreciate that tastes good!”

From the desk of John Cecala || Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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Meat Picks | 6.5.14

Food Apps

mobile-appsAccording to Tech Republic, food apps are one of the hottest 2014 tech startup categories. Last week they published a slide article on “apps that are changing the food industry”, citing 15 new releases. Some highlights on the list: Harvest Mark – traces where your food comes from, Wild Edibles – identifies wild plants and flowers you can prepare for consumption and Farmstand – finds local and seasonal foods by mapping farms and farmer’s markets.

Score Card

Game 1 of the NBA finals may start tonight, but the battle between Pilgrim’s Pride v. Tyson Foods over who buys Hillshire Brands is heating up.

If you haven’t kept up with who’s on first, Pilgrim’s Pride is now up, 2 to 1, after raising the ante this week from their offer of 5.6 billion to 6.7 billion countering HillshireBlogPicTyson’s 6.2 offer. What’s most interesting in this war of the food titans is the fact that Hillshire was focused on acquiring other companies. Ironically, it was Hillshire’s most recent acquisition plan, to buy Pinnacle Foods, which turned the tables on them.

How will this affect food fans? In the consumer arena, ticket prices will most likely go up! Read our latest post: What happens to price after the food fight?

BBQ Semi Finals

Buedel Fine MeatsThe competition was intense last weekend in the first of two semi-finals on BBQ Pitmasters. Each team barbecued three different kinds of ribs, beef, baby back and country style, in an episode appropriately named, Ribs, Ribs & More Ribs. The semi-final round further challenged the Pitmasters by requiring three meats to be cooked versus the normal two.

Judged on “taste, tenderness and appearance”, Robby Royal of Rescue Smokers won the round by a margin of 2/10 points. It was poetic justice for Royal who lost by 1/16th of a point last year in the semi-final round.

The remaining three teams compete this Saturday, June 7th at 8pm CST on the Destination America network. Don’t miss it!

Top Meeting Spots

Crain’s just published a best list of private dining rooms in the city. Focusing on the downtown, River North, Gold Coast and Randolph Market neighborhoods, they whittled the list down to a choice 32 covering “traditional and trendy, refined and rustic, blow-out and budget-conscious”. Here’s their top picks:

Crainslist

From the desk of John Cecala || Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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