Saturday, April 16, 2016

It's Crawfish Season in the South Y'all!!!!!

Crawfish Boil

200lbs Live Crawfish
12 Onion – cut in half
12 oz. Whole Peeled Garlic
2 lbs Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning
3 lbs. Salt
 ½ Gallon Zataran’s Liquid Crab Boil
6 each Lemons cut in half
3 lbs Butter
10 each Whole jalapeno’s
40 gallons water

Rinse crawfish in running water and clean out any debris. Purge crawfish with clean running water in an ice chest 3 times until water is clear, and then drain.  Bring water to a boil, with all other ingredients. Place crawfish in pot 40 lbs at a time, bring water back to a boil for 2 – 3 minutes and turn off heat let the crawfish steep for about 10 minutes. Remove, drain well and place into an ice chest to keep warm (this helps them peel easier). Serve warm with lots of beer.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Braised Short ribs

This is the first stage of the dish. First we sear them in a very hot pan for color. That helps build up the fond (that is the bits of caramelized food, flour, meat and seasonings that are on the bottom of the pan) this is what we use as a base for the sauce.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Shrimp and Grits

I know this sounds like a crazy combination! We have run this dish twice in the last year and have gotten really great reviews! Shrimp and Grits has its roots in the South Carolina Low Country Cuisine. The savory grits with just enough seasoning and pepper jack cheese to have a bit of spice and enough butter to mellow that spice out! Then the shrimp are sauteed with tasso ( a cured and smoked ham, famous in the Cajun country of Louisiana) gives that a hint of spice and smoke!!!! WOW! Just delicious!! Inviet your friends over, You're gonna want to share this one!

Shrimp & Grits

For the Grits:
Water                                                                   3 Gallons
Chicken Base                                                      6oz
Heavy Cream                                                     3 quarts
Tony’s Creole Seasoning                                   4Tbs
Louisiana Hot Sauce                                         6 Tbs
Coarse Ground Black Pepper                          2 tsp
Grits                                                                    5lbs
Pepper Jack Cheese                                          15 slices
Shredded Parmesan Cheese                            2 Cups
Combine all ingredients except grits and bring to a boil.  Add Grits stirring constantly. Simmer for 5 minutes. Turn Off and add cheeses and stir until all cheese is melted and combined.

For The Shrimp:
2 Tbs Whole Butter
8 each 21/25 Ct Tail Off Shrimp
½oz Diced Tasso
1/4thoz Chopped Herb Mix
2 Tsp Seafood Seasoning
½oz Diced Tomato
½ Tsp Chopped Garlic
1/2oz Sliced Mushrooms
2oz Chicken Stock
½oz Chopped Green Onions
2 Tbs Whole Butter
In a sauté pan melt butter. Add shrimp and tasso and sauté until shrimp start to turn pink. Add seafood seasoning, chopped herbs, diced tomato, chopped garlic, and mushrooms, cook for 30 – 45 seconds. Deglaze pan with chicken stock, add green onions and butter. Remove pan from heat and slowly swirl butter into sauce. 
To Plate:
Place a 3 – 4 ounce portion of grits into a soup bowl. Place the shrimp in a ring, shingled off one another, in the center of the grits. Place sauce garnish into center. Pour Sauce around the rim of the bowl.
Garnish with Chopped Parsley and Shredded Parmesan Cheese

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Today's Events

Today's Blog

Today was a very eye opening experience for me. I have been in my current position for 6 years almost to the day. Prior to that I made an attempt to go into business for myself. I formed my own LLC, started seeking catering business, bought a business that ultimately failed. Then I went to work in my current position. Fortunately for me and my family I was offered the position I have today after one phone call.  The experience of working for myself when there was no work and only being able to pay the bills and what labor I could afford, not being able to write myself a check, made me very willing to take whatever was offered. And let me say I was and am still grateful for the job. Although the position pays well, there are no annual pay increases and you have no chance for a pay increase unless you advance in position. Also I have no control over who is hired to work in the restaurant nor do I have control over the schedule. This vexes me to no end. It takes the very drive to succeed away. I digress, this has led me to work doubly hard in other directions, and thus far we have been blessed.
    I have been fortunate enough to be given generous work as a contract chef for several years with Unified Brands, among other opportunities. The culinary director there virtually assured me that I would be the next corporate chef when and if the position became available. However when it did become available a year and a half later, I believe that our friendship, made my appointment impossible. They picked a chef that had not been involved with the company but that had worked with a very high profile chef on a national level. Their choice was correct. Although I felt as if I would do the job justice and would find my niche given time, it still worked out for the best. The job was in Jackson, Ms. a 3 hour drive from my home. I felt this was a minor detail, since I had been making that drive almost every week for 3 years, and the position was at the time about 70% travel all over the country. It turns out that a year after they appointed the new chef, they told him that his job was moving to Atlanta within the year. That would not have been possible for me to take. However the new chef has flourished in the new position. The past 2 years have been very productive for me in the role of contract cook chill chef for Unified Brands as I have been working directly with the Canadian Cook Chill project. Late last year the Cap Kold Sales manager resigned, he and I had developed a good working relationship, and he gave me a great recommendation for the position. Again, I feel that the friendship and the hiring manager seeing me washing dishes and cleaning floors in support of what I had been asked to do, held me back. They hired a chef that had been fired some 8 years before in virtually the same position. Through all of this I swallowed my pride and made the statement several times that I would rather be called when needed, than not called at all. Well after last October the calls have stopped coming. I believe that the company has moved on. Although the players all know me, my usefulness to them has passed. 
   Since the first issue I have made a concerted effort to improve my worthwhile. I went back to school, took public speaking, certified through the American Culinary Federation as a Certified Executive Chef, worked on doing more public speaking/cooking gigs, been on TV twice. Since the first of the year I have been submitting resume's to companies within the driving vicinity. Yesterday I got a call, I thought it was for an Executive Chef job I submitted a resume for in Vicksburg, Ms, turns out they picked another candidate for that position, but they would love to speak to me about the Chef de Cuisine job. I reluctantly said yes. During the interview was where the eye opening moment came. The phone interview was today, it lasted about 20 minutes and had the usual questions, about, responsibility, tell me something about yourself that's not on your resume, strengths, weaknesses etc. Then came the one question that has stuck with me: Why should we give you this job? I had to answer it the only way I knew how, I do not think that you would be giving me the job. That no one has ever given me anything. That I have spent the last 30 years of my career earning the opportunity for you to look at me as a candidate for the position. That I know there are many others out there with more varied levels of experience, that there are many candidates with more talent than I have, and many more people with more education than I have, but that I do not want you to give me the job, because over the last 30 years I have done the work that puts me in the place to be the best choice for the job. The experiences over the last 6 years working in my present job and with the other opportunities I have had and missed, that is what is the most important to me. If I am the person with the right fit, hire me, don't make me jump through hoops, then tell me " we have chosen to go with another option" if I am not tell me! I believe that a constructive conversation on my shortcomings will only make me work harder, strive for greater heights, there is always a lesson to be learned, believe me I have learned a lot. But I refuse to give up. Never give up!!!! 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Cook Chill Concepts

Transition Concepts from Traditional Kitchen Production to Cook Chill Production System

1.       There are several factors that should be taken into consideration when planning the implementation of a cook chill production system. Chief among these is the menu. What are the items that you will want to produce, and in what volume, and how often.  Traditionally kettle production consists of soups, sauces, stews, bean dishes, mashed potatoes, casseroles, salad dressings, puddings etc., while cook tank production is used for muscle meats, roast beef, pork ribs, pork butts, turkey breast, chicken, rice dishes, etc. So, a thorough look at what can be pulled out of traditional kitchen small batch production, and put into cook chill production, where and how these items can be utilized and integrated into the finishing kitchen for the most efficiency is key.  Recipe development should be done before the system is started up in smaller batches of 25 gallons utilizing correct ingredients. This will allow you to verify the correct viscosity and starch levels. These recipes can then be extended to the correct batch size.
2.       The next component is of course population. How many meals per day are you preparing? Is that volume likely to grow or change significantly? This will help determine equipment size. What is the realistic number of kettle turns you will get in a day? 3, 4, or 5 (5 is very ambitious). Do you need a 200 gallon kettle or will a 100 gallon kettle utilized properly allow you to reach your production goals and how many kettles do you need per site.  Do you need a tumble chiller or will a cook/chill water jet style cook tank be adequate. Is the production site producing food for more than one facility? Your production schedule will be determined by the menu cycle and frequency of producing a particular item.
3.       Additionally an understanding of the time needed to add ingredients to the kettle, reach the required level of cook time – doneness – flavor development, reach the required set point temperature to insure food safety, pump the product into casings and get it chilled is very important, as this will determine the efficiency of staff and the number of kettle turns per day you will need.  Typically you can build a recipe for soup in a 100 gallon kettle in 20 minutes, steam is a very fast medium and the surface area of product that is exposed to heat is so much greater in a kettle than even in a braising pan - cooking temperatures of 185F can be reached in 20 – 30 minutes in a full kettle.  A 100 gallon kettle can be emptied in 30 minutes as well, so in just over an hour you can have 100 gallons of product in a chill tank.
4.       A cook chill system that has 2 – 100 gallon kettles, a pump fill station and 2 water jet cook tanks, can be staffed by 2 – 3 people. This is a huge labor savings. Consider that 3 people working an 8 hour day, getting 3 kettle turns per day can produce 600 gallons of product. Add to that the production of the 2 water jet cook tanks with a capacity of 500 pounds; cooking overnight, being perfectly chilled to 33F the next morning, that’s 1000 pounds of product a day. On 5 days you have 3000 gallons of kettle production and 5000 pounds of cooked muscle meat with 3 cooks.
5.       Traceability is also an important concept to consider. This element is the essence of the HACCP program. This is where you as the operator track all ingredients from purchase and receiving all the way through your facility. At every stage the product is handled there should be documentation of several things: the container it is transferred to/from, the person handling the product, the temperature at the time. This is all to insure that a products or products are not temperature abused and that the risk of physical, chemical and biological contamination is minimized and managed. This includes requiring specific standards from vendors, such as delivering products in refrigerated vehicles, requiring that all cooler freezer products be delivered at or below a specific temperature – below 40F for cooler items, and at or below 0F for freezer items. Your dry items should be free from any evident physical damage and no compromised or open packages should be received.
In addition the use of verifiable and traceable RFID chips with transmitters to record temperatures of products held in storage.   

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Business!!!

My full time job is working as a Chef de Cuisine at a local casino in Gulfport, Mississippi, Island View Casino Resort. The property is the largest land based casino gaming floor in the state. We have 995 hotel rooms and it is a very busy place. The restaurant I work in has a seating capacity of 225 people and we sit right off the gaming floor. I manage a staff of 1 Assistant Room Chef, 3 Sous Chefs and currently 19 cooks on 2 shifts. We serve somewhere in the neighborhood of 3500 guests per week out of our restaurant - C&G grill. We are a fast/casual style restaurant. My staff killed it this past weekend we were extremely busy, of course it is spring break and the first of the month, so everyone is out and about. They say that numbers do not lie, so here goes - in 3 days, our staff served 1933 covers. Friday night was insane at 8:30 pm our ticket board was slam full, we had tickets hanging to the floor off the printer and hour long ticket times serving 477 dinner covers. Saturday was not much better we served a total of 778 meals that day - just incredible. Very dedicated staff to not just give up and walk out in the grueling chaos of a Saturday night service!!!!!!!

Sunday, April 3, 2016


I have not been keeping up my end of the bargain. See, in order for a blog to work, there has to be content - daily. So, this is obviously my fault. Not because I do not have any thing to say but generally due to being busy with other things. Then there are the times you doubt what good can come from you rambling on about ... who knows what and whether or not anyone ever reads this ...stuff. Getting back to work on this however is something that I am committed to. I feel that there are many situations in the restaurant industry that people never get the inside scoop on. However now days with the evolution of food TV, we are being inundated with one cooking show after another, and there are no shortages of websites that will send you the daily recipe update or wine paring. You want to know how to butcher, hang and age a side of beef in your garage -  it's probably on YouTube! But what you won't get is the perspective of the line cook. That, in the trenches, embattled, fighting with the FOH manager because someone sent their hamburger back because the bottom bun was too soggy in the middle of a 500 cover night that caused the whole line to crash, that Fu-! this sh**, I can go to work tomorrow at the new steak and shake down the street if I wanted to deal with this crap every night kind of perspective!!
 Anyway I need the practice. This is therapeutic, sort of, because I can write what I really want to say, but would get fired on the spot for saying it. I WILL do better!