Food Is Just the Beginning™
by Ron DeSantis
Volume 3 Issue 4
200 Totoket Rd
Branford, CT 06405
Come On, Already!
How do we get out this tangled mess? It seems that every conference room has a mass of tangled wires for our technology. When will we get rid of this mess? Really, we have wireless earpieces, Bluetooth to the car media, and on and on but we can’t figure out how to clean up a conference room?!
Master Chef Insights
Thinking of food as a platform is a way to do more with less. What that means in an operation is – what recipes can be prepared using a limited number of ingredients? Oh, and customers want to be amazed with each menu item.
Fundamentally okonomiyaki is shredded cabbage held together with pancake batter. It is seasoned, fried (ok sautéed, but we’re talking about street food here) and topped with a burst of flavor drizzles. Chef Gerry Ludwig was ahead of his time in 2008 when he wrote and talked about okonomiyaki. Since 2008, restaurants have opened with okonomiyaki as the star menu item.
How this all relates to a food platform is due to the versatility of okonomiyaki. What I’ve discovered is that okonomiyaki is adaptable to all global cuisines. When a chef starts with cabbage and pancake batter, she can flavor it any which way. The platform is cabbage and batter. Seasonings and toppings create the final dish. Add conventional beef or plant-based beef to the available ingredients and the okonomiyaki can become vegan, or a meat-eater’s delight. The possibilities are limited only be the chef’s imagination.
Thinking in terms of food platforms allows chefs to offer many menu choices with a smaller inventory.
Culinary & more…
Kitchen Tech – CO2 Value of Menu Items
On March 6, 2020 Yale Daily News reported that students wanted to know more details about the environmental impact of the food they were served. Almost 1,000 students responded to a survey conducted by 2 seniors. The results showed that 86% of students want ”to see environmental impact ratings” of the food in the dining halls. As interesting is that 62% of students claimed they had made food choices based on posters in the dining halls showing the environmental impact of the food.
This is likely the early phase of environmental eating in college & university (C&U) dining. One of the challenges for C&U operators will be access to detailed environmental information related to the food chain. In the student survey, students were specifically interested in the CO2 footprint of the food served.
Jamix Kitchen Intelligence Systems has a CO2 function built in. The CO2 core ingredients are part of the Jamix system. As a chef builds a recipe the CO2 is calculated for each recipe. This information is carried into the menu design feature of Jamix. This provides managers with clear CO2 footprint information at the recipe and menu levels of the system.
Many C&U operators believe trends begin in C&U. I’m not sure about all trends, but certain trends do start in C&U. Environmental eating is, I believe, one of those trends. Having the right kitchen intelligence systems keeps managers on point with these trends.
In March I sent out a special newsletter about preparing meals using food from your pantry. I followed up with a video that my daughter did with me, and her friend edited. Then my friends at Hormel Foods tied this into a great service piece with many chefs about cooking from the pantry. Here’s a link.
Ingredient of the Month
Bacon! Looking back on my newsletters I discovered I haven’t put bacon as the ingredient of the month. Well, here it is.
The problem is – what does one say about bacon? Everyone is a bacon expert. Everyone has a favorite bacon. There are even “cult” bacons like Neuske’s. What I’ll share is why I believe bacon is so popular.
Versatile. Bacon can be used in so many ways. It can be the center-of-the-plate, or a flavor enhancer. Chef David Burke made the bacon clothesline a signature menu item in his restaurants. There are desserts with elements of bacon. In other words, bacon is way more than a great accompaniment with eggs in the morning.
In fact, my first cooking assignment as an 18 year old (know it all) Marine at MCRD San Diego was to cook the bacon for breakfast. I figured this was too easy for me, until a pan in the rotating oven tipped, spilling bacon grease in the oven and the oven caught on fire. Needless to say, no bacon that morning, I learned I didn’t know everything, and there were A LOT of ticked off Marines!
Finally, my last comment is – bacon CAN be too crispy. I know I might be one of the few people in the world that might say that, but it’s true. Consider preparing a glace de viande. There is a fine line between perfect flavor and over-reduced. The same goes for bacon. There is a fine line between, just done and too crispy. Fine that perfect point and you’ll be rewarded with the best that this ingredient offers.
Sautéing/Pan-frying. First terminology. For me, sauté is the same word as frying. Deep-frying is something else. Panfrying is sautéing/frying in a bit more fat and often with something breaded.
Here’s the information I wish to share – make sure the pan is hot. The amount of fat, to me, is not as important as the pan temperature. Too cool and food sticks. Too hot and it burns. When I start cooking, I put my saute pan on the stove and turn the heat on low. Then I continue my prep. This way the pan is already getting conditioned and it’s a small jump to higher, ready-to-cook temperature.
Once the pan is hotter, add oil. When the oil starts to smoke (lightly, if it’s billowing blue smoke, you’re not going to be happy and it’s become dangerous!), it’s time to add the food. Only add enough food to almost cover the pan surface. And DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING. When food is added, the temperature of the pan’s surface has to recover. If it left alone, it seems to recover more quickly. Now fry the food until it’s properly done.
These are my frying tips. Have fun with your culinary experiences!
CulinaryNXT is a food service advisory practice drawing on Ron DeSantis’ 30 years of experience in all facets of the food industry. Ron is one of only 70 Certified Master Chefs worldwide and has advised organizations of all sizes and types. His strengths include culinary innovation, menu and recipe development, culinary assessment, bottom-line results, and communication skills that allow him to implement solutions effectively.
CulinaryNXT’s base is in New Haven, but its reach is truly global. CulinaryNXT’s relationships extend to numerous countries around the world in a client and alliance network that has been built over many years. These relationships provide both global support and local knowledge.