Mothers Day Weekend – Chicago Chef’s Market

Well, as you all know (I hope) this is Mothers Day weekend – known by those in the restaurant industry as HELL! It is the busiest day of the year, second is Valentines day – a DISTANT second (because it focuses on couples, not entire families). Apparently my colleagues at work have never worked in a restaurant on Mothers Day weekend.  Was VERY busy yesterday – in the restaurant, but also extremely  busy with deliveries (because of the change in weather). The proceed to state – I know it is Friday, but I wonder why it is so busy. This is CRAZY! … It all is large groups, like families or something.  I reply, well lets think – busy night, full of families, on Mothers Day weekend…Could they be related? (You think?).

On to more positive matters. I want to wish all the mothers (and soon to be) a VERY happy Mothers Day. Hope you e a great time, and next year – think about hiring a personal chef for Mothers Day. Imagine how relaxing it would be to NOT have to deal with the stress of dining at a busy restaurant, with someone waiting at bay for your table. and still being able to enjoy a great meal.

The initial meeting for the Chicago Chefs Market went well. Have some great ideas in the works. I will be working over the next week or two to create the business plan. I downloaded a lot of resources from the Farmers Market Coalition – that will be easily adaptable to our concept. Long term goals, thinking about branching out to other cities. It is a concept easily adaptable to many places. So why not make use of it.

The person I met with today is starting a print magazine about the food industry “Litereati” and writing. It is a valuable colleague to have on board. I am also looking at the idea of doing a column in their publication – for what I had in mind “The Chef’s Journal” so I just might have killed two birds with one stone.

return to the arts – nature – etc.

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Here you will see the painting I have been working on, for a book cover (upcoming by Janet Eaine Smith). I have been a casual/semi serious artist for my entire life – but it has been some time since I did a landscape. Overall, very happy with the results. Still seeking private chef jobs, but also focusing my energies on Cycling (and seeking a part time job in a bike shop). I feel it would be a nice change of pace, and be good to be working in a field I enjoy that promotes a healthy lifestyle (after feeding people unhealthy food for years, lol).

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new ideas, new direction? new momentum

Had a call yesterday from a colleague who hosts a radio show, asking me to call  in today because her subject was food. She also mentioned an associate she has who she will send me their info, that needs skilled chefs for events regularly. So momentum is slowly building. I have a class scheduled in a few weeks for Creole/Cajun cooking. and also have an event scheduled to cater for an art gallery next month.

On other notes,  I am working with a couple of skilled female chefs I know, on composing a Girls guide to Grillin (& BBQ) . It amazed me that such an item did not exist! all matter written on the subject are heavily testosterone driven. I feel this is a grea void in the market, and a potential for gaining a foothold that can only build in size.

On a side note, have an interview today – for a bike mechanic position. For the bike rental shops along the lakefront trail. Few of you know, I am an avid cyclist – and have built and maintained many bicycles over the last 3 decades. I figure if I can maintain my lively hood, doing something I enjoy – that does not compete with my time for hosting events and as chef. I am a fool not to! In life it is not so much about what you do, as what you are. I am a chef, and love the pleasure provided by serving people an amazing meal. This will allow me to luxury of ANY cooking I do, being for the pleasure of myself and others. Something working in the industry has not afforded me for some time. 

New Menus in the works – for new opportunities

I have been busy the last few days (since the tasting for Kitchensurfing.com) working on new menus – to go live, when they do (for Chicago) in the next 5-6 weeks. I have several completed including the “out the box lunch” – a few composed menus (sunday brunch, date night, family style dinner, & wild game theme BBQ) and a class on learning Creole food.

Next on the agenda, is the Gluten Free Gourmet – Creole cooking class. to be held on the 21st of this month, and an  event I will be catering for an art studio – offering a seminar. Later next month.

That said, I have time in my schedule, and am willing to offer a SPECIAL rate to those who read my blog, if they are in the Chicago area. Contact me, and I will do a private chef (dinner for four or less) for $25 – not including expenses!!!   All I ask in return, you write a review of my services on Yelp – so I can have a stronger virtual presence.

Willing to negotiate for larger events as well, so if you have something in mind – send me a message and lets make it happen! Looking at using Groupon as well, for expanding my customer base – but I will have to be VERY careful in creating the offer with them, as I have seen many a restaurants FAIL because of loosing money on them (and VERY few repeat customers out of it).

Tasting – recipes

The tasting went well for the group – I think my Crab Bread Pudding was the star of the show. As promised, here are the recipes for them both.

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Crab Bread Pudding

- Shrimp Stock -

1 medium onion – rough chop
2 sticks Celery – rough chop
1/2 green bell – rough cut
3 cloves garlic – crushed
1  tbsp butter
2 tbsp “emeril” essence – original
1 tsp Cayenne powder
3 bay leaves
1 lemon
4 cubes condensed Shrimp Stock
3 cups water

(1) – melt butter in 2 1/2 quart sauce pan, add peppers – onions – celery. Heat until onions are translucent. add garlic. Continue to heat over medium heat until you can smell the garlic.

(2) – squeeze lemon juice into pan to deglaze. then add water lemon, and bay leaves. Simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes. Season with “essence” and cayenne – to taste. add sea salt and fresh ground pepper if needed. Filter and set aside.

- Bread Pudding – 

2 loaves french bread (cut into 1/2″ cubes)
1 medium onion (diced)
2 sticks celery (diced)
1/2 green bell pepper (diced)
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup shrimp stock (above)
2 tbsp butter
buttered muffin tins (12)

heat oven to 400 degrees.

(1) – heat butter in skillet over medium heat, add peppers – onions – celery. Cook until onions are translucent. Deglaze pan with 1 cup shrimp stock – reserve remaining stock for sauce on top.

(2) – pour stock with vegetables from skillet into bread. Add eggs and milk. mix thoroughly. sit to allow bread to absorb liquid.

(3) – fill muffin tins to gently heaping with bread mixture. Cook in 400 degree oven 25-30 minutes (until firm but still moist)

- Crab Sauce –  

2 cup shrimp stock (above)
8 oz crab claw meat
3 oz quartered artichoke hearts
4 tbsp butter
1 lemon
celery leaves – to garnish

(1) – heat 1 tbsp butter in skillet over medium heat. add crab meat, saute gently. Then add (drained) artichoke hearts. continue to heat lightly until warmed. Deglaze pan with remaining stock – heat to gentle boil.

(2) – reduce heat slightly, add  lemon juice and butter (1 tbsp at a time) mixing in, to thicken sauce. reduce to simmer and rest until bread pudding is finished in the oven.

(3) – plating – gently remove cooked bread pudding from tins with small spatula. place on serving plate. spoon sauce gently over top – garnish with celery leaves. serve and enjoy!

Coconut Jerk Chicken

- marinade –

1 can coconut milk
2 sticks cinnamon (ground)
2 tbsp allspice (whole – freshly ground)
5 seeded habanero peppers
1 bunch spring onions
5 sprigs fresh thyme

(puree all ingredients in blender until creamy.) makes 1 quart.

2 lbs boneless chicken – cut into strips
1/2 cup jerk marinade (above)

(marinate chicken for 24 hours)

- turn broiler on to high –

place chicken on broiler pan, insert into broiler – cook for 20-25 minutes (until internal temp is 165 – or shows no pink color)

serve on a bed of jasmine rice. with a side of braised greens.

New Opportunities? But first – New York!

As I mentioned, tomorrow I will be honored to prepare a tasting for the visiting foodies from “Kitchensurfing” in New York. Have my min-en-place all done. The final menu is as follows.

Savory Bread Pudding – topped with crab meat and artichoke heart burblanc. Spiced with Louisiana Crab Boil seasoning. Served with a baby arugula salad, blackberry vinaigrette, dried craberries – golden raisins – cherries.

Coconut Jerked Chicken- boneless chicken marinated in spicy Caribbean rub  – with the flavors balanced by the sweetness of coconut milk.

- Stay Tuned for complete Recipe’s !!!!!! – as well as photos (maybe even video ?) of the tasting –

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Have been out shopping most of today, and finishing with the prep this eve. Now time to relax and unwind. Perhaps a glass of wine.

Busy all day yesterday with the wedding I was helping cater. By happenstance, one of the guys helping out – is one of the   main guys for “Hardy Boys Catering” – one of the newer boutique caterers here. As it turn out, he mentioned they were expanding and needed a lead guy – said he will get in touch with me for details. I told him I was definitely interested (VERY good wages, the highest in the area) and that he should email me so I could forward my resume. He replied, we do not need a resume, I am in charge of hiring. I have seen how you work. There is no application process, you have the job  – if you want it.

Some of you may have heard of the company – on the first season on Top Chef – the winners were the founders of Hardy Boys Catering.

Looks like more doors opening, reinforcing my feelings that Chi-town is MY-town! My kind of town,Chicago is My kind of town…(Sung in a bad Sinatra impression).

“out the box” Lunch menu added, More events in the works – NOW on Yelp!

Well, I am now listed on Yelp – for catering and personal chef. Am asking those here who have followed me to write a review or endorsement on there, to help spread the word – so I can reach new customers and share the love for food I have with them. It can be found under Creolepolitan Cuisine – Chicago (under category “caterer” or “personal Chef”).

Also just added a sandwich and lunch menu, developed due to the fact – the meeting I had with Sergio Gomez (the Curator for Zhou Bros Gallery) went well, and I will be providing lunch for an upcoming photoshop class he will be teaching in the end of May. So if you are in the Chicago area, and looking to learn more about using Photoshop – let me know. Also discussing a few private dinners there. and may even work into more potential, because I am talking to the manager of the Cafe (in the space) and found out they have a full production kitchen (that does not seem to be used). So who knows – Only thing I do know is…things are moving FORWARD!

On a side note, If anyone out there is looking for an investment – I have a colleague who is a venture capitalist, and has an investment on the table. If anyone can provide $100k – he can return it as $135k in 30 days! and also is willing to help me with the funding of my restaurant – in the process. So if you are interested (or know anyone that is) please reach out to me ASAP – as time is of the essence, and it is a SHORT term deal.

Sales & Marketing GURU wanted!

In business, it is just as important to know what your weakness are as your strength. I know how to speak to customers, am not shy in front of people, have good communication  skills, and all the attributes to be a good salesman. Maybe because of the subconscious stereotype of the used car dealer – but for some reason I am not very good at sales. I can gather all the leads, and do the followup (more often than not, my food sells itself – when given a chance). I even took a class in auto sales – long ago, when I was out of work. (largely because sportscars are a hobby/passion of mine).

That said – I need someone for sales and marketing. They have to be able to phone prospective clients, send out menus and pricing info, and assist with creation of marketing materials. Because I am still starting out (and not even paying myself) it would be a commission based position. But the rates would be very fair.

Offering 15% of all new clients – on their first order (or contract) and 5% on all repeat orders. So you make money as long as they are using my services. Residual income, without having to work for it! how can you beat an offer like that? You do not have to be in Chicago for this position, as the work can be done over  the phone and internet. But I do want someone familiar with Chicago.

Email your resume and inquiries to me at
chefkevins@gmail.com

an open door – or at least Window… Michelin Rated French bistro

Well it is not even close to being hired, or even a stage shift – I did receive a call for a pre-interview for head chef position for a Michelin rated French Bistro here in Chicago. Even to be considered for such a prestigious restaurant with pedigree is an honor and shows that I must have done something right in my career history. Pre-interview is Saturday – so wish me luck!

The meeting I had scheduled for Wends got pushed back to Friday – so I am meeting then, to discuss other options for cooking classes. Thinking one market there seems to be shortage of is gluten free. So might be a good avenue for a focus in cooking classes. Will work with wine pairing, but not so well with beer – lol.

Next day or two spent looking over classical French recipes, to brush up on my knowledge. I have the key skills down – and know most of the basics. One thing that is good about applying to a place like that, you can find out exactly what the menu and techniques are before hand – so preparing for it is much easier. Not much guesswork for a Michelin rated French bistro.  (steak frites – escargot – frog legs – cassoulet – mussels – etc. all the classics! )

while much of my food is contemporary – all of it is rooted deeply in the classics, and does not use all the smoke and mirrors of so many modern restaurants.

Even if I can get my foot in the door – for a stage position, will be affirming of my abilities. 

why some of us are truly self employed

I have had many tell me I did not respect authority. While this is partly true – it is not entirely the case. YES – I do sometimes take criticism poorly (but I do  respect the insight – and consider the source). How I respond to others is largely determined by the knowledge the person has – and not just their authority. Many people have titles of boss, manager, supervisor, or owner. Often I have found these people either “purchased” their title – or were appointed to it (because of who they knew).

I have no problem in listening to the wisdom of a peer in the industry. Someone who has earned their position, and proven their knowledge. I do however not take well to people who buy a business (they know nothing about) hire a staff (usually WELL below what the are worth) to run it for them (while they take the  profits and credit) an then blame you when it does not make as much a they expect it to.

Reality- the restaurant is a VERY hard business. one of the least forgiving out there. The food served SHOULD be the number one factor in determining success – but is likely (at best) #3 -4.

1) Marketing – publicity (this is what brings people in the door) without this, you have NOTHING!

2) Location – how accessable you are. Can people find a place to park. how many are walking distance, what other businesses are nearby? this can provide 20-30% of your customers – and provide the all important “repeat customer.”  If everything else is on point, people will travel for good food and good service – in a nice atmosphere.

3) Service – we have all been there. Mediocre food, with great service – and we give them a second chance. Hell – many fast food chains seem to have this their business model! but no matter how good the food is – if the service is bad. We do not go back. Service DIRECTLY effects the food. If food sits for too long, it cools off (or gets warm), looses its flavor, and freshness.

4) atmosphere – how   many times have you gone to a restaurant – ordered a few more drinks, and spent more than you expected. Because it had a good “feel” to it. The right setting DIRECTLY effects the perception of the food, and service.

5) food – distinctiveness (brings people in – after they see the menu) quality – satisfies people when they do dine there. Consistency – keeps repeat customers happy. Many in the industry say consistency is the first factor – but my thoughts, if people have never been there before – how do they KNOW it is consistent? you need to have repeat customers – for consistency  to factor in.  And as I have shown here – many more factors are at play than food, in creating repeat customers.

Much of this I am sure is the same for many other business. This may not be a totally accurate model or representation. But in my life – having worked in this industry for over 2 decades. as manager, chef, and (hopefully soon) owner – of a restaurant.   it is shown to be accurate.