If you've been paying attention to the number of grey hairs sprouting out of my head in the last three months, you know that it's because The Spoon has been woefully short-staffed for the last six. Like "How well do YOU function with only 60% man-power?" short-staffed. Like "If there is mercy in Heaven, cloning will be available NEXT WEEK" short-staffed. So it's been a liiiiiiiiitle interesting around here!
Well, Luck IS a lady and she brought me a couple of new peeps that I need to introduce you to.
First off, Kevin Miller! Kevin came to us an an intern from Scenic View Academy. He's been working in a prep-cook capacity since last November and his growth has been FANTASTIC! When an opportunity came open for him to apply, he did, and he got the JOB! Which is awesome! You probably won't see him a bunch, since he works in the back, but he's a great guy and we love adding him "officially" to the team!
On the more visable side is Aloura Linfesty. Newly (like, she had to delay her start date 'cuz she was going to be on her honeymoon) married, an award willing Skills USA and ProStart competitor, and also AWESOME, Aloura is working our lunchtime Saute/Broiler station and is rocking it right out of the gate!
Unfortunately, every silver lining has it's cloud. Just as I bring on these GREAT folks, I get to loose one of The Spoon's original employees. Kevin Birkett, our "morning shake guy" is leaving us to start an intensive coding program so he can go start doing what he's actually SUPPOSED to be doing, which is messing around with computers (the kid's brilliant!).
If you have a chance to say "Hi" or "Bye" to these new crew members, I'd advise it! They're great team members and wonderful people!
I love what we do.
I really do.
I particularly love all employee events like Force for Good Day and our recent Team Elite BBQ. It's a nice change from the usual. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the usual, but even doing something that you love can get mundane when you do it every day. So it's fun when HR hits me up to do an event for 1500 people. I also love a challenge, and let's be honest, cooking for 1500 people with a kitchen crew of 6 people can be challenging.
Take the Team Elite BBQ for example...
I was really excited when HR suggested pulled pork sandwiches. "A nice change from burgers and dogs", I thought. "I make pretty dang good pulled pork", I thought. Then I started crunching numbers. Sidenote: To my Junior High math teachers who told me I'd be using all the geometry and algebra later in life so it was important to know it? Baloney. Ain't nobody needs no Pythagorean Theorem to math out PIG!! But I digress...
Did you know that the yield (finished product) on a pork shoulder butt (the best cut IMO for pulled pork) is only 60%? Which means you LOSE 40% of the starting weight in the cooking process?? Which means you have to cook MORE PIG to get to the numbers you actually need??? So here's our math: 1500 x 5 oz pulled pork = 468 lbs of FINISHED PORK, divided by .60 (yield) makes 780 lbs of raw pork shoulder butt needed to feed y'all!
I'm not gonna lie, I got a little faint when I started thinking through the logistics. The cases of pork that we bring in are, on average, 72 lbs each, and they're roughly 36"x24"x18" each. And I need 11 of them. My fridge is NO WHERE NEAR big enough. That's 1. I have Oven Space to cook 9 butts at a time... I have 44 butts to cook. That's 2, and oh, by the way, they have to cook for 7 hours so that's a total of 35 hours active cooking time, That's 2.5. But I am BOUND AND DETERMINED to cook this pork so Da** the Torpedos! Full-Steam ahead!! It takes 2 people 3 hours to shred pork for 300 people (discovered when we did the BYU function) 6 man hours x 5 is 30 man hours of shredding pork. And That's 3. I'm out. I'm done. There is no way that I can pull this off. I am beaten. After a little self-comfort in the form of a chocolate chip cookie and a milk chug, I resolved to look at my alternatives. I can bring in pre-cooked and shredded pulled pork and then I can heat it up and sauce it myself, thereby creating the illusion (delusion) of cooking it from scratch. That takes #3, #2.5, and #2 out of the equation...this is good, we're making progress. But those pre-cooked pork cases are only 10 lbs each and I need 47 of them. Ah! Number 1 rears his ugly head and sticks his tongue out at me! I will NOT be beaten by a lousy logistic, I am WAY too stubborn for that! Hauling out my rolodex, I made a couple of phone calls et VOILA! I have a refrigerated truck parked on the loading dock, loaded with meat and all the needed accoutrement!
After I spent the morning up to my elbows (metaphorically speaking of course) in saucy-piggy-goodness, I walked out to Karie on the back deck to check on set up. She looked at the front of my chef coat and said "ya got a little something on ya there". Covered, I was, in bbq sauce. I sighed, walked away to change my chef coat, and made my self a sandwich.
I love days like that.
So, some of you may have noticed that, lately, my car is in it's parking place early and it stays there, sadly unattended, until late. Now we all know that I LOVE what I do. I'm an adrenaline junkie, but I am WAY to aware of my own mortality to do any of the normal adrenaline junkie activities like tandem sky-diving with a shark or synchronized cobra twirling. So I cook. The sound of a printer spitting out an order chit creates a pavlovian-esque response in my brain and the fight or flight response immediately blossoms in my little heart! Trust me, it's a BE-YOOtiful thing!
But, let's be honest. If you're here at 6:30 and you don't leave until 6:30 for multiple days in a row, there's only so much that passion for your work is gonna do for you. Y'wanna know what gets me through?
I have got an amazing crew. No, seriously, they are amazing! Every last dang one of them! You all only really get to interact with my "FOH" (Front of House) and they are phenomenal. I honestly don't know how they stay so cheery and positive, all day every day, when they are running their wee little toesies right off! One of these days, I'm putting step trackers on them so I can get a total number of steps in a day for them as a group. It'd be LUDICROUS!!
Then there's my BOH...They're just...WOW! Heat, stress, lifting, bending, stretching, more walking. And they all have such great senses of humor and are so solid as a team. I just could NOT ask for anything better.
Put the two teams together, headed up by two really, just phenomenal women, Karie and Christine, and you have a group that I would put up against any restaurant team in the state. Are my cooks the most Culinarily Proficient? Maybe not. Are my hostesses and runners Fine Dining? Maybe not. But I will tell you what. They have each other's backs. My cooks happily cook whatever the hostesses order, even if it IS completely off menu, because the hostesses will see that the cooks are about ready to die of heat exhaustion and offer to go get them ice water. They like each other. They get along. They are a team. Right down to the dishwashers. That's not common in the restaurant industry, and it makes coming to work for 10, 12, 14 hours a WHOLE lot more pleasant!
Thanks, guys! #spooncrewrocksitsideways
Last night, Sunday night, I received a text from my daughter requesting permission for her and her brother to stay at their friend's house later than normal, since the out-of-town friends were going back home today. "D and I can get our own dinner when we get home" she said.
We have been, for the last 16+ years of my life, an "eat dinner together as a family" family. We are now in a place where the boy has school, lacrosse, a social life and a job and the girl has school, the school musical, three different sports, church obligations and an insanely active social life (I was no where NEAR that popular when I was her age!). I now have to accept that they may or may not be home for dinner. I have to say. I don't like it.
Even on the nights when I am completely SHOT for the day and cooking is the last thing on my mind, I still cherish the time at the dinner table with my family. We talk about our day, we talk about current events (a 16 year old's take on the current political climate can be tremendously interesting/entertaining), we talk about what everyone is involved in in the coming week, we just TALK. And I LOVE it! Of course I love watching my family enjoy something that I've prepared for them, you know that about me already, but I just love getting to know these fantastic young people a little bit better, particularly now as they develop their own insights and opinions on life.
So, hubby and I were on our own for dinner Sunday night. I asked him what he was in the mood for and he said "don't start cooking, it's 7:00 at night" which was ludicrous, because we seldom eat before 8:00 pm anyway, which still give me an hour to get it on the table...MORE than enough time. The tough part was cooking for two people. That's when the rubber really hit the road! Not only am I going to have to accept that the kids might not be home for dinner, but in the very near future, I'm going to have to start cooking for two instead of three-and-a-teenage-boy on a permanent basis!!
It was kinda funny, actually. I decided to throw together a Minestrone Soup. I carefully, and very conscientiously cut up 1/4 of a red onion, 1/4 of a yellow squash, 1/6 of a zucchini (big zucchini), 2 small cloves of garlic and 1/4 of a red bell pepper and sauteed them up in some olive oil. Threw in a can of diced tomatoes, a can of chicken stock, a fistful of leftover pesto penne pasta and a can of drained and rinsed beans, let that simmer with a few herbs and a shot of nutritional yeast and POOF! Dinner for 2! I haven't cooked dinner for 2 since we were DATING 18 years ago! SO. STINKIN. WEIRD!!
We sat across the table from each other discussing the day, discussing current events, and talking about the upcoming week, but with half the usual contributors to the conversation, it went kinda quickly.
We're gonna have to figure this out.
It's quiet in the kitchen...too quiet. (Spoken in my best "Guy Noir" detective voice)
Of course it's quiet, don't be ridiculous! It's Monday, January 2nd, 2017 and it is New Year's Day Observance so we're CLOSED. Don't think for two minutes that means we haven't been busy. Sure, we've been closed since Christmas. But we've come in during that time for new menu training, new dish photography, deep cleaning, and kitchen re-set so we would be more-or-less ready (there's always a learning curve) to unveil our new menu for 2017.
There are 30 new items on this menu. That's no small feat. Categorically, nothing's changed, we still have breakfast, flatbreads, hot and cold sandwiches, yada yada yada. But 30 new twists on those categories means new purchasing, new prep, new set up, new standardized recipes, the whole She-Bang! I have effectively thrown my crew into a learning curve (see above) that pulls about 10g's!
Chef Alex and I have worked with the kitchen staff in developing the new menu and new recipes. You've seen almost everything as a daily special over the last few weeks. Based on the comments we received during that period, I think you're going to be happy with what we're rolling out. That said, we recognize that some of your favorites will be going away and that won't make you happy. We're sorry about that. But remember that, if we still have the ingredients in house, we'll still be able to pull off whatever you're craving. I just ask three things. Number One: TRY the new menu out! Really, wring it out. I'm sure you'll find a new favorite in no time, there's some really great stuff here. Number Two: Give us a couple of weeks to get our legs under us before you hit us up with custom requests that lie outside the new menu. Then the kid gloves can come off. Number Three: Tell us your opinions of the new menu. We value your thoughts immensely. Try to keep it constructive though, please. We are human over here, and we're doing our absolute best to provide you with a lunch (or breakfast or snack or whatever) that you can really sink your teeth into and enjoy.
I'm really excited about this. WE are really excited about this! New Year, new menu...This is gonna be fun!!
Darling Daughter's Jr. High Choir concert was last night.
She's spent the last week preparing us for a truly horrific event, stating that the choir simply was NOT prepared to perform the lengthy and complex numbers that the director had selected for them. Now, you and I have both sat through young choir, band, and orchestra concerts where the performers may-or-may-not have been physically or emotionally prepared for the event. We've heard glass-cutting clarinet squeaks, pubescent voices that have a four-note range attempting full-octave note changes, and flat-out late entries by entire sections. But we've sat through them with hearts full of hope and pride for the young ones who have worked SO HARD to prepare for the event.
Darling Daughter led us astray.
This choir of 70 young voices (okay, sure, there were a couple of VERY minor "oops-es") NAILED IT! They sang "In the Bleak Mid-Winter" a beautiful, but little known carol that Julie Andrews sang. They also performed a rendition of "Jingle Bells" that wove in the music of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite...SO FUN!! Their last number, however, was the killer. It's called "One Candle". Every Jr. High and High School Choir in recorded history has performed this number at some point. It's a standard. Here, you can listen to it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liUoQSeg4f8.
They sang in the dark with each choir member holding a little electric tea-light candle. The first voice lit her candle as she sang, the second voice lit his when he came in, and as the choir started singing they each lit their candles, one by one, in no particular pattern or order, until all these sweet, angelic young people were illuminated by the soft glow of an electric flame. It was incredibly quiet in the auditorium (which is saying something because it's actually the "cafetorium"...cafeteria used for other purposes) and they sang the lyric "Dona nobis nobis pacem" which is a traditional canon and it means "Grant us Peace".
This was very dramatic for me.
Sitting there, watching my beautiful, not-at-all-a-baby-anymore girl sing this simple plea for Peace in a world that is anything but these days. Yep, I'll own it, I cried. I thought to myself how desperately we need the young people of today asking to be granted peace, both for themselves and for all of us. 'Tis the season for these types of thoughts, I suppose, and a little touchy-feely-psycho-babble-ish, but what if it were a statement that everyone uttered, every day, for a week? What if that powerful request were made by every man, woman and child for a month? For the whole of 2017? I have to think that we could collectively create some pretty impressive change in our world with that simple act.
I'm going to try it for myself. Just to see what happens.
I wish you Peace in this season of holidays and remembrances, and for all of 2017 as well!
How's everyone doing? Long time, no talk to!
So it's Thanksgiving. Which, as far as I'm concerned, is a truly beautiful thing! If you ask my son, it's the best thing since Lacrosse season, and that's SAYING something!
I am priveliged to belong to two families. As many of you are. There's my family, that I grew up in, and there's my husbands family, that I didn't grow up in. Two families always means two Thanksgivings. Back in the day, we'd try to split the time, alternating between the two worlds: dinner at his family, dessert at mine, then the next year, switch. Dinner at mine, dessert at his. The first problem with this set up is that the two are usually hot on each other's heels, timing wise, so you're rushing to get from one to the other, thus eliminating time to hang out with the fam. The Big problem is that, they are such DIFFERENT experiences, that you end up eating everything at both houses ANYWAY, and it's all in that short period of time mentioned in the first problem. Afterall, neither mother was about to serve Thanksgiving Breakfast, although I think there might be some merit to that idea and someone ought to figure it out!
We have since wised up. My family does their Thanksgiving the Saturday after Thanksgiving. So as of this writing, I am digesting the one in anticipation of the other.
The beauty of this plan is that eliminates both the problems and allows me to focus on the vast differences between the two. Hubby's family traditions include Thanksgiving being pretty-well an all day affair. We gather in the afternoon for appetizers. I've cooked entire turkeys in less time than appetizers takes...which is WONDERFUL! The wine and sparkling cider (this year there was a citrus slush that went with lemon sparkling water...DELISH!!) flow freely, the kids mess around and everyone just noshes and chills out. There's 30 or so people, sometimes more, sometimes less, so we split up the cooking with someone bringing apps, someone else, salad, someone else side dish, you get the picture. And someone else brings the pies. We have vegetarians in the family so there are always plenty of nods to that, which means there's terrific variety of dishes and it changes from year to year. There's really only a couple of hard-and-fast rules: there is a turkey (although how that turkey is cooked is up for grabs), there is clam dip (grandma's recipe), there are yams & apples. Everything else falls under the heading of ebb and flow. The evening doesn't end until people are starting to get too tired to make the drive home.
MY FAMILY, on the other hand, is much smaller, much simpler. We're 13 or 14 if all the kids show up and a couple of dates come. We don't do appetizers, unless you count the "relish tray" that dates back to my great grandmother. Stuffed celery, carrot sticks, sweet pickles and enough black olives for everyone to put them on all of their fingers at least twice...okay that's an exaggeration. Fine. There was a boyfriend that came to table once and insisted on bringing his family's first-course fruit cup. We all looked at him like he had snakes coming out of his ears, but we ate the fruit cup and then tucked in to the relish tray. What are you gonna do? There is very little variation in our dishes. Turkey, of course, in-and-out-of-bird stuffing, yams...okay the yams changed from the marshmallow topped kind to the mashed with pecan streusel kind about 10 years ago...vegetables, usually peas and broccoli with cheese sauce, mashers and gravy and cranberry sauce, which went from canned to homemade when I figured out how STUPID EASY it was to make the stuff, and pie. When I was a kid my family always had "snow pudding" as a lighter alternative to the pie, but since Auntie passed, no one has picked up that baton.
So, what I've discovered is that, while I LOVE his family's interpretation (really, they are all phenomenal cooks and there is never anything that lacks in any way) I LOVE what I grew up with. Hubby feels the same way. And even though the two traditions couldn't be more different, they are identical in the warmth, the love, the laughter and the joy that is experienced at both. The similarities are what really counts.
I hope your pumpkin pie was as good as Aunties pumpkin pie which is as good as mom's pumpkin pie. And I know your warmth, love, laughter and joy were as amazing as mine were. Peace.
Hi Everybody! Long time, no talk to! Sorry about that. I trust you are all well, and happy and enjoying this new season that we find ourselves hip-deep in...literally if you have a large number of deciduous trees in your yard.
That's right, IT'S FALL! Or Autumn, if we're being more formal, which I seldom am...
Yes, it's fall! Time for sweaters, maybe a jaunty hat, definitely boots (YAY!!), and Pumpkin-Spice-Absolutely-Everything-Edible. I'm not one to go completely nuts over the pumpkin-spice thing. I'm not a pumpkin-spice latte person...I can't reconcile Pumpkin and Coffee in my head. I'll only occasionally pumpkin something other than a pie...and that's usually because someone else has cracked open a #10 can of pumpkin and it needs to get used. I DO LOVE all the other fall flavors though. Those warm, sweet spices of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice. The 20 bazillion varieties of apples and pears that are available now. NUTS...LOVE those healthy little gems, OOH, sweet potatoes, too! Since my husband is a bartender, we now have the dark alcohols in our cupboard to play with, like bourbon and rum...I love cooking with those flavors! They impart a warm roundness to whatever you're making, and if you've never had homemade vanilla extract made with either bourbon or rum, you don't KNOW what you're missing! *Sigh*, don't worry, I leave those at home. I'm also a major fan of the other hard squashes that are around these days. Acorn, Banana, and Butternut in particular!
My Ex-Mother-in-Law, "Ma" Lamarca, makes her pumpkin pie out of butternut squash. She said it was a better return on investment. Pumpkins have too low a flesh to stringy-seed-stuff ratio. She'd take Butternut, peel it, clean out the seed pod, cut it up, and simmer it until it was mashable. Then she'd mash it up with the usual eggs, spices, and evaporated milk and pour it into her pie crust that was already fluted and ready to go in the oven. It was SPECTACULAR! Ma was an amazing cook!
I prefer to cut the butternut in half, long-ways, scoop out the seeds, brush melted butter all over it and roast it in the shell until it's fully tender. The roasting really brings out the natural sweetness of the squash. Sure, you get some little brown bits in when you scoop it out of the shells and mash it, but no big deal. I also like to use heavy cream instead of evaporated milk. If you're counting calories, don't do that. Opt for regular whole or 2%, or even almond milk instead. You loose a little of the richness in the pie, but that leaves caloric space for whipped cream...or a second piece! (Just me, thinking ahead...)
I also like to make Butternut Bread Pudding. I dice and roast the squash, sprinkled in cinnamon-sugar, until it's just al dente, leaving room for further cooking in the pudding. Then I toss it with toasted multigrain bread (the seedier, the better!), and my standard custard mix of 5 eggs, 3 cups milk and 1/2 cup sugar (doubled, tripled, or octupled, depending on how big I'm going) with a little splash of vanilla (did I mention the bourbon vanilla?). Cover that bad boy with some foil and bake him until set at 300 degrees, then uncover and toast the top at 400. It serves up beautifully with a bourbon-spiked caramel sauce...hmmm I see a pattern developing here...or a Cinnamon Creme Anglaise. Not in the mood to go through the process of a stirred custard? Best cheat I ever saw was Chef B melting down French Vanilla Ice cream to use instead!
Hmmm. I just read through this. And I'm thinking: My pickiest eater is out of town for the long weekend... I need to go get some squash and get to work!
Happy Autumn, Everyone!
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Provo, UT, 84660