Archive for June, 2011

Tomorrow’s Future Is Today, You Can Bet On It!

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

To have a truly successful business you need to start grooming potential future hospitality industry employees. Here’s the inspiration and knowhow on getting this done!

In listening to politicians lately, I am astounded about how they talk about the disarray of today and their dire predictions for our country’s future.  As I am sure, many people feel the anxiety today of our business or lack of and why this is all happening and what will happen next, or is the glass and the future half full or half empty. We are typically a group of optimists, candid, blunt, but necessarily concerned with what happens next, but hopefully thinking about it.

I remembered the time I got one of those phone calls from a parent who was concerned about their son’s ideas for the future; code name, going to college and what would be the best major area to attain a degree in for their future.  They had heard from mutual friends that I had experience talking to and mentoring young adults about careers and attending college and would it be possible to meet with me to discuss their thoughts.  It got me thinking about who should I really be speaking to, the parents or their child?  My experience with speaking to the parents is most of the time they have their own ideas about what they think their child should do, not necessarily in concert with the child’s thoughts or ideas.

Before I talk about the meeting or the outcome, maybe we should focus on the overall situation that we have today; code word – next steps, the future of our industry and what are you personally doing about it?  Oh sure when someone asks about the hospitality industry you tell them all the good things, wonderful experiences, etc.  but when was the last time you spoke to a young person who might want to be part of our industry or better yet, spent the time to talk to them about the pro’s and con’s of the type of experience they might need or get, whether to go to a vocational school, Community College or University and what they might expect when they graduate and the type of industry position they should pursue?  I did a brief unscientific survey and called several business people to ask them the last upcoming high school graduate they spoke to about their future, might have given advice to or even to an employee or staff member they encouraged to go take management classes at the University or Community College in their area, to better themselves, increase their skill level and knowledge and also to learn.  All had the same response more or less, “no one had approached them for advice.”  I am not sure we are prepared as an industry to “give back” or many just don’t understand that the future of our business is in question to many young people on what we are about, what type of experience and education do they need to be successful along with how and where should they be looking to learn more about the hospitality business?

Once we get out of this current economic situation and the malaise of business today, over the next few years we will need more educated and trained professionals to move the overall industry and development process forward.  As an industry person, you have a choice, think about only today or focus on tomorrow, an assist in the process of developing the talent of the future who will propel our fate moving forward.  It is too late at this time to talk to this year’s graduating high school seniors, but not too late to see about speaking to your local high school or contacting your alma mater about how you can assist with their recruitment in your area or volunteer your time to talk to your own child’s or your friends children’s class about the opportunities that can exist for them in the future.  You can also take a look at the people that you’re currently working with and take an independent poll on talking to them about their dreams and the potential of more education to better their personal chances of professional advancement too.

Now you might be saying why do this for others, what’s in it for me or I might have hit a cord in your mind about giving back or a warm feeling that it’s just the right thing to do.  But depending on where you are in your career and how you got there, I am sure you either got some great advice, lucky breaks or worked damn hard to achieve some type of success. Now is the time to pass on the opportunity to others.  Maybe it’s not as easy as it seems, but believe me it is.  Talk to some parents who don’t have the overall view of the world or interesting experiences like some of you do in this exciting business; they will be very grateful and so will the person you are advising, and maybe someday they will come back and thank you too.

Oh that young student that I mentioned before, he went on to a great career working for several well known hotels, restaurants and chefs and now is another consultant dispensing advice to his clients.  I plan to give him a call someday soon to remind him of his commitment to our industry and his promise to “give back” and work towards the future of our industry – you can bet on it!


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Let It Rain – Spring time in the Pacific Northwest

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Vancouver is a city that offers a different and refreshing taste of traditional and Asian Fusion inspired cuisine and a place that you can go and walk and meander about for a few days, but unfortunately sometimes in late May the chance of rain and chilly weather can be challenging. This was an eating trip, especially with the amount of rain and cold weather, but other than that and some limited wine selections at most restaurants, Vancouver should definitely be on your ‘eat list’ of places to visit. Our first stop is always lunch at Shanghai Chinese Bistro on Alberni Street for a bowl of Shrimp and Pork Hot and Sour Soup; not the typical American Chinese version, but made in a flavorful ‘Cloudy Broth’ and then onto to a large selection of Dim Sum. Although this particular restaurant has been in business for quite awhile, they are always updating the food and menu offerings to stay current to today’s tastes.
Granville Island is known by some as ‘Granola Island’ for its bohemian atmosphere and artistic colony businesses and residents. It also houses the city market where you can either get anything from the best selection of fresh fish, prime meats, fresh baked breads, fruit items from all around the world or also snack along the way at the plethora of quick service food stands. In good weather it’s great to buy some items and picnic – however when it rains, head straight for the Artisan Sake Maker, Masa Shiroki; he has the first boutique premium sake made in Canada. For a few dollars you can have a tasting selection and it will warm you up. Plus, it tastes delicious!
Bao Bei is a relatively new Asian Brasserie on the edge of China Town and has already become the darling of the trendy, local crowd. Featuring a small plates menu ranging in price from $9.00 to $15.00CAD, with local fish, tofu and vegetarian and of course Steamed Buns and Pork Belly too. The atmosphere is comfortable and relaxed, but definitely the food preparations are well thought out and polished.
Yaletown has multiplied from a small warehouse area just a few years ago into a bustling work-eat-live there environment. The anchor of the area is Urban Faire, a large bustling market with a selection of food items, take away prepared dishes, coffee and tea bar, made to order items and a vibe of guests that you typically don’t find in markets in the United States. They offer live music on certain days, along with a social get together, a great place to organize some food for a picnic or just hang out to sip some beverages and chat.
Maenam, a postage stamp size restaurant on Broadway, and is turning out some of the most interesting and bright tasting Thai food, starting with Cloudy Hot and Sour Soup of Wild Baja Prawns, which we asked to have the Fresh Spot Prawns as a substitution since they were the first of the Season. Then on to Green Mango salad, with Grilled Albacore Tuna, which was more of a mid-course, but entrée sized. Dry Curry of Crispy Lingcod and a bowl of Jasmine Rice, rounded out the experience. If I Iived in Vancouver this is the type of restaurant I could eat in once a week! After a great meal and a rainy day, a stop at Urban Tea Company on Alberni Street, seems in order. A wonderful and comfortable respite in the middle of the shopping district in Vancouver. The selection of teas and proper service makes you just relax and is a great place to wait out the daily rain storm.
No trip to Vancouver would be complete without a visit to Tojo’s restaurant for Japanese Cuisine. Hidekazu Tojo has been a fixture on the Japanese restaurant scene since the early 1970s and has had his own restaurant since 1988. He has served as the ambassador for not only his own restaurant but for Vancouver in the local scene and the international restaurant world. To fully understand his food, you should sit at the counter and let him prepare a tasting menu for you; he will tailor it to your tastes and also take into consideration your dietary restrictions, and get ready for an experience second to none. Tojo prides himself on constantly adjusting his menu to what is seasonally available, so the meal we experienced might not be available again, but each and every time I have dined with him, the experience fully exceeds my expectations.
I remember on our lunch visit to Shanghai Chinese Bistro seeing the fish tank chocked full of Dungeness Crabs, so for our last evening a revisit was in order. A two-kilo fresh crab was flashed in the wok with scallions and ginger – nothing more to say!
Portland and Willamette Valley Wine Country was next on the agenda. The first night a visit to one of our old haunts, Higgins’ was definitely in order. The bar was buzzing, even though there was a rain storm raging outside. To me this is a benchmark Pacific Northwest Restaurant; great local food selection, hard to beat wine list, and fair pricing, and attentive service and the professionalism of the service team. Housemade Charcuterie and Oregon Cheese selection, seasonal fish and vegetables and signature fruit desserts, a nice way to be welcomed back to Portland.
Being the next day was Sunday, there was only one real choice, we knew we were going to have Dim Sum at Fong Chong in Chinatown, a somewhat down trodden old place but hey, are you interested in the food or the atmosphere?! You can eat till your stuffed and if your bill is over $25.00 for two people, I would be very surprised!
The hills of Dundee were calling, so off we went for a day of wine tasting, great hospitality and conversation. Our first stop was Sokol Blosser Winery; the sun finally broke through so a tour of the vineyards was in order and they had a BBQ Lunch which they offer on various weekends and holidays, a few some tastings of Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and the day was starting off just fine. Next was Archery Summit, they were tasting right in the wine cave and offering their premium wine selection, which I am told if you ask nicely, you can try too! No trip to Willamette Valley would be complete without visiting with Pam Walden at Daedalus Cellars; she has a small but very comfortable tasting room and offers some the best single vineyard Pinot Noir in Oregon.
Our last evening was an easy choice for dinner. Keeler Hospitality had recently opened a new restaurant, ‘Portland Prime.’ We had dined on great seafood most of the week, so a Prime Steak and big bottle of red wine were definitely in order – let’s just say we were not disappointed!

The Great Italian Pigout!

Monday, June 13th, 2011

The other night I had the pleasure to attend the Great Italian Pigout, hosted by Chef Chris Palmeri of Naked City Pizza Shop (@NakedCityLV). Chris is an old friend who has cooked around the Strip and made the move a few years ago to do his own thing, to truly embrace his passion for food he wanted to cook. He founded Naked City Pizza Shop inside of Moondoggies Bar here in Vegas, providing a killer Buffalo-style quick-serve, offering sandwiches, wings and various specials.

Chris wanted to really do something different, so he enlisted some of his chef buddies from the Strip and they put together a 5-course menu, embracing all things Pig. For this festival of deliciousness, I wanted to definitely support and enjoy what the guys had put together, and for $25.00, the meal was a bargain.

I headed over to Moondoggies, running into a few people from Vegas past and we dove into the experience. Starting us off was a Jack Daniels Honey cocktail, mixed with their new liqueur, orange juice and amaretto. A touch sweet for me, but the whiskey base spirit would definitely be an easy drink mixed with iced tea or soda water.

First course on deck was a sheet pan (Chris’ signature Buffalo-style) Margarita Pizza with housemade sweet Italian sausage. Although I couldn’t enjoy this myself (tomato allergy), everyone who had the ‘za thought it had great flavor, wasn’t overly salty and freshness. Fortunately, Chris made me a plate of the sausage, sans sauce along with house-made bread, which didn’t suck. Following that up, was the
Pork Shoulder Ragu with Papardelle which looked amazing! Again, a dish I couldn’t enjoy (my loss), but the sweetness of the red wine braise with the shoulder, allowed the sheer umami goodness to come out. I was lucky to have a simple plate of the Papardelle with olive oil and parmesan cheese – mild flavors, but much needed.

The next course was a great surprise, but quite fitting based on the meal – it was time for salad. He put together a mix of Field greens with Cured Pork Loin with Lemon vinaigrette. This loin was cured in a similar style to Prosciutto, but with the cut of pork it was savory and rich, while having a lack of fat. The coup de gras of the meal was during the fourth course, Housemade Porchetta – stuffed with sweet Italian sausage, pork loin and wrapped in pork belly. This dish with the three different types of pork was a fantastic marriage of flavors – as the sausage wasn’t too salty, the loin was tender and wrapped in the pork belly made it amazing.

Rounding out the meal, courtesy of Jolene’s baker at Sloppi Jo’s Roving Eatery (@SloppiJos) were two delicious nuggets of joy – Breakfast cupcakes with pancake batter studded with bacon, bacon butter cream and Elvis cupcakes – banana cupcake with peanut butter butter cream. Let me tell you – if you thought the first four dishes were gluttonous, these desserts took the cake. Literally.

I can’t wait to head back to Naked City to try some of Chris’ damn good and creative sandwiches and wings, but whenever he’s ready to do the next themed dinner I’m definitely in. And those of you who missed this experience, don’t you dare do that again!

Keep eating and drinking…