Meat Picks │ 2.11.14

Bac-N-Rama

BaconFestTickets for Baconfest Chicago go on sale next week for the now iconic annual event scheduled for Friday, April 17th & Saturday, the 18th! There will be over 160 chefs and restaurants on hand this year which benefits the Chicago Food Depository.

Buy general admission tickets beginning next Monday, including those for special lunch and dinner events here.

The 20 Second Sell

BuyNowA recent Nielsen post, urges marketers to accept the fact that brand engagement weighs in little (if, at all) with consumers in the big picture of things when it comes to buying.

According to the article, the average online consumer took just 19 seconds to make their purchase, and the majority spent less than 10 seconds. Studies now suggest that buying decisions are made with and without brand names in mind –basically coming down to a proverbial crap shoot at the time of purchase.

For restaurants and like others, the best rule of thumb is to be fresh and consistent with advertising and original content both online and off. Stay visible and don’t expect a coffee klatch over anything you do.

Eataly Kudos

EatalyKudos to Eataly for being named to Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies 2015. Ranked in the 23rd slot of the top 50, Eataly is the highest ranked food company on the list – no easy task when you’re being called out with the likes of Google, HBO and Tesla!

The Facts of Love Valentine'sDay

Americans will buy over 58 million pounds of chocolate and 150 million dollars’ worth of cards and gifts in the name of Valentine’s Day according to the History Channel. For an unromantic (Scrooge-like) look at what does and doesn’t motivate our Valentine rituals, check out Time’s recent post on the matter. Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

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

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Meat Picks | 1.13.15

Global Trade

Trib interviews BuedelOn the heels of receiving the Governor’s Award for Export last fall, Tribune Reporter, Kathy Bergen came to Buedel to talk about global trade, dry aged beef and the process of international export for the business section cover story: Cool Climate for Overseas Growth.

View the video version here: http://tinyurl.com/buedel-trib-interview-on-trade

Jean Banchet Awards

1-11 embaya event2.jpgLast Sunday, industry voting for the 2015 Jean Banchet Awards took place at Embeya – aka one of Chicago’s “Sexiest Restaurants” according to Zagat – at the Chef’s Social reception.

The actual awards for culinary excellence will be presented at the annual Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Grand Chef’s Gala January 30th.

Good luck to all of this year’s nominees:

Chef of the Year Abraham Conlon (Fat Rice), Thomas Lents (Sixteen at Trump), Chris Pandel (The Bristol/Balena), Lee Wolen (Boka)

Pastry Chef of the Year Dana Cree (Blackbird), Claire Crenshaw (moto), Meg Galus (NoMI), Greg Mosko (North Pond)

Best Chef-de-Cuisine Chris Marchino (Spiaggia), Ali Ratcliffe-Bauer (Brindille), John Vermiglio (A10),  Erling Wu-Bower (Nico Osteria),

Rising Chef of the Year Ashlee Aubin (Salero), Jake Bickelhaupt (42 Grams), Noah Sandoval (Senza), Nathan Sears (The Radler)

Rising Pastry Chef of the Year Sarah Koechling (The Bristol/Balena), Genie Kwon (Boka/GT Fish and Oyster), Megan Miller (Baker Miller Bakery & Millhouse), Jonathan Ory (Bad Wolf Coffee)

Best Sommelier Charles Ford (The Bristol), Arthur Hon (Sepia), Elizabeth Mendez (Vera), Dan Pilkey (Sixteen at Trump)

Best Mixologist Alex Bachman (Billy Sunday), Bradley Bolt (Bar Deville), Mike Ryan (Sable Kitchen & Bar), Krissy Schutte (CH Distillery)

Best Restaurant Design Boka, Celeste, Momotaro, The Radler

Best Restaurant Service Boka, Embeya, Senza, Sixteen at Trump

Best New Restaurant 42 Grams, Parachute, TÊTE Charcuterie, Salero

Best Neighborhood Restaurant A10, Dusek’s, Owen and Engine, La Sirena Clandestina

Restaurant of the Year L20, Boka, El Ideas, moto

Meat PressedFree Report Cover small

When prices rise, what do most people do? They go on the offense and figure out how to stretch their hard earned dollars in a challenging economy.

The same holds true for restaurants and hospitality.

How can you manage rising meat costs? Find better ways to buy! Check out our free report on How To Buy Beef Better in 2015 for market outlook, tips and ideas.

1.8JanIMCoverQuote-a-licious

As Julia Child once said, “The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” In the dead of winter here, when a sizzling, juicy bone-in ribeye warms you up in a way kale or beets never could, I totally agree. –Amanda Heckert, Editor-in-Chief Indianapolis Monthly.

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

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Meat Picks | 11.6.14

Millenial Mayhem

Last week the NPD Group, a leading industry market research firm, released a study on the latest spend trend findings related to Millennial influence.

Coveted as the sweet spot market niche for everything from tech to tacos, restaurant owners may be surprised to learn where the 18 to 34 year old age group spent most of their $95 billion food bucks for fiscal year ending June 2014.11.6 NPD Chart

Marketers would like to think 25-34-year-old Millennials, settled into careers, buying homes and having children, are devoted to the fast casual category. But according to NPD’s findings, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Of the 14 billion restaurant visits made by Millenials in this fiscal time frame, the destination majority weighed in at QSR s (quick service restaurants) across its 18-34-year-old population. While trends do provide an increase in fast casual spending, the number is extremely small when compared to the big picture spend.

Other notes made by the study pointed to voice and expectations. What this 74 million + population says on social media about where they go, and what they found there, remains one of the biggest cursory markers for the industry. Foodservice providers acknowledge brand injury through technology and the power of influence at hand.

Price promos, coupons and loyalty programs are also uber-essential to Millennials because they “expect to be rewarded for their loyalty”, reports NPD. What sets this group above others may be the fact that when their “dining expectations” aren’t met they are, “quick to spread the word.”

Down the road, NPD says growth in this spending segment, “the largest of the six key US generational groups”, will be further spurred by Hispanic influence.

New Fest in Town

11.6 RamenOrganizing Chefs, Bill Kim of bellyQ, Tai Dang of Embeya and Gene Kato of Sumi Rolata Bar appeared on Lunchbreak earlier this week in honor of Ramenfest.

The inaugural event, which debuts this Saturday, will challenge a line-up of 20 local chefs to interpret their take on the classic dish – a polar opposite to the pennywise micro-cook student favorite.

A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales and a planned silent auction will also benefit Common Threads, dedicated to educating children about different cultures through food and art.

The event sold out immediately online, and the Chefs are already hoping to make it bigger and better next year by adding a culinary contest to the mix.

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

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One on One with Gibsons Top Chef, Randy Waidner

2014 marked the 25th Anniversary of Gibsons first restaurant –Gibsons Steakhouse on Rush. Since then the Gibsons Restaurant Group (GRG) has grown to a family of six, with additional expansion plans in the works.

We sat down with GRG’s Top Chef, Randy Waidner, to talk about meeting the challenges and expectations of running and maintaining a successful restaurant operation today.

gibsons headerYou’ve been an Executive Chef for over 20 years and GRG’s Corporate Chef for the last 8, what do you see as the biggest differences between these positions?

The corporate structure definitely has more to do with admin, managing the exec chefs, labor, cost of goods, menu development, global expansions, etc. Sometimes I miss the cooking every day, but this is an exciting part of the business. It’s very rewarding driving sales, controlling costs and so forth.

What’s your favorite part of your job right now?

Expanding the restaurant and providing opportunities for people. Cooking is my passion, and there’s still so much to it.

What have you found to be your biggest challenges in recent years?

That could be several different things depending on what aspect of the business you’re talking about. But, staffing, finding quality staff that are able to be trained, then cost of product and consistent supply of good product.

It’s tough to find really good quality people. Our business is very demanding, and it takes a special person who can adapt to our environment –it’s not hour by hour, it’s minute by minute here. You also absolutely need to have a culinary background to be in the kitchen.

Have you noticed any shifts in consumer behavior in recent years?

They are more educated and want to know the chefs. They’re into where the product is sourced ‘…is it from a farm?’ Just to say something is “organic” doesn’t mean as much anymore –is it sustainable? Our customers know where we get our produce from, and they like to frequent those places.

How do you get those messages across?

We train our staff to tell them, sometimes we put it in on the menu, but it requires a lot of staff education.

What type of marketing works best for you these days?

Now, social media has helped a lot. I truly believe an educated staff, both front and back, goes a long way – that’s more measurable than any ad anywhere. It’s hard to measure ads. Once customers are in the building, you take care of them – that’s what you do – that’s an immediate measure.

What is the key to a great steak?

It’s sourcing, not just “USDA Prime”. For us, it’s all about the source. We try to source the breed, the farm, the packers, etc. all along the chain. We actually go and see how the animals are being born, treated, fed, harvested… Then when we take delivery, we just add our seasoning salt and extremely hot heat to get a nice char. It takes anywhere from 14 to 20 months and sometimes longer before our cattle are ready –when the farmers say the animals are ready. SteakWhat’s your favorite cut?

W.R.’s Chicago Cut [a 22 oz. bone-in rib eye], but it’s really tough to pick just one.

What first attracted you to culinary?

Apparently, when I was 3, I told my mom and aunt that I wanted to be a chef. I don’t know where that came from, but my first job was as a busboy at a country club. I was mesmerized at the orchestration going on in the kitchen. I’d watch them [the kitchen staff] sautéing, chopping, moving about without looking – they just knew when someone was behind them.

Where did you grow up?

In Northbrook [Illinois]. I took some cooking classes in high school; it was called “Home Economics” then, but I still took them. Then I went to J&W in Rhode Island and spent five years out there.

What advice would you offer to young chefs?

You want to say, ‘Are you crazy!?’, but TV has done an incredible amount for our industry. It’s gone from blue collar to white collar –taken us from the dungeon of the kitchen to the limelight. BUT, there’s only one Bobby Flay, just like there’s only one Tiger Woods.

I think culinary schools should also consider offering equipment care. Everyone looks to the Chef to get these things done. If you’re the Chef, you’re the general, when something goes wrong you need to know how to figure it out.

It’s a lot of hard work, dedication, time… you give up things. I know lots of people who are great chefs, but just don’t know how to make money, you have to have a balance of both.

Gibsons has expanded steadily; what new properties are on the horizon?

We’ve got a project in Manhattan, Orlando, and Philly; we’ll have some more in Chicago too, it’s exciting! Since I’ve been here, we’ve done four, and now we’re adding three more.

Let’s talk a moment about the current properties in the Group. How is the Montgomery Club doing?

We’ve had it about a year; we started with a soft open. We can do 2-300 plated, and we’ve done 1,000 for cocktails and hors d’ oeuvres. We’ve done Charles Tillman’s [Chicago Bear] charity event twice.

What made you open an event only venue?

We did it because there were times when we were limited to parties of 180 at our restaurants, and people started asking us about doing more.

How is Quartino Ristorante doing?

Quartino is doing great. Chef Colletta, the managing partner is wonderful. Everything is from scratch; it’s a fun place to go to and a fun place to eat. It is really casual, but the level of the food is very high. To keep increasing sales over the last 9-10 year time period, is amazing.

Then there’s ChiSox Bar & Grill

ChiSox

We’ve had it four years now; it is right outside of Parking Lot B …and tied to how well the Sox are doing. It’s a great sports bar; there are 75 screens. We have a giant smoker in the back, and everything’s done fresh.

Will you do more sports venues?

I’d like to…

What was it like putting a restaurant inside a casino?

Yes, Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House in the Rivers Casino. They wanted a steakhouse, but we made it a chophouse with a blended menu – Gibsons [Rosemont] is so close to it. They sell a lot of fish too. We’ve heard a lot of people go to the casino for Hugo’s food without ever gambling!

The new Florida venue will be more like a Hugo’s; the NY location will be an American high end, and Philly will be a Hugo’s chophouse kind of a thing. HugosHow hard is it to keep the operational side up to speed with the growth?

That goes to the people. We really hold our employees in very high regard, without them we don’t have anything. We are always looking for great people; we are always training.

One thing that sets us apart is we don’t upsell. You don’t have to go through another series of questions before the order is finally taken. Unless you order Bombay, we’ll give you a gin and tonic. We want to make people feel they’re being taken care of versus being sold more.

It’s unusual to have a server talk you out of something too, but we want to make sure to let them know when they’re ordering too much food with portion sizes, etc.

What do you think is the #1 standout about GRG?

Whatever venue we’re talking about, it’s always about the quality of the product, service and the extreme value of what you get. These are the three things that stand out. Nobody beats us on product; nobody beats us on service; nobody beats us on value.

How did you feel about winning Eater Chicago’s Best Steakhouse contest this year?

That’s HUGE because that’s our customers saying so! (Who knows how all those “best steakhouse in the country” ads ever get into the magazines you see on airplanes.) Chicago is a force to be reckoned with! Over the last 24 years, there are always one to two Chicago chefs being recognized by James Beard…

Are you excited about the JB Awards coming to Chicago?

It’s SO huge the awards are coming here next year. It’s not about beating out New York; it’s about having a global view. We are coming together as a culinary nation.

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

 

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Meat Picks | 10.10.14

Chef’s Hall of Fame

The next inductions to the Chef’s Hall of Fame will take place at Castle Nightclub on Thursday, October 16th at the annual fund raising benefit for the Chicago Culinary Museum.2014CulinaryHallofFame

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year’s honorees are:

Chef of the Year, Chef Stephanie Izard –Chef/Partner Girl & the Goat, The Goat, James Beard award winner, Top Chef Season 4 winner and cookbook author.

Pastry Chef of the Year, Chef Gale Gand –Former Food Network Sweet Dreams host, cookbook author, James Beard award winner, co-owner of TRU and the newly opened Spritz Burger.

Industry Leader, Phil Stefani –Restaurateur of more than 15 restaurants and private event venues including: Tuscany, Riva, Crystal Gardens, Chango Loco, Navy Pier Beer Garden, Castaways, The Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier, Phil Stefani’s 437 Rush, Phil Stefani Signature Events and Tavern on Rush.

Legendary Chef, Chef Michael Kornick –Chef/Partner DMK Restaurants: DMK Burger Bars, Fish Bar, Ada Street, County Barbecue, DMK Burger & Fish and Henry’s Swing Club.

Industry Legend, Larry Levy –Founder of Levy Restaurants, an internationally recognized specialized food service organization with market leading share of high-end sports and entertainment facilities throughout North America and Europe and network of restaurants.

25 local restaurants will be serving at the event, which also includes an open bar, DJ and silent auction. (Buedel Fine Meats is proudly donating a shopping spree to our online store for the auction.) There’s still time to buy tickets here.

Book Virgin

VH ChicagoIt is official, Virgin Hotels Chicago is now taking reservations for 2015. From the iconic messaging, “calling them rooms is like calling the Space Shuttle an airplane” (they call them chambers), to the dedicated Step Outside pages on their website filled with food, attractions and stores to see outside of the hotel, VH Chicago is in full marketing mode.

Located in the heart of the Chicago Loop, the hotel took over the 27 story Dearborn Bank Building on the corner of Wabash & Lake –Virgin also restored and recreated the architectural features of the historic 1928 Art Deco landmark.

VH Chicago2The impending roster of food and spirits is equally inviting: Miss Ricky’s (American diner), Two Zero Three (coffee and wine bar), Common’s Club (a breakfast, lunch and dinner social club where “everyone’s a member”) and The Rooftop Bar.

We wish all the best to Virgin Hotels Chicago and Executive Chef Rick Gresh.

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

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Meat Picks | 9.12.14

Hoftoberfest2014oktoberfest-v31

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

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

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

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

Foot Long Reaches New Lengths

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

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

Craft for Conservancy

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

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

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

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Quality Doesn’t Cost, It Pays

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

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

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

Quality Costs Customers

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

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

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

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

How Quality Pays

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

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

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

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

Quality is Relative to Consistency

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

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

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

Increase Quality & Consistency

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

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

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

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

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SOHO Chicago

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

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

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

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

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

Pictured left: Fresh lunch counter

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

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

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

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

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

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

More history here.

RAVE REVIEW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Meat Picks | 7.9.14

New Food Show

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

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

Tenderloin in Taiwan

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

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

Shmooze Date

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

Magic KISS

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

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

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

Deal of the Day

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

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

 

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Doing Business with Avendra

What comes to mind when you think about hotels and restaurants? Atmosphere? Menu? Price? Activities? Certainly the last thing is Supply Chain Management (SCM).

SCM may not be sexy, but it is a critical component to the hospitality industry. Avendra provides the SCM oil that helps many restaurants and hospitality providers run at optimum performance levels – and they’ve made it an art form. Their business reach includes procurement services, labor and cost management, strategic solutions and quality assurance – that’s where we come in to this story.

Absolute Assurance

Buedel is the Midwest meat purveyor for Avendra’s hotel, food service and restaurant clients. We were just awarded their Certificate of Delivery Excellence as a result of their Meet the Truck audit program.

AwardMeet the Truck audits occur throughout the year at hundreds of customer locations across the country – on a surprise basis. The Avendra audit team meets vendor delivery trucks unannounced to analyze safety protocols, equipment condition, product integrity, punctuality and overall performance. The criteria are complied, submitted for review and vendors receive a copy of the audit report with recommendations for improvement where/when warranted.

Avendra’s quality assurance programs are rigorous to say, the least. In 2013, there were 1,169 Meet the Truck audits performed at more than 369 customer delivery points. The company also performs price audits and hundreds of ongoing audits at manufacturing plants and distribution centers to maintain superior quality levels for their customers. Over the course of a year, Buedel was surprise audited three times, and I am proud to say we scored 100% each time.

Comprehensive Coverage

In addition to quality assurance, procurement, et al, Avendra also helps their customers with a variety of menu management servic10155664_615822491842883_7245649089152275166_nes and solutions. Such was the case recently, when they hosted a Natural & Sustainable Food Show for their client companies.

Avendra vendors who service this market category, such as Buedel, were invited to exhibit at the show. Culinary teams composed of Food & Beverage Directors, Executive Chefs, Hospitality Managers and others in kind, with interest in adding natural and sustainable food choices to their menus, attended the show.

It is these types of extra service efforts that keeps business competitively strong and provide the opportunity to stand out among the crowd. Avendra examples the type of companies we want to do business with, and we’re truly glad they want to do business with us.

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

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Buedel Goes Global

The FHA 2014 (Food & Hotethumb_showfloor02l Asia) expo was just held in Singapore. Promoted as Asia’s largest and most comprehensive international food and hospitality trade show, there were close to 65,000 attendees from well over 100 countries and regions over the four day event.

Industry buyerFHA2014_LOGO1s perused an extensive range of products and services put up by over 3,200 exhibitors inside 63 international group pavilions. Buedel Fine Meats was on hand exhibiting with our export distributor featuring USDA Prime Dry Aged Angus Beef.

Global Tastesthumb_showfloor07

One may think in Asia, where Wagyu beef and authentic Japanese Kobe beef are prevalent that Angus beef from the United States would be passe, but just the opposite is true. Highly coveted, Dry Aged USDA Prime Angus Beef is considered a luxury by the elite.

Ironically, dry aging is the way all beef used to be aged until the 1970’s, when vacuum packaging was brought to the meat industry. Today, USDA Dry Aged Prime, is highly valued because we, in the U.S., have mastered the sophisticated process of dry aging beef.

There were many exhibitors of Chphoto 3illed Beef at the show, including Wagyu from Japan, USA and Australia, but few with Dry Aged beef. Buedel exhibited a variety of USDA Prime Angus Dry Aged cuts. The excitement over our dry aged beef in Singapore was incredible, with the most favored Dry Aged cuts being:

  • Bone-In Strip Steaks
  • Boneless Strip Steaks
  • Bone-In Rib Eye Steaks
  • Bone-In Rib Eye Roast

Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan are all seeing an uptick in the number of steakhouses offering dry aged beef.

The Process

Dry Aging is a time honored, old world tradition where primal beef cuts are aged for 28-50+ days in a controlled open air environment.

During this process, the external service of the meat becomes hard and envelops the meat with a crust. The beef inside the crust develops a fine rich concentrated flavor and photo 2tender texture as the natural moisture in the muscle is evaporated. When the beef has reached the desired age, the inedible outer crust is carefully removed and the meat can be cut into steaks that deliver an incredible flavor.

To properly dry age beef you must have separated refrigerated space with precise temperature, relative humidity and air circulation controls, along with specific UV lighting to control bacteria growth to create the perfect environment.

Dry aged beef is more expensive than wet aged beef because there is typical loss of about 20% of the meat during the dry aging process. Dry aging is best for cuts of beef that have higher marbling such as Prime and Upper Choice grades. The most typical dry aged cuts are from the short loin (Porterhouses, T-Bones, Bone-In Strips) and the ribs (Bone-In Rib Eye Steaks).

Overseas Logistics

Exporting to Asia is quite comphoto 4plex and requires a myriad of paperwork and certifications. Every country has their own set of specific requirements. Once the initial requirements are met, consistent evaluations must be made for any changes. Japan, for example, is now holding vendors accountable for certain anti-microbial compounds. This list is ever evolving, and it’s up to every business to stay on top of these requirements, and bear any on-site audits conducted by the USDA.

Buedel is currently exporting to Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. For this type of beef export, you must write a dedicated exporting program that includes source verification and tracing raw materials. (Read more about food safety guidelines and protocols here.) Collaborative efforts by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) have helped pave the way for achieving global standardization.

We are proud to be able to serve these growing markets and help build global appreciation for U.S. beef producers.

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

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Meat Picks | 4.18.14

Gibsons Special

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

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

Porkalicious Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

Data Minding

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

Have a wonderful Easter everyone!

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

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On the Cutting Edge of Culinary Ed with EHS

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

What is Pro Start?

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

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

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

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

The Proof is in the Pudding

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning from Those that Do

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Community Outreach

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

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

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

Good luck EHS!

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

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On the Road in NOLA with Steve Dolinsky

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

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

NOLA CureDay 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOLA Commander's PalaceDay 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 3 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Escoffier Experience

By Russ Kramer, Corporate Chef at Buedel

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

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

A Little History

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

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

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

The Setting

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

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

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

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

The Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Final Course

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

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

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

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Meat Picks | 3.6.14

Where They Are Now

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

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

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

Don’t Miss the IHHS

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

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

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

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

Bearded Update

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

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

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For the Love of Chocolate

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

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

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

Foundation Scholarships

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

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

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

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

Ultimate Cake Walk

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

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

Paying it Forward

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

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

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

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

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

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Puerto Rican Palate: Culture & Cuisine

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

Photo Feb 07, 11 10 31 AMCulinary Cultures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two Chefs & Their Cuisines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last Stop

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

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

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Meat Picks | 2.14.14

Upward Trends

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

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

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

Culinary Controversy

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

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

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

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

Upsell Rough Times

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

ihopInspiring Reads:

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

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

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

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For the Love of Grace

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

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

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

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

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

Menu1

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

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

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

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