Chef Carlos Gaytan’s culinary journey has been one of hard work, persistence...
“Fusion” as a descriptor for food has gone out of style, and often leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth – reminding one of unauthentic and uninspired Asian Fusion restaurants. “Fusion Cuisine” was coined in the 1980’s by Florida chef Norman Van Aken, who borrowed the term from a style of music that combines Jazz, Funk, R&B and Rock n’ Roll. The style was then made popular by Wolfgang Puck who opened several Asian fusion restaurants on the west coast. But true Asian fusion cuisine has its roots planted far earlier, since what “fusion” really signifies is a mixture of culinary cultures – the first American Chinese restaurant opened in 1849! These Chinese restaurants were owned and operated by Cantonese immigrants (mostly from Guangdong). Chefs quickly realized they needed to appeal to American tastes, leading to the creation of an American Chinese cuisine that most Americans are very familiar with to this day.
As the fusion food style became very popular and mainstream in the 90’s, push back started coming from chefs, criticizing the influx of Asian fusion restaurants and seeing the food as lazy and lacking creativity. Some saw the food as a misappropriation of Asian culture where ingredients were taken and used without studying traditional recipes and cooking methods. In the 2000’s, there was an enormous trend of developing authentic American cuisine with strong demand for organic local farm-to-table restaurants. But it’s more or less impossible to completely ignore all outside influence and ingredients in the kitchen, and if America really is a melting pot of culture, then isn’t there nothing more American than fusion cuisine?
From Zen Sai in Miami, FL
Here at ChefUniforms.com, we believe fusion cuisine to be a mixture of a chef’s life experiences and an expression of their true artistry. We believe that chefs craft food as an expression of their self and American experiences, i.e. Cook what you want, who cares what it’s called.
Kung Pao Pastrami from Mission Chinese Food in San Francisco, CA
In recent years fusion has made a comeback, although many chefs are quick to renounce that title, preferring to call it “Americanized Oriental Food” or “modern-American cuisine.” There has been a proliferation of new restauranteurs with a focus on Asian street foods, Baohaus in NYC started by chef Eddie Huang only uses traditional Asian ingredients and recipes but restaurants such as Mission Chinese Food started by chef Roy Choi have a wider interpretation of traditional foods. The San Francisco based food truck-turned-restaurant has dishes such as Kung Pao pastrami, thrice cooked bacon with rice cakes and cumin lamb ribs.
Trout Carpaccio with Avocado Mousse from Crane and Turtle in Washington DC
With the globalization of the world, it is easier than ever to learn about other cultures and visit them too. At Crane and Turtle in Washington DC, a restaurant that blends French technique with Japanese cuisine, Chef Makoto Hamamura brought his line cooks with him on a 10-day food pilgrimage in Japan in order to better understand Japanese techniques and food history. We see that nowadays chefs truly respect the ingredients they use and the cultures they are from, and are constantly innovating, pushing American cuisine into uncharted waters.
We want to hear from you!
What are your opinions on Fusion Cuisine?
Is it played out or are we entering the heyday of innovation in food culture?
Many of us have to wear multiple hats day to day. We fill many roles at the workplace – we could be a marketer one minute and a graphic artist the next, or an accountant as well as a salesperson. In the case of the culinary industry, many chefs also have to be artists to be able to stand out and draw in more customers. There is an art to dish presentation, which adds to the customer experience as a whole. The goal is to create a dining experience that tempts all of the senses, rather than simply taste alone.
There are a few different types of plating, which include “classic,” which arranges the main item in front of the plate with the veggies and starches behind, “stacked,” which is exactly as the name implies, and “shingled,” in which you would find the main item on top of a bed of vegetables or another side item. Knowing when to use each type and how to do so in a way that grabs the eye and takes the patron on a culinary adventure, is why chefs are true artists.
We included a video from Executive Chef Don Walker from Five Fishermen featuring his tips on how to plate meals at home.
Which plating method works best for you? Send us pictures of some of your best presentations!
It’s great to have fun while at work. It makes time go faster, it makes the job seem less like work and more like an enjoyable activity, and it makes it, well… entertaining, for lack of a better word. However, certain work environments are not conducive to horseplay, like kitchens, for instance. Kitchens can be extremely dangerous if you aren’t careful. One slip of the wrist or even walking without paying full attention to where you’re going could be the difference between having 10 fingers and being generally healthy to being covered in boiling oil, or worse.
Imagine trying to look like a big shot, your first day on the job, and throwing battered, still-frozen fish in a deep fryer. The resulting eruption of boiling oil is enough to make that first day, also your last.
What about dancing to some salsa music, waving your arms around and having a great time (you know you love it!), and bumping into someone carrying a pot of boiling water? Sure you’ll live to cook another day, but who wants to go home with second-degree burns?
Or reaching into a blender to clean it without making sure it’s unplugged first and getting the sleeve of your chef coat caught. You may not be able to play guitar anymore, let’s just put it that way.
I don’t even want to think about goofing off around the knives. Let’s just leave that one to the imagination.
The moral of the story is, leave the horseplay out of the kitchen and you’ll all live long, healthy lives. Almost every accident in the kitchen could be avoided with some proper attention and care, so do your part to ensure that your fellow kitchen staff goes home in one piece.
Let’s play a game.
“How many accidents waiting to happen can you spot in this picture?”
You should never underestimate the value of experience. It is likely that people who have been around longer know a thing or two that you may not. In that light, it is always important to learn as much as we can from those people, and take whatever advice they are willing to give. With that said, here are a few words of wisdom from some great chefs around the country that just might be useful to you one day.
Kristen Kish, winner of Top Chef’s 10th season: “Honestly, one thing I wished I learned earlier on was humility and how to humble yourself, and how to start from the bottom, because that’s where you learn the most. You don’t have to be in a million places at once, you’re in charge of one thing and you have to learn and listen and be more aware of what’s happening around you. But at the end of the day, it’s a hard industry. It’s hard. There’s sacrifices that are made and work will come before personal life. You’ll give up friends and family and holidays and events and you’re gonna lose people out of your life. But that being said, you get to surround yourself with people who share the same passion. You have to choose wisely though, because there’s a lot of restaurants that breed bad habits. Whether it’s how the restaurant runs or late-night partying, it’s the restaurant industry. And it’s hard not to give into those temptations, because it’s kinda fun. But once you find that professional kitchen that truly knows how to run and breed true talent, you stick with that. It’s one of the hardest industries I’ve ever been a part of, but also the most rewarding once you make that breakthrough. You go through culinary school and have that idea of working in kitchens, and it’s a harsh reality once you go into your first real kitchen. A lot of people give it up, but another great thing about the industry is you get to jump around from city to city, restaurant to restaurant. Give it two years and move on. For a commitment-phobe like myself, it works out well.”
Paula Deen, Paula’s Best Dishes: “Remember, y’all, it’s all about the prep. Take away the stress by doing the prep the night or day before. You’ll look like a star.”
Tony Mantuano, Spiaggia in Chicago, IL: “It’s important to look at tradition and culture for inspiration. Look to the past to move forward. Go and spend time in the region of the cuisine you’re interested in. Learn the techniques and how local chefs are modernizing their own culinary traditions. See how people actually live. That experience will certainly come through in your food and help create a unique point of view.”
Marc Vetri, Sara’s Weeknight Meals: “Work ethic and attitude is everything. It’s the only thing that matters. I would take a less knowledgeable cook with a great attitude and work ethic over a talented prodigy with pissy attitude any day of the week. It will always make for a better team at the restaurant. I can’t tell you how many amazing cooks have been through my kitchens and simply have not made the cut because of their attitude. And guess what? Three, four, five years later those cooks are still line cooks. They still complain about how much everybody else sucks around them. If you’re a line cook at 25 and still one at 35, it’s time to look in the mirror. I can guarantee that YOU are the problem not anyone else.”
Gaston Acurio, La Mar: “The most important ingredient in this food world for young chefs is to be patient. When I was 20-years-old I had to go to a library, now if I want a recipe I can have it anywhere – maybe one million recipes. All this information that you’re receiving makes you think that you’re prepared but you’re not, the experience of life is very important to cook better. You don’t have to worry, you don’t have to rush – wait for your moment and listen to your soul to know when is your moment to go further. In the meanwhile learn, learn and learn.”
And finally, a bit of advice from us at ChefUniforms.com: “Always keep your chef coat clean and stain-free (as much as you can – you are in a kitchen, after all!). For information on how to take care of your chef coats, see our blog “Keeping Your Chef Coat Clean During the Holidays”.
As with any advice you are given, BE THE BEST YOU CAN BE!
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten? Leave it below for our Chefs!
You don’t meet many people in the culinary industry who just wake up one day and decided to start cooking for a living. Those with a true passion for cooking and food typically got their start at an early age, learning from their parents or grandparents, or even by watching some of the great chefs on TV. But it is a special bond between a grandmother and her grandchild, where inspiration and true passion grow into a love of all things culinary. Many of the great chefs of our time get their inspiration from their grandmothers, and even use recipes that have been passed down for generations.
Celebrity Chef Curtis Stone recently opened a restaurant in Beverly Hills called Maude, which is named after his grandmother. According to Stone, his grandmother is the one who got him interested in food when she taught him how to make her homemade fudge. “I always remember sitting around the dining room and smelling her getting the roast dinner ready. She’s been gone now for seven or eight years now, but I wanted to call the restaurant after her to keep those memories alive.” – LAist
Executive Chef Stephen DeMarco of Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center in Blue Ridge Virginia, also started cooking with his grandmother and mother at an early age. According to DeMarco, he would watch them pull leftovers from the fridge and “throw a meal together and have it taste and look great.” Even now, after more than 28 years of experience in the industry, owning his own restaurant consulting firm and serving as a private chef in New York, DeMarco remembers where he got his start, and how he learned to love food from his grandmother.
Chef Kyle Fowlkes, executive chef of the Embassy Suites Hotel in Hampton, Virginia, says that his Nana is at the heart of everything he cooks. He remembers cooking in the kitchen with her when he was 4 or 5 years old, making pound cakes, pies and fried chicken. Now, he uses her recipes in his own kitchen at the Cypress Grille Restaurant in the Embassy Suites. Fowlkes’ grandmother is still inspiring him today, years after she taught him the basics of cooking, and his love of the craft is just as strong.
Did your grandmother have anything to do with your interest in food?
What would she say if she saw you in your chef uniform today? Where do you get your inspiration?
They say a good deed is its own reward. Some people just love helping others, without a second thought of their own personal gain. They are simply in it for the satisfaction of knowing they have acted selflessly and helped someone else in a time of need. It is these “good eggs” (pun intended!) who should be celebrated for their noble acts of kindness, and in that light we’ve chosen some culinary heroes to honor.
Chef Mason Wartman
Mason Wartman quit his Wall Street job at the age of 25 to open up his own pizzeria in Philadelphia, selling slices for $1 each. He left what he called “the best job I ever had” in order to follow his dream of opening his own restaurant. Mason’s restaurant, Rosa’s Fresh Pizza, is different, however, because of his innovative business model, in which people would buy a slice and then “pay it forward” for the next patron. Mason would take the extra dollar and put a post-it note on the wall, signifying that a slice of pizza had been bought. When a homeless person would enter his establishment, he would use a post-it note as a coupon, allowing that person to take an already bought slice of pizza. Mason’s “Pay-it-forward Pizza” model even earned him a spot on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, and though he does make a profit (it is a restaurant, after all!), he takes pride in helping those who are less fortunate.
Chef Christopher Neary
Another great example of an unsung hero is Chef Christopher Neary. Neary used two weeks of his personal vacation time to travel to the Philippines in order to teach culinary students there about New England Cooking, as well as American history. He taught the students how the early American settlers lived off the land and how they ate chowder, clams, corn and potatoes, codfish stew and cakes, and he taught them how to cook these dishes as well. Though he missed his own wife and children during his time away, he loved the opportunity to help the people there learn about a different culture, and the experience there changed his life forever. Neary is now quite involved in the Chef & Child Foundation, which helps to fight childhood hunger and obesity through culinary education and donations.
Chef Lyndon Honda
Finally, Maui Chef and catering company owner Lyndon Honda raised over $40,000 to help the people of Pahoa during a very difficult period. Tropical Storm Iselle, as well as volcano Kilauea’s ongoing eruptions had devastated the area, and Honda took it upon himself to reach out to his representatives for help. He rallied the chefs from Maui and Big Island, and organized culinary events to help raise money for the cause. Thanks to his efforts, the schools, local farmers, medical center and many more people received grants to help them recover from the disaster. Honda’s selflessness may well have saved countless lives, and for that we thank him!
Do you know any other unsung heroes in the culinary industry? Post their stories below, we’d love to hear about them!
For the first time since 1992, in March of this year, grocery store sales has been surpassed by dining out sales. This is truly a testament of the times in which we live in, proving that we are a mobile culture, now more than ever, always on the go. Could it be that people would rather spend the money dining out than cooking at home? Or is it that people just don’t have the time or the patience to cook at home anymore? Let’s dig a little deeper into the cause of this change.
1. Which age groups are dining out the most? Baby Boomers and Millennials, followed by Generation X-ers. Most Baby Boomers are in retirement and are eating out a lot and also spending more on each visit. Millennials, the 2nd largest generation, are a diverse, mobile, tech-savvy group who generally live in mid-sized metropolitan areas. Though they have less spending power than the Baby Boomers typically do, Millennials tend to dine out at least twice a week. These 2 generations, at opposite ends of the spectrum, are very social generations, with Baby Boomers having more time with their current lifestyle to enjoy life and Millennials, most either living at home or in the city, go out more to hang out with their friends.
2. The U.S. economy has been improving since the recession of 2009, when the unemployment rate was 9.3%. Now unemployment has decreased to just 6.2%, meaning that more people are working, and in turn have more disposable income. Naturally, more disposable income equates to more dining out. Today’s typical consumer has a very busy lifestyle; some are working multiple jobs and night shifts, and are looking for convenient and quick dining options. Customized menus and new dining formats are on the increase and are driving significant revenues to restaurants’ bottom lines. The National Restaurant Association’s positive outlook for 2015 specified that the industry’s sales this year are forecasted to reach an impressive $709 billion, with 1 million restaurants employing 14 million people.
Are you surprised by this? Do you dine out a lot or cook more at home?
- (2015, May 5). Re: Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey, retrieved from The Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNU04000000?years_option=all_years&periods_option=specific_periods&periods=Annual+Data
- (2013, January 15). Re: Boomers Increase Restaurant Visits While Millennials Cut Back, Reports NPD, retrieved from NPD’s Crest Foodservice Market Research, https://www.npd.com/wps/portal/npd/us/news/press-releases/boomers-increase-restaurant-visits-while-millennials-cut-back-reports-npd/
- (2014, October). Re: 15 Economic Facts about Millennials, retrieved from The Council of Economic Advisers, https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/millennials_report.pdf
- (2015, January 27). Re: Positive Outlook for 2015, retrieved from National Restaurant Association, http://www.restaurant.org/News-Research/News/Restaurant-Industry-Forecast-Positive-outlook-for
HAPPY NEW YEAR! 2015 is here and it is exciting to see what this year will bring!
Chefuniforms.com wishes all of our blog followers and clients an energized and rewarding year and that it will truly be one of your best years ever!
Pantone LLC has chosen their color for 2015: a sexy and earthy color, Marsala.
In our culinary world, it is typically known as a ground spice used as a seasoning to flavor food.
This shade is rich, warm, sophisticated, charismatic and versatile for men and women.
Below are some of our recommendations that you can get for your restaurant and/or catering company that will make you trendy this year!
What do you think of this sophisticated color for you and your staff? We would love to hear your thoughts about this Pantone shade.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or a combination of these holidays, you know food is a BIG part of every celebration. Here at ChefUniforms.com, we have lots of employees who love to cook and we always have great potluck luncheons. Now that December is here, there are always wonderful goodies and recipes being shared. We asked our colleagues what foods they look forward to during the Holidays:
- The desserts
- I make my Grandmother’s Italian Christmas Cookies
- Cannolis, Strufoli and Sfogliatelle on Christmas Eve
- My daughter and I make peppermint bark and cookies for Santa
- Tres Leches
- Gingerbread cookies
- M & M Cookies
- Peppermint Bark
- Pumpkin Bread
- Peppermint Hot Chocolate
- “Reindeer Chow”
- Green Bean Casserole
- Latkes and Rugelach
- Pumpkin soup, sweet potato casserole with marshmallows, corn soufflé
- Homemade Eggnog with brandy
- Christmas Sangria
- Feast of the 7 fishes on Christmas Eve – Shrimp Marinara is my favorite
- Hot Chocolate, Turron, Panettone and Eggnog
- Cuban slow roasted pork, rice and beans, fried sweet plantains and yucca with garlic sauce and flan for dessert
- Cookies, cookies, cookies!!
- Black eyed peas on New Year’s Day for luck in the coming year
- Prime Rib for dinner on Christmas
- See’s Chocolates (we can only buy them in Florida in December)
- Christmas dinner is Italian “Sunday gravy” with meatballs, sausage, chicken and spareribs in the sauce
Our favorites are surely varied. What are the foods you look forward to during the Holidays?
Chef Carlos Gaytan’s culinary journey has been one of hard work, persistence and dedication. Having arrived in Chicago in early 1991, he began a career at Sheraton North Shore Hotel, quickly working his way up to pantry cook, line cook and banquet cook during his first year of employment. He earned a position as a Chef Garde Manger and discovered he possessed a highly artistic and creative ability to carve on ice, fruit and vegetables. He participated in many food and ice carving competitions- winning several awards. Having perfected his skills in handling both hot and cold foods for over six years, he began his employment as Chef Garde Manger at the Union League Club of Chicago in 1996. For over seven years he worked under the guidance of Chef Michael Garbin. He honed his ability to cook a wide variety of foods and ultimately became the Banquet Sous Chef. The Union League Club has ranked as the second best private club in the nation and it became the place where Chef Carlos Gaytan gained the additional knowledge he needed to lead a successful career.
In April of 2004 he was offered the position of Chef de Cuisine at Bistrot Margot where he worked tirelessly and passionately at creating the art of food. Over the years, he has worked with renowned French Chef Dominique Tougne and has participated in such events as the Confrerie de la Chaide de Rotisseurs, the Moet and Chandon Brunch and the Annual Flora Springs Dinner Auction in Napa Valley.
Today, Chef Carlos Gaytan is thankful, as he was able to see his dream become a reality in May of 2008 by opening his own restaurant Mexique on Chicago Avenue in Chicago. With great creativity, love and dedication he applies his knowledge of French cooking techniques and ingredients to his roots of traditional Mexican cuisine creating a revolution of Mexican gastronomy. Mexique has received much recognition since its opening. Within the first three months CS Magazine recognized Mexique as one the best restaurants in Chicago. Mexique was named one of the top new restaurants of 2009 and best restaurant in 2010 by Chicago Magazine. In 2011 Chef Carlos received the American Culinary Federation Windy City Chapter Chef of the Year Award for his extraordinary achievements. Mexique has had the honor of participating in Chicago Gourmet for the last three years and Chef Carlos was chosen as one of five Celebrity Chefs in the 2012 Taste of Chicago. Chef Carlos has also shared his love and knowledge for cooking as professor of Regional Mexican Cuisine at Kendall College Culinary School. In 2013 Mexique received its highest honor yet by being a Michelin one star recipient. In 2013, Chef Carlos participated on the famous TV program Top Chef, arriving to the semifinal phase and is currently participating in Master Chef South Africa due in 2015. In 2014, Mexique received for another year, the Michelin one star.
Congratulations Chef Carlos Gaytan on being our Chef of the Month for December! Your journey as a chef has inspired us!
1. What is the name of your company and where are you based?
I am the Executive Chef and owner of Mexique Restaurant based in Chicago. I wanted to represent Mexican and French influences in my cuisine.
2. What is your birthplace?
3. What made you decide to become a chef?
I have been cooking since I was a little boy frying tacos on the street and loved it! I became very comfortable with it and wanted to pursue it as a career.
4. What do you enjoy doing outside of being a chef?
5. What is your favorite social media platform?
6. What is your Must Have Kitchen Tool?
Vitamix Blender. I can do many things with it like sorbets and purees.
7. What is your specialty dish?
I do not have one but several…like pork belly and seafood.
6. What’s the strangest thing you ever ate?
Escamoles – which is ant’s eggs. This is native to Mexico and is very good. It is interesting and does not have a lot of flavor.
7. Who would you most like to cook for?
My family and 16 year old daughter.
8. Do you enjoy dining out on your free time? What is your favorite type of cuisine?
I do and love very simple food like seafood.
9. What features are important to you when selecting a Chef Coat? (particular fabric, style, sleeve length, pockets)
Comfort and soft fabrics. I like Egyptian cotton and short sleeves as well.
~His experience and advice~
10. How long have you been a chef and where did you study?
I never went to cooking school. I have been in the business for 23 years and a chef for 10.
11. What education or experience would you recommend for aspiring chefs?
Have to get the basics at the beginning. Work for different restaurants to get to know different styles and cuisines.
12. What would you recommend as far as on-the-job training?
They need to be professional and get to their job on time, look clean and be constantly learning.
13. What is your greatest challenge in getting the ingredients you need?
I like to shop for ingredients and cook with what is available. I don’t experience much challenges.
14. Do you try to experience your competitors’ food? Do you ever get ideas from them?
When I travel, I do and eat out a lot and get fresh ideas.
15. Do you think it is important to visit the markets rather than just have standard orders?
Yes. It is very important because you can find ingredients you knew about or never worked with and try new dishes.
16. How do you test a new recipe without putting it on the permanent menu?
From experience, I just put it together and go with the flow.
17. What is your advice for planning a menu for a new restaurant?
Chefs should include seasonal ingredients all the time.
18. How do chefs use technology in their day to day operations?
They can get creative with what they have and do not necessarily have to buy expensive cookware and accessories. For instance, like a $5,000 steamer for example. As an alternative, I use a Mexican Tamale Steamer for $30 which would do the same thing.
~2014 and The Future~
19. What dining trends do you see taking place in 2014?
Mexican cuisine is becoming a sought after food because of the big, bold flavors it provides.
20. How has the revolution to eat healthy influenced you as a Chef?
We try to cook healthy but you tend to sacrifice flavors and it is all about finding that balance.
21. What do you think of “Green Kitchens?” Is it realistic to outfit your kitchens to be environmentally friendly?
Yes, Green Kitchens are great and possible.
22. How does Social Media play a role for Chefs today?
A lot. We get a lot of business from social media and customers don’t forget about you but are constantly talking about you.