The Spoon Blog
The opinions expressed on this blog are not
necessarily those of Nu Skin Enterprises, Inc. or its affiliates. You
should consult a physician before beginning any diet or exercise program.
No, please, come in. Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you. Come on in, and have a seat, can I get you a beverage? I'm glad you came by!
I'm so happy to have you checking out our Blog site! In case you're here accidentally, you've arrived at the blog for The Spoon at Nu Skin Enterprises. We are a quick-service restaurant located in the Nu Skin Enterprises Innovation Center in beautiful, downtown Provo, Utah…Welcome! We strive to be nutrition, portion, and calorie conscious so that you don't have to be. We serve fresh, made-to-order food and offer cheerful, friendly service, all at a very reasonable price. We'd love to have you join us for breakfast and/or lunch as we're open from 8 am until 5 pm, Monday through Friday.
I'm Wendy A. Hunter, CEC (Certified Executive Chef…I've always wanted to have letters after my name) and I will be your blogger for the duration…or at least until I'm not any more. You'll probably figure out quickly that my blogs are All. Over. The. Place. I live to talk about food (actually, I live to EAT food, but that's a different conversation entirely), talk about cooking and talk about "gentleman farming". You know, that mini-farm that some of us put in our back yard to "relax" with. I'll also be blogging about working motherhood, which is another of my many hats.
Feel free to go ahead and poke around the site a little bit. You'll not only find my weekly blog posts, but you'll also discover links to our menu, our daily specials page (you'll want to try those out!) and a whole ton of pictures of our food, our space, and our people. Get comfortable, snoop around. You're family to us, so make yourself at home!
I hope to see you soon!
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!
Resolutions. How do you feel about them?
Here we are in January. The start of a New Year (I recognize that it's almost over, but I've already blown my resolution to stop procrastinating so...there's that). I'm always surprised to go out my front door on New Year's Day and see that the world looks EXACTLY like it did when I came home the day before. I always expect there to be something NEW. Like my entire lawn is sprouted with hot-pink crocuses and lime-green daffodils. SOMETHING.
Traditionally, we make New Year's resolutions to create something NEW in our lives. Better health, better relationships, better communication. The problem is that creating something new, means changing something familiar. I stink at change. I know a lot of people who stink at change. I think that we're hard-wired to prefer the status quo. So when we're faced change or something new, it can be rough for us, even when we're the ones creating the change. We may feel disappointment, confusion, or a desire to set our heels and go full-send stubborn in resistance. I tend to be in the full-send stubborn resistance camp, so I'm fortunate that my culinary and service teams are MUCH more flexible!
One resolution this year was to make the menu a little more approachable. I think we've succeeded with that (please let me know if I'm wrong), but of course it's NEW and it's CHANGE, so it's been a little rough even though it's better. New menu items mean new "mise en place", the ingredients and equipment needed to execute a dish. New menu items mean the new mise en place goes into new spaces on the line. As a battle-hardened line cook, I rely on things being in the exact same place all the time so that you don't have to look for things when you're in the middle of a rush. Remember back when you learned how to type, the goal was to be able to do it without looking at the keyboard? Same thing. We're all still trying to figure out where the heck we put everything and if the place we put it originally is actually the best place for it once the slam hits. It takes a little trial and error. So, while I realize that you've probably experienced a few figurative bumps and bruises as we've worked through these changes, I hope that you're enjoying the final results. Please take a moment to fill out one of our comment cards or speak with one of our hostesses and let us know your thoughts. If you use a comment card, please give us your contact information so that we can reach out to you to discuss the issue further. Your input can be vital in our fine-tuning process, but sometimes the card doesn't give us all the information we need.
We're resolved to make your meals with us as enjoyable as possible, with tasty, healthy food and friendly service. And we're resolved that our collective resolution will not be broken...unlike my personal "no sugar for a month" resolution.
If y'all have been operating with the "be here, now" mindset (as opposed to the "HOLYCRAPITSCHRISTMAS!!" mindset that I embrace), then you've noticed little signs posted around the restaurant talking about the fact that we are closing for a period over the Holidays.
Specifically, we are closed from Friday, December 22nd until Tuesday, January 2nd. Just so you don't think we're going to be sitting around, drinking eggnog and playing Dreidel, let me walk you through how our week will roll out. Thursday, the 21st will be our last day of service. We'll break down the line, and get the food stewarded and stored. On Friday the 22nd, we roll up our sleeves for a deep clean. We haul out the foaming degreaser, the steam cleaner and some seriously hard-core attitudes and clean everything that doesn't have a pulse. Once all of the equipment in the kitchen is shining like it means it, and all of the dining room furniture has be exorcised of crumbs and chewing gum, we'll tuck in to preparing for NEW MENU ROLLOUT!
"New Menu Rollout? What's THAT??" It's exactly what it sounds like! We have a new menu coming on January 2nd! You've been experiencing many of the new menu items over the last couple of weeks as daily specials so that our line cooks could start becoming familiar with them. After a small Christmas break, we'll come in for the first round of training. This round is reserved specifically for the kitchen crew and takes most of a day. We work at each station with each line cook individually, with the rest of the staff observing and taking notes on the menu training packets that have been created. The packets include pictures and detailed instructions on how each dish is prepared. We have the staff observe on stations they don't normally work so if someone takes the day off, we have a person in the wings who has been trained to be able to take over for them. A "culinary understudy", if you will. By the end off the day, the goal is to have all cooks comfortable with all of the new menu items. On day two of training, the cooks will move to their individual stations and the Front of House Crew will come in. Each cook will prepare three of each of the new menu items for the FOHC to taste. The menu item will be described, listing it's ingredients and the various dietary restrictions it meets. This allows our crew to be able to intelligently answer any questions you'll have about the new items and give you THEIR personal take on the flavors and textures involved. Then we'll pack everything up and come in on New Year's Day to get the kitchen set up and ready to roll so we can hit the ground running on Tuesday morning.
There's a lot to do to get ready for this! We're super-excited to bring you some new, fun things to try! Please be patient with us while we're gone and DON'T FORGET TO PACK A LUNCH!
Happy 1st of December everyone! Well, Thanksgiving is over, and most people are actively persuing Christmas efforts now. I have to wait a week yet, because if I get started now, I'll end up spacing off my daughter's 15th birthday. But that's another story...
I wanted to let you know what I found on the Thankful Tree that we had here in The Spoon. I love doing that tree every year. Clearly, cutting out all of the leaves is a pain in the neck, but seeing what OTHER people are thankful for puts a new perspective on the things I'm thankful for. For instance, there were a bunch of "I'm thankful for NuSkin" leaves on the tree. My knee-jerk Seniora Skeptic response was "suck ups!", but then I took a beat and thought "actually, I AM thankful for NuSkin". I'm thankful for the fact that I don't have to work on Thanksgiving and can actually eat with my family instead of working brunch for 250, and two buffets for 350 people each an then show up after pie has been tucked into, smelling of sweat and sweet potatoes (not a good combo, by the way). I'm thankful for the really COOL people that work at NuSkin, both in my department and otherwise...Y'all are just a HOOT! And I don't think I even need to mention the NuSkin culture of Giga-Generosity!
The other big-hitter on the tree was "I'm thankful for family". My thought was "yeah, so am I" and then I thought about all the different families in the world and how they're probably thankful for each other, too. Of course my cascading stream of consciousness then cued up "Russians", the 1985 song by Sting that talked about human commonality in the face of political discord. Once again (or maybe still) relevant.
The final recurring theme was the romantic. "I'm thankful for my beautiful wife", "My strong husband", "My sweet Baboo", you get the gist. Ya gotta love the love, right? Makes the heart all fuzzy and warm, like it's wearing fleece sweatpants and slippers.
Thank you so much for participating. I know it seems a little silly to do stuff like that in a restaurant, but I personally appreciate anything that gives me pause to think about the wonders and gifts that I'm surrounded by daily. I hope you do, too. I hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving and I wish all of you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa and a Glee-filled Yule, Winter Solstice and Rohatsu! Peace!