Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day 2011- A Culinary Holiday

For many people Earth Day is the one day of the year where they reflect on how we treat the earth, a day to plant a tree or a day to post Happy Earthday on Facebook.

But for Culinarians Earth Day should mean much, much more and taking care of the earth should be a 365 day a year commitment.

If we do not care for the plants and animals that we currently enjoy, that we creatively cook and display to express our creative culinary flare, they will no longer be in abundance or even existence and the prices will continue to rise, until the day where certain, fruits, vegetables or animals will become a luxury to eat. 

Chefs and Culinarians for centuries have been focused on eating what they could grow, cure, can or hunt, that is until the last several hundred years.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a pineapple flown in from Hawaii, imported Italian Olive Oil and wines from Europe, Australia, and various other parts of the world. But in balance and in moderation.

This blog posting is not a comment on our dependency of foreign oil, or the fact that we have take a item, such as the tomato, a summer fruit, that  truly only taste good when it is permitted to ripen on the vine and made it a daily staple in our homes and on menu's around the country.

Today's posting is to simply ask that all Culinarians, try and make Earth Day a focus of everyday, from the way we eat, think and create menus.  To what we buy and sell in our restaurants and supermarkets.  And probably the most important thing we can do is to educate the general public, they are already curious on how we cook, the cooking techniques we use and where food comes from.  We now need to take educating the general public to the next level, and start educating them on how to eat local, sustainable and earth friendly.

Happy Earthday everyone.

Eat well, be safe and enjoy live...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Scars of a Chef- Book Review

Scars of a Chef

Once I picked up Chef Tramonto's book, Scars of a Chef I couldn't put it down.  I was engaged cover to cover, I suppose this is because I could relate to much of what chef  wrote.  I believe that anyone who has stepped foot and worked in a kitchen ( at any level)  for any period of time can relate to Chef's experiences.

After each chapter, chef includes one of his favorite recipes that he relates to the chapter the reader has just finished reading.

Chef touches on his childhood  and teenage years and the highs and lows the family encountered as well as his addiction and abuse of drugs and alcohol and how he used sex and his addiction to work to hide his inner pain.

His success was only a small part luck, the rest can be accounted to his passion for our industry, the hard work and dedication to his job (no matter what the job was) and how he learned early on, to keep is eyes open, his mouth shut and to answer every question with "Yes Chef".

Even with Chef Tramonto's fame and natural born talent, he still encountered personal and professional set backs including almost loosing his life by abusing drugs and alcohol and getting a divorce. During these time he even believed that he was so far beyond hope and help that he would never be happy. His awards winning restaurants, the fame and the celebrity status and even the money still left him empty inside.  

Then like many things in life, Chef discovered that the answer to all of his problem was always there right in front of him, all day, every day, the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Although I consider myself religious and have faith in a higher power and in the almighty God above, this book is more in my eyes focused to be relatable to any religion and to anyone that believes that we are here on earth for a purpose and that we all have a destiny that we can control. (whatever your purpose or destiny you may believe in).

This book was not only a book that I could reflect on, but it was also a book that I found very inspirational.

Two Forks Up- a must read for anyone in the Biz......

Until I blog again:  Eat Well, Enjoy Life and Be Happy 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Prequel- International Trips to the England, Ireland & Wales- 2007 & 2008

I have decided to take a step back into time and share with you my 2007 & 2008 international trips.  I had the great experience of visiting some of the International Internship Sites we send our JWU students to.  

During these trips I got to visit the following properties:

2007 Visits

The Waterside Inn

A world-class culinary experience

I arrived in 16th Century village of Bray via taxi, the taxi brought me to this small dead end road, with midsized building on the right.  I said to myself, this cant be it, but it was.  As the saying goes, looks can be deceiving.  From the second I stepped out of the taxi.  Service, Hospitality and Smiles were abundant and greeted me with every step I took.  I checked into the small 11 room inn, I arrived to my room, walked in and was greeted by a fresh fruit and cheese display as well as assorted sparkling waters. 

I was only spending one night so I wanted to make sure I made the best of my time.  I freshened up and made my way back down stairs and asked if Chef Roux was available, within a matter of a few seconds Chef Roux greeted me and asked if I wanted to see the kitchen, but before I said a word, we were on our way.  (Who would really turn down that offer?)  Upon arrival into the kitchen I was introduced to his Sous Chef and the pastry chef, an alumnus of the JWU international internship program.  The kitchen was staffed per the French Brigade System, I had never seen so many (roughly 20/25) chefs, cooks and apprentices working in such harmony before. 

After the tour I made my dinner reservation with the Maitre d and headed back to my room to relax for a few hours. When it was time I headed back downstairs and was escorted out to a deck right on banks of the River Thames.  Once seated I was offered champagne and the amuse bouche and relaxed while watching boats and ducks make their way up and down the River Thames.  Now a few years later, I do not recall my exact meal, but I do know that it was more than I ordered, Chef Roux just kept sending out plates and plates of food and wine to my table.  Easily one the most gourmet evening I have ever had.

I have had the pleasure of keeping in touch with Chef Roux since my visit in 2007 and am grateful for his hospitality. (Chef Roux below)

Adare Manor

Adare Manor is not only a Neo-Gothic  hotel but a great and intriguing house.

I visited Limerick Ireland in 2007.  I flew into Shannon Airport and took the quick taxi ride to downtown Limerick.  I spent my first night in a small bed and breakfast in Limerick, before heading to Adare Manor for my second night.  While in Limerick I visited St. John's Castle

When I arrived at Adare Manor, I stayed in the Manor House, pictured below. I then took a long an peaceful walk around the property and enjoyed the well groomed gardens.  As well I ventured my way via a 15 minute walk to downtown Adare, a small quaint village, some of the houses still have thatch roofs.

Hotel Maes-y-Neuadd

Relaxed, Country House atmosphere, One of the best Welsh Restaurants,  A Country House, near to Harlech castle, in the Mountains of Snowdonia.

Chef Peter Jackson, Chef Patron of Maes-y-Neuadd or "The Mansion in the Meadow" a Welsh manor house, dating from the 14th century.  Chef Jackson is also the Chairman of The Welsh National Culinary Team has taken JWU internship students for many years and has been a mentor to a multitude of culinary apprentices.

In order to arrive at Hotel Maes-y-Neuadd once I left Adare Manor, I had to travel to Dublin, and from Dublin I took a ferry to Wales.  Once arriving in Wales, I rented a car and off I went on my way to visit Chef Jackson,

So, picture this, this is my first time driving in a foreign country, driving in the right lane, while sitting in the right side to drive, and did i mention the car was a standard, so I had to shift and clutch on a different side of the car.  I make my way through the Welsh country side heading to the Snowdonia mountains, I am very nervous, I am driving slow and bam, I hit my first roundabout (aka a rotary).  Now I have to drive in the opposite direction in the roundabout in a lane I am not accustom to driving in, well I am telling you this story so I made it through the experience safely.  Quiet an experience, I learned a lot about myself and how easily  life, no matter how little of a change, is always an adventure.

I make my way through the Snowdonia mountains (one of the most beautiful places I have been) as I was driving an occasional sheep would jump into the road and I would have to slam on the breaks, but I arrived safely at hotel Maes-y-Neuadd.  I check into the hotel and meet Chef Jackson and his wife Lynn and a JWU internship student who was on her internship at the time,  I spent two night at the hotel, the food was amazing, they grow most of their own produce on property and have the fish monger and butcher visit daily.  The kitchen is very small and the kitchen staff is only 4 persons.

During my stay I got the opportunity to visit an old Welsh slate mine and to visit Harlech Castle.

Harlech castle

Portmeirion Village

Portmeirion is a hotel resort  located on the coast of Snowdonia National Park in Gwynedd, North Wales. 

Visiting Portmeiron Village is like walking around in  fantasy land, or being in a scene on the Twilight Zone, and actually the village was used for the 1960's TV show The Prisoner.

The village is snuggled against the Snowdonia mountains and is a tourist attraction.  The resort has a recently built castle as well as a hotel and cottages.  I only spent one night at this location, and enjoyed my tour of the property very much. Portmeirion is close to Hotel Maes-y-Neuadd so you are still in what I find to be one of the most beautiful parts of the world- Northern Wales.

2008 Visits

Forest of Arden, A Marriott Hotel & Country Club

Set in the heart of the Midlands amongst the rural Warwickshire countryside, Forest of Arden, A Marriott Hotel & Country Club is located only 4 miles from Birmingham NEC, Birmingham Airport

I flew into Birmingham Airport and took a brief taxi ride to Forest of Arden Marriott, I couldn't believe such a rural and beautiful landscape could be so close to the airport. The Forest of Arden land is owned, not by Marriott but a private organization, the land around the Marriott reminds me of a wild life sanctuary, you see deer, pheasant, ducks, geese, rabbits all around you.  For the most part these animals roam freely around the property, but are also occasionally hunted by the property management to control the animal population.

Once I was checked into my room, I met Chef Nigel for a tour of the property and to discuss what was in store for me during my 3 night stay at the Marriott.  The property is a quaint hotel with two food outlets, a more formal dining room and a casual cafe setting.  During my tour chef let me know that I would be spending two night at his property and one night at the Sprowston Marriott.  Both properties were very clean and well maintained and the staff and managers made me feel right at home.

Chewton Glen

An English Original... Chewton Glen is a luxury country house hotel and spa set in 130 acres of Hampshire countryside on the edge of the New Forest National Park, and just a few minutes' walk from the sea.

Chewton Glen a 5 red star luxury Hampshire country house hotel and spa that constantly surprises.

Chetwon Glen has been one of my favorite visits for a few reasons.  First the property is amazing and the staff is over the top friendly.  Second although you feel like you are in a rural setting (and you really are) the sea is minutes away and the town is even closer.  You have all the modern conveniences when you want them and you are one with nature when you want to be.  As well when you travel around the New Forest National Park, you see wild horses frequently. Very Beautiful Area!

Once settled in I met with Anita the HR Director who gave me a tour of the property and connected me with the Chef, chef explained to me how is kitchen operated and how he had most of his food flown in to the hotel from France, Italy and around the world, while also choosing the best product the local community could offer him.  We also had an intern at the site when I visited.

I dinned from the Chefs 8 course tasting menu and was blown away with the quality and taste of the food and wine selections.  From breakfast, to high tea, to dinner, the quality of service and food easily ranks right up there with what I experienced at The Waterside Inn

Celtic Manor Resort

There are three hotels at The Celtic Manor Resort. Guests can choose to stay in the luxurious five star Resort Hotel, our four star 19th century Manor House or the Newbridge on Usk, which is located only a stone's throw away from the Resort itself.

The great tourist sites and attractions that I was able to see on my adventures driving around the UK....

The following are the tourist attractions I was able to stop at on my way to or from a site visit.  I was awestruck at Stonehege and loved visting the old castles and ruins along my travels. 



Castle Keep


Old Sarum- The Original Salsbury

Hope you enjoyed my look back, until I blog again, eat well, be safe, and live life.