Chef & CULINARY Insights
The Willows Inn on Lummi Island is an experience unlike any other. What makes this restaurant unique? The ingredients are foraged, and if they're not found in the forests surrounding the concept, they are grown in a private culinary farm or caught in the sea in which the island lives.
As my career progressed, the fantasy of a mindful partnership with the land became one of a stewardship of labor and food costs. You could argue that one is as valuable as the other, but becoming a good tactician to the exclusion of all other concerns always felt like a hollow victory to me. Did driving an acceptable food cost mean that the only connection to the land that made fiscal sense came by way of neat, Cryovac packaging?
Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, chefs and co-owners of Border Grill, were inspired by authentic Latin flavors they first discovered in the kitchen of a French restaurant. Seafood has always been instrumental in Latin cuisine and it shows on the menu at Border Grill. With as much seafood as the restaurant puts out, Milliken made sure to put a lot of thought into their sourcing. As such the, restaurant has vowed to only serve sustainable seafood.
All trends seem to plateau sooner rather than later, but few ride along in full force before something takes its place or someone slanders its status. All types of foodservice outlets need to take note of trends and why they rise and fall. Quick-service, full service, fine dining, and caterers are all subjected to reviews as customers are quick to judge as soon as they read over your menu or glance over at your Instagram page and start to #hashtag.
Dessert remains a favorite even for grownups. Roughly one third of guests order dessert when dining out. So it’s safe to say that many consumers can’t resist a sweet after dinner treat, especially when it’s in a mini portioned dessert. Like appetizers and entrees, desserts are (and have always been) often dependent on the seasons. More restaurants are determining their menu solely based on the ingredients in season. Fall favorites like pumpkin and apple have already started to appear all over menus.
The restaurant menu is the singular most important element of any operation. Yet, it is often relegated to a half-hearted (or misguided) effort at best, and a comical jab at juggling food cost at worst. Where is the logic? Food is the product of any restaurant. So why give such little thought to the device that describes, sells, and advertises your product? Restaurants fail when they either don’t stick to their fundamental mission. An effective restaurant menu is the customer-facing version of that mission.
By Jim Berman, Foodable Industry Expert
Raising capital, finding a key location, insuring a business, and tackling marketing are only some of the demands that a new restaurateur must manhandle before even the first crawl into the kitchen. What if there were smart investors who were just unzipped enough to open a door or two for creativity? Or perhaps some cash, a place to sell food? What if business acumen, wrapped with just enough of an absurd bent on fiscal adventure to help a skilled kitchen hooligan, was a good qualification for an investor?
And the incubator was born. Up from the rubble of a deflated technology burst-bubble, the incubator evolved as a safe haven for the creatively inclined to nurture their idea using the resources — like money — of an investor without being strapped to a bank. Rather, the incubator offers guidance to usher new projects to market.
In the same vein, a restaurant incubator provides the physical space, along with other supports, to cultivate the growth of a spirited chef as they open their own place. Dotted throughout the country, like Chicago’s Intro and R. House in Baltimore, these incubators offer an opportunity for chefs that may otherwise be locked out of owning their own businesses. Brooklyn FoodWorks, for example, was created to cultivate creativity with a distinctly Brooklyn flavor. The New York iteration of the incubator employs a panel of industry experts and advisors to move the talent beyond the kitchen door.
Below, we share some of our favorite shots from our travels around the country. Enjoy!