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Archive | Food Service

There are thousands of topics to discuss around food service, these are just a few that our authors have written about.

Fryer Safety Checklist

Fryer Safety Checklist

Fortunately, most modern fryers are simple and easy to use. But whenever you add 400°F oil to the mix, extreme caution is essential. What follows is a list of things to consider (please see our disclaimer at the end) if your commercial kitchen prepares deep-fried food.

Non-Slip Footwear

Slip- and Grease-Resistant Floor Mats

Personal Safety Equipment

Ladders and Footstools

Kitchen Layout and Storage

  • Set up work areas to reduce the need for reaching and climbing near exposed oil. Store frequently used items on accessible shelves away from fryers.
  • Keep fryer area free of clutter, electrical cords, etc.
  • Lay out kitchen without tight or blind corners to avoid collisions; provide enough work space to avoid collisions near fryer.

Education and Training

  • Fryer training: develop strict staff training/mentoring procedures to ensure safe operation and maintenance of your fryers.
  • First aid training: first aid is the best way to minimize the damage caused by a fryer-related burns and carbon monoxide exposure. Ensure there is at least one first-aid trained staff member on duty at all times.
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning awareness: educate staff about the specific procedures needed to prevent and respond to the symptoms of CO poisoning.

Quality Equipment and Oil

Safe Cleaning and Grease Transport

  • Clean fryers in the morning, when fryer oils have cooled.
  • Establish clear safety procedures for the transport of used fryer oil.

Note: this fryer safety checklist is NOT exhaustive. Be sure to understand and comply with all relevant occupational safety regulations, and read our Terms of Use before acting on any of the recommendations listed here.

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Why Flatware Matters to the Success of Your Restaurant

At first blush, choosing forks, spoons and knives for your new restaurant might seem like a relatively insignificant task, just one among many decisions you have to make before opening day.

But make no mistake, flatware is incredibly important to get right.

Ask any restaurant designer worth her salt, and she’ll readily affirm the importance of flatware and how it can help—or hurt—the overall aesthetics of a restaurant’s design.

As a recent New York Times article notes, the three restaurateurs behind the re-opening of the historic Tavern on the Green spent hours debating and testing—with food—over 300 kinds of flatware for their new establishment.

“Flatware is the hardest thing to choose, because people have such strong visceral reactions to it,” Katy Sparks, Tavern on the Green’s executive chef, told the Times. “I want something that speaks to being part of a tavern, but updated.”

Flatware, as Sparks indicates, wields enormous power: it can complement your restaurant’s decor or distract from it. It can help you tell your story or be a glaring contradiction to everything you’re trying to communicate to your patrons. For example, a fork might say “bistro” when you’re trying to say “diner.” It might say “prim” when you’re trying to say “down-home.” Or “old-fashioned” instead of “elegant.”

Your choice of tableware can even alter the taste or your food!

Don’t believe me? Get this: Researchers from the University of Oxford found that a utensil’s color, kind and material can all impact how food tastes or feels in our mouths.

“Subtly changing eating implements and tableware can affect how pleasurable, or filling, food appears,” said study researcher Dr. Vanessa Harrar.

If you don’t believe me, take it from Science: flatware is important.

There’s more to consider than aesthetics, of course. For restaurateurs, durability is another important piece of the puzzle. Lower-grade steel might seem like a bargain in the beginning, but if it can’t stand up to the daily abuse of restaurant life, “cheap” can end up costing more money in the long haul.

With a long tradition of melding durability, precise workmanship and aesthetic appeal, Walco flatware, based in Utica, New York, has become a popular choice for restaurant designers and food service professionals. Walco is a perennial favorite at Etundra.com, offering a wide variety of flatware to complement your decor and earn compliments from your patrons.

So if you need new utensils for your restaurant or hotel, be picky! It’s an important decision! And be sure to check out or selection of Walco flatware.

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A Very Brief History of Kitchen Utensils

A Very Brief History of Kitchen Utensils

We Homo sapiens have been using kitchen utensils for quite awhile now. How long? Since the dawn of the Stone Age, nearly three million years ago!

Then it was mortar and pestles. Now it’s mortar and pestles and rice cookers sporting the Android operating system.

What happened in between? Let’s turn back the clock …

With the start of the Bronze Age, around 3600 BCE, wealthier households in the Middle East and Mediterranean regions ditched their stone and wood implements in favor of utensils made of—you guessed it—bronze. (And also copper.) As the archaeological record tells us, the Bronze Age was followed by the Iron Age, and more sophisticated forms of metallurgy produced more useful tools for food preparation.

But things really started to get interesting around the 8th Century BCE, with the start of Roman Empire. The Romans popularized a variety of kitchen utensils, including meat hooks, meat mincers, spatulas, colanders/strainers and ladles, frequently made of iron, as well as pots and kettles made of bronze and terracotta.

Side note: What ever happened to the meat hook?

The Middle Ages, despite having a reputation for darkness, was a pretty bright time in terms of kitchenalia. Slotted spoons became popular, as did frying pans, pepper mills, tongs, mallets and (one of my favorites) waffle irons. The medieval kitchen also had weighing scales, roasting forks, rolling pins and even cheese graters.

With the start of the early modern period you begin to see even more specialization with tools like apple corers, cork screws and later, with the proliferation of canned food, can-openers.

And at some point, we ditched the meat hook.

The 19th century, particularly in the United States, witnessed a dramatic expansion in the number of kitchen utensils available on the market, such as labor-savers like potato peelers, jelly molds and salad spinners.

Signs of dissatisfaction with copper utensils, which reacted with acidic foods, were emerging, and other metals gained popularity. By the turn of the 20th century, kitchen utensils were commonly made of (tinned or enameled) iron and steel, nickel, silver, tin, and aluminium.

As predicted by Mr. McGuire in The Graduate, the latter part of the 20th century witnessed the proliferation of petro-based utensils—plastics.

See also: The humble spatula’s linguistic origins – The Week

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Food Service Industry Giving Back to the Community

When it comes to the holidays our hearts start to fill with the gift of giving, and we’re a little closer to our philanthropy side.  We see those on the streets in need of blankets, gloves, shoes, and socks, and the next time we rummage through our closets, we think of them before dropping our used things off at the thrift store.  Something as simple as a blanket can give a small glimmer of hope to someone living on the street and warm your heart. 

We thought it would be nice to see what businesses in the food service industry do to give back to the community.  We found that plenty of you offer free meals on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but what we didn’t expect to find was these two particular companies that give back year around.

La Trobada | Terrassa, Spain

La Trobada is a restaurant located in Terrassa, Spain that recently opened to the public.  When you think of giving back, this restaurant got it right.  Instead of charging diners for their meals, they offer a fair trade: work one hour cleaning or serving, and a three-course meal is provided for free. 

And with a down economy, patrons of La Trobada have been grateful for the opportunity to enjoy a nice, warm meal and not have to worry about money woes for once.  In fact, about 50% of the restaurant’s patrons are part of the work to eat program.

United Methodist Church | Providence, Rhode Island

Food Service Industry Giving Back to the Community

We’ve heard lots of stories about churches giving back to the community and helping the homeless population get back on their feet – even if it’s just a pair of shoes.  But we really liked the concept that the United Methodist Church of Providence, Rhode Island took.

Homeless people are invited to breakfast that includes heaping piles of yummy bacon, eggs, and pancakes, in exchange for helping to cook and serve the food.  What started off as a small program, has grown immensely and now the breakfast group easily has 40 volunteers every morning.  The program is said to do more than just serve up a warm meal, it helps give the homeless population that volunteer a sense of hope and kindness.

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Pitfalls of Resizing (or Scaling) a Recipe

Pitfalls of Resizing (or Scaling) a Recipe

Looking to take a recipe and resize it to feed 10 times or 100 times more people than the original recipe called for?  There are a few words of caution to review before doing so.

The term for multiplying or dividing a recipe is called scaling, and for a lot of recipes, you’d be okay increasing or decreasing the recipe by 4 times (most cooks would stick with no more than 2 times), but any more than that, and a lot of other things need to be considered.  But this is generally speaking, there are other recipes that are almost impossible to resize without knowing how different things affect the recipe, like temperature, pan size, pan color, how the batter is mixed, what type of ingredients are being used, how the ingredients are measured/weighed out, etc.  This is because these different factors completely change the food chemistry, and if the original recipe had anything off, that error will be multiplied right along with the scaling.

Savory vs. Baking Recipes

Let’s take a step back and look at the difference in the recipe types.  In a roundabout way, there are 2 types of recipes: savory recipes and baking recipes. 

Savory Recipes

These types of recipes are easier to scale up or down, because they can be done so by taste, you just need to know the ingredients to add slowly and the ones you can go ahead and throw in the pot. 

Items like alcohol, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pepper, herbs, and other seasonings should be added a little at a time.  On average, you’ll be adding in 1 1/2 times the amount the recipe calls for when doubling the recipe.  This may lead to more mixing, but it’ll save your recipe from being overpowered.

Baking Recipes

If you’re not a baker, this will be a lesson for you.  Baking is more than just the art of cooking, there’s a very scientific archetype behind it.  It’s not as simple as throwing ingredients together, like with savory recipes.  Everything has to be measured out, and most Baker’s would tell you that things should be weighed out instead of measured.  Baking recipes would include soufflés, baked items that require yeast, cakes, pies, and custards.

It’s not to say that these types of recipes can’t be scaled, but the proportions are so vital to the success of the end product, that a slight error could completely wreck the recipe.  You can see how with some Chefs it would be a great accomplishment to reach that perfect baking recipe large enough to feed their patrons.

Things to Know About Scaling

This isn’t to say that baking recipes are impossible to resize, but it is to say that to do so, you would have to be very particular to the weight of the ingredients, among other things…

Conversion Factor. When scaling a recipe, you can use a simple conversion factor to find out how much more or less of each ingredient you need (although, make sure to look under “Savory Recipes” above for the ones we wouldn’t recommend doing this way).  If your recipe serves 10 people, and you want it to serve 14 people, simply divide 14 by 10 to get the conversion factor of 1.4.  With that number, you can multiply your ingredients by 1.4 to know how much of each ingredient to have on hand to make the recipe.

Shopping.  If you’re multiplying or dividing a recipe, you’ll likely get an odd number of measurements.  Don’t worry about getting 25.4 ounces of chicken broth, you can round up and still be fine.  For splitting eggs, you can either pour them in a bowl, whip them up, then mix half of the egg in with the other ingredients, or just throw the entire egg in (without the shell of course).  Usually recipes that call for eggs will be okay with the other half of the egg added in.

Tasting Savory Recipes.  If you can taste it, like with savory recipes, make sure to keep doing taste tests.  Chefs will go through spoon after spoon until they find the right taste – it’s easier to wash a spoon, than to fail on a big pot of soup.

To Scale or Not to Scale Baking Recipes.  It’s hard to answer this for you, because the answer is, it depends.  The easiest way to make more of a recipe is to divide and conquer – make multiple batches of the same recipe, and yes, this does work for some restaurants, especially those that are making delicate recipes like soufflés and custards.  It also depends on your comfort level for baking. 

If you’ve baked with ingredients like flour, sugar, eggs, yeast, and butter, go ahead and try scaling the recipe.  Start with 4 times, then push it from there, but don’t be surprised if you end up with more messes to clean and less successes. 

Recipe Archetypes.  If you want to be successful in scaling your recipe, we’d recommend learning more about how pan size, cooking time, temperatures, ingredients, and altitude can affect your recipe.   You should also know the archetype of your specific recipe… all recipes started from somewhere.  Here are a few articles to get you started:

Write it Down. If you’re going to spend the time scaling a recipe, make sure the write things down, so you know what worked and what didn’t.  Restaurants, and others in the food service industry, require consistent recipes, and they don’t get there by simply guessing every time. 

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How to Cook Food for the Masses without Losing Your Mind

How to Cook Food for the Masses without Losing Your Mind

What’s the key to cooking for large groups without losing your mind? Sanity lies in a simple French phase

Remember: mise en place

Mise en place—pronounced meez ahn plas—means to put things in place, to prepare. Every food service pro understands the importance of having everything in its right place. Without proper attention to mis en place, things can get chaotic very quickly—and chaos in the kitchen results in hangry (hungry + angry) guests.

Measure twice

You know the old woodworking adage “measure twice, cut once”? That applies to food prep as well, so be sure to double check the conversion rates of your ingredients. This conversion and measurement infographic we made might help!

Have landing zones ready

Tundra’s Chris Tavano, who was a chef in a prior life, suggests having “landing zones” prepared for everything. “It may feel redundant, as you may unnecessarily dirty a bowl for just holding ingredients, but organization is key,” says Chris. “For example, you might have an ice-bath landing zone for chilled items such as blanched asparagus or hard-boiled eggs, or a warming zone for hot items.”

Have the end result in mind

Otherwise, you can get hung up one task while other ingredients continue to cook. This is important but easy to forget.

Divide and conquer

Take a page from Henry Ford’s playbook: build processes, divvy up tasks, and refine them until you’re a model of efficiency. Balthazar, a bistro in New York City that serves hot, perfectly cooked steak frites to 1500 guests on a typical day, employs two full-time potato peelers! They approach french fry production with an industrial mindset that Ford would admire.

Clean as you go

A clean work zone is a healthy and efficient work zone. This is good to do in between each major task or prep work.

Make sure they’re some padding in your timeline

The last thing you want is your roast to be two hours late. For hot food items, be sure you cook them with plenty of time to spare. Put them in the oven a little earlier, and prepare a landing zone to keep it warm until serving.

Braising is great because it allows you to slow roast the night before without any time constraint pressures, and refrigerate overnight to seal in flavors as it cools,” says Chris. “Then, the brasie can be reheated perfectly for service, with much less stress to the pressures of time.”

Take good notes

When the dust finally settles and your guests have gone home, take stock. What worked? What caused problems? What steps can you skip in the future? Don’t assume you’ll remember the next time you’re tasked with cooking for a large group. We suggest taking good notes so you don’t have to keep learning the same lessons over and over.

“Anything to save you a step in the future is good practice and thinking,” says Chris.

Hat tip to Chris Tavano for helping me write this post!

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Let’s Talk Turkey Seasonings

 Lets Talk Turkey Seasonings

When it comes to seasoning your Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey, or any turkey for that matter, sooner is better. Two days ahead of time is ideal, but one day is fine too. Let it sit overnight uncovered in the fridge to let the seasoning permeate the bird.

If you don’t have that much time to spare, don’t worry: your turkey will still taste great. In any case, you’ll want to season a thawed, totally dry turkey that has been out of the fridge long enough to get up to room-temperature.

Another question that sparks heated debates this time of year …

Should you brine?

There are well-documented pros and cons to brining, but I’m going to avoid that sticky wicket entirely! I will say this, though: if you’re working with a Kosher turkey, it’s already pre-brined. So instead of giving it a second salt-water bath, you could go with a “dry brine” and rub 1/2 tsp. salt per pound of turkey. Chef and food writer Melissa Clark recommends a dry rub of kosher salt, pepper, citrus zest and rosemary. Sounds good to me!

Seasonings?

What other seasonings can you use? Remember that old Simon & Garfunkel song? The usual suspects of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme are popular for good reason: they taste great. But there are excellent roast turkey recipes that include cloves, nutmeg, allspice, basil, ginger, lemon, crushed celery seed, cayenne, and paprika. There are many ways to season a turkey.

When thinking about potential seasonings, it’s worth considering your audience before you stray too far from the beaten path. Many otherwise adventurous eaters can have remarkably conservative palates when it comes to their holiday turkey. (In their defense, simple can be sublime, and sometimes salt and pepper are all you need.)

And don’t forget butter!

Not only is butter delicious, it’s a great medium for herbs like sage, rosemary or thyme, and lemon adds a nice flavor too. AND unsalted butter will give your turkey a nice golden hue and delightfully crispy skin.

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How to Clean a Commercial Griddle

How to Clean a Commercial Griddle

If you ask 10 professional chefs how to clean a commercial griddle, you’re likely to get 10 different answers.

There are several ways to skin the proverbial cat.

While cleaning methods and materials may differ from chef to chef, the goal is universal: a clean, sanitary griddle that allows for efficient cooking and delicious, unadulterated food.

What You’ll Need

It usually takes 5-10 minutes to properly clean a grill.

Directions

  • While the griddle is hot, pour 1 cup of cooking oil (you can use fryer oil) onto the griddle surface.
  • Scrub the griddle surface with a griddle brick/pumice stone, making small concentric circles—Miyagi style—until the surface is clean.
  • Scrape the oil into the grease trough and discard. Turn the griddle off.
  • Pour (carefully) 1 cup of club soda/seltzer water onto the still-hot griddle. The carbonation helps loosen and lift stubborn grease.
  • Scrub the griddle surface with your griddle brick/pumice stone, making small concentric circles until the surface is clean. Scrape remaining liquid into the trough for discarding.
  • Pour 1/2 cup of vinegar onto the griddle surface, spreading liquid out evenly across the entire surface and not allowing the vinegar to pool.
  • Rub the griddle surface with a rag, making small concentric circles until the surface is polished.
  • Scrape the vinegar into your grease trough and discard.
  • Rub the surface with a rag soaked in cooking oil to polish and reseason the steel.
  • Bask in the warm glow of your newly cleaned griddle.

“How Often Should I Clean My Commercial Griddle?”

If your griddle sees heavy daily use, we advise cleaning it daily. This will prevent flavor transfer, efficiency loss and unsightly burnt-oil-flake contamination.

Shop griddle supplies at eTundra.com:

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Learn To Spoon Swoosh

Learn To Spoon Swoosh

It’s funny how intimidating it can seem to add a little presentation to a dish, which is why the majority of us plop our meals on a plate when we’re at home and totally leave plating décor to the wayside.  But what may look like takes hours to complete, is actually quite easy. Besides Chefs don’t have time to waste on plating – whatever presentation they bring to the table has to be quick.

Enter the spoon swoosh.  One of the go-to presentation additions for many Chefs is the spoon swoosh – that spoon drag through a puree that gives just a hint of décor to the plate.  The good part is that it’s easy to pull off (and easy to completely mess up, but practice makes perfect).  Here’s how you too can pull of the spoon swoosh like the pros:

1. You have to start with the sauce or puree.  Get a spoonful of whatever sauce goes with the meal and pour it onto a plate.

Learn To Spoon Swoosh

2. Now dip the tip of the spoon in the middle of the sauce drip and tilt it at an angle to get ready to drag across the plate.

Learn To Spoon Swoosh

3. Finally, drag the spoon away from the sauce drip to leave an attractive sauce tail.

Learn To Spoon Swoosh

4. Wait, one more step.  Never go back and try to fix the swoosh… you’ll just mess it up.  If you don’t get it on the first try, then wipe it up and start over again.

(Photo Credit)

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Keep Up Restaurant Catering Opportunities, Even After the Holidays

Keep Up Restaurant Catering Opportunities, Even After the Holidays

During the end of the year holidays restaurants are in full swing, but catering to large groups is often times limited to only this time of year.  Yet there’s plenty of other opportunities that can continue to bring in revenue – from wedding receptions and birthday parties to business luncheons and other corporate events, catering for larger groups is an amazing prospect to keep business booming year-round!

Serving the Masses

Wedding receptions are renowned for being a catering affair and a great opportunity to bring on new business, but there’s advice to regard before advertising for such a large group:

  • Know what to advertise: food is cooked on-site, parking is readily available, fewer rules around serving alcohol, experienced staff, customizable menu options and rental fees are typically lower than at event halls and conference rooms.
  • Restaurants are typically more accommodating to a variety of different sized groups.
  • Make sure your restaurant website explains your catering abilities, include appetizing photos of events you’ve hosted, customer reviews, price lists and large group information.

The number of people dining out for holidays and celebrations continues to grow year after year because it saves them time (no cooking and cleaning at their own homes), it’s simple and they can actually enjoy friends and family throughout the celebration.

And don’t forget, the holidays aren’t just once a year; in fact, Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day are the most popular holidays for dining out (outside of the end of the year holidays, of course).  Your restaurant can capitalize on this by featuring catered holiday buffets – but your website should be advertising this year-round, and don’t forget social media to help generate buzz!

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