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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.

7 Sustainability Tips For Your Restaurant

More and more restaurants are exploring ways to make their operations “sustainable.”  Yes, it’s a buzzword, and yes, it’s a trend most commonly associated with San Francisco restaurants and other yuppie hideouts.  That doesn’t mean most of the restaurants out there can’t utilize sustainability in their operations.

Trends show that consumers are increasingly educated about the benefits of sustainability and advertising your green practices will help reinforce positive images of your brand.  And, of course, you can feel good about the food you serve, which can be a reward in itself.

Some tips on making your restaurant sustainable:

Who Wants Some Iridescent Shark? - As world fish populations face serious decline, the demand for seafood has only risen.  The striped pangasius, a type of catfish native to southeast Asia, has become a great farmed alternative to white fish species like orange roughy.

Serve Sustainable Seafood - The Monterey Bay Aquarium has developed a list of sustainable fish species so that consumers and restaurateurs can make informed choices when it comes to serving and eating seafood.

Restaurants and Farmers Work Together To Reduce Food Waste And Improve Crop Yields - A collective of San Francisco farmers and restaurants have developed a system that works to everyone’s benefit: taking food waste and using it as a very effective fertilizer on local farms.

Greener And Cheaper: Restaurants Grow Their Own Food - More and more chefs are investing time into their own personal gardens to help supplement the fresh produce available in their kitchen.

Darden Group Driving Sustainable Seafood Practices - The Darden restaurant group, owner of the Red Lobster chain, has taken a serious interest in using seafood sustainably.  They view it as a vital long-term business decision.  Learn more in this post.

Sardines: Sustainable AND Delectable? - Most people associate the sardine with oily tin cans full of a mushy fish.  But fresh sardines are actually very good, and a sustainable fish population as well.

The Kitchen Cafe’s Sustainable Restaurant Ethos - The Kitchen Cafe in Boulder, CO, takes it’s role in the community very seriously, and they view part of that role as promoting and using sustainable practices.  Learn how in this post.

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Restaurant Equipment Repair: 14 Ways To Save

Restaurant Equipment Repair: 14 Ways To SaveKeeping your commercial kitchen humming along is not always an easy proposition.  You use this equipment every day, and sooner or later something is going to give out on you.  If the next step you’re used to taking is picking up the phone to call your service tech, these Back Burner posts are for you.

That’s because if you have the right tools and a little basic knowledge, you can handle the most common equipment failures yourself on everything from ranges to fryers to overhead warmers to faucets.  We have written several great guides to help you fix your restaurant equipment yourself.

Restaurant Equipment Repair:

1.  How To Fix Countertop Warmers

2.  How To Replace Door Gaskets on Refrigeration Equipment

3.  Identifying and Replacing Electric Thermostats

4.  Identifying Commercial Faucets and Parts

5.  Replacing Gas Safety Valves

6.  Converting Gas Equipment In 5 Simple Steps

7.  Can You Trust Generic Restaurant Equipment Parts?

8.  Fixing Commercial Fryers

9.  Fixing Commercial Ovens

10.  Fixing Gas Ranges

11.  Replace Commercial Refrigeration Thermostats Yourself

12.  Identifying Electric Cooking Equipment Elements

13.  How To Replace Refrigeration Fan Motors & Blades

14.  Replacing Refrigeration Door Latches & Hinges

Being able to handle minor equipment repairs will not only save you money, it will also reduce your downtime, meaning your busy kitchen won’t miss a beat.  Half the battle is having the skills to replace parts.  The other half is being able to get parts fast.

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A Complete Restaurant Equipment Buying Guide

A Complete Restaurant Equipment Buying Guide

If you’re in the market for new restaurant equipment, you know that you’re about to spend a good chunk of change.  You also know the choices you make are ones you’ll have to live with for years to come.  That’s why it’s vital to make an informed decision that’s the perfect fit for your restaurant and your budget.

The Back Burner has a wealth of information for you on most major pieces of restaurant equipment, from ice machines to ranges to fryers.  This information comes from industry insiders who have sold and dealt with every conceivable kind of food service equipment for more years than most people could shake a stick at.  And while these posts may not make your decision any easier, they certainly will help you make a smarter one.

  • Color Code Food Safety Program – Color coded knives and cutting boards help prevent the cross-contamination of food ingredients in your commercial kitchen.  Learn more in this post.
  • Dishwashing Machines – From undercounters to conveyors, there is a wide range of commercial dishwashers out there.  Learn about high temp vs. low temp dishwashers and how to decide which type to buy in this post.
  • Family Friendly – Kid’s menus aren’t enough to cater to young families anymore.  Do you also have restaurant high chairs, booster seats, and baby changing stations?
  • Flatware – Not all flatware is created equal.  Learn how to tell the difference between the different types in this post.
  • Food Processors – Nothing streamlines food prep like a powerful commercial food processor.  Learn about all the different types in this post.
  • Gas Ranges -The gas range is the heart and soul of any kitchen.  Get all the information you need to make the right choice in this post.
  • Hobart Mixer Attachments – Hobart mixers are great because they last so long.  What’s not so great is how much it costs to replace the attachments you depend on every day.  Learn how to keep your Hobart going without spending a fortune.
  • Hood Filters – Keeping the hood filters over your cooking equipment clean and up-to-date is an important safety concern for your operation.  Learn how to maintain hood filters, and get key information on what to buy when you need new ones.
  • Ice Machines – Summertime is ice machine season, and if you’re in the market for an ice machine, you need to make sure you calculate capacity very carefully.  Learn how in this post.
  • Planetary MixersThe planetary mixer is a mainstay chunk of equipment in many commercial kitchens.  Whenever your restaurant or bakery needs a large project done, and done well, more than likely you’re turning to the mixer taking up a whole corner of the kitchen.
  • Refrigeration – When you’re selecting a new refrigeration unit, you’re making a big decision that will impact your budget and your business for a long time to come.  You’ll be able to make a better decision after reading this post.
  • Scales – Portion, receiving, and liquor scales will all give you better inventory control and save you significant money.  Learn all the ins and outs in this post.
  • Sinks & Faucets – Get some useful tips on buying quality sinks and faucets that will stand the test of time in your busy kitchen.
  • Slicers – Different slicers are ideal for slicing different kinds of product, and using the wrong slicer can burn the unit up quickly, so make sure you understand the differences before you buy.
  • Steamers - Steamers are a great way to cook food to perfection every time while saving on energy costs.  Learn everything you need to know in this post.
  • Stick Mixers – Stick mixers are a great way to cut down on food prep labor costs.  Learn which mixer is best for your kitchen in this post.
  • Water Filtration – Filtered water not only tastes and smells better for your customers, it improves the performance and lifespan of key equipment like ice machines, beverage dispensers, and coffee makers.

If you’ve got questions that aren’t answered in one of the posts above, leave a comment and we’ll get back to you with the information you’re looking for.

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10 Food Safety Tips

One of the most important responsibilities of any restaurateur is the proper implementation of a food safety program.  A lapse in food safety can spell the doom of your restaurant, and if you’re just opening a new restaurant, it can mean a delayed opening night.

Good food safety isn’t something you achieve once and then forget about.  It’s something you practice every day your restaurant is open, from the moment product leaves the truck at the back door all the way through to the time the busboy clears the plates after your guests have finished their meals.

Below are 10 food safety tips from The Back Burner that will help you brush up your program.  You have probably already implemented many of these strategies to one degree or another.  Think of this a refresher course and the chance to learn something you didn’t know.  And if you have food safety topics not covered here that really should be, let us know!

1. Shop For Suppliers - As all of the food recent food recalls have taught us, food safety doesn’t start when product comes off the truck at your restaurant.  The supply chain is much longer than that, and things can go wrong well before you ever lay eyes on a box of tomatoes or a head of lettuce.  Learn how to diversify your supply chain and hold it accountable.

2. Managing Temperature - One of the most important aspects of food safety is monitoring food temperatures and making sure it’s always out of the danger zone.  Learn some effective strategies for managing temperature.

3. Proper Handwashing - All your food safety management strategies can go down the drain in a flash if one employee doesn’t wash their hands properly and then handles food.  Learn how to train and supervise employees effectively here.

4. Be Your Own Health Inspector - Why wait for the health inspector to tell you what needs to  be fixed with your food safety program?  Be proactive and think like an inspector before they come to your restaurant.  That way, your inspections will be a breeze.

5. In The Field At Turley’s - This venerable Boulder restaurant shares some of their food safety strategies for the benefit of all.  There’s nothing like some real world experience to put things in perspective.10 Food Safety Tips

6. Understanding NSF and UL - Everybody’s seen the NSF and UL labels on products in their restaurant’s kitchen.  What do those labels really mean?  Learn more in this article.

7. HACCP - If you don’t know what this stands for, then you definitely need to read this article.  Even if you do, you might learn a couple things about this core food safety program.

8. Data Loggers - If you don’t use this vital piece of food safety equipment, you might consider it after reading this article.

9. Vacuum Breakers And Backflow Valves - Clean water is vital to any food safety program, and increasingly health inspectors are looking at restaurant plumbing to make sure you are safeguarding the water supply.  Some simple plumbing parts you can install yourself will make the inspector happy and keep your water safe.

10. Safe Seafood - Seafood handling can be especially tricky in a restaurant.  Learn how to keep your seafood tasting great and your customers safe.

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Want Your Fast Food Fancy?

A website called Fancy Fast Food has taken all the mass produced food that makes Americans fat, but that we love to eat, and turned it into top quality fine cuisine, complete with garnish.  The results are actually very stunning, even after viewing the before picture.  Some examples include:

Want Your Fast Food Fancy?

Nathan’s Not-So-Famous Faux Foie Gras – 6 Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, a lemonade, a mustard packet, and a rosemary garnish.  The result looks like anything you might find at a 5 star restaurant, and without the ethically questionable duck livers to boot.

Want Your Fast Food Fancy?

Boston Kreme Brulee – Made from the filling of 8 Dunkin’ Donuts Boston Kreme Donuts,  this “kreme brulee” looks just as tasty as anything you might find in a restaurant, and probably cheaper too.

Want Your Fast Food Fancy?

The Colonel’s Chicken Corn Chowder – Put together a complete meal from KFC and get some top quality corn chowder.  The picture sure makes it look good…

Submit your own fancy fast food recipes, complete with before and after pictures.  The only rule is that you can’t add anything to your recipe besides what you buy in a fast food joint (with the exception of a garnish).  These guys have plenty more amazing recipes, and every one makes their motto ring a little more true: Yeah It’s Still Bad For You – But See How Good It Can Look!

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Restaurant Energy Efficiency: 10 Tips

Restaurant Energy Efficiency: 10 TipsIt’s such a buzzword these days it has almost become cliche, but nevertheless green restaurants are an important and lasting trend.  Customers are the main force driving this, and consistently they say they value restaurants with green practices.  Giving customers what they want while reducing your operating costs through more efficient (“green”) practices seems like a win-win for almost any restaurant.

These posts focus on how to improve your restaurant’s energy efficiency:

1. Manage Equipment Effectively - The cooking equipment in your kitchen are some of the biggest energy consumers  for your business.  If you can cut energy use here, you will see a considerable improvement to your bottom line.

2. Energy Efficiency: Look Past The Kitchen – Now that you’ve used post #1 above to improve the energy efficiency of your kitchen, you can start working on the rest of your building.  Again, some very simple steps can result in significant savings.

3. Manage Hot Water Efficiently – Another energy hog is your hot water heater.  Your restaurant goes through a lot of hot water, and anything you can do to improve the efficiency of heating water will also help you save money.

4. Use Efficiency Rebates! - Sooner or later you’ll need to update restaurant equipment, and the sooner you do so, the faster you’ll improve your kitchen’s energy efficiency.  Depending on where you live, you can take advantage of some significant rebates from local goverment and utilities to help offset the cost of new equipment.

5. Understanding Product Packaging Terms: Compostable, Biodegradable, Recyclable - Just because packaging sounds green doesn’t mean it is.  The companies that market and package products your restaurant uses are trying to sound green just like everyone else, and it’s improtant to understand the nuances of the language they use on the products you buy.

6. Green Technology: Energy Management Sytems – Chain restaurants are starting to use energy management systems to control energy use in multiple locations.  It’s only a matter of time before this technology can be applied in indepenedent restaurants as well.

7. Why Recycle? Because It Feels Good – Recycling is one of the few tips on this list that won’t result in you saving money.  But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.  Customers who see a robust recycling program in a restaurant feel good about your establishment, and that can mean a lot more than the cost of recycling.

8. Green Consumers Going Strong - Despite recession and financial pressure, studies show that consumers till want green products and services, even if they have to pay more for them.Restaurant Energy Efficiency: 10 Tips

9. Buy An Energy Efficient Steamer – Investing in a commercial steamer is a great way to improve the efficiency of your kitchen and the taste and quality of your product.  Learn more in this post.

10. Tech Talk: Replacing Refrigeration Door Gaskets - Get some practical, do-it-yourself advice on one of the easiest ways to increase energy efficiency in your restaurant: by replacing worn door gaskets.

Check out more articles on Tundra’s Resource Center for Restaurant Energy Efficiency

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Boulder Spotlight: The Kitchen Cafe’s Sustainable Restaurant Ethos

Boulder Spotlight: The Kitchen Cafes Sustainable Restaurant EthosThe Kitchen Café community bistro takes the community part of their name very seriously.  The Boulder, Colorado restaurant provides a simple, rustic setting where friends, families, and neighbors can gather to enjoy great tasting, unpretentious food and a world-class beer and wine list.  Meals can be ordered family style any day of the week and weekday “community hours” feature shared plates and drink deals.  Everything about this place invites you to enjoy the atmosphere of togetherness.

But The Kitchen’s commitment to community doesn’t end there.  The restaurant is 100% wind powered.  Almost 100% of leftover food and food scraps are either given to staff at the end of their shift, composted, or recycled.  And the menu evolves with the seasonal availability of mostly local herbs, greens, vegetables, and meat.

“Depending on the time of year, upwards of 70% of our ingredients are sourced locally,” says Adam Watts, a Kitchen chef.  “We change our menu to what’s available.”  These local ingredients are fresher, save hundreds of food miles, and compost created from the scraps ends up back on the farmer’s fields.  “The quality is absolutely better,” Adam says.  “When you have to wash off the dirt, you know it’s fresh.”

Sustainable practices and a community oriented atmosphere gives The Kitchen a lot of credibility when they call themselves a “community bistro.”  The great thing about The Kitchen, however, is just how serious they really are about their Boulder neighborhood.  They have partnered with local non-profit The Growe Foundation to help sponsor the Garden To Table initiative, which educates local kids about the cycle of food, from planting seeds to harvest to the final product on the dinner table.

Garden To Table takes a hands-on approach with 9 schools from the Boulder Valley School District.  Each school plants a garden, harvests vegetables and greens, and then, with the help of The Kitchen chefs, create salads and dishes to be eaten at school benefit functions.  To chef Adam Watts, it’s all about educating future generations about where food comes from.  “We want to create a new culture that understands garden-to-table ethics,” he says.

The Kitchen represents a new movement in food service, one that focuses on the benefits of not only serving good tasting food, but sustainable food as well.  To The Kitchen, it’s just another part of being a member of a community.

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Menu Trends: Native American Fry Bread

Menu Trends: Native American Fry BreadIn tough times, people always rely on familiar, basic foods to get them through.  Trends in the restaurant industry so far in 2009 have borne out this truism.  For Native Americans, the equivalent of chicken soup and hamburgers is Indian fry bread, a staple in their diets for 150 years, dating back to the days when they had little else to eat as they were driven from their lands by settlers.

A local restaurant, though not in Boulder, is the subject of this Spotlight article because Native American cuisine is such a unique and relatively rare phenomenon.  Tocabe restaurant, located in Denver, has taken Indian fry bread and built an entire menu around this simple, but tasty traditional food.  There are fry bread soft tacos, pizzas with fry bread dough, and powdered fry bread for dessert.

What is Native fry bread?  The traditional blend included flour, salt, lard, and water cooked in oil.  Tocabe has updated the recipe and addressed health concerns by substituting canola oil for lard and flash frying rather than deep frying the bread.  The result is a lighter, sweet bread that has greatly reduced trans fats.

There has been some controversy within the Native American community over the celebration of fry bread.  After all, it was the only food American Indians had left after losing everything to the expanding American nation, and it was given to them by their oppressors to boot.  To young Natives like the owners of Tocabe restaurant, however, fry bread’s place in the history of their people is firmly entrenched, and whether it got there as a result of good or evil is beside the point.

To sample Tocabe fry bread, visit them at 44th and Lowell in Denver, CO.

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Weird Food: Goat Meat Isn’t Really All That Weird

Weird Food:  Goat Meat Isnt Really All That WeirdTo most Americans, goat meat sounds like a foreign and unsavory dish consumed in far-off places by people who don’t have many other options.  In reality, goat is the most commonly consumed type of meat the world over, and not just in the Third World.  America is one of the few holdouts where goat hasn’t really taken hold.

Until recently, that is.  There has long been localized markets for goat meat, especially in immigrant centers like New York City and southwestern states where there is a heavy Hispanic influence.  But increasingly, middle class white people in America are discovering goat, or maybe they’re simply catching up with the rest of the world.

What does goat taste like?  It’s somewhere between lamb and chicken, with a distinct flavor that isn’t too gamey.  The key with goat is to cook it properly.  It’s very easy to end up with tough, stringy meat that chews like boot leather and goes down like shoe laces.

Goat that is slow cooked with lots of marinade and spice can be very tasty.  Many ethnic restaurants have added it to the menu as America finally starts to catch on, and the results can be excellent, like pulled goat tacos, Jamaican-style jerk stew, and in rich curries.  The best part about goat meat is that it’s leaner than chicken and has more protein than beef, making it a smart choice for the health conscious.

And for those who are concerned with the industrial-scale production of beef, pork, and chickens, with the accompanying environmental and animal cruelty issues, goat presents a unique alternative.  That’s because goats are usually raised on marginal pastures that are not suitable for other types of agriculture, and they thrive in those environments.  When they are raised on pastures also used by beef cattle and other animals, they do not compete for the same plants, which improves land use and gives ranchers a natural way to control weeds.  No matter what, they don’t end up in a feed lot.

Goat meat may not be a white, middle-class American tradition, but for the rest of the world, it’s a staple, kind of like soccer.  So the next time you encounter goat meat, give it a try and see what you’ve been missing.

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Hungarian Pigs Are Cool Again

Hungarian Pigs Are Cool Again100 years ago, a Hungarian breed of pig called Mangalitsa was the preferred pork breed for restaurants across Europe and the eastern U.S.  Over the last century their popularity declined for a variety a reasons.  The Mangalitsa also fell out of favor with pork producers, because they require open pasture and high quality feed, as opposed to common breeds today, which can be raised in small pens on an industrial scale on cheap feed like corn or soy.

However, recently, the Mangalitsa has returned as a favorite in some chefs kitchens, because, unlike most popular breeds, Mangalitsa pork is marbled.  This gives the meat a rich, authentic taste that makes it unique among pigs.  This is good news for the Mangalitsa, because just a few years ago the breed was bordering on extinction, with numbers in the hundreds, as opposed to 30,000 individuals in 1950 in Hungary alone.

At least one farm has imported the Hungarian pig to the U.S., and Mangalitsa pork, previously only available from Spain, has begun to spread to other Western countries.  Restaurants like the Spotted Pig in New York city have begun serving the pork with much success.  Mangalitsa meat fetches a much heftier price than industrial pork, but for customers who value taste over price, the succulent marbled meat of Hungarian pork can be a satisfying experience.

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