• Concession Food Trivia

    Image from www.hot-dog.org Image from www.hot-dog.org
    Whether it is nachos or hot dogs at a ball game, cotton candy at the rodeo or carnival, popcorn at the movies, or snow cones at summer festivals, classic concession food never goes out of style! Read on for a few historical tidbits that may surprise you about these trusty staples.

    • NACHOS: Any ideas how these gooey, decadent snacks came about? Or what the significance is behind the name? In 1988, a lady named Adriana P. Orr, a researcher with the Oxford English Dictionary, set out to discover the meaning behind the "nacho." What she found took her all the way back to Piedras Negras, Mexico, in 1943, when a group of army wives first ate nachos at a restaurant called the Viceroy Club. The chef was not at the restaurant, and so the maitre d', Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya, threw together the ingredients that he could muster from the kitchen (cheese, tortilla chips, and jalapenos.) Anaya later called the dish "Nachos Especiales" and the rest is history. Read this article for the full story.

    • COTTON CANDY: This sugary treat carries with it a surprisingly lengthy history! Spun sugar dates back all the way to Italy in the 1400s, when upper class families would enjoy it for dessert. It continued to be made and served throughout Europe over the centuries. Then, in the late 1800s, a European duo by the name of William Morrison and John Wharton created a "Fairy Floss" machine that would take sugar and melt it before turning it into strands. They would then mold the strands to a paper cone for convenient serving. They patented this machine and took boxes of their fairy floss to the St. Louis World Fair in 1904, where the crowds went wild over it. The product wouldn't be coined "Cotton Candy" until the 1920s.

    • HOT DOGS: Historians have long disagreed over the precise moment that hot dogs crossed into American culture, how they came to be served with bread, how they got their name, and how they became the standard at ball parks. Over the years, the stories seemed to tangle. The Germans have been said to be eating frankfurter (or sausage) since the late 1400s! Other stories reference "dachshund" sausages (smaller versions) coming to America through German immigrants in the 1800s. Legend has it that the name "hot dog" came from a cartoonist at the New York Polo grounds who was working a cart selling "red hot dachshund dogs," though he was unable to spell dachshund and printed "hot dogs" instead.

      www.smithsonianmag.com www.smithsonianmag.com
    • POPCORN: America's affinity for salted, buttery popcorn is undeniable and is best seen at your neighborhood movie theater. However, contrary to popular belief, movies and popcorn didn't always go hand in hand. Since the 1840s, popcorn was ubiquitous to American life and entertainment, with the exception of movie theaters. Why, you ask? Most operators didn't want to deal with the trash and mess that popcorn can make or the sounds of people crunching and snacking (in the days of silent film.) Then, around the time of the Great Depression, theater operators saw the treat as a way to boost revenue and sustain their businesses. Needless to say, popcorn and movies would never be apart again.

    • SNOW CONES: On sweltering summer days, there is nothing quite like an icy snow cone to satisfy the soul. These treats debuted at the 1919 State Fair of Texas when Dallas resident Samuel Bert sold them for the first time. That next year, he patented his ice crushing machine. During the Industrial Revolution, wagons would carry blocks of ice from New York to the Southern United States. When they passed through Baltimore, they handed out ice shavings to kids whose families would then flavor them. These "snowballs" as they are called continue to be a tradition in Baltimore today. (FYI: Snow cones have crushed ice and Snowballs have finely shaved ice and oftentimes more syrup!) But perhaps the most well known of all these snowball/snow cone influences is a man named Ernest Hansen of New Orleans. Hansen created the first electric ice-shaving machine called the Hansen Sno-Bliz, and his wife, Mary created all of the syrups to go with it. Their shop first opened in the 1930s and the snowballs are still a massive hit today in the Big Easy! In 2014, the Hansen's were the recipient of an America's Classics award via the James Beard Foundation.
  • Chef Diego Fernandez of Starfish, San Antonio

    Starfish on South Alamo Street, San Antonio Starfish on South Alamo Street, San Antonio

    It's not every day that a father and son have restaurants located on the same street, just a few doors from one another, but such is the case for Rene and Diego Fernandez. The father-son duo are marking the King William neighborhood with new foods and flavors to inspire the ever-changing San Antonio dining set, first with Azuca, and now with the seafood-focused Starfish. The dining experience at Starfish is accented by the beautiful historic building which is filled with wonderful seaside delights, from vibrant paintings to gorgeous glass jellyfish, which dangle from the ceiling. We had the pleasure of talking with Chef Diego who filled us in on his much-buzzed about restaurant, which opened in June 2014. Read on to learn a little more about the Chef's beginnings, inspirations, favorite culinary destinations, and his advice for prospective cooks and restaurateurs! Thank you Chef Diego for sharing!

    From left: Diego Fernandez, wife Maria del Carmen Fernandez and Evan Martinez From left: Diego Fernandez, wife Maria del Carmen Fernandez and Evan Martinez

    When did you first realize you wanted to be a professional chef?
    The first time that I realized that I wanted to be a professional Chef was probably my first day in a professional kitchen. I began working at Azuca as a prep cook at the age of 16.

    Tell us about your career path- where did you start off, what were you doing before? Soon after I started working at Azuca I enrolled at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in San Antonio. I would say the journey started there. During the nine month training at the CIA I was part of  the opening Team as a line cook at the Grand Hyatt. I would wake up early to go to school and get to work right after I got out. After graduating I transferred to Hyde Park , NY and finished my studies there. During a seven month externship at a prestigious boutique restaurant in Cape May, NJ I honed some of the skills and work ethic I carry on today. Under the tutelage of Chef Lucas Manteca i understood more than ever who I wanted to become. Soon after that I traveled to Orlando, FL and worked for three years at the Ritz-Carlton. Much of who I am today is due to the military style brigade they ran at this particular property.

    The interior of Starfish with its historic brick walls, glass jellyfish lights, vibrant art and fish sculpture. The interior of Starfish with its historic brick walls, glass jellyfish lights, vibrant art and fish sculpture.

    It's special that your family has been so incorporated in this line of work, especially with your dad just a few doors down from you at Azuca! What is that like and what can you say about your family-foodservice connection?
    We are beyond blessed to be right next to each other. My father has been the role model, mentor, friend, and now best business partner I could ever imagine. Our relationship at work is just that. I think we both subconsciously leave our titles at the door once we step out through the restaurant doors.  It's a wonderful balance we have. My wife is soon to give birth and so she is no longer cooking at Starfish. During the first few months she would be in charge of all the baking and pastry. Now those roles have been distributed throughout our team. Being a Peruvian national provides me with yet another perspective of the food and beverage world.  All in all the we are there for each other emotionally and professionally.

    Tell us a little bit about Starfish: the title, the concept, and what drew you to creating a seafood-focused menu? Has your love for seafood always been important?
    An actual starfish is able to regenerate a limb if throughout its life it happened to lose one. I believe our menu concept and ideology  is somewhat resemblant. As we continue to grow and change we keep in mind that in order to succeed you may have to lose a limb or two. We have changed our menu about four times in the time that we have been open. We do this to challenge ourselves and continue to evolve as cooks.  I think our love for food in general is a common thread that connects us as a team. Seafood to me is personal. It's an intimate relationship that I grew up with. For most of my childhood there was a body of water within walking distance. Deep down I am biased towards marine life.

    The whole aesthetic at Starfish from the furnishings to the integrity of the building, to the food is really something. What were you trying to achieve?
    Honestly we did not have to do much to the building itself. For one, the building is part of the historic society so you can't do much changing structurally. Secondly, the shape the building was in gave Starfish its persona. As far as the artwork, we connected with several talented artists in San Antonio to give the place its justification, from reclaimed wood acrylic paintings to jellyfish lights hanging below the bar. For me there is a fine line between classy sealife motifs and going “overboard” with fish nets and life savers. We certainly wanted to give the place a sophisticated look yet relaxed ambiance.

    Father / Son Duo: Chef Rene Fernandez and Chef Diego Fernandez Father / Son Duo: Chef Rene Fernandez and Chef Diego Fernandez

    What is your earliest and/or most treasured food memory?
    The first memory that captivated me took place in Puerto Rico. I was probably five years old. My mother took my brother and I to visit my father at the Dorado Hyatt. That day fisherman had caught what was probably an eight to nine foot marlin. We walked into the hotel's back entrance and met my dad in the butcher room. As we were entering he was making the initial cut. The rest is history.

    Could you share some advice for aspiring chefs, students and hopeful restaurateurs?
    To me as a student the most important part was to ask questions. In an age where everything can be found on the internet perhaps current students do not ask as much. Have a notepad with a pen or pencil on you at all times.  If you think for a second about asking a question that you think you should know, whether it concerns a technique, method, history, etc. I can guarantee there are about five more students that are wondering the same thing. When you're working as a paid employee or a commis or stage, be humble, respectful, and quiet. At home, stay in tune with your career choice. Read, explore, and experiment to give yourself the best possible choice to succeed.

    What experiences do you think have shaped you most as a chef?
    There are many to name. But as a whole I could remember one common thread between all of them. The building of a team that has one goal in mind. There is power in that. And after your first couple kitchen experiences you thirst for that feeling. Lastly I would say that I gave myself at least one year at any job before moving on. It's important that as a professional you never burn bridges.

    Where do you see the San Antonio food scene heading and how do you think it stands out in relation to Austin, Corpus, Dallas and Houston?
    Its hard to say about the surrounding major cities because I haven’t visited them in a while. But as for San Antonio, I am very proud to be back in this city. Not only are we NBA champions but the food scene here is progressing every day. I see the food scene being par with any major metropolitan city in the next five years. With outstanding restaurateurs like Andrew Wiseman, Johnny Hernandez, Jason Daddy, Mark Bliss, among many others we have the recipe for a success story.

    One of the bold fish paintings that hangs on the establishment's walls. One of the bold fish paintings that hangs on the establishment's walls.

    What are some of your most prized tools in the back of the house?
    The Vita-Mix is probably one of the more important pieces of equipment that we have. Pots and pans are also important to us. We take good care of these knowing that they will provide our guest with an exceptional end product.

    The Mission Team is very excited to have you all in the neighborhood. Tell us a little bit about the building, being in San Antonio, and what your Southtown/ King William location adds to the experience.
    The building has taken many roles throughout its existence. Originally this location was a hub for paint and sheet rock. The name was Menny’s Paint Shop. For a time it served as a small market which I had the pleasure of visiting many times. Currently, I believe Starfish adds some nostalgia for people who may have lived in other major cities like Chicago, New York, or San Francisco. I’ve had several guests tell me that Starfish reminds them of a previous spot they would go to in one of these cities.

    Which tastemakers, mixologists & foodservice professionals inspire you?
    Heston Blumenthal, Morimmoto, Thomas Keller, Eric Ripert, Alain Ducasse, Wyle DuFrense, Ferran Adria, Joan Roca, Voltaggio Brothers, just to name a few.

    Can you share with us your favorite culinary destinations?
    There is no other city like New York City to dine in. Probably one of my favorite places. Also Lima, Peru changed my life. The freshness, variety, and application of chefs there is unbelievable. Mexico City is another mecca for humble food origins with an aftermath that makes you want to return.

    A delicious tuna dish accented with flowers. A delicious tuna dish accented with flowers.

    Which places are you’re dying to go and explore for yourself? Any particular dining destinations on your list?
    I really want to go to Spain and Italy. I think I'm half Italian and half Spanish deep down. Mugaritz is one of the restaurants i would love to dine at. Also Noma in Copenhagen.

    Do you have a personal creed or ethos that you live by?
    “Anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing. Moderation is for cowards.” -unknown-

    Lay out a perfect meal and wine/cocktail pairing for a first timer to Starfish.
    For any first time diners, let me know and we will make a perfect custom meal for you!

    What has been the biggest surprise in your life?
    My wife surprising me with the news of our first baby.

    Any fun quirks you can share about yourself?
    In the mornings when I wake up my hand are raised in the air. Not sure why that happens.

    Lastly, what’s up next for the Starfish team?
    James Beard.

    Starfish is located at 709 S. Alamo Street San Antonio, Texas 78205
    www.starfishsa.com 210-375-4423
    Images courtesy of 10 Best, San Antonio Express News & Starfishsa.com 
  • How the food truck became a symbol of American perseverance

    What does the food truck mean to you?

    With roots dating back to the post-Civil War Era, and a revival brought on amidst a recent recession, is there something to be said about food trucks? Can we learn a thing or two from the street vendor industry and its ability to poke its head above water in the toughest of times?

    In the late 1860s Americans started to pick up the pieces of their country ravaged by unrest at home and return to their pre-war responsibilities.  Lumberjacks resumed their logging responsibilities and cowboys focused on driving the excess of cattle out of the mid-west. These men often found themselves in desolate lands not yet connected by railroads. Consumed by the tasks at hand, little time was left to focus on preparing proper meals, yet the men needed to be nourished in order to keep up the hard work.

    It soon became clear to one man, Mr. Charles Goodnight, that there was a dire need for food and health supplies along the cattle drive and logging routes. So Goodnight packed an old US Army Studebaker wagon full of food, cooking equipment and health supplies and rode out west to meet the boys on the trails. Thus, the first mobile kitchen was born and it was dubbed the “Chuck Wagon”.

    As the food truck concept progressed Lunch Wagons, like the Owl Night Lunch, fed night shift crews around downtown business centers beginning in the 1890s. From there, the food wagons evolved to meet the needs of the Army and construction crews working long hours throughout the 1900s. Similarly, food trucks flock to office parks and construction zones today.

    When the recession hit in the early 2000s, many great chefs fell out of work, unable to cover real estate prices and the other overhead expenses associated with running a restaurant. A mobile food pantry and kitchen, or food truck, can travel to areas of demand instead of being tied down to a single location and waiting for the crowd to come to them. Perhaps this ability to meet consumers’ needs wherever they may be explains, in part, why the food truck concept continues to prevail.

    Whatever the reason may be, food trucks have made their mark in the restaurant business. While our country relishes in the good times and struggles through the tougher, food trucks seem to always be a viable option for culinary innovators not willing to give up, for better or for worse – much like the American spirit.

  • Food Processing Made Simple With Robot Coupe

    One of the biggest time savers in any kitchen large or small is a food processor. These powerhouses are known and respected across the industry for their extreme time and labor saving capabilities and consistent results. Robot Coupe has made a name for itself in the foodservice industry by manufacturing food processors that exude quality and reliability while delivering great returns on your investment. Perhaps the most popular of their machines is the R2N. Here's everything you need to know about this time-saving unit:

    1. Two In One: The R2N food processor comes with both a 3 quart cutter bowl and a continuous feed vegetable preparation attachment, each designed to fit on one single motor base. The design team at Robot Coupe recognized the importance of maximizing the different preparations common to most foodservice businesses and accomplishing those preparations with one unit. So when you purchase an R2N Food Processor, you're essentially getting two units in one: a bowl unit and a continuous feed unit.
    2. Ergonomics: There are a number of ergonomic attributes on the R2N that make operation easier and more convenient for the end user. For instance, the polycarbonate cutting bowl has a lid designed to quickly add additional ingredients and/or liquids while processing.
    3. Precision: The Robot Coupe R2N has a pulse function/button on the front of the unit that will deliver that extra control and precision-driven performance that you expect from your foodservice equipment.
    4. Versatility: Chopping, grinding, kneading, mixing, pureeing.... these are just a few tasks that can be quickly tackled with a Robot Coupe food processor. The R2N comes standard with a patented stainless steel "S" blade and 2 discs, a 4 mm slicer and a 2 mm grater, which will cover a large range of preparation tasks. However, there are also many add-ons that will make your unit more versatile and will offer different cutting capabilities for your menu demands. (See #9)
    5. Time-Saver: Did you know that in under two minutes this food processor can whip up a homemade bowl of mayonnaise, a steak tartare, or a fruit compote (to name a few)? The investment will pay for itself thanks to the sheer speed in which it gets work done day after day
    6. Sturdiness: The R2N food processor is equipped with a heavy-duty industrial induction motor that is engineered for durability and reliability in rigorous commercial applications. The direct-driven motor is also built on ball bearings for silent operation without vibration, and because there are no belts or brushes, maintenance is minimal! So whether you're preparing ten meals a day or hundreds, Robot Coupe food processors will get the job done.
    7. Space-Saving: The R2N features a slim, compact design that is invaluable for commercial kitchens, which are notoriously short on space. At just over 8 inches wide, the R2N will fit just about anywhere on your countertop, without sacrificing any additional space.
    8. Applications: Robot Coupe's ubiquity to the foodservice market is testament to its quality and proven success in the workplace. Commercial kitchens everywhere, from schools, to hospitals, catering businesses, and restaurants large and small, trust Robot Coupe to deliver high performances and consistent results, while helping to streamline the daily operations, thereby saving time.
    9. Additional Options: In addition to the two discs that come standard with your R2N purchase, there are over 20 discs that can be purchased additionally to add to the range of cuts and techniques out there. There are also two different blades that can be purchased including a coarse serrated "S" blade, used to knead and grind, and a fine serrated "S" blade, which is used to chop fine, leafy produce. Finally, there are also different bowl types available for you, including a clear polycarbonate, a grey polycarbonate and a stainless steel option.
    10. ETL & UL LISTED: This Robot Coupe food processor is ETL and UL listed meaning it has met the rigorous safety specifications set by two of the industry's largest and most respected certifying and testing agencies.
    Screen shot 2015-01-22 at 12.52.00 AM
    Invest in a machine that has transformed the foodservice industry and saved operators significant time and money over the years. Should you have any questions or if you simply want to learn more, please call us at 1-800-319-0690 from Monday through Friday 8 AM to 6 PM (CST) and let one of our agents help you! Many of our Robot Coupe machines are now also available for financing!
  • FAQ: Floral Coolers

    Screen shot 2015-01-07 at 2.02.44 PMFresh flowers are a timeless gesture, and they are seen in many different foodservice applications, from hotels to catered banquets, convenience stores and hospitals. As a florist, having adequate floral coolers is vital to prolonging the freshness of their inventory and maximizing profits. Ensuring you get the most life out of each cut flower and arrangement begins with the floral cooler- not to mention the aesthetics of displaying your arrangements in a sleek cooler can help boost sales. Despite their physical similarity, floral coolers are different than your standard commercial cooler counterparts. Here, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about them:


    Though they may look the same from the outside, it's the inside that makes floral coolers different from commercial food or beverage coolers. Temperature, humidity and airflow are all important factors in maintaining the lifespan and freshness of flowers, and these three things- along with the cooling mechanism that controls them- comprise the biggest differences between a floral cooler and a glass door food or beverage cooler. Since food and drinks are more dense than flowers, a standard commercial refrigerator is designed to quickly cool them down, without much regard for humidity. Conversely, the specially-engineered cooling systems in floral coolers are designed with temperature and humidity in mind.


    Floral coolers are designed to hold the humidity within the cabinet at a higher level than a standard glass door refrigerator; the optimum humidity level is 95%, the minimum is 80%. This humidity is strategic, as it decreases the amount of moisture the flowers may lose to the surrounding air, thereby prolonging their vase life and keeping them from wilting, dehydrating, and burning out prematurely. Floral coolers also have a baffled air flow which ensures adequate circulation at low velocities, which is less harsh than the higher velocity, fan-driven airflow in a standard commercial cooler. Temperature is another important factor to the lifespan of fresh flowers. Because of their low density, flowers react to temperature changes very quickly. Therefore, floral coolers are designed to hold the temperatures inside the cabinet at 35º F - slightly lower than a normal commercial cooler- and precision is key.


    Oftentimes, operators make the mistake of buying a unit from someone who says they've converted the system for flowers. Be very wary of these claims. As was aforementioned, the refrigeration systems in floral coolers are designed with certain differences than their commercial cooler counterparts that are vital to the flower's life and freshness, not to mention your sales and profit. Making the necessary changes to a refrigeration system that can handle flower specifications can be very costly.


    Like any piece of refrigeration, floral coolers require some maintenance, but if well taken care of, they should last for many years. Make sure you have proper airflow around the cooler and keep the refrigeration unit free of dust. Having a small, hanging thermometer on the inside of the cooler is a smart, inexpensive back-up that will help you better regulate any unexpected temperature changes that occur.

    Do you have more questions? Call one of our team members today at 1-800-319-0690 from Monday through Friday 8 AM to 6 PM (CST). We'd be happy to help you find the right unit for your business.

  • Jaxpro Economy Floor Fryers

    Finding a fryer that is durable, efficient, versatile and capable of keeping up with commercial demand can often be an expensive challenge. Thankfully, there's now a option that will save you money without sacrificing on quality. Jaxpro's New Free Standing Floor Fryers are loaded with value-added features and benefits that will bring power, efficiency, and reliable performance to your kitchen. Starting at just $579, these fryers also have a great, low price, making them accessible to all different kinds of businesses and budgets.

    jaxpro-f340ng-fryer_2Here are the top 10 things you need to know about these affordable, efficient Jaxpro Fryers:

    1. The Jaxpro F-340 and F-450 fryers are free standing 3 and 4 tube fryers in 40 and 50 pound capacities. They're both available in natural gas and propane, depending upon your utility needs!
    2. The frying tank is made of a peened stainless steel with smoothed welds and it has an efficient 30,000 BTU Heat Exchange Tubes with high heat baffles, a cool zone, and a 1.25-inch full port drain valve.
    3. These fryers have a 200 pound shipping weight and are constructed of heavy-duty, durable  materials, including: a full stainless steel front, top ledge, header, and door. The sides and back are made of a high grade G90 galvanized steel.
    4. The stainless steel door is supported with a welded magnet and a reversible door handle for extra strength and durability. The doors on commercial equipment are often one of the first things to weaken, and thankfully, these are outfitted to stay strong with time and use.
    5. Included with each Jaxpro fryer are two fry baskets made of a nickel chrome wire mesh  with red plastic coated handles. A double rod stainless steel basket holder (pictured above) makes for easy placement of the baskets above and outside of the tank.
    6. A wide temperature range of 200 to 400 F is accessible thanks to the 1 millivolt thermostat by Invensys. 
    7. For extra security precautions, these fryers have a back up Hi Limit control, which shuts down the fryer if shortening exceeds the maximum temperature, so you can rest assured you're safe and keeping accidents to a minimum.
    8. These Jaxpro fryers come with 6 inch, adjustable legs upon purchase, though casters are available as an accessory should you prefer them.
    9. With your purchase, you will get a one year parts and labor warranty!
    10. ETL Listed to ensure compliance with the industry's safety standards!
    jaxpro-f340ng-img2_1 A peek into the frying tank.
    jaxpro-f340ng-inside_1 A behind the scenes view of the fryer mechanics.
    Other Important Considerations:
    • The F-340 and F-450 are for commercial installation only and are NOT intended for home use. It's also important to have an adequate ventilation and fire suppression system in place before operating any kind of cooking equipment such as these fryers.
    • Need a gas hose or kit? These require a 3/4 inch NPT (19mm) rear gas connection.
    • Fryers require a 6 inch clearance on the sides and rear plus a 16 inch minimal clearance to open top burner units or any open flames.
    • A combination valve with pressure regulator is provided with this unit (Natural Gas 4'', Propane 10'')
    Do you have any questions? We'd love to help you find the right fryer for your business or address any questions you may have. Call us at 1-800-319-0690 from Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 6 PM, Central Standard Time. We look forward to hearing from you!

  • Chef Interview: Steve McHugh of Cured, San Antonio

    Chef Steve McHugh is not new to the industry, but his new restaurant, Cured, has brought something entirely fresh and unique to the San Antonio restaurant scene. Housed in a stunning, historic building from 1904 in the city's lively Pearl Brewery, the chef and proprietor, along with his wife, revamped the interior with elegant, contemporary touches that complemented the building's unique character. McHugh takes advantage of seasonal, regional ingredients and has crafted a menu centered around cured foods, from charcuteries to vegetables. And speaking of charcuterie, the menu ranges in offerings from port pate to smoked duck ham and jalapeno sausage, to name a few, and it's all made in house and displayed in their attractive, humidity-controlled locker. All of these meats are cured from 60 days to 10 months! Aside from the charcuterie, the venue has delicious salads, homemade soups, cabrito sliders, roasted lamb legs and wagyu beef tartare, and that's just skimming the surface. Their seafood calls to mind great southern traditions and flavors, from crawfish "love letters" to masa flash fried oysters and seared redfish. Read on to learn more about the man behind Cured who's making a big splash in San Antonio:

    Screen shot 2014-12-04 at 1.00.09 PM
    When did you first realize you wanted to be a professional chef?

    I started working in kitchens when I was 14.   When I graduated High School I went to college to play music. I loved the saxophone when I was younger but it just wasn’t for me. I liked playing music but I didn’t want to study it. So I left after a year. I went back into restaurant work and it was my father that suggested I go to culinary school. Growing up in a small town in Wisconsin I had never even met a real chef. That was big city stuff. I left that summer to attend the CIA in Hyde Park New York and the rest is history.

    Did cooking play a large role in your upbringing and childhood?
    As a child I didn’t realize the role it played but as I came into my own as a chef I started to see the lessons. My Mom canned during the summers for winter and when we raised hogs the entire pig went to good use. It was important for my parents because they were raising 7 boys. Nothing could be wasted when you have that many mouths to feed.

    Screen shot 2014-12-04 at 12.59.43 PM
    Share with us a special food memory that sticks with you today.
    One particular food moment for me was when I was about 15 my father took my younger brother and I to New York City for a quick trip. I remember going into a Times Square Deli and having a Rueben. The sandwich was good but I couldn’t get out of my head how good the pickle and cole slaw was. I seemed odd to me that these two items I’ve eaten all my life could actually have some value to the meal.

    What advice do you have for aspiring chefs, students and hopeful restaurateurs?
    What you see on TV is not real. I know I’ve been on TV. Restaurants are hard work, plain and simple. It requires more time than you think and if you aren’t willing to put in the time you will never make it.

    Tell us about your career path- where did you start off, what were you doing before?
    I’ve always been in kitchens. I grew up on a farm and wanted to move to the big city. When I graduated culinary school in 1997 I moved to New Orleans and just immersed myself in the history of the city. New Orleans taught me to cook with respect to my ingredients as well as those that came before me.

    Screen shot 2014-12-04 at 12.59.54 PM

    Tell us a little bit about Cured.
    My wife Sylvia and I wanted a place where we could go and eat. It sounds funny but we longed for some of that New Orleans comfort. We also wanted to be a friend to the farmer and knew the only way to do that was to buy whole animals. The curing became a result of that. A good friend of mine came up with the name Cured because I had a bout with Lymphoma a couple of years ago and it fit not only my cooking but my history as well.

    What experiences do you think have shaped you most as a chef?
    The most important thing I can do as a chef is travel. You need to get out and see what others are doing. Get out of your own comfort zone. I tell my young chefs that a day trip to Austin or Houston will open your eyes.

    Where do you see the San Antonio food scene heading and how do you think it stands out in relation to Austin, Corpus, Dallas and Houston?
    It is amazing to me how far San Antonio has come since I moved here in 2010. So much has changed in just a few short years and I feel great to be apart of it. There is so much energy now and the customers are only getting smarter thanks to TV and the Internet. You can ‘t fool people like you could years ago. I honestly think that San Antonio has a leg up on the other Texas cities because like New Orleans we have a truly indigenous cuisine rooted solely in its history.

    Screen shot 2014-12-04 at 1.54.13 PM

    What are some of your most prized tools in the back of the house? Any Mission Restaurant Supply favorites?
    I am a big fan of the simplest pieces becoming workhorses in the kitchen. My favorite Mission piece is a 6-foot cheese-melter that we use and it is extremely versatile. It holds sauté pans hot for when you need them, keeps food warm on the bottom shelf and browns on the top. Mission set themselves apart because of service. I had the honor to work with Jim Conner. Jim had been designing kitchen so long that I felt he had probably forgotten more about them than I have ever learned. After his untimely passing Don Brawner stepped in to make sure we didn’t skip a beat.

    You all have landed in a honey hole with your location at the Pearl. Tell us a little bit about the building and about what your location adds to the experience.
    The building was something that we talked about for a long time. Once I cooked for the higher-ups at Pearl and they had a chance to see my vision we realized it matched their vision for the Admin building. It is the original administration office for the brewery. It was built in 1904 and we are grateful to be able to come to work there everyday.

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    Which tastemakers, mixologists & foodservice professionals inspire you?
    My career is heavily influenced by John Besh, whom I worked with for 10 years. He is one of the most giving people I know and that is reflected in everything that happens in any of his restaurants. I catch myself on a daily basis saying to myself “would you serve that to John”?

    Can you share with us your favorite culinary destinations?
    In San Antonio, Fruteria, for me. It’s all about learning and I know that Johnny has traveled extensively and I learn something new every time I eat there. In Texas I love day tripping to Lockhart for Blacks BBQ or off to Houston for Chris Sheppard’s Underbelly. In the U.S. one of my favorite cities in Chicago. Pretty much anything Paul Kahan touches is gold and I am a big fan of Girl and The Goat by Stephanie Izard. Around the world, Chartier in Paris. Its one of the oldest Brasseries in the city and you can eat a full lunch for about 15 euros.

    What towns/villages/cities are you’re dying to go and explore for yourself? Any particular dining destinations on your list?
    I’ve become friends with Johnny Hernandez over the years and he is always going on and on about Oaxaca and I’ve traveled a lot throughout Europe but have never been south of the U.S. so it will be on the itinerary for 2015 for sure.

    The whole aesthetic at Cured from the furnishings to the integrity of the building, to the bar program and the presentation of the food is really something. What were you trying to achieve with the “look and feel” of Cured?
    My wife and I tend to agonize over details. It’s probably why what was supposed to be a 6-month project turned into 14. It had to not only be perfect but it also had to make sense. We tried to do the impossible which is to make a place for everyone. We feel like we got as close as we could and are extremely happy with the support of the community.

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    Do you have a personal creed or ethos that you live by?
    Not really. My Mom passed away 5 months before we opened and for my brother (also my partner) and I it was tough for us because she never go to see it finished. I do imagine that she is watching and it makes me want to work harder because I know she would be proud.

    “Charcuterie, Dining & Subtleties” is the motto at Cured. How do those things infuse the Cured experience?
    We want people to know that we are trying. You will never see me go through the motions. It’s that little something extra, cologne in the men’s room, the garnish on your drink, turning beets into cracklings instead of croutons on your salad. It was about setting ourselves apart.

    Lay out a perfect meal and wine/cocktail pairing for a first timer to Cured.
    I get asked all the time what is your favorite. It changes everyday. We do get a lot of comments on our poutine and so I will tell first-timers to make sure they try that. Also get the Cured Cocktail because it’s a moonshine infusion. And of course try some of the charcuterie. Make sure you come with someone you enjoy sharing with because it’s all about being communal.

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    What’s your favorite dish?
    There’s no way I have a favorite dish. If I get to to attached to something I’m afraid I will be scared to take it off the menu. We have to be able to keep things fresh and new.

    What has been the biggest surprise in your life?
    Cancer. It doesn’t run in my family and when I heard that word it was a complete surprise. I’m a relatively healthy person and you want to know what you did wrong.

    What’s up next for Chef Steve and Cured? Any fun quirks you can share about yourself?
    We get asked all the time if we are going to do something else. We have worked so hard this first year to put together the best team of people in the city of San Antonio and the team gets stronger and better with every new person we hire. It’s hard to think of doing that all over again. Our People make Cured.   I’m a total goof in the kitchen and I love to crack jokes. It’s important to remind the team that we’re all human and its okay to enjoy your job and the people around you.

    Check out Cured the next time you're looking for a fun lunch or night out in San Antonio! You won't be disappointed. Thank you Chef Steve for visiting with us!
    All Pictures Courtesy of atpearl.com and tastingtable.com

  • Hand Washing Awareness

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    As much as we use our hands on a day-to-day basis, it should come as no surprise that our hands are some of the largest transmitters of germs and infectious diseases out there. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most important thing we can do to keep from getting sick and spreading illnesses around is to clean our hands. Every year, both on October 15 and the whole month of December, there are hand washing awareness initiatives dedicated to educating people on the importance of hand hygiene. However, this education really shouldn't be limited to one day, week or month. Hand hygiene is something that should be practiced all the time: when preparing food, before meals, after using the restroom or handling garbage, after shaking hands or rubbing your nose, after talking on the phone or using a computer keyboard/mouse, even after turning a doorknob. The truth is, germs live everywhere and your hands should be washed all the time. Here are a few reminders that will keep you fresh and clean:

    So How Do I Really Wash?

    1. Wash with soap and warm water.
    2. Lather your hands, wrists, palms, back of hands, fingers and nails and scrub for 20 seconds (The amount of time it takes to sing Old MacDonald Had a Farm or the Happy Birthday song twice!)
    3. Rinse and dry with a clean towel.

    What's The Big Deal?

    Infectious diseases are the leading cause of illness and death worldwide.
    Come again?!

    Yes, you read correctly. And they also happen to be the third leading cause of death in the United States. According to the PPPHW, "The simple act of washing hands with soap can significantly cut the risk of diarrhea (from 30 percent to 50 percent, Fewtrell et al., 2005) and that of respiratory tract infection (from 21 percent to 45 percent, Curtis and Cairncross, 2003). UNICEF estimates that diarrhea kills one child every 30 seconds. Scientific research shows that handwashing with soap prevents disease in a more straightforward and cost-effective way than any single vaccine."

    Why Hand Washing?

    One gram of human feces has over 10 million viruses in it and one million bacteria. These pathogens are easily transmitted by an infected host (hands, for one) the moment you touch something, be it your nose, your eye, the table, or your food. Frequent hand washing, therefore, is criticial to stopping the transmission of these germs and reducing the risk of infections in addition to the cross contaminations of these pathogens in food, on surfaces and to others. It's the most affordable, easily acted upon, most readily available "vaccine" out there.

    Are Hand Sanitizers and Wipes Really Effective?

    Hand sanitizers and disinfecting wipes are an easy and effective way to kill germs on your hands and stop them in their tracks. They are especially useful when located in places where people are on-the-go and soap and water isn't available. Remember too that though they're effective in killing germs, they aren't designed to remove dirt or grime off your hands so wash with soap and warm water whenever possible.

    Is Antibacterial Soap More Effective Than Regular Soap?

    If you follow the 3 steps above, lathering and scrubbing for at least twenty seconds with soap and warm water, all soap should do the job about equally for non-healthcare settings. Antibacterial soap is essentially normal soap with antimicrobial ingredients added to it but the FDA says there is "no evidence" that antimicrobial soap keeps people healthier than its regular counterpart. 

    Header image Credit

  • Commercial Range Buying Guide

    Most chefs would agree that the range is the heart of the kitchen. Commercial ranges are built to handle a multitude of tasks in a compact, space-saving footprint. From sauteeing, grilling, stir-frying, boiling, simmering and braising, ranges are built to handle all kinds of cooking tasks thanks to their different cooktop configurations. It's about maximizing space and performance in one piece of equipment. Virtually every commercial kitchen serving hot food, from small restaurants to large hospitals and schools, is going to need a range, yet each place will have its own needs. Here are a few steps and considerations to keep in mind when shopping for one of your own:

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    1. What Type & Size?
      The type of range you get is going to be directly related to the size of your restaurant and how many meals you'll be preparing per day. The size of the range will depend on how much space you have to work with in your kitchen and how much power and cooktop space will be needed to satisfy the daily requirements at your restaurant.
      1. Heavy-Duty Ranges: If you're operating a kitchen that is putting out more than 250 meals per day, such as a large hospital, school or casino, a heavy-duty range might be the best option for you. These ranges have high energy outputs (upwards of 35,000 BTU per burner) and are designed with the specific intent to do high volume cooking all day long. They are built with durable, heavy-duty stainless steel and are designed to accommodate large pots and pans. These ranges are often seen connected with other heavy-duty ranges to form a long battery of cooktops.
      2. Restaurant Ranges: For restaurants large and small, a commercial restaurant range is the industry standard. These stand-alone ranges are designed to keep up in the commercial sector and they have plenty of BTUs for the day-to-day. Restaurant ranges also tend to be less expensive than their heavy-duty counterparts and they come in a wide variety of sizes varying in 12'' increments, from 12'', 24'', 36'', 48'', 60'' and 72'' widths to fit your unique size restrictions.
      3. Specialty Ranges: Oftentimes, there are needs for a more specialty range. Stock pot ranges are one example and are most commonly used to heat up large, heavy pots full of liquid, which is why they have a lower height. Induction ranges are another commonly seen specialty range which are growing in popularity in the foodservice market today.

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    2. Menu + Cooktop Configuration
      Deciding on a cooktop configuration is your opportunity to determine how much of your menu will rely on a range with different cooking surfaces. From basic burners to griddles, there are numerous options out there that should be considered based on the kinds of items that appear on your menu, like eggs and hot sandwiches. There are also add-on broiler options that can be found on many commercial ranges, so you can have a cheesemelter or a salamander mounted on your range to nicely finish off your dishes.
      1. Open Burner: The most common of the cooktop options, the open gas burner offers the operator a direct open flame that can be used with pots and pans to achieve all kinds of results, from boiling to stir-frying. The BTU of each burner ranges per manufacturer, though most can give off from 20,000 to 35,000 BTUs each.
      2. Griddle: The smooth, flat griddle surface is another commonality on commercial ranges and adds a different dimension to your cooktop. If your menu includes breakfast, the griddle option will be key to cooking up eggs, pancakes and more.
      3. Combination: Perhaps your menu calls for both burners and griddle space. In that case, you can get the most flexibility all on one cooktop. Commercial range manufacturers like Garland and Southbend have numerous design options to choose from.

    3. Hood Codes
      Knowing how much space you have under your exhaust hood is a key factor in determining range size. Most code requires that your hood extend at least six inches on either side of your range. So if you have a 60'' hood, the largest range you could have would be 48 inches wide. It's extremely important to check with your local health and safety codes to determine the specifications in your area.

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    4. Utilities
      Determining what utilities are available in your venue is crucial to knowing range you will need.
      1. Gas vs. Electric : Whether your kitchen has gas or electric utilities, there are range options to suit your set-up. Gas ranges are the most commonly used in commercial kitchens and they're reliant on a flow of natural gas or liquid propane gas from the utility source to the equipment via a gas connection hose. Having the right sized hose is imperative to ensuring your range is fed with the proper amount of gas. When gas is not available, electric ranges are, and knowing the voltage requirements at your hook up is key. Talk to a Mission Restaurant Supply agent to make sure you have the right unit!

    5. Other Considerations
      1. Casters: Casters are a nice alternative to legs on a commercial range for their easy mobility so you can clean behind the range in those grimy, hard-to-reach areas. (These grimy, hard-to-reach areas also happen to be one of a health inspectors frequently watched areas.)
      2. Ovens \ Storage Space: Most ranges today have an oven cavity below the cooktop, and for larger models, there are often more than one to maximize your baking space. Other models have storage spaces in lieu or in conjunction with an oven, offering room to store pots, sheet pans and more.

    If you need any help or have any questions about replacing an old range or buying a new one, please call us at 1-800-319-0690 Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 6 PM Central Standard Time. One of our agents would be happy to help you find the right commercial range for your business.
  • 10 Reasons To Love The MSO35 Steamer Oven by Menumaster

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    The MSO35 MenuMaster Steamer Oven is a high quality solution for all your large volume steaming needs. This heavy-duty unit not only simplifies steaming but its diversity will make it a dependable favorite in the back of the house. Here are 10 things to know about the MSO35:

    1. Space-Saving Design. The 1.6 cubic foot interior cavity can hold 2 full size amber food pans, each 4 inches deep, so you can get the most output out of each cycle without overusing precious countertop space.
    2. Speed. The MSO35 is 4X faster than a traditional steamer, retaining food quality and keeping  meats tender and vegetables crisp.
    3. Low cost. Depending on your frequency of use, this unit can operate on less than $1 of energy per day.
    4. Power. 3500 Watts plus 11 power levels for great results no matter whether you're dealing with frozen, refrigerated or fresh product. 
    5. No plumbing or vent hood necessary. Enough said.
    6. Easy maintenance. The magnetic front air filter is easily removable for cleaning and you will be alerted with a clean filter reminder. The interior and exterior are both constructed of stainless steel.
    7. Programmability.  The MSO35 has 10 programmable memory pads plus a USB port for standard flash drives that will update your menu items in seconds. Up to 100 programmable menu items can be used to ensure consistent results and streamline operations.
    8. It is ETL Listed.
    9. The transparent, drop down door and interior lighting allows you to check on your product without disrupting the cook cycle.
    10. Demand. The MSO steamer oven can be used in just about any large volume setting, from fast casual restaurants to grocery stores, buffets, healthcare facilities, schools, cafeterias, stadiums and more.

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