ACF ChefConnect: Charlotte

ACF ChefConnect: Charlotte

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Charlotte's got a lot! It is a lively city with activities ideal for all ages including dining, shopping, live music, unique nightlife venues, and sports & recreation. Steps away from the Nascar Hall of Fame, Bank of America Stadium. Chefs from across the Northeast and Southeast regions assembled at the Charlotte Westin for several days of learning, collaboration and of course, tasting! Exciting updates for the 2018 Events: the ACF provided blanket CEH's to members that register for the event.

 Hanging out with Chef Stafford DeCambra CEC, CCE, CCA, AAC, ACF National President & Pinky Varghese, CEC, PCII, CFBE

Hanging out with Chef Stafford DeCambra CEC, CCE, CCA, AAC, ACF National President & Pinky Varghese, CEC, PCII, CFBE


Opening General Session

Claus Meyer


The opening general session was presented by Claus Meyer, a culinary entrepreneur, food activist, cookbook author, professor and TV host. He is often accredited as the founder of the New Nordic Cuisine philosophy. He discussed his desire to change the Danish cultural relationship with food in a top-down approach to food systems. Notable topics where his manefesto to the New Nordic Cuisine, the power of bread and culminated with the legend of the hummingbird. This idea is the focus on not pursuing a desire to be the best, but rather to make a lasting impact. 

The Future of Action Stations

Chef Ben Simpkins, CEC, CCA


General Session

David Burke


David Burke is an American chef and restaurateur, known for his appearance on the reality TV program Iron Chef America. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and a student at Ecole Lenotre Pastry School in Plaisir, France. Burke worked with legendary chefs in France and New York such as Pierre Troisgros, George Blanc, Marc Meneau, Daniel Boulud, Charlie Palmer and Waldy Malouf. Burke’s mastery of French culinary technique and his unique American creativity were confirmed at the age of 26, receiving 3 Stars from the New York Times at The River Café.

His address included a cooking segment featuring clothesline bacon, cake pops, chorizo on a stick, angry lobster, lobster filet mignon and MORE! 


Breakout Session: Soulful Harvest

Timothy Grandinetti

 Yes! Cast Iron is KING

Yes! Cast Iron is KING

American Academy of Chefs Gala Dinner

Monday, February 26, 2018

 Thank you to the Brigade!

Thank you to the Brigade!

 ACF Rhode Island Chapter, Left to Right: Chefs Ray McCue CEC, Linda Musch CCE, AAC, Rolando Robledo CEC & Matthew Thompson CEC, CCA

ACF Rhode Island Chapter, Left to Right: Chefs Ray McCue CEC, Linda Musch CCE, AAC, Rolando Robledo CEC & Matthew Thompson CEC, CCA

Appalachian Cuisne

Denny Trantham, CEC, CCA, AAC, MBA


Exploring Culinary Communication

Daniel Thomas


Utilizing World Flavors in your Everyday Menus

Brian Beland, CMC
Jonathan Moosmiller, CMC


Closing General Session

Dean Fearing


Dean Fearing is an American chef known as "The Father of Southwestern Cuisine. Dean Fearing was executive chef for 20 years at Dallas' The Mansion on Turtle Creek, leaving in 2007 to start his own restaurant, Fearing's, in partnership with Ritz-Carlton. He is the host of a national television show, Entertaining at Home with Dean Fearing, airing on Food Network, and author of three cookbooks, Mansion on Turtle Creek Cookbook, Dean Fearing's Southwest Cuisine: Blending Asia and the Americas and The Texas Food Bible: From Legendary Dishes to New Classics. In 2008, the Zagat guide gave Fearing's the top spot on its list of the best in hotel dining, simultaneously announcing the Dallas Ritz-Carlton as the U.S.' best large hotel.

His address focused on driving high passion within your team. His philosophy is happy cooks make happy food. When you hire look for candidates who bring high energy and passion. Skills can be taught, attitude must be encountered. When asked, why focus on just one restaurant where others are building empires, he simply said he's focused on doing fewer things really well, than many things with less intimacy. 


AASHE Conference 2017: San Antonio

AASHE Conference 2017: San Antonio

    AASHE 2017 Conference, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, San Antonio  


AASHE 2017 Conference, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, San Antonio  

 Getting ready for the opening keynote address

Getting ready for the opening keynote address

 Opening keynote: Dr. Katharine Hayhoe

Opening keynote: Dr. Katharine Hayhoe

 Student sustainability project by Mohawk College

Student sustainability project by Mohawk College

 Poster Session by Central Community College on the future of insect protein as a food source. 

Poster Session by Central Community College on the future of insect protein as a food source. 

 Ken Botts from HSUS presents on #PlantsOnThePlate

Ken Botts from HSUS presents on #PlantsOnThePlate

 5 reasons to eat veggies: Plant-Based Diets

5 reasons to eat veggies: Plant-Based Diets

 All meals presented were Plant-Based

All meals presented were Plant-Based

Barilla Modern Casual Summit & Chicago Food Tour

Barilla Modern Casual Summit & Chicago Food Tour

 Barilla Development Kitchen Northbrook, IL

Barilla Development Kitchen
Northbrook, IL

 Chef Lorenzo Boni

Chef Lorenzo Boni

When it comes to pasta, quality is key. With the expert culinary guidance of Chef Lorenzo Boni, Executive Chef for Barilla America, Barilla is dedicated to delivering the highest-quality pasta. That is why Barilla- the leading brand of pasta in Italy -is a favorite of foodservice chefs. Whether serving the needs of restaurants, cafeterias, commissaries, or other foodservice operations, our full line of versatile Barilla products brings excellence to any menu. And today, affordable quality has never been more important. 

Barilla, originally established in 1877 as a bread and pasta shop in Parma, Italy, ranks as one of today's top Italian food groups. Barilla is a leader in the global pasta business, the pasta sauces business in continental Europe, the bakery products business in Italy and the crispbread business in Scandinavia. 

Barilla has become one of the world's most esteemed food companies and is recognized globally as a symbol of Italian know-how by upholding its longstanding traditional principles and values, considering employees as a fundamental asset and developing leading-edge production systems. 

This invite-only retreat is for a select group of chefs to dive into the most current trends in casual dining, with Barilla as the host and anchor point for the content. Featuring hands-on cooking sessions, chefs dive into regional Italian cuisine with Chef Lorenzo Boni and tackle making healthier dining delicious and approachable. We’ll also be joined by renowned speaker and trends guru Gerry Ludwig who will take us on an exclusive tour of the trend-setting restaurants in Chicago. 

Participation ideation session one

 Chefs Jasper, Matthew & Brock

Chefs Jasper, Matthew & Brock

 Parsnip Veggie Mac

Parsnip Veggie Mac

 Asian Fideo Bowl

Asian Fideo Bowl

Chef Gerry Ludwig, CEC

Chef Gerry is a nationally recognized food writer, speaker, and trend tracker, and leads the Culinary R&D department for Gordon Food Service, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Through ongoing analysis of foodservice-related statistical, media and empirical data, Gerry creates trends-based culinary solutions that are executed at the operator level by the company's team of menu consultants. He is a columnist and editorial board member for the foodservice trend magazine Flavor & The Menu, conducts seminars and workshops at numerous industry events and executes resturant research tours in major cities throughout the United States. 

Gerry Ludwig (@GFSChefGerry) | Twitter

The latest Tweets from Gerry Ludwig (@GFSChefGerry). Representing Gordon Food Service through culinary research and development, restaurant trend tracking, food writing and public speaking


The Little Goat

Stephanie Izard's diner serving a huge menu of creative, gourmet takes on comfort food classics.
Address: 820 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607



Sprawling, stylish food hall featuring a range of Latin-inspired eateries & a market in lofty digs.
Address: 108 N State Street, 3rd Floor, Chicago, IL 60602


de Quay Resturant

Dishes mixing Dutch and Indonesian influences plus craft brews & global wines in intimate digs.
Address: 2470 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60614


Split-Rail Restaurant

Updated American comfort foods & craft cocktails are offered in a funky space with a vintage vibe.
Address: 2500 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622


Moneygun & Saint Lou's Assembly

Hip, understated bar serving traditional cocktails, plus creative New American small plates.
Address: 660 W Lake St, Chicago, IL 60661

American spot for creative takes on old-school, customizable comfort-food platters.
Address: 664 W Lake St, Chicago, IL 60661


El Che Bar

Wood-fired Argentinean-American fare & South American cocktails doled out in hip, stylish surrounds.
Address: 845 W Washington Blvd, Chicago, IL 60607


...and in case you were wondering what my Fitbit had to say about all these shennanigans:


Matunuck Oyster Farm Tour

Matunuck Oyster Farm Tour


The September ACF Rhode Island Chapter meeting was hosted by Matunuck Oyster Bar. We participated in a boat tour of the oyster farm operation, followed by dinner in the restaurant. Perry Raso, Owner of Matunuck Oyster Bar & Farm was a gracious host. It was a great kickoff to a new year! 


CIA Menus of Change

CIA Menus of Change

More than 400 chefs, scientists, food manufacturers and other professionals whose careers concern the intersection of food, health and sustainability gathered last week for the fifth annual Menus of Change conference. 

During the three-day event at the CIA's campus in Hyde Park, N.Y., the initiative's two advisory councils -- made up of leading scientists, analysts and foodservice business leaders -- shared the findings of the 2017 Menus of Change report. Information sessions offered insights on topics from adding plant-forward dishes to the menu and overhauling school lunch to battling climate change and increasing transparency at multi-unit foodservice operations. In his opening remarks, Greg Drescher, vice president of strategic initiatives and industry leadership for the CIA, highlighted the recently released CIA-EAT Plant-Forward Global 50 list that reflects the critical role chefs are playing in improving the global food system and influencing consumer choices.

This Special Report offers an overview of the 2017 Menus of Change report and conference, along with resources that chefs and food companies can use at their operations. Read on for a look at some of the chefs and restaurants making headlines due to their commitment to the type of healthy and sustainable food practices championed by Menus of Change.

To stay informed about what's new in food, sign up for this free e-newsletter and read SmartBrief's original industry coverage on Follow @SB_Food on Twitter for more culinary news and updates.

Food world embraces plant-based eating
(The Culinary Institute of America)

Chefs and others in the foodservice industry are making great progress when it comes to creating menus that emphasize and celebrate plant-based foods, according to the 2017 Menus of Change Annual Report. "The idea of plant-forward eating moved from a burgeoning term in the prior year to the default phrase for capturing the rising status of vegetables and plant proteins on American menus," the report noted.
SmartBrief/Food & Beverage (6/21) 

Susilo Symposium

Susilo Symposium

The second annual Susilo Symposium hosted by the Susilo Institute for Ethics in the Global Economy will be held on June 15-17, 2017 at Boston University Questrom School of Business.

The event will feature distinguished speakers and panelists, including Professor Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School, and site visits at Aeronaut Brewing, Bright Horizons, and Fenway Park, among other exciting area companies.

The Susilo Symposium will be part of a new Global Business Ethics Week, which begins at Bentley University from June 12-15 for the Global Business Ethics Symposium and teaching workshop, and then will move to BU for June 15-17.

Panels and Presentations

The program is directed specifically toward both academics and practitioners. It features over fifteen plenary and panel sessions with nearly sixty speakers, including:

  • Up-to-the-minute sessions such as “Values, Culture, and Trust,” “Inherent Bias,” and “Globally Responsible Leadership.”
  • A broad range of perspectives shared by speakers from China, India, Europe, and North America.
  • Multiple panels and papers on issues including corporate social responsibility (CSR), and examining cases drawn from both East and West vantage points.
  • Insightful speakers who challenge your assumptions, and whose sessions range from “Is It Profitable to Persuade with Purpose?” to “Publishing in Business Ethics Journals Today.”

Site Visits

The Susilo Symposium is more than a conference. It features onsite visits to global corporations and the latest start-ups, from which you will learn about today’s cutting-edge responses to challenging dilemmas. You’ll have the opportunity to learn how organizations are grappling with business ethics issues at Aeronaut Brewing, Bright Horizons, Boston Harbor Now, Panera Cares, and Fenway Park. 

In addition, the conference design intentionally builds in plenty of opportunities for networking among your colleagues and between academics and practitioners, including a Thursday evening social event, a Friday luncheon and Friday evening reception.

ACF CEC Practical Exam

ACF CEC Practical Exam

Chef Matthew Thompson, CCC

April 21, 2017
Johnson & Wales University, Providence, Rhode Island


Tunisian Pan-Seared Snapper Cake with
Steamed Lobster Tail & Tarragon Beurre Blanc

Pan-Seared Snapper Cake, Sauteed Bacon & Swiss Chard, 
Steamed Lobster Tail, Spice Pickled Apple, & Tarragon Beurre Blanc
Cooking Techniques: Saute (Snapper), Steam (Lobster), Saute (Chard) 
Required Ingredients: Snapper, Lobster, Apple, Bacon, Swiss Chard
Sauce: Butter
Knife Cuts: Brunoise (Apple), Chiffonade (Chard)


Middle-Eastern Butter, Red-Oak & Frisee Salad
Herbed Salad in Cucumber Ribbon, Falafel, Concasse Heirloom Grape Tomatoes, Marinated Artichoke, Kalamata Olive, Spiced Tahini Sauce, Champagne Vinaigrette
Cooking Techniques: Deep Fry (Falafel), Poach (Artichoke)
Required Ingredients: Bibb, Red Oak, Frisee, Grape Tomato, Artichoke
Emulsified Vinaigrette: Champagne
Knife Cuts: Julienne (Cucumbers), Chiffonade (Mint & Basil)


Za’atar Roasted Chicken
Whipped Cardomom Yukon Potato, Butternut Squash Puree, 
Roasted Vegetables, Chicken-Mustard Veloute
Cooking Techniques: Roast (Chicken Breast), Boil (Potato) 
Braise (Chicken Thighs), Roast (Large Dice Vegetables)
Required Ingredients: Chicken, Carrot, Beet, Turnip, Celeriac, Yukon Potato
Sauce: Veloute (Roux)
Knife Cuts: Large Dice 


Tunisian Pan-Seared Snapper Cake
1 lb Snapper
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 ½ tablespoons dried cilantro
½ tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ tbsp lemon juice
1 egg
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp (approx) panko bread crumbs

Steamed Lobster
Steam 2 lobsters, set tails aside
Use Shells for Bouillabaisse
Poach tails in bouillabaisse prior to service

Sauteed Bacon & Swiss Chard
1 large bunches rainbow chard
1 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoons mild hot sauce
1 teaspoons light brown sugar
½ tablespoon vegetable oil
3 ounces bacon, finely chopped
½ large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, to taste

Tarragon Beurre Blanc
⅔  cup dry white wine
¼  cup chopped shallots
½  teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 large tarragon sprigs
3 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon

Spiced Pickled Apples
½ ounce Whole Allspice
½ ounce Cinnamon Sticks
2 Cloves
1 pint cider vinegar
1 cups water
2 cups honey
2.5 pounds sweet apples, quartered and cored

½ pound (about 1 cup) dry chickpeas, soaked overnight
¼ cup onion minced
⅛ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic roasted
¾ tbsp flour
¾ tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
⅛ tsp black pepper
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
Pinch of ground cardamom
Vegetable oil for frying 

Middle-Eastern Salad
1 head butter lettuce
1 head red oak lettuce
1 head frisee lettuce
2 sprigs fresh basil
2 sprigs fresh mint
2 globe artichokes
1 english cucumber
1 pt heirloom grape tomato
½ pt kalamata olive

Tahini Sauce
½ cup tahini sesame seed paste
¼ cup lukewarm water
2 cloves roasted garlic
⅛ cup fresh lemon juice
⅛ tsp salt

Champagne Vinaigrette
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons dijon Mustard
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey
2 or 3 dashes hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Mediterranean Roasted Vegetable Medley
4 ounces carrot
4 ounces celeriac
4 beets
4 turnip
1 cup onion diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1⁄2 teaspoon basil
1⁄2 teaspoon oregano
1⁄2 teaspoon chives
salt and pepper, to taste

Za’atar Roasted Chicken
For the Marinade
2 lemons, juiced
½ large lemon, sliced
7 large garlic cloves, lightly crushed
1 medium onion, minced
⅔ cup olive oil
1 tbsp ground sumac
1 tbsp allspice
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp smoked paprika, more for later

Remaining Ingredients
1 chicken, bone in, skin on
Salt and pepper
3 tbsp Za'atar, divided
1 tbsp toasted pine nuts
½ cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

Chicken-Mustard Veloute
3 cups chicken stock
4 tbsp dijon mustard
1 oz clarified butter
1 oz all-purpose flour

Whipped Potato
3 cups whole milk
½ tablespoon salt
30 ounces yukon potato, peeled, cut into 2-inch cubes
½ small onion, peeled, quartered
2 ½ tablespoons butter, cut into 5 pieces
Ground white pepper
Chopped fresh chives

Butternut Squash Puree
1 medium-to-large butternut squash

Meat, Fish, Plant

Meat, Fish, Plant

The vast majority of Americans embrace an omnivore diet consisting of animal, fish and plant protein sources. As someone who grew up this way myself, -and now am responsible for helping to form the future eating habits of many students today, I've been struggling lately to determine how to make better food choices. By "better" I mean, holistically: focused on health & wellness, least wasteful, conservative impact on our carbon footprint, overall sustainable, etc. Throughout the course of my regular day's work, and of course all the windshield time it takes to drive from one commitment to the next, I have spent lots of time thinking about these topics this week. It seems like all the media I consumed helped me embrace a new aspect of this growing personal philosophy.  

I do not, by any means, intend to sound apocalyptic;  it is necessary however, for us to consider the bigger picture of what impact sustainability will have -or more appropriately, will NEED to have on our global food culture. We do face some severe challenges particularly in the next 10-20 years when the needs of a growing global population will force an increasingly larger number of us to go hungry. Simply raising more cattle or growing more crops is not going to be enough to meet that need. 

To a large degree, we as American consumers do not know enough about where our food comes from. The Gen-Z student as they are now called, are generally better informed then generations before, yet are nonetheless still overall very ignorant. Growing up in a society that predominately has (essentially) global access to grocery items simply by walking into their local market, leads to an almost entitled attitude toward both the accessibility and  variety of food. Popular food television has aided in strengthening this sentiment. In one day we can eat foods from all over the world without much thought at all to what it takes to get that food into the nice package at our local Whole Foods Market

Roy Choi, on The Moth, Listo? discusses an early experience he had with the true nature of what eating meat is really about. At a time in his career when he was just about to graduate from the Culinary Institute of America. He had worked at a number of notable New York City restaurants such as Le Bernardin. Graduating near the top of his class, he thought he knew everything about the food industry. -but don't all Chefs? 

Upon graduating he got recruited for a job in California. It was here he met Salvador, his dishwasher. For those of us with work careers in the food industry you know, this is the position that keeps the whole machine moving. Like most of us in the kitchen you learn enough "kitchen Spanish" to get by. One day Salvador said his family wasn't able to help and could Chef Choi help him out? Without understanding or really knowing what he was supposed to help with Chef Choi agreed. 

They traveled in an old pickup truck to a farm where Salvador purchased a goat. A beautiful animal with silky white coat, little spots of brown, and small little horns. Chef Choi had no idea why the goat was being purchased. He was simply along for the ride. He thought they were picking up a pet. Driving back home, the then let the goat out. Chef Choi began to look around the yard and slowly started piecing together the clues. Salvador began filling empty Corona bottles with salt and water. It was pretty early in the morning. Chef Choi saw a table with knives on it. A rope hanging with a hangman's noose. Salvador said "Listo?" and so it began. 

The pursuit was on. They started running after the goat. Finally, jumping onto the goat Salvador put it in a headlock. He began to rapidly feed the solution of salt water to the goat. After drinking, things changed very rapidly.  He wrapped the rope around the goat's legs, and pulled the goat up. While the goat stared Chef Choi in the eye, Salvador slit the neck. Blood poured out, and the animal was bled out. It was then split down the middle, gutted and its hide removed. Salvador reminded Chef about the bottle of water. The purpose of the salt solution eliminated the smell of the guts as the animal was gutted. They quietly broke the goat into primals and subprimals, packaged it on ice, and drove south and hour to Salvador's mother's restaurant. In the traditional way, she taught Chef how to make goat stew. Chef Choi recounted the feeling as he drove home; he felt like a different man. 

How many of us have had a personal experience like this to truly understand where that nice piece of meat on the foam tray in the supermarket really came from? What type of appreciation do we have for respecting the whole animal -the one who's life was sacrificed to nourish ours? All too often do I see people turn up their nose at chicken thighs, THEY "only eat breast meat." I'm flooded with thoughts of Chefs who actually would fight over the thigh opposed to the breast for it's flavor and culinary value. Not to mention all the other "bits" like beaks and feet, or snouts and tails, which impoverished countries frequently have as part of their staple diets. Lastly, I think of the hungry who simply have nothing. Makes me pretty quickly want to choose fish over meat. 

In a Ted Talk, Mike Velings addresses this transition in his talk: The Case for Fish Farming. In the last 50 years global meat consumption has quadrupled to 300 million tons. As populations get richer, their consumption of meat, dairy and eggs also rises. The rate of population growth I mentioned earlier is projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050. At this exponential rate, we will need at least 70% more meat protein than we already have. The anticipated world population by the end of the century will crest 11 billion. UN studies have estimated that unless our dietary choices change we could face a global collapse in as early as 30 years. 

Facing this challenge, it is easy to look to the world's ocean for possible solutions. Covering the majority of our planet, there is more opportunity here than land-based food systems. However, our fisheries are 2.5 times larger than what our oceans can sustainably support. We take far more fish from the ocean than what it can naturally replace. Our global marine life has been slashed in half. Over 90% of world-wide swordfish and tuna populations have disappeared since 1950. We need to alleviate the pressure here by turning to aquaculture. 

"We must start using the sea as farmers instead of hunters. That is what civilization is all about -farming replacing hunting." -Jacques Cousteau

Why fish? Fish is healthy, prevents heart disease, provides key amino acids, key fatty acids like omega 3 -it's also a lot more diverse. Land based farming is simply classified: beef, pig and poultry makes up the vast majority of what's served in our restaurants and markets. There are over 500 species of fish being farmed currently. Try to get that variety in your local supermarket. Not only is there greater benefits but the key takeaway is that fish is good for us, good for the planet and good for the fish. Only recently has farmed fish yields exceeded wild-caught fish yields.

Paul Greenberg suggests that turning to fish is not the only answer, we also must ask: Which fish? The Four Fish We're Overeating -- and What to Eat Instead helps us understand this. WWII technology enabled the fishing industry to boom with development of things like light-weight polymers and sonar. Let's look at the fish choices we are making now.

#1 Shrimp: It is the most consumed fish in America and Asia. Wild caught shrimp is terribly unsustainable; 5-15# of wild fish are killed to bring 1# of wild shrimp to market. Shrimp trolling is also extremely carbon-intensive due to fuel inefficiencies. Shrimp can be farmed, but the environment best for this is mangrove forests. Unfortunately we have lost miles of this habitat, and while the rate has slowed it does not provide a long-term sustainable solution for farming. 

#2 Tuna: Tuna is a global fish. Huge management areas need to be observed due to this being a predatory fish.  Unfortunately tuna has been vastly over fished. It is uncommonly known that tuna is warm-blooded and can swim at over 40 MPH. It's these characteristics that make it an incredibly bad candidate for farming. 

#3 Salmon: The salmon population has taken a significant population hit recently but not by that you think: It wasn't over fished, but rather had it's natural habitat destroyed by changes to the environment such as the construction of dams and changes to our nation's waterways. This prevents the salmon from reaching their breeding ground. The good news is that salmon is an ideal fish for aquaculture farming. Aquaculture is the fastest growing food system on the planet, estimated at a growth of 7% per year. The challenge the industry faces here is feed. Early on the industry turned to things like pellets made from grains such as corn and chicken bi-products like feathers, bone and blood. So? Fish eating chickens, chickens eating fish. I for one have never seen a chicken on the bottom of the sea. Has there ever been a fish who ate a chicken who ate a fish? Clearly we have some alignment to do here on how to sustainably balance this process. 

#4 White-Fish: The amorphous filet of fish; halibut, cod, pollock all were early species classified here. In fact, the Alaskan pollock farming operation remains the largest aquaculture operation in America. After these fish, we turn to tilapia. It's a highly efficient transformer of plant based food to fish based protein. This has been a Godsend to Asia, feeding many of it's population. It is an incredibly sustainable fish for farming. It goes from egg to adult in 9 months. Tilapia farming was expanded to other species such as basa and pangasius. It's biggest disadvantage is while popular in Asia, it lacks the oily-fish qualities the West demands. Where's my omega 3?

What do we do? We could all become vegan... but then THAT would be incredibly difficult to regulate world-wide. Honestly, that would lead to a whole host of other problems. As comedian Ron White once remarked, what are you doing about cow flatulence and ozone affecting global warming? "I'm eating the cow."

All jokes aside, there are certainly some valuable learnings we can all take from the vegan diet. Perhaps Michael Pollan said it best when he said that everything he's learned about food and health can be summed up in seven words: "Eat Food, not too much, mostly plants." It starts with the first two words: eat food. For most of us, we need to start there. When does food stop being food and start being overly-processed chemicals? If the majority of your diet is comprised of foods with extensive ingredient lists, primarily of things you can't even pronounce, time to rethink. 

Everything he's learned about food and health can be summed up in seven words: "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." -Michael Pollan

This post talked mostly about transparency of ingredient. Knowing WHAT you're eating is as important as knowing WHY you should be eating it. Eating on the run has been a challenge for me based on my work travel schedule. I have fewer and fewer opportunities to truly cook for myself. -this is the making of a whole different blog post on diets and navigating restaurant menus to achieve healthy eating for holistic health. The bigger message is cook for yourself as often as you can and when you do, cook with raw ingredients. 

The later two parts of his recommendation really go hand-in-hand. If you eat mostly plants, its likely you're eating caloric-light yet nutritionally dense foods. Simply put, you'll feel satiated eating much fewer calories while concurrently packing those calories with valuable key nutrients. Therein lies, I believe, the key to the whole outline presented here. We as omnivores have choice: meat, fish or plant? I'm not at all advocating becoming pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan, but I am advocating for a delicate balance.

As Americans we have significant opportunity to learn -not only about our food system, but its impact on the global food system. Through this learning I believe we will develop a deeper appreciation of where our food comes from, and with luck, lead ultimately for a deeper respect for ingredients. This focus on global sustainability will allow us to tackle the much larger issues like world hunger and innovative farming opportunities to feed our ever growing world population.  

Responsibility Independent

Responsibility Independent

Stephen Covey's popular 7-Habits of Highly Effective People is a book I re-read several times a year. The purpose for this repeat read is to remind myself of priorities and goals in my life. Also, this is one of those books that has different meaning in your life based on the time in which you read it. Different circumstances require you to reflect differently on the messages Covey conveys. For a long time, I merely thought that what I was seeing out in the industry -and the world for that matter, what simply a result of lack of accessibility to the material. As I grew in my career I embraced these habits not only in my own life, but sought to encourage those I led to follow a similar path. 

In recent years my professional career has demanded that I function in a greater leadership capacity and less of a management capacity. I have personally found this transition to be both welcomed and challenging. I knew based on previous experience building teams, that success would be built on inspiring and energizing members of the team and less on managing their day-to-day responsibilities. I have found that my daily responsibilities have increasingly involved much more of the latter than the former. In Covey's terminology, too much habit 3, not enough habit 2. 

I am an enthusiastic consumer of what could be classified as "self-help" books and leadership development materials. The more and more I read and the more often I spend in the field, the greater the divide seems to become between contextual industry materials and actual operational execution. It was time to get back to basics, and re-read the first and most often revisited book, The 7-Habits. 

Covey classifies his system by indicating that this is not a quick fix program but rather function of our development of individualized character. Embracing these habits is a realization that we will not allow ourselves to be a victim of circumstances; we are in control. Internalizing these principles is a road map of enablement, allowing us the ability to gain that control. Moreover, this will significantly improve the quality of our interpersonal relationships whether they be social, family or professional. Our capacity to influence others will be enhanced through motivation and encouragement. This fosters an increase the spirit of growth and learning by innovating every day experiences. At this point, I pause to ask myself, is our ability to recognize this opportunity unique to our individual character, or something we can actively pursue?

Taking a bigger picture approach, if we zoom out from the individual and look at group behavior, what impact do these character habits have on larger groups? Call the group families. Call the group business. Call the group organizations. These internalized principles will have a dramatic effect on all groups. The higher the adoption rate, the more positive the influence. The lower the adoption, the bigger negative progress we see. Therefore my struggle with our failure of wide-spread adoption of these habits is baffling from a personal improvement perspective but more so a lack of personal responsibly in the groups we participate. 

If you want to significantly change people's behavior, you must change their perception of their role. Covey, ultimately speaks to the term paradigm -or the way you see your role in perceived reality. It's the way YOU see the world. Understanding the concept of paradigm allows us the opportunity to both examine our our placement in society, or in a group. More importantly, it allows us the opportunity for empathy in understanding those around us. Life is rarely about what actually is, and more often about what it is perceived to be. 

Managing others isn't always about getting the job done. Certainly that's the tangible result, but I would argue that getting the job done is only part of the challenge of leadership. The more difficult and less commonly achieved outcome is getting the job done with a team that passionately wants to do it. There is no secret that of the three forms of resources, financial, physical and human -it's the human resources that are the most difficult to manage.

Therein lies the challenge: How do you create a culture that has both the ability to achieve a desired result and achieve that through the enthusiastic willingness of the participants? The dynamic outlined here is what Covey calls the maturity continuum. On the low-end of the scale is dependency and on the high end, interdependence.

The dependency attitude is one of "YOU." YOU take care of me. YOU decide for me. YOU provide for me. YOU tell me what to do. The attitude of independence is "I." I will do. I have the ability. I will take responsibility. Interdependency is centered around "WE." We will do. WE can accomplish it together.  

I have always used a very subtle interview technique to help me understand Chefs and what environment they are truly accustomed to working within. Next time you watch a cooking program on Food Network or some other television programming listen to the language used by the Chef as they present a dish. I created vs. WE created tells this story. 

It doesn't take much to understand what the mature thought pattern is around interdependence. It also doesn't take a lot of thought to understand:

In order to be effectively interdependent, we must first be responsibly independent. 

Covey's habits 1-3 are habits that allow us as individuals to transition from a state of dependency to one of interdependence. 

Habit #1: Be Proactive. Take responsibility for yourself. An individual's behavior is a product of their own decisions based on their experience. It didn't take me long to understand if I did not mise en place my station properly, during the rush I would drown. The opposite of proactive people are reactive people. Any service I have ever worked, I needed to make that very conscious decision: (1) I could hustle at the beginning of my shift and be well prepared for a busy night or (2) I could slack off and live a nightmare in the weeds when my mise ran out. 

The reactive person is constantly in a state of being the victim. The reason we're in the weeds is because the restaurant was flat-seated. The front of the house server was sandbagging orders. We left the hostess up to determining the flow of customers. Never will they blame themselves for having been ill-prepared. In reality, the line cook has the ability to choose their response. If they are proactive and always prepared for a busy night, it doesn't matter which circumstances happen, they will be prepared.

Habit #2: Begin with the end in mind. Have a blueprint and follow it. This is the habit of planning. In my mind this incorporates quite a few aspects of the culinary world. If you do not plan correctly you do not have the right amount of food in house. If you do not schedule a dishwasher you will have a mess on your hands. If you do not adequately train your staff by showing the proper plating of the special, you will have to continually be adjusting that throughout service. Decide your own philosophy -your own mission statement. I will not serve a dish that does not meet my standards. What is your standard? This can be as simple as hot food hot cold food cold or a could be his complex as serving a dish consistent with the identity of your restaurant.

Habit two is the leadership habit and has to do with direction

Habit #3, Put first things first. While habit 2 is the habit of leadership, or direction, habit 3 is the habit of management. It's taking all of the priorities and vision established in habit two and making it a reality. In the culinary world it is managing the service. Putting first things first is literally about understanding that one table comes before another or one dish that takes longer to cook must be started before the reheating of a garnish or sauce. 

If you are the Chef for your operation and you find yourself to be deeply involved with management and not leadership then you are focused in the wrong area. Management is a function of your sous chefs and production team to execute the culinary vision of leadership that you provide.

With all that said, and reviewed, I guess I always walk away from that material thinking, DUH, everyone WANTS this, right? I had always assumed that this was a common goal that everyone was striving to reach. If you can control life around you, why in the world would you allow yourself to be victim of the circumstances around you? Conceptually it's very easy to explain. I have found myself saying more and more frequently:

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. 

I've always perhaps assumed that the pursuit of these goals was naturally in everyone's best interest and a common goal. If only everyone had access to this information, this knowledge. I am beginning now to understand that the character qualities pursued here is not necessarily inherent in all people. The choice must actively be made and habits adopted. The sad, unfortunately truth seems to be that many choose NOT to adopt these habits.  

In the culinary world I've always questioned whether or not we we want to have the ability to choose control or reaction. I've seen countless line cooks choose to squeak by doing the bare minimum. Sometimes they got lucky, but mostly it came back to bite them later on. This is not isolated to the kitchen. This behavior seems to permeate our culture. I frequently see people choose to allow outside circumstances to dramatically influence their lives, rather than proactively controlling factors to allow them to maximize the positive influence of life. 

It's simply not enough to consume this material and understand it but what's most important is that we internalize these processes and live it on a daily basis. We must be, the quintessential embodiment of these habits or principles. I am extremely enthusiastic about building teams and highly functional groups. The reality is that groups cannot be built until trust is earned. The trust that a group's members are first responsibly independent before the pursuit of a mutual sense of interdependence. This is the true embodiment of the cliche term -a team is only as strong as its weakest link. 

At the beginning of this post I indicated that I frequently revisit this material. Understanding your placement in the team or the degree of independence you exhibit in your interpersonal relationships needs to be examined on a regular basis. The paradigm discussed earlier changes frequently and we should embrace the regular opportunity to self-examine our degree of success at being responsibly independent.  Integrity is the value we place upon ourselves to be truthful and self-disciplined to bring value to our relationships. Once again, I find myself asking: am I responsibly independent? 

Sustainable Foods: This Chef's Journey

Sustainable Foods: This Chef's Journey

Early in my career I clearly remember one of the largest challenges was keeping a very small yet very vocal subset of the community at bay: vegetarians. I held this group of what I perceived to be simply a group of picky eaters in such distain as they repeatedly lectured me about why eating meat was bad. The air or arrogance they seemed to have toward us carnivores somehow elevated them to an elitist status. 

It seemed at times that the only thing that could keep this group in check was an even more elusive group: vegans. The only levity in the kitchen when discussing these customers was in the still popular industry joke: "How do you know if someone is a vegan?" to which only the newest kitchen rookie would need to respond "how?" In unison the seasoned staff would respond "Don't worry, they'll tell you!"

I'd often find ways to test vegans like asking if they liked honey or what their feeling were on blue dye 1&2 (or red 40, yellow 5&6, green 3 for that matter!) It was my secret affirmation that veggies (and I use that term endearingly!) were all closet bacon-eaters.

By this point I have no doubt bored the carnivores and ostracized the veggies. Breathe easy, my tone is about to shift. 

I tell you that story because for the early half of my career I had spent my days playcating their every request constantly thinking that this trend too will die. Annoyed all the way that special menus need be created, alternates for every "normal" meal included and segregated equipment and facilities maintained. As you know the "vegetarian trend" never died, in fact is now mainstream. So much so that the number of those who self-identify as vegetarian is actually increasing. 

What gives?  

I attribute this simply to evolution. Trust me, as I've alluded, I began my career as anything but an advocate. Not long after the popularization of the veggie diets, the local and sustainable foods movement really began to gain traction. Just as in the veggie movement this too began in isolated geographic areas and both signature chefs and specialty farm-to-table venues began to pop up. True to form, I too briefly regarded this as another trend to come and go. As before, I was wrong again.

Several years back, I was assigned the formal job duties of supporting the local and sustainable initiative for the company I was working for. As I began to grow in knowledge and understanding of the local movement, so grew my appreciation for the general wholesomeness of the plant-based diet. Growing up in a generically affluent society like we have in the US, we have unfettered access to a vast variety of ingredients from all corners of the world. At any moment in time we can travel to our local market and gather an abundance of fresh ingredients. Access to an opportunity like this is sadly unavailable universally on a global scale.

More importantly, when we stop to consider the pervasive impact of hunger caused by world poverty, it should cause us all to pause and consider how desperate our need is for a swift solution. What will feed our world population in the coming decades? Certainly the already over-fished oceans, disproportionate carbon-footprint in cattle farming, inhumane treatment of poultry, pandemic diseases like swine and avian flu, all suggest that increasing our production of animal protein is not the solution. Turns out, maybe our veggie friends were onto something all along. 

For all my chef friends and colleagues breaking out in a cold sweat right now, relax. I'm not calling for a complete world-wide transformation to vegetarianism. As a human species, we are in fact genetically engineered to be omnivores. What I AM calling for is for our soda guzzling, chicken nugget popping, genetically modified corn syrup craving society, to slow down and consider some balance. Why is our US society sky-rocketing to the top of the obesity charts? Certainly mobility and exercise play a part, but can by no means justify a bad diet. 

Earlier I used the word evolution. We have evolved our food habits to what we have today: fast-food centric, over portioned, heavily based in animal-protein, and flavored primarily with fat, salt and sugar. Dichotomies have emerged within the American demographic segregating our population into almost a class system. The elite echelon of society enjoys an all-natural, whole food, organic, gluten-free lifestyle. Nonetheless, we have come no closer to agreeing on a definition of these terms, let alone acknowledgeing it's been nearly impossible for anyone to provide concrete data to support this as the preferred nutritional high road. Those without silver lined pockets are catered to by our fast-food industry pushing highly processed edible product, wherein certain stages of production would hardly be recognizable as nourishing. 

The delivery of a solution comes with as much trepidation as the feeble attempt I've tried to make in explaining the problem. What I believe necessary is not an evolution, but a revolution -of the culinary sense. A change in our constitution, our paradigm. The barriers of accessibility and affordability of local and sustainable food will certainly help to shrink the divide in our "nutritional society." Transparently however, that only gets us to the trail. The path must ultimately be choosen, not predetermined. Throughout my career I have seen our abundance mentality enable poor choices despite positive encouragement. Like a child, we choose ice cream over vegetables. 

I too have evolved, like the evolution of our national eating habits. My early frustration and impatience for what I believed were temporary industry trends led to the realization and development of what I like to think of as a more refined culinary philosophy. Fresh seasonal ingredients, simply prepared, makes great tasting food. Begin with an emphasis on fresh local or sustainable ingredients, procured responsibly. Secondly, prepare these ingredients with respect; find a use for each scrap. If an animal gave its life to sustain ours, treat that sacrifice with humility and utilize it fully. During preparation embrace the whole foods mentality. If your list of ingredients is something you cant pronounce it's likely you shouldn't consume it. Keep it clean. Lastly, make it taste great. They key to enabling good dietary choice is making food that's nutritious, simply taste good. 

It is with that philosophy in mind that I've embraced a new culinary paradigm; one that encompasses not only my own dietary choices but is representative of my professional culinary identity. With that so begins new opportunitities for culinary experimentation and education ultimately leading to additional innovation and new evolution. 

Take it from this chef: coming out as not only an advocate, but an aspiring member of the vegetarian community, proves food choices are not always easy. For you out there still insisting that if locked in a room alone with a plate of warm bacon you wouldn't scooby a slice, it's ok, I don't judge ...anymore. For the rest of you, go ahead: embrace your inner-veggie. 

The Professional Chef

The Professional Chef


I believe in the world there are three types of chefs. The popular Food Network television program Chopped recently had an episode featuring teen chefs. The program included 13-year-old barely teenagers cooking in the usual format. This, in my mind, is not very different from the scores of applications I get from recent culinary school graduates for Executive Chef positions. In both cases it causes me to scratch my head and wonder why I've spent the better half of my career developing my craft and earning my title. -but enough of that for now, the entitlement of unqualified cooks calling themselves chefs is another blog post entirely. Case in point, these two categories of "chef" embody the realization that there is a subset of our craft in the industry who are just names on a jacket, or simply filling an open role. 

In fairness however, many who are successful in the industry today cut their teeth in such a way, myself included. My first Executive Chef role was at a time in my career in which I was neither prepared -for from a culinary standpoint, or have had the experience -from a leadership standpoint, yet nonetheless I was handed the jacket. Still, the pomp and circumstance of having the title doesn't necessarily guarantee that the person filling the role is equipped with the skills necessary to be a true Chef. Words on a jacket does not a Chef make. 

That brings me to the second category of "chef." This is the person whom we've all worked for in the industry; the person where all we can say is "OUI CHEF!" -a phrase that can be taken one of two ways, however in my experience more often than not it's with a sarcastic disrespect for the person who it is directed toward. As if to say you're wrong and we have no idea what you're talking about, but my job is to follow you nonetheless. There is perhaps no truer a representation of lack of confidence in their leader or worse, a complete disrespect. It behooves a chef to move through this stage of his career as quickly as possible. Frankly some never leave it. I know I've worked for them. Others quickly understand that leading by example is the quickest way to gain the confidence in the team they lead. 

Now our last category. The category which I will call the professional chef. This is the person who, in all respects, has reached the true nature of what it means to be a chef. It is necessary for this person to demonstrate not only the technique and confidence in cooking ability but also in display a steady composure in the kitchen with their ability to energetically lead and direct their kitchen brigade. It is in my humble opinion that it is the necessity of these two qualities combined in a single person, which makes the pursuit of this particular caliber of chef, increasingly difficult to find in our culture today. 

I've recently had the opportunity to coach and train four chefs for the completion of their CIA ProChef Certification. This is an opportunity for chefs to attend an exam session lasting a week to demonstrate their abilities and techniques of professional cooking. Completion of this exam, by no means is an easy task in itself. However, I would be remiss in saying that once the exam is complete the chef truly embodies ALL the qualities. There is no question that aptitude has been tested and skills verified, but the true color of the chef is taking those skills and abilities back to the teams that they lead. The completion of the exam, followed by the commencement ceremony signifies truly that -the beginning.

In a recent interview author Tim Ferriss interviewed four-star general Stanley McChrystal. In this interview the General indicated that for any professional you must keep always three people in your sights at all times. This leads to the ultimate professional development and trains leaders to remain objective. Here is a paraphrase of the three individuals he suggests:

#1:  A subordinate who is previously doing a job that you once had, and more importantly, doing that job better than you did when you had the job. It's important to have someone like this in mind to ensure that we as individuals have both the humility and the objectivity to recognize greatness around us. More importantly is the understanding that key to a truly successful team is building strength at all levels, it is not successful as a result of the talents of the leader. If this particular person is a subordinate then it is indeed our responsibility to develop that person. We should be striving for that mentality of "the student exceeds the teacher." This and only this will help strengthen and make your team better than it has ever been before. 

#2: A peer in your industry that's doing the current job that you currently occupy, either in another facility or for another company. What makes that person more successful than you are in your present capacity. What learnings can you derive from that person's success and how can you implement them in meeting or developing your own team and personal brand? It is in our nature as humans to want to be the best at anything. I think all of us are competitive to some degree. In other words if you're not already exceeding your peer group then to some degree you're competing against them. 

#3: A superior you admire as a mentor or role model who exhibits the qualities of leadership or management that you hope to  proficiently emulate someday. For the first half of my career this was always something very easy for me to do. When I worked in the pantry making salads and desserts I always carefully watched the fry station, once promoted to fry station I always wanted to sauté, on the sauté station I wanted to broil, on the broiler I wanted to expedite. Just as important as it is to identify people do you want to emulate, it's also important to identify people you do NOT want to emulate. This was also clear and evident in my early career. Nothing makes these two groups of people more distinct then when the entire team is in the weeds. The only way out is by working together. Half the team is bitching and whining and throwing their tongs about the line, the other half of the team is yelling ticket numbers and calling fires. If someday you want to be the chef which side of the pass are you on? 

Only a few talented chefs reach this pinnacle of their careers and have both the culinary technical aptitude and accreditation as well as -when looking down at their jacket, the letters of Executive Chef. At this point you should realize that now YOU have become the leader and role model. The prerequisites have been met, the table has metaphorically been set, the expectation now is to execute on that vision we spoke about. Leadership in this industry is not an easy thing to get your arms around. The dynamic and personalities of many culinary workers is very unique. 

A message to those chefs who became certified today -heed the call, that this is just the beginning. This is NOW the time for YOU to take the responsibility, indeed the DUTY to give back more to the industry, more than it has given you.