Wednesday, December 26, 2007

360mm Masamoto Yanagi, Hon-Kasumi Shiro-Ko

I've been asked why such a long yanagi? In the video on the bottom of the page you'll see I use every inch of it in that particular application. Slicing beef tenderloin to order on the line. Sure it's tender and easy to cut but that almost works against you when you want to complete the task in an efficient manner. Tenderloin can be delicate, so a long sharp knife is very useful.

I did alot of these for private dinners over the Holidays. Sliced at service for up to 80 people. Once you get a rhythm down you fly through the tenders with this yanagi. One stroke per slice.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Or Happy Holidays. Which ever you prefer.

The madness of December is over. Now it's on to New Years Eve.

I hope everone has a wonderful Holiday season.

Friday, December 21, 2007


I finally figured out how to manage my videos and You Tube. I've included a tour of #2 at the bottom of this page. Forgive the soundtrack. It was handy and the perfect length. Also somewhat fitting.

#1 is on there now as well.

Also a brief look at the staff at our "Thank God Christmas is finally here party."

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Weeds

Anyone who is in the business knows what I'm talking about. It's inevitable, no matter what your job is sooner or later you'll be in "the weeds". Simply put it's being overwhelmed with time sensitive tasks. Pressure personified. I've seen people just say "fuck it" and walk out and quit on the spot. Countless numbers of waitresses break down into tears. Chef's losing it and throwing plates. (I won't mention any names) It's a bad place to be. A very bad place to be. If you watch Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares (I do not) you'll probably see it often. A cook being in the weeds can have a snowball affect. If you're unable to get the food out in a timely matter it puts the servers in the weeds, which in turn can put the Host in the weeds, which can compound the server's weeds which compounds the cook's weeds and the bartender is probably in the weeds too. It's not pretty.

Young cooks need to be exposed to it for educational purposes. Once you're in the weeds you need to get out. In a word, survive. Experience is really the only teacher. I have a favorite phrase after surviving being in the weeds. "Pressure makes diamonds." It's true.

I got in the weeds big time last week. It was a very bad day. It doesn't happen that often. I can usually control the factors that lead to it. I let my guard down and trusted an employee too much and I ended up suffering for it. (not to mention another 5 or 6 people I was working with) I find as I age I'm not quite as good dealing with it as I used to be. That's one of the reasons I keep my line work limited these days. It was however a reminder to be ever vigilant when prepping, scheduleing and booking tables. The weeds is a place I don't like to visit and hopefully I won't be back there soon.

If you're a civilian and can't figure out why your food is taking so long and why your server has that "deer in the headlights look" and then disappears, chances are the restaurant is in the weeds. Be patient, you'll get served sooner or later. Probably when your server feels safe going back into the dining room.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Tactics aka Menu

I heard from some military general that tactics are wonderful but it's logistics that wins wars. I have the same philosophy when it comes to menus. If you can't serve the menu properly you've lost the war. I see many menus while dining out or surfing the net. Some sound incredibly good. It's also not uncommon to see those same restaurants out of business within a year. I've noticed the shi-shi menu craze really geared up in recent years with the celebrity chef craze. It seems more chefs are interested in showing off how great they are rather than concentrating on what this business is really about. Being successful, making money, keeping the employees employed and making a livable wage. If you can do all that AND show off you are ahead of the game.

I have spent a good portion of my career dealing with logistics. If you can't realistically serve that fancy menu what good does it do you? If you can't get that exotic ingredient it won't impress anyone. If the chef is the only one skilled enough to implement the menu then you're going to crash and burn sooner or later.

As a result my "style" is keep it simple, serve a quality product, accent it in a positive manner and don't screw it up. The "don't screw it up" part is all about restraint and logistics. I think you'll find that most places with similar philosophies do pretty well. You may not find corn fungus on the menu but the odds are the customers will appreciate it.

Saturday, December 8, 2007


I mentioned in the post I deleted that one of the things that keeps me sane this time of year is food. Preparation of great food. The downside to that is this time of year many of the additional customers that we are serving are "special occasion" customers. Also the crowd around here in general is a less discriminating customer. I don't mean that to sound critical it's just a fact of life. When I want to let my hair down I have to be careful I don't loose money doing it. If the crowd wants the Rolling Stones I shouldn't give them Mozart. I love the Rolling Stones but playing Mozart is my passion, if ya know what I mean.

So this week I went from one end of the spectrum to the other. I flew in some gorgeous seafood from Hawaii and smoked some equally gorgeous (well, not really) beef brisket. Our seafood is always fresh and excellent but the stuff I get from Hawaii is especially beautiful. It's brought to the piers a couple hours before I order it and shipped shortly after that. It's overnighted to me and I get it about 24hours out of the ocean. This week it was Big Eye tuna, Blue Snapper and Kampachi. I did some sushi, sashimi and tar tar with the Big Eye, ceviche with the Kampachi and the snapper wrapped in cedar and grilled. It all was "world class. This was a big hors d'oeuvres week so I was also smoking beef brisket "low and slow" with cherry wood and a dry rub for mini brisket sandwiches. I also cut alot of tenders this time of year and grind up the trimmings for micro burgers. Both the brisket and burgers are served on little buns that I baked fresh just hours before. The fish sold ok but the little sandwiches were pounced upon. As I said, it's a Rolling Stones crowd and I didn't mind doing some "covers".

I'm taking some video around the restaurants this weekend and hope to put together a little video I can post here.

Hopefully I can direct all my attention to #1 today. Two big parties at #2 yesterday so I was there all day. When I got to #1 last night the boys were in the weeds. I walked in the kitchen and the servers were hovering in front of the line like a bunch of vultures waiting not-so-patiently for their food. I'll be there tonight to expedite, back up any one who needs help and to keep the vultures at bay. Their impatience pisses me off. They are spoiled rotten. It's not often the boys get in the weeds. The servers aren't aware of just how good those guys are. The cooks are also very nice guys and let them slide on the snide remarks. Me, I'm not so nice. they'll be getting snapped on tonight and the cooks are going to love every minute of it. It's been a long week, I'm going to make sure we have fun tonight.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


I decided to delete the "Days" post and replace it with a less scrooge like tone.

A hard day. A good day. All things considered it went well. Our days have been busy with Holiday parties, some easier than others. We did an event for a local business. All appetizers, cash bar. We started the day a tad behind. My day cook was dragging and was ten minutes late getting in the kitchen. The weather has slowed things down lately and Fridays are usually slow and steady. We ended up getting our asses kicked. A couple weeks of complacency showed. Day cook's primary responsibility is to set up the line and be prepared to get through the lunch with the prep on hand. Sloppy set-up and short on a number of things. We pushed through a good rush doing a little prep on the way. (I absolutely hate that) I'm proud of the job Day cook did after a slow start. We jumped right into prepping the app party. It was something like 48 dozen pieces of hors d'oeuvres. Very time consuming. We had to have them out by five pm. Mad dash between 4 and 5. Everything came out great. From the smoked brisket on freshly baked mini buns to the tuna tataki.

Best of all get to go home tonight.

New Knife!

The other thing that keeps me sane this time of year is acquiring little rewards for the hard work. I just received a new yanagi, (long Japanese knife for slicing raw fish or cooked meat. Mostly used for sushi)It's a Masamoto 360mm KS series. It's a monster. It came gift wrapped but I couldn't help take a peak and wrap it back up again. I'm going to try and leave it alone until Christmas. I have another yanagi on the way as well. A very special one that is currently being made in Japan. If I ever find my camera I'll post some pics in the slide show.

Friday, November 30, 2007

That Time of Year

I may not be posting very much through the Holidays. I will when I can but we get kinda busy this time of year.

I hope everyone has a great holiday season.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Hey Bud!

Anyone who has visited any of my restaurants may have noticed I don't sell Budweiser. I haven't for many years. I also don't sell any beer brands that the local Bud distributor sells. In my opinion that's the biggest downfall for not dealing with that supplier. They sell Guinness and Sprecher among other worthy beers. Those I'd like to have on my lists.

The original reason for not selling Bud was simply that I didn't like it. I also grew up in the shadow of Miller Brewery and feel an allegiance to that beer. As a young man if I was short on cash my friends and I knew we could always take brewery tours to satisfy our taste for the hops. We also could go over to the brewery and buy "shorts", bottles that were incorrectly filled and sold dirt cheap. Many of my friends dads worked there as well. You simply didn't drink beer that wasn't brewed in Milwaukee. (To this day I rarely do)

When we opened #1 I was convinced by the locals that I HAD to sell Bud. It was a big Bud town. So against my better judgement we opened selling the evil brew. The decision to stop selling it was made easy by the arrogance and ineptitude of the local distributor. Their service and attitude were terrible. It gave me a good excuse to dump it. So for years I didn't sell it, much to the chagrin of the local bumpkins who drank it. Unfortunately, one of my favorite beers, Sprecher, (A Milwaukee micro brew)recently switched to the Bud distributor. I stopped selling Sprecher. To their credit the Sprecher guys got wind of it and starting shipping direct. It must have been a pain in the ass for them because the next thing you know a Bud salesman shows up at my door. (They've always known better not to waste their time) I explained the lousy service and attitude and how I'd really like to sell Sprecher. He promised better service and mentioned I wouldn't have to sell Bud to sell Sprecher. I'm sure he looked at it as a foot in the door. I agreed and began selling Sprecher once again.

I think it was the second time we placed an order that the distributor screwed up. They also didn't fix it and gave me the impression they couldn't care less. Bye bye Sprecher. They will not be given a third chance.

I guess when you are the biggest brewery in the world you don't have to try so hard. Customer service is simply two words in the manual. In my book, it's the first two.

You would think that Bud would want a presance in the best restaurants in a community of a quarter million people? Also the restaurants that host executives from the biggest employers in the area and from all over the world. We may not sell a ton of beer but you'd think it would be embarassing for the Bud people not to be sold in the highest profile restaurants in the area. They couldn't care less.

So Budweiser? Kiss my ass.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Carbon Moment?

This may seem random but it tells something about me.

I had a strange dream last night. I was in a poetry class and the professor calls on me and asks me a very long winded question. It was so long and verbose that he lost my attention until the very end. All I heard was "describe the carbon moment in your life". Huh? Not knowing what the hell he was talking about I took a stab at it. I figured he was asking about a "defining moment" in my life. I asked if he wanted the short or long version of my answer and he replied, "the short if it's good enough". "If not I'll ask you to expound on the subject".

Ok. "death". He asked me to clarify.

That's when I woke up. It got me to thinking. Did I have a defining moment in my life? Something that has shaped me? Some specific event or time that had a profound affect on me and my life? Something that really "defines" or describes me and how I approach life in general? Yes. There is, or was, or still is. However you look at it. It's something I've been aware of for a long time but I never traced it to a specific moment until I thought about it while I lay there in bed trying to get back to sleep. It was the first time I made the conscious choice to lay my life on the line. It was 18 years ago. On the southeast side of Milwaukee. I had one year on the job as a Milwaukee firefighter. We responded to a house fire in the middle of the day. It was a relatively large two story structure located on a corner. At one time it was either a small grocery store or a tavern with a small hall attached. You see these types of structures all over in the old areas of town. Back in the day the neighborhoods were dotted with corner bars and grocery stores with living quarters above. Now-a-days they are converted to duplexes. One apartment up and one down. It was the lower unit that was on fire. We were the third engine in. Disappointing because the third engine was a "bridesmaid". You usually didn't get to put the wet stuff on the red stuff. You might help lay some lines help ventilate or protect an exposure. We got there shortly after the first two engines. The lower unit was heavily involved in fire. Thick black smoke belched out of most of the windows. The ones that didn't cough smoke were spewing flames. It was a "good" fire. We assisted the first and second engine companies lay lines. (hoses) Things move fast when you get on a fire scene. It's controlled chaos but the boys on the MFD are very good at what they do, they make it look almost like poetry.

I was working on a different shift that day. I was also working with an "acting" boss. Not a promoted person but a firefighter acting as boss. The senior member of the crew would fill in if the real boss (officer) needed to get away for training or personal time. The acting boss was Paul. The "cub" or rookie of the crew would be glued to the boss's hip. The cub was me. I had about a year on the job. I had been to fires before and had proved myself to be capable. Still very inexperienced as far as firefighters go. There is a saying on the job that until you got five years on, you're a liability. I really didn't know shit.

As we proceeded to lay the other engines lines a report came in about children trapped in the apartment on the second floor of the burning building. I have a hard time describing how a firefighter feels when he hears that. You can only imagine. This is why we fight fires. This is why we do all the mundane and dirty jobs while working our 24 hour shift. This is it. This is what it is all about my friends, this is life.

Being the third engine "in" we weren't engrossed in a specific task Paul immediately turned to me and said "let's go kid" (I was 30 years old) We got half-way up the back stairs and donned our "masks" (breathing apparatus) and proceeded to enter the upstairs apartment. There are schools of thought on many fire departments that you never do a search above the fire without a line. (hose charged with water) It not only can put out fire if need be it is also your life line to safety. More than one firefighter has lost his life getting lost in a two bedroom apartment. This one was a large three bedroom above a raging fire. It also had an odd floor plan. It wasn't your typical German duplex, Milwaukee bungalow or Polish flat. We knew how those were laid out. Generally speaking if you've seen one you've seen them all. Without hesitation Paul crawled into the apartment. You are also trained "two in, two out". I was glued to his hip and had to go. It was absolutely pitch black. I mean black! You could not see your hand two inches in front of your face. I might as well had my eyes closed. It was also extremely hot. We began our search in a clockwise pattern around the apartment. Keeping literally in touch with one another with our axes stretched out in our hands trying to cover as much space as possible. Under beds, on beds, in closets. (kids tend to hide in fires) I wasn't sure if I wanted to find them or not. I was also scared shitless. The further we got from those stairs the more nervous I became. Our breathing apparatus contained 30 minutes of air in optimal conditions. In a fire where you are exerting yourself and also scared shitless you're lucky to get 15. We had 15 minutes to find these kids and find our way out. I kept running into things, kitchen table, couch etc. You don't stand up in a fire, you crawl. You'll never find a real fireman standing or walking in a decent fire. Meanwhile we could hear the chatter on the radio. Listening for reports of the kids. Maybe they got out? Maybe they were really at school? We could also hear the other companies making progress on the fire. All the windows on our floor were being smashed around us. The ladder companies were doing a good job of ventilating and the heat and smoke were lessening. My warning bell starting going off. Your SCBA (breathing apparatus) would sound a warning bell when you had five minutes of air left. (more like two in real life)I was really shitting bricks at this point. Paul yelled to me not to worry and keep searching. (gulp!)By the time my air finally ran out completely you could actually see where you were and kind of breath the air. The boys downstairs had put the fire out. Paul knew the crews at that fire and had the confidence that they would have it under control enough for us to continue with or without air. We were joined by other crews and really tore up that apartment looking for those kids. None found. False report.

When we got outside Paul told me I had done a good job and went about the business of picking up hose and cleaning up. He acted as if we just went for a walk in the park. I just spent 20 minutes of the most exhilarating, horrific, unreal experience of my life and he shrugs it off like another day at the office! That's when it hit me. It was just another day at the office.

The point I'm trying to make is until you've put your toe over that line you don't know what's going to happen. Will you cut it or not? Betting your life on your co-workers skills, your training, your confidence that someone isn't going to fuck up and get you killed. Until you've gone there you're not a member of the club. I imagine soldiers and cops feel the same way. Which reminds me. Before Paul was a fireman he was a cop. He also had the rare label of killing a man in a gun battle while on the job. Before that he was a Marine who served in Vietnam. I guess for him that search and rescue was just another day at the office. As someone once said, "in life there are players and there are spectators." I knew from that day on I wanted to be dealt in.

It wasn't too many years later that I had a cub on my hip. We also would take walks in the park.


Friday, November 16, 2007

A Day in the Life.

A fairly typical Wednesday. I'll give you the short version.

Wake at the apartment above #1 about 6:30 a.m.. Read e-mails and surf the usual web sites. Head into work at #2 at 9:00. Prep soup, specials and help with the line set-up. Get into the office before lunch to organize the days office work. Assist with lunch then pay some bills and deal with any issues pertaining to #2. If any baking needs to be done I'll take care of that right after lunch. I've been training the guys to bake so I haven't been doing as much lately. (thank God) I'll head back to #1 as soon as possible. Meet with my wife and talk about current issues with either restaurant. Get into the kitchen between 3:00 and 4:00 and take care of specials, soup and if I have the time any personnel problems. I'll expedite during dinner and generally keep an eye on things throughout the evening. Hopefully my wife and I will have time to sit and relax and have dinner before closing. Head up to the apartment between 9:30 and 10:00.

Not a bad day if everyone shows up for work, don't run out of product, equipment doesn't break down, or have appointments to deal with. Not alot of time for misc. bullshit.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Get er done!

I have some major work to do and none of it's cooking. I talked about spurts before but I haven't gotten nearly enough done. I've been busy cooking and dealing with near record business volume. (Woot!) On my plate is: New menu and format at restaurant #2. We're going with a tabloid sized single page menu. Upgrading the content as well. Going to "upscale" it a bit. Also have to work on guest check flyer's for gift certificates and happy hour. Restaurant #1 also is due for a menu tweak. We want to change the format there as well but that part can wait. I also need to produce a couple of radio commercials that need to be running NOW! I record them in my little "studio". We used to go to the station and record them but it's much easier and convenient for me to do them at home. You can't notice the difference in quality. Thankfully Thanksgiving time it slows down for a couple weeks before the shit hits the fan for the holiday push. Which reminds me, I need a New Years Eve menu as well.

The new bar manager didn't exactly work out so I'll be dealing with that as well. I've already hired a new one that we'll be training in two weeks. I for one insist new hires give proper notice unlike a certain new Italian restaurant in town. Speaking of restaurants, we dined at the Japanese restaurant in town for the first time the other night. Our intention was to have dinner. Wrong, it was a zoo but I won't get into that. I wanted to mention that I was appalled that they served frozen tuna on their sushi. You know the kind. The bright pink stuff that never loses it's color. I couldn't believe a sushi joint serves frozen tuna! What is more bothersome is that people actually think it's good. Even a couple foodie types I know. My wife said I was probably the only guy in town who could tell. There in lies my problem. Why bother with quality ingredients if you can dazzle them with flaming onions and flying shrimp! I wanted to stand up in the middle of the dining room and scream "THEY SERVE FROZEN FISH!"


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Mission Impossible

Salty, I have a mission if you choose to accept it.

I wish to bring 40 international business executives to your establishment for dinner. Prior to dinner we'd like to have beverages and hors d'oeuvres. We'd also like you to entertain these executives during that time. I would also like you to involve these executives in the entertainment. How about getting them involved in the preparation of their dinner. Remember, hors d'oeuvres and beverages will be served during that time as well. You have three hours to accomplish this task.

Oh, one more thing. You have one business day to prepare. If the mission is successful you will be rewarded handsomely.

(Insert visions of smoldering tape)

Hmmmm, I've got a small kitchen that is awkwardly laid out. I must prepare high end, freshly prepared hors d'oeuvres for these discerning customers and immediately turn around and invite these "civilians" into the kitchen to do some work. Then immediately there after serve a four course dinner to aforementioned guests. All in under three hours.

No problem. While I'm at it I'll videotape the whole affair and show it to you and your guests on our ten foot video screen while you are enjoying that delicious dinner.

My name is Dog, Saltydog.

They had a blast. It's 15 hours later and I'm still exhausted. My staff rocked. My wife was as usual a rock. I'm getting to old for this crazy shit.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


I received my latest knife last week. It's a beauty. Made by Mr. Itou in Japan. It has an eight inch Damascus blade with a combination of hippo ivory, turquoise and marble for the handle. This will be another "don't use" knife. I now have three. I appreciate well crafted things. Such as knives, guitars and pistols. Some things are good just to look at and some things are meant to be used. The rest of my knives are meant to be used, and they do get used.

Most experienced cooks develop a bond with their favorite knife. As I open my knife kit I get a little bit of a rush of excitement. Which knife am I going to use for this task? The task at hand usually will dictate which knife I use. If it's for general purpose I most often grab my Hattori KD series santaku. It's an expensive knife that I didn't intend to use so much but it has become an every day knife. It is well balanced, always sharp, and very comfortable in my hand. A pleasure to use.

I've gotten into the habit of keeping all of my knives sharp. Every time I grab one I don't have to check for sharpness, I know they will ALL be sharp. No one touches my knives but me. I clean them, sharpen them and take them with me where ever I'm working. I can't stand it when I find a kitchen knife by the dishwasher waiting to be washed. It's a rule in my kitchen that you take care of your knives. It helps create that bond between chef and knife. That relationship is important. I will never develop a bond with my "don't use" knives because I will never use them, clean them or sharpen them. I would be more upset if I lost an inexpensive knife I've bonded with than the very expensive "look at" knives I never use. Some day I'll have to break down and use my pretty boys just to get to know them and make them feel comfortable in the stable. It must be like being a place kicker in football. Looking all pretty in a clean uniform but really only half a football player because you don't mix it up and get dirty.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Farm Fresh Fish

On the way into work on Saturday I heard part of GW's radio address about the environment. I don't want to get into politics here but I found it odd he decided to make a stand on fish. Which made me think about the subject. The over fishing of some/many species of wild fish/seafood. There is no doubt it's a problem that needs to be addressed. Coincidentally I got a call the same day from a woman asking me about the salmon we serve at one of our restaurants. She asked if it was wild or farmed. When I told her it was farm-fresh salmon you could tell she was disappointed. There lies the problem. More and more chefs are going green, natural and slow. So what do we do? Sell over harvested wild fish or sustainable farmed fish? Evidently it's been beaten into the heads of customers that wild fish is a bad thing. I beg to differ. You just have to know your source. I also question the quality of some wild fish as well. Wild is not always better.

There is some farmed fish I will not sell and there is some wild fish I will not sell. The customer HAS to trust the chef to make the right decisions. That's the bottom line. I don't sell farmed tiger shrimp, tilapia, catfish, baramundi or "grouper". I will sell a product from a tried and true supplier that uses proper aquaculture techniques and feed and I don't trust most third world countries. I have a relationship with my vendors and we have an understanding about source. They know what is acceptable to me and I hope customers can have a relationship with their chef and have an understanding what is acceptable to them.

GW talked specifically about wild striped bass. It is already regulated and I hope it doesn't go away completely. I serve it often and wasn't aware of any shortage. One way to tell is by price. Has anyone priced real sea bass lately? Despite the chef boycott it still wholesales close to $20.00 per pound. I haven't served it in years. Wild striped bass is usually around ten and has specific seasons, similar to halibut and some species of wild salmon. The numbers of those fish harvested is watched closely. As a result much gets frozen and served months later. I was around when we almost fished redfish into extinction and now sea bass and grouper.

The bottom line is I prefer a farm fresh fish from a respected source over frozen or endangered species. I feel it's better for my customer and the environment.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


It's over! What a day. Started at 8:00 am, setting up AV equipment for the video presentation and microphone. Actually got in the kitchen at 9:00. I had started the consomme the night before and left it simmering over night. Had to deal with that right away. I also realized I should have scheduled another cook. I almost forgot about the luncheon for 29. I called Rey and he was nice enough to come in. He'll be working a double as a result. I was never so happy to see him. As it turned out we had a very busy lunch. (wouldn't you know it) There was never a moment during the day that I wasn't working on a task, The problem with wine dinners is that most of the prep is technical and I don't have skilled enough staff to do it properly so as a result I must do it myself. All in all the wine dinner went great. I think our guests enjoyed it and had a great time. I'll talk about each course below and offer my thoughts.

New Zealand Abalone Ceviche:
What a pain in the ass. First you have to clean the abalone then slice it super thin because it is tough. Then we julienned it. Marinated it with fresh lime juice along with mango, cilantro and jalapeno. I was happy with the dish over all and made for a great presentation served on the half shell. I felt the fume blanc was a perfect match.

Lobster Dumplings in Consomme:
Another pain in the ass. Rolled the dough and hand made 70 of the ravioli-like dumplings. I was very happy with the veal/chicken consomme. No short cuts with it. Made it the old fashioned way. If you've ever made one you know what I mean.

Grilled Hearts of Romaine:
The boys in the kitchen were like "you're going to do what with the lettuce?" This will be on the menu soon. I love it.

Ballantine of Free Range Chicken:
Prepped this the day before. Very technical process of de-boning the chicken, stuffing and tying it. I reduced the consomme to make a demi to serve with it. Other than being a little over cooked it turned out great. My favorite dish of the evening. It's very difficult timing roasts because you're never really sure when it's going to be served. We had a little delay due to the wine rep getting stuck in Chicago traffic. Adding merlot to the pearl onions was a last minute thought. Seems obvious now.

North American Elk:
Lingonberry demi is also a no-brainer. I was mentored by a Scandinavian chef who taught me about game and lingonberries, It paired very well with the cab. Also tricky timing this one. The last thing I wanted was over cooked elk. I thought it was perfect. I baby sat those all night.

Chocolate Terrine:
Very simple but effective. It came out pretty good. The dried cherries went well with the Humboldt fog goat cheese, the chocolate and the wine. The Zinfandel was my favorite red of the evening and was perfect with the dish.

My wife Patrice worked extremely hard as always and gets little credit. She is my rock and the glue that keeps this place together. She deserves a standing ovation.

I'd like to thank Dave Kouzmanoff from Grgich Hills. He did a great job and drove to Indianapols to get the Zinfandel.

Probably the happiest I've been after a wine dinner.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Wine Dinner Tonight!

Being short handed lately has not made this wine dinner any easier. I should have ordered some things sooner so I could get an earlier start. I have a luncheon today for 29 and I have to do payroll. This and preparing for 70 or so six course dinners.
I wasn't able to post the menu but I will be reflecting on it when I have a chance this weekend. It's "sweetest day" Saturday and I have a wedding for 60. It's going to a very busy three days.

I made a last minute change to the menu. I managed to get my hands on some abalone for the first course. It will be the most expensive course of the evening for me to serve.

Gots to get to work. Hope to see some of you tonight! (That's if anyone actually reads this)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


I find things go in spurts in my world. I haven't posted lately because I'm just to damn tired and need the extra down time to recoup or sleep. Once again a full time cook no showed on me. No show, no call. It coincides with training a new bar manager, increased baking duties due to my pastry "chef" quiting and giving a very short notice and my PM sous chef walking out in the middle of his shift a couple weeks ago. This on top of a record breaking week at one restaurant and a busy week at the other. It has been consistent 12 hour days. We are fortunate to have an apartment in the city to use during times like these. Lately we've been "home" only two days a week.

Word is a new restaurant opening in town hired my daytime cook and told him he would have to start immediately or he wouldn't get the job. (knowing he had a full time job) What pisses me off is I took him on as an apprentice and then hired him after his apprenticeship was over.

What goes around comes around. I predict that restaurant will be gone in less than a year. The only thing they have going for them is they are serving Italian food. No one in this town knows what good Italian food is. Not that they will serve any.

I also am preparing for the wine dinner. I will post the menu when I get the chance. I picked up the elk loin yesterday in West Bend and my free range chickens in Allenton. I'm excited about serving Wisconsin, small farm products.

Speaking of which, I will be attending the restaurant-farmer connection conference on Monday. Hooking up small local farmers with chefs. It should prove interesting. I would like to supplement our large organic garden with local products.

Thursday, October 4, 2007


We'll be tasting the wine today that will be served at the wine dinner on the 19th. I'll be making notes and start composing the menu immediately after. I'll do a little research regarding product availability and hopefully have a menu by the end of the weekend. I'll post it on this blog and I'll send out an email to my customer list.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Jammin Update

Last year I said I wouldn't do Jammin for the Arts again. I should have listened to myself. Next year we will just simply donate $$$$$$. It IS a worthy cause.

Very poor turn out and VERY poorly run and organized. Every musician I talked to complained and some said it would be their last. We actually declined to provide a venue this year and planned to just donate a percentage of the night's sales until we saw we were listed on the poster as having music. Rather than look bad (no fault of ours) we jumped through a bunch of hoops to host the musicians in the dining room. We eliminated five tables to do so. All would have been fine if there were people to enjoy the musicians who graciously donated their time. Changes are sorely needed. What a shame.

Sunday, September 30, 2007


I am often engaged in conversation with "foodies". People who love food, breath food, dream of food, and cook food. I'm a natural sounding post for foodies because they assume that being a chef I must be one also. I've got news for them, I am not. Sure I love food but it's not my hobby. After a 12 hour day of buying, slicing, chopping, sauteing, grilling, lifting, cleaning and wearing food the last thing I want to do is talk about it. Foodies have the advantage of not having to make a living with food. They can piddle about experimenting with new and exotic ingredients or go on great searches for the most unusual restaurants. They'll bend your ear about great recipes, I really don't care about the recipe for chili gravy. I hate recipes. I don't use them and most are flawed. I find recipes are dangerous. Especially in the hands of amateurs. I may not know who has the best cumin and quite frankly I don't care. Now if you can tell me where I can buy good choice PSMOs at a decent price I'll listen. Or about a produce company that's not going to screw me, I'm all ears.

I'm guessing my attitude is similar to a farmer's regarding animals. Just because he raises them and earns his living with them, he doesn't have to be an animal lover. I'd also argue that being an animal lover would be a detriment to his livelihood. Just if I were to spend my whole day in search for some exotic fungus that might be the current craze.

So next time you want to have a nice conversation with me, let's talk about the Packers, or knives, or travel. Anything but food.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Shallow Pool

Back in the day I never ran into a bad line cook. They simply didn't exist. A line cook, if you don't know are those guys (an occasional girl) that put the food out night after night. They are the backbone of this business. A good line cook is like your sergeant. Invaluable, experienced and will save your ass time and again. If I was a general and wanted to rule the world I would gather up all the best line cooks on earth and lay waste to all who dared to challenge. They epitomise what I think a human being should be. Strong, aware, emotional, smart and quick thinking. A true warrior.

Back then it was pure survival of the fittest. No other business that I'm aware of is more like living in the jungle. You do it or you're done, period. There were so many able workers back then that you didn't waste your time on the weak and feeble. This is a damn tough business that few really are cut out for. It amazes me how many try. It amazes me more how many are still employed. They may still have a job but they will never succeed. They will never fulfill their dream. They just don't have it. Over the past few years I have told more than one young line cook that they will never make it. The shock in there faces an expected response. Tears, if they already knew. I usually will try and soften the blow with "maybe you should try baking?". If you can't cook on the line then be a waiter or a bartender. This is a small club.

Line cooks are broken into three groups in my book. First, a good cook. If you aren't good, you're not employed. Second, a cook with style. Someone you know will do a good job and has made a little bit of a reputation for himself. He's learned a few tricks and can get you out of a jam. Third, the rare, "cook with class". simply put, if you still have style under pressure you got class. That guy who bales you out when you are in the weeds. He just senses it and the next thing you know he's turning your fish, or stocking your station right before you crash and burn. The dude who you love to have next to you. The dude you'll go to war with.

These days good cooks are far and few between. The ones who are out there are most likely Mexican and probably from Oaxaca. They tend to be transient and go where the money is. The white guys are either unreliable, drunks, drug addicts or all of the above.

The recent food network "chef craze" has not done us any favors. Everyone wants to be a chef. The thing is, you can't be a good "chef" without first being a good line cook. They need to learn how to cook, on the line, with your bro, in battle.

Blog Settings.

I'm still tweaking this thing and just made it so you can post a comment without logging in. I thought I did that originally but it didn't take. I'm sure it was no fault of mine.

P.S. Busy, busy, busy. If I get a chance I'll post something later.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Jammin for the Arts!

Ok, this is a little advertisement but it's for a good cause. On Saturday Sept 29th there will be live music all over downtown Racine in the bars and some restaurants. Also the restaurants will be donating a portion of the nights sales to the cause. The proceeds go to The Racine United Arts Fund. Basically to the schools to teach art. A VERY WORTHY CAUSE. Without the arts this world would be a very boring place.

At The Rose we'll be having four acts. I'm especially looking forward to Dave Braun, a jazz guitarist. I'm a big fan of jazz guitar and own a few myself. (although I can't play worth crap) We participate every year but this year will be different. The bands will actually play In The Yellow Rose, where in the past they've played in The Grotto next door. The reasons will go unmentioned except to say there was a little communication problem.

On the plate.

Lots to do. Wine dinner coming up on October 19th. I have to get that menu done. We're also going to tweak the menu at C-bass very soon. I hope to add a grilled romaine salad and change the grouper. I ran a special this weekend and it rocked. I accented the fish with a julienned mango-pepper salad using hot and sweet peppers and then accented the dish with a lime butter sauce. Woah. It was way good. So I'm going to make it a permanent fixture on the menu. The current grouper is a favorite so I'm sure I'll be hearing about changing it. I tried the grilled romaine at a special dinner and it also was killer. I haven't decided to pair it with a warm Parmesan dressing or a warm bleu cheese dressing. I've tried it both ways but I favor the bleu.

The wine list also needs tweaking. We plan to shore up the reserve list. It's been taking a pounding lately. Thankfully the higher end wines have been moving. It's a good sign the economy is improving.

Heating Up!

Now that summer is over things are heating back up in the kitchen. I suspended this blog for awhile but it's back to work for me. After a summer filled with malaise I've re-dedicated myself to the kitchen and getting back to what I do best. Cook and running the kitchen. Admittedly things have slipped while I was slacking. As summer came to a close and after a nice road trip I've re-discovered what really makes me happy. So I'll be keeping anyone who reads this up to date on what's going on in my world of restaurants.

If you are not familiar with me let me give you a little background:

I've been cooking professionally for over 30 years. The last ten years has been for myself. (and my partner and wife) We currently own two restaurants, three if you include our private dining facility located adjacent to one of our restaurants. I don't intend this to be an advertisement for any of our restaurants so I won't mention them by name unless it's necessary. What and where they are is no secret.

I'm an early riser so I'll usually be blogging in the early morning hours, recapping the day before and laying out the day ahead. Anyone who's interested in the restaurant biz may find this educational and sometimes enlightening. For me it's therapy. After 30 years of this I need it.

Please forgive the bad grammer and spelling.