Chef Carlos Gaytan’s culinary journey has been one of hard work, persistence...
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.
After eating food, the next best thing is talking about it! But most of us just can’t find the right words to eloquently let others know how we feel. Then, there are those people who have and their words still stick with us and make us say to ourselves “yes, they’re right.”
Here are some of our favorite food quotes of all time:
“Stressed spelled backwards is desserts.” – Unknown
“People who love to eat are always the best people.” – Julia Child
“Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.” – Ernestine Ulmer
“You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.” – Paul Prudhomme
“I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.” – W.C. Fields
“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” – Julia Child
“A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand.” – Barbara Johnson
“My doctor told me I had to stop throwing intimate dinners for four unless there are three other people.” – Orson Welles
“The secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” – Mark Twain
“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with them… the people who give you their food give you their heart.” – Cesar Chavez
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
What are some great words of wisdom that have stayed with you to this day?
The Culinary Industry both in the United States and worldwide is reflective of thousands of cultures around the globe. Food is attached in many ways to culture. The blending of cuisines and the importing and exporting of concepts, ideas and ingredients have helped to create a diverse culinary landscape. The migrating peoples around the globe bring traditions and cultural practices beyond borders.
The United States is the most diverse country in the world in terms of culture, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation. We are a melting pot for people from all over the globe. This variety has created a unique culture that is unlike anywhere in the world. And this divergence is especially reflected in our cuisine where it promotes tolerance, acceptance and understanding of the cultures, people and places that have affected it.
Our influx of immigrants has shifted populations from rural areas into cities because immigrants tend to inhabit urban areas. Want to experience cuisine from another country? In New York City for example, you can find South African, Scottish, Serbian, Swiss, and Yemeni restaurants to name a few. In San Francisco, there’s Chinese, Indian, Mexican, Vietnamese and more. Here in South Florida, where Chefuniforms.com is headquartered, we can enjoy Cuban, Puerto Rican, Brazilian, Japanese, Haitian, Jamaican, Greek, Peruvian and the list goes on. Traveling to Portland, Oregon? You can find Argentinian, French, Irish, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern restaurants.
The food truck craze has also lent itself to this culinary diversification. There are food trucks serving gourmet dishes, tacos, pizza, gyros, sushi and pad thai along with hot dogs and philly cheese steaks.
In the last few decades the hodgepodge that is America has produced fusion cuisine – that is cuisine that combines elements of different culinary traditions – taco pizza, Korean tacos, sushi rolls combining ingredients like basmati rice and curry with traditional nori and raw fish or vegetables.
Many of the tools now used in professional kitchens originated in other countries: woks, bamboo steamers, fondue pots, tagines and copper cataplanas for example. Newspapers and magazines publish global recipes. Television cooking and travel shows expose those not living in urban areas to food from around the globe.
Some culinary schools are actively recruiting instructors, staff and students internationally. Universities, nutritionists and home economists are teaching a new approach to the foods of the world.
The love of food has become a building block for a tolerant, civil and inclusive environment that celebrates our diversity and the culinary industry is a shining example.
Here are a few articles to demonstrate our diversity:
Huffington Post, March 28th, 2014: 10 Black Chefs That Are Changing The Food World As We Know It
Hopper.com’s Blog: The Ten Best Cities for Food Trucks in the United States
Today.com, July 8th, 2005: 10 foods that make America great
Nation’s Restaurant News, July 17th, 2013: 3 emerging cuisines
Zagat.com, September 9th, 2013: The 10 Most Exciting Emerging Cuisines Nationwide
USTranslation.com Blog, October 15, 2014: Are you missing out on 20% of your potential American customers?
What is your take on our culinary hodgepodge?
Sure, you’re a great chef. You can pull off an amazing Thanksgiving dinner without a hitch, but let’s be honest, we all know it’s not always that way. That being said, we decided to share with you some of our own Thanksgiving disasters at home for a good laugh and a bit of holiday cheer. Enjoy!
Missing a key ingredient
When Shari arrived at her Uncles Thanksgiving dinner with her made-from-scratch Pumpkin Pie in hand, she had no idea how embarrassed she would be in just a few hours. As dinner came to an end, she was so excited to have everyone dig into her dessert. It looked flawless. Perfectly cut fall leaves made from pie crust lined the edge of pie. She watched closely as the first guest cut into the pie. Uh-oh, they couldn’t cut the crust. It was ROCK HARD! Mortified, Shari scoured her brain trying to figure out what when wrong. She didn’t cook it too long. It wasn’t burnt. Oh no… The BUTTER! She forgot the butter! Who knew such a simple ingredient would change a pie from edible to inedible with the cut of knife? Needless to say, Shari has never left out the butter from her crust since that day.
To eat, or not to eat the ham: that is the question…
Tammy had one job: bring the ham. She picked the biggest one. Found the best recipe. Watched and basted it for hours until it was perfectly browned with a decadent honey and brown sugar crust. Proud of her ham, she wrapped it up, and made her way to her parents’ house for Thanksgiving dinner. Prize-winning ham in hand, she made her way through the door of her parents’ house and boom! Ham went one way, Tammy went the other way. After she picked up herself, and the ham off of the floor, they decide to salvage what they could off the ham, and put it in the oven on high to kill the germs. That year, there was a lot of leftover ham.
Sarah and her sister decided to prepare Thanksgiving dinner together for both of their families last year. When it came time to stuff the turkey, it took both sisters’ efforts to stuff and truss the large turkey. It wasn’t until after the turkey was stuffed and in the roaster, that Sarah’s sister realized the Band-Aid she was wearing on her finger was GONE! After staring at each other horrified, they decided to un-do the turkey, and fish through ALL of the stuffing to locate the band-aid. They couldn’t find it! It wasn’t until they dressed the turkey up for second time, and hoisted it into the oven that they discovered the illusive band-aid. There it was, hanging from the bottom of the roaster! Phew! That was a close one Sarah!
Do you have any funny Thanksgiving stories? We’d love to hear about it! Share your story with us below.
From our table at Chefuniforms.com to yours, we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!
Every professional chef has their favorites that they just can’t live without! They will use these items over and over even when it’s falling apart or broken, until they are like, “okay, I have to replace them now!”
From all of our Chef of the Month interviews this year, one of our questions asked was “what is your must have kitchen tool for professional chefs?”
Here’s the list of their “must haves” that made our Chefs of the Month celebrated for what they do in the kitchen:
Chef Ron Duprat – Thermal Circulating Bath. It enhances the flavor, texture and aroma of dishes.
Chef George Duran – Pickle Picker. It is a device that has 3 prongs and so easy to use to get those must have pickles! I love the name and it is a tool that not everyone has.
Chef Jenn Louis – Bob Kramer’s Knife. “Bob Kramer lives in Olympia, Washington. He’s one of the only guys in the US who makes handcrafted knives of really high quality. (He has an interest in samurai sword-making and has made a few.) I met him at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen in 2011. I told him I’d been wait-listed for years and that it was my birthday, and he made me a workhorse steel knife. He takes many, many layers of metal and puts them in a 2,300-degree kiln. His skill level is just phenomenal.”
Chef Brian Rutherford – Japanese Mandolin. It is a versatile veggie cutter and it cuts vegetables very thin and very fine like a julienne cut (cutting into long, thin strips, like matchsticks) and batonnet cut (another type of long strips).
Chef Anish Rana – Knives! I love Wüsthof knives which is a German brand.
Chef Jason Connelly – Spoons. I love my spoons like Banquet Spoons. They are versatile and can use them on fish and veggies and saucing.
Chef Lorenzo Boni – French Made Cast Iron Dutch Oven – I love the way it is designed and it cooks so easily and the food comes out great!
Chef Robyn Almodovar – Spoon. A nice tablespoon.
Chef Charlise Johnson – KitchenAid Mixer – they are so amazing. I make all kinds of things with it like dinner rolls and cupcakes. It makes life so much easier.
Chef Andrea Litvin – A Scale – I must know exact measurements down to the gram!
Chef Lisa Nakamura – A great pair of Knives – you can do anything with them. I like the brand, Global because they are easy to sharpen and maintain.
Chef Carlos Gaytan – Vitamix Blender. I can do many things with it like sorbets and purees.
Professional Chef Knives seem to be the leading choice…..
We would like to know what are your favorites that you cannot absolutely live without in your kitchen?