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

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

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

One way to Slim Down Your Food Costs in the New Year

January marks the advent of personal resolve to shed pounds and live healthier.  For many restaurants, it also marks the start of new fiscal resolutions to cut costs, grow sales and reap higher profits.

Small box and portion control programs can help restaurants reduce costs and better manage their cash flow. One option that often goes unnoticed is steak-ready primal cuts.

189AAvoid Hidden Food Costs

People often purchase whole primal cuts of boxed beef or pork and break them down in-house to menu sized portions because they cost less per pound compared to purchasing portion control steaks or chops. For example, a whole beef tenderloin may cost between $9-$12/lb compared to $18-$24/lb for a portion cut tenderloin filet. Buying the whole beef tenderloin saves you money, right?  Well, that depends. It’s all about the finished good yield.

If you’re serving 100% of that whole tenderloin as a filet on your menu, then one could argue money is being saved. However, you’d be doing so at the expense of quality and customer satisfaction because there is a tremendous amount of fat and sinew in a whole tenderloin that your customers won’t enjoy eating. That goes for strip loins, rib eyes, pork loins, veal and lamb loins too.

In reality, if you trim off anything you won’t be serving, you will end up paying more than you thought. Many restaurants either throw the trimmings in the trash, or use them for making other items like ground beef, which they could have purchased for less than $4/lb. This is where hidden costs exist and are most often ignored in food cost accounting.

Hybrid Cost Saving Solution

190AFor those who want to purchase whole primal cuts and cut their own steaks or chops, a hybrid cost saving solution is to purchase steak-ready or chop-ready primal cuts. The most common steak-ready primal cuts are:

 

  • Tenderloin
  • Strip Loin
  • Rib Eye
  • Top Sirloin
  • Outer Skirt Steak
  • Flank Steak

When you buy steak-ready primal cuts, you will 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. You can also better manage your cash flow by purchasing only the quantities you need versus having to make larger cash outlays for master cases of boxed meats.

Enjoy the benefits of steak-ready primal cuts:

  • No Waste – Cut your own steaks without the yield loss.  You have the flexibility of cutting to any portion sizes you need for your menu quickly and easily without the waste and cost of inedible fat and sinew.
  • No Hidden Costs – You will eliminate the hidden costs incurred from buying whole boxed primal cuts.
  • No By-Products – You can purchase the by-products you would have generated from your supplier at a lower cost per pound: Ground Beef, Stew Meat and Fajita Meat.
  • Roast Ready – Steak-Ready primal cuts can also be roasted whole and carved tableside. This gives you more options and more flexibility for your dollar.
  • Less Cash Outlay – You can purchase just the quantities you need versus incurring the spend for whole master cases of boxed primal cuts. This can mean as much as an 85% reduction in cash outflows for meats  for your business.
  • Quicker Inventory Turns -  You may buy quantities as needed on a just-in-time basis reducing your inventory carrying costs.

Do the Math

Take a look at the following example of how the buying options for tenderloin can play out:

BEEF TENDERLOIN COMPARATIVE PURCHASING OPTIONS

Key Terms To Know
As Purchased Cost:Total cost per pound of the product purchased.
Purge: Unusable, inedible materials, blood and the plastic packaging.
Yield: Amount of acceptable edible portions produced; measured by the pound.
Edible Portion: Total pounds of product that can be eaten.
Edible Portion Cost: The actual cost per edible portion.

OPTION A:  BOXED BEEF/CUT YOUR OWN
Purchase Whole Boxed Beef Tenderloin
6# Tenderloin Purchased Cost…$11.50 lb.
Average Purge Loss 2% = 98% Yield
Actual Purchase Cost/lb before cutting: $11.50 ÷ 98% = $11.73 lb.

TRIM DOWN IN-HOUSE INTO A STEAK-READY PRIMAL
$11.73 lb ÷ 63% Average Yield = $18.62 lb.
37% Waste Yields 3.78# Edible Portion

OPTION A: TOTAL EDIBLE PORTION COST
Steak Ready Tenderloin: 3.78# x $18.62/lb = $70.38

OPTION B:  PURCHASE A STEAK-READY PRIMAL CUT
Steak-Ready Beef Tenderloin
3.78# Steak-Ready Tenderloin As Purchased Cost…$18.05 lb.
No Purge Loss
Actual Purchase Cost/lb before cutting Steak-Ready Price…$18.05 lb.
No Waste 100% Yield 3.78# Edible Portion

OPTION B: TOTAL EDIBLE PORTION COST
3.78# x $18.05/lb = $68.23   3% Food Cost Savings versus Option A 

190A tenderloin options This comparative example does not take into account the excess time, labor, and inconsistencies which can incur when you opt to trim whole boxed beef primal cuts in-house which can add to your total costs.  Plug your own tenderloin prices into the formula. The methodology used above for beef tenderloin can also be applied to other cuts of beef, pork, veal and lamb.

Wrap Up

Part of our job at Buedel Fine Meats is helping our customers find the best ways to trim costs and sustain quality. If one of your goals for the new year is to cut costs and drive more profit into your business, find your hidden food costs and free up cash flow by taking a closer look into steak or chop ready primal cuts.

We wish you a very Healthy & Prosperous New Year!

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

Meat Picks | 12.19.13

Breaking (Gift) News

SteakBoxWe are super excited to share this breaking news: Mariano’s will be offering Premium USDA Prime Beef & Seafood gift boxes in their stores beginning today. Now, for the super excited part: Buedel Fine Meats worked with Mariano’s to develop these gift boxes for the holidays!

Cut by Buedel Master Butchers from Midwestern grain fed native cattle, the gift boxed meat is properly aged and hand selected USDA Prime beef. This is the grade of beef that is at the top 2% of all beef on the market.

Packaged under the Roundy’s name (Mariano’s parent company), the gift box selection of steaks include: Prime Tenderloin Filets, Prime Bone-In Frenched Rib Eye Steaks, Prime Boneless New York Strip Steaks and Prime Bone-In Kansas City Strip Steaks. Shoppers can choose from gift boxes with all steaks, steaks and lobster tails, steaks and crab legs, or steak and shrimp.

Preferred Dining

19,000 restaurants and 5 million reviews later, Open Table’s Top 100 Restaurants for 2013 is out. (We can’t imagine what that data sort was like!) Seven Chicago area restaurants made the list: Gaetano’s, Girl & The Goat, Goosefoot, Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab, L20, Les Nomades and Senza. Congrats to all the winners!

2014What-s-Hot-Top-TenTop Ten Trends

Another big list hitting the news recently was the forecast for the Top Restaurant Trends of 2014. Holding steady in the top slot from last year (music to our ears) is, “locally sourced meats and seafood”. This got us thinking…how much have these trends changed over the last five years?

Here are some of the interesting trails we discovered:

Locally Sourced Meats & Seafoods was also #1 in 2012 & 2011, and #2 in 2010 & 2009. Locally Grown Produce was #1 in 2009 & 2010 and remained in the #2 spot ever since. Sustainability has hovered in the #3-#5 spot for the last five years, taking third most often. Children’s Nutrition has been in the top ten since 2011. (Could not verify 2010.)       Healthful Kids’ Meals is #4 for 2014, falling from the #3 spot it held for the last two years.

Locally sourced meats, seafood and produce have been in the top two trend spots for the last six years running now. The big question is: when do things stop being trends and officially become standards?

BubCityCarol-okeFestive Frivolous Fun

Love this promo: Christmas Carol-Oke.

If you’re looking for a casual place for some festive frivolity and good cheer on Christmas Eve, Bub City fits the bill perfectly. “Ugly Sweaters Encouraged”!

Have a Very Merry Everyone!

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

 

Why Sysco’s Acquisition of US Foods Feels Like Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four

Sysco and US Foods have been buying smaller food distributors and manufacturers to expand national reach and grow revenue for years. When news broke last week on Sysco’s $3.5B acquisition of top rival US Foods, I, like many others in the food industry, was quite surprised.  

MonopolyJPMorganThe two largest rival food distribution companies have pretty much competed for the same customers, and their competition empowered customers to negotiate for the best deal. Customers often use one broad line distributor as a primary supplier and another as a back up to keep their primary honest and on their toes. The acquisition will severely limit their system of checks and balances.

According to the NASDAQ press release, the deal “brings together the best of both companies to do more for customers and invest in accelerating the transformation of Sysco and the industry.” What the press release doesn’t say of course is that the combination of these two mega broad line distributors limits customer choices to a one-size-fits-all model – conformity to the company’s terms of standardized product sets and service methodology.  

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

This union makes me think of George Orwell’s classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, where society succumbs to the control of “Big Brother” in an environment where individualism and independent thinking are persecuted as thought crimes. ‘Big Brother’ justifies oppressive rule under the auspices of greater good for society.

1984There is no doubt that Sysco and US Foods provide value to their customers with a wide array of products and vast distribution capabilities. However, the two combined, portends to limit customer choices and access to competitive products. One glaring example of this can be found in the offering of private label brands.

Sysco and US Foods make higher profits selling their own in-house private label brands, compared to selling name brand items for condiments, hot sauces, ketchup, poultry, desserts and other foods. The companies can source the cheapest ingredients from multiple suppliers and keep the customer’s purchase price the same for private label brands. Suppliers of private label brands are also often required to pay a “marketing allowance” or rebate, which goes straight to the broad liner’s bottom line.Sales reps are  encouraged and incentivized at higher rates for selling private label house brands to their customers.  

This isn’t anything new. Back in 2009, Sysco’s President and COO publicly declared an emphasis on private brands. (US Foods sells their private label brands under catchy names like, Patuxent Farms® and Chef’s Line®.) There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this practice and I’m sure the private label brands offer value to their customers.  However, with US Foods folding into Sysco, customers will have fewer brands to choose from and will likely be forced into a Sysco dictated one-brand-fits-all purchase setting. 

History (Does) Repeat Itself

General Motors grew to one of the world’s largest automobile companies by buying up independent car companies Buick, Olds, Pontiac and Cadillac. These once unique brands were eventually commoditized  to share the same standardized GM platform with cosmetic differentials only. Innovation and creativity waned in favor of conformity, standardized production and distribution. 

monopoly boardGM was very successful, earning millions of dollars on billions in revenues. Yet, over time, the one-size-fits-all model ultimately drove customers away. Lack of innovation opened the doors for foreign car companies who offered value by listening to customers’ needs and designing cars that were unique and innovative – a tidal wave of foreign imports ensued. GM remained steadfast in their thinking and ultimately faced bankruptcy before being bailed out by U.S. taxpayers in recent years.

Ironically, this merger comes at a time when the retail grocery market is trending opposite the one-size-fits-all supermarket model. Specialized local grocers, fresh markets and butcher shops are fast becoming the preferred customer choice due largely in part to the personalized service and diversity of products they offer. An example of this can be made with the demise of the Midwest grocery chain, Dominick’s.

Originally an independent family run grocer which catered to local neighborhoods, Dominick’s was acquired by Safeway in 1998.  Safeway ingratiated their corporate culture onto Dominick’s and changed the brand into a “me too” supermarket. Dominick’s struggled while other local grocers took away their market share using the same approach the company had originated. Last October, Safeway announced it would sell or close all 72 Dominick’s stores in the Chicago area and exit the market.

Wrap Up

Will the Sysco/US Foods merger face the same challenges down the road as GM and Safeway did?  Only time will tell.

My opinion is it’s a bad deal for the customer. There are many food service operators that simply buy on price with less or no regard for the quality or personalized service. The Sysco/US Foods merger limits price competition for them. There are many food service operators that value quality and personalized service first and are willing to pay the commensurate price for it. The Sysco/US Foods merger will limit their options as well.

When there is less competition, there is less choice. Fewer choices mean limited options; limited options drives standardization and conformity which restrict differentiation.

This is a merger where Big Brother Sysco will ultimately tell customers what’s best for them. I say, “Rise up, speak with your dollars and support your local independent food service companies who take great care in listening and responding to what you say is best for you.”

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

 

The Great Steak Takeaway

By Chef John Reed, CEC, CCA, ACE

When I want to go out and enjoy a great steak, my family is sometimes reluctant. They are spoiled living with a culinary professional – they know what they eat at home is equal to the fine dining experience.

In Chicago, we are spoiled by the number of high-quality steakhouses here; from gold standard favorites like Gibson’s to the latest hot spots such as David Burke’s Prime House. These types of restaurants have walk-in coolers full of thick-cut, prime, dry-aged steaks. Chefs cook them at high heat with minimal seasonings to create a veritable crust, and the steaks come to the table properly cooked, well presented and pricey.

My family says I cook a better steak. Certainly they are prejudiced on my behalf, but I want to take this opportunity to share my take on great steak.

HomePageMeatPicIt’s all About the Cut

It starts with the meat. For those of us who can’t afford prime beef all of the time, I actually prefer a good choice grade for the majority of steaks I cook.

The tenderloin and its various classical cuts such as the Filet, Mignon and Chateaubriand, though tender, need a lot more thought put into them to get a great flavor. Rubs and wraps with bacon, fine cream-based forcemeat and sausage meats go a long way in that category, but that is another lesson.

Then there are the macho steaks, which include “The Cowboy,” “The Original Delmonico” and any of the other beast-named bone-in rib steaks found on today’s menus. Leave the rib whole, and don’t cut steaks. Slow roast the meat and carve it on or off the bone. Chefs know the bone is there for a reason: it keeps the shape of the steak, prevents shrinkage and if cooked right, makes a hell of a tasty piece to chew on.

If you have the desire to break down a whole rib, pull off the spinalis muscle. That, my friends, is the piece that has the best flavor of the whole muscle structure, and is also known as the rib-eye cap. Some Beef Marketing Boards are selling this as a new type of “value-added” steak. I think it is also a very expensive option unless you can trim down whole ribs. Try braising the rib-eye cap or quickly grilling it and slicing it thin. 

What’s left?

Best Pick

There is plenty of cow left, and many other cuts and steaks produced both in the retail and food service markets. These types of steaks all need some form of help whether jaccarding, marinating or under cooking to some degree. Regardless of what some catering companies and/or restaurants may say, the mock-tender or the teres major muscle will never taste or eat like a tenderloin.

Strip Steaks2If you want a steak that is synonymous with what a true “steak” should be, it is always going to come down to the strip, and a true strip is either the Bone-in Kansas City Strip or the Boneless New York Strip.

Look for a steak that is at least 1″ thick; these will range in weight from about 12 oz., for the boneless, to about 16 oz., for the bone-in. You don’t have to eat the whole thing, and you can get two very nice-sized portions from one steak.

Look for some good marbling in the heart of the steak. Ask for about 1/4″ of trim on the top and about 3/4″ tail. Always let the steaks come to room temperature or near there about 30 minutes prior to cooking. 

Select the right ingredients – they are vital: salt, cracked black pepper (no containers here), oil (not olive oil) and whole butter (yes, you read that right, whole butter). If you want to be more adventurous, fresh thyme springs, sliced shallots and cloves of garlic are excellent additions. There are no magic rubs, flavored oils or injections needed, and don’t even think about pulling out the circulating cooker or vacuum machine.

Perfect the Cooked Steak

Season the steak liberally with salt and pepper. Heat a heavy carbon steel or cast iron pan without any oil. Rub the steak with the oil to lightly coat. Place in the pan only when the pan is hot. Now leave it alone, turning down the heat ever so slightly. When you see little dots of blood coming through, turn it over and then leave it alone again. By now there should be some smoke in the kitchen. Have an adult beverage and relax. Let the steak get some color on the second side, and then the fun starts.

cast iron panAdd a good amount of whole butter and the aromatics if you are using them. Grab a spoon, and when the butter is bubbling and melted, baste the steak with the hot butter. Keep basting it to give the steak some more color. Turn the meat over again and cook that side for a few more minutes while basting continuously. If you are comfortable with doing so, press to touch for doneness (123°F). The shallots, thyme, and garlic should have perfumed the room and the steak. Pull the meat from the pan and place it on a rack.

Pour the aromatics over the steak on the rack, and walk away for a while. Entertain some friends set the table or take a few pictures to post on Facebook. Do anything you have to in order to resist the urge to cut into that thing. This is, to me, the secret of great steak: rest and patience. You need to be engaged in the cooking of the item. Don’t just throw it in a pan and let it cook by itself. You need to be part of the process.

After 10 minutes, you are finally ready! Trim the cap and tail off of the steak. (I am extremely cost conscious. If it was prime cut, would you throw that away? No! You might just eat it out of guilt.) Now, either serve the steak whole or slice it. It will be tender and perfectly cooked. Sprinkle a little sea salt over it and enjoy!

Wrap Up

That was a lot of words for the cooking of one steak, but it serves to describe what makes the difference in your cooking and approach to food.

Food doesn’t have to be “cooked at the speed of light”. Many restaurants are slowing things down now and taking the time to cook food properly – this makes me very happy. I urge other professionals to encourage young cooks to do the same. On a slow night, teach them how to appreciate the skills and patience it takes to make something perfect.

Slow it down at work, and at home – spoil your family and your customers.

Chef Reed is the owner of Customized Culinary Solutions and the current president of the American Culinary Federation (ACF) Windy City Professional Culinarians in Chicago. “The Great Steak Takeaway”  was adapted from Chef Reed’s newsletter, The Rubber Band Doorknob.

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

 

How to Manage Holiday Menu Costs with Boneless Strip Loin

Buedel Fine Meats StriploinPrime Rib and Beef Tenderloin are traditional favorites for carving stations and banquet events during the holidays. Due to the increase in seasonal demand, price spikes often occur, by as much as 30%.

The good news is, there is a premium alternative without a premium price: Boneless Strip Loin.

Anatomically, the Strip Loin muscle is part of the Short Loin. One side of the Short Loin is the Tenderloin; the other side is the Strip Loin, where the ubiquitous New York Strip Steak is fabricated.

The Strip Loin is a muscle that does little work when the animal moves, thus making it relatively tender. It is an extremely versatile cut of beef used for roasts or cut into steaks. Though not as tender as rib eyes or tenderloins, strip loins are very flavorful due to consistent marbling and nice firm textures.

Breaking it Down

Beef Strip LoinLike any cut of meat, there are variations of quality within the Strip Loin muscle. These variations can be left intact or removed depending on your application. An understanding of the anatomy of the Strip Loin can help better balance your food costs to your menu options and guests’ dining experience. The main parts of the Strip Loin are the Rib End or “Center”, the Sirloin End or “Vein End”, the Back Strap and the Tail.

Rib End or Center This is the main part of the Strip Loin. It’s a single muscle that is tender with a firm texture and delicious taste. The quality is determined by the marbling within the muscle as determined by the USDA grades, Prime, Upper Choice, Choice or Select. The higher the grade, the higher the quality, eating experience and price will be.

Sirloin End or Vein End Found on the posterior end of the Strip Loin, this part is commonly called the “vein end” because it is where the sirloin muscle joins together with the strip loin muscle. Between these two muscles is stringy connective tissue called the vein – a huge variation of quality in the Strip Loin. The connective vein is practically inedible and does not break down when cooked. Vein Ends can however, be removed and used for other applications such as, Steak & Eggs, Steak Salad, Chicken Fried Steak and Sandwich Steaks.

Back Strap Also known as, “Strap”, the Back Strap is a 2” thick ligament membrane which runs along the top-back of the Strip Loin. It is edible and can be left on, however, for higher quality steaks and roasts the back strap is often removed for a better eating experience.

TailTail Sometimes referred to as a “Lip”, the Tail is found at the tapered end of the main strip loin muscle. It is comprised of fat and connective tissue.

When purchasing Strip Loins, you’ll typically hear the term, 0×1 or 1×1, which refers to the size of the tail on the strip loin. 1×1 means the tail size is 1″ long all the way across the end of Strip Loin. 0×1 means the tail is 0″ on one end (No Tail) and 1″ in size at the other end of the Strip Loin. As you would expect, 0×0 means there is no tail on the Strip Loin.

Why would/should you care about the size of the tail? The tail is a variation of quality; the less tail, the higher quality and price. The Tail is often the part left on diners’ plates.

Putting it All Together

Striploin DiagramWhen ordering Strip Loin Roasts or Strip Steaks you can specify the trim level you desire for your menu application and quality. More trim, means fewer variations of quality, a better eating experience and higher price whether you’re cutting your own or buying portion control.

Manage your holiday menu costs with these common options for purchasing Strip Loins, Strip Loin Roasts and Strip Steaks:

Boneless Strip Loins, Roasts & Steak Ready

• Boneless Strip Loin 1×1: A whole boneless strip loin with 1″ tail fat across the entire loin.

• Boneless Strip Loin 0×1: A whole boneless strip loin with 1″ tail fat on the Rib End and 0″ tail fat on the Vein end. This is the most common option for whole strip loins.

• Boneless Strip Loin Back Strap Off Steak Ready: A whole boneless strip loin with the back strap ligament removed. Buyers can also specify the tail length desired.

• Boneless Strip Loin Center Cut No Vein Steak Ready: A whole boneless strip loin with the vein end removed. A single muscle cut for roasts or steaks. Buyers can also specify tail length and removal of the back strap.

Boneless Strip Loin Steaks

• Full Cut or End-to-End, MBG#1180: Steaks are cut from the entire strip loin from the rib end to the vein end.

• Center Cut, MBG#1180A: Steaks are cut from only the rib end up to where the vein end appears one only one side of the last steak. In addition to the portion size, buyers can also specify the tail length and back strap on or off with Full and Center cuts.

The Strip Loin roast is a tender cut with a delightful beefy flavor and texture that when properly aged and cooked, will receive rave reviews. Strip Loins provide a great premium alternative for your holiday menus.

New York Strip Roast Recipe

1 (5-6 lb) New York Strip Roast
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper

Strip RoastPreheat oven to 500ºF. Place roast, fat side up, in roasting pan fitted with rack. Rub roast with olive oil and season all sides with salt and pepper. Place in the oven for about 12 minutes. Reduce oven temp to 300ºF and continue cooking about 15 to 20 minutes per pound depending on desired doneness: Very Rare 130°, Rare 140°, Medium Rare 145°, Medium 160°, Well 170°.

Loosely tent roast with foil and let stand 15 minutes. Slice roast across the grain. Find more recipes at: http://www.yummly.com/recipes/beef-strip-loin

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

Should You Care If “Finely Textured Beef” Is In the Ground You Buy?

Remember all the buzz last year around “Lean Finely Textured Beef” (LFTB) aka “Pink Slime”?   

Last August, I wrote about how the fallout from unfair and erroneous media reporting affected employment and ground beef prices in “1 of 10 Things (at the very least) the Food Industry Does Want You to Know“.   

The product was perfectly safe, and USDA approved, but much of the ado was over the fact that consumers were unaware of the process large manufacturers used to produce ground beef. That uproar took most of the product off the market.

What Goes Around Comes Around

11-12price of ground beefHere, we are a little more than a year later, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the price of ground beef is 17% higher on average than last year.  Compare that to the CPI for all food, which grew only 1.4% over last year.

Consumer demand for lower prices is now bringing back finely textured beef.  This time, however, it will be marked as such on the label – kind of.  

Cargill, one of the world’s largest beef companies, just announced it will note the use of finely textured beef in its U.S. ground beef product labels, when applicable. 

In reality, the product never actually went away.  The USDA does not require specific labeling for finely textured beef because the product is 100% beef.

Following the Label Trail   

Cargill has continued to produce finely textured beef for inclusion in its ground beef products and has been doing so since the 1990′s. However, in response to consumer demand for transparency, Cargill will begin to put “contains finely textured beef” on bulk boxes of its ground beef sold to grocery stores for repackaging.

The $64,000 dollar question then is: Will your grocer or foodservice purveyor put that same information on their in-house label when they repackage bulk ground from Cargill?  11-12groundbeef-300x225

Cargill’s labeling disclosure of finely textured beef is voluntary.  A grocery store or foodservice purveyor can purchase Cargill’s bulk ground beef containing lean finely textured beef for a lower price than ground beef without it. They can repackage either product under their own in-house brand and sell them as ground beef or burgers. The possibility exists then that you the consumer may not know which beef you’re buying.  

Next Question: Should You Care?   

Ground beef made with lean finely textured beef is perfectly safe and is technically 100% ground beef.  LFTB is made from the chunks, bits and pieces of beef that remain on the unused parts and fat of the animals, harvested through a scientific separation process. It is the scraps, but still 100% beef and quite inexpensive. 

Lean finely textured beef serves to fill certain demand in the market for low cost ground beef and as a low cost food ingredient. It also relieves the pressure on ground beef pricing by increasing the available supply to meet that demand.

Wrap Up

Food labels are ever evolving. There is current debate whether or not to label genetically modified foods, “GMO”s, and demand to tighten up the loose definition of “Natural” on labels.  Chefs, restaurateurs and consumers want and deserve to know what’s in their food. 

The disclosure of the use of lean finely textured beef as an ingredient is currently voluntary for ground beef and burgers. Thus, buyers can use price as a key indicator for the ingredients and quality of what they’re buying. If the price is cheap relative to similar other choices, the type of ground beef being merchandised, may be suspect as such.

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

 

 

Meat Picks | 9.27.13

Beef A Rama PosterBeef-A-Rama

If you’re heading up to Wisconsin this weekend or just looking for something to do, check out the 49th annual fall festival Beef-A-Rama in Minocqua. Live music, hot air balloon rides, fresh food markets, stuff for the kids and of course, lots and lots of beef cooking and eating are scheduled for tonight and tomorrow.

Debuting as Fish-O-Rama in 1964 to celebrate the first day of fishing season, the fest eventually morphed into a beef bash where local merchants prepared roasts to thank local customers and vacationing visitors to the area.

Beef-A-Rama … you know we LOVE that name!

MeatPoultry.comIndustry News

Industry trade, Meat & Poultry.com, recently called upon Buedel for insight on the merits of portion control and top trends in the meat business. Read the full interview here.

Beef Supply Chain

Grass v. Grain

Much has been voiced about grain fed and grass fed beef. If you’re still up in the air about the differences and merits of each, check out our latest blog The Benefits of Grain and Grass Fed Beef. It’s a straight forward read outlining the positives both have to offer with regard to economics, diet, cuisine and the environment.

Chicago Gourmet Update

Tickets for Friday’s Hamburger Hop and Late Night Gourmet and Saturday & Sunday’s Main Events are all sold out for the Chicago Gourmet Wine & Food Celebration at Millenium Park.

There ARE tickets still available for Grand Cru and the American Express package (including the Main Event) for Sunday. Links: Tickets  Event Schedule

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

The Benefits of Grain and Grass Fed Beef

All beef cattle start their lives on mother’s milk and are then weaned to graze on pasture grasses until they reach about 400-500 lbs. When calves reach these weights they are sold off to feeders where they either remain grass fed, or are sent to feedlots. In each case, the calves will remain in the pasture or feedlot until they reach desired harvest weights.Beef Supply ChainCattle are bred to be consumed for food. Each feeding method has benefits and detriments that vary markedly, not only in diet, but in cost, taste, consistency and time. Is one system better than the other? The answer is truly subjective – personal preference, palates, and beliefs play heavily on consumer preference.

 

Grain Feed Mixture

Grain Fed Beef  Grain fed cattle are started on grass and then sent to feedlots to be finished on formulated feed rations designed to make the animals grow as much and as fast as possible. In most cases, the formulated feed contains as much as 75% corn grain. Grain fed cattle normally reach harvest weight between 18-24 months of age.  

Feedlot

What exactly is a ‘feedlot’? The beef industry finishes grain fed cattle in feedlots in order to produce the type of carcass desired by the American consumer.

All feedlots are essentially the same in construction, layout, design and purpose with key components being: feed mills, to store and mix feed rations, pens, where cattle are gathered, and feed bunks, where cattle eat and drink water. Cattle are closely monitored in feedlots, efficiently fed and given unlimited access to clean water year round.

Feedlot Monitor SystemAnimal stress is also closely monitored by feedlot managers. Animals under stress are more likely to get sick; sick animals do not gain weight and will most likely lose money for the operator. Most modern feedlot operators employ animal handling protocols to reduce stress in accordance with the guidelines set forth by renown animal behavior authority, Dr. Temple Grandin     

Grain fed cattle are viable in the marketplace because they are available throughout the year. Where grain feed cannot be grown due to unfavorable climate conditions, it can be easily trucked in from other areas of the country. Most feedlots operate in the Midwestern corn belt states.

Grass Fed Beef  Grass fed cattle start on grass and remain on grass until they reach harvest weight – usually between 30-36 months of age. Grass fed cattle must reside where grass is easily available; inclement weather may force cattle to be moved to pastures where grass exists. During the winter months when grass is dormant, grass fed cattle must be supplemented with feed, usually hay and grass silage, to maintain nutrition and sustain their grass fed status.

Grass Fed Beef

Grass fed beef is also very lean. The low fat content in grass fed beef requires greater attention to cooking to prevent an unpleasant eating experience. The tenderness of grass fed steaks can also be inconsistent. Thus, grass fed is better when cooked slower than its grain fed counterpart. It is further essential for grass fed beef to be aged correctly for adequate muscle fiber release to prevent toughness. When properly aged and cooked, grass fed beef is delicious. Some even say it tastes the way beef “used to taste”.  

Increased costs, due to the lengthier amount of time it takes for grass fed cattle to reach harvest weight, are passed on to consumers. Ultimately, grass fed beef costs more than grain fed beef.

Grass & Grain Benefits

 

Grass Fed Steaks

        Grass Fed Steaks

* Grass fed beef is high in Beta-Carotene which is converted to vitamin A (retinol) by the human body. Vitamin A is important for normal vision, bone growth, reproduction, cell division, and cell differentiation. Additionally, vitamin A creates a barrier to bacterial and viral infection and supports the production and function of white blood cells.

* Grass fed beef typically has 3 times the amount of vitamin E found in conventional grain fed beef. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that may help prevent or delay coronary heart disease, block the formation of carcinogens formed in the stomach, and protect against cancer development. Vitamin E may also improve eye lens clarity and reduce or prevent the development of cataracts.

* The ratio of Omega-3 fatty acids to Omega-6 fatty acids in our diet plays a prominent role in the prevention and treatment of coronary heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, autoimmune diseases, cancer, and arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. The American Medical Association and the World Health Organization recommend a ratio of roughly 1:4 parts Omega-6 to one part Omega-3. The Omega-3 content in grass fed meat increases by 60% and produces a much more favorable Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio than grain fed beef.

* Grass fed beef is leaner and higher in protein than grain fed beef and averages 1.5 times more protein than typical USDA Choice grain fed beef.  Research indicates that eating lean beef can help lower total, LDL and VLDL cholesterol, and triglycerides while increasing beneficial HDL cholesterol. It can also help lower blood pressure, aid in weight loss, and improve insulin sensitivity and glycemic control.

 

Grain Fed Steaks

         Grain Fed Steaks

*  Grain fed beef is juicier and more tender than grass fed. Grain fed beef has a higher fat content; higher fat levels deliver more flavor. 

The fat in the grain of grain fed meat acts as a buffer in cooking which makes it more forgiving to various cooking methods. Grain fed beef can be cooked to perfection in a variety of ways.

Grain fed grades out higher in quality scoring and is desired by most American palates. Grain fed beef is coveted by restaurants offering USDA Prime and Choice beef. 

* Grain fed beef is available in All Natural programs which deliver additional quality benefits without added hormones or antibiotics.

Grain fed cattle are less costly to raise; grain fed beef prices are less than grass fed beef. Grain fed beef is also in ample supply. 

Wrap Up

Whatever your preference, there are economic, environmental, dietary and culinary benefits to both grain fed and grass fed beef.  

In my opinion, one does not eliminate the other, rather both options enhance your menus and provide numerous opportunities to delight your guests.

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

5 Ideas to Spark Fall Menus

Braised Lamb Shank

Braised Lamb Shank

Who doesn’t love Fall? The weather is still enjoyable, football is back, and the leaves will soon turn those gorgeous red, purple and orange colors – it is my favorite time of year.

The seasonal change from warm days to chilly nights also signals the introduction of fall menus for chefs and restaurateurs.

September opens the door to robust dishes and heartier meats; wild game and duck are also now in season.

Here are some inspiring ideas for  building Fall menus using a variety of meat selections and slower cooking methods:

Shanks a lot!

Shanks are terrific for braising. They are fattier with more connective tissue rich with collagen that along with the bone adds fabulous flavor when cooked. Shanks are also relatively inexpensive. Lamb, Pork, and Veal Shanks make excellent braising choices.  

Rack of Lamb

Rack of Lamb

We recommend using Domestic Colorado lamb shanks, though Australian and New Zealand lamb will work too. Compared to imported lamb, which is typically grass fed, American lamb has grain in its diet and tastes less “gamey”. Domestic lamb is larger in size and presents beautifully on the plate; many say it is the highest in quality and consistency.

For pork shanks with a little something special, try the Duroc breed hogs. This breed produces well marbled very tasty meat and competitively compares with higher priced Berkshire or Kurobuta pork.  

When it comes to Veal shanks, Domestic No. 1 Special Fed veal is our favorite. These calves are raised on a milk formula supplement. Their meat color is ivory or creamy pink, with a firm, fine, and velvety appearance superbly tender and delicious.

Other Cuts

Beef Short Ribs

Beef Short Ribs

Bone-In Beef Short Ribs can be braised whole, or portion cut in a variety of ways, from traditional 3-bone short ribs to Tomahawk Cut single or double bone-in short ribs. Boneless short ribs can also be rolled & tied before braising for a unique plate presentation.

Shoulder Cuts of all types are also perfect for braising. Lamb, Pork, and Veal shoulder cuts are typically favored for stew dishes.  

Cheek Meat has become quite popular in trendy restaurants and bistros. Beef, pork, and veal cheeks are rich with flavor and suitable for producing smaller portions. Ox Tails are also excellent for braising.

Rotisserie Raves

Rotisserie cooking allows you to cook whole pieces of meat, which can be used across multiple dishes on your menu. This maximizes your yield, saves labor and leverages your food cost.

The best candidates for rotisserie cooking are Lamb Leg, Lamb Rack, Lamb Top Round, Veal Shoulder Pork Rack and Pork Loin. Chicken, Duck, and Cornish Hens are also traditional rotisserie favorites.

Get Your Game On

Venison 8 Rib Rack

Venison 8 Rib Rack

Game meats have also risen in popularity in recent years. Known to be highly flavorful, some of these meats also have lower fat content.

Elk, Venison, Bison, Rabbit and Duck all make great game for fall menus. Elk and Venison racks lend themselves well to a variety of recipes. Bison flanks and chuck rolls are excellent for hearty pot roast. Rabbit can be stewed or braised in a number of ways, and Duck is always a traditional favorite.

Recipe Starters

To help get your creative juices flowing, check out some of these fab Fall recipes for ideas:

Savuer – 25 Recipes for Braised Meats

Recipes from Chef Hans Susser: Roast Pork Butt, Braised Veggies, Pork Jus & Applesauce  Braised Oxtail & Potato Dumplings  Braised Beef Ribs In Red Wine

Recipes from Chef Danilo Alfaro:  Veal Shank Osso Buco  Braised Lamb Shoulder  Braised Chicken Stew

Happy Fall!

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

 

 

 

Meat Picks | 8.21.13

ChefRinogettingaward

Chef Rino Baglio being inducted by Michael Escoffier

New Disciples

Chef Jeremiah Tower, “The Father of American Cuisine” and Chef Rino Baglio, the first North American WACS Master Chef & Executive Chef at Osteria Pronto, were among the honorees inducted into The Disciples of Escoffier International – USA* at a private reception in Chicago last night honoring the one year anniversary of the Escoffier Online International Culinary Academy. Special

"The Father of American Cuisine", Jeremiah Tower with John Cecala

“The Father of American Cuisine”, Jeremiah Tower with John Cecala

guest, Michel Escoffier, the great-grandson of Master Chef Auguste Escoffier, was also on hand commemorating the occasion. You can watch the red sash induction ceremony here.

*The Disciples of Escoffier Intl. maintains the culinary traditions of French Cuisine and honors the memory of Auguste Escoffier, preserving his work and promoting culinary education worldwide.

Creative Harmony

We found the recent TribChefYeo article about the transition journey of acclaimed Top Chef, Patricia Yeo, as lead creative at Big Bowl very insightful. The story provides an in depth accounting of the adjustments Yeo had to make from opening new restaurants and the day to day tasks of running them, to innovating the menus of LEYE’s largest chain.

The Chef says the transition became especially appealing when Big Bowl’s Executive Chef, Marc Bernard invited her to experiment with RusticRoadFarmcrops at the now famous Rustic Road Farm in Elburn which he started last year. Yeo, who has a doctorate in biochemistry from Princeton, shares in Bernard’s dedication to blending lifestyle with local sustainability, now lives at the farm.

Big Bowl’s President, Dan McGowan also weighs in on meshing restaurant management with creative innovation. McGowan says their job is to be just “one step ahead” of their customers, because two or three steps will lose them.

Beef People

WD_Beef_instant_win_gameYou have to love a marketing campaign called, “Beef People”, we certainly do! Last month the Winn Dixie grocery chain started an instant game/sweepstakes called just that. Shoppers who liked their Facebook page would see six cuts of beef sold at Winn-Dixie from flank to rib eye. To win, fans would have to flip and match three out of the six cuts of meat on the page’s virtual grill.

The company expanded the social media game’s accessibility, which more than 46,000 have since played, with mobile and tablet versions. Play was also extended for another month for shots to win the free steak.

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

What You Can Do When Tyson, Merck & Chipotle Talk Higher Prices

CreekstoneBeeffiletAmericans eat more beef, about 54 lbs per capita, than we eat of pork, veal and lamb combined. Three major announcements in the past week seem to portend higher beef prices down the road.

We have some suggestions for chefs and restaurateurs on how they can control their food costs and better protect their profits.

First, the Headlines…

Tyson Foods (NYSE:TSN), which provides 26% of the U.S. beef supply, notified cattle feeders that as of September 6th, the company would no longer purchase animals that had been given Zilmax (zilpaterol) a drug added to feed which accelerates weight gain by as much as 30 pounds just before slaughter. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/09/us-livestock-tyson-idUSBRE97805G20130809

Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) is considering bending its rules on serving only “naturally raised” beef amid a supply shortage of beef raised without antibiotics. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-08-14/there-arent-enough-antibiotic-free-cows-for-chipotle

Merck & Co.’s (MRK) animal health division said Friday it would temporarily suspend sales of its widely used feed additive Zilmax in the U.S. and Canada following Tyson’s announcement to no longer purchase cattle that have been given Zilmax. http://www.nasdaq.com/article/merck-suspends-sales-of-cattle-supplement-zilmax-in-us-canada-20130816-00280#ixzz2cEZqJmwO

How does this all mesh together?

There’s an interesting dichotomy between the needs to meet consumer beef demand, the growing demand for naturally raised beef, and the need for beef suppliers and retailers to make profits.      

U.S. cattle numbers have dropped to their lowest level since 1973 on the heels of a record-setting drought that decimated feed supplies and forced producers to cull animals.Beef production in the U.S. will decline 4.9 percent in 2014, retreating for a fourth consecutive year according to the USDA. Yet we are producing more edible beef today than sixty years ago in part because of the use of beta agonists like Merk’s Zilmax.That is helping to keep beef prices in check, albeit with lower quality beef because of the drug.  

Suzanne Collett, owner at Fortune Cattle Company, says, “Meat quality is important but losing 15 to 30 pounds off of a Fed Steer makes a huge impact on the supply. If this product (Zilmax) and competitor (Optaflexx), are completely taken off the market this would effectively take away about 5.7 million (and more) peoples’ ability to consume beef at 54 pounds each per year…that’s more than the entire city of Chicago’s population. If all packers follow suit…the impact is much greater. Isn’t it amazing what one product can do…diminish meat quality but feed so many people?”

All Natural beef already commands higher prices than commodity beef. Naturally raised cattle cost more to produce, and they take longer to reach the desired harvest weight. Consequently, few beef suppliers are willing (or able) to sustain on natural beef alone. Hence one of the reasons that Chipolte is  considering bending its rules on serving only “naturally raised” beef amid a supply shortage. With 900 restaurants and growing, Chipoltle’s demand for beef will continue to grow.

If all beta agonists are taken off the market, we’ll have less beef or longer time on feed to get cattle to harvest weight. Both outcomes mean higher commodity beef prices down the road if demand remains the same.

What You Can Do About It

Buedel consistently helps chefs and restaurateurs drive profits in their business with tailored fine meat programs. Here are three suggestions we have to help you preserve profits and control food costs in the face of rising prices.

Use Menu Profit Lock-Ins vs. Weekly Price Shopping Many people we talk with run their businesses by shopping for the lowest price of the week. They assemble the weekly price sheets from vendors, put them all in a spreadsheet and compare prices by item by vendor. Then they buy the lowest priced items from multiple suppliers to control their food costs. While this may ensure you get the lowest price for the week, you will still be subject to the weekly movement of commodity pricing.

Our suggestion is to lock-in menu item profits for blocks of time versus weekly price shopping. To do this, you need to determine your minimum acceptable food cost for the menu price of an item and then work with your purveyor to lock-in a price for a specified block of time. Then you can forget about the weekly price movement because you have your desired profits locked in place.

Doing this may require that you pay more than the current market price for the item at the start, but ensures you won’t pay more when prices rise above the lock. If the prices fall below your price lock point, you still make your desired menu profit. Use your purveyor’s knowledge of the market to your advantage and partner with them to develop a win/win program. 

Embrace the Power of Portion Control Last year I wrote a blog entitled, Should I cut my own steaks or buy pre-cut portion control steaks? which talked about the hidden costs many operators miss when cutting their own steaks or chops. If you’re serving steaks or chops on your menu and cutting them in your kitchen, you’re probably letting profits slip away with unaccounted for costs. 

There are many portion control, or “steak ready” cuts that eliminate the hidden costs of waste and labor. We help our customers quantify their yielded costs of finished goods, and then compare that measure to their desired target profits. Take an educated look at portion control.

Use Small Reductions in Portion Sizes When prices are on the rise a small reduction in portion size can mean large cost savings and higher profits. For example, let’s say you sell a tenderloin filet on the menu for $20.00. Just a small change from an 8 oz portion to a 7 oz portion at a cost of $10/lb increases your menu item profit by 4%! (Of course, we recommend this only when weight is not noted on the menu.) That small 1 oz portion change will be virtually undetectable in size and shape of the filet.

When all three of these suggestions are combined, you will have a strategic and powerful set of tools to put your operation in the best position against higher prices. If you’d like to hear more ideas, contact us: info@buedelfoods.com.

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

Tyson Foods Ban on Zilmax: Politicking or Animal Welfare?

zilmaxI recently wrote about the use of Beta Agonists in the nation’s cattle supply. [See Beta Agonists: The Dummying Down of Commodity Beef?] Last week Tyson Foods (NYSE:TSN), which provides 26% of the U.S. beef supply, notified cattle feeders that as of September 6th, the company would no longer purchase animals that had been given Zilmax (zilpaterol) a drug added to feed which accelerates weight gain by as much as 30 pounds just before slaughter. Recent reports of cattle being delivered for processing that couldn’t walk or move were cited as a cause for the move.

Selective Reasoning

The company that manufactures Zilmax (Merck) issued a statement saying the benefits and safety of Zilmax are well documented. “The experience reported by Tyson is not attributable to Zilmax. Indeed, Tyson itself points to the fact that there are other possible causes and that it does not know the specific cause of the issues it recently experienced.”

What’s most intriguing about this play by Tyson is they did not say they would also stop buying animals given Optaflexx, the competitive market drug to Zilmax. It kind of makes you wonder: Was this a sincere move by a mega-meat merchandiser to show they genuinely care about animal welfare, or simple politicking by Tyson to make it easier for them to export beef to countries that prefer beta agonist free beef? 

If Tyson’s rationale is indeed generated on behalf of animal welfare, why then didn’t they address the use of added growth hormones and the sub therapeutic use of antibiotics in addition to Optaflexx? All tools used to help animals gain weight faster, the company’s rationale for singling out just one drug seems suspect at the least.  

Profit vs. Welfare

My guess is this situation is more about money than animal welfare. Tyson Foods is a $3B publicly traded company responsible for generating returns for its shareholders. Exporting is a large market opportunity for companies like Tyson. This announcement was released just after their earnings report, which included statements about the opportunity to grow and provide high-quality, food-safe products with China.

China and many countries in the European Union have banned the use of these drugs in meat production. In May, Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer in the world, announced it would cut in half its purchase of animals raised with a similar drug, ractopamine.  About a week later, Smithfield announced its sale to a Chinese company.

Could it be that Tyson is also posturing benefit from the pending Asia-Pacific trade agreement being negotiated with the U.S.? The trade agreement, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), is about to start its “19th round of negotiations” later this month in Brunei.

There are over 600,000 head of cattle harvested per week in the U.S., and none of the other major beef producers such as JBS, National Beef, or Cargill have yet to follow Tyson’s move. It will be fascinating to see how this plays out over time.

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

 

 

Meat of the Future?

This week a tasting of the world’s first lab produced ground beef burger made from in vitro cattle stem cells was cooked and tasted in London. It was the culmination of a five year experiment to grow artificial beef that came at a cost of over $300,000.

AP Photo/David Parry

AP Photo/David Parry

The burger was created with a 20,000 strand count of laboratory-grown protein. Salt,     breadcrumbs and egg powder, were then mixed in with red beet juice and saffron to give it color. Visually, it looked the part; taste wise, not so much, according to first accounts.  An “absence of fat” was one of the comments made.

Working toward manna

The scientist’s aim with this research is to show the world that the meat of the future can be produced without slaughtering millions of animals in an environmentally friendly way. With continued development, the process is targeted to become economically less costly than traditional farming methods.

Recent Advances in Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research are helping medicine march towards cures for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Alzheimer’s disease, Blood disorders, Muscular Dystrophy and many more ailments. These advances in medicine can be miracles for mankind.  Such miracles are still far in the future for food – as much as 20 years down the road before these burgers begin to hit the grocery store according to a Reuter’s report.

The global appetite for meat shows anything but decline with meat production projected to rise to 376 million tons by 2030. With the increasing demand for food from humanely raised animals, without added hormones, administered antibiotics and Non- GMO feed, this meat of the future could be the next manna from heaven.   

…but would you really eat it?

Personally, food for me is a pleasure balanced with purpose.  I enjoy treating myself to delicious, juicy steaks and burgers and also try to balance that with a healthy responsible diet. It’s hard for me to imagine a world where synthetic meat would be the norm. At the same time, perhaps this is a breakthrough to help feed the world.  

Synthetic meat, lab grown in volume, has the possibility to end hunger in a remarkable way. Kind of the same way USDA approved Lean Finely Textured Beef was produced to feed millions of people. You may know of this as the “Pink Slime” ground beef wrongly sensationalized in the media.  I wonder where “Celebrity Chef” Jamie Oliver stands on this one?

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

        

Are You Buying Faux Angus Beef?

AngusThere are hundreds of branded and private label beef programs on the market claiming to be unique in some way. Of these, about 80 brands are actually “certified” by the USDA validating what they say they are. Many of these brands also claim to be some kind of “Angus” or “Black Angus” beef.

Clad with witty logos, nice packaging and a clever back story, most buyers believe they are buying Angus quality beef when it says “Angus” on the label. Yet of the 50+ “USDA Certified Angus” programs, only 35 of them actually carry the requirement for genetically confirmed Angus cattle.

How can this be?

Typecasting

In 1996, the USDA created the GLA Schedule which specifies the characteristics of cattle eligible for approved beef programs claiming Angus influence. The USDA certifies Angus programs based on either the way the animal looks or by the actual genetics of the animal. The meat business terms for these clarifications are Phenotype and Genotype.

Phenotype Angus certifications require the cattle to look like an Angus breed by being 51% or more solid black, but in reality they may not actually be Angus. The simplified analogy here is: if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it must be a duck! 

Genotype Angus certifications require the cattle actually have traceable Angus genetics. In this case: I know you’re a duck because your DNA confirms you’re a duck!

It used to be visually simple to tell one breed of cattle from another before the boom of modern crossbreeding techniques – today, not so much.

Angus 101

BrahmanNot all cattle breeds are created equal; beef quality and consistency are heavily influenced by genetics. Hereford and Angus (British Breeds) were known to be quality bred for centuries. However, many other breeds were developed for different purposes such as climate/heat tolerance, dairy and draft uses.These breeds, such as Brahman, Holstein and Limousin, perform well for their primary task but are inconsistent in their meat quality. 

Black HolsteinThere are over 80 cattle breeds used in the U.S. beef supply today. Advances in crossbreeding technology and animal husbandry, now provide black hided cattle with very little true Angus quality. This is how breeds such as the 51+ black Holstein and Simmental, can qualify as Angus under the Phenotype program.

In reality, close to 65% of the commodity cattle supply today havBlack Simmentale black hides but may not genetically be Angus.

Hankering for Angus

Why is Angus beef so desirable? Pure and simple, it is the most consistent performing beef on the market.  

Angus (and Hereford) cattle have superior genetics that produce better quality meat in terms of tenderness and fat (marbling). It stems from the way their genetics control a protein called myostatin which inhibits the growth of muscle in cattle.  Angus cattle have more myostatin, which makes their meat fattier and more marbled. The superior genetics of Angus beef tends to have more finely textured marbling, which makes it even more tender compared to other breeds.

How to Find Authentic Angus

USDA G-SchedulesStart by researching the “G-Schedule” registered with the USDA. Choose a USDA Certified branded Angus program that carries a Genotype GLA live animal requirement.

Brands such as Creekstone Farms Premium Black Angus Beef and Certified Angus Beef  have USDA verified/certified programs that ensure their Angus branded beef do, in fact, have the required Angus genetics. 

Know the Faux: Angus brands, which carry the Phenotype GLA live animal requirement, only confirms the animals have more than 50% black hides. These are exactly the type of beef programs, which could be faux Angus, when expecting the quality beef benefits of actual Angus genetics. Use this link to verify beef programs: USDA Certified Beef Programs.

Another important attribute to look for in branded Angus programs is “Maturity”.   As cattle age, their beef quality becomes less desirable.

Commodity CattleThe USDA categorizes the chronological age into Maturity Categories:A, B, C, D, E.  “A” Maturity carcasses are 9 to 30 months old, “B” Maturity are 31 to 42 months old. USDA Prime, Choice, and Select graded beef can only be A and B Maturity. Carcasses older than 42 months are considered Commercial, Cutter and Canner grades.

The better USDA Certified Beef programs use only “A” Maturity beef in their program because the younger animals have more desirable muscle quality and tenderness.

Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

Chefs and restaurateurs want to make sure their customers have a delightful eating experience every time they dine. When it comes to beef, there are many variables to keep in mind includiBeef Quality Ladderng, USDA grade, breed of animal, aging and trim specifications that are important before the meat is prepared by the Chef.    

One of the best ways to eliminate the variations in quality is to start with a  USDA Certified beef program that carries the Genotype GLA genetic Angus confirmation. Then make sure you work with a local meat purveyor who will properly age the beef for you to help ensure the most desirable and consistent taste and tenderness possible.

From the Desk of John Cecala  Twitter @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook Page

 

The Art of the Burger

EdditMerlotPeppadew_BC-1

Burger by Eddie Merlot’s

With the grilling and summer seasons now in high gear, burgers are all but a mandatory requirement for outdoor barbecuing. So what are some of the best ways to avoid patty pitfalls? Here are our top five suggestions for perfecting your next grill:

I. Begin With Raw Quality

Start out with the right type of ground beef. There are burgers made from beef trimmings and burgers made from whole muscle cuts – the significant differences being in price, taste and quality.   

Burgers Made from Trim  

Most burgers you see in supermarkets and fast food restaurant chains are made from beef trimmings ground up with added fat. These are the cheapest burgers you can buy because they’re made from by-products.

Typical examples of by-products include: Rose Meat – the muscle just under the animal’s skin that it shakes to swat away flies; Baader Material – the last traces of skeletal muscle meat and sinew that are scraped from animal bones with a Baade groundbeefafter the primal cuts have been carved off manually and Whizard Trim – extracted from the neck bones and much of the leftover trimmings and fat of a beef carcass. 

These types of burger are usually marketed with some kind of lean/fat ratio like, “75/25” or “80/20” (lots of dairy cows end up as this type of ground beef after their milking days are over).  Ground beef and burgers made from grinding beef trimmings and fat together are fine but lack the rich depth of flavor and consistency that burgers made from ground whole muscle cuts deliver.  

Burgers Made from Whole Muscle Cuts

“Premium” or “Gourmet” burgers are made from grinding whole muscle cuts. Ground chuck is one of the most popular varieties seen on the market today. Whole beef chucks are ground without adding fat or beef trimmings which produces a rich beefy tasting burger.

BuedelBSC_BURGER_FLYER_v1Whole muscle cuts take burger art to the next level in a variety of ways. For example, at Buedel Fine Meats, we produce burgers from whole muscle cuts of USDA Prime Angus beef, USDA Choice Angus beef, a blend of both Prime and Choice Angus beef, and blends of whole muscle Brisket/Short Rib/Chuck. This unique combination brings together the buttery flavor of the brisket with the richness of the short rib and the traditional beefy flavor of the chuck producing a juicy burger that bursts with layers of decadent flavor.

II. Find Your Grind: Fine, Medium or Coarse

The “bite” of the burger or “mouth feel” are terms that professional chefs and restaurateurs use when taste testing burgers. In addition to the type of meat used, the texture of the grind is extremely important. You can choose between fine, medium and coarse ground beef for adjusting the bite of the burger.

Fine grinds give a smoother mouth feel and bite because the beef grind is smaller and most of the natural sinew or gristle is undetectable. Coarse grinds have a rougher chunkier type of bite and mouth feel because the beef grind is larger and has more natural sinew. Medium grinds, as you would expect, are right in the middle having a rougher type of bite with less of the chunkiness you get with coarse grinds.

Buedel recommends fine grinds, which are used by most of the hottest burger places; fine grinds provide a great eating experience for customers. Finer grinds are the best choice for backyard barbecuing because they tend to cook more evenly; they are also the best choice for homemade meatballs and meatloaf. Fine grinds are the most popular and versatile grind.

III. Choose Between Hand Made and Formed Patties

Portion PattyBurgers can be formed by hand or by a patty machine. There are benefits to both methods.Burgers formed by hand from bulk ground beef can easily be formed to any desired size. They can be loose packed or tightly packed depending upon your tastes. Hand formed burgers are great for back yard grilling because they’re easy to make and guests can pick the size they like. 

Large volume burger operators, such as restaurants and caterers, use formed patties to provide uniform portions, ensure maximum cost control and save the labor of hand prepared patties. Formed patties also come in numerous sizes, shapes and thicknesses. Buedel offers Burger Balls, which are portion controlled ground beef balls that can be hand smashed to give the appearance of a hand formed burger with all the benefits of portion control.

IV. Cook to Perfection

Cooking is by far the most important part of burger art. Burgers can be baked, fried, grilled or broiled. We polled the Buedel staff for some of their tried and true burger tips and suggestions:

ScottyBrewhouseshewmanspecial

Scotty’s “Shewman” Special

When grilling burgers, I make an indentation in the middle of the burger before grilling to stop the burger from puffing up, so they grill more evenly. For toppings, I like to borrow from the best seller at Scotty’s Brewhouse, bacon, peanut butter, jalapeño and cheddar burger. Sounds strange, but it is amazingly delicious!          Scott Dowden  (20 year meat professional)

I have found when grilling beef, (especially burgers), turning the meat only once is the most important tip. I stay away from pepper as a seasoning because pepper tends to leave a “burnt” like finish and texture to the meat. I only use kosher salt on the beef after I turn it, lightly sprinkling the salt on top of the cooked side. Peter Heflin (aka “Pete the Butcher”)

6-8 ounce whole muscle chuck makes the perfect hearty backyard burger. Season with salt, pepper and a hint of granulated garlic, or use a dry rub for a spicier flavor. Always keep burgers refrigerated until ready to grill and always cook them on high heat. Never EVER “squeeze” them down when cooking or you will lose the precious juices – that’s where much of the flavor hides!  Russ Kramer  (Buedel Corporate Chef)

Don’t over handle the meat. Season well, but refrain from adding onions, mushrooms or breadcrumbs into the mixture (because that makes it more like meat loaf). Make the patties uniform in size and weight and don’t salt the meat until they are on the grill.  James Melnychuk  (Chef Sales Rep)

For maximum food safety, the USDA recommends cooking to 160 degrees for all ground meat.  Use a meat thermometer and probe the center of the burger for a temperature reading. If you are making cheeseburgers, put the cheese on at the very end of cooking and close the lid just long enough to melt the cheese. Remove the burgers from the grill and let them stand 3-5 minutes before serving – use that time to toast your hamburger buns on the grill. Tim Vlcek (Principal & Executive V.P. of Production & Food Safety)

V. Explore Creative Toppings

According to Burger Trends, consumers still favorite traditional burger toppers such as, tomato, onions, lettuce and pickles, but “interest in non-traditional flavors are growing”.

This year, crunchy, smoky and spicy are big in/on burgers – that and even fried eggs. Unique flavor combinations and cuisines such as, Greek infused burgers with cucumber sauce, goat cheese and spinach, example current flavor trends. There is no limit to the varieties of seasonings and toppings being used today.

Develop the art of your burger with quality raw meats, best grinds and forms. Cook with care and serve with your own twist on unique and traditional spices, condiments and toppings. Visit our gourmet burger page for more information. Enjoy!

__________________________________________________________________________

From the desk of John Cecala Twitter @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook BuedelFanPage 

 

Chef Rick Gresh Wears Busy Well

DSC_2070Chef, author, video host, charitable philanthropist, local and organic advocate, Rick Gresh, wears busy well. In addition to his position as Executive Chef at David Burke’s Primehouse in the James Hotel, he is working on several new venues there and gearing up for the “second annual” CigarBQue, a charity event he started last year. Gresh sat down with Buedel’s Corporate Chef, Russ Kramer, to talk about that, the restaurant biz and more.

Working Prime

Chef Gresh works in a dual capacity, with renowned Chef David Burke and for the James Hotel where Burke’s restaurant(s) operate. The door to his kitchen office is covered with a blackboard panel prominently chalked up from top to bottom with replacement prices for restaurant settings and supplies. Gresh is fiscally and creatively ingratiated at all times.

steakshotNow in its seventh year of operation, Primehouse is a poster child for the new American steakhouse. Chef Gresh attributes this to numerous factors. “Both David and I have fine dining backgrounds, when you apply that kind of background to a steakhouse, you have a chef driven operation. We pay homage to the past, look for new renditions of the traditional and also try to be whimsical.”

Gresh says replacing tired items like simple creamed spinach with alternatives such as spinach gnocchi made with 100% cream sauce, is the type of ‘new rendition’ their patrons find highly appealing. “We’ve never had a plain baked potato on the menu.”

One of his most ‘whimsical’ efforts was the “Junkie Potato” – a bacon wrapped baked potato served with syringes of toppings patrons could shoot into the spud at will. Though well received, the sidecar was eventually pulled from the menu when a patron took [extreme personal] issue with the use of syringes. “We probably shouldn’t have called it, ‘the junkie’.”

DSC_2039EThe cornerstone of notoriety for Primehouse is heavily attributable to their innovative and dedicated use of USDA Prime Grade, Hand-selected beef. Dishes such as their award-winning 55-Day Aged Rib Eye consistently draw acclaim to culinary artistry and consistency – two qualities synonymous to the Primehouse name. Gresh attributes their ability to produce superior marbleized beef to the dry-aging of high quality cuts from producers such as, Creekstone Farms, in their own Himalayan salt-tiled aging room.

“Our ‘salt cave’ hinders bacteria andDSC_2033 helps seasoning – David actually has a [U.S.] patent on the process. When we first started using salt blocks, we wanted to help customers make the connection to the process. We originally brought patrons down [to the basement level] to see the aging room. Ultimately, the stairs, small quarters and a slippery floor proved potentially disastrous to dress clothes, and high heels, so we had to come up with an alternate approach – that’s when we started playing around with the possibility of cooking with the salt blocks – this is how we came about using them for [hot and cold] tableside service.”

Prime Expansion

Construction is trending a935618_459642987460835_1136205992_nt Primehouse. Having just enlarged the front of the house bar from 9 seats to 27, (with small bite menu in tow), two other venues are currently being added under the same roof this summer.

The David Burke Bacon Bar is a “counter feel” casual restaurant where Gresh promises a variety of unique and creative fare from “Chilly Willy” (their version of a lobster roll) to “Handwiches” – not the size of a regular burger but bigger than a Slider. They’ll even offer a Spam sandwich, called the “Big Kahuna”, which Gresh likens to bacon because, “All Spam is, is really bacon.”

An intimate and ultra exclusive high end cocktail bar called, Jimmy, is also scheduled to open later this summer. Inspired by a NY establishment, only those “in the know” will be able to find Jimmy because its entrance doors will be unmarked. (Hint: Look for an unexplainable door inside the Bacon Bar.)

CigarBQue

cigarbquegrill.jpg3 Chefs, 1 Charity and a lot of fun could be the tagline for the barbeque brainchild of Gresh and chef pals, Giuseppe Tentori, (Boca) and Cleetus Friedman, (Fountainhead). Gresh says the idea was born from the desire of just a “group of chefs who wanted to get together to eat, drink and have cigars”. Citing “BYOB just isn’t the same”, he says they decided to create an event.

The trio literally picked their charity by “Googling ‘cigar charities’”, and found the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation dedicated to making positive change in the impoverished communities of the Dominican Republic where some of the world’s best cigars are made.

cigarbquechefs“The event took a long time to get off the ground,” the Chef explains because, “permits are always a hassle, even to smoke outside. We wanted to find a nice venue where we could hold an intimate party – we didn’t want it to be a ‘smoke-out’ either – there’s a big difference between prepping for 200 and 700.”

Looking toward the future, Gresh says, “We all travel a lot and meet so many chefs, we’d like to get CigarBQues going in other cities across the country – but that will take a lot more time – it’s just the 3 of us right now planning 100% of the event.”

Other Irons in the Fire

therisegreshAccustomed to doing guest cooking segments on TV, Chef Gresh has also played the role of interview host for Chef City, an online video venue where he covered restaurants and food events. He is also one of the co-authors of The Rise, by bestselling motivational author, Greg Reid. Gresh says he’s definitely “not a self-help guy” but had reached out to the author after reading his 3 Feet from Gold book. Months later, Reid approached Gresh to participate in his collaborative book project.

“It’s always interesting to see how people look at life. In the restaurant business, it’s really easy to be negative – you can always do better, etc. Greg’s a very positive guy and I started randomly sharing quotes of his with my staff; everyone truly appreciated it.”

Billed as a compilation of, “simple re-discovery and finding answers to the hard questions sitting in the back of our minds”, Gresh’s chapter in the book is called, Play Up the Limitations. “I wanted to talk about what happens when we miss getting there [reaching a goal] because we’re stuck – it’s so important to be able to take those challenges and work with them.”

Gresh plans on owning his own restaurant at some point and says if he wasn’t a chef he’d be restoring old cars and motorcycles or woodworking because he loves working with his hands – but doubts that would ever happen. “This is the greatest business in the world. I get to wake up and think about food every day…live through my palette…and I get to wear flip flops and PJs to work!”

Interview photos by Jorge Took Your Picture.com

__________________________________________________________________________

From the desk of John Cecala Twitter @BuedelFineMeats Facebook BuedelFanPage

Hashtag NRA Show

There’s something special about the #NRAShow [National Restaurant Association Show]. Billed as an “international foodservice marketplace”, the NRA Show is big news to a lot of people, perhaps because nearly one in 10 American workers are employed in the restaurant industry – ‘big’, to say the least. More than 60,000 buyers and suppliers are expected to attend the four day event at McCormick Plachydroponic_image_250pxe beginning this Saturday, May 18th.

There will be loads of educational sessions, guest speakers, (Starbuck’s CEO, Howard Schultz, will be doing the keynote), celebrity chefs, and numerous special exhibits such as a “fully functioning hydroponic garden that will grow local, all-natural, pesticide-free produce – on the show floor”. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants in a water and mineral nutrient solution without soil.

Show Local Supportshowbooth - small

We are equally excited to be an exhibitor at the show again this year. In the meat industry this year’s hottest trends are: gourmet burgers, grass fed beef and local.

The definitions of “local” and “sustainable” are changing rapidly and expanding beyond environmental concerns as the marketplace responds to consumer interest for healthier eating, humane animal treatment and better food quality. ‘Local’ points to these issues and more – food safety, family farmers and sustainable agriculture – to name a few.

BuedelLocalLogoTMOur company is a family owned business and in honor of all local and family owned businesses we are launching a new program in show of support at the NRA Show. (Please feel free to use our local logo to share in the cause!) We’ve also put together a great little cheat sheet on How to Buy Local explaining the basics of what to look for when buying local and sustainable foods. Stop by the Buedel booth at the show for more information, #7864!

Fun Foods

Part of the fun at the NRA Show is of course, the food. The exhibit halls are filled with new products to sample. Here are some of the new items we’ve put on our must see list:

Ditka Hot Beef Polish Sausage – an eight inch long, 1/3 lb. spicy sausage from Vienna Beef tditkasausagehat’s geared to be a “Grabowski” classic.

Upland Cress – just one of several specialty greens from family farmed and  sustainable, Living Water Farms in Strawn, Illinois.

tspwillieTeaspoon Willies Everything Sauce – a gourmet, all natural, organic tomato based sauce to be used as a staple condiment at every meal. (We have to try it, just because of the name!)

Grandpa G’s Jalapeno Butter Mustard – noted as a “relish”, Grandpa G’s has  ProductLarge4981.jpgfresh grated jalapenos mixed in with sugar tangy mustard. 

All Butter Croissant Roll Round – round shaped croissants for sandwiches; great idea!

__________________________________________________________________________

From the desk of John Cecala Twitter @ Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page