With The Focus On Casual-Dining, What Is The Future Of Our Industry?

In this episode of On Foodable Weekly, guest host, Eric Cacciatore, the man behind Restaurant Unstoppable, sits down with Michael Cheng, director of the Food and Beverage Program at Florida International University  and Christopher Koetke, vice president of the School of Culinary Arts at Kendall College. They talk about how FIU and Kendall College are preparing the next generation of food industry leaders— millennials studying hospitality or in culinary school— through the introduction of culture within the restaurant business.

Understanding Food Culture

Culture could mean many different things, especially when talking about food and the restaurant business, as a whole. Culinary students learn about international cultures through the diverse dishes they are taught to make, cultures within the food world, and amongst other topics, business culture within foodservice.

As Koetke explains, culinary school means more than just mastering soft skills, like “learning how to chop something.” He believes business skills, nutrition and sustainability are critical to the development of a sound food business culture.

“Food has gotten really competitive, and it’s hard to say, to do food better than we’re already doing it… What’s going to make you successful in this industry is how well your culture is, how well you take care of your employees, how well you tell your story through your brand, creating something that means something, that people want to be a part of… What trends are you seeing in culture, in that regard?” asks Cacciatore.

From Chef Hats to Baseball Caps

Cheng replies “When you’re moving into the casual dining environment, you’re no longer wearing ‘chef whites,’ you know? They are wearing aprons and baseball caps in the kitchen,” says the Malaysian-native whose passion lies in restaurant management. “... I think it’s not because they don’t respect the chef’s white jackets, but really more the focus is on the food and the quality of the food and the experience that the customer gets from it.”

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Sweat the Small Stuff?

“The difference between a very good restaurant and a truly great restaurant is just a million details,” says Chris Koetky. “...it’s not that they are somehow doing something [monumentally] different, okay? But what they’ve managed to do is get all the pieces in place and do all of them really well, they treat their employees well, they know how to manage them well, they get the greatest products, they have design features that are done really well, their bathrooms are exquisite.”

Trend To Watch

It may sound cliche, but like with trends in the fashion world, what’s old now becomes new in a matter of years, sometimes decades. Who knows how long it will be until it is true for the fine-dining industry, but one thing is for sure… experience is king and it may just be a matter of time until a specific type of experience resurfaces to become the next hot thing. At least that’s what Koetky, believes:

“People say fine-dining is dead, I think it’s just… I think the focus has moved away, but now there’s an opportunity,” says Koetky, who has traveled all over the world and can attest that casual-dining is fast growing in popularity. “I recently ate in a great fine-dining restaurant, I mean like... old school… And I walked out and I said, you know “All this casual stuff, is awesome, you know? But that experience…” (Looks like it left him speechless.)

Watch the episode to learn more about trends within the foodservice business culture and tips when hiring millennials!

Are Millennials Changing Culinary Culture for the Better?

Are Millennials Changing Culinary Culture for the Better?

After 10 years in this industry, there was a part of me that was proud to realize that I had become hard as coffin nails. I was as the industry had made me.

I had also become quick: quick witted, nimble in close quarters, and fleet of foot. I could think my way out of any problem and figure out a workaround to any surprise.

I had earned my bones.

I had also closed down my heart and flushed compassion down the toilet. Both had become liabilities to successfully accomplishing the mission. If someone’s issue or problem didn’t directly affect the objective, it had no place in my kitchen or in my mind. I needed to be focused, anything else — sick kids, the death of a loved one, or someone else’s addiction — didn’t matter to me. It wasn’t a complete day until someone cried, and it would never, ever be me.

Working backwards against the clock had become a finely-honed skill. Anything that negatively influenced that timeline had to be discarded, ignored, or forgotten.

Twenty years on, despite a stainless steel heart, late at night, the “hour of doubt” would come upon me. Trying to medicate my adrenaline high, I would sometimes consider the Faustian bargain I had made for my culinary success. I was okay giving up being a regular “citizen” for the life of a culinary pirate. I was a “kitchen dawg,” but was compassion, consideration, or empathy an equitable price to be paid for the intense, instant gratification of the ‘grind’?

It had to be, right?

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How Metro Detroit Chef Zack Sklar Is Building His Restaurant Empire

How Metro Detroit Chef Zack Sklar Is Building His Restaurant Empire

By Dorothy Hernandez, Foodable Contributor

It’s been a busy year for 30-year-old chef Zack Sklar. A partner of Peas & Carrots Hospitality, Sklar expanded beyond his native metro Detroit to open two restaurants in Chicago: Bernie’s and Gus’s Fried Chicken. That’s on top of two new restaurants that opened in Birmingham, MI — Au Cochon and Arthur Avenue — where his restaurant empire began in 2012 when he opened Social. But he’s far from his goal: 70 is the magic number for him. 

The chef took some time out from his busy schedule to talk to Foodable about how the Detroit restaurant scene has evolved in a few short years, the culture he has fostered at Peas & Carrots (which employs 600), and how a tennis ball can be used to serve passed appetizers.

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By Dorothy Hernandez, Foodable Contributor

Millennial chef James Rigato dishes on his new restaurant Mabel Gray, the most important lessons learned while being a “Top Chef” contestant, and why he’s sick of a white-collar food industry.

Before he appeared on the 12th season of “Top Chef,” James Rigato had already built a reputation in Michigan as one of the area’s top chefs with his award-winning restaurant, The Root, in suburban Oakland County in Michigan. 

Even though the 31-year-old chef was unceremoniously booted for a “meh” seafood salad that critics panned, he brought a lot of attention to his beloved Great Lakes State, to which he pays homage to in his dishes, as well as made new chef friends with whom to collaborate, one of his favorite culinary endeavors.

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