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Thread: Culinary SOS

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    Food Culinary SOS

    You have food questions, I've got answers. Whether your interested in learning more about culinary technique for yourself or just trying to get laid by laying down some edible spread, I'm here for you. Or maybe your in the industry and you just want to talk shop and swap stories. Whatever it is, if it's remotely related to food, fire away, fire it up but as the old adage goes, if you can't stand the heat get the **** out of my kitchen (which is why I struggled placing this thread in the Lounge or in the Depths). Anyways...



    First, I'll drop a little background on myself. I started my decent into the restaurant industry as a FOH server. A good friend of mine (it is who you know) scored me a back waiter position at a 5-star restaurant called Pete's in Boca Raton (now City Fish Market). It was my first experience in dealing with uber-rich ****s, celebrities and their idiotic counterparts that spend obscene amounts of money on food and booze. I soon worked my way to banquet server, which led to a front server position (there where two waiters and a busser for every table) which led to me, despite the ridiculous amount of money I made in tips, wanting to punch undeserving entitled and demeaning pieces of **** in their throats.

    Where was I? Oh yeah... So after following my high school sweetheart (whom I am now married to) to her university destination of choice, I sought out a few more server jobs in some more classy joints. Sure enough there came a time where I found myself in the position of looking for yet another one. Only this time, I made sure to wrap up all my searches and interviews to come home and catch a TV show. Which TV show you ask? Great Chefs (http://www.greatchefs.com/).

    I was in love. I signed up for culinary school and off I went. While attending the Florida Culinary Institute and having the benefit of being taught by some of CIA's finest instructors who had moved down to Florida from NY, I also had the great privilege of working for a German Master Pastry Chef in his bake shop. I arose at 3:00-3:30 in the morning to get into the bakery; worked til 11:00; drove up to West Palm Beach for classes at 12pm; drove back down South to get home around 6pm; did some homework; went to bed around 8ish only to do it all over again the next day. I really did enjoy it as I was able to learn both aspects of culinary and baking & pastry. You see, you only get one degree or the other at school (culinary or baking/pastry) and I was able to obtain a culinary degree while gaining experience and extensive knowledge of baking and pastry work at the same time and finished up a few courses in hospitality management as well.

    After graduation, I got married and the actual BOH work in restaurants began. There are a couple more places of work that I didn't list below because they really aren't worth a mention as they didn't turn out to be worth a damn and I didn't spend a significant amount of time anyways. Mostly corporate **** holes like Cheddars. It took a single day, after being hired as Asst. Mgr, to look around their kitchen and view how ****ty their food and production process was (no stove burner tops, primarily microwaves) and I split. No thanks.

    The first kitchen I worked in out of culinary school was a modern American/French based bistro where we worked with local farmers and fisherman. Our menu changed weekly depending on what was in season and what was brought in to us in terms of proteins and produce. Asshole chef; great learning experience. On top of the usual dinner shift (3-11pm), I also did most of their baking and pastry work at night. Once the dinner shift ended we would clean up the kitchen and my baking shift usually started around 11:30pm-12am after a beer/MJ break and lasted until about 4am, maybe 5am depending on the prep list and orders. After a year and a half, I had had my fill (and I was tired as ****) and it was time to move on.

    I then became Kitchen Manager of a very popular university bar. Named one of Playboy's best college hangouts, blah, blah, blah. I enjoyed the experience. Redid the menu, saved them literally tens of thousands a dollars a year by changing their food production systems and haggling with food purveyors, yada yada yada, but the fast paced bar and grill food along with managing amateur college kids/cooks was not my thing. I moved on in less than a year.

    Then came my primary staple: a high end USDA Prime Steakhouse. Worked my way thru every kitchen station and position to eventually land as Sous and then Head Chef. During a period of time while here, and before the major promotions, I also worked lunches and some dinners at a Japanese/sushi restaurant a few doors down for ****s & giggles and more experience. I loved my time here at this steakhouse. One of the very few restaurants I had been in where everyone was family and both the BOH and FOH had a lot of respect for each other. Closest knit group of friends I've ever had and will have.

    Then came my unofficial retirement. I left the kitchen but remained in touch with special catering requests and helped develop the kitchen concept and menu for another popular college spot that still thrives to this day. Besides Florida (I purposefully left out the names of places and restaurants in FL to protect the innocent from any stories that may surface as the thread continues), I dabbled here http://opusdine.com/ when I moved for a short period of time to Colorado but realized I was over it and my income wasn't needed.

    I am now officially retired from the restaurant industry. I now spend my time reading about food science and chemistry and still love to cook at home and for others and although I miss some aspects of it, the desire is never enough to subject myself again to the long hours and ass kicking work.

    All in all, the fringe benefits and the drug and alcohol fueled lifestyle are all true. If you ever have a chance to pick up a copy of Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential it gives an accurate behind-the-scenes look into kitchens and it's culture.

    Enough about me for now. I want to hear your questions, comments and stories.

    SoS Kitchen Crew



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    I just woke up and can't think yet but I believe that I will have a lot of fun in this thread. I appreciate you starting this and have already learned several things from foodie conversions in the POFO.
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    I am on my way back to Texas from Nashville (pulled pork and ribs, didn't make it to Pancake Pantry Dammit!) and staying with my mom in Ocean Springs, MS (beignets, oysters, and ph). I define every place I go by the food!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Buddy View Post
    I am on my way back to Texas from Nashville (pulled pork and ribs, didn't make it to Pancake Pantry Dammit!) and staying with my mom in Ocean Springs, MS (beignets, oysters, and ph). I define every place I go by the food!
    Haha. That's funny and a shame you weren't able to stop there. I assume you are referring to the one in Nashville, but my wife and I were married in Gatlinburg and the Pancake Pantry is where we always eat breakfast when we visit. Drive safe.
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    Good to know SoS. I'd love to know if I have ever eaten at your steakhouse ever, if it was in the Tampa region I probably have lol.

    I'm not a trained chef but I have managed to gain a reputation with my friends and families as a damn fine pit master as well as other great foods that I put out. I love foods and food science. My family wanted me to go your route and get professionally trained and open my own place. I tell them the same thing I tell everyone, I have hobbies I love to get away from my work, I enjoy putting out great food because it takes me away from my daily work and life. If I choose that profession as a career, no matter how much you love it, you loose that hobby aspect or that relaxing quality goes with just doing it for fun. So I choose to be shady tree chef lol.

    I own a small bar and getting the kitchen running is new for me, cooking in a kitchen for family and friends is one thing but running a profitable kitchen as a business is completely different. It's just "bar food" so to speak but there are things on the menu outside of your typical burger and wings, people were surprised a some of the items on our menu. I've catered weddings (smaller events 120ish), larger events (200+) where we've roasted hogs and cooked garbage can turkeys. It's funny to see a "real" caterer's reaction when we roll up with a cooler of beer the spit with a hog on ice. The reaction is usually "this redneck is going to **** it all up" but it always goes off without a major hitch and the caterer's generally ask if we want to work with them again to which my response is "no I'm doing this as a wedding gift for a friend" or "no, this is only a favor for a friend who helped me in the past".

    I'm like you I enjoy cooking, I love to find and try new things. I'm always dabbling to see if I can find one ingredient that puts a dish over the top, something that says this isn't Betty Crooker this is 5 star. I think I would have made a good chef and I think I would have had fun with it, my pallet is good at pairing things that your average person might not think about but I look and say "hey why not".

    I love that you have professional food experience as a head chef, I'll be bouncing my experiments off you in this thread for sure. Thanks for sharing and I'm looking forward to this thread.
    "Frank's Redhot - I Put That **** On Everything!" ~ Ethel

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    SOS...Tampa?

    If you want...pm me the restaurant...I live in Bradenton and would frequently head to Tampa...
    Click here to vote for Truth (it has boobs, I promise)

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    Quote Originally Posted by NY8123 View Post
    Good to know SoS. I'd love to know if I have ever eaten at your steakhouse ever, if it was in the Tampa region I probably have lol.

    I'm not a trained chef but I have managed to gain a reputation with my friends and families as a damn fine pit master as well as other great foods that I put out. I love foods and food science. My family wanted me to go your route and get professionally trained and open my own place. I tell them the same thing I tell everyone, I have hobbies I love to get away from my work, I enjoy putting out great food because it takes me away from my daily work and life. If I choose that profession as a career, no matter how much you love it, you loose that hobby aspect or that relaxing quality goes with just doing it for fun. So I choose to be shady tree chef lol.

    I own a small bar and getting the kitchen running is new for me, cooking in a kitchen for family and friends is one thing but running a profitable kitchen as a business is completely different. It's just "bar food" so to speak but there are things on the menu outside of your typical burger and wings, people were surprised a some of the items on our menu. I've catered weddings (smaller events 120ish), larger events (200+) where we've roasted hogs and cooked garbage can turkeys. It's funny to see a "real" caterer's reaction when we roll up with a cooler of beer the spit with a hog on ice. The reaction is usually "this redneck is going to **** it all up" but it always goes off without a major hitch and the caterer's generally ask if we want to work with them again to which my response is "no I'm doing this as a wedding gift for a friend" or "no, this is only a favor for a friend who helped me in the past".

    I'm like you I enjoy cooking, I love to find and try new things. I'm always dabbling to see if I can find one ingredient that puts a dish over the top, something that says this isn't Betty Crooker this is 5 star. I think I would have made a good chef and I think I would have had fun with it, my pallet is good at pairing things that your average person might not think about but I look and say "hey why not".

    I love that you have professional food experience as a head chef, I'll be bouncing my experiments off you in this thread for sure. Thanks for sharing and I'm looking forward to this thread.
    I also find much more satisfaction these days in that cooking for people is now more of an enjoyable hobby as opposed to the job that it was years ago. As much as I liked to cook for people outside of work in those times (and that my wife always wanted to have people over for dinner parties) when it came to my cherished one day off a week, I wanted nothing to do with a kitchen.

    Let me know anytime you have a question. I helped knock off thousands of dollars from food cost while at the bar and grill. Anytime you have a question I'd be more than happy to help. Being over a decade ago I don't remember the exact prices of items and they've increased for certain so it doesn't matter too much but I'll give a few quick examples:

    1) They, the owners and previous KM, had developed a good relationship with a their food purveyor (Sysco) and had stuck with their rep for nearly 10 years. Not to be cold but he wasn't my friend and it was now my food cost. One of the first things I did was call in competing companies in Florida Food Service, Cheney Bros, Rainbow Produce, etc and started a little bidding war. Needless to say we ended up sticking with Sysco because they matched and beat out the competition because they valued our account, but in the end it was less money spent for the restaurant and eventually more money for me. Depending on where you are located, your situation, and what purveyors are available to you, you could also do the same.

    2) Black beans and rice was a dish and a side for a large percentage of sandwiches/dishes. They had always used #10 cans (6 lbs) of pre-seasoned black beans. We went through roughly 10-12 cases (60-75 lbs) of beans a week depending on circumstance and season. Long story short I simply started buying 50 lb bags of dried black beans, pre-soaking them overnight in a large cambro and cooking them with bulk seasoning products that we already had on hand (salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder). This new production cost saved us in the neighborhood of $.30 a lb. Figure in again that we went thru generally 65 lbs a week and it saved over $1000 a year on black beans alone. Granted it required a little more labor but that was just one item. I used the same thought process many many other items and the additional prep cook that I had to hire more than payed for itself with the extra revenue. The consideration of the incredible amount of business we did also has to be taken into account for the savings to be beneficial for the extra preparation times but never the less there's usually a way to save money somewhere.

    Anyways, hit me up anytime you like.
    Last edited by Sons of Shula; 02-20-2015 at 11:43 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ConvenientTruth View Post
    SOS...Tampa?

    If you want...pm me the restaurant...I live in Bradenton and would frequently head to Tampa...
    That was just NY8123's speculation I'm attempting to have the restaurant(s) remain anonymous but I am starting to doubt that will be the case as the thread continues. Just for the fact that one of my best friends is the GM of the steakhouse and wouldn't want to shed a bad light of judgement on the establishment stemming from any crazy kitchen stories that may surface. We'll see.
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    Good stuff Shula. I too followed your chat with Wally and picked up some pointers . I grill a lot but leave the main cooking to someone much more qualified and better at it although in the past year i've taken over the pot roast and turkey duties and enjoy that very much. Hoping member AGFins posts in the thread as he's the best cook I know.
    Last edited by fishfanmiami; 02-19-2015 at 02:13 PM.













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