Archive for February, 2012

Saturday Night Truck Stop & Throwdown!

Monday, February 20th, 2012

This past Saturday night I was asked by Jolene Mannina (known better to many in Vegas as the brains behind Sloppi Jo’s (@SloppiJos) food truck and the founder of Saturday Night Truck Stop (@SNTruckStop) to be one of her guest judges for the Back of House Throwdown.  This event is held every Saturday night, starting between 8pm and 10pm, then going into Sunday morning until about 2am to 4am with a collection of 4-6 different Las Vegas Food Trucks gathered selling their culinary delights to locals and tourists at Tommy Rocker’s (@TommyRockers), located right behind the Strip.


Jo had created the throwdown as a way to bring out two local chefs from Strip restaurants, give them a basket of ‘secret’ ingredients and then 30 minutes on the clock to create two dishes on one of the food trucks that gathered for that night’s Truck Stop.  It is a pretty cool event which has gotten great backing from the local restaurant community and their staff.  My co-judges that night were my buddy, Geno Bernardo (@ChefGeno) – Executive Chef of Nove Italiano at The Palms and Dominic Scali, better known at The Vegas Foodie (@TheVegasFoodie), a local food blogger and great guy.


This week’s Throwdown pitted Chef Jason Johnston from Bellagio against Frank Ortiz from Wynn & Encore.  Chef Johnston commandeered the Rusty Pickle Food Truck (@RustyPickle) with his Sous Chef Severin Nunn, while Chef Ortiz hopped onto the Redneck Kitchen Food Truck (@RedneckKitchen).  The secret ingredients were a tough collection, but all easily manageable to create some fantastic dishes – they included Brown Rice Flour, Chicken Thighs, Italian Sausage, Celery, Sumac and Rice Paper.  The chefs were then allowed to use anything found on the food trucks to further embellish their dishes.


Aside from some brisk winds and some short 10-15 minute rain sprinkles, the crowd was supportive from the start, getting behind each chef and cheering them on.


The best dish of the night was created by Chef Johnston, which was a take on a Vietnamese Summer Roll – using boned chicken thighs, roasted vegetables and a Sumac Aioli (that really stole the show).  Between us three judges, we were extremely impressed by their creativity, abilities to pull off dishes in only thirty minutes and flavors.  After some serious debate and conversations, we came to a conclusion and the winner was…Chef Johnston!


I was thrilled to be asked to participate and can’t wait to be back to judge another contest, especially on a warmer night!  Next time, I promise to bring a bottle of Labor Wines too…


No Finger Pointing

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

Don’t be afraid to stand behind your plan, win or lose. Support your strategy and take responsibility as a team.

Now that the Super Bowl is over, it seems the fun has just begun! In some people’s minds, the blame and finger pointing isn’t over, and they will have some serious debates on “what if,” and “only if.” By the tone of an endless array of sports pundits, we should be in for some chest thumping about what could have or should have and might have taken place, if just this catch was made or that play was successful, which might have changed the outcome of the season. I definitely find it interesting how things seem to escalate around the world of sports and how rumors get started, and then spread. I listened with modest interest – as I am sure many of you did – to what the prognosticators said, but yet never heard too much about key or knowing people taking responsibility personally. But hey, football players and sportscasters aren’t perfect. At least I don’t think so, but there might be some disagreement on that too!

This type of behavior is applicable in our business as well. I read recently about a senior hospitality executive discussing his company’s development plan for the next few years. He made references to the economic conditions that exist, which might hamper their growth and brand plans. Not once in the interview did he take personal responsibility for his company’s plan.

Many people today act as if it is easier to distance oneself and leave via escape hatch if a particular development plan or program doesn’t happen, than it is to face the music and take responsibility if the team’s or particular organization’s plan just didn’t work out. Some people like to distance themselves from any chance of potential failure by not making a definitive calculation on what can happen. But every day managers and qualified consultants have to make decisions based on the information that is provided to them concerning forecasts, guest information and past history, otherwise what opportunity for success will they have to make the grade? I would imagine that many executives and managers go to meetings like the rest of the hospitality industry and hear lofty ideas, concepts and the like, but how often today do you find someone who is willing to say definitively that they and their team will make something happen and spell out the details, full set of revenues/ROI and then put their full and complete effort behind achieving what they have presented?

The simplicity of taking full ownership for a program, without the caveats and excuses that we typically hear from some executives, would be refreshing. Each time we approach a new project, we ask for as much historical data and information – and more importantly, staff/team input – that is available. In order to make sure we can be successful for our clients and they can reap the benefits, we develop a foundation on which to build the model for the concept, then challenge ourselves first and invite the team to work side by side with us to evaluate and modify any potential glitches or take advantage of opportunities. We are constantly challenged to come up with a complete plan and program, benchmark it against the competitive set and most certainly guarantee the results and ROI.

Many executives and some consultants seem to not fully understand the “team concept” of development and responsibility. Instead, they prefer to make lofty and unattainable predictions, and are swayed by the latest and newest fads and trends that are put forth, versus completing a full evaluation, conducting research and taking the necessary – and sometimes difficult – steps for success. Most successful companies seem to realize they need to stay the course, make modest and measured corrections when business calls for them, work within the system and with the team to qualify and quantify the proper results. If you look at the teams that made it all the way, the New York Giants and New England Patriots organizations, you might use them as a model for success in their respective businesses: no lofty predictions; dedication to the details and the team concept; building of a foundation; staying the course with their core beliefs and making the required adjustments to stay focused; current and pertinent in their respective beliefs and businesses. Simple, isn’t it? But remember, if it doesn’t work out, someone needs to take full ownership, with no finger pointing – “You win as a team; you lose as a team.”


[Read on Original Source]