Question & Answers with Chef J Stephen

Q&A

 

Let’s say I gave a restaurant my card info while booking a reservation over the phone. If I were to cancel the reservation, would I be charged? Would I only be charged if I didn’t show?

 

Unless stated at the time of your reservation, most restaurants don’t charge for a cancelled reservation.

However, if you can’t make it at your reserved time, you should ALWAYS cancel your reservation.

Simply not showing up not only complicates a restaurant’s guest schedules and denys the restaurant an opportunity to schedule another guest, but it also results in a charge that negatively affects the restaurants bottom line.

Most diners don’t realise that, because most restaurants use reservation services to handle their reservations, there is a cost associated with every reservation made and completed.

Because reservation services (e.g. Open Table, Seat Me, to name a couple) charge restaurants this fee for every reservation made and COMPLETED through their service, and those services consider a reservation completed if not cancelled, you should ALWAYS make sure you cancel your reservation through the same system you used to make your reservation.

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Questions & Answers with Chef J Stephen

Q&A

 

 

What are the most common problems at restaurants?

Employee scheduling and food cost management are the biggest challenges for a restaurant.

Making sure you’re fully staffed for your projected traffic each shift is always an ongoing nightmare.

Food prices vary with every delivery. Since it is unrealistic to vary your dish prices on a daily basis, assuring your food costs are in line with your targeted profit margins is always a challenge.

One Drop of Water

1-drop of waterMED.jpgDid you know that one drop of water holds all the freshwater in the world?

As Florencia Ramirez’s book Eat Less Water states, “If we poured all the water on our planet, both salt and fresh water, into a gallon bucket, the proportion of water available to shower, water lawns, drink and grow food, is one single drop.

We live on a water planet. The earth is two thirds water, 97.5 percent of that is saltwater. Only 2.5 percent fresh water, 69.5 percent of that is frozen. Another 30.1 percent hides in deep aquifers. The remaining 0.4 percent – a drop in a bucket – sustains all life on this planet.”

So what can we do to save water? Sure, we can drink less water. But that’s not only impractical but also unhealthy. We can use less water by wiping the car down when it rains, instead of running to the car wash. We could install drip water systems for our landscaping, take fewer and shorter showers, which would help a bit … or…. we could eat less water. Yes I said “eat” not “drink”.

The majority of water used by humans (seven out of ten gallons) is used to produce the food we eat and there are both efficient and inefficient methods to produce that food.

When humans migrated from hunting to farming, early farmers grew their crops naturally, in effect, their crops matched the local climate. Because they grew more efficiently, heavy water reliant plants naturally grew in wet climates and drought resistant plants grew in drier climates. But as the world population grew, methods were developed to enable farmers to expand their crops into areas less acclimated to one particular crop. And that’s when we became inefficient users of our planets limited supplies of water. Water hungry almond groves in the deserts of southern California, herds of thirsty cattle in the midwest are all signs of the ever-expanding “growing zone”.

All the ingredients we use at Crumbzz are produced organically. Most people would think that’s because we know chemical free food is healthier and that’s true. But, did you know that growing food organically, without chemicals, also saves more fresh water than any other water-saving strategy.

In addition, although some plants require more water to grow than others, that doesn’t mean they are inefficient water abusers. It’s not only about how much water is used but where it comes from. Water from rain is efficient, water from aquifers is limited and  inefficient. So, watering the same head of lettuce naturally from rain is far more efficient than from the local aquifer. If you look at the amount of water used to make a chocolate bar (449 gallons) you would feel pretty guilty every time you took one bite of that sweet treat. But, if you realized that most of the water used to grow cacao comes from rain, you would feel a whole lot better. Conversely, that steak you so enjoyed at your favorite restaurant last Saturday cost you 1,851 gallons of water and most of that water came from aquifers. Ah, but it goes deeper.

We use lots of eggs for our cakes and bistro offerings. At your typical grocery store, one dozen chicken house grown eggs uses 276 gallons of water to produce. That’s 25 gallons per egg! How is that possible? Believe me, it’s not because chickens are thirsty critters. It comes down to all that grain they eat and the water needed to grow that grain. Now, if you buy free range eggs, produced by chickens that eat in fields grown with rain and moisture trapped in the soil, like we do, you just cut your water usage by 97%, and that’s just on one food item!

So how can you become a good Shepard of your planet? Understand that organic, naturally grown foods are not only better for you but also better for your planet. But not all organic is watered efficiently. So make sure you buy your food from local growers. Confirm that your produce is rain watered or at worst, drip watered. Make sure your chickens, eggs and meat are produced free range.

Do this and you can wash that car without the guilt we just smacked down on you!

J Stephen Sadler

 

Question & Answers with Chef J Stephen

 

 

Q&A

If monopolies are price makers, why don’t they charge an infinite price?

If the price (profit) of an item gets too high, a flood of (usually more innovative and fast moving) competitors will rush into the market.

The goal of a monopoly is to keep their prices just below that benchmark.

A great example of this is the current vanilla market. Controlled by a few monopolies in Madagascar, Tahiti and México, because of cyclones and terrorisim in Madagascar, prices have risen from $26 per gallon in 2015 to $426 per gallon (US) in 2017.

Because of this rapid rise in price, hundreds of more innovative companies are rushing into the market to cash in on the bonanza. This will eventually flood the market with product and bring prices back to a more normal equilibrium.

In short, unless there are extensive gateing factors preventing entry into the market (e.g. excessive capital requirements, extreme technical challenges, etc.) short term excessive profits always results in increased competition

Is there a problem in the food industry that technology could solve?

Q&A

 

There are several challenges that technology can solve:

  1. labor challenges – the restaurant industry has one of the largest and most unstable labor forces of any industry. Technology that will assist and supplant labor demands is of primary interest to restaurateurs
  2. Waste – food waste approaches 40% a fact that is clearly in need of a solution.
  3. Farm to market challenges – today’s consumer demands fresh, locally grown food. Systems that assist in linking local food producers with restaurants and matching food production to market demands is long overdue

Crumbzz Chocolate Sustainable Farming Goal Hits 100%!

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DIRECT PARTNERSHIPS

Through the Growing Great Chocolate™ programme, our cocoa provider partners up with the cocoa farmer cooperative through our cocoa provider, enabling us to introduce good agricultural practices, improve crop quality, and of course, pay directly so that the farmers are guaranteed a fair price without having to share with middlemen and traders.

Through the partnership, each party mutually commit to work together and improve the quality of the cocoa, the farms and the living standards of farmers and their families.

 

TRAINING

In farmer field schools, farmers are taught about the complex cocoa processes, from soil management to bean fermentation and drying. The result is clearly visible: crop yields have been increasing year after year. Furthermore, yields of top-grade cocoa beans are rising – the grade Crumbzz requires for its Chocolat de la Terre Crumbzz Cakes and MiniZZ™ Snack Cakes.

 

PLANTING NEW TREES

Understanding the importance of planting trees, our cocoa provider has established tree nurseries, where they grow cocoa trees and the taller shade trees on which cocoa trees depend to mature properly. Cocoa farmers can buy seedlings of both types at a low price and plant both for tomorrow’s cocoa and ecological diversity.

What exactly do the farmers learn?

In farmer field schools, farmers in the participating cooperatives are trained on better cultivation methods and agricultural practices.

Member farmers learn integral aspects of cocoa farming such as:

  • healthy soil management techniques
  • switching from monoculture to mixed cultivation
  • rejuvenating the plantations with new trees and grafting techniques
  • minimizing chemical use
  • natural pest control
  • weeding and pruning
  • tree rejuvenation
  • crop diversity.

Sound production is the first step towards growing quality cocoa, and improving the crop quality and quantity in these countries sustains both the crops and farmers’ cocoa growing.

How do we guarantee that the price we pay for the cocoa beans is fair?

The cocoa farmer cooperatives can sell their crops to the highest bidder on the market. In this way they get the best price for their cocoa beans. It also allows them to invest in equipment, logistics and other integral elements of the process.

We are proud of the accomplishment our cocoa provider has made in putting together a program that satisfies the Crumbzz fair trade and sustainable farming mission.

J Stephen

 

Creating Unique International Offerings

 

JSS Travel

Opening our first International Bistro was a major undertaking in and of itself. Deciding on and then creating offerings for our new home presented a new set of unique challenges.

The menu process began several month’s prior to the actual building of our Forney TX location.

Originally, we planned to offer a simple menu of Crumbzz Cakes, coffees and tea’s. Because of our Executive Chefs worldwide travels included a compilation of recipes from countries around the world, our vision of a tasting pavilion morphed into an international bistro. With that change, we realized we would need much more than the planned simple menu to compliment our beautiful new home.

As with our cakes, we wanted each and every offering to be special. We soon realized that creating dishes that lived up to our cakes was not going to be an easy task.

The first step in the process was deciding on what to offer. Early on, we decided that every dish had to compliment our brand; upscale, the finest quality, no preservatives or additives and unique. This also meant that we would be focusing primarily on breakfast and lunch offerings.

Locating the finest quality ingredients for our offerings was the easy part. We had built wonderful relationships with quality suppliers for our crumb cakes and would be able to expand on those relationships to procure the ingredients we required for our new offerings.

It soon became clear that, our biggest challenge would be the creation of unique offerings.

We knew our crumb cakes were special and unique but they had attained that reputation over hundreds of years. We had to create dishes that would be at that level, from the start, in a few short month’s!

How to make a better egg

Although we use eggs from cage-free chickens for our crumb cakes, eggs are pretty much eggs and there is no way we could find to make a better egg.  So we set out to make a better egg dish.

Egg Omelets

Our first domestically focused dish was a pretty logical creation from an economic and environmental sense. The making of our crumb cakes leaves us with an enormous amount of egg whites. Making an egg-white omelet solved not only the economic and environmental issue but also provided our international bistro guests with a healthy breakfast alternative.

To make our omelet special we added garden fresh baby spinach and just the right amount of parmesan. Light and fluffy, our egg white omelets are now a big hit at the bistro.

Our Soufflé

Our second egg dish was much more of a challenge. We really wanted it to be special and special meant a soufflé. Egg soufflé’s are notoriously finicky to make. One has to be well versed in their creation to make a great one every time.

From J Stephen’s trips to France, we had a couple of great recipes, but we still worked month’s on getting our process down to where we had confidence we could produce a genuine French soufflé every time. Our Béchamel is one of the keys to our success. It is light and creamy and adds a wonderful silky texture to each soufflé’.

The choice of the finest Gruyère and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses was another factor. There is such a difference in flavor between the finest Gruyère and Parmigiano-Reggiano  cheeses and their counterparts that we were more than willing to pay the difference in price (which is as substantial as the taste differences.)

Adding locally grown, fresh shallots was the final touch in producing a soufflé that we believe is second to none.

Searching the world for the finest waffle

There are good waffles and bad waffles. As is our DNA, we wanted not just a better waffle, we wanted something special. Something no one had experienced.

We knew that the finest waffle came from Belgium and so it was on to Belgium to find out what was so special with their waffles. Chef J Stephen’s trip resulted in bringing to America a totally new type waffle, the Liège Waffle.

Authentic Guafre Liege waffles are one of life’s great treasures.  Caramelized sugar glistening on the most delicious buttery-sweet goodness beneath.

Originating in Liège Belgium, the original waffle recipe is nearly impossible to find. In Belgium, chains like Belgaufre have taken them far afield from their 18th century brioche roots.

In the U.S., chains use inferior sugar (because of cost) or produce substandard pre-made frozen balls of dough from Europe (because of the savings in labor and time).

We realized early on, to enjoy the unique taste of this very special waffle, we would need to go back to the original recipe’s and make it from scratch ourselves.

Our research led Chef J Stephen to a small waffle maker in Liège Belgium who tirelessly worked with us to produce “authentiek” Liège Waffles.

Our initial attempts failed miserably because of the mechanical failure of traditional U. S. waffle machines (the unique characteristics of a Liège Waffle quickly destroy’s regular waffle machines). And so, we invested in a custom  Liège Waffle maker from Belgium.

Two month’s and $3,600 later, we had our waffle makers and were on our way to constructing our very own Liège Waffles.

Our “original” recipe was complimented with our own personal touches to produce a Crumbzz Liège Waffle.

Topped with our own Cinnamon Streusel Butter, they are truly the finest waffle you will ever taste.

A Look to Mom for an Italian Twist on Pancakes

Just as we used J Stephen’s 400 year old family recipe from his dad’s side of the family for our crumb cakes, his mom’s family recipe provided the basis for our Gamberia Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes.

Named after the beautiful Villa Gamberaia in the hills of Florence, where J Stephen’s mom’s family heritage originated, our Gamberaia Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes provide our guests with a uniquely Italian twist on the traditional pancake.

Although Ricotta pancakes taste like traditional buttermilk pancakes, Ricotta add’s a fluffy, moist texture that is often lost in the more traditional buttermilk pancake.

The addition of fresh blueberries, powdered sugar and our family’s lemon butter topping, adds an Italian flair that produces an unusually light, refreshing pancake that can’t be beat.

Our own Homemade Ice Cream

As ice cream lovers, we knew it would only be a matter of time before we produced ice cream to compliment both our cakes and our waffles. In addition, many of our clients love the idea of adding a dollop of ice cream to our old style soda’s. And so, we set about creating our very own ice cream.

Making ice cream is a fairly simple process that most anyone can do. Making GOOD ice cream is also not a giant reach… at least from a development standpoint.

The key to good ice cream is in the butterfat content and in the use of natural ingredients. Finding the right method to incorporate that rich butterfat into the ice cream is key and can be quite a challenge to accomplish.

Most providers did not provide the butterfat richness we required to make a truly superior ice cream.

Our research also confirmed that the longer it took to freeze our product the more likely it would be to form ice crystals. The more ice crystals the less creamy the ice cream.

We eventually found a provider that would provide us with cream that had a sufficient butterfat content and we eventually figured out how to incorporate that creamy butterfat to get us half way there to the perfect ice cream.

About the same time we overcame our butterfat challenge, we learned of a way to make ice cream that would virtually eliminate ice crystals. That method is called Liquid Nitrogen.

Using Liquid Nitrogen to fast freeze our ice cream produces a wonderfully creamy finish that can’t be found in store bought ice cream.

And so we came to our last challenge… the flavor

We knew we wanted to incorporate the wonderful flavor of our cakes in our ice cream. The flavor we eventually chose was clearly the logical choice.

Vanilla is an important flavor of our signature crumb cake and the original vanilla in the family recipe was the finest from Saigon, and so vanilla bean carried on the tradition of being the base flavor of our homemade ice cream.

The end result of all our efforts is our Vanilla Cinnamon Crumbler. A delicious blend of homemade vanilla ice cream, infused with cinnamon streusel and topped with our oven toasted crumbs.

These are just a few of the dishes crafted by the great chef’s at Crumbzz. As many of you know, we went on to craft thirty original international breakfast and brunch dishes from across the world and Chef J Stephen continues to travel on his quest for the next great dish.

J Stephen’s travels are now moving from Europe to Central America and on to South America. Who knows what he’ll find down south, but what we do know is it will be special and unique.

Question & Answers with Chef J Stephen

Q&A

As a server, how do you not let rude customers get into your head?

You have to understand a person that exhibits rude behaviour is expecting a reaction to that rude behaviour. The usual reaction is poor service and a bad attitude ( giving them back exactly what they gave you).

Never provide them with what they are expecting. A polite, friendly, business as usual reaction is not what they would expect

Don’t take this as personal. Think of their behaviour as a game, a game where they are expecting one thing and you, as the controller of your own destiny, are going to provide something entirely different. In this battle only YOU control what YOU will do.

By controlling the situation, you win on two levels :

  1. You eliminate any excuse they have to stiff you on the tip
  2. You win the battle of wits by exerting YOUR control over the situation. You, in effect, made THIER game, YOUR game

Have fun, enjoy your job. Make it everything YOU want it to be.

J Stephen

Question & Answers with Chef J Stephen

Q&A

 

Why do celebrity chefs like Gordan Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain dislike vegetarians & vegetarianism and diss them so much?

Because it severely limits your eating options. To use another example, if you told those same chefs you only eat meat, you would get the same reaction.

To a chef (and the millions of foodies in the world), dining is much more than simply re-fueling your body. There are so many ways to craft unique dishes that please the palate.

To a chef, limiting your diet, eliminates so many possibilities to enjoy the experience of sampling all the great dishes crafted by chefs (and home cooks).

What do we look for in a employee? The interview questions we ask for front of the house candidates and back of the house candidates may surprise you?

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For me, the key ingredient for front or back is always attitude. A person can be taught process. They cannot be taught attitude. Whether it’s cleaning floors or crafting a soufflé, I want someone that is driven to craft a masterpiece that will assuredly provide the ultimate guest experience.

With regards to capabilities, we do follow a few guidelines.

CHEF’S
For chef’s, I have found that offering externships for the local Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Dallas is the ideal way to get classically trained chef’s that have not yet formed bad habits.

SERVERS
Our biggest challenge is servers. Our fine dining Forney, TX Bistro is in a town that does not have any other fine dining establishments. Accordingly, we have a hard time finding servers that understand the difference between food delivery (which is what you get at most chains) and fine dining. In this case, I would rather train a new server from scratch. More time consuming but more rewarding to our guests in the end.

I also want someone who has compassion for others and easily assimilates with other team members. I learned many years ago, that one employee who has a bad attitude can quickly destroy a team.

My favorite questions are ones that Apple’s retail boss Angela Ahrendts uses in her interview process.

ME vs. WE
I want to gain insight into how they see themselves in the world.
• How big is their ego and what role does it play in their everyday life?
• Do they focus their energy on being an individual contributor, or on connecting and enabling a wider group?
• Do they care more about their own success or about the greater good of the whole?
Ask simple questions about their family, friends, peers, personal interests, sports, spirituality, and community to glean a better understanding of their true motivation and leadership attributes. This is usually the easy part, because people love to talk about themselves.

Two of our favorite quotes that sum up our leadership philosophies. See how the candidate responds to these:
A great coach used to say, “When ordinary people connect, extraordinary things can happen.”

One of my favorite quotes is from management expert Gary Hamel, who was once asked, “How will you know if you are a great leader?” He replied, “Turn around and see if anyone is following you.”

IQ vs. EQ
Now that they are comfortable and their guard is down, you want to understand how they naturally navigate in the world.
• Do they typically think or feel first?
• Do they instinctively use their head or their heart?
Ask a few business questions about how they handle challenging situations and optimize opportunities. Ask what their team and peers would say about them to gain deeper perspective on how balanced they are intellectually and emotionally.
Once you have satisfied that they are knowledgeable in their field, you’ll want to make sure they are culturally compatible. Are they empathetic, compassionate, caring and giving of their mind and heart?
A quote  from Maya Angelou is what you should be looking for in every hire: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” You want to sense if they truly care about the impact they make on people.

LEFT BRAIN (create pristine stacks) vs. RIGHT BRAIN (have a natural urge to sprawl and display)
You should then go a little deeper to discover what lens they look at the world through.
• Do they lean into analysis or their instincts? Do they get into details, or carry on a more conceptual conversation?
• Do they make linear decisions, are they a creative thinker, or do they use their whole mind?
Then go back to asking more personal questions, as you’ll find that you can better assess their left brain-right brain balance by understanding what they studied, what they do in their spare time.
• What do they read, watch, listen to?
• Do they light up when talking about the arts, their kids?
A company’s success is predicated on you putting the right people in the right place at the right time. You know what you need, and you need to find out who they truly are so both can thrive over the long term.

A good example of this is where we place our chef’s. Most new chef’s will tell you that they are equally proficient as a savory chef (cook) or pastry chef (baker). But through experience, I have learned that right brain persons make better savory chef’s and left brain people make the best pastry chefs.

YESTERDAY, TODAY, TOMORROW
Lastly, learn what guides them in the world, or frames their reference points.
• How much do they look to the past for trends, and how aware are they of the underlying influences impacting their business today?
• Do they have an opinion on the future and how their organization and strategies will need to evolve to keep pace? Are they adverse to or do they thrive on change?
This is how you should wrap up the interview, and before they leave it is important to let them know how you feel.
If you loved them,  tell them so and say you look forward to continuing the conversation. If they are not right for the position, it is best to be honest while you are together so they don’t get their hopes up. Always treat them as you want to be treated, and make sure they leave feeling positive even though they are not right for the current position. It is important we all sleep at night and that they leave with respect for themselves and the company.
Good luck, and remember: Building a brilliant team is your job. Nothing you do is more important or adds more value.

If they pass these questions, only then do we explore their actual hands-on capabilities.

J Stephen