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Poutine is an iconic dish from Quebec, Canada – but no one is quite sure about who is the real creator of the dish. Who cares? How can you go wrong with fries, gravy, and cheese? Want to make it better? Just add meat!

This week marks the first PoutineFest in Montreal, so I thought I would bring out one of my favorites. Sure, it isn’t a true poutine, in the sense that it doesn’t have the squeaking cheese curds. I promise you that you will like it though. It ran as a lunch special for a pub that I was associated with.

Quebec is lucky to have some of the greatest product around. Lac Brome duck is a great example. In my opinion, it makes for the best foie gras, The legs from the ducks are some of the best for confit you can get your hands on. With next to no labor you can find yourself with the most succulent, tender duck you have ever experienced.

The Oka cheese in this recipe is produced in a factory that is less than a 10 minute drive from where I am at. It’s important to remove the rind for this dish so you are left with the creamy interior of the cheese. Grate it with a medium plate so you still have the texture of the cheese when the poutine sauce melts it.

In all, there is not much that you can say is wrong about this dish.

Let’s dig in.

Lac Brome Duck Confit and Classic Oka Poutine

Confit of Lac Brome Duck and Oka Cheese

The best that Quebec has to offer right here

Servings: 1 | Cook time: 4 min

Ingredients

1 order side fries
2 oz portion duck confit, skin and bones removed, shredded
2 oz portioned oka cheese, rind removed, grated with medium plate
4 fl oz poutine sauce
1 g micro beets for garnish

Method:

PLATE: LARGE SOUP BOWL WITH PLATE AND DOILY

  1. Prepare a side french fry in #1 fryer. Season well.
  2. When the fries are almost done, place duck into the microwave for 30 seconds to warm up.
  3. Place half of the fries into the soup bowl, and 1 oz of the grated Oka cheese over the fries.
  4. Pour a 2 fl oz ladle of the poutine sauce over the fries and cheese.
  5. Plate the remaining fries on top of the poutine, then add the remaining Oka cheese on top.
  6. Pour another 2 fl oz ladle of the poutine sauce over the fries and cheese.
  7. Place the hot pulled pork and duck confit on the top of the poutine and garnish with micro beets.
  8. Serve immediately.
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Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto


New From: $16.83 USD In Stock

A complete meat- and brisket-cooking education from the country’s most celebrated pitmaster and owner of the wildly popular Austin restaurant Franklin Barbecue–winner of Texas Monthly’s coveted Best Barbecue Joint in Texas award.

I couldn’t have said it better.

shot of the Franklin Barbecue book

Awesome book and the manifesto to great barbecue

I was at a kid’s party event this past weekend and struck up a conversation with a friend over the finer points of barbecue. While we were comparing notes about pulled pork, smoked turkey, and the dangers of smoking brisket, I was floored to see that my friend hadn’t yet got his hands on this offering.

I found out about this book when a mentor of mine posted his copy on Facebook. I had never heard of Aaron Franklin, but his barbecue joint is well known, even up here in Canada.

This isn’t a book full of recipes or step-by-step instructions. It’s a combination of a memoir and a technical manual on the fine art of smoking and cooking in a barbecue pit.

This is where the book truly shines. It goes deep into the theory of how he does what he does, and the decisions that he makes. It gives you the tools you need to make your own success at barbecue, and not with a simple set of instructions a la “follow my recipe and it will all be good.”

If you have ever contemplated adding an item on your menu, such as smoked ribs, brisket, pulled pork, or even smoked salmon, this book will give you the head start to be ahead of everyone else in the class. Plus it is an enjoyable read.

Yes, I am a chef and have no problems reading a cookbook in bed before I sleep. This is something deeper. I have mad respect for Aaron Franklin.

Buy yourself a copy by clicking the link below. It will take you to my store and it’ll tell them I sent you!

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Bonne Saint Jean Baptiste

Over the next few days there will be a lot of celebration in the province of Quebec, and people will be getting ready to move.

image

I will be moving too!

Hope you all have a great couple of days, and see you on the flip side!

Pour toutes mes amies québécois… Bonne fête nationale.

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Happy Father’s Day

image

What a difference a year makes. At this time last year, I was slugging away at my job, and I hadn’t really seen my son for a few weeks here and there.

I’m not going to lie, this business is hard as hell. Holidays, birthday parties, anniversaries, and vacations are left by the wayside when you pursue your passion.

I remember attending Communications class at culinary school. Ironic that after taking that class no less than three times, I still struggle with communication skills. (Aparently you still need to go in order to get a passing mark.)

So it was in that class that our instructor gleefully told us that aside from dentists, chefs have the #2 privilege of divorce in their career.

Bonus!

Turns out that it was true. Over the years I’ve seen the toll this business has on our family life. The constant demands, the owner who is not willing to understand that you yearn to be with your family.

The fights with the wife about yet another holiday you can’t attend with family. The stove and the chit machine beckons.

Better yet, for those of you out there in brunch hell, I hope you remembered to double up on the bacon and sausage today because You. Will. Run. Out.

To all of you out there slogging it through the holiday, here’s to you:

Happy Father’s day. On your smoke break, call your family. Let them know you love them. Say HI to your munchkins.

After all, my instructor was right. It’s all about communication. Tell your family (and kids) that you love them as much as you can. Don’t take them for granted.

Communicate.

Your turn

What are you up to this Father’s day? Let me know in the comments.

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Menu Makeover: Coleslaw With Secret Ingredient

Over the next couple of recipe posts, we will make over restaurant dishes to add excitement or a personal touch to them. The first will be a common side dish that gets next to no love – coleslaw.

Why make your own coleslaw? Can’t you just buy it from most suppliers at a modest price per portion?
True, convenience products will save you on labor. Use convenience products and you could run into two problems:

  1. The labor saving is offset by a higher cost of goods sold.
  2. Everyone else is probably using the same product.

This is what I faced after reviewing the menu of a casse-croûte. There were multiple issues with the menu (too long, too many convenience items, etc.) but the one that stuck out was that there was nothing using the bounty of local produce. Coleslaw was the most important side in that restaurant, and yet they were using a product they bought in. Trouble was, like in the above list, that everyone else was using it too.

It was time to come up with a coleslaw recipe that kicked butt. It should be the opposite of what was available out there. Instead of a watery, cabbage stinking mess, it should be a delightful, crunchy texture. Instead of the bottled “Coleslaw Dressing,” it should have a taste that is all it’s own, and unique to the restaurant.

There are a lot of recipes out there, and this one was based off a Google search long ago. I am not sure where the original recipe came from, but it doesn’t matter because we re-worked the recipe from the base and added a different spin on it.

The pickle juice here is what makes this coleslaw sing. To add interest to the dish, add grated broccoli stems and other vegetables on your daily vegetable list and get full usage of your produce.

To make this recipe easier, grab yourself a mandolin and go to town.

A picture of the "secret coleslaw"

Add in your own twist to this coleslaw and make it your own.

“Secret” Coleslaw
Servings: 45 | Prep Time 25 min | Portion Size 2.5 oz | Shelf Life 3 Days

Ingredients:
16 fl oz pickle juice
3 fl oz rice wine vinegar
30 grams dried garlic
2 kg cabbage, shredded (red and white)
400 grams carrots, shredded
400 grams broccoli stems, peeled and shredded
200 grams granulated sugar
3 grams dried mustard powder
10 grams celery salt
5 grams dried parsley
8 fl oz canola oil

Method:
Soak garlic in pickle juice and vinegar; set aside for 20 minutes.
Combine ingredients together and mix through.
Place into 1/6th inserts. label and date.

Your turn:

This coleslaw is a great vehicle for local produce. What do you like to put into yours? Let me know in the comments.

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Let’s imagine for a minute. You are the new chef of a Casse-Croûte style restaurant, and the amount of coleslaw you go through is enough to make your head spin. We’re talking 40-60 liters a day. That’s a lot of cabbage to slice!

All fun aside, there are several problems to doing this by hand. First off, it would take your cooks forever to cut it by hand. There is no guarantee, even if your cooks are whizzes at prep, that the threads of cabbage will be consistent.

Bron mandolin

After 17 years, this mandolin is still going strong!

 

Time is money.

Imagine for a second that your cook is an entry level cook making minimum wage. For our purposes here we can imagine that the minimum wage is $10/hour to make our calculations easier.

Let’s say that a competent prep cook can roll through a whole 2 kg cabbage in about 10 minutes. To make 60 liters of coleslaw would require 16 heads of cabbage. Let’s assume that your prep cook is not going to get sick of cutting your cabbage, all the while cursing your name, and continues through with the task until done, with no wasted time.

10 min x 16 cabbages = 160 minutes, or 2 hours 40 minutes.
Let’s give 20 minutes to finish the rest of the recipe, and we are looking at 3 hours of labor for coleslaw. In this case we are adding $30 to the cost of the coleslaw.
This represents a cost addition of 0.0625 per unit sold.

It’s no wonder it’s attractive to turn to convenience products!

I faced this very problem. It wasn’t feasible to use the Hobart machine to shred the lettuce because we ended up with a watery mess that looked like the pails of coleslaw the vegetable company offered us.

Since we were selling over 150 units of fish and chips daily, we blew through coleslaw like it was nothing. Cutting it by hand just didn’t make sense.

The thing is, using a convenience product would make me the same as everyone else in the area. Why come to our establishment if the guest is getting the same thing down the street, often for way less?

I know, you’re probably saying, Jason! It’s freaking coleslaw! True. Thing is, it’s the all about the little details. The accents are what sell your dish. If you offer the same as everyone else, you are the same as everyone else.

Bron mandolin to the rescue. How a mandolin cut the labor cost by over 40%

It can slice, julienne, chip, waffle, and ripple cut as thick or thin as you need. A classic French design, this modern version is made from stainless steel.

The benefit to the mandolin is the ability to section the cabbage, then use the guard as a guide to quickly chop the cabbage into even, consistent threads while still maintaining the structure of the cabbage. The resulting coleslaw was crisp, and held the vinaigrette better than the watery mess that came out of the Hobart slicer attachment.

What took 3 hours to make dropped considerably to 1 hour 15 minutes. That’s a savings of nearly 55% labor. Now the cost of labor for the coleslaw is $12.50 for the batch.
This represents a cost per portion of 0.026 per unit sold.

Given the cost of the prefab coleslaw and the “labor saving” benefits, it is easy to see why a lot of chefs opt for convenience. It doesn’t have to be that way though.

If you are looking to put your vision and food out there, then give your cooks the proper tools to execute the recipes, and you won’t be sorry.

Get the Bron Mandolin from my Amazon Store

Okay, so that’s one example of how this tool will help you. I know that it’s expensive. The labor cost you will save will pay for it. Plus, the mandolin is made with sturdy materials. The one in the picture above is over 17 years old, and still going strong.

Below this post is a link to my store. Buy the mandolin there, and I’ll get a coffee. Best of all, you’ll save money while making a product that is your own.

In a future post I’ll give you the recipe for the “secret” coleslaw made with a Bron Mandolin.

Until then!

Your turn:

What’s your favorite mandolin story? Let me know in the comments below!



Bron Original Stainless Steel Mandolin Slicer


New From: $139.00 USD In Stock
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Swearing in the Kitchen: Poll Result

Last week I put up a poll about cursing in the kitchen. I also put the same poll over at cheftalk.com, and reddit. What a response. Lets get into the results.

I admit that when it comes to the use of “colorful language,” I take my cue from the great Gordon Ramsay. I find that it gets worse when I am in the heat of things, and the swear words fly out of my mouth.

Of course, things can get out of hand. People have misunderstood what I was swearing about, and took it as I was swearing against them.

Swearing

So, what were some of the responses?

I think it really comes down to the intention behind the swearing. If you’re telling someone to fuck off in a joking manner and they understand this, I don’t see an issue. Same with just general swearing at things/situations, assuming that none of the customers hear.
However: if you’re swearing at someone in anger or doing it to try to offend them/piss them off, then you should probably fuck right off. – EbriusOften

I never call any of the staff insulting things but I jokingly swear all the time at/in conversation with them. My boss however seems to think that we should all call each other sweetie or some shit and always says something. But fuck! Im aussie, be more insulted when I call you mate or sweetie than when I call you a cunt. – taniastar

I’m going to try this approach. It can be so hard to hold back when you want to tell someone exactly how much of an incompetent f-ing idiot they are at times. Swearing at the situation releases the frustration without sending anyone home to cry into their pillow. I struggle to find the balance between being the authority and being kind to people. – ontothebeach

I lead by example and do not swear myself. Rarely can you catch me use swear words. As a result, most of my summer staff withhold swear words around me. Yes, I hear ‘F’ bombs on occasion, but as a rule we run a clean kitchen (double meaning!).– Seabeecook

The best tidbit I came away with is this answer:

Swearing a’la Ramsay is sooo crude, so predictable, and so boring, F-this, Sh*t that, etc.
People, we are artists, creators of new and exciting things, we don’t need old boring stuff to get our message across.
Say, for instance a cook is moving too slow. The standard expletitive would be something like “Move your (deleted) arse”. Bore-ing! there’s no real initiative there for creativity, about as bland as fried ham steak with a pineapple ring.
Instead, say something like ” You know, I’ve seen heroin addicts on the nod move faster than you, are you going to get any work done today?” or
“You call that clean? The raccoons leave my garbage cans cleaner than that when they go diving for the moldy Kraft single slices at the bottom of the can”
That’s not to say we can’t use bodily function or fluid comparisons to get our message across, but there is a protocol, and proper terminology.
For example: “What did you do to that lemon curd? It’s so sour it’ll pull my foreskin right through my rectum” or “What do you mean you want a side of risotto, but with no extra charge? I wouldn’t give you the little wisps of steam from my morning dump without charging” or “You’ve been texting for 10 minutes now, and you’ve already had your break and you still want to get paid for this? You have your head so far up your rear, your sphincter muscle thinks it’s your tongue”
But to swear like Ramsay? Nah, no creativity, no class. – foodpump

The takeaway

When it comes to the kitchen, it’s all about relationships with your coworkers. You can’t afford to breed misunderstanding by using foul language. For me, it pays to keep the language clean.

Your turn

Knowing what some of the people have said in the poll, how will you handle swearing in your kitchen? Let me know in the comments below!

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Consistency Your Problem? Buy A Scale

Here’s the situation: Your go-to brunch cook has gone on maternity leave. You’ve filled the position, only to discover that your quality on the brunch has gone way down.

For instance, let’s say the brownies have taken a nosedive in flavor. Pretend someone actually took to TripAdvisor to complain about them.

"Diabetic Cooking" Brownies

So, what gives? Let’s say you do some digging, after the owners hand you the comments and express concern over what’s going on, and you ask to see the recipe for the brownies that the cooks have used since well before you became the chef at the place. You are greeted with something like this:

Brownies

5 cups vegetable oil
10 cups sugar
10 teaspoons vanilla
20 eggs
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 1/3 cups cocoa powder
2 1/2 tsp salt
5 cups flour

Wow. This recipe was obviously scaled from a recipe from a magazine or online, or worse – it could even be a “family” recipe. You need 120 portions? Just scale it by 10, right?

The only problem is you know that there are no measuring cups in the kitchen. There are no measuring spoons. The closest you have is a 4L measuring cup.

Your staff have to make decisions daily with the tools you give to them.

– Jason Sandeman

So, by this estimate, your staff are just winging the recipe. How can you control your costs if you can’t even control what your staff is putting into the brownie batter?

If the brownies are not consistent then they will drive down guest satisfaction, which will then impact your revenues. Once that starts happening, your food costs will start to get out of control. That batch of brownies that goes into the trash because they didn’t work, or scraped off the plate before loading the dishes.

While it might seem like I am making a big deal of nothing, make no mistake. Your staff have to make decisions daily with the tools you give to them. If they don’t have the proper tools, they will come up with their own creative ways to get the job done. The problem is that you rarely have control over the end result.

I had this problem until I implemented a scale for preparation use. I won’t lie, it’s a bit more work for the set up. In the case of the brownie recipe above, you would need to find out what actually works as the recipe, measure out the ingredients, then convert the recipe to a scaled version of the recipe.

After this case, the brownie recipe could look like this:

Scaled Brownie Recipe

40 fl oz vegetable oil
2 kg sugar
1.5 fl oz vanila extract
20 large eggs
11.5 g baking powder
285 g cocoa powder
15 g table salt
625 g AP flour

That’s a lot clearer to an employee. The standard is set, and it can scale a lot easier too. All that needs to happen is to train the employee how to tare a scale.

Once I implemented the scaling technique for recipes, my food cost improved by 5 points over a period of one month. Better yet, it was easier to ensure that the product was that same no matter who was doing it.

There are a multitude of scales out there. In the end, you can buy a $150 scale for the kitchen, or you can buy a whole bunch of scales for your staff and put them to work in the kitchen for you.

I reviewed this scale here, and I still use it in my kitchens. It’s lightweight, durable, and cheap enough to replace when it gets broken. Buy a couple from the link below, and get your staff into scaling their ingredients. Your food cost and standards will thank you for it.



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Follow Up to Poll: Swearing In The Kitchen

It seems that the question of swearing has touched off quite a conversation over at the previous post. I also asked the question on various chef forums, and the results are mixed.

Vintage Ceramic Swear Jar or Cuss Box Coin Bank with Appalachian Hillbilly Motif - Made in Japan

Here are a few examples of what people had to say: Names are changed to protect the innocent

I personally feel that if you can’t take a little bit of foul language now and then, a restaurant may not be the best industry for you. I don’t need graphic details of sexual encounters, but an occasional f-bomb or three isn’t out of order.

– Hibagon

In my kitchen, it depends on whether the bosses are in earshot. (Especially the big boss!) The kitchen boss knows we curse, but we try to keep it down around her, because she’s a fundie Christian. The big boss is also a Christian, but she’s a bitch and our boss isn’t.

If the bosses aren’t around….FUCK YEAH I’M CUSSING. And probably telling dirty jokes, to make the virgin guy’s ears red.

In all honesty, though…I really don’t curse all that much, and I don’t say goddamn at work ever. It’s an unspoken rule when you work in the South, you just don’t say that word.

– Gullwinggirl

Definitely don’t curse out anybody on your team. That’s just bad for morale. Swearing in general has always been a general part of the kitchen experience for me and pretty much everybody I know though. Shit’s intense, you’re stressed and I think it adds to the sense of camaraderie.

– flyover_states

For emphasis. I mean, when it’s the third time and you really mean it what else can you say? I’ll write you up for moving too slow.

– Kuan

One could be crude and cruel without swearing, or one could be kind and motivating using the most foul language. To me it’s part of the esoteric parlance used among a well formed crew. Honest talk helps teams meld and it has been used for centuries in military training. It’s fire and knives in a kitchen not cubicles and HR guidelines.

– James

You Tell Me:

So, what’s your take on cursing in the kitchen? Let’s keep the discussion going, there are great points here. Let me know in the comments.

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POLL: Swearing in the Kitchen? Yes or No?

If you have been in any professional kitchen, chances are you have heard a few f-bombs dropped here and there. Today I throw the question at you: Do you allow swearing in your kitchen?

Swear jar

I admit it, I have a mouth like a trucker.

I get wrapped up in what I am doing, and sometimes I just let my emotions go, and the swearing follows. It wasn’t until I gained the position of Executive Chef that the swearing got in the way.

Truthfully, the reality shows like Hell’s Kitchen highlight what the language in the kitchen is really like. Gordon Ramsey may be a foul-mouthed chef, but despite that he is still popular.

It was nothing for me to swear at someone. Of course, when you are neck-deep in the emotion of the situation, it is easy to forget that you are actually wounding someone with your words, even if they are careless on your side.

From now on, I will not allow swearing in my kitchen.

I recently read that several of my idols did not allow swearing in theirs. Auguste Escoffier, Marie Antoine Carême, and other prominent chefs did not allow swearing in their establishment.

Apparently there are benefits to this, which I will explore in a later post. For now, join me in an impromptu poll:

Swearing in the Kitchen? Yes or No?

View Results

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I’ll post the answers next week!

You Tell Me:

In the comments below, tell me the reason why you do or do not allow swearing in your kitchen.

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