I cannot BELIEVE it's been that long since my last Blog! Seriously, I feel like it was last week that went by so quickly!
Well, so. Here we are. New Year, new menu! What are your thoughts? This has been an interesting menu transition, for sure. Not only did we revamp food items, but we changed around furniture in the kitchen, production processes, and waste management techniques. That's a LOT of stuff to wrap a line cook and service staff member around.
Did you ever wonder what the process is for a new menu roll out? It's no small task and we don't employee any consultants to do it. We generally start in July (for a January 1 rollout) by analyzing the current menu. What's working, what's not, what's been around for a while and needs a breath of fresh air. Once we've discovered our "cut" subjects, we take a look a comment cards from the year (and you thought we weren't paying any attention!) and see if there are any recurring themes or requests. We also look at current trends in the food industry and see what we can borrow or tweak from there. Finally, we hit up the staff for ideas. We love to let the culinary crew have input into the menu as it gives them a different level of pride and ownership in their day to day tasks. We also love to get service staff input since they're the ones you talk to. Even small, seemingly insignificant comments can be a source of inspiration!
Then comes the sit down. Historically, it's just been the Culinary Supervisor and I. This time, we opened it up. Cassidy and Karie both joined us. This was VERY helpful, as they both embrace different dietary practices (as opposed to my T-Rex diet...RRRRAAAWRRRRR!) and their insight and perspectives brought a lot to the table! Here's where the fun begins...we take basic ideas that have been brought up by you, by the staff or by the internet and then start messing with them. Patty Melt a little too old school? Make it vegan! Buddha bowls all the rage? Build Your Own Bowl it is! We usually sit around for a couple of hours, hopped up on caffeine and sugar, tossing out ideas, arguing points, and back-and-forthing until finally...We're there! The proposed menu is typed up and passed around for one final look through before recipe development begins...generally in August.
The proposed menu is sent to the design team. They are FANTASTIC, if anyone wonders. They take all our mumbo jumbo and turn it into a classy, organized, well-laid out menu that looks good and is easy to print in house. They even proofread, which is good, 'cuz I can't stand proofreading! The menu is also sent to our Point of Sale provider, Nextep. They take care of managing the digital menu boards. Then Christine takes off with developing recipes for ingredients and running proposed menu items as specials. I start populating the Point of Sale system with the menu items, nutritional information, descriptions and pricing, and Karie starts putting together the training manuals and recipe books. We then bring in Dave Daniels to do our food photography...he's amazing, if you didn't know that already, and phenomenal to work with. Makes EVERYTHING look good!
Once all of that has been finished, we use the week between Christmas and New Years for a deep clean of the whole restaurant, which includes taking equipment apart to powerwash, degrease, decarbon and scrub, move furniture around and do staff training. Training is usually a two to three day process that involves making the dishes multiple times and allowing all staff to see and taste each and every dish. We also do academic training with the Front of House so that everyone knows whats vegan, vegetarian, dairy free, gluten free, etc., etc., etc. They even get to take a written test to make sure they've got everything nailed down.
Finally, it's go time! The day before opening we come in, prep all the new ingredients, set up the mise en place, do a final line check and go home for a long sleep so we're fresh and ready to go on roll out!
Of course, not everything will go as planned all the time. There are hiccups. There are opportunities to fine tune. There are process changes. There's the gnarly steep learning curve that happens before muscle memory kicks in. All things that have to be dealt with on the fly while keeping emotions in check...But it's all worth it. Before a month is gone we have everyone humming along swimmingly...more or less...and the new menu is now simply The Menu. And we can start in on planning the new menu again.
If you've toddled down to the grab and go case recently, you may have noticed an influx of pumpkin-flavored goodies. I've been getting pressure from my staff for oh, say, the past month that it was time to start busting out the pumpkin. I resisted, stating that pumpkin wasn't allowed until October, but I blinked and here we are! Side note: WHAT on EARTH happened to September? Did we skip it? Was there a glitch in the matrix that I missed? Sheesh!
I'm terribly excited for fall...not so much for winter, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. Fall is time for, obviously, pumpkin, but it's also time for some of my other favorites like Risotto and Butternut Squash, and Gnocchi and Chowder! Those items that just seem a little too heavy to eat in the summer, but are really cozy and comforting once the temperatures drop and darkness falls by 7 pm! I also love to bring out the warm spices in the fall. Cinnamon, CARDAMOM, (love that stuff!) ginger, chile...all those things that make your palate warm. Even just the smell of them is comforting! Hence 50% of decorative candle scents! As all-American and Fourth-of-July-ish an apple pie is, I can't help but believe it is best served when the apples have come in off the tree just before the first frost. Served warm, sans ice cream or (perish the thought) cheddar cheese.
I don't understand grapes, though. They're totally a summer eating fruit, but you're supposed to leave them on the vine till after the first frost...at least that's what my farmer-neighbor told me.
It's the time of year for stews and pot pies to start showing up. Casseroles and freshly baked breads or biscuits are welcome! You can finally turn on the OVEN without having to open every window and turn on the air-conditioner! Fall is my favorite, second only to spring, and from a food standpoint, it comes in first place. Bring on the mugs of spiced cider and cinnamon toast! I have a giant sweater and uggs that are dying to be worn!!
It's our Birthday! Can you believe that? Our little Spoon is 5 years old!!
It seems just yesterday I was interviewing candidates for a Chef and a Service Manager to help me launch a new restaurant with a new concept in new building! Chef was a little on the easy side. With my connections through the American Culinary Federation, I was able to get a number of talented, qualified candidates to choose from, and one of the applicants happened to be a gentleman I had worked with in the past. I knew what I needed for the post so the decision was simple.
The Service Manager position was much tougher. Sure, there were plenty of candidates, many of them highly qualified. The problem was, that I am not particularly good at the service end of things, so I didn't know everything the candidate needed to know...but I DID know I'd know it when I found it! Service is referred to as the "Front of the House", and the kitchen is referred to as the "Back of the House". To be frank, my service skills (not knowledge, skills) are a large part of why I have always been a "Back of the House" kinda gal. I'm sure you're picking up what I'm putting down. I needed someone who not only knew how to serve the guests, but could do so in keeping with NuSkin's culture and the culture that I envisioned for the restaurant. That's a tall order. Even taller when you remember that this person had to be able to work with cantakerous old ME! OY!!!
I interviewed candidate after candidate. Each of them had something to bring to the table, none of them had everything I needed. Time was starting to get tight so I even started creating my short list and having Charlie Allen do second interviews with me in an attempt to winnow out the right person. Then it happened. I received an application from Karie M. Odell. I had worked with Karie at the Ogden Eccles Conference Center for about a year and I had always been impressed with pretty much everything about her. From the way she managed her team (which was HUGE, by the way and mostly temp workers, and largely spanish speaking...wow!) to the way she handled guest issues to the way she handled the minor catastrophes that are daily occurence...She was GOOD. And she was applying for a job? How lucky could I get? I remember calling her up and saying, "Is this application for real? or are you just trying to get in touch with me the hard way?" Luckily, she was actually interested! I fairly-well dropped everything I had going and brought her in. Charlie was just as impressed as I was and I knew, I just KNEW I had found THE PERSON for the gig! She immediately got to work creating a team of AMAZING young people to interact with our guests. She has a 6th sense about who has the truly service-oriented heart and who doesn't. And that's actually a thing. It actually takes a special, special person to do that job! Once her team was in place, she started in on being the culture keeper...and keep it she does! From our fun days to the way she handles last minute "pop-up" catering events, Karie maintains an incredibly guest-centric experience.
Chefs have come and gone, but Karie is (hopefully) forever. She's put together a fun little celebration for our birthday tomorrow. I really hope you'll come party with us a little...because we really wouldn't be here without YOU! Thank you for EVERYTHING!
Ok, Let's be honest. The service industry is not always what you'd call a laugh riot. You're on your feet all day, generally on a concrete or quarry tile floor, it's hot, you're constantly moving, it's high pressure, and people aren't always in a great mood when you encounter them. So HOW on EARTH do my hostesses and runners maintain such a great attitude all the time? Don't ask me, I don't know, that's why I'm generally in the BACK of HOUSE...just kidding...sort of...but I digress.
They keep things fun!
So, I am happy to announce a couple of upcoming FUN things going on in The Spoon. First one isn't just us, it's all of us and it's Lagoon Day, so we will be closing the whole restaurant at 2:00. Please come get your traveller shakes early so you're not left empty handed.
The next one is Bow-Tie day on August 28th. We will be wearing bow-ties and you should to! We're having a "who wore it best" contest and we'll be selecting one lucky bow-tie winner to receive a free lunch (or breakfast, whatever)! Of course, we'll be featuring a bow-tie pasta dish for the special! Just a touch of silliness to keep things interesting.
Then we have a very SPECIAL day...September 11th is The Spoon's 5-year Anniversary! (I have plenty of negative things to remember on September 11th, thank you, I prefer to focus on the positive ones) We will have cupcakes and party hats and all kinds of goofy, birthday party stuff going on! be sure to join us!
Next up is our FAVORITE day. PIRATE DAY!! September 19th, we'll be donning our eye patches and bandanas and showing family-friendly pirate movies on the big screen. There may be booty fer ya, mateys, but yer gonna have to be there to find out, AAARRRRGGGHHH!
Last but not least, September 28th is Broadway Musical Day. We'll be showing some classic broadway musicals on the big screen.
This is how we keep things fun for us...but we also want YOU to have fun WITH us! Everyone knows that NuSkin is THE BEST place to work for a million different reasons, but even working at the best place can get a little rough sometimes. We're here to try and take the edge off of that for you.
We hope you'll join us...we're a good time!
So, this post is maybe just a TOUCH late...After all, it's August already! But it's SUMMER!! I love summer. Working in the kitchen acclimates the body to warm temperatures, so I do just dandy from about June on through September. Once it drops into the 70's in the middle of the day, I'm running for the sweater chest and the knee-high boots!
My favorite things about summer are, of course, food related.
For example: WATERMELON! Do you have any idea how great this stuff is? Obvs, it's packed with water...hence the name...so you can stay hydrated in a refreshing and tasty fashion. It's also loaded with vitamin A, B6 and C, has plenty of Lycopene, along with antioxidants and amino acids. Something that tastes good and is GOOD for you? WHAAAAAA??????
Usually, we go to the store to get a watermelon. I tried growing them one year...the plant was MAGNIFICENT, but my soil is way too clayish and it struggled. I only got a couple of adorable little fruits...they were SO cute...and there was great potential for them to be true beauties! Then the chickens figured out they were there and the wee beasties pecked them hollow. It was neither the first, nor the last time I pondered what sound a chicken makes when you punt it! But I digress.
When you head to el mercado, you want to look for the yellow spot on the bottom of the melon. It should be a deep, creamy yellow. This means (theoretically) that the melon has been sitting in one spot, happily ripening, before being plucked. I've never had great luck with the "hollow sound when thumped". It's a subtlety that my kitchen-abused ears can't catch, but regardless, the melon should feel heavy for it's size. Heavy = water = tasty! Also, check the stem if there is one. It should be dried out. If it's green, leave it for the next guy!
This friday is Watermelon day here at The Spoon. We'll be having watermelon specials and wearing pink and green for the occasion! Really, any excuse for a party down here, but you knew that about us already!
Can I get a "WOO-HOO for WATERMELON"??!!
I used to wear a size 8 1/2 shoe. Then my son came along and I now wear a size 9 1/2 or even a 10, depending on the manufacturer. Do you feel me with that non-sense ladies? Not only do we have to gestate the child, and birth the child, we have to have bigger feet as a result of it! No fair. I've lamented the loss of my delicate tootsies ever since. At one point, I thought maybe my feet would shrink back to normal the way the rest of me (more or less) did, but no such luck.
I now find myself worried about a different footprint. My carbon footprint. How do my daily actions and decisions impact the planet? Are those effects temporary, long-term or permanent? What can I do to shorten, lessen or even eliminate my impact on the world for the generations to come? I mean, I really like my kids so I imagine I'll really like my grandkids. I doubt I'll see my great-grandkids, but I'll bet they'll be pretty cool too, so I'd kinda like for the world to not be a complete disaster area when they show up in it.
To that end, one of the things I do is recycle. My glass, my aluminum and metal, my cardboard and clean paper. It's easy, Springville does curbside pick up and I've arranged to have two cans (we recycle way more than we throw away), so no big deal.
Did you know we recycle here at The Spoon as well? We've always recycled our cardboard and our cans, there's a great big compactor out back that we can just toss stuff into...again, no big deal. So imagine how sheepish I felt when my FOH lead Cassidy, proposed that we take it one step further and recycle our plastic cups, our to go boxes and our to go cutlery? Why the heck didn't I think of that? When the staff busses your table, they'll take your "to go" items in back, rinse them off, and put them in the recycling can. How easy is that? It took about a week of getting used to having a dedicated recycling can, but now it's working smoothly.
Why don't you join us in our efforts? There are recycling centers on each floor. When you're done with your lunch, use your napkin to wipe leftovers into the trash (so you don't glom up the sink), then rinse out the box and your utensils and put them in your recycling center.
I'll never shrink my footprint down to my prior size, but it we all work together, we can shrink NuSkin's carbon footprint, leaving the world a little bit better for the tiny little footprints to come.
Make it a great day, my peeps!! Much love!
So, we came back from Malawi. Let me tell ya somethin'. THAT was a game-changer! I am literally offering up prayers of thanks every time I turn on a faucet now.
Malawi is beautiful. I highly recommend it. To everyone! If you are a NuSkin employee and are not an Ambassador, I strongly encourage you to become one so you can check off that box when it's time to apply for your turn at the trip. Actually, I strongly encourage you to become one...period.
You guys know me. You know that I'm a weird kind of Chef. I'm not the one who wants to be on The Food Network. I'm not the one who wants to be on the NY Times best seller list with my latest cookbook, or receive Michelin Stars or even a James Beard award. Those are cool and all, but I just want to feed people. I believe in the power of food made with love to truly impact a person's day. I believe in the power of food shared at a communal table to bring people together, increase creativity and communication, and foster unity. Subsequently...
Malawi. Was. Rough.
But it was AMAZING! What NuSkin is doing through the Force For Good Foundation and the Nourish The Children Initiative is just, well, AMAZING!
The day we helped our distributors hand out VitaMeal to malnourished children, was the best/worst day of my life. Nothing could have prepared me for the emotional impact of that one event. I don't think we were even there for more than an hour, but I came away feeling like I'd just run an emotional marathon! Chef me was impacted deeply enough, thankyouverymuch, but MOTHER me...she took a beating! To look into the eyes of a mother who can't (not won't, not "doesn't feel like cooking today", CAN'T) feed her children is horrid. To see the look in that mother's eyes change as you hand her a bag or two of food for her children is miraculous! I am truly blessed to have had to opportunity to meet these women, play with their babies, pat their older kids beautiful faces and have even the tiniest impact for the better on their lives. We handed out hundreds of bags that day. Every one of us (I'm fairly confident that I can speak on everyone's behalf on this) would have handed out THOUSANDS more if we could have.
There is so much work to be done. There is so much more help that is needed. You might think to yourself "what's my little donation going to do?". The answer is: EVERYTHING. When you combine your little donation with HIS little donation, and HER little donation, and THEIR little donation, it becomes a big donation with a BIG impact. These children, ALL children, are the future of our world. We don't know which of those children will be the one to grow up and find the answer to some great, glaring global climate issue. We don't know which of those children will be the one to grow up and start a scholarship fund for other children to receive an education. We don't know which of those children will grow up to be a world-renowned Neuro-scientist with the cure for Alzheimer's.
If you can become an Ambassador, please do. I know, we all have our own paths to walk and crosses to bear, but this program is making a difference in the world. If you are able to apply for the service trip to Malawi, do it. It will change your perspective, it will change your heart, it will change your life...and it will change someone's life there, too.
Mtendere ukhale nanu (peace be with you)!
And the countdown begins!!!!!
If you come looking for me tomorrow, I will not be here. I will be at home, gearing up for the following 48 hours which are nothing shy of action-packed.
Here's how it rolls out.
Wednesday, clean the house, make Mac Salad and a gross of chocolate chip cookies for graduation part, buy additional luggage to take to Malawi, redistribute packing into the additional luggage that's going to Malawi, get in-laws squared away for the extensive child-shuttling that they're need to do while I'm in Malawi.
Did I mention that I'm going to Malawi?
Thursday, Get up, get ready for son's graduation, wake son up to get ready for his graduation, go pick up party trays for after graduation, wake son up again, set up graduation party stuff, wake son up again, turn on his light, make sure everyone else is ready, wake son up AGAIN, drag him bodily out of bed and shove him into car to get to graduation, attend graduation ceremony, cry, return home for graduation party, cry a little more, clean everything up, crash, pray for sleep before going to Malawi.
Friday, wake up (if sleep ever graced my brain, final breakfast with family, finish packing for trip to Malawi, leave for airport, check MASSIVE quantities of luggage, clear security, wait for plane, leave for Malawi!
I've got a couple of things going on right about now, but the most IMPORTANT part is that I'm going to Malawi. Or that my son is graduating. One of the two.
I am so. stinking. excited!
If you watched the video of me on insider, you heard me talk about how I've wanted to take this trip for the last 10 years (if you haven't watched it, thank you, I'm not a fan of me on camera ;) ). I can not WAIT to meet the people there. I cannot wait to learn from them! I cannot wait to experience first-hand what NuSkin does over there. (Insert girlish squeal of enthusiasm here) Ersh-ma-gersh, I'm stoked!
I'll ask you all to pray for me if you pray, or send good vibes and juju if that's more your thing. This takes me WAY outside my introverted, Springville-Utah based comfort zone and I'd be a liar if I didn't say I am as nervous as I am excited. I hope I can meet their expectations of me. I hope I can put away my expectations and just go with an open mind and heart. I hope I don't barf on the plane.
Peace out, peeps! I'll send pics!
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