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!
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!
I don't know about y'all's workplace, but The Spoon is some SERIOUS fun! I actually think you might be jealous a little bit if you really knew how much fun we have.
Karie is the primary "Culture Keeper" drive line...if you know her, you know SHE'S a hoot all on her own, but then you throw Cassidy and the rest of the Front of House crew into the mix and suddenly you have a barrel of adorable monkeys making this a really great place to hang out!
Any holiday is an excuse to party. You may have noticed that we found some truly obscure holidays to celebrate during the summer doldrums (National Pirate Day, anyone?). These have given the crew an opportunity to dress up, be silly, come up with interesting specials, or even decorate the restaurant, basically just for kicks. This week we're gearing up for Halloween by having "weird sock day", "bling day" (tomorrow the 26th) and "nerdy Friday" on the 27th. You should join us! You never know WHAT might happen if you show up appropriately blinged-up or nerded-out! Then, of course, there's the actual Halloween Party, which, as you know, means virtually all productivity at NuSkin comes to a screeching halt so people can dress up and tear it up just a little bit. What's the old saying? All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy? It's true! And NuSkin does a great job of giving it's employees different opportunities to re-charge their creative and productive batteries. We've found that, when you're in the hospitality industry, it becomes even more important to blow off a little steam every now an again. Keeps things fresh! If service people are having a good time taking care of guests' needs, the guest willl have a better experience! We also have various "what's your favorite..." and "would you rather..." questions up on our dry erase boards in the back kitchens. Both service AND kitchen staff can participate in these and they provide an opportunity not only to have a little fun, but for the crew to get to know each other a little better in the process! And a tight restaurant crew is an effective restaurant crew!
So be sure to come play with us! The big screen will be showing fun Halloween movies, we'll have trick-or-treating for the kiddos and you may end up with a random prize for your efforts! Happy Halloween!!
I need to ask you folks a favor or two.
Speaking specifically to my NuSkin Employee Guests...
Can you help me out with something?
We have policies in place to try to protect you from inaccurate payroll deductions here in the restaurant. One of those policies is that you have to show us your actual, physical, has-your-picture-on-it-and-everything badge in order to use payroll deduction for your food. This protects you becase we can scan the bar code off the badge and make sure that the correct employee number is used for billing. If someone has forgotten their badge, or left it in their car, or on their desk...even if we KNOW darn good and well that they're an employee...and they recite their number to us and get it wrong by one digit, there is no safeguard preventing someone else's payroll from being hit with the charge.
On the one hand, the payroll deduction is a fantastic convenience. On the other hand, it's kind of a pain in the neck. 'Cuz we have to be such sticklers about it. Sorry.
We also need your badge as evidence that you're an actual employee to give you the 50% employee discount. I know, I know, you've been with the company 25 years, OF COURSE you're an employee. That's wonderful. I know that and YOU know that, but my brand new cashiers who have only worked here three months DON'T know that. You wouldn't BELIEVE how many non-employee people we've had try to claim that they are employees, they just forgot their badge. No bueno. The employee discount is subsidized by NuSkin. If we give out employee discounts to people who aren't NuSkin employees, we're costing the company money, which impacts the corporate bottom line. And that, my friends, is NOT "Fast Speed".
The last thing I need your help with is this. Please do not prop open the exit doors by the mail room. There are a number of reasons for this. General security of the building, an additional safeguard against flying insects coming in from outside, stuff like that. I'd really appreciate it and I KNOW the security deparment would appreciate it too!
So to sum up, please keep the doors closed and please keep your badge on your person. I keep mine in my back right pocket. I admit, on legging days I have to get creative, but that's a separate conversation entirely! I have a few suggestions that might help you:
1. Have your grandma crochet a chain of your favorite color yarn to loop through the hole on your badge and tie to your belt loop. You could even have diffent colors to coordinate with different outfits!
2. Duct Tape fixes EVERYTHING! Available in a wide array of patterns and colors, you can truly make a statement when you use duct tape to affix your badge to your arm sleeve!
3. In a real pinch, a stapler can be your friend! (not advised for use on delicate or particularly expensive articles of clothing)
4. Ladies, we all have hair ties lying around. Make a slip loop through your badge then put it on your wrist. Again, many colors available to allow you to express your individuality!
5. Get a "Badge Buddy". Partner with your next-cubicle neighbor. If either of you stand up from your chair, the other one says "Don't forget your badge!" to remind the stander to not forget their badge. Think of fun and creative ways to remind each other...other languages, small signs in crayon, or post it notes placed stategically!
See? There are plenty of ways to help you keep your badge with you, which will help US do our job easier and more efficiently! You guys are the best! See you 'round the soda fountain!
Hi There! Long time, no talk to! How you doin'? You're having a great summer? I hope so! I know I am! Summer's awesome, isn't it? It seems more relaxed, with just a really chill vibe, you know? Take camping, for example. Your busy trying to pack everything, load it all into the car, it's a hard hike into the campsite (if you're married to my husband anyway), then you have to set everything up. Let alone breaking it all down, bringing it all home and putting it all away! But it's still chill. It's still relaxed.
I'm not a huge fan of camping, mostly because the clean up seems to always fall to me (mom, right?), but I WILL say that I love, love LOVE cooking food over an open fire. Can I get a hallelujah? Or is it just me? We went up canyon for our traditional holiday cookout for Pioneer Day. Hot dogs over an open campfire. It's pretty much the ONLY way to get me to eat a hot dog. I love the blistery skin, the infusion of smokiness. Mustard and relish and I am GOOD TO GO! Well, actually, mustard and relish and a side of my mom's macaroni salad and I'm good to go (that stuff is seriously the bomb)!
But it's not just hot dogs. Bacon and scrambled eggs (cooked in a little of the bacon drippings, of course) in a cast iron skillet over a wood fire, coffee in a percolator, biscuit sticks... Wait, what? You've never had a biscuit stick? where you take a stick and then you wrap refrigerator biscuit dough around in a spiral and roast it over the fire? Then you peel it off the stick and dunk it in melted butter? Whoa buddy, that's some good stuff right there! Or how about the ubiquitous "hobo dinner" of meat, potatoes and veggies with butter and herbs in a foil packet tossed in the coals? SOOOOO good! There's just something about kicking back in a lawn chair with a cold beverage in one hand and food-on-a-stick in the other while the smoke swirls around scaring away the mosquitoes. I picture a cave-woman some eons back who was tired of serving the same, old, raw mammoth for dinner thinking, "hey, I like the smell of the fire, I bet it would taste FANTASTIC on mammoth...I wonder if I put the mammoth on this stick and just hold it in here..." and then Hubby comes home from a long day of being chased by a saber-tooth and says "Honey, this mammoth is the BEST you've ever made! What'd you do to it?" as she leans smugly back on her haunches and says "oh, it's just a little thing I thought I'd try out...I'm glad you like it! You're washing the sticks tonight!"
Of course. when we're all done roasting our hot dogs, or foil dinners, or mammoth it's time for dessert! And is there anything better than a good old-fashioned Toasted Marshmallow? In that particular situation, I think not. Ok, I know that we elevate the toasted marshmallow by incorporating it into the S'more, but you couldn't even HAVE the S'more without the 'mallow, so I stand on my statement. The great part is, that if everyone has their own stick to toast their 'mallow, then everyone can have their 'mallow cooked to their liking. I prefer mine fully melted with only a slight char on the corners. My mother sets hers aflame, blows it out, peels off the outside and toasts the newly created exterior, repeating two or three times per 'mallow, thereby getting more toasty goodness out of each one. Daughter likes hers still firm and barely golden on the outside.
The food is really only a part of the equation. The fire, the smoke, the family and friends gathered to share a meal out in the beauty of nature...All these add up to a gustatory experience that is pretty much unattainable any where else.
I feel more relaxed just thinking about it.
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.