Why is it so hard to cut a thick steak these days?

With the bumper corn crop this year and record high cattle prices, feedlot operators are bulking up cattle to make more money. Great for them – not so much for restaurants.

buedel website steakWhile menu trends have “beefed up” in recent years, ‘bulking up’ makes it tough for restaurants that want nice thick steaks on plates while adhering to portion control sizes.

It’s important to know that restaurants don’t always have unilateral control over how thick steaks can be when cutting to a specific portion weight. This leaves many chefs wondering, Why can’t I get thicker cuts of my favorite rib eyes or strips in the portion sizes I want?

The Dilemma

Heavier cattle, also means larger muscles. Rib Eyes, for example, are commonly running over 16 pounds in size when in years past the average was 12 to 13 pounds. At the same time restaurants like to plate nice thick steaks, usually 1.5″ or thicker while keeping to the portion control weight that best controls their food costs.

The increased average size of cattle makes it harder and harder for restaurants to get the portion size they want in conjunction with the thickness they want. The dilemma leaves many to choose between serving thicker steaks that are higher in portion weight, or properly portion weighted steaks that end up very thin and wide making for a less than desirable plate presentation.

Why Size Matters

Let’s say your goal is to serve a 1.5” thick 14 oz portion cut steak. The size of the loin that you start with will largely determine if both your goals can be met.

14oz CutLineImagine you have two whole rib eye loins. One loin is smaller; one loin is larger. As you can see from the picture above, your cut line will be in a different place depending on the size of the loin to achieve a 14 oz portion. Consequently, the larger loin will yield a much thinner 14 oz steak, and the smaller loin will yield a much thicker 14 oz steak.

Price Buyers Beware

The obvious solution would be then to purchase smaller size loins, right? Technically yes, but smaller size loins, or “downs” as we call them in the meat industry, are getting harder to come by and thus, usually carry a higher price.

Price shoppers who buy the lowest cost boxed beef to cut their own steaks will likely be getting random sized loins. Lowest priced commodity boxed beef often comes with higher loin weights from the larger loins of heavier cattle as opposed to lighter loins harvested in years past.

The problem steakhouses then have in offering smaller (lower ounce) sized steaks like Rib Eyes and NY Strips, is that smaller sizes would look like pancakes on the plate because the muscles are so large. People are accustomed to large, thick and juicy steaks –thin cuts are just less impressive on the plate. Steakhouses would be embarrassed to serve steaks in this fashion.

Alternative Solutions

Hand Selecting

If you’re cutting your own steaks and want thicker steaks without giving away portion control, request that your meat supplier hand select lighter loins or pick lighter master case weights to fill your boxed beef orders.

RibEyeWhile hand selecting is sometimes impossible with large broad line distributors, specialized meat purveyors like Buedel Fine Meats can usually accommodate such requests. This helps you deal with the problem before your meat comes in the door.

You can also achieve a nice balance between price, steak thickness and lighter portion weights by being a bit creative with your trim specification and merchandising on your menu. Try using the Boston Cut.

Boston Cuts

You can take a large loin size, say 15+ lbs, and cut it in half lengthwise making two 7.5 lb pieces. From each half then you can cut a thick small portion weight steak.

Boston CutWe call them “Boston Cuts” and they make a beautiful plate presentation for smaller ounce steaks. Boston Cut steaks are becoming more popular for a la carte menus and banquets.

These cuts are trending now for several reasons. Diet conscious people who prefer eating in moderation can still enjoy a smaller portion size with the luxury of a hearty looking delicious steak. Chefs can enjoy consistent sizes and cooking times while having a more attractive way to serve smaller portion sized steaks.

Boston Cuts of Rib Eye and Sirloin Strip are also great alternatives to higher priced tenderloin filets for banquet menus and split plates.

ABF Natural Beef

Another way to battle record high beef prices is to retreat from commodity cattle weights – specifically those getting heavier due to the increased use of added growth hormones, antibiotics and beta-agonists in the feed. Consider purchasing beef that was raised without added growth hormones or antibiotics.

True All Natural Beef such as, Niman Ranch and Creekstone Farms Premium Angus, which come from cattle raised without added growth hormones or administered antibiotics and tend to be smaller in size.

Don’t be fooled by the USDA’s generic definition of “natural” [a product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed] either. Pretty much all conventional beef fit this description today. Rather, look for brands that publish their handling protocols which specifically state never-ever policies.

The nation’s low cattle supply will portend the current state of all time high beef prices a few more years before things return to normal. Or, perhaps what is happening today may indeed be the new normal. The good news is, you do have options to get the thicker steaks you want.

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

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Big ‘Q in the City

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

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

Authentic ‘Q

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

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

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

City ‘Q

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

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

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

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

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

All Q’d Up

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

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

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

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

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New Chew on the Block | Mikey’s Jerky

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

Family Passion

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

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

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

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

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

Perfecting the Product  

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

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

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

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

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

Flavor Profiles

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building a Brand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Vegas Strip Steak

Vegas Strip RawYou may not know who Tony Mata is, but I’m sure you’ve heard of Flat Iron Steak, a cut he discovered years ago. Mata’s most recent discovery is a new type of strip steak.

Antonio (Tony) Mata is a meat scientist, product development specialist and self-proclaimed Meat Geek®. A native of Mexico, he studied at the University of Arizona where he earned his Ph.D. in agricultural biochemistry and nutrition. Dr. Mata has been involved in adding value to the carcass for most of his professional career.

A Cut is Born

In 2012, Mata was searching new ways to glean value added beef cuts, in conjunction with the Oklahoma State University Food & Agricultural Products Center. Through research, he discovered a new cut of beef from the shoulder, or chuck, normally used to make ground beef. Using non-staVegas Strip Cut Outndard butchering procedures for loin seams – a big outside the box move – he was able to discover the new cut.

The chuck is an inexpensive primal cut that by its nature contains a lot of connective tissue, fat, cartilage and gristle. Dr. Mata’s butchering procedure, since patented, was to trim the bad from the good and yield a tender cut of meat, he ultimately trademarked as The Vegas Strip Steak®. Delivering tenderness, flavor and visual appeal, the steak weighs in at about 14 oz and can easily be cut into smaller portions.

Vegas Strip TendernessTenderness  It is tenderness that is the most important characteristic in a beef cut; it is also the most challenging to deliver. The tenderness of the Vegas Strip Steak® is on par with the New York Strip Steak. It does not require aging or marinating to achieve desired tenderness.

Flavor  Steak flavor can vary across cuts, and steak lovers are dedicated to their favorites. The Vegas Strip Steak® offers universal appeal and solid steak flavor that satisfies any beef craving.

Appearance While tenderness and flavor matter most, visual appeal can enhance the overall enjoyment of steaks. The Vegas Strip Steak® portions beautifully and can be grilled, pan fried, roasted or smoked; it works well in just about any presentation a chef may wish to plate.

Vetting the Vegas

Vegas Strip by Rick GreshDr. Mata worked side-by-side with Chicago’s very own Chef Rick Gresh to validate product performance, establish target specifications, develop and identify menu possibilities and confirm profit potential. Chef Gresh, highly excited about the opportunities the steak would bring to menus, regularly features The Vegas Strip Steak® at David Burke’s Primehouse in Chicago.

The Vegas Strip Steak® is available exclusively through specially appointed partners of Creekstone Farms Premium Black Angus Beef. (In the Midwest, Buedel Fine Meats is the branded Creekstone Farms partner.) Affordably priced, it wholesales for under $7/lb, which in comparison to steaks cut from the strip loin, rib eye and/or tenderloin, delivers remarkable value.

Round Up

blogcollage2If you haven’t tried The Vegas Strip Steak® yet, but it sounds familiar, the cut was most recently showcased on BBQ Pitmasters. (Buedel Fine Meats is the current season’s chosen meat provider.) When the Lone Star Smoke War episode aired, the BBQP judges referenced Dr. Mata, but just one of the Pitmasters competing that day had heard of or cooked a Vegas Strip Steak® before then. Yet, all the pitmasters fired them up to perfection and loved their visual and tender flavor rendering.

Dr. Mata done good!

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

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Enter through the Side Door

By Russ Kramer, Corporate Chef

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

Why Lawry’s?

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

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

Gastro by Design

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

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

Gastrogrub

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

 

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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

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From the desk of John Cecala Twitter @BuedelFineMeats Facebook BuedelFanPage

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Meat Picks | 2.6.13

Creekstone Farms Comes to Chicago

Executive Chefs and Restaurateurs familiar with Creekstone Farms know it stands for superlative quality. Stringent USDA certification, proprietary genetics and humane treatment, are just some of the reasons why Premium Black Angus Beef from Creekstone Farms is a top shelf pick.

Until recently, Creekstone was not available in the Chicago market. The premiere brand is now set to launch here with the help of Buedel Fine Meats.

Nathan Stambaugh, National Director of Foodservice Sales at Creekstone Farms, says the company chose to work with BFM because, “Buedel is steeped in tradition and has built their business the old fashioned way through honesty, integrity and customer service. These qualities were exactly what we were looking for in a Chicago area foodservice distributor.”

We are very – make that super excited to be selected as Creekstone Farm’s partner in the Chicago market. Welcome, to Chi-town!

Want more info? Direct requests here.

 

3 Tweaks for Restaurant Week

Chicago’s Restaurant Week is in full swing now through the 10th. Here are several quick tweaks you can add to the experience: 1). Vegetarian menus are being offered at several restaurants in the City. 2) Nominations for Chicago Eater’s Hottest Chef 2013 are now being taken by email through February 11th. 3) There are about 30 suburban restaurant locations participating in the celebration this year.

 

Baggin’ it on the Fly

We found a great little article on cheap marketing ideas for doggie bags. Adding personalized notes, stickers, etc. to plain bags and containers can provide that little something extra to the guest experience. Hand written notes work especially well.

 

Congrats to the Grads

Congrats to all the grads of Red Meat Market’s first Whole Hog Butcher Breakdown & Cooking Class, which took place at the Centered Chef on January 26th. Buedel’s own Master Butchers taught the class how to break down a fresh hog carcass. Buedel Managing Partner, Tim Vlcek (kneeling left) & Jack Ranaldo (right).

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

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