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16 posts categorized "In the Kitchen"

February 1, 2017

Make the Most of Valentine's Week

Make the Most of Valentine's Day
By Piet E. Jones

Valentine’s Day. One of the roughest days of the year for many a restaurant. Some call it “amateur night,” filled with high expectations of a quiet, romantic dinner that is at odds with the reality of barely controlled dining chaos. Look around, do you see any of your regulars? Probably not. Maybe they stopped in for a quick drink before it gets busy and then flee the scene. Most of the people you see are new faces. Some you may be able to capture as new regulars, others are out for a very rare dinner. That’s all great, take good care of these people, it’ll give you a nice bump in an otherwise slow month but there is still so much more potential you can get out of this day.

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January 10, 2017

2017 Food Trends: The Flavors of Africa Part 2, North Africa

Tagine_foodcentric
Lamb tagine with chickpeas, apricots and pomegranate seeds.

By Piet E. Jones


Our journey across African cuisine continues. Next we find ourselves north of the Sahara and along the upper eastern coast. Here the cuisine is a convergence of African with Middle Eastern and Asian influences. One spice, cardamom, is used across Africa but comes into play with heavy prominence here where its earthy flavor adds to the fragrant mix of the cooking. In the United States cardamom tends to be most frequently used in desserts, but maybe it’s time to take some of it up to the main line of your kitchen.

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January 3, 2017

2017 Food Trends: The Flavors of Africa Part 1

Foodcentric_jollof_rice
Jollof Rice with fried plantains

By Piet E. Jones

Every year, the prognosticators polish off their crystal balls and try to predict what the next hot trends in dining will be. Getting ahead of the next of the next big thing in dining can be great for keeping the buzz going about your restaurant—fine tuning your dishes to perfection so you’re the one people think of when the trend peaks and every local publication is churning out “best-of” listicles for where to get that dish. Sure, not every trend will work for your restaurant, but look at how ramen, a dish that popped huge a few years ago and is still winding its way towards peak saturation, has shown up on the unlikeliest of menus. The key is identifying the key trends early and finding what techniques and ingredients can complement your dining philosophy and excite your customers.

For 2017, one trend that has been identified by those with their ears to the ground is African cuisine.  Which leads many a chef to draw a complete and total blank.  First, that’s a bit like saying the trend is European cooking and, while that might be more familiar, is equally broad and undefined. Then there’s the reality that many chefs in America are simply unfamiliar with what might constitute African cooking.  A quick look across the vast continent, though, and you’ll find an array of techniques and rich, earthy flavors that can be easily incorporated into your existing menu.  It’s just a matter of narrowing your focus and finding the right region or country for your inspiration. Let’s start with Central Africa.

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December 20, 2016

Beef Wellington is Back

Beef_welly_foodcentricBy Piet E. Jones

Ah, those classic French dishes. Back in the day, they were the height of cuisine. Over time, however, changing tastes and an overabundance of kitchen shortcuts led to many of them to fall out of favor.  Duck à l’Orange, a beautiful dish when prepared in the right kitchen, became a cloyingly sticky sweet mess. Chicken Cordon Bleu, a wonderful convergence of haute cuisine and comfort food, devolved into an overly breaded sodium bomb that most have only sampled from the freezer aisle.

Dining these days, though, is a high-demand, ever-changing business and many chefs are looking to the past for inspiration. Old techniques and classic sauces are appearing on menus, often in new and novel combinations. One dish that is getting a new lease on life owes its revival to a TV reality show—Gordon Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen. Yep, Beef Wellington is back on people’s minds.  Bad pastry and a propensity to be overcooked all but killed it off in the 80’s, but in the right hands it can be a showstopper.

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November 30, 2016

Yes, You Need a Coffee Program

By: Piet E. Jones

Coffee_foodcentricSo, your wine program is the talk of the town. Your craft cocktail program gets updated seasonally to raves and online buzz. Your coffee program…. Wait, what? You don’t have a coffee program? Why not?

People willingly drop big money on coffee. Plus coffee is an integral part of the closing part of any good meal service. It can even be a way to jump that check average up by ten or twenty bucks per person. Without coffee, they might not get that extravagant dessert or relaxing cordial to wrap things up. Or worse, they know someplace else to get that robust cup and either leave to spend that money elsewhere or never come in in the first place because they want a fuller dining experience.

The sad reality, too many restaurants treat coffee as an afterthought and the lack of planning to integrate coffee into what is otherwise a well-choreographed meal shows. Yes, you made the pasta yourself with imported, small batch flour that’s been extruded from a custom ordered, hand-made bronze die. The sausage was created in-house using a heritage pork breed. Everything is served on ceramic plates, made from locally sourced clay, thrown and glazed by two ladies living off the grid just outside of town. Your coffee, well, your coffee comes from the same machine and is served in the same Bunn carafes as the culinarily questionable greasy spoon down the street.

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August 26, 2016

Bring State Fair Flair to Your Menu

State_fair2By: Piet E. Jones

Summer is winding down and there is something in the air. Well, yes, the kids are getting ready to return to school but there’s also something else. The smells are familiar. A little greasy. Something sweet hangs in the air along with some… more earthy smells… 

Yep, it’s time State Fair time again.

The sights and smells of county and state fairs are ingrained into most American’s childhood memories and even if your patrons are no longer the fair going type, there’s much that can be done to play off this seasonal nostalgia. Play up the theme. Pull out a few blue ribbons and celebrate the local foods that make your region great.

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June 6, 2016

Find The Perfect Burger For Your Restaurant

BurgerBy: Piet E. Jones

The lowly burger.

There used to be a sameness about it. No matter where you went. Same buns. Same toppings. Same slices of yellow cheese. Same taste—too often dry and overcooked. Sure, there were good ones to be found, but all too often it was just a quick bite on the run, an afterthought on many a menu.

Today, things have changed. A lot. Burgers have become exciting and dynamic. Buns that can absorb the juices without becoming soggy and disintegrating have elevated the texture. Artisanal cheeses add flavor while celebrating local food culture. Toppings are designed to complement the theme of the restaurant.

With these innovations, the burger, once relegated to diners, fast food, and pubs, has exploded onto the scene. Out of the way, hole in the wall diners are now foodie destinations. Trendy hotspots in newly gentrified neighborhoods tout their burger on social media. Even the most upscale and pricey establishments are jumping on the burger bandwagon.

The key to getting all components together for a signature burger isn't that hard. It just takes a little bit of thought to create a unique combination that appeals to your clientele and fully represents your eatery.

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March 16, 2015

Restaurateurs Invest in a (Bone) Broth

Bone brothBone broth—the hottest trend in 2015 so far—is one of those commodities that came out of seemingly nowhere, and is somewhat of a mystery to diners. First, because the name “bone broth” sounds like it’s the favorite dish of cannibals everywhere; and second, because the name doesn’t give much of a clue as to what it is.  Any chef worth his weight in the kitchen knows how to make stock using bones, so how is bone broth any different?  

 

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February 5, 2015

The New Gold Rush: Citrus

  Buddhas_Hand
The citrus season is on. And with fun (and funny sounding) varieties such as Buddha’s Hand, Sumo, and Cara Cara, the food lover’s fruit basket is overflowing.

When the term citrus comes up, it’s difficult to know which ones will capture the public’s fancy unless you–and Shakespeare–know what’s in a name. For years, it was navel oranges or Valencia oranges, lemons or limes, grapefruit and other generic citrus. But, when a producer of a small, easy-to-peel mandarin orange came up with the name, “Cutie,” the rest as they say, was history. Now there is no end of producers and the clementine, one of the mandarin orange varieties, has become synonymous with this brown bag favorite.

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December 23, 2014

Ask the Chef: Crab Dip

Crab dip blogLast week Blanche in Charlotte, N.C., wrote to us asking for a spinach crab dip recipe. We asked our team of chefs and received two right away! Since this is a popular party dish, we thought we'd share them both with our readers.

The first is from Chef Lonnie Varisco in Houma, La.. He says, "In New Orleans seafood is king. This is a great twist on the classic spinach and artichoke dip. Using crab boil in the recipe provides that classic boiled seafood taste everyone loves down here."

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