CulinaryCuesBlog 

A selection of the excellent Culinary and Chef related Blogs located at Harvest America Ventures reprinted with permission of Chef Paul Sourgle.  

I strongly suggest that you visit his site and spend some time enjoying his incredible work.

George

ARE SERVERS AND COOKS LIKE OIL AND VINEGAR?

by Chef Paul Sourgle; MS, AAC CULINARYCUESBLOG 

ServersThere are many examples of love/hate relationships or classic feuds that are difficult to rationalize: the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s, Alexander Hamilton and Raymond Burr; Neil Young and Lynard Skynard, the Beatles and Yoko Ono, Democrats and Republicans, and, of course, Restaurant Servers and Cooks. What is the reason for these sometimes oil and vinegar relationships? Why did either side lose sight of the big picture? Are these feuds simply based on tradition or misunderstanding, not fact?
We have come to accept that Republicans and Democrats simply cannot get along or agree and Lynard Skynard and Neil Young intensely dislike each other as portrayed in song: “well, I hope Neil Young will remember a Southern Man don’t need him around, anyhow.” In actuality, Republicans and Democrats should be able to agree on what is right for our country and, oh by the way, Skynard’s lyrics were meant to support Neil Young’s charge against racist behavior. The point is, more often than not, feuds or traditional abrasive relationships are ill founded.
In the case of restaurant servers and cooks, consider these facts:
• Service staff members are the first line of offense and defense with restaurant guests. Their primary role is twofold: customer satisfaction and building check averages for the house and for the basis of their tips.
• Unlike cooks, their wages are not predetermined. In most cases, if they do their job well, the guest will tip as is expected, but the guest is not required to do so. Servers are paid, in most cases, sub-minimum wage (allowed by law) because it is assumed that they will make sufficient tips to make up the difference.
• Servers are required to hide their emotions while performing their job. When a guest is contrary, the server needs to tough it out, smile and say, yes.
• Servers are able to perform their job only when everyone else performs theirs.

IS A LACK OF FOOD TRADITION AND DISCIPLINE KILLING US?

by Chef Paul Sourgle; MS, AAC CULINARYCUESBLOG

SalmonIn recent years America has wrestled with the challenges of providing opportunities for every citizen to have affordable health care. This is an issue that divides the country as we are challenged by “who pays for it?” What few seem to try and address as the real issue is not just providing care for those who are sick, but investing in a plan of prevention. From a cost perspective, this is what will lead to affordability. What is interesting to me is trying to identify what role, if any, restaurants and chefs should play in this effort of prevention.


Let’s look at some undeniable data. In the neighborhood of 60% (and rising) of the America population is overweight or obese. The obesity segment alone is more than 30%. This equates to 78 million Americans whose body fat index is dangerously high. Obesity is a major cause of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer (according to the Center for Disease Control and the American Medical Association). Nearly 200 billion health care dollars are spent each year in treatment of these diseases among the obese. This information is not new; we probably have all heard this, countless times, and in various forms. The irony is that the message is not getting through to a significant portion of the population.


Simply stated, being overweight or obese is a result of consuming more calories than we are able to burn. Thus, we are creating this problem one fork full at a time. Is this obesity the cause of a major health problem in the U.S. or is this still an effect of something deeper?

ALL HAIL COOK’S APPRENTICESHIP

by Chef Paul Sourgle; MS, AAC CULINARYCUESBLOG

Culinary Apprenticeship John was 16 and a junior in high school. He came from a family of modest means; dad was a carpenter, a pretty good one too; mom had her hands full taking care of John’s three sisters, his younger brother and him and decorating wedding cakes as a side business from their home. The family always had enough to eat, sufficient clothes, a warm house in winter and the necessary supplies for school, but it was apparent that college was probably not in the cards for John and his siblings.
 
One summer John was hired as a dishwasher in a local Italian restaurant; he immediately fell in love with the environment. He enjoyed the banter among the cooks, was invigorated by the pace of business, felt complete after a hard day in the dish pit, appreciated the opportunity to flirt with the waitresses, and most importantly, loved the aroma and flavor of the kitchen. The restaurant gave him purpose and hope.
 
When school started again in the fall, John kept a part-time job at the restaurant, working weekends and an occasional mid-week evening. His family was fine with this since he was able to have some of his own money, open a savings account and contribute a bit to the family fund.
 
As the summer of his 17th year drew near, the restaurant chef called John into his office. “John, I like your work ethic and can sense your interest in what is happening in the kitchen. What are your plans after your senior year in high school?” Jake sheepishly said that his family couldn’t afford college, so he really hadn’t given it too much thought. “I have an idea that you might be interested in. I learned how to cook through the old school of hard knocks and an opportunity given to me when I was your age. The restaurant I washed dishes at was part of a national apprenticeship program for cooks. It lasted three years, but at the end, I was an accomplished cook who could work in any kitchen.” John was intrigued. “I am starting a similar program at this restaurant and feel that it might be a perfect opportunity for you. I see myself in your work and your level of passion. If you are willing, I can start teaching you a few things as a breakfast assistant cook this summer and sign you up for the apprenticeship once you graduate.” John listened with great interest. “Talk it over with your parents and let me know.”
 

THE REAL KEY TO RESTAURANT SUCCESS IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MANAGEMENT AND STAFF

by Chef Paul Sourgle; MS, AAC CULINARYCUESBLOG

WhiteGlov HAVEveryone seems to be free with advice on how to find and push the magic button creating a successful restaurant. There are certainly standard answers (ho hum) like location, product, atmosphere and service. These are certainly critical pieces of the puzzle, but very few experts get to the heart of the matter, the real keys to success.

You have all heard the statement that your employees are your most valuable assets, yet very few operators (not exclusive to restaurants) take this to heart and build a strategy around these assets. Every operator I work with complains about the inability to find, attract, hire and retain great employees, yet very few actually sit down and determine what it would take to reach these goals. A recent article in the Vermont newspaper, Seven Days, asked the question: “Where are all the line cooks.” This was a piece of investigative journalism defining the effects, but not clearly defining the problem. Allow me to provide my own opinion on the topic.
What do employees and employers truly want? What must be in place for great teams to form, work effectively together, and stay together? Here are my thoughts for a successful restaurant staffing strategy: