Meat Picks | 4.18.14

Gibsons Special

You may or may not hGibsons25thAnniversaryave heard that Gibsons has been celebrating their 25th Anniversary, which kicked off on March 27th. (Congratulations!) Raffles, prizes and more have been part of the ongoing activities every day since.

The 25 Days of Gibsons silver celebration ends this Monday, April 21st, with a last day super steak special offer: all steaks on the menu will be $25!

Porkalicious Party

Cochon555 is a national event series that takes place in major markets across the country every year. Started in 2009, the event brand has raised awareness for Heritage breed pigs, sustainable farming, 2014-04-13 20.21.24nose-to-tail preparation and close to a million dollars for charities, culinary schools and family farms.

Last Monday, 5 Chicago chefs, dished 5 Heritage Pigs with 5 Winemakers on behalf of Cochun555’s 5th  “friendly competition for a cause” at the Renaissance Blackstone Hotel. Hundreds of spectators were also on hand for the hog friendly event.

The showcase challenges each chef to prepare a 150 pound family-raised Heritage breed pig in entirety. Special set ups are put in place for the judges and samplings are offered to all in attendance.

Chefs, Ryan McCaskey of Acadia, Abraham Conlon of Fat Rice, Giuseppe Tentori of GT Fish & Oyster, Cory Morris of Mercat a la Planxa and Tim Graham of Travelle, porked it out in Chicago this year for a chance to compete at the finals held at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic this June. The national winner gets a trip to Spain.

Travelle’s Exe2014-04-13 14.57.48cutive Chef Tim Graham won the challenge. Staging custom cut wooden boards at each judging station, Chef Graham competed with the following menu: piri-piri pork belly with smoked pineapple and ramps, country pâté and rosemary loin muffuletta, chermoulah taco with radish tzatziki blood mole soup with head cheese and cracklin’ jacks.

Chef Graham’s cooked pork skins (pictured in small brown bag) tasted just like Cracker Jack, and his pork confit candle was a major creative hit. Set in small square votive sized glass, the lighted candle wick produced enough heat to melt the confit. The wicks were then pulled out, and the pork fat was spread on toast points for an outstanding porkalicious treat. Congrats, Chef G.!

Data Minding

Online privacy can be a touchy issue these days. If Googling customers is common practice in your business, read this recent Huffington post on restaurants snooping patrons. It may help you navigate challenging feedback down the road.

Have a wonderful Easter everyone!

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

Enter through the Side Door

By Russ Kramer, Corporate Chef

Have you heard aboSideDoor Literallyut the Side Door yet? It’s an “American gastropub focusing on roasted meats and shareable plates”, as described by Lawry’s Executive Chef, Victor Newgren on a recent WGN Lunchbreak segment.

Why Lawry’s?

Side Door is a concept developed by Lawry’s – a contemporary take on their rich history. It shares the same address with the famous Prime Rib brand at 100 East Ontario, but you (literally) enter through a side entrance on Rush Street.

For those of you who haven’t thought about Lawry’s lately, quite a lot has happened over the years. 2014 marks its 40th year in Chicago, and there are Lawry’s locations in Beverly Hills, Dallas, Vegas, Singapore and Japan. Beverly Hills celebrated its 75th year in business last year, and the Vegas restaurant just won an Open Table Diners’ Choice this year. All is well in Lawryland.

Gastro by Design

Part of the charm of the Gastropub is a casual environment. There are no dress codes or formal dressed waiters – just high end food, stellar drinks and communal conversation. Some Gastropubs have a minimalist contemporary feel to them with lots of bright light and community table seating, where others may have a more rustic feel to them, with wood trimmed walls and rich leatheSideDoor interiorr booths.

The first Side Door opened in 2009 in Corona Del Mar, positioned adjacent to Lawry’s sister restaurant, Five Crowns, fashioned after an authentic English country inn. (Five Crowns’ history dates back to 1936 – it was once the hot spot for movie stars.) The Chicago location has an open “display kitchen” and is more rustic, with an almost speakeasy feel to it. A perfect setting for casual intimate fare and camaraderie.

Gastrogrub

SideDoorbrewGastropubs and Gastrolounges have been around longer than you may think; England is credited with opening the first Gastropub in 1991. (They didn’t hit Chicago until the early 2000’s.) The difference between them is, pubs, focus on beers, and lounges supposedly focus more on cocktails. The Chicago Bar Project further subdivided the category to include “Gastroraunts” – read their post to find out why. Side Door’s focus leans towSideDoorAngusBeefCheeseburgerard “craft beers” and “barrel aged spirits”.

Where the lines of distinction may blur on alcohol, the food is always high end quality at digestible prices. Yesteryear bar menus (i.e. mozzarella sticks, nachos and fried mushrooms) are replaced with today’s gourmet bites and contemporary cuisines.

SidedoorMeatBoardSide Door’s menu is superb. Served on wood cutting boards, their roasted meat boards are filled with beef short rib, lamb top round and prime sirloin. Opposite of charcuterie, which is cold, (they have that too), the meat boards are hot.

Side Door makes their own pastrami from Creekstone Farms premium black Angus beef, offer killer burgers and Lawry’s famous prime rib on sandwiches.They also have take out service and live jazz every Tuesday night.SideDoor logo

The Side Door is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 4:30-11 on Saturdays and Sundays. No reservations required. Look for the “Red Key” on Rush.

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

5 Tips to Keep from Paying More

One of our vetupsidedownpiggybankeran team members has been in the meat business for almost 50 years. To the many pricing peaks and valleys he’s seen over the decades, he remedies, “It’s not about us, but how we can help our customers to keep from paying more.”

This year we’ve seen tremendous price inflation on beef and pork. Beef prices are higher due to the low cattle supply, and pork prices are higher due to do the PED virus killing piglets.  As consumers, we’re paying more for commodities like bacon and ground beef.  On average, prices are as much as 20% higher than last year.

Our job as a partner to our customers at Buedel Fine Meats is to help them deal with rising prices and supply them with options to ‘keep from paying more’ than necessary in a rising market. How can you control costs in a rising market then? Here are five savings tips you can use:

1.  Bill & Hold

An option we offer our customers when prices are on the rise is the opportunity to Bill & Hold. They make a volume purchase at current market rates, and we hold their inventory, delivering it to them as needed – it is a highly flexible solution.

This method gives customers a fixed predictable cost for as much inventory as they can purchase without having to take delivery all at once. Customers can then reap the benefit of a predictable food cost with locked-in menu profits on the items they select for delivery when they need them. One of our customers who took advantage of this option currently enjoys grndbeefground beef at 50% less cost than the current market price.

2.  Reduce Portion Size

You can keep from paying more out of pocket while still keeping product quality intact by making portion size adjustments as a means of saving center of the plate cost. Reducing the portion size by just one ounce can deliver a 13% reduction in your out of pocket cash flow.

For example, let’s say you serve a 8oz Tenderloin Filet that costs you $18.00/lb. Your portion cost on this would be $9.00, but a 7oz portion cost would be $7.88, a cash flow savings of $1.13 per portion. This type of cost reduction can add up substantially over time.

3.  Change Trim Specs  

French and Rust Cut Pork Rib ChopsThe more you trim off the steak or chop, the lower the finished good yield. The lower the finished good yield, the higher the cost. Evaluate your trim specifications and determine if you can adjust them to increase the yield and reduce your food costs.

Here are two examples of how this works:

If you’re serving a French Cut Bone-in Rib Chop, consider an un-Frenched version and offer it on your menu as a “Rustic Cut”. Leaving the meat on the bone [un-Frenched] can reduce your portion costs by as much as 20%.

For center-cut only steaks or chops on your ala carte menu, consider the options for purchasing full-cut steaks or chops. The yield difference can reduce your food portion cost by 10%-20%.

4.  Use Alternative Cuts

HangersTake advantage of value cuts, which you can offer on your menu at a lower price, yet deliver the same or higher margins for your operation.  An example of these would be hanger steaks, bistro steaks and double cut bone-in pork chops.

5.  Buy More & Decrease Deliveries

Purchasing more items when prices are rising seems like an oxymoron.  However, consider how the challenges of your purveyor partners factors in the equation. If you purchase just one or two items from a purveyor, then that purveyor needs to configure your pricing to cover 100% of their distribution costs on just those items with each delivery.

Distributors will typically determine your average delivery size and set pricing accordingly. If you work with your purveyor, to purchase more of the items they offer and/or reduce by the number of  deliveries, the purveyor will have more flexibility to spread their costs/margins over multiple items per delivery. This gives your purveyor the benefits of economies of scale and cost reductions that they can (and usually will) pass on to you. Remember, quality service purveyors want to earn your business.

Takeaway

Five methodLightbulb2s you can use to help defray meat costs in a rising market are Bill & Hold, Reduce Portion Size, Use Alternative Cuts, Change Trim Specs and Buy More & Decrease Deliveries.

Train your culinary staff to segregate cuts where they can best be utilized. Buedel also offers free trainings and consultations. We help staff members evaluate their options and educate them on alternative cuts, different trim spec options, and how to apply them to a variety of menu applications.

Be collaborative with your suppliers. Openly and honestly discuss win-win scenarios with them to find best solutions. In doing so, you will likely benefit over the long term and keep from paying more.

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

Why Relationships Build Value

By Chef John Reed, CEC, CCA, ACE

True story.

A professional contact of mine wanted to educate his staff on beef primals – where the cuts come off the animal. He went to his purchasing department to get the cuts of beef he needed to do a class, and they told him, “you can’t get that.” Still, he urged them to try; they did and the big purveyors said, “There’s no SKU for that.”

Case closed, right? Not so fast.

Determined to make this happe3-28Food For Thought  Meat 101 Trainingn, the Chef called me to ask if I knew anyone who could help. I immediately thought of John (Cecala). My contact was ecstatic and ultimately decided to have Buedel Fine Meats do the training for his staff.

The Big Guys love to say, I don’t have a SKU # for that. Every time I call John, he can get it done. (Pictured above, the primal training John Cecala led for Chef Reed’s contact.)

Building Value

What I love about this culinary tale is that it demonstrates the power of relationships. My contact thought well enough of me to seek help, I thought well enough of John for resolve.

This is what networking does. It also helps those who don’t get out from behind the desk – they’re used to people coming to their back door, but they don’t know people like John or me.

If you ask John why Buedel provides free personalized trainings and presentations, he’ll tell you it’s because they value “long term mutually beneficial relationships over individual sales transactions.”

Being able to call on someone at any time for help, makes relationships priceless. Many sales people (and Big Guys) don’t get that – they just sell, sell, sell.

Relationship Laggards

When you can go to a professional resource and say, ‘Here’s what I need to find out – do you have any info that you’re willing to share to help me with this problem?’, it’s absolutely empowering. Unfortunately, 25-35 year old decision makers in the current marketplace, tend to reign on the laggard side of networked relationships, knee deep in an old school/new school conundrJohnandJohnatWindyCityAnnualGala downsizedum. (Pictured Left: Chef Reed and John Cecala at the annual ACF Windy City Culinarian’s gala.)

Gen X and Millenials grew up being pounded with information. They surf smart phones and tablets for answers – they have hundreds of articles (and photos) at their fingertips. Access is quick, but no one actually knows how to process the information.

You can watch umpteen videos, but it won’t unleash the skills needed to execute. Things may look easy to assimilate, but until you actually experience use, there’s no intuitive or emotional tie. The same holds true for connecting with investors, buying equipment, choosing suppliers, etc. – when the humanistic piece is missing, you miss out.

18 years ago, I was part of an educational discussion on providing online culinary degrees. As you can imagine, there was great debate about the pros and cons of doing so. Ultimately, seeing how someone works in the kitchen was just too high a value stake to dismiss – you have to be able to quantify certification and expertise.

Anybody can up open a hotdog hut and call themselves an Executive Chef or sell commodities with prime beef as quality service. Without the ability to verify and relate to professional expertise, we all miss out.

Wrap Up

johnreednewsletterThere’s (still) a whole generation of chefs out there who saw kids coming out of school who had to be there – be on the line and learn how to cook. Information was shared, and career building (and long term) relationships were made.

Ultimately, when you want to bring someone or something to the next level in your business, you may call your client or boss and tell them, ‘We need to bring so ‘n so in …’. Ideally, your relationships will do the same in return.

Professionals learn how to walk before they run, bounce ideas off others, share new discoveries and provide help whenever possible. It is unfortunate that societal trends are diminishing the types of professional models that inspire value relationships.

Chef Reed is the current president of the American Culinary Federation (ACF) local chapter, Windy City Professional Culinarians, in Chicago and the President of Customized Culinary Solutions.

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

On the Cutting Edge of Culinary Ed with EHS

100_0282Last month, the 13th annual Illinois ProStart® Invitational, was hosted by the Illinois Restaurant Association at Kendall College. High school teams from across the state competed for culinary and hospitality management titles. It was also the second year in a row the Elgin High School Culinary Team won the management part of the competition.

What is Pro Start?

ProStart® is an educational foundation program of the National Restaurant Association. It is a two-year curriculum plan that combines classroom learning and real-life experience aimed to skill build, develop talent and spur future restaurant and foodservice leaders. Over 90,000 students from 1,700 high schools in 47 states currently participate in the program, including students from U.S. Military bases and in Guam.

One of the core elements to this program is its working relationship between industry and education.  It is the hands on support from restaurant and hospitality professionals, food service companies, suppliers and state level restaurant associations in tandem with educators that provide this recipe for success.

IMG_3578The Hospitality Management part of the competition consists of developing a restaurant concept from scratch. Students analyze local demographics, develop marketing initiatives, design interiors, create menus and literally everything else that goes into launching and operating a restaurant. They have to prepare a 10 minute presentation for culinary teachers and professional chefs and field questions from the judging authorities.

The culinary part of the competition is equally challenging. Student teams have one hour to produce a three course meal (appetizer, entrée and dessert) for two, using only two portable camping oven/burners.

The Proof is in the Pudding

We asked the winning Elgin High School (EHS) team what they thought about the experience and knowledge they’ve gained from participating in their school’s culinary program and competitions. The team of four seniors had much to say – get ready, their enthusiasm is contagious and inspiring.

DSC04268Yahaira Bonilla told us she learned how to work as a team and develop speaking skills because they had to present in front of teachers and professional chefs. She also learned how to use more computer skills and do a PowerPoint presentation. “I can take this somewhere – doing this made me think of going for culinary or hospitality management in college – it has kind of guided me. ”

Bonilla is also in the culinary program and feels the “hands on experience” has really helped her.  “We have catering events outside of school and do a restaurant at school once a week.”

Louis Maldonado says he was “up and down” about getting involved because of the commitment level.  “There are a lot of practices, and I took Food 1,2,3,4 [classes]. Ms. Leider gave me the opportunity to go to competitions, and it helped me. There is a lot of writing and thinking. I was introduced to the President of Rosati’s Pizza last year at the competition, and she gave me a summer job – ProStart® really helps. It’s great to see this industry; I am going into theIMG_3649 hospitality side.”

Eduardo Rios says the program and competition experience made him put his English and school skills to the test. “It made things interesting for me. Running a restaurant has been so interesting – it made me think, ‘What are my opportunities in the future?’ Culinary Arts or Restaurant Management is what I think I want to do. With hospitality, I serve people and make people them happy – that is one of the most attractive things.”

Colin Flanagan echoed his teammates’ sentiments on learning and opportunity. “In the classroom we learn about food safety, how to cook things properly and what goes on in the background of a restaurant. I have friends that think this program is amazing because it gets you ready for college – they don’t have these kinds of classes at their schools. A lot of kids would just like to learn some basic cooking skills too.”

Learning from Those that Do

Equally refreshing, is the pride and positive energy the team’s teacher, Ann Leider, has for the program and her students. “We teach them all aspects of what goes into it and how to be successful in the industry,” she described. “They are exposed to all culinary – to its math, food costs, preparation, how to treat customers, front of house, back of house, safety, sanitation, how to keep employees happy …”.

100_0222If it sounds like Leider genuinely knows what she’s talking about, she does – Ann is also a culinary professional. She began working in restaurants as a young teen, earned her degree in hospitality,  worked as a line cook, prep cook, café manager, and in catering and event planning.

Five years ago she was offered the opportunity to take over the program. “I am certified to teach hospitality,” she explained, “my certificate is based off my industry experience.” Leider is also taking  classes at night to expand the status of her expertise.

Ann says she does the competitions “because it’s beneficial to the students.” She lets the student team set the hours and how much they want to practice. Her current team was dedicated to 3-4 hours after school and 8 hours on Saturdays.

In addition to the competitions, ProStart® also provides access to scholarships and job shadows. “We’ve done all day job shadows at TGI Fridays, Morton’s, Chili’s and Key Lime Cove.” Leider says a lot schools don’t have catering or hosting elements to their programs, curricula she’s equally proud of.

DSC04208How does the Elgin in-school restaurant work? “Our culinary classroom is the restaurant.” On Thursdays, the students spend the last 3 periods of the day flipping their classroom into a full serve restaurant, The Clumsy Chef. This week’s entrée of the day was Baked Tilapia Veracruz with Cilantro Lime Rice. Patrons can dine in or carry out.

School events and meThisWeek'sMenuetings also take place at the Clumsy Chef and catering is available: We cater anything from small box lunch meetings to continental breakfast for 100! Let us know your needs and budget, and we can work together to come up with the best options for you.

The culinary students rely on support from the faculty, student and parent populations for their restaurant and, successfully so as the Clumsy Chef is self-sustaining.

Community Outreach

Leider’s culinary teams have consistently placed in the top three statewide positions, in one or both categories, over the last four years – for as long as they have been competing. That’s a remarkable track record, to say the least.

100_0272This May, the EHS team, will be competing at the National ProStart Invitational® in Minneapolis. Last year, the EHS team, placed 10th at nationals in Baltimore. Funds are currently being raised to send the team to this year’s national competition with proper supplies, uniforms and equipment.

Cash, gift cards and other items are needed for raffle fund raising efforts. Large donations will be recognized on the team’s competition shirts by company logo. (Buedel is helping the team out this year with a donation of steak gift boxes for their silent auction.) If you would like to lend support to the students, please contact Ann Leider (soon!) by phone at 630-400-4064 or by email: AnnLeider@u-46.org.

Good luck EHS!

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

On the Road in NOLA with Steve Dolinsky

ABC 7 Chicago food reporter Steve Dolinsky recently hosted a four day tour of NOLA (aka New Orleans, Louisiana). The excursion would center around a mix of traditional and modern New Orleans gastronomy and mixology.

The invitation to a New Orleans tour masterminded by the ultimate foodie was just too good to pass up. The same held true for the twenty other cuisine enthusiasts who took the trip. We ate, we drank, we learned, and we became friends. I came away with a deeper appreciation for the culture and history of the Crescent City.

NOLA CureDay 1

It’s hard to appreciate the real impact that hurricane Katrina had on the people of New Orleans over eight years ago until you experience it firsthand. The effects of Katrina are still highly evident around the city.  To this day, New Orleans natives speak BK and AK – before and after Katrina.

Our first stop was Cure, a former Firehouse turned into a stylish cocktail bar that anchored the comeback and development in its uptown neighborhood after hurricane Katrina.

Saloons were places to get drunk, but cocktail bars were places of culture and civility where patrons could socialize with sophistication. Cure offered a variety of creative cocktails.  I particularly enjoyed the following selections from their menu:

HOLY SMOKE 10  A light & smoky sipper with a long finish of tropical 10 & cedar notes. MONKEY SHOULDER SCOTCH, ALIPUS SAN BALTAZAR MEZCAL, and BANANA are the major players.

ONCE OVER 10  APEROL, 86 Co’ sun aged TEQUILA CABEZA, lime, 10 and our house-made ORGEAT are the key players in this low-proof sour with hints of mint, bitter orange, and rhubarb.

NOLA 2014After drinks, it was time for dinner at Casamento’s Restaurant, a New Orleans landmark built in 1919 by Italian immigrant Joe Casamento.

In tune with the ceramic building traditions of his native Italy, Mr. Casamento embraced the cleaning ease of tiled surfaces. (So much tile was needed to meet Casamento’s requirements, it took four tile companies from across the United States to fill his order at the time.) Customers likened Joe’s restaurant to a “giant swimming pool”. The restaurant still sports the original floor and wall tiles today. The current owner, CJ Gerdes, has worked there since he was a kid.

Casamento’s is known for their raw oysters shucked throughout the day. Offered raw on the half shell, deep fried and grilled, we enjoyed oyster po-boys: fried oysters served on buttered griddled thick toast they call, “pan-bread”.

NOLA Commander's PalaceDay 2

We took the St. Charles Streetcar to the Garden District, a historic neighborhood of stately homes on tree lined streets – home to the New Orleans’ elite of yesterday and today.

The area was originally developed between 1832 and 1900 and is considered one of the best-preserved collections of historic southern mansions in the United States. Among these mansions, is the Commander’s Palace. Built in 1880, this former antebellum mansion is regarded as the one of the best upscale restaurants in New Orleans. Inside its aqua blue Victorian architecture, there is a blend of inventive modern New Orleans cooking that co-exists with haute Creole.

We were treated to a jazz brunch, which started with Turtle Soup, Shrimp and Tasso Henican appetizers served with champagne. Entrées featured Wild Berry Pancakes, Pecan Crusted Gulf Fish and my choice, Cochon De Lait Eggs Benedict, comprised of 12-hour barbecue pork shoulder over cheddar and bacon biscuits with poached eggs, ripped herb salad, natural jus, and herb hollandaise.   For dessert, there was Creole Bread Pudding Souffle, Triple Chocolate Truffle Terrine and Southern Style Pecan Pie.

NOLA GARDEN DISTRICTWe did a two hour walking tour of the Garden District after brunch which helped burn off some of the brunch calories – a very good thing. The Garden District is home to the famous above-ground cemetery Lafayette #1 which dates back to the early 1800′s. There are about 1,100 family tombs and more than 7,000 people buried there, in the size of just one city block. Movie buffs will recognize this cemetery from the films, Double Jeopardy and Interview with a Vampire.

NOLA Lu Brow Swizzle StickNext it was off to Café Adelaide & the Swizzle Stick Bar for more cocktails where we met Mixologist, Lu Brow. Lu shared her professional expertise by demonstrating techniques used to make classic cocktails. Brow’s key tips to us: Always measure portions, double strain fruit drinks and never stir the ice in a glass – gently sway the ice side to side

After cocktails, we headed to the Mississippi River Delta for an airboat tour of the wetlands. This is the heart of the region’s seafood industry. Still surrounded by remnants of Katrina fall out, the region was again hit hard by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Shrimp, oysters, crawfish and other wildlife have yet to fully recover from the affects of the oil spill.

NOLA Air BoatWe had dinner at the Woodland Plantation and Spirits Hall on the Mississippi River, hosted by Foster Creppel, the owner of this restored plantation built in the 1830′s. The home is featured on the label of Southern Comfort bourbon and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The menu was filled with local seasonal specialties including alligator sauce picante, jambalaya, oysters and a crawfish boil.  A row boat, filled with a specially boiled medley of crawfish, crab and vegetables, was an experience highlight. We used large bowls to scoop our own servings and then dumped them onto a paper covered table to enjoy.

We learned the correct way to eat boiled crawfish: Twist off the tail. Peel off the top part off the tail NOLA Woodlandshell. Pinch the delicious meat onto your tongue and then suck the juice out of the head to finish it off. The combination of flavors from the spices, meat, and juices were delicious.

We enjoyed the rest of our menu inside Spirits Hall, a wooden church built in 1833. The church was moved to the plantation and restored as a beautiful banquet hall.

Day 3 

NOLA BorgneOur third day on the tour started with a cooking demonstration by Chef Brian Landry of Borgne, the latest restaurant by Chef John Besh. Chef Landry taught us how to make two popular regional dishes, Shrimp Remoulade and Oyster Spaghetti. Chef Landry taught us: Oysters curl up on the edges when done and you should always save the oyster juice, called “oyster liquor”, for other dishes.

Next it was off to lunch at Parkway Bakery and Tavern in Mid-City, home of the original  “New Orleans Poor Boy”, or as locals refer to it po’ boy.

NOLA ParkwayOriginally founded as a bakery in 1911, Parkway produced delicious breads, donuts and a sweet roll named the Seven Sisters because there were six golf ball sized pieces in a circle with a seventh in the middle.

In 1929, the “Poor Boy” sandwich was invented to help feed striking street car conductors. The term originated from the expression, “What are we going to feed these poor boys?” The original Poor Boy sandwich consisted of potatoes and a drizzle of roast beef gravy on fresh baked bread. Today, Parkway offers over twenty versions of the Poor Boy sandwich served on New Orleans’ famous Leidenheimer bread.

After lunch, we took a ride to the Bywater area to visit the outdoor art studio of Dr. Bob, a New Orleans folk artist famous for his use of bottle caps and thematic images found on vintage building materials. Dr. Bob’s art is proudly displayed throughout the city, and his signature “BE NICE OR LEAVE” signs have become a ubiquitous part of the city’s subculture. Among the celebrities who have added Dr. NOLA DR BobBob’s work to their private collections, are Emmy Lou Harris, GiO (The Burlesque Queen of New Orleans), Oprah Winfrey and Mariah Carey, who posed with the artist’s piece in People Magazine. Dr. Bob’s work can also be found in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institute, The Memphis Blues Foundation, the Center for Southern Folklore in Memphis, and the New Orleans House of Blues. Bob gave us an incredible talk about his life, his art and his philosophies. It was quite an experience.

Later that day we visited SoBou, a spirited bar South of Bourbon Street (S-o-Bou), where we learned the history of the Sazerac – the first truly American cocktail and the classic by which all other cocktails are judged.

NOLA SobouMixologist, Abigail Gullo showed us how to properly prepare this famous New Orleans cocktail. The Sazerac Cocktail was named for the Sazerac de Forge et Fils brand of imported cognac. In the 1800′s, a bar called Sazerac House began serving the “Sazerac Cocktail” made with Sazerac cognac and bitters created by a local druggist of the time, Antoine Amedie Peychaud. Today the drink is made with rye whiskey, cognac, or a combination of the two, using hints of absinthe or Herbsaint, and Peychaud’s bitters.

NOLA CochonDinner was at Cochon, one of Steve’s favorite restaurants. We dined on a family style menu of Chef Donald Link’s signature traditional Cajun Southern dishes that he’d grown up with. Cochon uses locally sourced pork, fresh produce and seafood, focusing on traditional methods, creating authentic flavors of Cajun country. The restaurant is set in a rustic, yet contemporary interior in a renovated New Orleans warehouse.

Day 4

Breakfast at Café du Monde consisted of the restaurant’s famous beignets and dark roasted coffee with chicory. The beignet is a square piece of dough, fried and covered with powdered sugar, served in three pieces. Chicory is the root of endive lettuce; the root of the plant is roasted and ground and added to the coffee to soften the bitter edge of the dark roast. NOLA Cafe du Mond(It adds an almost chocolate flavor to Monde’s Cafe Au Lait.) Established in 1862, the Café du Monde is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week closing only on Christmas Day.

After breakfast, we strolled through the cobblestone streets of the old French Quarter (to make room for lunch), visiting local shops, antique displays and voodoo stores.

Our final stop and farewell lunch was at Galatoire’s. A famous Bourbon Street landmark, the restaurant was established by Jean Galatoire in 1905 and is run by David Gooch, a fourth generation descendant, son of Clarisse Galatoire Gooch and grandson of Leon Galatoire.

Back in 1905, Jean Galatoire came to New Orleans from France with recipes and traditions inspired by the familial dining style of his homeland. He purchased the building on Bourbon Street and converted it into a fine dining restaurant. The restaurant’s culinary customs and reservation statutes have been preserved with little change throughout the NOLA Galatoire'sdecades.

We enjoyed a classic French luncheon menu starting with Galatoire Grand Goute and main courses of Shrimp Creole, Gulf Fish Meuniere Amandine and Crabmeat Sardou with sides of Rockefeller Spinach, Au Gratin and Brabant Potatoes.  For dessert, it was Banana Bread Pudding and a flaming finale of Café Brûlot – French for highly seasoned incendiary coffee.  Orange peel, lemon peel, sugar, cloves and cinnamon are combined in a stainless steel bowl, doused with brandy and then set on fire. The flaming mixture is  ladled high in the air with impressive tableside showmanship, then extinguished with strong hot black coffee and served. It tastes like a very thick, sweet coffee, with deep citrus and clove flavors mellowing the sweetness. It was truly a memorable way to cap off our fantastic trip.

I look forward to visiting New Orleans again, and even more to the next food adventure Steve cooks up.

The Escoffier Experience

By Russ Kramer, Corporate Chef at Buedel

2014-03-09 17.59.48The annual Escoffier Society Diner d’Hiver was held at the Langham Chicago last Sunday. To say it was an exquisite event would be a gross understatement.

It is a reverent experience where an intimate group of 100 chefs, culinarians and food service professionals come together to honor the “Father of Modern Cuisine”, Auguste Escoffier.

A Little History

Escoffier’s name is synonymous to fine cuisine on many different levels. He was the first “great chef” who spent his entire career in the public sector in an era where working for royals and private clubs reigned supreme. He is credited with developing the “kitchen brigade” system to instill kitchen organization and decorum, establishing sanitation standards, and pioneering the concepts of food preservation.

Simplicity and respect for food preparation was extremely important to Escoffier. He believed culinary professionals, at any level, should pursue a reverence for improving their skills and fervor for ongoing education.

Escoffier updated French cooking methods, wrote numerous articles and books on cookery and blazed an industry trail for the service of cooking and serving the public.

The Setting

2014-03-09 20.04.28At every annual dinner, there are commemorative fine china plates, long tables and elegant place settings with a bouquet of fresh wine glasses to accommodate the ten course meal. There is a “grand style” ambiance to the evening.

This is a society representation; a members-only function that honors the art of culinary. If you want to bring a guest, you must submit their name for approval. The goal of the Society is to preserve a culinary experience for professionals only – this is not something you bring your Cousin Vinny to.

Guests are also asked to put their mobiles away, a request, not adhered to by and large. (Our techno driven society is evidently bigger than Escoffier’s.) Part of the pageantry of this event is being in the moment, at the moment. Sharing at the instance is great, but it also takes away from the instance.

(Pictured above: “Contre-filet Rôti, Ris de Veau Croustillant, Poule des Bois, Sauce Albuféra”** Translation: Roasted Strip Loin, Crispy Sweetbreads, Hen of the Woods Mushrooms and Sauce Albuféra. ** In the style of Escoffier. Creekstone Farms’ Prime All Natural Premium Black Angus Beef Striploins were supplied by Buedel.)

The Experience

2014-03-09 18.58.29The Society is known for its preservation of protocol and tradition. One such protocol is wearing your napkin at the neck. It is a custom first attributed to 1700’s France, for the protection of ruffled shirts worn by “fashionable men” at the time. Everyone at the Society dinner wears their napkins like this.

(Napkin Models back to front: JW Marriott’s Execute Chef, Michael Reich and Sous Chefs, Russell Shearer and Tony Biasetti.)

At the center seat of the head table, there is a red velvet cushioned and gold framed throne of sorts. In solemn tradition, the chair remains empty throughout the dinner in honor of Escoffier. Food and drink are served “as if” he was there, and then removed accordingly. 

During the meal, there is silence when courses are being served. All talking stops, while a new course is being served to take in the complete experience; to focus on the sight and smell of what’s being plated.

Dinner guests receive an educ2014-03-09 21.35.49ation throughout the meal; there is an explanation of the menu before each course. This could include a history of the main components of what’s being served, when it first came into vogue, how it was originally prepared, and so forth. World renowned Chef Michel Bouit gave the course lessons at Sunday’s event.

After the meal, the Host Chef sits down in the red velvet chair at the head of the table. This is done to pay homage to the chef and the facility for performing the dinner. Guests greet the Chef and offer comments on the dinner in general. New members to the Society may also be revealed at this time.

2014-03-09 21.38.42The Langham’s Executive Chef, Anthony Zamora, and his staff did a spectacular job. It is no small feat, and a big honor to be chosen as Host Chef for an Escoffier dinner. Once the committee scouts properties and chefs for the event, interviews are conducted, menus are submitted for review and tastings ensue before a final decision is made. The Society must believe you’re “talented enough” to do this type of event.

(Pictured L to R above: The Langham Chicago Chefs: Executive Chef, Anthony Zamora, Executive Sous Chef, Damion Henry and Banquet Chef, Augustin Oliva.)

The Final Course

The annual Escoffier Society dinner is immersed in pure respect and grandeur of what culinary could and should be. It celebrates the talent of the modern culinary in a classic setting. It is a social event, where culinary camaraderie is the focus, and no business is to be done.

There is talk of scheduling a European Escoffier trip in 2015. Gala dinners would be held in London and then in Paris at the Ritz, where Escoffier worked with Hotelier, Cesar Ritz at the pinnacle of his career. This would be the journey of a lifetime for any culinary professional fortunate enough to attend.

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

Meat Picks | 3.6.14

Where They Are Now

There’s a fun read in the Trib this morning about what six Chicago chefs (out of a cast of 16) Top Chef contestants from season 9 are doing now, just two short reality TV years later.

CT 3_Top_Chef10.JPGTopping the list is Richie Farina, who returned to Moto after the show and subsequently became their Executive Chef. (Photo by Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune, Feb. 27, 2014)

Of the six, all are still working in the food industry, but not necessarily at the same place or in the same capacities. Most of the chefs give creds to the subsequent door opening ops they had after being on the show.

Don’t Miss the IHHS

The International Home & Housewares Show is just around the corner – it is an expo extravaganza bar none. For those of you who’ve never been, the cornucopia of banner_piccolors and innovation is well worth the effort.

Over 60,000 industry professionals and 20,000+ buyers will be on hand at this year’s show from March 15-18 at McCormick Place. The exhibits will be broken down into four, show-inside-a-show expo hot spots, plus one, for “International Pavilions” – gym shoes, required.

housewaresNaturally, “Dine & Design” is a big attraction – anything that has to do with food always is. Celeb Chefs like, Rick Bayless, Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro, Fabio Viviani, Gale Gand and a host of notable others will be at the Cooking Theatre (Gourmet Foods & Specialties in the South Building) dishing up culinary splendor throughout the four day event.

Some of the new products you can expect to see this year, vary from design changes to simple products like, the Floating Mug, to radical new snack foods like the, potato-chip-pretzel-popcorn-caramel-chocolate mix by Funky Chunky (the name alone makes us want to check them out). We’d also like to suggest you stop in and see our new friends at Ergo Chef, read their enlightening story here.

Bearded Update

The finalists for the 2014 James Beard Foundation Awards will be announced on the last day of the Houseware’s Show, March 18th, at the Fulton Market restaurant. (See the Chicago list of semi-finalists in the February 21st edition of Meat Picks.) Good luck to all in the running!

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

WHERE’S THE BEEF?

Have you noticed the rise in beef prices lately? Or, should I say, ‘OMG – what’s going on with the price of beef?’

pricesIn a nut shell, there is a shortage of cattle nationwide. Demand exceeds supply, so prices are on the rise. Next question: Why are we short on cattle supply and when will it get better?

First, let’s understand the key components of how beef gets to market in an easily digestible way.

BEEF SUPPLY CHAIN

Cow-Calf Operators  Our beef supply starts with these folks. These are the farmers or ranchers that keep cows to produce calves to sell. A mother cow’s gestation period is a little over 9 months. A newborn calf takes about another 12 months to reach 400-500 lbs. before they can be sold off to feeders. They make their money by selling off their calves, which the industry calls Feeder Cattle.

Feed Lots / Backgrounders These are companies  that purchase the 400-500 lb. calves and feed them to harvest weight, typically 1,200 – 1,400 lbs. Feed lot operators use grain for feed. Backgrounders keep the animals on grass for feed. Grain fed animals take about 6 months to reach harvest weight. Grass fed animals can take up to 9 months to reach harvest weight. These feeders make their money selling animals, called Fed Cattle, to packing plants for harvest.

beef supply chainFuture prices for both feeder cattle and fed cattle are traded as commodities on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME). The future price of cattle is a reasonable indication where beef prices are headed.

Packing Plants  The companies that purchase fed cattle at harvest weight typically between 18-24 months old, harvest them for beef production. The largest packing plants in the country are run by Cargill, Tyson, JBS and National Beef, who operate multiple plants across the country. These packers make their money selling the beef they harvest to further processors and distributors who bring their finished goods to market to the end users – retail stores and food service operators.

Adding it all up, it takes over two years for one animal to come to market. Each operator in the trail needs to make a profit to remain in business.

THE CATTLE CYCLE

The Cattle Cycle is the alternating expansion and contraction of the U.S. beef cattle supply. Under normal conditions, the cattle cycle is approximately a ten year period. During this time period, the supply of cattle will be alternatively expanded and reduced over several consecutive years, in response to changes in profitability by the cow-calf operators.

When cattle numbers are high, beef prices are lower, which precipitates several years of herd liquidation. As cattle numbers decline, beef prices begin to rise, prompting several years of herd building.

The herd building cycle is relatively long due to the length of time it takes a cow-calf operator to expand a cow herd by breeding more cattle between the cow’s 9 month gestation period and the subsequent 12 month period it takes for a calf to reach feeding weight. Ultimately, the cycle takes at least 3 years before an increase in beef production will be seen on the market.

DroughtMapTHE DROUGHT OF 2011-2012

The available supply of fed cattle had been declining since 2010 amidst a normal cattle cycle until the severe drought of 2011-2012 that disrupted everything.

Over 80% of the nation’s agricultural land was hit hard by severe drought. Seed crops used for feed dried up and prices of feed shot up. No crops meant no feed for livestock. Ranchers couldn’t fatten up their herds profitably, so they sold them for slaughter.

Beef production has dropped nearly 8% since then. Three years ago, meat packers processed an average of 620,000 cattle a week; today that number is in the low 500,000′s. The U.S. is the world’s top beef producer, and our nation’s cattle herd is currently at a 63 year low. Experts predict that it make as many as 8 years for U.S. agriculture to fully recover from the effects of the drought.

BEEF PRICES

The economic laws of supply and demand largely determine what we pay for beef. Beef demand was up 1.7% in 2013 to the highest level since 2008. Overall beef demand is 7.4% higher than 15 years ago, which is a bigger increase than  pork, chicken or turkey. Export demand for U.S. beef in 2013 was up 4.9% compared to the year before and was 24.2% greater than 15 years ago.

chart-retail-meat-pricesHigher demand and lower supply caused beef prices to rise.

Beef prices have been on the rise since the drought, and especially so over the past six months. We’re just now feeling the real impact of the low cattle supply. Live cattle futures closed at an all time high in February at $150/cwt. – 16% higher than last year.

It is expected cow-calf producers will continue to build their herds as they are getting higher prices for their cattle this year. Feed lot operators, while benefiting from declining feed costs, are losing that benefit by paying higher prices for feeder cattle to keep up with demand. Consequently, packing plants are paying more for fed cattle and passing on the increased prices to consumers.

Ultimately, consumer demand will determine the future prices of beef. Retailers and restaurants will eventually need to pass on these increases and consumers will either accept them, or reject them by spending their dollars on lower cost alternatives. It remains to be seen how all of this will play out in real time, but it appears we will see high beef prices throughout 2014.

TIPS FOR RISING PRICES

In the midst of the drought, we posted a blog (October 2012) that is even more relevant today with strategies to battle the rising cost of beef: What’s Your Beef? | How to Combat the Rising Fallout Cost of Drought.

beef-300x282Chefs and restaurateurs should look for suppliers that are able to create customized solutions tailored to their specific cost management needs. Having a strong partnership with key suppliers who can demonstrate creativity and flexibility, is the best way to deal with rising beef prices.

Ironically, it was 30 years ago this past January, when Clara Pellar shot to rock star status when she queried, WHERE’S THE BEEF? Here’s the link.

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

Ergo Chef: A Cut Above the Rest

If necessity is the proverbial mother of invention, then Ergo Chef is a poster child. This is the story of how a family owned knife company was born.

In 1996, Chef Scott Staib was on the foodservice fast track as Sous Chef for Aramark. Rising through the ranks, the Johnson & Wales graduate was poised for great things – until he was derailed by tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome from the frequent motion of chopping and slicing.

We spoke with Chef Scott’s brother, Mike Staib, VP of Sales & Marketing at Ergo Chef, to find out what happened next…

Uncle George Staib, Shipping Manager

How did your family actually get to the point of making knives?

My mother, father, brother and I were actually sitting around the table one night. Scott had just been to the doctor that day. The doc told him he’d either have to come up with some alternative method or go to “the front of the house”. No way did Scott want to stop cooking – it was heartbreaking for him to imagine that. So, we started putting our heads together…

My brother and some of his chef buddies had a sit down at my dad’s company (Capital Design & Engineering) with my dad and his engineers – I watched. We started looking at how a knife fits into a chef’s hand, wrist movements during chopping and the angle of a knife when it hits a cutting board.

That’s how our ideas for developing an ergonomically sound knife came to fruition. We made a prototype and my brother’s symptoms disappeared within just three weeks of using it.

CrimsonKnifeWOW! That truly is amazing, you must have all been so excited!

We were – we had created a true extension of a chef’s hand.

On the Chopping Block

The next step was testing. We made lots of prototypes and sent them out with questionnaires to chefs, and cooking schools. We collected several years of feedback to make sure it was more than, just a knife for my brother. Over 90% of the people who tested, wanted the product. We thought, ‘hey – we really have something here!’ Then we had to find a manufacturer.

We fumbled in the beginning as many new companies do… dissected the steels, used high carbon from Germany. We went through one run in New York state which didn’t work, and then tried another source in Taiwan, which did incredible work, but we had to remake all the tooling – we almost called it quits.

It wasn’t until 2003 that we had the first great batch, and by 2005, we had a full line. Then we hooked up to an import company in New Jersey. Now, we’re available throughout the US and some parts of Canada. We were in Australia for a while, but the Aussies couldn’t get use to the design.

presidentialsealsWe also heard you are connected to former White House Chefs?               

Yes, we met Sam Morgante, who served as a White House Chef under George W., at a couple of industry shows. He came over and tried our product at the booth and really liked it. Sam then introduced us to former White House Chef, Martin Mongiello, who started the Presidential Culinary Museum. We have some Presidential Food Service Knife Sets on our website now – we truly value working with a veteran owned business.

How many family members work at Ergo Chef?

Our sister, Lori, is the office administrator… and our Uncle – a Vietnam Vet. He retired from the Post Office and said, “he wanted something to do part-time”, so he’s packing and shipping for us now.

L to R at the 2013 Houseware’s Show: Sister, Lori, Chef Randy Smith, Chef Scott Staib and Mike Staib

We rent space for the company in the back of the building of my dad’s business. There’s a door between us, so we can go over there and work with the engineers whenever we need to.

If it wasn’t for our father, we wouldn’t be in business today. He let us use his machines, his engineers – he literally gave us all of our R&D. You take out a loan for the business, and it makes a statement – to have been able to do our R&D like this – it’s huge!

What is your brother’s role?

Uncle George, Ergo Chef Shipping Manager

Uncle George, Ergo Chef Shipping Manager

Scott is actually president of the company, works R&D on new products and handles chef accounts – we found many restaurants rent their knives. He’s cooking only at home now – he actually leaves work, goes home and cooks dinner.

It’s ironic that all this started to keep him professionally nimble and now he’s running the company and not cooking anymore…

Yes! You certainly don’t start out saying, “I’m going to start a knife company!”

…and what were you doing before this all evolved?

I was in sales, marketing my father’s company and ultrasonics – plastic joining – they use the process in the medical field, for cell phones, in the car industry. I learned development of tools there, so I could sit down from the layman’s view with my brother the chef vs. home cooks, etc.

Cut to the Chase

What have been your biggest challenges in marketing the company?

Getting people used to the deErgo Knife Videosign – how do you do that when things are under glass? We just created a video, it has helped us a lot to show people how it works. It’s the angle and the rocking motion that really helps.

Another challenge we face is getting reps to present our products to buyers when they’re looking for new lines in our category. It’s tough when reps are presenting thousands of products – it gets deluded. This is another area where the video has helped.

The other challenge is branding – trying to get our name out there every year without a big budget. Advertising is too expensive. When Professional Chefs and BBQ Chefs use our knives at events, or on TV, we sometimes see a spike, but the internet is where it’s at – we’re trying to work that.

Where can you buy Ergo Chef knives?

You can buy them on Amazon and at gourmet kitchen stores across the country. [There’s a zip code search on their website.] You can also buy directly from our site.

Chef Scott and Mike will be at the International Home & Housewares Show, March 15-18 in Chicago. Stop by and see them at the Ergo Chef booth S 1460.

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

For the Love of Chocolate

The French Pastry School at CityFLOC1 Colleges of Chicago has produced some of the most talented pastry chefs in Chicago and around the nation.

Founded by Chefs, Jacquy Pfeiffer and Sébastien Canonne, M.O.F., the school is known for offering innovative, effective and intensive programs geared to equip students with the abilities to achieve excellence in the pastry, baking and confectionery arts.

Some of the most talented pastry professionals in the world teach at the French Pastry school, dedicated to passing on their knowledge to students who share a passion for pastry artistry.

Foundation Scholarships

For nine years, the For the Love of Chocolate Foundation has held an annual fundraiser, “For the Love of Chocolate Gala”, to help supply future scholarships to students who would not otherwise be able to afford a prestigious education in the pastry arts.

Over 800 people attended thisFLOC2 9th Annual Gala held at the historic 130 year old Union League Club of Chicago, which was transformed into a roaring twenties speakeasy for the event.  Attendees got to experience new pastry artistic themes, innovative pastry creations, entertainment and delectable bites from the best in SABRAGE-GARBINChicago.

The five course dinner was presented by Chef Michael Garbin, featuring a menu inspired by the decadence of the jazz age. Chef Garbin opened dinner by performing a Sabrage, (opening champagne with a saber), it was delightful.

After dinner, guests were treated to the, “Movable Feast and Dessert Dance Party”. There were a myriad of desserts and specialty drinks offered from over 100 event sponsors, including some of Chicago’s best known food service companies, chefs and restaurants. Musical entertainment was presented by The Betty’s, a jazz age trio, absolutely the Bee’s Knees, and by DJ Anacron who Hit on all Sixes. Eva Grandeur’s burlesque show, was definitely the Cat’s Pajamas. 

Ultimate Cake Walk

One of the highlights of the evening was The Great Gâteau Cake Parade, where a showcase of cakes made by twenty local pastry professionals and students from Chicago’s After School Matters program, was preFLOCsented.

Cake designs were inspired by the architecture of the ‘20’s that shaped the Chicago skyline. There were scores of beautifully decorated art deco stylized cakes in vibrant colors capturing the spirit of the era’s architecture, art and the Industrial Age. (See our Flipagram from the event here.)

Paying it Forward

This year’s event raised over $180,000, with all proceeds going to the funding of student scholarships for the school’s two primary programs:

L’Art de la Pâtisserie – a 24-week program in pastry, baking, and confectionery arts education. This intensive program is designed to give students a broad and thorough foundation in the art of pastry and baking, from bread to chocolate to ice cream, and everythinglogo in between.

L’Art du Gâteau – a 16-week program dedicated to the art of cake baking and decorating. Students receive a unique, hands-on training focused on all aspects involving the creation of wedding, celebration, and specialty cakes.

The French Pastry School is dedicated to the art of pastry and to producing the best-prepared professionals entering the industry. Their alumni are changing the face of pastry across the nation while continuing to preserve the traditions of the French masters.

The scholarships raised will be awarded later this year in advance of the next semester. There are over 1,000 students who attend the school each year. Learn more at www.frenchpastryschool.com.

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

Meat Picks | 2.21.14

Bearded Chicago

The semi-finalists for the 2014 James Beard Foundation Awards were announced this week. Whittled down fromjames-beard-award-2011-media-2 over 38,000 national entries, being named as a semi-finalist is indeed a big deal, and Chicago is well represented.

Congratulations to all who made the cut and a special shout out to our Chi-town nominees! Here’s the Windy City recap:

Best New Restaurant: Nico Osteria and Brindille

Outstanding Restaurant: Spiaggia

Outstanding Chef: Carrie Nahabedian, Naha

Outstanding Restaurateur: Donnie Madia, One Off Hospitality Group: Blackbird, Avec, The Publican, The Violet Hour, Nico Osterio and Big Star

Outstanding Service: Topolobampo

Outstanding Wine Program: Sepia

Rising Start Chef of the Year: Jimmy Banos Jr., Purple Pig, Matthew Kirkley, L20 and David Posey, Blackbird

Best Chef – Great Lakes: Dave Beran, Next, Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo, Fat Rice, Curtis Duffy, Grace, Paul Fehribach, Big Jones, Phillip Foss, EL Ideas, Ryan McCaskey, Acadia, Iliana Regan, Elizabeth, Jason Vincent, Nightwood, Paul Virant, Vie Restaurant, Erling Wu-Bower, Nico Osteria, Andrew Zimmerman, Sepia

Find the complete Best Chef’s list by region at this link; read the full press release here.

GoodFoodFestGood Food Volunteer

The Good Food Festival will mark its 10th anniversary next month on March 13-15. Festival organizers are looking for volunteers NOW. If you’d like to help out and drink in the atmosphere of good food and local inspiration, click on this link for more info.

Last Minute Picks

Tap the Keg with former Blackhawk, Adrian Aucoin, at Hofbrauhaus tonight at 7:30! (Great way to celebrate the Olympic US hockey teams!)

Sample seafood, local produmercatce and Spanish wines in a “Boqueria” atmosphere at Mercat a la Planxa’s newly renovated Barcelona Room this Saturday at 7 pm. ($45 per ticket. RSVP required: 312-765-0524)

Looking to get a little exercise? Walk the Chicago Golf Show at the Stephens Convention Center this weekend in Rosemont (Jeff Sluman & Robbie Gould will be there on Saturday), or the IKC Dog Show at McCormick Place.

Have a great weekend!

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

Puerto Rican Palate: Culture & Cuisine

I recently had the opportunity to escape to San Juan on business. We left Chicago on a cold, snowy February morning and landed a mere four hours later in a sunny tropical Caribbean climate – the juxtaposition of which became one of weather, culture and food.

Photo Feb 07, 11 10 31 AMCulinary Cultures

Originally settled between 3000 – 2000 BC by the Taíno people, Puerto Rico became part of the Spanish Empire after the discovery of the “New World” by Columbus in 1492.  The country was colonized by Spain and remained under Spanish rule for the next 400 years.

In the early 19th century, the Puerto Rican culture was further diversified upon the arrival of people from non-Hispanic countries such as Africa, Ireland, France and Germany. At the conclusion of the Spanish-American War, the United States took over colonial control of Puerto Rico in 1898. The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico remains an unincorporated territory of the U.S. today. The evolution of Puerto Rico set the stage for a rich and interesting blend of cultures and cuisines.

Locals refer to Island cuisine as, “cocina criolla” (Creole cooking), which is a unique blend of old and new Island influences. Tropical roots and tubers such as, yautía (taro), and Yuca (cassava), hot peppers and fruits came from Taíno influences. Cilantro, capers, olives, beef, pork and cheese were brought in from Spanish and European influences and coffee, yams, sweet bananas, plantains and Guinea hen are attributed to African influence.

The U.S. coTradtional PR Dishesntribution to Puerto Rican cuisine rests in cooking. Olive oil from Spain was used for cooking and frying, but as it was very expensive to import, locally produced lard was commonly used instead. When U.S. influence introduced corn oil, it changed the way Puerto Rican cooks fried food.

Much of Puerto Rico’s contemporary cuisine is fried today. Some of the Island’s most popular dishes are:

Mofongo: (the most popular dish): Fried mashed plantains mixed with garlic and olive oil filled with vegetables, shrimp, steak, pork, seafood or any combination thereof.

Bacalaítos: (a traditional snack): Deep-fried codfish fritters garnished with cilantro, garlic (mojito) and onions.

Tostones: Double-fried smashed green plantain slices served like French Fries or Potato Chips.

Alcapurria: A doughy mixture of mashed yuca or green plantains filled with heavily seasoned meat and deep fried.

Two Chefs & Their Cuisines

I had the opportunity to experience the best of old and new world Puerto Rican cuisines by spending time with two of the Island’s standout chefs at their restaurants.

One of Puerto Rico’s trendiest restaurants, Marmalade, by Owner/Executive Chef Peter Schintler, is located in Old San Juan. Passionate about vegetarian gastronomy, Chef Schintler emphasizes sophisticated vegetarian and vegan dishes derived from Taíno influences. Carpaccio-style candy stripe beets with shaved fennel and moro blood orange vinaigrette is just one example.

The use of locPhoto Feb 05, 10 17 58 PMal farm to table ingredients coupled with sustainably raised all natural proteins are standard fare at Marmalade. Dishes such as Morrocan-French Style braised Lamb Tagíne and Jardiniére Style Beef Tenderloin are prepared with all natural, sustainably raised lamb and grass fed beef.  The combination is a delightful blend of Puerto Rican aromas and complex flavors.

Chef Schintler is an Iowa native who first came to Puerto Rico as a consultant. A protégé of Master Chef Peter Timmins, Schinlter  has worked at some of the most celebrated restaurants in the world such as Le Cirque in New York, Le Manior Aux Quat Saisons in England, and La Contea in Italy.

Outside of old San Juan nePhoto Feb 15, 11 24 22 AMar Santurce’s Plaza del Mercado, a Puerto Rican farmer’s market is where one of the Island’s trendiest chefs, Jose Enrique, has his eponymous restaurant. It is an unpretentious casual restaurant known for serving culinary delights with masterful creativity. 

A personalized menu is created and prepared from scratch daily at Jose Enrique. Natural and organic products are incorporated into the menu with a focus on fresh Puerto Rican produce; climate derived and fresh ingredients direct the day’s menu choices. The menu includes main courses such as, Red Snapper, All Natural Skirt Steak, Rib Eye, Short Ribs and Berkshire Pork and Minutas, the Puerto Rican version of fast foods: Alcapurria stuff crab, Deep Fried Swordfish and Baby Snappers.

Born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, Chef Enrique graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York in 1998 and went on to work in restaurants in New York, Florida and Louisiana. He was chosen as a semi-finalist for the 2013 James Beard Foundation award in the category of “Best Chef South”. This was the first time in history a Puerto Rican chef had participated in this award.

Last Stop

Photo Feb 07, 7 16 40 PMPuerto Rico offers a wonderful variety of cuisine, rich with tradition, historical influence and modern gastronomy. Culinary delights can be enjoyed anywhere on the island, from roadside food trucks to elegant restaurants and everything in between. (See the Flipagram here.)

It was a treat to get away from the Midwest winter for a couple of days. People on the Island were laid back – they enjoyed taking in all that life had to offer. Commenting on the relaxed atmosphere one day, someone described the difference between the U.S. and Puerto Rico to us like this: we live to work and you work to live. I couldn’t help but think, ‘exactamundo!’

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

Meat Picks | 2.14.14

Upward Trends

dinner-in-the-skyHave you heard that Dinner in the Sky is coming to Las Vegas and other warm weather US towns in the near future?

The concept of elevating diners 180 feet up in the air (to the tune of $500/head) was first developed abroad seven years ago after a marketer and a “bungee jumping impresario” put dinner-in-the-sky-israeltogether an aerial dining event. The response was so great the duo was inspired to franchise the idea.

The US Franchisee says she has 3,500 names on a waiting list and 1,000 corporations with expressed interest in doing events. The Vegas franchise will no doubt debut to high acclaim.

Culinary Controversy

Last month, all H-E-double-toothpicks broke out over a crying 8 month old baby at Alinea. At $200+ a person, Chef/Owner Grant Achatz was compelled to tweet about the situation in real time citing angry diners and wondering if he needs to have a no kid policy – that set the perpetual spinning wheels of the media into overdrive.

Local and national coverage was dense, Huffington, Fox, CNN and Good Morning America, to name a few, then on to the UK, Australia and beyond. Search “Alinea Crying Baby” and you’ll get 28,000+ hits on Google today.AlineaBaby

In addition to igniting a global debate over whether kids belong at upscale restaurants, one other little gem popped up in result: @AlineaBaby. Born of (comic) necessity, @AlineaBaby has over 1,000 Twitter followers and an opinion on everything from, “what’s more annoying than me in a restaurant”, (pretty funny), to commentary on the “boring” opening ceremony of the Olympics.

It’s astounding to think, one infant could stir up such a conundrum. Will Whole Foods’ snow day snafu surpass the reach of Baby Gate? Stay tuned…

Upsell Rough Times

Winter is notoriously slow for hospitality – especially in cold and snowy markets. Find solace in the 80/20 Rule for sales: 80% of revenues come from 20% of the existing customer base. Upselling the customers you do have, can be a vital tool in rough times.

ihopInspiring Reads:

20 Upselling Tactics That Work from Restaurant News – No.14 is particularly intriguing, “Try downselling”.

How I HOP’s New Menu Design Gets Customers to Spend More from Bloomberg Businessweek – layout is king.

Upselling Techniques for Restaurants at SmallBusinessChron.com – offers a list of numerous articles on the subject.

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

Chef Ricky Hatfield | Working the Independent Market

Google Peterson’s Restaurant and you’ll see a first page return of four and five star reviews.The Indianapolis steak and seafood hotspot is well known for their ambiance, premium service and “superb” food.

chef in the kitchenPeterson’s Executive Chef, Ricky Hatfield, credits part of their success to the strong team they have in place. Hatfield is a young looking 35 year old pro who did his first cook at the ripe old age of 8.

How did you get your start?

I started off with a small independent, working on the line and going to school while I got my degree.

I worked at Bone Fish, worked under Tony Hanslits, (now Culinary Director at the Chef’s Academy in Indy), for McCormick & Schmick’s and then had the opportunity to be part of an open for a Weber Grill as Sous-chef.

When I finished school, I went to Pennsylvania and worked at Sullivan’s Steakhouse. At that time, the plans were to move my family there, but we couldn’t sell our home. Just as the distance was becoming too hard on my family, the opportunity with Peterson’s came about. I came here for the Sous-chef position about two and half years agIMG_1480o and then was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to become their Executive Chef.

We are in the top 25 restaurants in the City now. My day starts at 10, and I take Sundays off – except for inventory once a month. I think it’s really important for families to understand the time involved, but you also have to manage your time to be with them too.

When did you know you wanted to be a chef?

I started in industrial sales after high school, but I always had a part-time restaurant job on the side – always had my foot in it. I didn’t want to sell nuts and bolts the rest of my life.

We lived far outside of the metropolitan area when I was growing up. We always had a garden and family meals at home. We didn’t go out for dinner. After school, I’d watch shows like, The Galloping Gourmet, Frugal Chefs, Great Chefs of the World. I never watched cartoons.

What was the first thing you remember cooking as a kid?

I was in the second grade when I first started making food for other people– it was potato leek soup. That’s still my go to favorite soup today.

What do you like most about being an Executive Chef?

Having the respect – finaChef2lly, after 15 years of being in the business – and the ability to create food for people to enjoy and be remembered for it. Along with that, it’s always about the food and camaraderie in the kitchen.

I built a team around myself that I love to work with, so it’s not stressful. It takes time [to build a team]. Sometimes you get lucky with the first hire. You have to test people out, find the right personality. We’re at a level where you have to have the skill level to be accepted.

You’ve worked both sides of the fence, what are the differences between corporate and independent kitchens?

Kitchens are more regimented in the corporate environment. You have less creative influence, unless you’re developing for the company. You’re also always putting fires out. There are Chef/General Managers – I’m lucky to work with a general manager.

The owner of the restaurant, Joe Peterson, is a highly successful businessman outside of the hospitality industry. Your website says it was his dream to build this restaurant.

1011191_630817690310590_55395698_nYes, it was his dream. His company, Crown Technology, is right across the street. We take care of the restaurant for him. I have gardens over there too. I’d love to help keep this restaurant going for the next 15 years…

What type of community work is Peterson’s involved in?

We are currently putting together a Peterson’s team to work for Habitat for Humanity in Hamilton County, and we do event fund raisers every year for organizations like Cystic Fibrosis, and others. I’ve always been actively involved with Second Helpings too – they serve over 3,000 meals daily [to those in need].

How does the Indianapolis market compare to a market like Chicago or New York?

Indy is a really changing market. A lot of independents had been pushed out because they didn’t have the marketing to compete with large chains. That attitude is changing now, and there’s a new independent trend emerging here.

Across the street is Indianapolis, we are Fishers, on this side. We’ve grown from a population of 7,000 to 78,000 in the last twelve years. It can be tough with a lot of openings popping up around you; we’re lucky to be on the north side of Indy.

What other challenges do you face?

People don’t havindex01e the expense accounts they used to; now it’s more like, “I’ll pay for it IF it’s done well”.  It’s a hurdle for independents to remain competitive with pricing because they don’t have the buying power. We are only open for dinner and closed on Sundays.

How valuable are reservations to your business?

It used to be more consistent, we could expect more reservations coming in on a certain day. We average, 75 % reserved and 25% walk-ins. We also do special occasions. There are usually no kids at night, except when we do Easter and Mother’s Day brunch.

That brings to mind a recent issue in the news; what do think about the “Alinea Baby Scandal”?

The question of justifying price relates to the demographic you’re going for. You have to have guidelines for carrying it out. You have to learn where to pick the battle, but if it were me, I think I would have eaten the no cancel policy.

Has Peterson’s ever had a crying baby problem?

We opened up for SunIMG_1292day brunch last Spring and never had a problem with kids. Everyone knew that kids were going to be there, you kind of take that into consideration because you know they’ll act up. Brunch is not a higher level experience – very different than the Alinea situation and spending that much.

What happened with brunch?

It didn’t work out for us. On a weekly basis, there was too much cost involved putting that out – 1,000’s of dollars just to open up – you need at least 150 people to break even. We’ll stick with special occasions, fund raising events and Monday/Thursday specials.

Right now, is a bad time for most restaurants. People don’t want to go out in the cold weather. We work with Order In, a restaurant service website that delivers meals. It’s a good alternative for times like this. 

What’s it like there over the 500 weekend?

There’s a big spike then – it also depends on how good of a relationship you have with the hotels. The volume has definitely gone down in recent years and spread out across a bigger area.

If you could change anything at Peterson’s, what would it be?

There are always new things in the industry that you may want to add to improve upon. There are little nuances we are always working on but, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

For the Love of Grace

If you’ve been to Grace, you absolutely get why they won big at the Jean Banchet awards gala in Chicago. Grace took five of the top awards: Restaurant of the Year, Best Service, Chef of the Year (Curtis Duffy), Best Chef de Cuisine (Nicolas Romero) and Best Sommelier (Valerie Cao) .

Buedel President, David Shannon, and Chef/Account Manager, James Melnychuk, recently had the opportunity to dine with Chef Tai Dang (Embaya) and his wife (Danielle Pizzitillo) at Grace.

GroupPic3This was the first time David and James had actually dined at Grace and their experience was superb. For those of you who have yet to do the same, here is a firsthand look at the type of experience you can expect:

amuseDavid Shannon couldn’t say enough about the ambiance and comfort of their experience, “you feel a warm fondness being there – like a happy childhood memory that comes over you. The cedar smell [from the Amuse] made you feel like you were at an old fashioned inn.”

From the Chef perspective, James was taken back by the “refined brilliance” of the food. He described the freshness, number and combination of ingredients as a, “craftsmanship of the chefs bringing across their talents.”

Menu1

Both menus were enjoyed over a dining experience that lasted four hours. The group enjoyed a total of 10 courses in 20 minute intervals with a variety of beverage pairings throughout. James describes Grace as, “high class cuisine without the lab equipment”, and offers that, “taste is visual, by the nose and by the tongue.”

foodsquareOne might think there would have been ample room for a stumble or two in such a long service cycle, but to Grace’s credit, David and James mutually agreed their experience was nothing short of a perfect performance.

dessertstrip“The service at Grace makes you feel like you’re on Iron Chef,” ascribes James, “…you feel like you’re the President.”

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

Dollars & Cents vs. Dollars & Sense

Let’s compare and contrast two stories in the recent news about pork production.  One is a story of dollars and cents, and one is a story of dollars and sense.

Dollars & Cents

3D chrome Dollar symbolLast September, Smithfield, the world’s largest pork producer sold itself to the Chinese for $4.7B. Smithfield raises about 15M pigs per year producing over 6B pounds of pork sold under popular brand names including Farmland, Armour, Cook’s Ham, Krakus Ham, Patrick Cudahy and John Morrell. When the sale to Chinese went through, Smithfield’s CEO stated: “This is a great transaction for all Smithfield stakeholders, as well as for American farmers and U.S. agriculture. The partnership is all about growth, and about doing more business at home and abroad. It will remain business as usual — only better — at Smithfield.”

‘Business as usual’ is a telling comment. Smithfield is notorious for factory farming; incorporating the use of inhumane gestation crates, confined animal feeding operations and environmental pollution.

To quell some of the220px-Gestation_crates_3 negative press, Smithfield is “recommending that its contract growers phase out the practice of keeping female hogs in small metal crates while pregnant.” This is quite the bold move for a factory farmer where disease, pollution and animal confinement are standard practice.

On 1/21/14 more news broke: Problems Persist After Smithfield Sells Out to Shuanghui; Future Remains Uncertain.  The Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation and Waterkeeper Alliance issued a Notice of Intent to sue the current and former owners and operators of a Smithfield owned feeding operation, located in North Carolina, to stop pollution caused by illegal waste disposal.

Dollars & Sense

Ironically, one day earlier, the NY Times posted this story: Demand Grows for Hogs That Are Raised Humanely Outdoors.

Consumer awareness and c7960787444_a1b4b8476d_ooncern about the use of antibiotics, humane animal treatment and the environment is growing. More chefs and restaurateurs are featuring pasture raised, all natural pork on their menus. The popularity of “farm-to-fork” and “nose-to-tail dishes” is growing.

Opposite to the Smithfield mass production model, pigs raised by family farmers who use sustainable production methods which preserve the land and its resources for future generations, is fast becoming en vogue. The pigs are happy, the farmers are happy, and consumers are happy eating a better product.

pigsinsnow-300x224Pigs raised outdoors using traditional farming and animal husbandry methods cost more because it costs more to raise them this way.  However, the Times article also points out that as much as consumers say they want their meat to come from humanely raised animals, they still resist paying higher prices for pasture-raised pork.

This resistance is what continues to drive companies like Smithfield to keep producing cheap pork, and the consequences that go along with it.

Finding Middle Ground

The situation becomes one of trade-offs. Which is worse: Paying less for cheap pork thereby supporting the issues associated with pervasive factory farming, or paying more for pork thereby supporting the issues associated with humane, natural and sustainable farming? In my opinion, one will never fully replace the other, but both can improve.

As a consumer, I prefeMenusr to spend a little more to eat healthier and better tasting naturally raised pork. I also feel good that a by-product of my preference, is supporting the family farmer.

On the other side of the fence, I see the daily dilemma Buedel Fine Meats customers face between their desire to avoid offering commodity pork and trying to manage their food costs. Many chefs and restaurateurs are simply unable to absorb the higher cost of all natural pasture raised pork and maintain their desired profits.  They too are voting with their dollars.

Perhaps there is a middle ground.

A movement to change the status quo can be ignited by slowly adding pasture raised pork items to meals and menus. Start with one or two items, promote them and educate the consumer on the value. My guess is that a few will stick, and then maybe a few more.

If we all do this, we can begin to deliver a subtle message to the Smithfield’s of the world in a language they understand – money.  Soon they’ll listen because they have to return profits to their shareholders.  When the factory farmers see more dollars being spent for pasture raised pork, they’ll want to capture some of the growing segment – then someday perhaps, most of it, and we’ll all be better off.

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

Pride and Passion in a Conglomerate World

Late last year, another chapter in the Chicago food industry closed. Local meat supplier, Allen Brothers, was bought by Chef’s Warehouse, Inc., a Connecticut-based food conglomerate, after a 120 year run of family ownership.

If you didn’t see one of the few blurbswatchdog7 about the deal, you probably haven’t heard about it. The company’s (recently revamped) website makes no mention of it, and it is business as usual on their fan page where holiday specials and New Year wishes filled their Facebook feed throughout December and into January.

Reports provided by a, “Chef’s Warehouse spokeswoman” claim,  “…the Allen Brothers’ management team, including Todd Hatoff, [great grandson and grand nephew of the founding brothers] will be retained. The big question is, will this really matter going forward?

History (Does) Repeat Itself

When businesses change ownership structure from family to conglomerate and beyond, it’s tough to keep the “q” in quality alive. Reach replaces service and diversification destroys the very brand essence from which many local and family owned businesses were built.

Looking back to the 19th centmeatpacking industry in Chicago in the 1930s364pxury, when Chicago was first being developed as a livestock mecca, there were the Armour brothers. Yes, Armour & Company was started by Philip and Herman Armour in 1867. The family owned the brand until the 1920’s when they sold to Frederick Prince, an investment banker and chairman of the Union Stockyard & Transit Company, due to financial problems. Prince continued building the meat brand and expanded into by-products, such as deodorant soap (Dial).

The Chicago slaughterhouse was eventually closed in 1959 and by the 1980’s, the Armour meat brand had morphed into two lines: “shelf-based products” (ie hash, chili, etc.)  and “refrigerated meat products”. The lines were eventually split and sold to different entities.Swiftcar

Today, the refrigerated meats brand is owned by Smithfield Foods, notorious for their use of antibiotics in pork production and most recently, the ethically suspect sale of the company to the Chinese.

Swift Brothers & Co. was also started by two brothers, Gustav and Edwin Swift, in 1878. (The company name was changed to Swift & Co. in 1885.) Gustav Swift was credited with pioneering the refrigerated rail car and the use of animal by-products in the manufacture of soap, glue, fertilizer, sundries and medical products. Swift & Co. is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Brazilian company JBS, the “world’s leading animal protein processor”.

In 1971, the doors of the UniChicagoUnionStockYardlimestonegateon Stockyards closed for good. All that remains of more than a century’s worth of rich and tumultuous industrial and labor history is its famous limestone gates.

You have to wonder what the Swift and Armour brothers would have to say about that.

Future Forecast

In an ultra fast paced global economy, it is easy to understand why Allen Brothers made the move from family run business to enterprise ownership. Maintaining market share and integrity against volume discount suppliers is challenging, to say the least.

Could Buedel compete head to head with a Smithfield? No. Nor, do we want to, because our customers deserve far better than that.

AnthonyBuedelfromVideoThis is an industry where chef, restaurant and hospitality reputations are on the line with every meal served. It is a proud, caring and passionate arena. Our customers deserve the same blood, sweat and tears they pour into every dish, delivered in every center of the plate product they buy.

Buedel Fine Meats is now the oldest family owned meat supplier left in Chicago – 2014 marks our 107th year in business. We merged old world family traditions with the best modern practices of today. Delivering premium quality meats and professional personalized services remains our sole initiative.

Pride and passion can’t be commoditized.

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

Wild Boar: A Unique & Delicious All Natural Meat

Wild Boar DishesWho isn’t looking for new menu ideas? How about one that’s unique, incredibly tasty, all natural, free range, humanely handled, lean and reasonably priced? Plus, how would you feel if adding this food to your menu could also ultimately help the environment?

Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? Well, it’s not, when you get to know more about Wild Boar.

Boar 101

The most common names for boar are Wild Boar, Wild Hog, Feral Pig, Feral Hog, Old World Swine, Razorback, Eurasian Wild Boar and Russian Wild Boar. Unlike domestic pork, wild boar is a bit sweeter with notes of nuttiness and a clean taste that’s neither gamey nor greasy. They are leaner than pork with one-third less fat, calories and cholesterol.

Wild boar grow to about 5 feet long and weigh up to 300 lbs. – smaller and leaner than farm raised hogs for pork production. Their diet includes acorns, hickory nuts, pecans, grass, roots, apples and just about any farmed crop they can invade. It is their diet, which gives their meat a unique flavor profile.

In Europe and Asia, boar is farmed for their meat and treasured for their taste. Called, “Sanglier”, in French, and “Cinghiale”, in Italian, boar can be commonly found in butcher shops and offered as a staple in restaurants. Boar is one of the highest priced meats in Germany and thought of as an aphrodisiac in China.

Texas Wild BoarHogs, wild or otherwise, are not native to the United States. They were first brought to the new world by Christopher Columbus who introduced them to the Caribbean.  Hernando De Soto brought them to Florida in the 1500′s, and they made their way across the Southern United States.

Early Texan settlers let pigs roam free until needed – some were never recovered. During wars and economic downturns, many settlers abandoned their homesteads and the pigs were left to fend for themselves. In the 1930s, Eurasian wild boars were brought to Texas and released for hunting. They bred with the free-ranging domestic animals adapted to the wild.

An Invasive Species

Today, most domestic wild boar, are feral hogs, which can rapidly increase their population. Sows can have up to 10 offspring per litter and are able to have two litters per year. Each piglet reaches sexual maturity at 6 months of age. They have virtually no natural predators and thrive in just about any condition.

With a population in the millions in the U.S., Wild Feral Hogs are wreaking havoc across the Southern states. Traveling alone or in packs, they devour whole fields of rice, wheat and/or vegetables. Corn Farmers have discovered that the hogs methodically trod their planted rows during the night, extracting seeds one by one – they even go after food set out for livestock.  The hogs also erode the soil and disrupt native vegetation when they tromp the ground; this also makes it easy for invasive plants to take hold.

Wild Boar TrapFree Range, All Natural & Humane

Wild Boar is a free range animal. No gestation crates, no antibiotics, no growth hormones  –  the ultimate humanely raised all natural meat.

Most domestic wild boar come from Texas where state laws require they must be taken alive and humanely handled for harvest purposes. Hunters are allowed to kill wild hogs year-round without limits. Hunters also have the option of live capture for transport to slaughterhouses to be processed and sold to grocers, butcher shops and restaurants as exotic meat.  When sold commercially as meat, wild hogs must be taken alive to one of nearly 100 statewide buying stations.

One method of capture, popularized by the A&E reality television series American Hoggers, uses trained dogs to sniff out the wild boars, chase them down and hold them by their ears. Trappers then tie them up and cart them off to holding pens for transport.

Where the reality show makes for good TV, the preferred method for capture is a lot less exciting.  Trappers simply bait a cage or a large fenced area with food attractive to the wild hogs, such as fermented corn, but not to other animals. The trapdoor is left open for several days until the hogs become comfortable with it enough to walk in and eat; the trap door then closes.

From the buying stations, the trapped hogs are taken to a processing plant overseen by USDA Inspectors and Veterinarians.  Processing includes a testing regimen for e-Coli, Salmonella, and Trichinae.  Food safety is paramount and supported by a Letter of Guarantee.

Wild Boar NutritionA Healthy Alternative Protein

Compared to pork, Wild Boar is lower in calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and higher in protein – higher in protein than pork, beef, lamb and chicken, to be exact.

Wild boar comes in the same type of cuts as pork and can be substituted for pork in like dishes.  It can be smoked, barbecued, grilled, roasted, braised, fried and, marinated.  Ground Wild Boar is also popular in Italian Bolognaise.

The Food Network offers a variety of Wild Boar recipe ideas for menu inspiration. You can find the most popular Wild Boar cuts available at Buedel Fine Meats:

  • Tenderloin
  • Frenched 10 Rib Rack
  • Saddles
  • Strip Loin
  • Legs – bone in
  • Legs – boneless
  • Shoulder
  • Bellies
  • Shanks
  • Baby Back Ribs
  • St. Louis Ribs
  • Trimmings

Adding Wild Boar to your menu gives you something unique to offer your guests with the benefits of all natural, free range and humanely handled marketing. You can help the environment, offer a healthy protein and provide a delicious feature with Wild Boar. Try it!

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

Meat Picks | 1.10.14

Dining Awards

TribAwardsThe Chicago Tribune 2014 Dining Awards were announced earlier this week. Gleaned from the experience of “1,000 meals consumed”, throughout the Chicagoland area, this marks the “4th Annual” list produced by Trib writers, Phil Vittel, Kevin Pang and Josh Noel.

Chef of the Year was awarded to Curtis Duffy, “who made 2013 the year of Grace”. Other Chefs and Restaurants named who left “the most indelible impressions” over the last year are:

Restaurateur, Jason Chan, Christine Cikowski and Josh Kulp – Chefs/Owners, Honey Butter Fried Chicken, Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo – Owners, Fat Rice, Carlos Gaytan – Chef/owner, Mexique, Thomas Lents – Executive chef, Sixteen, Paul McGee – Partner in Three Dots and a Dash and Bub City,  Amy Morton – Owner, Found Kitchen and Social House,  Carrie and Michael Nahabedian – Owners, Brindille and Naha, Erick Williams – Executive chef, mk and County Barbeque and James Spillane – Owner, Armitage Pizzeria. See pictures and full reviews here.

Restaurant Forecast

marketshare2014logospromoNRN reports the “fast-casual segment will continue to be the disruptive force it has been for years to both quick service and casual dining,” in 2014. A recent survey of the market, provides conditions are deemed, “favorable for opportunistic brands in categories awash with independent concepts, such as pizza, coffee and tea, doughnuts, and bakery sandwiches…”. Expectations for stealing market share in these areas are qualified as positive.

Ways to Trim the Fat

Who isn’t looking for new ways to be fiscally responsible this year? Chefs often use small box and portion control programs to help reduce costs and manage their cash flow. One option that’s often overlooked 190A tenderloin optionsare steak-ready primal cuts.

When you buy steak-ready primal cuts, you can get the benefits of paying a lower price per pound compared to portion control steaks and chops, without the hidden food costs from waste generated working with whole primal cuts. Read more on our blog: How to Slim Down Your Food Costs in the New Year.

It’s Baa-aack

2014RestaurantWeekRestaurant Week grows to a full two weeks this year, up from 10 days last year. (Hashtag: CRW.) 286 restaurants served over 513,000 diners at last year’s event which produced $26.9 million in spending. The First Bites Bash will once again kick off the 14 day event, on Thursday, January 23rd at Union Station, hosted by Executive Chef, Paul Kahan.

Find the current list of participating restaurants at ChooseChicago.com and buy tickets to the charity driven First Bites Bash at Eventbrite.

P.S.

In case you missed it – here’s the first “official day” listing of the year. Our favorite is this Sunday: Fruitcake Toss Day. January 12th is also Marzipan Day. Is it just our imagination, or is that redundant?

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare