Chef Rino Baglio | It’s Always About the Cooking

indexFew chefs can say they’ve served stars, royals and deity. Fewer still, 22 to be exact, can say the highest honor of their profession was bestowed upon them. Chef Rino Baglio can.

Master Debut

Italian born Chef Rino Baglio is part of the first group of chefs in the world to receive the inaugural Master Chef F.I.C.certification awarded by the World Association of Chefs Society (WACS). Equivalent to the likes of a culinary Oscar, the award kicks Chef Baglio’s already superstar status into an elite stratosphere. He is the only Chef in the North and South American continents to have made it – all the other recipients were from Europe.

A total of only 35 chefs were hand selected for candidacy which required classroom study in Milan, Italy last November followed by a fully staged cooking challenge last March. Known for his mastery of Italian cuisine, Chef Rino says he went through the program “not for the acknowledgment, but as a personal challenge to be my best and see how far I could go.”

The Milan coursework honed in on chemistry, the moleculation of food, allergies and things like, pairing the right wines with the right foods. Scoring less than a point off a perfect score, Baglio says the dinner presentation was “challenging”.

The Presentation

What did you have to dph14o for the actual cooking part of the process?

We had to do a small wedding for 100 people – contact the client, create the menu, testing etc. Once the menus were approved, we did custom recipes and presentations with pictures. Clients would then say things like, ‘By the way, I have two guests that have [“X”] allergies’. Then you’d have to adjust the menu for them.

What was the “mystery box” you had to contend with?

You don’t know what’s inside beforehand and you have to use to every ingredient inside, or you’ll be disqualified. Mine was sturgeon and sea urchin.

Did you have any help?

You have two hours to do everything from scratch – no prep beforehand. You also get one student for help, but they can’t touch any food – they can get pans, help clean up – you have to do all the washing [of food], and so forth.

The two hour window is tough. In a typical day, you can do 300 people in two hours when you have staff and lots of prep done beforehand.

Special Guests

sinatra_very_good_yearYou’ve cooked for world leaders, deity, royalty, and Sinatra… how amazing was all that?

I cooked for Sinatra three times; the first time in Italy and the second time was in Phoenix. I had just finished for the day, it was 11 at night when I closed the kitchen. My boss called and told me the cast of New York, New York had just called him and would like ‘some food’. I went back to the kitchen and cooked by myself that night – Sinatra was there.

At that time, I was also [in the process of] moving to L.A. He called me shortly thereafter to do his 65th birthday party at his villa near Palm Dessert. ‘I want you to be in charge of everything’, he said, ‘flowers, food, everything – whatever you need.’ I had to ask my boss for the week off to do Sinatra’s party, which he gave me. The party was around his pool, there was an orchestra, he sang a couple of songs at the end of the night and he was even on the grill, cooking too! …he was a really generous person.

How did you come about being a personal chef for Princess Caroline of Monacbody dianao?

Because of Stefano [Caroline’s second husband], we grew up in the same town and went to high school together. He called and said, ‘I had to come work for them’.

This is one of the hardest jobs for a chef. You get up in the morning and hear things like, ‘By the way, we leave for New York today and tomorrow we’re going to the palace…’ – that’s how I met Princess Diana. I received a telegram from the Queen’s mother [after that], ‘Would I want to be part of the team for the wedding?’ She [Princess Di] was so beautiful outside and inside.

My best memory is Pope John Paul II. That [opportunity] was offered to me in Canada, where the Pope would be visiting while I was working for Weston’s Hospitality Group by John Arena there. There were special diets and security. I had to try all the food first before the Pope ate, (I also did that for [President] Reagan) and the wine too – they search you for everything. I actually got to talk to him for 10 minutes when he came into the kitchen, to thank the team afterwards.

The Pope actually came into the kitchen?

Yes!

Did that kind of thing happen a lot?

Absolutely not.

Global Beginnings

Where did your interest in foItaly02_Countryside04od come from; were there any other chefs in your family?

It was my great grandmother, she was a baker. She had the only bake shop for miles around in a town of 8,000 in Italy. She would get 2-3 hours of sleep a night; they hand delivered the bread in the mountains back then. I learned how to make all those recipes from my mom and my grandmother.

Navigli-Milan_2383615bYou’ve worked all over the world – Milan, Paris, Hong Kong – how did you land in Indy?

I got a call from an agency contact in Chicago; ‘Do you know of a chef who’d be interested in a new hotel?’ I told them I was. At the time, I was the corporate chef for a hospitality firm doing large events, like the Republican National Convention (for 6,000), and grand openings for resorts.

I interviewed and did a staging – they gave me a mystery card to work off of. Two weeks later, I was offered the job as Executive Chef for Osteria Pronto at the JW Marriott in Indianapolis. This was a new trend for them; Osteria is the first Italian restaurant inside a Marriott. They’re building a new hotel in Austin due to open in 2015 and I hope to be part of the team to open the next Osteria Pronto there. I am extremely happy with the move I made. White Lodging is one of the best companies I’ve ever worked with.

Continuing Ed

ph03How important are industry organizations like WACS and the ACF (American Culinary Federation)?

They’re very important, in order to be recognized in the work. It would be extraordinarily difficult to do so without them, unless you spent a lot of time and money self-marketing yourself – it’s hard to put yourself up and out there.

I really like these organizations because they have classes and courses to keep chefs up to date. There are so many new things coming out, you need to be up on it all. I still go back twice a year to see what’s going on in Italy – especially in Italy it’s a continual evolution – like gluten – we are most attached to that. Ten years ago we didn’t know about it, now, at least 4-5 people tell me daily they are intolerant to gluten. People got sick, but we didn’t know it was gluten.

Knowledge is so cautionimportant, a chef today is more of a dietologist than a chef, they need to know these things to feed people, not kill them.

Isn’t it tough to do gluten free with Italian cuisine?

Gluten free is not so hard. They’re making pasta and bread with corn flour and rice flour. Working with the different flours, chefs need to come up with new recipes. It’s all about the right combo, once you got it, keep it. I make a great gluten free pizza; it’s just the ingredients you use and the combo.

In Italy, it’s easier than you think because there are so many different types of risotto. Cookies and desserts are made with potato flour and rice flour. The U.S. is on the same path with these trends following the European nations.

What tips, would you offer people shopping for gluten free products and ingredients?

gluten freeRead the labels of every ingredient you buy. (BFree Foods has one of the best gluten free product lines I’ve seen.) If you can’t get to a specialty store, you need to pay attention to the label. You have to be careful with everything. For example, even frozen French fries; sometimes premade fries are coated with flour [that has wheat or gluten] to make them brown during cooking.

That’s a Wrap

Having had so many wondrous experiences and such great professional success, what do you love to do the most now?

Cooking… still. I’m 59, and I still have the passion for cooking. When I come out with new dishes, I still have the passion for that. After that, it would be helping with new openings and sharing my knowledge with my team.

It used to be that chefs would never tell you secrets, or about their spices, or whatever because they wanted job security. I don’t have to look for jobs anymore, jobs look for me.

ph12Cookery fans and foodies will be able to study with Chef Baglio when Cooking with Rino” launches this fall at Osteria Pronto. Patrons will have an opportunity to learn, cook and get an intimate look at how this award-winning Chef blends food, culture and history into culinary perfection.

The first monthly class is set for Saturday, September 21st. Contact Grace Baker for reservations at 317-860-4988 or at grace.baker@marriott.com.

From the desk of John Cecala  Twitter @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook BuedelFanPage

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Meat Picks | 7.26.13

Food Fight!

TomatoBlastThere’s still time to register online (today before noon) for the Tomato Blast at Soldier Field this Saturday – Chicago’s version of the famous La Tomatina festival in Spain.

100,000 pounds of over ripe tomatoes (firm fruit hurts) will be supplied for the fight. The event lineup is as follows: 12-3: Food, Live Music & Beer, 3-4: Tomato Fight, 4-6: Food, Live Music, Beer & Clean Up.

#NoKidHungry

TasteoftheNationClose to 100 of Chicago’s most renowned chefs and mixologists will come together to raise money for the Share Our Strength No Kid Hungry campaign set for Wednesday, August 14th in the Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier.

On a mission to end child hunger, Share Our Strength also connects kids in need with nutritious food and teaches their families how to cook healthy, affordable meals. Led by event chair R.J. Melman (LEYE), this will be the third Taste of the Nation Chicago fundraiser held at the Pier, complete with live entertainment and a silent auction.

“The number of children struggling with hunger in America now totals almost 1 in 5, and that number is even higher in our home state of Illinois,” says Melman, “at 1 in 4.”

Taste of the Nation has granted more than $80 million since it began in 1988 to combat hunger – $3 million in Chicago alone. Buy tickets online here.

Just For the Bun of It

FatpourBunWe love to share great ideas when we see them and we just saw a nifty one at lunch last week – branded (literally) sandwich buns at Fatpour Tap Works in Wicker Park. (See more pics on their Facebook page.) What a sharp concept; branding at its best!  

Earlier this year, Fatpour was named “Beer Bar of the Year” at the 2013 Nightclub & Bar Awards. They made a big splash when they first opened with their now famous “50 Beers on Tap” served in 22 oz. frozen mugs. Fatpour is part of the Big Onion Tavern Group

From the desk of John Cecala Twitter @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook BuedelFanPage

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Rev Gen for Restaurants: Uptake the Upsell

shoppingcartIt seems as if we’re being upsold everywhere we turn today. Even supermarket checkers are doing it; Would you like to add the Gatorade 2 pack on special to your order today?

Restaurants are usually pretty good at upselling appetizers, drinks, desserts, etc. They are tableside masters, but not nearly in tune enough with the potential uptake.

Upsell is a verb, it means: actively trying to persuade a customer to buy more. Whether an item is a more expensive product or service, or, an add-on purchase related to an existing transaction, upsell means more.

Define & Conquer

Restaurants embrace gift certificates, reservations, orders, pick-up and delivery options extremely well online – locally – but few consider marketing their brand above and beyond that. Why not spread your customers’ love across the country?

The uptake is creating new revenue streams with e-commerce.

loumalnatidressingOne restaurant company that does a stellar job at this is Lou Malnati’s. You can ship a Chicago Style Lou’s to any destination across the country. On top of pizza, customers can also buy pizza pans, cookie pizzas and bottles of Malnati’s famous sweet vinaigrette dressing. I’m sure whoever came up with the idea to do all of that wasn’t taken seriously – at first.

Buedel works with companies such as, Williams Sonoma, Saks Fifth Avenue and Niman Ranch, to name a few, fulfilling their customers’ online orders for home delivery of fine meats. (No one expects you to execute all this stuff by yourself.) Your biggest challenge will be deciding how/if you can take any of your best sellers to this next level. Are there any new products you could create from that? Do you want to add gift and novelty items to the mix with your logo on them? The possibilities are endless.

Buedel Fulfillment Services BrochureWe just posted this fact sheet to our slide share account: Add more profits and build customer loyalty with fulfillment services. The title is a little long in the tooth, but the message is spot on. You can seriously expand your brand beyond city limits, grow customer loyalty, cross promote more than one location and develop new income streams with an uptake on e-commerce merchandising.

P.S.

Companies who provide fulfillment services are skilled at what they do. They’re used to fabricating, customizing, assembling, packaging, shipping, and managing online merchandise to best fit their customers’ needs. And, we can do it cost effectively too!

From the desk of John Cecala  Twitter @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook BuedelFanPage 

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Meat Picks | 7.12.13

Get to the Smokeout!windy-city-smokeout

The “first annual” Windy City Smokeout is now hours away – beginning at 3 today – and running through Sunday. The inaugural summer fest will bring together the best of live country music, beer and BBQ to the corner of Rush and Illinois streets.

Southern-inspired fare from some of Chicago’s top BBQ restaurants, Smoque, Lillie’s Q and Bub City, as well as nationally-acclaimed restaurant The Salt Lick, from Driftwood, Texas, will be dishin’ up the barbeque and bragging rights. Competitive BBQ legend, Myron Mixon, (aka The King) and star judge of Destination America’s BBQ Pitmasters will also be there!

Country music fans can also take in performances by three of country music’s biggest stars.  Festival headliners include: Jerrod Niemann on Friday, July 12, followed by Grammy-nominated artists David Nail on Saturday, July 13, and Pat Green on Sunday, July 14. BubCityPitcrewWell-known and emerging artists will also take the stage throughout the weekend.

Go Prepared…

Meat Picks touched briefly upon “the American barbeque style of cooking” last week  crediting “cowboys on cattle drives” as the source for bringing BBQ to the forefront of our culture in the late 1800’s. If you’re not a BBQ aficionado (yet), brush up on some of the basics before you go to the Smokeout.

Remember, grilling is direct, high heat cooking and barbequing is: cooking food slow and low in a pit or on a spit over hot coals or wood, basting throughout to keep the food moist. Southern flare will be prominent at the fest; here are some southern basics:

Carolina Barbeque– Traditionally pork barbeque (usually whole shoulder or whole hogs) smoked over hickory wood and finely chopped or pulled. Carolina Que is served with sauce. In Eastern North Carolina the sauce is vinegar based.

Memphis Barbeque – Pork ribs rule and some sprinkle the finished ribs with rub to highly season the finished product.

Texas Barbeque– Brisket and sausage are king in the Lone Star state. Ribs are also noteworthy, consisting of both beef ribs and pork ribs.

Texas Rub– is typically just salt and pepper, and the meat is served without sauce or with one that is thin.

Kansas City – The crossroads of barbeque with Southern and Western influences.

Test your BBQ knowledge further with TLC’s quiz.

P.S.

Sunday is Family Day; kids under 12 get in free before 4. Buy tickets here.

From the desk of John Cecala     @BuedelFineMeats     Buedel Fan Page

 

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Meat Picks | 7.1.13

Fourth Foods

july4thfoodAmericans will eat 150 million hot dogs on the Fourth of July according to a History.com infographic, “enough to stretch from D.C. to L.A. five times”, but the hot dog didn’t make its way to American fare until German immigrants brought it over in the mid 1800’s.

The first celebratory meals on record (circa late 1700’s) consisted of turtle soup, poached salmon with egg sauce, green peas, and boiled new potatoes. Indian pudding (aka “hasty pudding”) and Apple Pandowdy were dessert favorites.

The American barbeque style of cooking didn’t come onto the scene until the late 1800’s, when cowboys on cattle drives adopted slow cooking at low temperatures [grilling refers to direct, high heat cooking] in an effort to tenderize tougher meat cuts. Charcoal briquettes were first patented in 1897.

National Hot Dog Month

7 billion hot dogs will be consumed between Memorial Day and Labor Day this season and 1.7 billion dollars in hot dog sales were transacted at U.S. supermarkets last year. July is National Hot Dog Month; wieners are undeniably here to stay!

July4thChicagoHotdogChicago was fourth in the list of top ten hot dog cities behind L.A., New York and Baltimore according to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council. There were, however, six more times the amount of hot dogs, 725,000 more to be exact, consumed at O’Hare Airport in 2012 than at LAX and LaGuardia combined.

In addition to providing stats, recipes and promoting all around hot dog good will, the Council also offers a video on hot dog etiquette. Here are some of their top tips:

Utensils should never touch hot dogs in buns                                                                        Never put ketchup on your dog after the age of 18                                                            Hot dogs are meant to be eaten in 5 bites; foot longs in 7                                              Add all hot dog condiments on top of the dog (never between it and the bun) Condiments should be added in this order: wet, chunky, shredded and spices

Celebrate and Enjoy the Holiday!

July4thstars-and-stripes72 years have passed since July 4th became an official federal holiday in 1941. Well over 150 years before that, John Adams wrote his wife, Abigail, on what he hoped our nation’s anniversary would become some day; he was right on the mark:

I believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other…

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From the desk of John Cecala Twitter @BuedelFineMeatsFacebook BuedelFanPage 

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