Category Archives: What’s Cooking

Bullying and Harrasment Policy

Two often overlooked issues in the restaurant businesss are sexual harassment and bullyism.

Often an employee may be afraid to speak up against a bully or predator for fear of reprisal. Having a dual policy, covering bullying and sexual harassment, in place for your restaurant or any workplace is not only good sense but it may also be the law.

Knowing your states requirements and enforcing a  written policy will serve as protection in the event that your establishment becomes involved in any legal proceedings.

Bullying has come to the forefront of social awareness in recent years. It can ‘bring down’ the entire staff leading to slower production times, a lower quality of product and eventually fewer customers.

‘Playful banter’ and harmless flirting have always been prevalent in a fast paced restaurant environment, but learning to recognize when the behavior has become uncomfortable for others is key to curbing unwanted and unwelcomed consequences.

Safe & Easy Lobster Handling

If you love lobster but you are a little squeamish about handling them, then stretchable mesh steaming bags are just what you’ll need. With a powerful ‘crusher claw’ and a quick ‘pincher claw’, a fiesty hard shelled Maine lobster can be intimidating to even a seasoned culinarian.

seafood bags for safe handling lobster

‘Calming’ a lobster can be easily done by inserting it into a mesh steamer bag and tying the end of the bag so that the lobsters legs, claws and tail are safely enclosed. When your lobster has finished cooking, simply cut the mesh clam boil bag away and serve with lobster crackers and drawn butter.

Enjoying a shore dinner with lobster, clams and shellfish can be messy and hard to coordinate. Being able to portion all of your seafood feast ingredients into separate bags not only allows you to ‘time’ your items that may have different cooking requirements, it also aids in quick and easy service when feeding large groups and gatherings.

Scales Save Money

If you are using an old fashioned dial faced scale, an immediate switch to a more current digital display scale is in order. This small investment can yield big savings at your restaurant or commercial kitchen.

Having accurate portions will cut food cost and insure that proper nutritional guidelines will be met when serving people with special dietary requirements.

A digital scale is preferred over the traditional (and outdated) dial faced scale. With the older type scales you have less accuracy thantaylor te32c electronic scale with the reliable digital versions.

The best scale that I have used in my commercial kitchen has been the Taylor TE32C electronic Scale with a 2 pound capacity. You have the option of weighing your product in ounces or kilograms. A large flat weighing surface shortens prep time gaining long term savings on labor and payroll costs.

The Taylor 32 ounce is compact and can run on a single 9 volt battery making it portable enough to use anywhere that precise portions are needed. An AC adapter is also provided for convenience and conservation of your scales battery power.

For larger receiving jobs I recommend the  Taylor TR250SS Scale. This super duty scale has a high 250 pound limit. When dealing with potentially hundreds of pounds of product shortages, the savings can be huge. Imagine being shortchanged several pounds of product a day. That volume can add up to serious dollar savings for a restaurant.

Being exact when getting product in the delivery door is as important as serving a ‘well balanced’ plate. Investing in the proper weighing equipment today will result in short term savings tomorrow and over time can and will add up!

Lobster Dishes For Summer

Traditionally, whole lobster is prepared by boiling or steaming, but lobster is as versatile as it is delicious. Fresh shucked
lobster meat can be added to nearly any classic dish to add a New England seafood twist.

Sauteed Lobster Bianco

Linguini with white clam sauce is still an all time favorite. Now add tender lobster claws and fresh Maine lobster tail, simmer it all together and toss it with linguini noodles. This dish is guaranteed to have the most dedicated lobster lover asking for more.

Lobster Fettucini Alfredo

Fresh Maine lobster and tender fettuccine noodles tossed in a creamy parmesan alfredo sauce. Decadent and delicious, this dish will satisfy your guests that are craving Italian!

Lobster Stir Fry

For an authentic stir fry dish, a wok is the must have tool. No other pan will give you the same “easy toss” performance that the well balanced wok will! Your favorite fresh garden vegetables along with tender lobster claws and fresh Maine lobster tail can be turned into a signature dish for your restaurant.

Lazy Lobster Pie

When you prepare a lazy lobster pie you’ll need to create a fresh bread stuffing, Whether you crave pier fresh sea scallops or if you prefer sweet baby shrimp, the seafood that you select to blend with your stuffing is as important as the lobster itself.

Lobster Salad Roll

The lobster roll is the quintessential summertime treat.  A traditional New England dish.

There are as many ways to prepare lobster as there are chefs and no matter how you pair your ingredients, lobster will always be a great indulgence.

The Price of Steak At Walmart

High end steak houses are about to get higher. In a short year, boxed beef prices have risen to all time highs. The cost per pound on strip sirloin has more than doubled compared to this time last year.

Notably, Walmart’s advertising campaign has had a heavy focus on choice usda ‘grilling’ beef. I have seen several versions of ‘sirloin focused’ commercials, and I rarely watch television.

With a more than 300 Billion dollar share of the North American food retail business, could there be a connection between the soaring price of beef and Walmart trying to capture an even larger “piece of the pie”.

Walmarts supply chain and buying power are 
enormous, and when they need to fill an unending demand, their effects on the market can be a hard hit for smaller independent restaurants and large chain operations.

The cattle industries explanation is that the size of this years herd is smaller than the previous year, but does a 2.1 % decline in the number of overall cattle justify a more than 100% increase on certain cuts of meat? Supply and demand forces  seem to be at play here.

The beef industry may be pricing itself out of future dining trends. By making their product too costly to incorporate into everyday menus, chefs, managers and owners will increasingly turn to pork, chicken and other cost effective ‘center of the plate’ items.

Unemployment Cost Control

Hiring the right employees can be a challenge. Whether the economy is up or down, good or bad there is no simple way to ensure that the person that you hire is going to ‘make the cut’ in the long run. Other times, you have a long term employee that has developed a bad attitude or a complex that you can’t seem to get past and you have to let thsave money by cutting unemployment claimsem go. Whatever the situation may be, a former employee can still cost you a pretty penny in unemployment compensation claims if you don’t follow the correct procedures when you have to end a working relationship.

True Story… In need of a part time line cook, i was conducting interviews and had settled on a young applicant that seemed like a pretty ‘good fit’ for the position that I needed filled. With a few months into his tenure I was feeling a little uneasy with him based on comments I had overheard about him.

Well, one Saturday evening that I was not on shift, this particular line cook was observed doing what we in the restaurant business call a “whip-it” (Inhaling the gas from a can of whipped cream to get a ‘quick high’). After hearing about this incident from several staff members that witnessed it, I, of course terminated him. Shockingly, I received a petition for unemployment compensation.

With several eye witness accounts I felt there was no way that the unemployment hearing would go in his favor, so I returned the reply form and attached signed witness accounts of what had transpired that evening. Several weeks later, I was informed that the unemployment board had sided with the employee. Their reasoning was that I had not properly warned him that if he were to inhale a can of whipped cream gas to get high, that he could or would be fired for such an action!!!

This former employee was able to collect the full term of his unemployment, costing thousands of dollars in additional payroll costs. – The Moral to this story is – Understand your local unemployment laws to the best of your ability. Learn to protect your restaurant from unjust unemployment claims to save thousands of dollars in avoidable expenses

Pest Control For A Restaurant

The change in seasons leads to a rise in activity among typical restaurant pests. Pest prevention and elimination should be a regular part of your sanitation program. Keeping unwanted rodents andspring flowers brown eyed susan insects from entering your restaurant can be time consuming and costly. Not only does it require an involved staff member to monitor and control outbreaks, you could potentially lose product if the infestation goes unnoticed for just a short period of time.

Taking the time to implement preventative measures can save hundreds of dollars that could be put to much better use. It may seem that you don’t have issues with rodents, but be assured, where there is trash there are pests. Adopting a strategy to deal with these intruders BEFORE they are a problem is the best plan, saving hundreds in exterminator fees if you do get infiltrated.

Sizzling Restaurant Style Fajitas

Longer days are coming and with a change in the hours and the warmer weather comes lighter fare. Fajitas are a great way to offer a hearty meal while allowing the diner to choose their portions.

Fajitas originated on the Texas Mexican border in the early 190sizzling restaurant fajitas0′s. This Tex-Mex dish began as a simple way to feed the ranch hands. They would heat a large cast iron skillet over an open flame and add the skirt or “faja” steak and other inexpensive ingredients such as vegetables to the mix. The hungry ranchers would fill corn or flour tortillas with the blend of pan seared foods and have an easy to handle meal – piping hot , delicious and nutritious.

During the 1980′s, South of the border specialties migrated to the United States. Southwestern themed restaurants popped up across America and “Mexican-American” cuisine was born. One mainstay of the Mexican food movement has been Sizzling Fajitas, even more popular today than they were nearly a century ago.

Traditionally, fajitas were served with skirt steak, a tough cut of meat. Slow cooking and proper slicing made the steak tender. In today’s restaurant, fajitas are topped with higher quality ‘center of the plate’ items. It is common to find chicken, shrimp or even sirloin steak fajitas on American menus.

Fajitas on today’s restaurant menu’s are all about presentation. Serve up a piping hot cast iron ‘plate’ topped with sauteed vegetables and cuts of your favorite meats. This should be brought to the table while it is “sizzling” on the platter but not “smoking”. Soft flour tortillas and condiments are traditionally served on the side.

March To St Patricks Day

While it’s not traditional in Ireland, corned beef is what most Americans prepare for St. Patrick’s Day feasts. Despite Ireland being a major beef producer during colonial times, most Irish did not regularly consume corned beef. This was due to the fact that the beef cattle were owned by the British colonists and not by the Irish , and that most if not all of the corned beef was exported. The majority of Irish that resided in Ireland at the time maintained a diet of mainly dairy and pork.

During the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, the United States experienced a tidal-wave of Irish immigration. With corned beef brisket being considered a ‘meal of luxury’ back in their home country, the corned beef became a staple in the Irish populations diet in America where it was inexpensive and plentiful. Thus the association with corned beef and St. Patrick’s day celebrations.

Cooking Corned Beef…
There are several methods that can be used to cook corned beef or any brisket. Some chef’s prefer to ‘split’ the brisket prior to cooking while others would cook the brisket whole,  leaving the layer of fat that joins the two muscles together intact. Cooking a whole brisket will take much more time than if you separate the two sides of the brisket.

To split the brisket, lay it on a cutting board with the ‘non-fatted’ side facing up. Look for the ‘deckle’ or fat layer that separates the two sides of the brisket. This layer of fat extends fully between the two muscles. Insert a boning knife into the fat line and carefully run the sharp edge of the blade along that line while pulling back the ‘first cut’ of the corned beef. Continue this until you are completely through the deckle and the flat cut and point cut are apart. Trim away and discard any excess fat.

No matter which course you choose, the rule to follow when preparing corned beef is ‘low and slow’. A crock pot or slow cooker is the ideal appliance to prepare this cut of meat. A large stockpot will also work well. If you are using the stovetop method, fill a large stockpot half full with water and bring to a full boil. Add your brisket and reduce the heat to medium. Split brisket will take about 3 hours at a slight simmer, while whole briskets can take as long as 6 to 7 hours depending on the weight. Remember to save the brine for cooking your cabbage and other vegetables.

To test the ‘doneness’ of your brisket, remove a cut from your stockpot and slice a piece about a quarter inch thick, remembering to slice against the grain. Sample your brisket. It should be tender enough that you can bite through it without falling apart. If you can’t easily bite through the slice then it needs to cook a little longer. Check every fifteen minutes afterwards until you achieve the desired result. When you are ready to slice the brisket, cut each piece in half against the grain and take a piece of each muscle and slice together on a slicing machine against the grain.