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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Why we do it!

As I get older/wiser/crazier (pick one), I am realizing more and more why I do what I do and kick myself in the butt for not realizing my passion for cooking earlier on in life!

It's not like I did not have the 'signs'... From my mom teaching me how to make Sizzle Burgers (basically hamburgers fried in Worcester sauce before I was in my teens, from having Fondue parties back in the 70's when I was in High School, from cooking in the Atlantic City Boardwalk, again in the 70's, to having 'Protein Feast BBQ's' when I lived in Sonoma, CA in the late 70's, to having always looked through the food sections in the newspapers, seeing something and thinking, 'Oh, I gotta try that' and so on...

But nooooo, had to go into sales and make the easy money...

It was not until I had moved to Grand Junction in the early 2000's, went through a few jobs, was driving a cab one day and said.. 'I gotta change my life... what have I always loved to do... cook! Called up the local college, then Mesa State College, now Colorado Mesa University, asked if they had a culinary program, which they did, called Dan Kirby head of the program, who met with me the next day, spent a few hours just talking and I enrolled the next day. The full story is on our website.

Now that I been in the culinary field for over a decade, I still think back and wonder how much better I would have been if I had realized this passion earlier.. yeah, I know hindsight 20/20 and such.

But I also realize that basically I am much happier than I was in sales. Yeah, making money, spending money, but not really satisfied.

Again, having been in the field now for this time, I have had the opportunity to see many chefs, cooks and students, cooked for weddings, office parties, special events and with our cheesecakes and I think that I am one of the lucky ones.. I actually wake up a lot, thinking about food and what I can do to make people go.... Damn!! That's Good!! I love to cook!

At Decadence Gourmet, we have one simple mantra as to why we do what we do...

'The look on people's faces when they take their first bite!'

That's it, that's what it is all about!

Now, I have seen many people in our industry that seem to be in it for the wrong reasons, in it for just the money (good luck on that one!), or just going through the paces, same stuff all the time, nothing really innovative, hoping that their food is 'passable'. I just cant be one of those people...

There are a lot of chefs/cooks out there that know more than I do, are more technically advanced, but I doubt if many of them have more passion, there are a few and in a way, I hope that I am wrong, but.. how many times do I have to see Truffle Fries on a menu and people think that is something new?

It is all of our duties to 'push the boundaries' somewhat.. to try something new and let people know that while 'tried and true' is ok,,, there are other things out there!

One of the chefs here in town that I look up to is Josh at Bin707. Josh is always looking to reinvent food, to put out plates that make people go ..Damn!! When I have guests or family in from out of town, his place is a must-go. Check out their menus (and it updates..) and you will see what I mean...

So, people like Josh at Bin707, Theo at 626onRood and some others that I have met, reinforce my belief that some are in this business for the right reason!

Now go on out there and get your grub on!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Culinary Schools and their offerings

As many of you may know, I am a proud graduate of the Colorado Culinary Program at Colorado Mesa University. Having gone back to college after.. oh, let's just say a ....few years (decades) away from college, I realized that in order to keep evolving my life, I had to do something or things will just not change... Definition of Insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result...

Culinary Schools and other culinary programs are a great Petri 'dish' which allow for aspiring culinarians to work on their craft or in my case, not exactly sure what direction my culinary explorations were going to go, to let them surface... And trust me, the Chef Instructors have the patience of the gods in most cases. Imagine having a student, older than they were... with a Jersey Attitude!

While the students learn the basics, work on their skills and such, I think that one of the side benefits of these programs is, where offered, the on-campus restaurants that these programs offer. Here, students, with the aid and guidance of their chef instructors, not only learn what is is like to actually work in a restaurant, both front of the house and in the kitchen.

From menu planning to executing the menu, from expediting to service and customer service, these restaurants not only give the students much needed experience, but also allows the public to see what these aspiring chefs (or in my case... cook from Jersey) can do and to get what usually is one of the best food values in their area.

Out here in Western Colorado, we do have that luxury.. in the form of Chez Lena, the on-campus restaurant of my culinary school. Here, every semester, the students put out some truly great (and very affordable) food! They serve lunch from 11:30 - 1 pm Tuesdays through Fridays.

So whether it is out here in Western Colorado, at any of the well-known Culinary Programs (Culinary Institute of America, Johnson & Wales) or at your local community college, check these programs out, support your local schools and enjoy!

Here is this semester's menu from Chez Lena in Grand Junction...


Saturday, January 3, 2015

These people get it!

Recently, I drove down to Olathe to pick up some cheeses from Rocking W Cheese & Milk.

We had been doing our 'Pop-Up/Flash' restaurants in Grand Junction and Palisade for a few months, mostly with our 'En Fuego' theme.. Yes, Heat.. with flavor! At one of our 'En Fuego's', a fan of ours came up to me in the kitchen and asked me where I was getting my Habanero Jack cheese, which we use on top of our Flamin' Burgers and I answered, 'At the grocery store'.

He told me about this small, family-owned, dairy and farm down the road a little in Olathe, CO, Rocking W Cheese and Milk and how great their products were and that they made a Habanero Jack.

Curious and knowing how our En Fuego Fans have a such great tastes, I took a drive down there in March and picked up some (along with some of their Chipotle cheese) and started using it with our pop-ups.

The folks who run this could not be nicer, great little store and many, many varieties!

In early November, I had to go down to reload on the Habanero Jack and took some samples of our newest product (our first offering in our Shelf-Stable line of product), our Colorado-Style Southern Chow-Chow as I thought that they would make a great addition to what they offer.

They absolutely loved it (and now carry it!) and Angie (the office and store manager) aid I had to meet someone and she went and got Dan, their cheese maker, who came out, tried it and also loved it!

Now Dan had never met me, did not know me, but as we discovered, Dan was a PepperHead just as I am. We talked about heat and how it had to have flavor as heat without flavor just doesn't cut it. We talked about Ghost Peppers, Scorpion Peppers and more and said.. 'Hold on for a sec.." went into the back and came out with something new he was working on,. a Ghost Pepper Jack Cheese!!

It was GREAT!!! Heat, with Flavor!!

He said that he also wanted to play around with Scorpions in a cheese (which I subsequently sent him some of ours) and then mentioned that he would also like to play around with using our Chow-Chow in a cheese, so you know I had to give him a few jars to play with. (We will let you know what comes out of this!)

As I drove away and headed back up to Grand Junction, I started thinking about this meeting and aid to myself.. These folks get it! In the food business, while there are many people that are good at what they do, not all of them 'get it'... these folks do!

Putting one's soul into what you produce, intermingling with both your customers and your suppliers, going that extra mile... yeah, these folks get it!