Hawaii’s distinctive culinary culture will be on full display at the 12th annual Waikiki Spam Jam on May 3.
Among the Aloha State’s most anticipated food festivals, the one-day event draws about 25,000 people to Kalakaua Avenue, where officials shut down Waikiki’s main drag for live music and performances, a crafts market and, of course, a variety of food booths featuring Spam dishes.
“Each restaurant has to have at least one Spam dish,” explained event organizer Karen Winpenny. “We’ve had Spam french fries, Spam tacos, Spam ice cream and Spam cheesecake.”
Hawaiians buy 7 million cans of Spam annually, more than any other U.S. state.
Asked about folks who don’t think Spam is worthy of such hoopla, Winpenny replied, “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Some of these recipes are fabulous.”
Do you own a restaurant? Have you ever considered blogging?
Now almost every restaurant has its own website and a dedicated Facebook page, if not anything else. But when it comes to branding, restaurants do need something extra. Wondering what would that be? A blog!
Blogging can do a lot to help your business grow. Let’s see!
Things that you cannot share on your website or Facebook Page, can be shared easily on your blog.
It adds a human voice to your restaurant.
It helps you maintain and strengthen your relationship with your customers.
It enhances your online marketing efforts.
It increases your other marketing campaigns’ reach
And last but not the least, it boosts the search engine friendliness of your business.
Many restaurants start blogging with a great zeal but discontinue publishing at some point, as they run out of ideas. But the fact remains, if you invest a little of your time and mind-space, you can create magic with your blog.
Here are some creative blogging ideas for you:
Share recipes: Did you know recipes are one of the most popular content forms that are being shared online? Every re-share adds to your branding and word-of-mouth marketing. It also energizes the brand recall.
However, being a restaurant owner, you may not want to share the recipes of your signature dishes. You shouldn’t do either! But sharing seasonal, lesser-known recipes would not cause any harm to your business. You may also go for the recipes that are related to your cuisine but less-complicated.
Don’t forget to mention the minute details like the preparation time, one or two original images of the dish, best side dish to go with and alternate ingredients in case you have used any rare one.
Announce new menu: Many restaurants change their menu occasionally. Some do it during festive seasons while some do it to use seasonal ingredients. Whatever the case is, you need to market the new menu to let people know about it. A blog can prove really handy to ensure a wider and better reach.
Blog compliments your Facebook campaigns: Your blog and Facebook page can work together.
Taking the cue from the last tip, let’s assume you are introducing a pocket-friendly menu to attract students. Create a blog post “Introducing Set Meal: Students, are you following?” Share it on Facebook and run page post ads to pull the attention of your target audience towards the menu.
Similarly, when you will be running a Facebook contest, offer or any other campaign, you can blog about it. It would increase the reach and at the same time educate your audience about the latest happenings at your restaurant. You never know, you might just get 100 new entries from one blog post.
Promote events and food festivals: Restaurants often organize events and food festivals. You might arrange them too! Why not promoting it through your blog? In fact, a blog perfectly fits in, when you need a bigger space to send your message across.
Write about the event in details like duration, venue and cuisine specification. Your audience should get a clear idea about what to expect. Take some room out to mention why they must visit the event.
Now post the blog on Facebook and run page post ads, targeting the potential local customers. And after it’s over, you can write another blog to share the experience with your audience.
Educate your audience: Sometimes, educating your target audience gives you more reward than what you expect. There are many ways that you can educate your audience and at the same time create trust, authority and reliability for your business.
Let’s say, you own a sea food restaurant in such a city, where very few people are familiar with the cuisine. A blog would help you introduce sea food to the people in an interesting way. For example, very few foodies know that there are many types of prawn. So blogging on something like “Know about the prawn, you are ordering” is a good idea.
Advice on food and wine pairing is also a rewarding concept for blogging. You might have experienced that many of your customers ask for suggestions while ordering their drinks. A perfect pair of food and drink is like a match made in heaven that can add a different dimension to a dining experience. Help you customers decide their drinks by using images, tutorials, experts’ interviews.
Give information on the neighborhood: You can write about the to-do things in the neighborhood to attract families and large groups. For example, if there is a spa or a newly opened bowling club near your eating-joint, write about them and suggest your audience how they can plan for a perfect day out in the neighborhood.
This would be beneficial in two ways.
First, if someone plans a visit with his friends near your locality, he can consider your restaurant. It will also help you make your potential customers discover your business.
Secondly, local businesses will start recognizing you as their ally. You never know, some of them might also end up having or recommending you as their restaurant or catering partner. But stay away from promoting your competitors.
Humanize of the brand: Try to give your restaurant a human face, so that your audience can talk and share their opinion with you.
Introduce your staff. Share interesting stories about your restaurant. Create vlogs (video blogs) to share recipes, to conduct tours to the kitchen, to show how you work during the busy hours or how you have fun while working. Feature your loyal customers. Featuring your suppliers is also a good idea, as your customers may want to know where your ingredients come from. And the bonus is, your relationship with your suppliers will grow stronger. You can either write text blogs with images or shoot short videos to make a collage.
The scope is endless. All you need is, a bit of creativity and patience to experiment. Don’t worry! The more you would think, the more ideas would come up! Start today!
This article is an original contribution by Ishita Ganguly.
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Rendering of College Town, Mt. Hope and Elmwood Avenues – Rochester, NY
Rendering of College Town, Mt. Hope and Elmwood Avenues – Rochester, NY
Construction of College Town, Mt. Hope and Elmwood Avenues – Rochester, NY
Construction of College Town, Mt. Hope and Elmwood Avenues – Rochester, NY
Construction of College Town, Mt. Hope and Elmwood Avenues – Rochester, NY
Rochester, NY TAYLOR, a leading regional general contractor, was recently awarded the construction contract for a significant portion of the new 500,000 s/f mixed-use development at the intersection of Mt. Hope and Elmwood Aves. TAYLOR has teamed-up with Rochester-based CJS Architects for design-build services, joining a partnership called “CT Rochester” involving Fairmount Properties and Gilbane Development. Construction work is currently underway, with a project completion date slated for Fall, 2014.
“TAYLOR is excited to be a part of this monumental project. This type of project is good for the city, and surrounding region as a whole,” said TAYLOR president, Karl Schuler. “Helping to strengthen a vibrant neighborhood atmosphere within walking distance from the River Campus, College Town will enhance the quality of life for both the Mt. Hope neighborhood community, and the University of Rochester.” Schuler added, “Working with CT Rochester and CJS on the project as a design-build team has been a true collaboration.”
TAYLOR will be responsible for the construction of two buildings of the new mixed-use office and retail development along Mt. Hope Ave., which includes construction of a main 4-story, 220,000 s/f residential/retail building, featuring a 2-story Barnes Noble Bookstore, restaurants and shops; and a 3-story, 69,000 s/f residential/retail building, featuring street-level shops and restaurants.
College Town is seen as an extension of the community surrounding the University of Rochester’s main 534-acre River Campus, and the University of Rochester Medical Center, including Strong Memorial Hospital. Designed to create an engaging environment, the mixed-use buildings within the development are conceived in a “Main Street” vernacular that, true to the name, will maintain wide sidewalks and strong street edge to the surrounding streets, with a particular focus on Mt. Hope Ave. for on-street restaurants, cafes and retail. College Town will be host to several community events to be held in public gathering places within the College Town district, such as farmers markets, holiday walks, live performances, antique car shows, art festivals, sidewalk sales and international food festivals.
TAYLOR is a second-generation general contractor with over 30 years of experience in the design and construction of commercial, industrial, multi-family, and institutional buildings. Having successfully completed literally hundreds of projects, TAYLOR has the resources to deliver superior execution on all phases of every project from the ground up.
Story ran in the Upstate New York section on 03/11/2014
A NEW ticketing service specifically aimed at SMEs and community organisations has been launched on the Sunshine Coast and the directors are now actively seeking a local person to take on the licence.
Kristen Goldup and business partner Jan Martin established Local Tickets Pty Ltd from their former base in the Whitsundays and Townsville about a year ago.
Kristen, who was working in the Far North in marketing and PR, noticed a gap in the market as smaller businesses and groups were looking for an effective way to sell tickets for events like breakfasts, food festivals, Melbourne Cup events or networking occasions.
“I did some research and there was no back-end operator that could help this side of the market,” she said.
“So I registered 60 domain names across Australia and New Zealand, promoting the destination. So there is Townsvilletickets.com.au, Cairnstickets, Sunshinecoasttickets.
“We now own Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney, but our focus is on regional Australia, we feel that’s where the work needs to be done.
“Sites like Eventbrite are a competitor, but we’ve done it differently on purpose in that we’ve built in a front-end marketing channel so it can become a household brand quite quickly that attracts visitors.
“We’re the only destination-focused ticketing site.”
Customers go online and load details of an event, with a link generated for wider promotion and the site taking care of all ticket issuing, terms and conditions, RSVPs as well as assembling a database for each event host and information on final numbers and income generated.
Fees are $1 per ticket if the unit price is under $49.99; $2 if tickets range between $50 and $99.99 and $3 if it’s over $100. Fees are only charged on tickets sold.
So far, it has been used by Jupiters Casino, Zonta, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, the Gold Coast Turf Club and state government.
Here on the Coast, Accounting North partner Matt Richards used the service at a recent LNP business breakfast.
“The amount of time it chewed up to organise our breakfasts previously was extraordinary and I ended up thinking there’s got to be a better solution,” he said.
“Just by chance I came across Sunshine Coast Tickets when they rang us up for some advice on accounting software.
“We used them for a breakfast a few weeks ago.
“We set it up, put a link in an email, sent it out then didn’t need to do anything beyond that.
“We had 80 or 85 people attend. On the day we got a statement, with the final amount of people coming and the amount of money going into the bank account.
“Compared to what I did the last time, it was so much easier. For the cost of about $80, it probably saved us between 10 and 20 hours’ work.”
Kristen said she was in the process of building in allocated seating to the system.
She said a licence to run the site had been sold in Ipswich and the Gold Coast, with the search now on for a Sunshine Coast partner.
“We believe it’s a great part-time business or a great bolt-on to someone already in the industry.
“They really are local champions of the region.
“We sell them a licence, they market the site and in return they get 50% of the booking fees that go through the site.”
Kristen said Local Tickets was a member of each region’s tourism organisation and had met with the local events board and councillors.
“We know there’s a lot of events and opportunities on the Sunshine Coast and we understand the council are proactive at putting the Sunshine Coast on the map as a major events destination,” she said.
DECATUR – By his own admission, Chris Brodnicki describes the Decatur Civic Center as a fairly quiet place in recent years.
Despite hosting longtime programming such as ice skating and the occasional trade show, many of its facilities were largely dormant. That included the stage previously used by local community theater group Theatre 7 until their 2011 move to Richland Community College.
The facility made enough money to remain in operation, but in Brodnicki’s eyes, they were simply playing it safe. And so, when he applied for the civic center’s open general manager position in 2013, he brought with him a variety of proposals to inject new life into the building as a venue for entertainment.
“The formula that was in place paid the bills, with people occasionally renting the theater or meeting rooms, and we had ice skating,” Brodnicki said. “But is that what the civic center was built to do? We were created to be a venue where exciting things are going on.”
The Decatur native successfully sold that spirit to the civic center’s board of directors, and now the fruits of his labor are becoming visible. From the organization’s new website at www.decaturciviccenter.org, one can see an updated calendar of events that hints at the styles of programming the new civic center has in mind. They include live music/food festivals, musical theater, animal shows and stand-up comedy in addition to returning programs such as the Home, Lawn Garden Show or local roller derby squad, The Prairieland Punishers.
“I thought the best thing would be to appeal to the largest possible audience of families, adults and children alike,” said the new manager. “The civic center already has a base in family accessibility through ice skating. Decatur does have some great yearly entertainment events like Celebration, but we need to keep them going the whole year.”
Brodnicki is a Niantic-Harristown High School graduate who studied at Richland, joined the Navy and eventually received his master’s degree in tourism and recreation from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Along the way he gained pertinent experience managing small museums, booking traveling exhibitions and also large animal acts such as Jack Hanna and Jeff Corwin.
Still, the civic center job is largely new to him. He brings, however, a memory of what the venue was once like when he was growing up in Decatur in the 1980s.
“It had some absolutely great stuff in its beginnings,” he said. “Johnny Cash was here, Metallica played here and Cheap Trick played here. There were rodeos, circuses and flea markets. The million-dollar question is why things slowed down. Obviously, the Decatur economy slowed, and it didn’t adjust as well as it could have. There’s a kind of sadness in Decatur sometimes, but it’s my hometown. I love it and I want to do everything I can do to reverse that trend. I believe we can offer things that people can afford to do.”
Affordability is indeed the name of the game, according to assistant general manager Mike Pritchett. He’s been at the civic center for 31 years and worked his way up from a go-kart attendant, and has seen the venue in both its heyday and slower period. Brodnicki refers to him as “a genius” whose ideas for the venue were never adequately sought before, but now he has assumed new responsibilities in the civic center’s planning processes.
“What we are looking for now is more affordable acts that aren’t so large, because ticket price is a big deal in Decatur,” Pritchett said. “We’re targeting acts where 25 percent of the house sales will pay for all the expenses to minimize our risks and hopefully make profits that can be invested into further shows.”
Most notably, the civic center is now looking into working “co-promotions” with prospective acts. Rather than simply having the acts rent the venue or pay full price for their services, they’ll pay a reduced rate to book a performer and then split the revenues generated by ticket sales. The arrangement allows for the possibility of greater profits than with rentals, but reduces the risk of self-promoted acts. The first to be brought in this way was the six-day run of “Menopause the Musical,” which Brodnicki said made a modest profit for both the civic center and the production company.
“It went well, we both got what we were looking for despite the terrible weather that week,” he said. “We didn’t sell out any of the shows, but we averaged around 250 a night over the course of its run. That was enough to make everybody money, and it kept the audience pleased as punch.”
The upcoming, April 1 theater performance of “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” will be handled the same way. Pritchett credits the organization’s board of directors for being open to a change from what had become business as usual.
“We took these ideas to the board and they’re letting us consider self-promoted events again,” he said. “The fact that they’re a little more open-minded about it makes this all much easier. It’s exciting for me, because it’s nice to be able to say ‘yes’ to some new acts that want to perform here.”
David Martin is the Decatur Civic Center Board president, and had a hand in selecting Brodnicki as the new general manager after the retirement of Bud Wilcox. He said it was Brodnicki’s enthusiasm and drive to experiment in a prudent way that won him the position. He envisions the civic center as a gathering place where there is always something fresh and new happening.
“Our vision would be that there’s something going on at the civic center every weekend, and it’s among the first places you think of to check,” Martin said. “So we were looking for somebody who could come up with a nice mix of new ideas that would go over in Decatur.”
The next few months will be busy ones, as the civic center programmers attempt to capture public attention. Within the next three weeks they’ll host the “Wings to Soar” birds of prey show on March 13, “Men Are from Mars” on April 1 and returning Decatur Celebration performers Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band on April 4, among others. Profits will be sunk into future shows and an array of necessary technical upgrades, such as new dimmers for the amphitheater’s lights. Brodnicki is excited to have a full schedule and new website, one that doesn’t list year-old events as “upcoming.”
“I think I was able to sell the board on these ideas because I’m from Decatur and I care about the town,” he said. “I’m not a fly by night guy. This is where I’m going to remain, so I’m going to try and make it the best place possible. We’ve got to get more businesses and families moving back to town, and I think the civic center has an opportunity to be part of that.”
A foodie’s haven no doubt Koramangala has a lot more to it than the high budget restaurants and pubs. Pocket friendly bakeries and bistros along with traditional snack joints have not just teasing taste buds but are also raking moolahs out of it. Be it fresh muffins, burgers or unusual tastes of dosas, Koramangala has options to suit every pocket and every taste,
Mayank Agarwal and Ahmed Sharif started The Tuck Shop in June 2013 at the 5th Block of Koramnagala and ever since customers have never stopped pouring in asking for more and more of their signature items like Fairy Cake, Beef Gulabo and Moroccon Lamb chops among others.
Crowded mostly by the college crowd the collaged walls of the shop only add on the mood of a hearty chat over a delicious quick meal. The Tuck Shop lives up to the promise made on the signboard at the entrance-’Reliving the taste of your school days’. Having touched break even in six months the snack joint offers a full meal for two at Rs 500.
To keep the customer asking for more one of the most important strategies for the shop to attract attention is their food festivals in the forms of Burger Fest, Waffles versus Pancakes, Cupcake and Breakfast Fest and many others.
The demand is growing not just for start up joints like this but also for business that sell delectable snacks off the streets. An experience that hardly anyone at Koramangala could have missed is the 99 Dosas. On weekends, this 99 Variety Bombay Dosa on 80-ft Road in Koramangala resembles a mini riot with people crowding the small but embellished thela shop asking for their favourite variety of Dosa-be it the one with Chinese filling or simple cheese and corn or the very regular stuffed potato. The Dosas have a true cosmopolitan taste and touch to it with the traditional coconut chutney with Dosa often being replaced by tomato ketchup depending on the kind of order placed.
For those who wouldn’t want to experiment with meat or the traditional snacks have an option to experiment with their sweet tooth. With almost 50 bakeries in the area Koramangala has a huge platter of deserts and breads on offer. Started in the year 2003 Daily Bread saw a growth of 25 percent. Once it forayed into the bistro business, the growth rate soared to a whopping 60 percent. Targeting mostly the young population in the area.
Serving flavours as innovative as a Black Magic Pie and Bulls Eye, Calvins at 5th and 6th block of Koramangala, the store has an option of 500 odd flavours. With the huge success of Calvins, the brand has set aside a budget of Rs 8 crore for further expansion in the city. It is all set to open four more stores at Indiranagar, Jaynagar, Kammanahalli and Lavelle Road.
With an initial investment of Rs 50 lakh, Breadworks that has six stores across the city has exotic bread inventory for their well travelled clientele. Specialising in breads from all around the world, Breadworks is a hit with the expatriates living in the area. “There would be lot of foreigners, who would walk into our stores for the kind of breads that are not available anywhere in Koramangala. Even the well-travelled corporate employees ask for freshly-baked exotic breads that we keep in both our outlets,” said Nathlie, general manager, Breadworks, Bangalore.
“The stocks bread varieties like Parisian Baguette, Pain Au Levain, Brioche, Bagels, Challah Scottish Mist, and Ciabbata. We also have a bistro which has a rich variety of cakes and breakfast meals on the menu,” said Nathlie, general manager, Breadworks, Bangalore.
Coming back to desi flavours. Spreads and More at the ground floor of Raheja Arcade, the shop offers everything of a perfect Indian meal. Those who crave for North Indian food in the South have good reasons to walk into this small joint. Serving everything north Indian from pakoras to parathas and lassi, doing brisk business the store has offerings between the range of Rs 13 and Rs 100 making it one of the favourite inexpensive option for school and college goers.
Those away from the 7th block have no reason to complain. At the 6th block there Get Roll’d Over serving delicious options of vegetarian and non vegetarian rolls alongside other traditional north Indian savouries like Chola Batura and papri chaat to quick meal options of noodles and Manchurian all between a budget of Rs 50 and Rs 130.
Jimmy Manson, of Oxford, centre, was one of several guys celebrating their stag parties at the Wildfoods Festival.
Annah Stretton’s Hokitika shop manager Angie Kay, centre, enjoys the entertainment with the judges for the Feral Fashion at the Foods.
Christchurch friends Taylor Saville, 20, Sara Westwood, 18 and her older sister, Kim, 22, donned Sara’s gory special effects makeup.
Paddy, from the Roddy Nugget Fishing Club, demonstrates how to sample a mountain oyster.
Canterbury University students Hayley Turner, 20, and Peter Whyte, 20, try out the delicious treats at the Udderly Wild Desserts stall.
Nelson-based wildfoods chef and cookbook author Daryl Crimp demonstrates how to cook pukeko.
A pride of lions has a rest.
Kent Beauchamp, of Oamaru, had to kneel at the confessional at the Holy Smoke Cafe.
Glen Dugan, 24, and Andy Heard, 27, agreed the scorpions, washed down with stallion semen, “were different”.
Sarah Jackson, 21, of Christchurch, samples a live grasshopper for the first time.
Joanne Horridge, a Greymouth district nurse, tried out a fried grasshopper on bread. Verdict? “It was crunchy.”
Julie Neilson, of New Plymouth, turned up with 12 friends and family to celebrate her 40th birthday.
Binocular football was a new ‘adult entertainment’ stall at the Wildfoods Festival, which Christchurch friends, from left, Sam Hishon, 23, Michael Corrigan, 22, Jordan Hann, 20 and Sean Clark, 22, had a blast trying out.
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The weekend’s Wild Food Festival could be Hokitika’s last, as the event struggles to pull in the crowds.
Festival manager Mike Keenan said the event attracted about 8500 people in 2013, down from almost 11,000 2012.
Attendance peaked in 2003 with 22,500 festival goers and ticket sales are now capped at 15,000.
The 25-year-old festival, which is owned by Westland District Council, made a $68,000 loss last year. Keenan told Radio New Zealand yesterday that if numbers did not improve, the event may no longer have a future.
“We’re on notice now that if we don’t perform we could be down Skid Row I dare say,” he said.
Keenan said the decision lay with the Westland District Council on whether to continue the event if there was another loss this year.
He said ticket sales for Saturday’s event were down, but he hoped gate sales would make up for it.
The festival’s menu this year included stallion semen, crispy tarantulas and seagull eggs.
Crouching Grasshopper’s stall had the creepy addition of crispy tarantulas, which were imported from Thailand and sold out in a matter of hours. Mikhail Kozijevic, 25, of Christchurch, sampled one of its poisonous spiders’ legs and said its flavour was impossible to describe.
“It was a little bit acidy. It did have a lot of flavour though.”
Stall-holder Fiona Anderson, who bred the grasshoppers for about six months in her Hokitika living room, said the critters were always popular.
“I feel a bit bad but it’s quite good, it really is,” Christchurch woman Sarah Jackson, 21, said as she tasted a live grasshopper for the first time.
Police said the majority of festival-goers were well behaved, and there were no arrests made at the event.
Senior Sergeant Phil Baker said 21 arrests were made over the weekend around Hokitika for disorderly behaviour and other alcohol-related issues. There were also 47 infringement notices issued for breaches of the liquor ban.
Over the weekend, Hokitika police also breath-tested about 4500 drivers travelling in the region. Only three were found to be over the alcohol limit.
Mr Holland is planning a new venture in Pembrokeshire, where he will oversee a new restaurant that overlooks the sea.
He had tried to open a restaurant in Bridgnorth, but had been thwarted by legal complications.
Today Mr Holland said he was sorry to be leaving Shropshire because he had enjoyed seven happy years in the county.
He said: “I made great efforts to stay in Shropshire and we tried very hard to find an opportunity that would work for us.
“We were hopeful of opening a restaurant in Bridgnorth but unfortunately that didn’t happen. I have been offered an exciting opportunity to run a new restaurant in Pembrokeshire by established restaurateurs and I’m excited about it.
“I’ll be very sorry to leave Shropshire because I’ve had seven wonderful years in the county. I’ve made a lot of friends who I’ll keep in touch with and I hope to be back from time to time.”
Mr Holland made his name at La Becasse, in Ludlow’s Corve Street. He won a Michelin star before the age of 30 and also featured on Great British Menu on two occasions. He beat The Hairy Bikers in a televised cook off and starred regularly at Shrewsbury and Ludlow Food Festivals.
Mr Holland added: “The new restaurant is just down the road from Narbeth, which is twinned with Ludlow, so I hope to retain many links with the town.”
He added: “I’d like to thank the people of Shropshire for supporting me. I’ve had the best of times and will leave with only happy memories.”
Food is no longer just an afterthought for some airlines and airports. In fact, there is now a new travel blog, FlyandDine.com, dedicated to covering just airline and airport food. Its “Eater-in-Chef” Jason Kessler shares his pick for the best new airport and airline food.
Like Pavlovian dogs salivating at the sound of a bell, most air travelers hear the phrase “in-flight meal” and immediately get nauseous. That’s really a shame because airlines are putting more care and effort into their menus than ever before. The truth is, food on planes these days is pretty good. In fact, the whole air travel experience as it relates to food has gotten a major upgrade. That’s exactly the reason why I started FlyandDine.com, the first website dedicated to documenting what and where to eat while you fly. Whether you’re in the air, at the terminal, or on the ground, FlyDine is your resource for figuring out what to eat on the go and we’re luckily entering into a new age of food travel. Here are five huge developments making the entire travel experience much better:
Constantly Evolving Menus
There are no sweeter words to a constantly flying road warrior than “new menu.” For those forced to eat regularly on airplanes, it’s far too easy to become sick of the same bowl of warm nuts and ice cream sundaes that appear before and after every business class meal. It’s even worse if you’re stuck in economy where your choices are usually limited to pre-packaged junk or poorly made sandwiches. In recent years, though, the airlines are making a concerted effort to offer appealing meal options and, more importantly, rotating those options. American recently ended its relationship with Marcus Samuelsson, but continues to innovate with new menu items like Thai-seasoned chicken breasts and United seems to constantly change their “Bistro on Board” menus. Virgin America is overhauling their entire first class menu on March 4 and that includes the introduction of a brand new flavor from San Francisco’s favorite artisanal ice cream maker Humphry Slocombe (with a special signature flavor chosen by flyers via Twitter). The major American carriers still can’t compete with the much better food options on international airlines, but with major menu renovations coming regularly, they’re certainly moving in the right direction.
Terminals as City Samplers
The best part of food festivals is getting to sample bites from a bunch of local restaurants all in one place. Airports must have picked up on this fact because they’re turning their terminals into permanent food festivals with outposts of local favorites giving travelers the chance to try iconic names without straying far from their gates. LAX is leading the charge with a massive overhaul to all of their terminal dining options, including Michael Voltaggio’s ink.sack, French dip specialists Cole’s, and Sushi Roku-inspired Luckyfish. In Grand Rapids, awesome brewery Bell’s just opened at Ford International Airport while San Antonio and Fort Lauderdale are jumping on the local restaurant bandwagon, too, with a whole slew of new restaurants opening in the next few years. Ever wanted to try Rick Bayless’s food? You can at Tortas Frontera at O’Hare. Heard about The Salt Lick but can’t make it out to Driftwood? Both DFW and the Austin airport have you covered. It’s a brave new world at the terminal, people, so don’t bother eating before you get through security.
Actual Food Professionals as Consultants
Airlines have used major chefs like Neil Perry (Qantas) and Heston Blumenthal (British Airways) to try and make their food more enticing for years now. That trend continues with a truly exciting development for Delta: Restauranteur Danny Meyers’ Union Square Hospitality Group has come on-board to offer barbecue favorites from New York’s venerable Blue Smoke restaurants. ‘Cue in the air is a perfect choice as the oven reheating process on airplanes should actually work to make the meat even better. One can only hope that every major airline will soon partner with a big-time restaurant group to turn your favorite dishes on the ground into new favorites in the air.
One of the best recent developments in air food is the ability to choose your meal before you fly. I took an American Airlines flight from Tokyo to LAX and couldn’t wait to try my pre-ordered filet (verdict: not bad!). While most of the pre-ordering is only available in the premium cabins, Qantas has recently expanded their “Select on Q-Eat” program to its premium economy seats as well. That means you no longer have to worry that you’ll be stuck with the fish curry when they run out of chicken and, if you ask me, that’s a major upgrade for everyone.
So what if all of these new menus and consultants don’t do much for you? Grab something from the terminal and take it along for the ride. Sounds easy, but it’s even easier when the terminal restaurants do the work for you. That’s what’s happening in London’s Heathrow Airport where Gordon Ramsey’s Plane Food is offering three-course meals packed in special insulated containers. Same thing at LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal where Petrossian is putting together “Picnic in the Air” packs with caviar, blinis, and crème fraiche. Even if you’re flying in the back of the plane, you can still eat a First Class meal and be the envy of all of your seatmates.
In today’s day and age, when winning a reality show gives one the title of “Chef” quite easily, it’s reassuring to know that the true world of chefs still exists. The world where one embarks on a long journey of learning, absorption, practice, thought and application. A journey that begins rather tearfully with the chopping of onions, and leads to rough and tough kitchens sometimes results in a celebrated title.
Of late, I’ve often been asked, “Who is a true chef and who isn’t?” or “Are TV chefs true?” And the answer is not so easy. There was a time when TV chefs were true chefs who had undergone the grind; chefs like Gary Rhodes or the Roux Brothers who had worked in kitchens (not necessarily 5-star hotel kitchens) and who really knew food, who strived for perfection in every aspect of cooking right from selecting ingredients to presentation. These were chefs who could demonstrate a dish or technique anywhere and using any ingredients given to them. Today, sadly, the picture has changed. If you can talk-the-talk, cooking doesn’t seem to matter. There are plenty of food teams available (comprising true chefs) who handle back-end kitchens and churn out not only pre-prep, but also cooked dishes to make people from non-culinary backgrounds look like chefs.
It was hence a refreshing change to see someone who not only spoke well, but also cooked and knew his food in and out. Meeting with Chef Christopher Koelke from Kendall College took me back through the journey of what it takes to be a true chef and I couldn’t help, but travel back in time to the training kitchen where the foundation of my career was laid.
I remember only too well the thorough checking we underwent every morning. Our chef uniforms were spotlessly white, our knives well-sharpened, all tools in the tool kit in order, we had notebooks handy to jot down important tips during the practical session. I also got nostalgic thinking about the training kitchen itself. Several rows of small kitchenettes which were assigned to us, charts on the walls – some showing us cuts of vegetables and meats, others giving us subliminal lessons in combining flavours and textures; and the classes of course – with our chef lecturers observing our every movement like a hawk, testing and guiding us at the same time.
Chef Christopher was demonstrating a few kitchen techniques and dishes, and he suddenly stressed on the proper handling of the most important kitchen tool. “A chef is defined by the way he or she handles a knife”, he said adding that, “a true chef uses his knife as an extension of his arm, from his shoulders to his forearms to his wrists. Even the way three fingers curl around the handle and thumb and forefinger rest comfortably on the sides of the blade shows how well a chef knows the main tool of his trade.” As he demonstrated quick slicing to an admiring audience of potential hospitality students, and explained the concepts of precision and speed, I saw flashes of roadside sandwich makers using their hacksaw blades to cut vegetables with enough speed and precision to put many a chef to shame.
Watching him work, I was reminded of the other lessons one learns in becoming a chef. Things like practicing cooking techniques and perfecting them in order to gain consistency, following an internal mental clock and developing an instinct so as to be able to cook without thermometers and measuring cups and spoons, creating a mental image of how you want the dish to finally look when it’s ready to be presented, how to plan and incorporate supporting elements to complete a dish, etc. However, there are several non-food lessons which one needs to master in order to truly become a chef.
Like multi-tasking for instance. A chef not only cooks food, but also plans menus for a la carte establishments, banquets, food festivals; makes and handles budgets to run the kitchen, creates new recipes, handles staff, trains new staff and also constantly keeps upgrading his own skills and knowledge. It’s a lot about putting egos aside and putting one’s food first before self. About mastering the art and science of food, which should be so ingrained in one’s psyche that you can adapt to situations on the press of a button or a whim and to be able to gain respect rather than demand it. Things get more and more challenging with every passing day and holding fort through the numerous ups and downs becomes the ultimate test – the test that differentiates a common cook from a chef.
However, holding a degree in hospitality is not enough to make one a chef. Experience is a key point. There are numerous chefs in the Indian hospitality industry who do not hold a formal degree. These men did not have the luxury of a formal education. Their beginnings were humble and journeys much tougher than ours. They learned through their own mistakes and gained experience by facing lashings every day. Today, they have earned the title of Chef and feature as Executive Chefs or Consultants to several big names in the industry. And it is these men who have taken the industry to the pinnacle at which it stands today.
I often think back on the most important thing I learned through the years – even after I became a chef – and the one thought that comes to mind is “Thank God, the beginning was difficult. It made the remaining journey smoother.”
Michael Swamy is a Cordon Bleu Graduate Chef, intrepid traveller, author and food stylist. He loves good food art, culture and food history.