I believe in my heart that there are several things that make us unique. One of the biggest things is our kitchen dynamic. We are putting out top notch food all made from scratch with high school and college culinary students. Now most kitchens that are putting out food like ours would have an executive chef, sous chef, pastry chef, and several line chefs all that have been cooking for several years. Here at Uri's all our cooks except for one current students or prior students to the culinary arts program that I teach at the Sanilac Career Center. For many this is there first job and they are thrown into the fire, so to speak, to cook at a very high level much faster than any where else. These kids are very talented and dedicated to their craft.
Teaching is a new passion of mine and a huge part of why we opened up the restaurant last year. After teaching for a couple years I realized there are very few places in the local area that the kids from my program could go and get a summer job and really see if they wanted to go onto culinary school. When opening the restaurant I made a promise to myself to hire as many kids as I could and also find some other local restaurants that the kids could really learn from. So far this has been working great.
The level of respect that these kids deserve for working so very hard, in a very hot kitchen in the summer, plus the amount of hours that they put in is incredible. They have all earned my respect as a chef and I am proud to have them on my staff.
So I would like to say thank you to our students and staff that help mold these young adults because we know that can be challenging at times.
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Why do we change our menu at Uri's Landing? Why do we have a small menu with only several entrees on them? Well frankly I get very bored of cooking the same thing everyday. I like to keep my drive going and doing new things. We will always have our staples like perch and salmon, but I like to go where the market drives me. When beef prices are high we will have fewer steaks on, but have more seafood, pork, etc. We run a small menu because we are a scratch kitchen. We make all our own breads, chips, soups, sauces, mayo, bbq sauce, dressings. We whip our own butter and cut all our own meats, fish, we hand grind our burgers and meatloaf in house. We take time to garnish our plates and keep them simple but unique with our own little twist. My food will tell a story over time and you will know who I am, how much pride and love I put into each and every plate that we create.
The main reason we change our menu is that our season's change. We are always using fresh ingredients and we try to use them when they are in season. At a minimum we will change of menu at least four times a year but I usually will do it more like six times. Now this does not mean it will be a drastic change, sometimes it may just be a few items. Sometimes I will change the menu if a dish is not selling very good. If people do not buy it, then they do not want it, therefore I will not offer it. My pet peeve is when you go to a restaurant and you have to flip several pages to read their entire menu. This tells you that they probably have not changed the menu in years simply because it is to big to change.
What does a big menu say when you sit down to read it? It says this restaurant is not great at any type of food, they are not using fresh ingredients, and they probably do not have a chef. Then because I am in the business I wonder who is cooking my food. Probably someone that has a degree in a different field of expertise but could not find a job, so they became a cook at the local restaurant. They usually do not care or have passion for what they are doing which means food safety and cleanliness is not up to standards.
I am not saying that places are not good because they have big menus or that my food is great and everyone will love it. Because this is not true. Everyone has different taste buds and everyone has there favorites. My roll as a chef is to take food from it's natural state and explain it to you in the dish it is served, so that you will now understand it and be able to taste it so you can make your judgment where you will like it or not.
One of the new things we are going to be doing this year is when certain items are in season such as Heirloom Tomatoes we will be preserving them ( just like grandma use to do) for when it is the off season. This way in the dead of winter you will be able to enjoy a great tasting tomato on your burger. Right now if you get a fresh slice of tomato on your burger it will be hard and unripe with no flavor. So this summer when all our wonderful vegetables and fruits are in season we will be preserving them for the winter time. A little taste of summer in the middle of a snow storm can change your day.
Friday, January 30, 2015
What Drives a Chef?
This is a question that every chef needs to know the answer to. My favorite part about this question is that every chef has a different answer. This in a way helps many chefs stay current. It is very easy in this business to become common. By common I mean nothing changes, you run the same menu for years, you come in have a routine, and then go home. This is my biggest fear as a chef.
My fire inside the kitchen is a family thing. Being a third generation chef I was always looking for the approval of my parents with my father being a chef and my mother was a General Manager for restaurants. Once I started cooking full time that was my goal to hear my father tell me that I had done it, I had become a better chef. Now that my dad has passed away I still look to him for my driving ambition. When I am confused or stuck I simply ask myself what would my dad would do in this situation. Then I take that idea and make it better or put a twist on it.
I had my father and mother out for a private dinner once I had become an executive chef one night. I gave them the treatment a six course tasting dinner. At the end of the dinner I sat down and had a night cap with them. That’s when it happened. The words that I had been looking for (with tears in his eyes) Clint you are going to be a great chef, much better than me. Now that I have his approval as a chef I use that to never disappoint him. To this day and for the rest of my life I will always look to my father for advice and approval which will cause me to keep driving forward and never become common.
Now my drive is helping young chefs. I am a culinary arts teacher at a local career center for high school juniors and seniors. 95% of my kitchen staff are students from my culinary program that are interested in culinary arts or are continuing their education for a culinary degree. By being able to put out three star food with students is a huge success in my book. I know not know one restaurant within a hundred miles that can do this. Most of our diners have no idea that they are eating food from local high school and culinary college students. They think I have a highly trained kitchen staff.
My personal drive is to keep my family happy, be able to help others, and provide amazing food.