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BBQ – A Canadian Institution

Coming from across the big pond from the United Kingdom, I was fascinated by how popular BBQ cooking was here in Canada – something I had never previously used until I arrived here. Barbequing creates a great social atmosphere amongst friends and neighbors allowing people to interact casually for all sorts of occasions whilst enjoying great food and cold beer.

BBQ’s consist of two styles of cooking.  The first is the direct heat method, which is similar to broiling, where food is placed onto the pre-heated cooking grate. The second method is the indirect cooking method, which is similar to roasting.

Here are my tips for a successful summer of barbequing.

Firstly, make sure you are in the company of your wife…she can bring cold beer when you need one and restock the fridge as you deplete it!

Equipment – along with your BBQ, you will require long handled tongs, steel brush, a basting brush and a pair of oven mitts

Preheat the barbeque. Clean the grill while pre-heating, this helps with the cleaning process. Next, oil the grill. If you are using a spray, remove the grill from the barbeque to keep the oil spray from catching fire. Use a thin layer for the best results.

Cooking on your BBQ low is at 300F, medium 450F and high is normally 650F. Hamburgers ¾ thick should be cooked 9-12 minutes on a medium heat, Steak 1” thick anywhere from 3-7 minutes for rare up to 10-13 minutes for well-done. Fish generally is anywhere from 8-12 minutes unless frozen then double the cooking time.

If you prefer wine with your barbequed food, I would suggest a red or white from the south of France. Have a Sizzling summer!

What is Canada’s Best Wine Varietal

The Canadian wine industry has grown dramatically over the last twenty years. It is undergoing rapid and diverse expansion with replanting of the finest grape varieties that can be grown in each of its prime viticulture areas, especially Niagara and the Okanagan Valley.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s, cool climate grape varieties such as Riesling, Chardonnay, Gamay Noir, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc were chosen. These vines are now producing wines of character and structure. In BC, Pinot Blanc and Semillon have been very successful as well.

Wine making within the winery once the harvest is complete has also changed. Canada currently imports wine makers from around the World from places like Australia, France, Italy, New Zealand and the United States to assist in defining quality production of wine. Progress has been brisk with new techniques in wine making and vineyard management. Today, both BC and Niagara are producing good Bordeaux style blends with Merlot growing particularly well in BC whilst Syrah is performing well in Ontario. Because of this, Canada is finally being recognized on the world stage as a formidable wine producing country although relatively small.

After tasting many wines in both areas, it is my opinion that Canada needs to be recognized in the wine industry for growing a single variety such as Pinot Noir in Burgundy and Shiraz in the Barossa.

Although Canada is such a big country there is one single variety that grows well in most regions and that is Riesling. It is the one single variety that grows well in both BC and Niagara. It is also very versatile being used for Ice-wine and sparkling wine blends. Cave Springs CSW Riesling and Mission Hill Reserve Riesling are two of my favorites.

Continuing Restaurant Trends

As a restaurateur it is very important to be current with industry trends in order for you business to survive and grow.

Typically as a manager, owner and Chef, this is reviewed three months prior to the calendar year and incorporated into the yearly business plan. This proactive approach enables you to embrace new initiatives creating better experiences for your customers whilst creating excitement with restaurant employees.

Here Are My Top Five Hot Trends:

  1. The evolution of technology will dominate trends in the next few years: I Pads and mobile phone applications already have menus, wine lists and golf course configuration applications that can be downloaded for free. Open Table, a global reservation system used for dinner reservations in North America, is an easy way for people to book reservations and for restaurants owners to attract more customers. Social media, Face book, Twitter to name a few have huge following and is an easy way to get your message out to the community. Failure to be involved in these applications may see some restaurant business fall behind resulting in closure.
  1. Everybody wants a deal – restaurants are going to be challenged more than ever this year. Customers will be looking for price breaks everywhere they eat. Restaurant operators will be challenged in sustaining their bottom line in an effort to capture business with lots of surrounding competition.
  2. Operational growth higher end restaurants will see some growth as people are prepared to spend that little bit more for quality.

Casual fine dining restaurant will have to be innovative with their menu concepts and raise service levels. The biggest growing sector will be the Gastro Pub restaurant style food at pub prices.

  1. Spotlight on local “Farmers and Artisans”. As a Chef and experienced Hospitality Manager, using local produce using the 100 mile metrics is very important me and in most quality restaurants today local produce features are prominently mentioned on restaurant menus of today. In 2011, a strong presence will be focused on local Farmers and Artisans focusing on product traceability and local sourcing.
  1. Back to the beginning – more and more recognized Chefs’ have published cookbooks on home style cooking. With the popularity of cookery classes and wine education, this will continue to grow as does culinary travel. This gives restaurateurs the opportunity to start their own food and wine club offering simple prepared restaurant dishes that can be easily prepared at home.

Feeling Good About Customer Service

If good customer service is so important to a business success, then why do so few have it?

Our appraisal of the service begins with our first impressions of a particular operation, which is impacted by the quality of the establishment such as a fine dining restaurant opposed to a pub.

As a customer service facilitator I remind myself that it is very important to remember that the number one reason why customers do not return to a business is because of poor staff attitude. Customer service assessment is often influenced by many factors such as food related experiences, level of culinary sophistication and own past experiences, which creates expectations.

My definition of service is something you cannot physically touch but experience thus creating emotions from within depending on that customer experience. Service plays a crucial role in our dining experience.

Have you ever gone to a restaurant and your server asks how your meal is even though you are yet to try it?  Service expectations differ greatly depending on the individual and what should be a great experience can be changed by the attitude of your server.

Restaurant service plays a crucial role in dining experiences; few people will tolerate bad or disrespectful service even if the food is superior.

Customer service policies are normally set by the owner / manager after which staff are properly trained and made accountable.

Don’t accept bad service. Always inform an establishment if you are unhappy with what you have received. This at least gives them the opportunity to make amends.

Having worked in many fine dining restaurants, I fully understand the importance of presentation and creating that visual wow factor, however, I do not think it should be taken to the extreme.

My philosophy is taken from Gordon Ramsay, which is “Less is More” or the kiss approach as it is known.  In my opinion food should be true to itself.   I believe in using the finest, fresh ingredients available, preparing them well, creating a dish with emphasis three to four flavors being expressed at any given time.

I am sure many chef’s will disagree as they may believe that elaborate presentation gives chef’s the opportunity to show their artistic talent.  My belief is presentation needs to appealing, vibrant but most of all it must taste great.

The Growth of Organic Food

Restaurateurs beware! Organic food is growing in popularity!

Consumer research shows that 43% of people are buying more organic products than a year ago. Not only is organic produce free of pesticides, chemicals and additives, organic farming builds healthy strong soil and helps to solve erosion problems, encouraging healthy biodiversity.

The increase of choice and availability of organic foods today allows Chefs to be very creative with menu offerings. Today, Chefs can produce a 100% organic menu with the wide range of organic fruits and vegetables as well as organic poultry, beef and lamb. Let’s also not forget organic wine an integral component a dining experience!  As some organic foods are not available year round, Chefs have to become very creative and offer newly created menu items seasonally, keeping menu selections fresh.

The challenge for Chefs and Restaurateurs is organic produce is more expensive, which in turns increases the price points of menu items. The question we should be asking is whether or not consumers are willing to spend the extra money at restaurants that serve organic food and local sourced produce? Often restaurants offering farm fresh organic products can use this as a feature or marketing tool, whilst attracting employees who want to with an employer who is genuinely interested in protecting the environment.

There are many positives to using organic produce from a healthier diet to supporting the local community by keeping it clean and green.

How green is your grocery list?

A Healthy Start To Your Day

Since the opening of our Bed & Breakfast, Bacchus House, my wife, Annette and I, have made a conscious effort to offer items on our breakfast menu that offers our guests ‘heart smart‘ choices.

Research indicates, eating a healthy breakfast improves your diet with higher minerals, vitamins and nutrients. By eating a healthier breakfast, levels of concentration, strength and endurance improves, allowing us to lead a more active life whilst reducing cholesterol levels.

The key to adapting your early morning eating habits is to rise 15 minutes earlier each day, making time to prepare breakfast whilst enjoying a glass of freshly squeezed juice or favorite cup of java.

Here are some of my recommendations to start each day:

French Toast with Orange and Banana, made with non-dairy milk (soya) and pan fried with olive oil, not butter.

Our Oatmeal Parfait dish consists of Fresh Seasonal Berries, Natural Yoghurt, Honey and Almonds. This dish is full of nutrients, fiber and protein and is quick and easy to prepare.

Egg White Omelets with your favorite vegetable or seafood toppings

Protein shakes made with low fat or soymilk and blended with seasonal fruit.

Poached Eggs served with multi-grain bread and ham, a much healthier option than fried or scrambled with the traditional bacon and sausage.

These options are simple to prepare and stay away from the traditional carb filled or fatty items associated with breakfast.