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Author Archive | Kasy Allen

What Type of Knife Sharpener is Right for Your Kitchen?

Kitchen Knives & Sharpening Steel

Whether you’re shopping for your home kitchen or commercial kitchen, knowing what knife sharpener to use will help determine if your knife collection lasts a year or for many years to come. Besides, if you’re going to invest the money in building your knife collection, you owe it to yourself to learn a bit about keeping them sharp. Here’s a quick guide on the difference between knife sharpeners – including when you should be honing instead of sharpening.

First, Let’s Learn About Honing and Sharpening

There are 2 main ways to get a better edge on your knife: honing and sharpening. In most cases, you’ll simply hone the blade, not sharpen.

On to the Sharpeners

There are 4 main types of honing rods/sharpeners: sharpening steels, sharpening stones, manual knife sharpeners, and electric knife sharpeners.

1. Sharpening Steels

It’s important to note that sharpening steels are actually honing rods. The industry term is sharpening steel, but this is simply a misnomer for what is actually a tool that is used for honing knife blades.

Victorinox Sharpening SteelSharpening steels are primarily used by Chefs before and after they use their knives. They help to hone the blade and give the perfect edge between cuts. The main difference in the type of sharpening steel to use is the cut type and blade shape.

  • Cut Type. Depending on the cut type, you’ll get a lighter or heavier hone on your blades. For a lighter hone, choose a ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­fine, smooth, or helical (a spiral cut on the rod) cut type. For a heavier hone, choose a ­­combination, regular, or diamond cut type. For a look at the different cut types, take a look at these Victorinox sharpening steels.
  • Blade Shape. Round blades (or rods) are the most common type of sharpening steel used in kitchens, because they’re super easy and fast to use. Oval blades (or rods) give a bigger surface area for honing, but may slow you up if the steel is turned slightly out of place.
  • Material Type. Honing rods are commonly made of 3 different materials: steel, ceramic, and diamond (a steel rod with a diamond abrasive). By utilizing the ceramic and/or diamond rods, these materials are actually more abrasive than steel; so as you hone, you are slightly creating a new edge with minimal grind. Don’t think of it as sharpening, just a much more refined hone.

2. Sharpening Stones

Victorinox Sharpening StoneAlso referred to as whetstones, sharpening stones are great for sharpening very dull knives. The knife’s blade edge should be perpendicular to your strokes, but can be put against the stone at different angles to really bring the blade to a new layer of metal. Sharpening stones are also great for sharpening other odd blades, like razors and scissors. For more on how to use a sharpening stone, check out this knife sharpening video.

  • Pro Tip. Another good way to sharpen scissors is to cut through a few squares of some fine grit (finishing) sandpaper, ~240 or greater (the higher the number, the finer the grit). Treat this technique the same way you would a sharpening stone, by going through a couple levels of coarseness for more severe/dull jobs.

 3. Manual Knife Sharpeners

Victorinox Manual Knife SharpenerManual knife sharpeners offer an easy way to get your blades sharp, but at a lower price point than their electric counterpart. Manual knife sharpeners are great for traveling Chefs as they’re easy to pack up and carry.

 4. Electric Knife Sharpeners

Electric Knife SharpenerElectric knife sharpeners add convenience when it comes to knife sharpening, but some may say that they don’t allow for as much control as other manual methods and aren’t really designed for portable use.

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Should Restaurants be Required to Have Changing Tables in the Men’s Restroom?

Where to Change the Stinky Diaper?

California recently tried to pass two bills that required businesses to have diaper changing tables in both restrooms – men’s and women’s. The bills were both vetoed, as the California Governor, Jerry Brown, felt that the decision to have diaper changing tables should be left up to the business owner(s).

Even with a veto, these bills do raise questions on the requirements of diaper changing tables in the men’s room in private businesses, especially family-friendly restaurants. I’ll let you give us your own thoughts in the comments below, but here are a few reasons why we think you should have changing tables and a few reasons why we understand you don’t.

Why You Should Have Diaper Changing Tables

  1. It’s only fair to have a changing station available for both parents.
  2. Because some people are totally fine with changing diapers at your restaurant dining area tables.
  3. If you are a family-friendly establishment, your parent patrons are expecting to see a diaper changing table – yes, even in the men’s room. Seriously, someone already made a site to help parents find changing-table-friendly-restaurants.
  4. They’re really not that expensive.
  5. Koala makes stylish models to fit your decor.
  6. Some areas have very extreme temperatures that make it difficult to change a baby in the car. Having a spot to safely change the baby makes for happy parents.

Why You Don’t Have Diaper Changing Tables

  1. Traditionally, there aren’t diaper changing tables in the men’s room. How have dads been changing diapers up until now? No reason to break something that isn’t broken.
  2. Because some people like to try to sit on the changing table, thus breaking them. You’ve already replaced them 4 times and now you’re taking a stand.
  3. They’re ugly/they don’t go with the decor.
  4. They’re gross – these things are nastier than the toilet seats!
  5. It’s not a requirement; it’s a courtesy.
  6. There are potential liability issues.

Tell us what you think about diaper changing tables being required in a restaurant.

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You Make What with a Panini Grill?

When it comes to food trucks, space is of the essence. With limited counters, food truck owners have had to get crafty with the equipment they choose to work with, but the panini press (also known as a sandwich grill) offers the perfect solution for creative cooks. Here are a few ways that cooks with small kitchens are using panini presses for more than just sandwiches.

1. Omelets

Omelete on Panini GrillPhoto Credit: Food Network / YouTube

 Throw on the spinach, eggs, garlic, salt and pepper, close the press for about a minute, then fold your omelet together – quick and easy breakfast.

2. Hashbrowns

Hashbrowns Cooked in Panini GrillPhoto Credit: Buzzfeed

It’s so much easier to cook hashbrowns in a panini grill.

3. Salads

Panini Grilled Caesar SaladPhoto Credit: How Sweet it Is

No, seriously; it’s a thing. Grilling heartier lettuces, like romaine, actually adds a smoky flavor and crisp to the salad that is delicious.

4. Meats

Cooking Meat on Panini GrillPhoto Credit: The Kitchn

Think of it as a supped up George Foreman. Anything that grill can do, this one can do just as good, if not better. Meats to cook include, chicken, steak, salmon, hamburger, and bacon – yes, bacon my friend!

5. Vegetables

Panini Grilled ArtichokesPhoto Credit: White on Rice Couple

Sliced or not, throw those veggies on the panini press, close the lid and within minutes you’ll have perfectly grilled veggies.

6. Burritos and Quesadillas

Panini Grilled QuesadillaPhoto Credit: Tracey’s Culinary Adventure

Using a panini grill to warm up and toast burritos and quesadillas is an easy way to deliver mouthwatering flavors.

7. Pizza

Panini Grilled PizzaPhoto Credit: The Kitchn

You could close the panini press and make a perfectly grilled pizza, but the sauce makes a mess. Instead, keep the panini press open and let the flavors melt on top as the dough cooks.

8. Kebabs

Padron Peppers Skewered with Chorizo and GrilledPhoto Credit: Martha Stewart

Kebabs are quick and easy on a panini press.

9. Cheese

Kasseri Grilled CheesePhoto Credit: Serious Eats

Yes, cheese between slices of bread is always great on a panini grill, but to get cheeses with a thick outer shell (like brie) melted on the inside a panini grill is the way to go.

10. Desserts

Panini Grilled Lemon Pound Cake with Peaches and CreamPhoto Credit: Kitchen Daily

Being able to heat up a slice of pound cake, and then top it with freshly grilled peaches is a dream, right? You have to try this recipe with a panini grill.

Get a Waring Panini Grill
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How to Clean Pizza Pans

Scrubbing Hard to Clean Pan

Pizza pans are a great investment, especially when you know they’ll last you years to come; that is, if you know how to take care of them. Overtime, they start to get grease build-up (that thick brown layer) and become sticky or tacky to the touch. This is actually a polymerizing process of the oils – a varnishing, if you will. But alas, those pans aren’t destined for the garbage – just add a little elbow grease and time to get them back to new again! Here are a few suggestions from our friends at American Metalcraft for getting those pizza pans back in working order.

Method #1

What You Need

Get to Cleaning

  1. Start by boiling a gallon of water with 2 cups of vinegar. If you can fit more than a gallon of water in your sink, just remember that you’ll need 2 cups of vinegar to every gallon of water.
  2. Once it reaches a boil, pour the boiling water and vinegar into a large, plugged sink.
  3. Add your pizza pans to the sink. If your sink is too small to fit the entire pan, just rotate it a few times as it soaks.
  4. When the water cools down to the point you can stick your hands in it, go ahead and sprinkle the pan with baking soda and scrub with a scouring pad until it comes clean.
  5. Clean the pan as you normally would – soap and water – then rinse.
  6. Re-season the pan with vegetable oil.

Method #2

What You Need

Get to Cleaning

Carbon-Off is for tough, stuck-on stains, and works to dissolve grease and carbon build-up.

  1. Spray the pizza pans with Carbon-Off.
  2. Let them soak for 5 minutes.
  3. With the scouring pad, start scrubbing the pans until all of the build-up starts coming off.
  4. Clean the pans as you normally would.
  5. Re-season the pans with vegetable oil.
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The Right Gas Connectors & Hoses for Your Restaurant

Dormont Gas Connections

If you’re in the market for new gas equipment, it’s important to know that new gas connectors, hoses, and/or kits should be purchased at the same time, and when it comes to gas connections, safety in your restaurant should be as much of a priority as finding the right new equipment.

Dormont Gas HosesDormont is one of the food service industries leading suppliers when it comes to gas connections, hoses, and kits. With increased safety features and an engineered design specifically for commercial kitchens, Dormont is the only way to go for making the health inspector happy and keeping your business safe. Here are a few reasons why you’ll love Dormont too:

  1. Every hose is made in the USA.
  2. SnapFast disconnects help you to quickly and easily disconnect the gas hose so the equipment can be easily pulled away from the wall for cleaning.
  3. The trademark blue coating around the hose adds an antimicrobial protective coating and helps reduce kinks and damage to the hose.
  4. SwivelMAX helps the hoses spin 360⁰, which adds durability to the hose line, while also allowing equipment to be closer to the wall.
  5. Stainless steel material is resistant to a wide range of corrosive substances and adds extra durability to the hose.
  6. Their FAQs are quite lengthy and worthy of helping anyone figure out how to DIY with Dormont.

When it comes to the right gas connections, hoses, and kits for your restaurant, residential gas hoses will never do.  Trust Dormont and know that you’re making the right decisions for your business when it comes to gas safety.

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What are the different types of China dinnerware material?

iTi China Dinnerware

As one of our largest suppliers of restaurant dinnerware, International Tableware is able to offer the advice needed to make a more informed decision when it comes to choosing the right dish material for your food service needs. Here’s a quick list for helping to find the right restaurant China dinnerware material when shopping for new plates, bowls, and cups.

Bone China

Bone China is the type of China you think of finding in fine dining restaurants. It has a very refined look, yet is durable enough to withstand constant use.

  • Durability: High
  • Look: Elegant
  • Texture: Smooth
  • Price: $$$$
  • Weight: Light
  • Oven to Table: No
  • Color(s): Bone White

Ceramic

Ceramic China can differ from piece to piece making it a very unique addition to any table. It’s one of the most commonly used materials in restaurant dinnerware as its price point is low, but durability is reasonable.

  • Durability: Medium
  • Look: Sensible
  • Texture: Smooth
  • Price: $
  • Weight: Light
  • Oven to Table: Yes
  • Color(s): Variety

China

China gives you the elegance of Bone China, but at a lower price point. You also get a variety of colors, patterns, and finishes that you don’t see with other dinnerware materials.

  • Durability: Medium
  • Look: Classic
  • Texture: Smooth
  • Price: $$$
  • Weight: Light
  • Oven to Table: Yes
  • Color(s): White/Patterns

Glass

Some glass can be used from oven to table, but others can’t. To verify, look for a stamp on the bottom of the plate to verify if it is oven safe.

  • Durability: Low
  • Look: Modern
  • Texture: Smooth
  • Price: $$
  • Weight: Light
  • Oven to Table: Yes/No
  • Color(s): Clear/Textured

Porcelain

Similar to glass, look for a stamp on the bottom of the porcelain piece to see if it can be placed in an oven. Porcelain has a classic style that goes well in fine dining establishments, and rarely comes in any color other than white.

  • Durability: Low
  • Look: Classic
  • Texture: Smooth
  • Price: $$$
  • Weight: Light
  • Oven to Table: Yes/No
  • Color(s): White

Stoneware

Stoneware is one of the most versatile pieces of dinner ware material as it can come in a variety of colors and different finishes, e.g. satin, matte, shiny,etc.

  • Durability: High
  • Look: Rustic
  • Texture: Porous
  • Price: $$
  • Weight: Heavy
  • Oven to Table: Yes
  • Color(s): Variety

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How Sushi Restaurants Cut Cucumbers Fast

Sushi Roll with Cucumber Julienned

There aren’t many kitchen prep tools that we’d recommend investing in that only does one job in the kitchen, but this is one of those tools that we’re more than happy to step aside and let it take the spotlight. Vollrath’s Redco Instacut Cucumber Slicer (#55010) was made specifically for cutting perfectly sliced julienned cucumbers, and where would those uniformly cut veggies be sliced and diced the most? In a sushi restaurant, of course.

Think about it, how much time do you think is spent cutting cucumbers in a sushi restaurant? It’s a time intensive and tedious task that takes up precious time, but with this handy slicer, staff can cut right through cucumbers so that they can get back to other kitchen needs. Other reasons to love this cucumber slicer include:

  • It’s 10x faster than traditional cutting methods – that helps cut labor costs too.
  • Cut fresh cucumbers NOW – no need to prep slices ahead of time, you can deliver super fresh cucumber slices as needed.
  • Consistency – we’ve never seen a better method for delivering consistent, julienned sushi cuts.

Vollrath Cucumber Slicer

How it Works

  1. Cut the ends off of the cucumber.
  2. Cut the cucumber the length you want your julienned slices. Keep in mind a typical nori sheet is 8” long, so 8” long or 4” long is ideal.
  3. Place the cucumber lengthwise in the cucumber slicer, move your hands out of the way, and push the red handle down.

There ya go, perfect cucumber slices for fast-paced sushi restaurants, and without the hassle. Bonus, if you don’t want to keep the seed sections, those slices can easily be picked out and put to the side.

P.S. Of course, if morokyu is on the menu, you’ll still need to resort back to the old way of slicing and dicing.

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5 Tips for Finding the Right Restaurant Equipment

Restaurant Equipment Reviews

When it comes to shopping for new restaurant equipment – big and large – it can be trying to find reliable reviews. For the residential counter-parts, Amazon is the go-to-resource for customer reviews that really tell the story on how you could expect a piece of equipment to work in the home kitchen, but there’s something about the restaurant industry that doesn’t lend to extra time for leaving reviews for others to learn from (I mean, everyone that works in the restaurant industry has the extra time to sit in front of a computer and write reviews, right?). With that said, here are a few tips on how you can find the answers you need when shopping for new commercial restaurant equipment.

1. Research the category first.

Start with researching the over-arching-category first. You likely know what you’re in the market for, i.e. searching for a new ‘fryer’ will yield better results than searching for ‘restaurant equipment.’ Search the web for key phrases that may help you find the information you need:

This will help you find the questions you should be asking when searching for a new piece of equipment and will help you narrow down your choice to the type of sub-category and/or products you should be further researching.

2. Start researching specific equipment models.

Just like you’d do with buying residential equipment, using the research you’ve already done, get specific brand name and model numbers of equipment you may be interested in and see if there are reviews written in various places across the web. Let’s take a Hamilton Beach CPM700. This heavy-duty mixer is similar to other popular mixer brands, but maybe you’re not as familiar with it. Before you make the investment, do some digging on what other buyers think about the mixer – take note of reviews and questions you find on other retailer sites. Search the web for these key phrases:

  • Hamilton Beach + CPM700
  • Hamilton Beach + commercial mixer

 3. Search product videos.

While you’re doing your search, make sure to switch over to ‘videos’ (in Google, it’s one of the options below the search box) and take a look at product videos that may exist. There are usually comments below the videos that could help with your research as well.

4. Ask the professionals.

Most sites have a Live Chat feature that allows you to chat instantly with a customer service rep. When you’re able to share the details behind your purchase (e.g. how you’ll be using the equipment, how often you’ll be using the equipment, etc.), they can often better match you with the equipment that’ll suite your needs. Don’t be afraid to chat.

5. Ask your peers.

Lastly, if you have time to wait for feedback, find a forum where peers are more than willing to share insight on their own experiences with different restaurant equipment and brands. You can search the internet for ‘equipment category + forum’ and typically get results for existing forums in your profession, especially when you start making the search results more granular, e.g. ‘equipment category + forum + restaurant.’

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Blodgett HydroVection Ovens

Blodgett HydroVection Oven

Boasting “the only thing it can’t make is ice,” if you haven’t discovered the world of HydroVection, then Blodgett has a story for you.

Imagine being able to sear and smoke foods with the same machine that you can poach, grill, toast, roast, and oven fry with. Meet Blodgett’s HydroVection oven – an oven capable of doing all of these kinds of cooking, while saving you money, time, and space. HydroVection takes the idea of an oven, but combines moisture in a sealed-tight, indestructible box that takes up less room than most other commercial ovens.

For commercial kitchens that deal with cooking dozens of different types of foods in a day, this is the oven for you. Think of a school cafeteria that has to cook everything from the meat and vegetables to breads and sweets; with a HydroVection oven, all of these foods can be cooked at the same time. But these powerful ovens aren’t just for institutional kitchens; they’re best at keeping moisture in hard to cook meats – say prime rib – and can deliver mouthwatering salmon and steamed vegetables like you couldn’t believe. These ovens are great in almost every commercial kitchen out there.

Blodgett HydroVection Meal

Of course, it wouldn’t be right for us to try to convince you to invest in one of these ovens without seeing them first hand ourselves. A few months back I had the pleasure of visiting Blodgett at their corporate offices. I was spoiled with dish after dish of meats and vegetables that totaled a full course lunch and dinner – I’m not quite sure we even had a break between the foods. The food was succulent, it was fast, and it was one of the most efficient ways I’ve ever seen a kitchen ran.

HydroVection ovens decrease cooking time by 15% and have a compact size of only 38” across. Some of them have Android technology and all of them have a removable temperature probe that isn’t seen with most commercial ovens. If a combi oven is just a bit outside your price tag, a HydroVection oven is the way to go.

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8 Tips for Getting and Keeping Employees in the Restaurant Industry

Now Hiring in the Restaurant

Finding and keeping the right employees can be a challenge in any industry, but without fail, it’s the restaurant industry that leads in employee turnover and retention every year. Some of it’s due to the median age range being between 16-24 (which is the primary age of students that hold temporary jobs) and other parts of it is due to restaurateurs lack of employee retention investments.

With one of the biggest challenges being to find the right employees and the other making sure they stick around, let’s roll into tactics on how you can get a leg up on sourcing the right employees and keeping them happy.

1. Recruiting Online

Looking for new recruits is easy with the help of online job boards, social media, and free listings on sites such as Craigslist. Not only can you source for the right type of employee in your listings, you can also review recruits online resumes and LinkedIn accounts to learn more about them before you even begin engaging.

2. Look For Unconventional Talent

Outside of the 16-24 year old workers, what other segments could you be recruiting? Baby boomers are a great start. This rather large generation is set to retire in the coming years and they’re not the type to sit and twiddle their thumbs. This is a great generation to market to – they’re dedication and experience could surprise you. There are also stay-at-home moms that are returning to the workforce. They may not have worked ‘traditionally’ over the past few years, but their organizational and corralling skills are off the charts!

3. Interviewing Smarts

You should be devoting time to improving internal communication, as well as, making sure new recruits are a cultural fit. Listen carefully – do you get the vibe you want and that will fit with your current employees? Do they talk about team more or working alone more? Make sure to look for cues that will fit the position… if you can’t sit through a conversation with them, why would you have them serving your customers? If you don’t have your own list of interview questions, search the Internet for questions to ask – there’s a slew of information out there.

P.S. Please, please, please follow-up with references. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

4. Test Them Before They Come In

Testing employees may sound like something that only corporate businesses do, but a lot of restaurants and fast-casual establishments have found a lot of luck with weeding out the bad candidates and narrowing down to the perfect fit. Companies like Wonderlic and Merchants are great for analyzing personality, as well as, sniffing out bad behavior like drug abuse, alcohol abuse, hostility, violence, lying, and employee theft in the workplace. The total cost for these tests is relatively low, especially when it comes to the potential costs of hiring the wrong employee.

5. Existing Employees Are Your In House Stars

And they deserve to know they are stars. If you haven’t invested time in getting to know who your employees are outside of work, why should they care about you or your business? Networking to improve your business, should always start in-house… make sure your employees know you care about them.

6. Give Them The Tools They Need

Employees can only be as successful as the tools they’re given to improve what they do. If there are tools to help them do their job better, it may be worth the investment. Whether it be training, technology, or new product, investing in job improvement is always a win-win.

P.S. If you’re worried about paying for tools just to have the employee turn around and leave, don’t. If they want to leave, they will, but what you’re establishing is a work environment that builds confidence and trust in your employees. You’re showing them that you’re willing to pay to make them better… and that could quite possible be one of the best places to work for.

7. Recognize The Rockstars

It’s one thing to tell an employee that they’re doing a good job, but it’s another thing to tell everyone that they’re doing a great job. Let the entire team know who deserves the kudos – whether it be on a corkboard or posted right above the time clock. We all love to be recognized for our efforts, and when we see someone else winning at that, it makes us want to push ourselves to be seen as the rockstar too.

8. Community Is Everything

If you’re working on communicating better with your employees, you should also work on creating better communication between the entire team. Whether it be a communal lunch before opening or a quick meeting after closing, making sure everyone is on the same track and understood is essential in building internal community. Make sure to bring up quick wins – a customer satisfaction comment, a new menu item comment, an efficiency comment, etc.

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