Color Code for Food Safety

Color coding kitchen tools can help prevent cross-contamination in both commercial and home kitchens.Food safety is a constant and major concern for commercial kitchens as well as many home cooks. In an effort to prevent cross-contamination, many regulating bodies require separate cutting boards to be used for poultry, fish, meat, and produce. Little labels are sometimes used to mark food preparation equipment based on the type of ingredients it is used for. But labels can sometimes go unnoticed which presents a danger of cross-contamination in the kitchen. Color coding food preparation equipment can provide an easy and stand-out way to identify and notice which equipment should be used for which foods. Follow these steps to get started.

Choose you food categories

The amount of separation between ingredients in a commercial kitchen largely depends on the venue’s menu and its budget. For example, a vegetarian restaurant will obviously not need separate cutting boards for fish, meat, and poultry, since those ingredients won’t be used, but may consider having dairy and non-dairy equipment or even equipment used only for the preparation of gluten free foods or foods containing allergens. With celiac on the rise and allergies as dangerous as ever rampant amongst the population, even small amounts of forbidden ingredients can have a serious and dangerous effect on diners. Choosing to differentiate between the food preparation equipment of various foods can help increase food safety in such cases. Other venues offering different types of meat, fishes and poultry should separate the ingredients and the equipment used to prepare them based on the ingredient type  (…Read More…)

Celebrating World Pasta Day This October 25th Text

World Pasta DayPasta may be the world’s most universally beloved food. From digging into heaping bowl of Grandma’s famous spaghetti and meatballs to enjoying a gourmet pasta dish at a 4-star Michelin restaurant, there are endless ways to enjoy this culinary world favorite. And there’s no better time to acknowledge all things pasta than on World Pasta Day this October 25th.

The Anniversary of World Pasta Day

On October 25, 1995, delegates from all over the world gathered in Rome to discuss their ideas for promoting pasta as a global food with dynamic benefits “capable of meeting both primary food requirements and those of high-level gastronomy.” The result? The formation of World Pasta Day.
Officially celebrating its 20-year anniversary this fall, World Pasta day is still going strong. In fact, pasta is healthier than ever thanks to a surge in whole grain varieties which can provide as much as 25 percent of your daily recommended serving of fiber, in addition to plenty of other vitamins and nutrients.

Pasta 101

Did you know that pasta was not actually invented in Italy? While its origins are unconfirmed, many believe that pasta was first made and eaten by ancient Etruscan civilizations, according to the International Pasta Organization. Others believe that pasta was discovered in China by Marco Polo, who returned to his home country where it was then co-opted by the Italians.

While we may never know for sure just where pasta got its start, one thing for sure: it is now enjoyed in countless incarnations all over the world. Consider these other eye-opening, mouth-watering pasta facts:

• With the average American eating approximately 20 pounds of past every year, the U.S. ranks sixth on the list of food per capita, according to Pasta Fits. This pales in comparison to Italians, however, who each consume a staggering 60 pounds of pasta annually. The country which eats the least amount of pasta? Ireland and El Salvador tie for last, with residents eating an average of just one pound per capita per year.

• The introduction of macaroni to the United States is credited to Thomas Jefferson, who reportedly discovered the dish in Naples, and had crate loads shipped back to the United States…along with his very own pasta machine, according to the National Pasta Association.

• According to the Food Network, there are currently more than 600 types of pasta, including both fresh and dry varieties. Today, many pastas are free of gluten, egg and other allergens meaning more people than ever can indulge in spaghetti, penne, cannelloni, or the pastas of their choosing.

Our Pasta Picks

Deciding between pasta dishes is the equivalent of choosing between beloved children: each has its own infinite list of things to love. Still, we’ve identified three of our favorites — ranging from the essence of simplicity to more complicated recipes — to help you celebrate World Pasta Day in scrumptious style.

1. Strozzapreti with Lamb Ragù

Declared by Food and Wine to be one of the best pasta dishes ever, this hearty dish combines a spiced lamb ragu with sauce-soaking striated strozzapreti. Saute lamb and Middle Eastern-inspired spices like cumin and Aleppo pepper in a cast-iron pan before creating a sauce comprising paprika, harissa, and tomatoes. Let simmer, add to cooked pasta, top with mint and cheese, and prepare to indulge.
Perfect for dinner parties, this meal can be prepared in advance and refrigerated for up to three days.

2. Linguine with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Olives, and Lemon

No one does pasta quite like Giada De Laurentiis, and this recipe delivers everything and more you’d expect from this Food Network star. Even better? The ingredients can be plucked straight from your pantry and whipped up into a delicious meal in just nine minutes flat — in other words, the exact amount of time it takes for your pasta to reach the perfect al dente in a pasta cooker.
The takeaway? Sometimes simple is indeed best.</>

3. Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

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While the previous two recipes prove that pasta doesn’t have to be drenched in rich butter and luscious cream to be delicious, sometimes there’s no substitute for the real deal. Speaking of the real deal, this recipe from Saveur is devoid of something else typically found in pasta: gluten. Fashioned from potatoes, rice flour, potato starch and an egg, these gnocchis are temptingly toothsome, while the sauce is slightly sweet and oh-so-satisfying.
One last way to celebrate World Pasta Day? Consider making your own. It’s easier than you think — particularly if you have a food processor for making the dough and a pasta machine for rolling the pasta. Not only that, but conventional pasta recipes include just two ingredients: flour and egg.
While you probably don’t need another reason to indulge in pasta, we can think of no better excuse to dig in than World Pasta Day. Whether you head to a neighborhood restaurant to enjoy your favorite meal or serve up a home-cooked meal of your own to friends and family, it’s time to celebrate this October 25th.

Wearing which hat?

Chef hats are usually required in the restaurant kitchen by local regulations.  However, choosing the right chef hat for employee comfort and convenience can make all the difference.I was once working in an upscale hotel kitchen, and they required all their kitchen staff to wear tall chef hats while on shift. Though tall chef hats can appear very impressive, they were not very practical. Every time I opened the door to one of the walk-in fridges, my hat would be blown off by the powerful fans. On the other hand, in culinary school we wore baseball caps as cooking hats. The advantage was a more comfortable to work with fit, but the main disadvantage was that the visor would sometimes get in the way of seeing everything that was going on around me in the kitchen.

The decision of which chef hat to require workers to wear should be a balance between utility and aesthetics. On the one hand, it should be comfortable for workers to do their day to day tasks, while not having to worry about their hair getting into the food. On the other hand, customers are likely to glimpse the chefs, making it important to have some kind of uniformity and aesthetic look to the chef hats. Chef hats are usually required according to food business regulations, so choosing the right ones is very important. This guide provides an overview of a few of the options often used.

Toque Hats

Toque hats are the most often used, and most common hats that come to mind when thinking of chef hats. Toque hats are usually made of disposable paper and white, and are tall and stiff. In short, that inconvenient hat I wrote about in the first paragraph of this article: that was a tall toque hat. Toque hats can come in two difference forms, with one type being tall and stiff and the other more floppy. The tall and stiff ones are offered in different heights and sizes, and offering a few different types in a venue can (…Read More…)

The Allure of Free Appetizers: Why They Work

appetizer

TGI Fridays made headlines last winter by announcing that its Endless Choice Appetizer special would return in the spring. This deal allows customers to pay just $12 for a bottomless rotation of nine of the casual dining chain’s most popular appetizers, including everything from boneless Buffalo wings to loaded potato skins. Is TGI Fridays onto something? Should your restaurant also be getting on board with free appetizers and other appetizer-related promotions? Let’s take a closer look at the growing appetizer trend, along with why introducing free appetizers may be a savvy move for today’s restaurants.

Learning From TGI Fridays

Fridays announced its first, much-buzzed-about Endless Choice promotion two summers ago. Industry watchers weren’t surprised that the promotion following the sometimes scant winter months common in the casual dining industry. If the intent was to make up for slow winter sales, it worked. Fridays’ Chief Marketing Officer Brian Gies told USA Today, that it was “wildly successful.”

How much so? White Gies wouldn’t speak in specifics, he did reveal that sales not only jumped, but across double digits. The promotion also led a whopping 50 percent lead in sought-after Millennial customers. In the most recent Endless Choice go-round, Fridays anticipated even greater returns because — unlike in its first incarnation — diners were allowed to choose between refills of any appetizers as opposed to just the original appetizer ordered.

Three Benefits of Appetizer Promotions

Do you have to roll out a massive, well-publicized promotion like Fridays to lure diners in with free appetizers? No. As it turns out, even free appetizers like chips and salsa, popcorn baskets, and bread with butter can have the same effect. Here are some benefits of incorporating free appetizers of any ilk into your restaurant strategies.

1. Better Perceived Service

Aside from the fact that people simply like free things, offering free appetizers — particularly those which arrive at the table even before orders are placed– fosters positive diner perception of customer service. Why? Because free appetizers immediately satisfies the needs of hungry diners. In doing so, they also subdue hunger-related irritations, keep diners entertained, and give them something to do while they wait to place their order.
One caveat? Free appetizers served before orders are placed can delay diners from placing their orders, so some turnabout-minded restaurants prefer to wait to serve free appetizers until after meals have been ordered. As timing is everything in the restaurant business, finding the right formula is essential to making the most out of your free appetizer strategies.

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2. Increase Consumption

If you’re looking to amp up your bar sales, free appetizers not only get diners in a festive mood, but also in the drinking mindset. After all, many appetizers are salty and fried — the perfect combination to make diners pony up to the bar. Many restaurants find that free appetizers kick off the perfect cycle of consumption: the more diners eat, the more they drink, and the more they drink, the more they order.

3. A Competitive Edge

Today’s diners have more options than ever before. What separates your restaurant from the one down the street? In the case of hungry, budget-conscious diners, free appetizers may be this differentiator. Introducing an appetizer or other promotion during slower times, meanwhile, can help fill downtime. Why appetizers? Not only are they immediate, but they also have a significantly lower cost than entrees.

Meanwhile, appetizers are also the way to go if you’re courting the Millennial market — which you should be: not only have Millennials recently overtaken the Baby Boomers as the largest generation ever, but they’ve also got some serious purchasing power. According to Technomic’s 2015 Starters, Small Plates and Sides Consumer Trend Report, Millennials make up more than half of appetizer-ordering customers.

Worried about being eaten under the table by greedy consumers? Fridays reveals that this hasn’t been a concern: most customers reorder only once. And even though the Fridays Endless Choice promotion may have — at least for the time being — come to an end, some tasty takeaways remain for today’s restaurants looking for new ways to attract and satisfy today’s diners.

Melamine vs. Plastic vs. China

Fine china dinner plates instantly elevate the level of a meal, creating an elegant and upscale vibe and restaurant ambience.The perfect dinnerware is always a struggle to choose when entertaining, at home or in a restaurant. There’s a tension between making an excellent impression with fine china, and preventing the potential loss of a plate or too, by offering plastic or melamine dishes instead. Home cooks often choose to go with fine china when looking to impress, but for businesses, there is more at risk, with a statistically higher chance of financial losses when using fine china dinnerware. For food businesses, it is obviously more attractive to use ceramic or glass dinnerware, such as china. However, when serving kids’ meals, or for very casual venues, it may be worth offering nice plastic or melamine dishes instead, in order to save costs and hassle. But what really is the difference between these different materials?

Melamine

Melamine is a chemical used in many different types of industries. In the food industry, it became a choice material for tableware in the late 1950s. It’s lightness, strength, and resistance to cracking made it an attractive alternative to ceramic dinnerware. It was used to make plates, cups, and serving utensils. However, sales have gone down since their peak in the 1960s, due to the material’s tendency to stain and scratch. Scratches in food preparation and serving equipment are a notorious harvesting ground for bacteria. But the health concerns associated with melamine go beyond the scratches. There has been suspicion that the material may contaminate foods with melamine, which has been found by the Food and Drug Administration to raise the chance of kidney stones, kidney failure, and even death above certain levels. Luckily, only very low levels of melamine were found to leak into acidic foods in extreme heat conditions. What this means for food businesses today is that melamine dinnerware can be an appropriate and cheap option for fast casual venues and for serving kids’ meals, but should be used with caution and switched often in order to address the aesthetic and health concerns appropriately. It should not be used for serving very hot foods or in the microwave.

Plastic

Whereas melamine plates can be a cheap, hassle-free replacement for china, good quality plastic plates can offer a shatter-safe alternative for glass plates. Most plastic dinnerware is made of a material called polycarbonate, which can come in scratch-free varieties. Hard plastic can be hard to differentiate from glass, providing an attractive plating option. However, plastic plates may get scratched and/or “foggy” over time, and will therefore likely have to be replace on a semi-regular basis. Hard plastic dinnerware is dishwasher safe, providing an extra convenience over fine china. However, in order to prevent chemicals from seeping into food, it is usually recommended to avoid heating the plastic plates. It is also important to make sure to purchase BPA-free options. BPA is a carcinogenic compound found in some plastic products. Overall, plastic can be compared to melamine as an inexpensive and convenient alternative to glass, ceramic, and china dinnerware.

China

Fine china has a reputation for being a lot fancier than your typical plates. However, it is made from ceramics, similarly to the most common restaurant plates that are used. The difference is in the quality, expense, and fineness of the dishes, with fine china often being breakably and beautifully thin, with intricate detailing. Fine dining restaurants tend to offer their meals on china, and accordingly, the dishes will usually be hand-washed and hand-polished before being deemed fit for service. Restaurants offering such plates should budget in the added costs of purchasing and replacing such dinnerware, since accidents are pretty much guaranteed to happen. A single fine china plate can easily cost a few hundred dollars, making it a main cost when starting up the venue and maintaining it. Yet the expense can be worth it for upscale dining locations, with a noticeable impact on the restaurant ambience. For other, more colloquial venues, ceramic plates with beautiful shapes and in a variety of sizes can provide a basis for aesthetic and contrasting food plating, doing the job at a lower price.

It’s fair to say that melamine can be compared to plastic, but it would be relatively unreasonable to compare those two to fine china. Fine china is in a whole other category altogether, but can be compared and contrasted with ceramic dinnerware in order to make purchasing decisions. The right purchase depends on the target customer group, the type of venue, and the business’s budget.