Playing With Ice

One cheap and easy ingredient makes its way onto every menu across the world. Can you guess what it is? If you guessed ice, you are correct. Frozen water has a place on every drink menu, but most people don’t pay much attention to this seemingly simple ingredient. With the artisanal ice movement in full swing, you may be wondering if it’s just a fad or has real merit in the culinary world.

The Science

Specialty ice has two important qualities, higher density and less dilution. These perfect ice cubes utilize natural science concepts to give customers the coldest and smoothest tasting drinks. A standard ice cube is frozen from all directions at once, while an artisan ice cube freezes from the top down as ice naturally does in the environment. This top-down freezing method leaves little room for air bubbles and  other impurities to give you a clear block of ice, which is more dense so it melts at a slower rate. For customers this means their drink doesn’t get diluted and tastes the same the entire time they’re drinking it. With some cocktails, you’ll want the ice to dilute the drink a bit, but for many you really want the ice to just keep the drink cold for as long as needed.

The Shapes

Diners are used to those standard rectangle-shaped ice cubes they get at home or the crushed version they can get from their freezer door. As a chef and restaurateur it’s your responsibility to give customers new and exciting culinary adventures, even with ice. So, how can you make ice exciting for guests? Learn about and use different forms of ice in your drink menu. The visual difference will intrigue customers and make them feel special. The taste difference will keep them coming back for more and making recommendations to friends. The restaurant business is tough and these little details can really set you apart from others.

  • Full Cube – This classic cube shape where height, width, and depth are equal cools drinks fast and melts slow.
  • Half Cube – Cut a full cube in half and you’ve got this smaller, flatter cube that offers the chance to fill a glass with more ice than liquid.
  • Crescent – With one flat side and one curved side, this shape resists clumping well.
  • Pearl or Nugget – This soft, chewable ice looks like little pebbles and doesn’t melt fast so customers who like to crunch their ice enjoy the ingredient after the beverage is gone.
  • Gourmet – Everything from an octagon to a ball can be chiseled out of an ice block to wow guests with impressive looks.
  • Flake – These little ice chips can be packed and shaped making them a great bed for cold foods.

Playing with details like the ice in your drinks can be subtle or elaborate. Change out your ice shape for different drinks to pique interest or create a stunning artisanal ice carving station behind the bar to attract attention. No matter how you play with ice, guests will think it’s cool.

Posted in Chef Coats

Spicing Up Dessert

Spices and spicy-hot flavors aren’t just for savory dishes anymore. Spice up your bland winter with some hot desserts and add some pep to your step after any meal. While it may seem counterintuitive to some, a little heat can bring out some great elements of sweet ingredients like chocolate, vanilla, and fruit flavors.

From cinnamon to cardamom some spices have already earned a top spot in every baker’s pantry. But, have you ever thought of pulling out the pepper, chipotle, or cayenne to liven up your staple desserts? Here are some great spicy desserts to get your creative juices flowing.

  1. Cayenne Hot Chili Pepper Truffles – Made with hot peppers and dark chocolate you’ll get deep flavor with a kick at the end.
  2. Caribbean Pineapple Upside-Down Cake – Replace those red cherries with candied chiles in this hot twist on a classic dessert.
  3. Black Cardamom and Black Pepper Ice Cream – The spicy, smoky flavor won’t leave you will brain freeze, but might warm you up on a cold night.
  4. Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes – With a hint of cayenne and cinnamon in the chocolate batter these delectable desserts are topped with a cinnamon frosting.
  5. Hot Honey Peanut Butter Cookies – Add some chile flakes to your local honey then add some more into the cookie dough to get these reimagined classics.
  6. Fudgy, Spicy Cinnamon Chili Brownies – Dark chocolate, guajillo chiles, and cinnamon star in these delicious bites.

Spicy hot desserts aren’t for every sweet-lover, but they may help convert your customers who don’t typically like dessert. Look for flavors that have been proven to balance well in a dish and make sure to roundup a few taste-testers before you serve your new creation to customers. Many diners will be thrilled with the opportunity to try something so different and potentially life-changing as far as their usual dessert selection process goes. As a chef customers look to you to excite and please their palettes. Spicy desserts are one unique approach to this expectation.

Posted in Chef Coats

Product Spotlight: Navigator Shirts

ChefsCloset.com now carries all your hospitality uniform needs from tops and bottoms to accessories. If you need to outfit hotel, conference center, casino, or resort staff with new uniforms, Chefs Closet has you covered. Get started with the basics like these Navigator Shirts.

Navigator Shirts offer performance poplin with new styling and a soft hand. The fabric stands up to demanding wear making it great for transit, security, or entertainment programs. If you want a branded look, ask about embroidery options which look great on this style.

The best features of all Navigator shirt styles include:

  • Made from a 65% Polyester/ 35% Cotton blend
  • Machine washable, laundry friendly
  • Point collar with permanent stays
  • Two flap pockets with pencil slot
  • Fusible interfacing on collar; epaulets; pocket flaps; placket
  • Moisture wicking fabric is wrinkle resistant
  • Available in light blue or white

Men’s Navigator Shirts

The Men’s Long Sleeve Navigator Shirt gives the professional look of a button-down, collared shirt with added style from the two button-close chest pockets. Choose from men’s sizes S-6XL with a sleeve length of 31, 33, 35, 37 for around $26 each. Buy in quantities of six or 24 to save up to ten percent.

The Short Sleeve Navigator Shirt gives a more casual look that maintains a certain level of professionalism. Available sizes include men’s sizes S-6XL in regular or tall lengths for around $24 each.

Women’s Navigator Shirts

The women’s Long Sleeve Navigator Shirt features the same style and professionalism as the men’s but also includes a straight back yoke seam for a more feminine fit. Sizes range from XXS-3XL for around $26 each.

The women’s Short Sleeve Navigator Shirt also features the back yoke seam and comes in sizes XXS-3XL for around $24 each.

Pair these stylish shirts with khaki bottoms for a more casual, softer look or pair them with black bottoms to get a traditional look. Feel free to mix and match sleeve lengths across jobs. For example, give your outdoor staff short sleeve shirts to keep them cool in the heat and your indoor staff long sleeve shirts since they’ll be in the air conditioning.

Posted in Uncategorized

What is Hospitality?

Hospitality is a word sometimes reserved for southerners and people working in hotels. However, the act of being hospitable is something all customers hope to experience when dining out. So, what is hospitality and how can you make sure its present in your restaurant?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines hospitality as treatment including the “generous and cordial reception of guests.” Hospitality means offering a friendly, pleasant, welcoming environment for guests. This is what hospitality means, but what does it look like?

From a customer’s perspective they are not only looking to eat a delicious meal, but are also paying to be taken care of while they relax and enjoy. The top ways your staff can show hospitality include:

  • Enjoy meeting and conversing with new people. Customers hope to feel like the people serving them sincerely want to give them a good experience.
  • Communicate in a clear, effective, and kind manner. Part of your job is to make the customer’s experience easy. Make sure to mention things from the menu you are out of or let guest know what substitutions are and are not possible. This will save them frustration if something doesn’t go as they’d hoped.
  • Be flexible in terms of dish changes. While guests shouldn’t expect you to create a new dish just for them, you should take into considerations options for people with food allergies or other issues outside their control. Everyone deserves the chance to have a fun dining experience.
  • Respect their time. If a table wants to take a lot of time talking and eating, don’t make them feel rushed. If a customer is in a hurry do everything you can, within reason, to help them out.
  • Keep things neat and clean so guests feel safe and comfortable in the environment.
  • Get to know the regulars. When you invest in customer relationships those customers feel invested in you.

Every restaurant and every customer is different, so there isn’t only one way to show hospitality to guests. Overall, the idea is to engage in genuine and kin interactions that contribute to the guests experiences. Whether you’re wearing a server’s apron or a chef coat, hospitality is part of the job. 

Posted in Chef Coats

Guide to New Year Goal-Setting

While many people subscribe to New Year’s resolutions, a more practical approach for businesses involves setting goals for the year. Often goals are abstract and easily forgotten. Don’t let this year be a let down, get organized and set real goals you can track and achieve.

Whether you’re setting yourself up for individual success, focusing on one aspect of the business or looking to motivate the entire business you can set achievable goals.

  1. Look for areas most in need of improvement. This can include everything from tangible financial issues to your own lack of passion about things like the menu. By focusing on areas you already know need help, you’re setting yourself up for success.
  2. Be specific. Whenever possible think of goals in terms of things you can see and measure. If you can’t measure the goal, how will you know you’ve achieved it?
  3. Write it down. Create a vision board, goal calendar or simply write each goal down in a notebook. Once you write down the goal it becomes real and something you can see often, not just in your mind.
  4. Make a plan. Now that you know what your goals are, decide the best ways to achieve them. Number the steps you need to take then check each one off once its complete. You’ll not only have an active way to reach your goals, but you’ll be able to reward yourself at every success along the way.
  5. Don’t be afraid to change your list. As your year changes, so might your goals. If an initial goal doesn’t make sense later on go ahead and take it off the list. It doesn’t mean you failed, but rather that you are aware of the present and future. Likewise it’s okay to add goals as they pop up.
  6. Involve others.Creating a culture of progression and achievement makes for a great workplace environment. Just because you’re wearing the chef coat doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. Get your staff in on the goal-setting process so they’ll feel valued and invested. Besides, it’s not likely you can achieve all your goals solo.
  7. Celebrate victories. When you make a big deal out of every little success that momentum builds to push you through the rest of the process.

Whether you are looking to help yourself professionally or your business this year, setting goals in a concrete way leads to success. Take the process more seriously than that personal resolution to hit the gym or eat less junk food and you can’t lose.

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Ways to Ward Off Winter Blues

Winter months can bring on the blues for many people. If the colder temperatures and drab landscape have you struggling to stay motivated and excited about your menu, these tips can help you keep your creative juices and culinary passion flowing even through the coldest months of the year.

  • Add some light to your environment: Open all the blinds, remove the curtains, turn up the dimmer, add brighter light bulbs or do whatever it takes to brighten up your workspace and dining room.
  • Take the long route: Adding a few extra steps to your day can help get your juices flowing and infuse some energy into your life. Walk to the market for those last minute ingredients or park further from the restaurant when you arrive at work.
  • Make an energized playlist: Whether working in the kitchen or front of the house, adding some upbeat music to your daily activities can provide a little extra motivation.
  • Take it outdoors: If you can add some outdoor tables with heating lamps or near a fire pit the fresh air could do you some good. Don’t put the grill or smoker away so early this year and give yourself an excuse to get outside each day.
  • Add in bright colors: Change up your chef coats and aprons or your tablecloths for the winter to brighter tones of your usual colors. This change and brightness can help lift your mood.
  • Try something new: Add some innovative specials to your menu and change them up each week to keep you excited about what you’re serving.

No matter where you live the end of the year can leave you feeling burnt out and tired of the same old, same old. Make a conscious effort to liven up your winter and your mood with a few simple changes to your surroundings.

Posted in Chef Coats

Product Spotlight: V-Neck Aprons

Are you looking for a server apron with formal style? If you answered “yes,” V-neck style long aprons are just what you need. These aprons feature an angled neckline reminiscent of the letter “V” and give instant elegance to any attire. Pair these upscale aprons with slacks, a button-up long-sleeve shirt, and a tie for the ultimate high-end look. Servers, hosts, and bartenders will look stunning in these styles.

The V-Neck Bib Apron by Uncommon Threads comes in your choice of basic black or thin pinstripe. For less than $20 each these aprons pack style and function with features like:

  • 7.5 oz. poly cotton twill material with a 65/35 polyester/cotton blend.  
  • Snap adjustable neck closure
  • Two divided pockets at the waist

The Tuxedo Apron by ChefsCloset has a similar look at half the cost. Reviewer Denise says “Love apron, neat looking, great material, practical too!” Choose from black or thin pinstripe for about $6 each with extra features such as:

  • Easy Care 7 oz Twill
  • Machine wash and dry
  • 7½ in. deep by 13 in. wide center divide patch pocket
  • Extra long 36 in. ties
  • Slide adjustable neck
  • Reinforced bar tacking

Make your staff stand out from the crowd with style and elegance in V-neck aprons. Add up to three lines of embroidered text to the chest for a custom look at the additional cost of $9.95. For another $5.95 add your logo to the aprons.

V-neck aprons look great on men and women of all shapes and sizes. Help your staff feel polished and professional with stylish, quality uniforms.

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What Makes a Classic?

Have you ever wondered how a particular dish became a classic? The process from introduction to fame and notoriety is sometimes obvious and other times mind-boggling. Understanding how a dish becomes a classic quenches your thirst for knowledge and helps you see how to take your own unique dishes from novelty to classic status.

To reach classic status, a particular dish has to be widely valued and loved. With millions of people in America, how is it possible that any dish can be widely valued and loved? The answer might be simpler than you think. If you compare famous American classics, they have a couple things in common.

First off, they all feature simple, yet bold flavors. Classics don’t get bogged down with a long list of ingredients and flavor profiles. The ingredients are pretty easy to find no matter where you live and cooking techniques aren’t complicated. Instead, these dishes use a few ingredients and show each one off. While exact recipes vary by restaurant and home, the basic sentiment remains intact even for reinventions of classics. The idea is to take an ingredient and cook it well, that’s why everyone loves classics.

The second common feature is most classics are easy enough for any home cook to make and allow for creativity in serving. Think about apple pie. People like to use different kinds of apples or different kinds of fats in the crust, but anyone can make a pie at home. Some people like to serve their apple pie with vanilla ice cream while other prefer a slice of cheddar cheese.

Other American classics include:

  • Buffalo Wings
  • Roasted Chicken
  • Hamburgers
  • Spaghetti and Meatballs
  • Macaroni and Cheese
  • Hot Dogs
  • Grits
  • Meatloaf
  • Pizza

Now that you’ve thought more about what makes a dish classic, it’s time to grab your chef coat and start creating. Make your mark on the culinary world by cooking up the next great staple of every American diet.

Posted in Chef Coats

Employee Gift Ideas

As the holiday season approaches you’re starting to think about gifts for your employees. When choosing presents, think about these factors:

  • What is the nature of your relationship, friendly or strictly professional?
  • What is your budget?
  • How many people are you looking to shop for?
  • Does a group gift make more sense than individual gifts?
  • What can you offer that will make the biggest impact or hold the most meaning?

Once you’ve figured out the basics of what you’re looking for, start shopping.

Professional Gifts

As culinary professionals, your employees would love items that can make their job simpler or more enjoyable. Be careful with professional gifts and make sure they are about the employees, not the business. Recipients should feel free to either use their gift at home or at work.

  • Apron – pay attention to which style works best on each person
  • Chef coat – have their name embroidered for a personal touch
  • Cooking tools -look for fun or unique gadgets
  • A chance to create a special for the menu named after them
  • Gift certificate for specialty classes at a local culinary school

Personal Gifts

Sometimes, the best holiday gift is one that helps employees enjoy their time away from work, especially because this profession requires long hours and working nights or weekends.

  • Gift card – ones for local grocery stores or fun experiences like movie tickets are great
  • Large food item, like a ham or turkey they can cook for the holidays
  • Drink basket – pair a bottle of liquor or wine with appropriate glasses, mixers, and garnishes to create an after-hours treat
  • Extra personal or vacation days
  • Cash bonus

Group Gifts

Help your staff feel like a fun team with the gift of a group experience. You foot the bill and invite them all along to have a stress-free good time.

  • Private movie showing
  • Holiday dinner party
  • Bar crawl
  • Trip to the local zoo for families
  • Fun day at an indoor arcade or outdoor amusement park

Gifts from employers aren’t expected, so anything you do for your employees will be appreciated. No matter your company size or budget, you can give your staff something extra this season to show how important they are.

Posted in Chef Coats

The Gift of Giving

Restaurants serve many purposes: heart of the community, gathering place, source of entertainment. Although you already give something to your community, this holiday season might be the right time to increase that reach. Are there ways your business can give more to individuals or the community as a whole?

A few more common ways restaurants can embrace the giving spirit include:

  • Monetary donations to charities
  • Food donations to food relief efforts
  • Discounts for service members, senior citizens, and children
  • Host holiday celebrations for those without extended family
  • Participate in community fundraisers
  • Offer internships and apprenticeships to locals
  • Display collections jars for local charities

While all of these are great ways to pay it forward, you may want to take a more unique approach. If you’re interested in starting something new, something original, start by:

  • Asking for employee and customer suggestions
  • Looking at gaps in giving within your community
  • Consider your brand and mission
  • Choose one or two causes so you don’t get overwhelmed

Unique giving opportunities can center around your atmosphere, employees, or menu. What can you offer that others can’t? What sets you apart from other restaurants and how can you use that gift to help others? Throw on your chef coat and check out these great, original ideas:

  • Offer microloans to local farmers and food artisans like john j. jeffries in Pennsylvania.
  • Host a BOGO meal event where patrons get a free meal to take with them.
  • Volunteer to teach about food preparation and healthy eating in schools.
  • Donate old equipment or decor to individuals, non-profits, or thrift shops associated with a specific cause.

No matter how you choose to give back this season or all year, you’ll feel good about your efforts and customers will take notice. How are you making giving part of your business model?

Posted in Chef Coats