Presented by: Chefuniforms.com
Chef Holger Strütt’s career spans three continents and many countries, all bringing him to a high level of culinary excellence, applied at Chops Lobster Bar in Boca Raton, Florida. In his native Germany, he made his first strides to a career in the kitchen at the young age of 15, when he decided to pursue vocational training in the culinary arts. His impressive resume includes positions in Germany, Italy and Switzerland, where he perfected the finer points of regional European cuisine. Chef Holger believes in perseverance, consistency, attention to detail and leadership by example. He thrives on the pressure of a busy kitchen and he knows that working at the helm of Chops Lobster Bar’s kitchen is always an exhilarating experience. He has an intense hands-on approach to managing his kitchen and enjoys working with the talented chefs of south Florida. I had a chance to catch up with Holger to ask him about his experiences as an Executive Chef and wanted to share this with you. I invite your comments.
Why did you want to become a chef? My sister worked in a restaurant and introduced me to the business. I was 15 when I had to decide what I wanted to do in life.
What education would you recommend for aspiring chefs? Definitely go to Culinary School and after that go and spend some time in Europe, Germany, France, Switzerland or Austria to learn the basics and the European way of cooking.
What do you recommend for on job training? Don’t be shy of spending 12 hours a day in the kitchen and work closely with the chefs. Get as much input as you can while you’re in the beginning stages of your culinary career.
What is your greatest challenge in getting the ingredients you need? I am very fortunate to work with the best purveyors in the country. Sometimes it takes a little longer for products to get to Florida.
Has the price of energy affected your industry? Absolutely. You have to be very cautious with when you turn your equipment on and off. Power and water are not cheap.
I know that previously you were a chef in Northeast and now you are in South Florida, are their differences in dining trends including types of food? Of course. In New York you find every kind of cuisine and the quality is very high. It is very difficult to find some ethnic foods here in south Florida.
Do you see any dining trends surfacing for the future? I believe that Classic dishes are going to come back very strong. Traditional food like Crab Cakes, Beef Wellington and Dover Sole always are favorites and that will not change.
How much of the recipes are Chops corporate and how much is your own? Many of the signature dishes are from the restaurants in Atlanta. I also developed many recipes with the owner and his son. I also do a lot of specials. When the specials become popular and the owner likes it then we might put them on the menu.
What fabric and style of uniform do you enjoy wearing most? I prefer Egyptian cotton and recently started to like short sleeve jackets.
What is your method of developing your sous chefs? I like for them to spend as much time with me as possible and pay attention to what I do during the day. You learn a lot by listening and observing and by being in the kitchen, not at home. We have a job that demands a lot of time being at the restaurant. But if you work hard, the profession of a chef can be a lot of fun and very rewarding in many different ways.
Do you try to create a team spirit and environment with the kitchen staff? If so how do you accomplish it? You have many different characters in the kitchen and most of them need a different management style. We spend a lot of time together in the kitchen, so it is important to have fun, but never forget why we are here. We have to produce quality food and make sure that our guests leave happy. I have a young team and I believe in teamwork. Teamwork is the key for a good spirit in the kitchen.
When preparing your menu do you consider health and try to prepare foods that are healthier? You always have to have both; Healthy food and then hearty food which is not so healthy. In Chops Lobster Bar, I have many health oriented people that like light food, so some of my fish dishes are very healthy in comparison to my meat dishes that are mostly steaks or braised meats.
Do you notice any resistance to unhealthy dishes? Yes. Many of our guests don’t like too much butter or any kind of fat.
Do you enjoy dining out in your free time? Yes I do. I like to try new restaurants. There are also some restaurants where I like to go on a regular basis.
Do you try to experience the food at your competitors? Do you ever get ideas from competitors? Not really. I like to cook food that I like and my guests like to eat. I go to the competitors for dinner, but don’t steal recipes. Although, you might get ideas you can work with.
Do you think it is important to visit the markets rather than just have standard orders? I am sure if you go to the market you see things that you would like to cook rather than just ordering the food. Not too many chefs’ though have the luxury of time to drive to the fish or produce market every day. My purveyors have such a large variety of things that I don’t really need to go to the market.
How do you test a new recipe without putting it on the permanent menu? I try it as a special for a couple of weeks and then take it off. If people keep asking for it I will bring it back and after discussing it with the owner it may appear on the menu.
Do you pick the wines or is there a separate beverage manager? We have a Beverage Manager, although I love good wines.
If so does he try to pick wines that work well with the type of food that chops is known for? Yes, he tries to pick wines that work well with Steaks and Seafood.
What is your advice for planning a menu for a new restaurant? You have to consider what the majority of people want to eat. It can be different from State to State and City to City. Make sure that the food is tasty and not too wild. Don’t go crazy putting too many ingredients on the plate. Keep it simple!
As a special surprise, Chef Holger offered up one of his recipes that will be sure to make your mouth water and your taste buds tingle. Let me know how it comes out.
- 8 each Filet Mignon (8 ounces each)
- 4 tablespoons ounces vegetable oil
- 1 cup cracked peppercorns (black, white and green)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 cups sliced Portobello mushrooms (see recipe)
- 2 tablespoons shallots, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons chives finely cut
- 8 port wine shallots (see recipe)
- 2 cups peppercorn sauce (see recipe)
- 3 tablespoons green peppercorns (canned)
- I cup port wine glaze (see recipe)
- Brush the steaks with the vegetable oil and season both sides with the salt. Crust the filets with the cracked peppercorns on one side. Heat up 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a sauté pan and sear the steaks on both sides. Place the steaks on a baking pan and put them in a pre- heated oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes (medium rare).
- Place the butter in a pan with the Portobello mushrooms. Garnish with the shallots and chives.
- Pour 2 ounces of peppercorn sauce in the middle of a plate and place the filet mignon in the middle of the plate. Place the Portobello mushroom on top of the filet and a port wine shallot on top of the mushrooms. Poor one tablespoon on port wine glaze over the shallot.
- Garnish the sauce with the canned green peppercorns and the port wine shallot with some chives.
Recipe for Portobello Mushrooms:
- 1 pound Portobello mushrooms (stems removed)
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- ¼ cup garlic cloves, halved
- Drizzle half of the oil in a sauté pan and place the Portobello mushroom topside down. Garnish with the thyme and garlic. Drizzle the other half of the oil on the Portobello mushrooms and place in a pre-heated 400 degrees oven for about 8 minutes or until tender.
Recipe for Port Wine Shallots:
- 2 cups port wine
- 2 cups red wine
- ½ cup sugar
- 8 shallots, peeled, whole
- Poor the wines and the sugar in a narrow sauce pot and reduce half way. Add the shallots and cook for 15 minutes or until tender.
Recipe for Peppercorn Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 ounces mushrooms, sliced
- 5 each shallots, sliced
- 8 each garlic cloves, cut in half
- 3 twigs fresh thyme
- 1 each bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon whole white peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon green peppercorns, dry
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup brandy
- 1 tablespoon whole white peppercorns, freshly ground
- 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, freshly ground
- 1tablespoon whole green peppercorns, dry, freshly ground
- 2 quarts veal stock, (available in any supermarket)
- 1quarts heavy cream
- Pour the oil into a sauce pot and bring to the first smoke point.
- Add the mushrooms, shallots, garlic, thyme, bay leave and whole peppercorns and cook until slightly caramelized.
- Season with the salt.
- Deglaze with the brandy and reduce until dry.
- Add the ground peppercorns and veal stock and reduce.
- Reduce the sauce to a glaze.
- Whisk in the heavy cream, bring to a boil, adjust the salt if necessary and strain through a fine strainer.
Recipe for Port Wine Glaze:
- 1 cup port wine
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 pound butter, room temperature, diced
- Pour the wines and sugar in a narrow sauce pot and reduce at medium heat down to a quarter cup. Then pull the pot away from the heat to the edge of the stove. Whisk in the butter cubes in small amount until emulsified. Do not boil the sauce.
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For reservations in Boca Raton, Fl, please call: 561-395-2675