Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Food safety and sanitation core of LRA benefits

As a partner in Food Safety with the state’s Department of Health and Hospitals, the Louisiana Restaurant Association is the largest provider of food safety and sanitation. Since 1999, when the state legislature mandated as least one person at each foodservice establishment complete the eight-hour course, ServSafe®, the LRA has trained nearly 28,000 restaurant employees in the principles and techniques to maintaining a safe environment for patrons to dine.
ServSafe is a nationally-approved
curriculum developed by the
National Restaurant Association and
offered year round by the LRA.
ServSafe is a nationally-approved curriculum developed by the National Restaurant Association and offered by the LRA’s staff of trainers weekly across the state. The new ServSafe Essentials, 6th edition, was recently released and blends the latest FDA Food Code, food safety research and years of food sanitation training experience.

“This is a trusted food safety program with roots in the foodservice industry,” said Pam St. Pierre, VP of Member Services. “ServSafe is designed to help you protect your customer’s health, improve employee performance and preserve your restaurant’s reputation.”

ServSafe Essentials covers foodborne illnesses, including information on specific foodborne pathogens and biological toxins, such as shellfish poisoning, contamination and food allergens. Other areas covering are purchasing and receiving guidelines, food preparation, holding and serving guidelines, food safety management systems, sanitation guidelines for facilities and equipment and integrated pest control.

“We have a team of Certified ServSafe Instructors that collectively have more than 100 years of restaurant industry or regulatory experience,” said St. Pierre. “They are seasoned food safety and sanitation experts and provide practical, real-world experience to complement your training.”

Primarily managers go through the eight-hour course, while ServSafe Food Handler is offered for front and back of the house staff  in a condensed session of two hours.

Last year, California mandated that all foodservice employees complete the ServSafe Food Handler and more states and municipalities are looking to adopt that practice. Since the mandate, the California Restaurant Association has trained more than 350,000 restaurant staff in the two hour course, which is offered online.

ServSafe Food Handler covers five sections including basic food safety, personal hygiene, cross-contamination and allergens, time and temperature, and cleaning and sanitation. In addition to the full ServSafe course, the LRA also offers to come to your place of business and train your entire staff for a mere $25 per staff member. 

ServSafe classes are held in metropolitan areas across Louisiana and online registration is easy and available 24 hours a day. LRA members pay only $99 which includes the course book and exam. The non-member fee is $150. To schedule an on-site ServSafe Food Handler, please call the LRA at (504) 454-2277.

Interested in a ServSafe class?  You must register at least two weeks prior to the class and your materials will be mailed upon receipt of payments. Course materials and exams are also available in Spanish, but please allow four weeks for delivery of Spanish materials.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

MasterCard and Stand Up to Cancer to Launch “Dine and Be Generous”

The Showtime smash hit “The Big C” with Golden Globe award-winning actress Laura Linney starring as Cathy Jamison, portrays a suburban housewife who, in the first episode, is diagnosed with terminal melanoma.  The show has been described as groundbreaking and strays far from what you would expect of a cancer-themed series.

The Big C on Showtime explores
the life of a suburban housewife
diagnosed with terminal melanoma
The black comedy isn’t all jokes, but it delivers lines that capture the severity, uncertainty, hope and finality of cancer. “I don’t wanna feel better, I want to be better,” and “Why do they always have pictures of us looking out windows? Are they waiting for us to jump?”

We can all think of someone we know that has had cancer or even lost someone to cancer. A spouse, co-worker, parent and yes, even a child can be among those stricken with any of the more than 100 types of cancer, which may prove to be life- threatening, pose considerable medical treatments and wreak havoc on the emotional well-being of the individual, their family and friends.

The Louisiana Restaurant Association community has been affected by cancer –some of our members have recovered and sadly, some have passed on. As restaurateurs, your establishments are the cornerstones of your communities and you no doubt encounter cancer daily, whether you realize it or not.

Cancer claims the lives of 1,500 people in America every day. One in two men and one in three women will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime.

Teaming up once again, MasterCard and Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) will kick off “Dine and Be Generous,” a national marketing campaign, July 10 to Sept. 28, 2012. The campaign is designed to raise funds for SU2C, a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), a 501(c)3 that raises funds to accelerate the pace of groundbreaking translational research that can get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives.
Hollywood actresses Salma Hayek and
Jennifer Garner "Stand Up to Cancer."

Restaurateurs in Louisiana can join the cause by supporting and promoting the program in their establishments using MasterCard-developed tools. When U.S. MasterCard cardholders use their card to pay for their bill more than $10, MasterCard will make an automatic one-cent donation to Stand Up to Cancer—up to $4 million.

For dine in, takeout or delivery orders, customers using their MasterCard can participate in this cause at participating restaurants.

There are many great causes, but finding a cure for cancer grows more important every day you are alive. Will you Stand Up to Cancer?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Visually-impaired teen offers braille menu transcription

One of my former volunteer gigs was at the WRBH-Radio for the Blind on Magazine Street in Uptown New Orleans. On Sunday mornings, I would show up and grab a Spin or Time magazine or sometimes a kid's book and retreat to a soundproof booth and read to those across the region with vision impairments.
Mandeville High School teenager Sophie Trist offers menu
transcription into Braille as summer business.
I've since moved on to more interactive volunteer projects, but a recent email from past Louisiana Restaurant Association Chairman DickieBrennan made me realize again how truly fortunate we are to have the sense of sight. 

Brennan's cousin, Sophie Trist, is a 15-year-old blind student who is currently a rising sophomore at Mandeville High School. As she strives to learn the skills she will need to be a successful, independent adult, one hurdle she’s encountered is the lack of braille menus in restaurants.

“This can be a major problem for visually impaired individuals,” said Trist. “If a sighted person does not accompany me, the simple task of ordering off of a menu becomes a challenge.”

This prompted her to take action and start a summer business of providing as many local restaurants as possible with a braille menu. For a small fee of $20, she will take a copy of a restaurant menu and in return provide the restaurant with a braille copy.  Trist can be contacted via email at Include the name of the restaurant, contact information and any other specifics of your order.

An estimated 10 million American's have some sort of visual impairments and chances are your restaurant has fed a few of them. What do you do when this happens? Does your server offer to read the menu or does the visually impaired diner rely on their companion (if they have one)? 

Having a braille menu on hand provides restaurants with an efficient way to serve the visually-impaired diner. It also allows your customer to feel empowered and comfortable in your establishment and in turn, you could gain a repeat customer.

Although the American with Disabilities Act doesn’t require restaurants to offer blind patrons a braille menu if a staff member or server is available to read it to them, it’s still a great amenity to offer.

Do you have a braille menu on hand for your visually-impaired customers? How do you handle it if you do not?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Moscato climbs to new heights

Wine lovers take note—there’s a new “it” girl in town and she goes by the name moscato.
Moscato's are blowing up
on the scene! There's even
a rose version.
Moscato wine—sweet, fizzy and inexpensive—has seen a meteoric rise in popularity over the past two years. Overall moscato sales rose more than 70 percent in 2011 over the previous year, resulting in $300 million in sales (compared to $100 million in 2009).

“We need a new word for what’s happening to moscato,” said Mordy Herzog, partner/VP of Royal Wine Corp., in a February 2012 article, “Moscato Mosaic: Moscato Sales HaveSkyrocketed, Thanks to a Whole New Group of Wine Fans,”

Born from one of the oldest grapes in existence, moscato is most popular among new wine drinkers and is cherished by a more established fan base that enjoys a lighter-styled wine with brunch or dessert. It’s simply called “moscato,” unless it hails from Italy’s northwest region of Piedmont. It’s then referred to as moscato d’Asti, after the Italian town of the same name.
Caposaldo Moscato is the Official Sponsor of
D Roy Royalty Record Label.
What explains its rise in popularity? There are several theories, but most all wine experts agree that pop culture is fueling recent sales. Hip-hop artists such as Drake, Kanye West and Trey Songz all rap about the virtues of moscato, leaving triple digit champagne brands behind. In this economy, young consumers on a budget are more likely to spring for the $25 (or $15, $10, $8—it really is that cheap) bottle of moscato than the $300 bottle of Cristal.

Moscato has crossed over into
mainstream pop culture-now it's
a Halloween costume.
Major wine brands are jumping on board, eager to tap into this new demographic of wine drinkers, which the Trinchero Family Estates Senior Director of Marketing Wendy Nyberg describes as “urban, young, hip and online.” Wine giants Gallo, Yellowtail, Sutter Home and Jacob’s Creek have all launched varieties, available at a grocery store near you. New Orleans is listed as a top market for moscato, along with New York, Chicago, Detroit and Northern Virginia.

Looking for a place to sip a glass of this refreshing wine, perfect for a hot summer night such as this one? Many restaurants and bars have been adding moscato to their lists. Try a glass at one of these Louisiana Restaurant Association member restaurantsat: Clever Wine Bar or Bouche in New Orleans; Bin 77 or BLEND in Baton Rouge; or Marcello’s in Lafayette.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Last day of EXPO features great Idea Zone line up!

The Idea Zone is a new feature of the Louisiana Foodservice and Hospitality EXPO—now celebrating its 59th year. The Saturday and Sunday line-ups have been covered in previous weeks and boast a whole host of topics to inspire and inform you—to become more profitable.

Dig in to the final day at the EXPO by getting one of your LRA SIF Safety Dividend criteria met. “The Risk of Doing Business,” starts at 10:30 a.m. and LRA SIF VP of Loss Prevention Victor Balbuena will provide valuable perspective on the most common workers’ comp claims frequency and severity.  Members of the SIF attending this session will receive credit towards their Safety Dividend criteria. You must register in advance to attend this session.

Ned Fasullo of Transformyx follows with “Digital Interactive Signage Strategies for Restaurants” at noon. Fasullo will share facets of digital signage both in a static and interactive implementation for restaurants. Secrets will be revealed for selling advertising to other businesses to potentially cover the costs of this technology and perhaps deliver you a nice profit too!

Closing out the Idea Zone and the 59th EXPO, legendary restaurateur Dickie Brennan will discuss the movement to rebuild the Louisiana farming business and share his knowledge and insight about working with local producers to deliver the best local ingredients to diners in your restaurant. Learn how you can connect to local farmers using Louisiana Market Maker, a resource of the Louisiana Dept. of Agriculture.

Registration to attend the EXPO is open. Restaurant members of the LRA receive four free passes if they register before July 15. Beginning July 16, LRA restaurant members will be charged $10 per person for admission to the EXPO.

Who’s ready to EXPO? Check out the video for a ton of reasons to attend the EXPO!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Iced tea packs health benefits and profits

The summer months in the South can be brutal. Temperatures in Louisiana can get high enough to melt a steering wheel (yes, we’ve seen it happen) and buckle roadways (a common summer occurrence). Iced tea is highly consumed by southerners not only for its taste, but it also packs a laundry list of healthy benefits.

Tea has antioxidants which can lower LDL cholesterol, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease. It can also prevent the formation of potential carcinogens in the body, reduce acne, increase bone strength, is a great digestive aid, hones mental focus, boosts memory, stimulates metabolism and studies have shown the tannins have the ability to fight viruses such as influenza by boosting immune response.
We love iced tea and sweet iced tea in Louisiana, and at the Louisiana Restaurant Association, and it is one of the most popular non-alcoholic beverages ordered in restaurants. It’s not only a refreshing liquid option for customers; it’s also highly profitable for restaurants. The average pitcher of iced tea averages about $0.06 in most of the country, based on ½ gallon of water and two tea bags.  With the average cost for a glass of tea being $1.50, there’s a significant benefit for restaurants to serve it. The profitability percentage decreases when sugar is added.

In the June 2012 American Express Marketing Brief featuring “What diners are Drinking as Spring Heats Up,” 25 percent of those surveyed responded that they had purchased an iced tea from a restaurant at least once in the past month and 99 percent said they were more likely to purchase the beverage during the summer.  
Of the iced tea drinkers polled by American Express in May, six out of 10 reported drinking it at least once a week and 21 percent said they did their consuming in restaurants.

Ordering iced tea in restaurants often comes with free refills which also impacts the restaurant’s profitability. However, of all the offerings it maintains the highest profit margins in the beverage category.
The survey also indicated that consumers are increasing their favor for flavored iced teas and 28 percent of respondents said they were very likely to order it, if it is offered. Berry was the highest ranked for consumer’s likelihood to order at 90 percent, followed closely by peach (85 percent) and mango (81 percent).

The survey also revealed that 51 percent preferred iced tea served in a glass and brought to the table versus 27 percent who found it appealing to serve from a pitcher tableside. Accompaniments widely varied, but nearly one half of iced tea drinkers preferred a lemon wedge and 37 percent added sugar and a resounding 63 percent used an artificial sweetener such as Splenda, Sweet N Low, Equal/NutraSweet or Truvia.
This begs the question “how do you take your iced tea?”

Monday, June 18, 2012

Diabetic ProStart student finds healthy eating a must

The Spring 2012 issue of the Louisiana Restaurant Association's A La Carte magazine featured several Q & A style articles designed to provoke, and perhaps inspire restaurateurs, to consider their own meal choices and what they offer on their menus for their health conscious patrons.

The LRA is a supporter of the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell which has seen an outstanding number--96 to date representing 15,000 locations--of restaurants sign on and commit to offering parents and children more healthful options and information so they can make choices that are right for their families.

Launched by the National Restaurant Association in 2011,
the program Kids LiveWell received the Gold Circle Award
by the ASAE for media relations campaign. More than 15,000
restaurant locations have signed on, committing to
offer more healthy options for children.
The focus on obesity is nearly fanatical in its media coverage in American these days. A quick Google news search this morning using the keyword “obesity” yielded 67,000 recent articles on the topic.
Leading the search was articles covering the potential link between childhood obesity and bullying followed by New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s crusade against sodas exceeding 16 ounces in size.

A new study released today by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine states that the average global body weight is 137 pounds, with North America’s average weight topping the scales at 178 pounds. The study finds that although the U.S. accounts for only a five percent of the global population, our collective weight is that of a third of all human beings walking the earth. On the global scale, the population is 17 million tons overweight, which has the same impact on our global resources as an extra half a billion people.
But where does the nanny state end and one’s personal responsibility to one’s own health and well-being begin. Aren’t we all responsibility for our health and happiness?

Through the LRA Education Foundation's ProStart program, offered in nearly 50 high schools in Louisiana, food and nutrition are explored as part of the dynamic curriculum. Meet Ben Eckelson. We learned of Eckelson in researching this topic who is a ProStart student at Hammond High Magnet School. Eckelson was diagnosed with diabetes and at his heaviest weighed 275 lbs.
Now, after exercise, a diet plan and work with a dietician, he's down to 180 lbs and has found his new lifestyle offers diversity and excitement.
Ben Eckelson has committed himself and
his health to a new lifestyle
given his diabetes diagnois.

ALC: How has healthy eating changed your life?

BE: Being a diabetic, I have a specialized diet plan that includes reading nutritional information and keeping track of my carbohydrate intake.

ALC: Where your motivations for health or lifestyle reasons?

BE: I am motivated to stay healthy because of my diabetes, but have also found motivation because I want to make a difference in the way my generation treats their bodies. My dream is to see people living a more healthful life. My choices have given me a greater self-worth. It’s helpful for those struggling with weight and their choices to know that they are not alone.

ALC: What are your favorite healthy items to eat at home and in a restaurant?

BE: It may seem cliché but I am a fruit and vegetables guy! My ideal meal includes whole wheat pasta tossed with an oil-based dressing with grilled chicken, a tossed blue cheese and spinach salad and a grilled fruit salad. But I do occasionally splurge and indulge in white chocolate bread pudding. In moderation, my diet is really easy.

ALC: Do you feel restaurant menus are limited in their healthy menu offerings?

BE: Many restaurants have made an effort to provide targeted health conscious food options, however without moderate portion sizes, most options are worse than the food they may already serve. I applaud the effort of restaurants that promote healthier choices.

ALC: When a server offers side items, do you think that offering healthy options first prior to French fries results in you ordering the healthy option?

BE: I definitely think that would make a great difference in my selection. 

ALC: How has the ProStart program raised your awareness of healthy eating and wellness?

BE: The ProStart program has given me such great opportunities which have led to my passion for making the world a healthier place. I would like to thank my ProStart teacher Mrs. Johnson for guiding me through the best experiences I have had in my life. Her selfless dedication has made an immeasurable impact in my life and she has inspired me to be a better person and embrace healthier living.

Do health concerns factor into your menu item selections?  Does personal responsibility factor into your choices of foods you eat?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Rum cocktails summer popularity unmatched

Upon waking up this morning, I was immediately reminded that I needed a theme for today’s installment of the Louisiana Restaurant Association’s Thirsty Thursday series. As I took a quick look through my home bars, I gravitated toward the Tiki mugs and rum, grabbed an assortment and headed to the office.

LRA VP of Communications Wendy Waren's
collection of Tiki mugs from Huki Lau
in Metairie, which was opened for 6 years in
the 1970s.
What recipe to feature became the next question. There are so many rum-based cocktails and in this heat it seemed appropriate to feature a Mai Tai—a drink with Tiki roots served in stylish, and now vintage mugs, with a refreshing blend of fruit juice, flavored syrup and of course, rum. A Rum Runner or an original daiquiri, not the frozen, sugary beverages from the drive through, would also be fabulous options. Then there’s mojitos, which can be found on nearly every bar menu these days. With muddled mint, simple syrup, lime, rum and club soda, it’s definitely a contender for our favorite summer beverage. Decisions, decisions.
So, where did the Tiki cocktail come from? Tiki cocktails date to 1934 and are credited to Don Beach, who opened a Polynesian themed restaurant in Hollywood. He’s credited as the first to create these beverages from flavored syrups, fresh fruits and rum.. There was a tropical drink craze following Prohibition, in part because rum was so cheap.

Tiki made its New Orleans debut and Ian McNulty captured its history and allure in the article Bali Ha’i Revisited, Remembering the Bali Ha’i Restaurant at Ponchartain Beach, where New Orleanians went Tiki. Owned by Pontchartrain Beach founder Harry J. Batt, Sr., grandfather of the Mad Men actor Bryan Batt, this restaurant was all the rage until it caught fire in 1986. 

In 2008, during Tales of the Cocktail, one of the special events was a Tiki Party located in an air conditioned tent in a then vacant lot on Fulton Street in New Orleans’ Warehouse District. Restaurants prepared their Polynesian cuisine for attendees to nosh on while local bartending professionals presented their Tiki cocktails. Drinks served in a coconut and garnished with orchids are fond memories of one of the unique parties I’ve had the fortune to attend during my Tales adventures.

Logo for The Luau in Beverly Hills owned by
Stephen Crane, the subject of Seminar at
Tales of the Cocktail, July 25 by Martin Cate
The Third Man: the Incredible True Story of
'Tiki Restaurateur to the Stars' Stephen Crane.'
In commemorating the Tiki theme, this year’s Tales of the Cocktail, July 25-29, will feature “The Third Man: the Incredible True Story of ‘Tiki Restaurateur to the Stars’ Stephen Crane, a Tinseltown Tale of Mai Tais, Movie Stars and Murder.”  Presenter Martin Cate, owner of Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco, will give the rare look into the amazing world of Steven Crane, who was the third man in the mix of the Tiki drink craze with founding fathers Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic.

Crane was called the “High Talking Chief Stefooma” to thousands of patrons who walked through his legendary Beverly Hills nightspot, The Luau. Crane hailed from Crawfordsville, Indiana and with his mixture of good looks, street smarts and undeniable charm, he climbed his way up the social ladder in pre-war Hollywood and before long found himself married to Tinseltown’s biggest star—Lana Turner.

In the late 1940s he opened his first restaurant and in 1953 opened The Luau on Rodeo Drive where celebrities of the day flocked to his Polynesian concept which featured innovative new cocktails, food and décor that had never been seen before.  Following in its success, Crane took his concept nationwide and opened a chain of Luau’s.

Wayne Curtis, New Orleans residential rum expert and author of And a Bottle of Rum: A history of the New World in Ten Cocktails wrote, "Rum embodies America's laissez-faire attitude. It is whatever it wants to be." With a product with that kind of aloofness, it’s no wonder we love it so much.
Had enough history? Ready for a rum cocktail—or three? Check out these three great recipes featuring this popular spirit.

Mai Tai (means Out of this World in Tahitian)

From Charles Schumann's American Bar

1 ½ oz Lime juice
Dash of Orgeat Syrup (almond flavored)
¼ oz apricot brandy
1 barspoon powdered sugar
2 oz. dark rum
¾ oz. high-proof dark rum
Lime, mint

Shake well over ice in shaker. Serve in highball glass over crushed ice, add squeezed lime wedge  and garnish with mint sprig.

Daiquiri Cocktail
From Stanley Clisby Arthur’s Famous New Orleans Drinks & How to Mix ‘em

1 tsp. grenadine syrup
Juice from 1 lime
1 jigger of rum

Shake well with ice and strain into a glass.

Food and Wine Magazine, contributed by Ryan McGrale

15 mint leaves, plus 1 mint sprig for garnish
½ oz fresh lime juice
½ oz mint syrup
2 ½ oz light rum
1 oz. chilled club soda

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the mint leaves with the lime juice and mint syrup. Add ice and rum, shake well and strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with club soda and garnish with the mint sprig.
Are you ready for happy hour?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

IDEA ZONE designed to enhance your EXPO experience

The days are flying off the calendar and we are now 57 days out from the Louisiana Restaurant Association's 59th Annual Louisiana Foodservice & Hospitality EXPO! In New Orleans, August 11-13, at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center, hundreds of companies will exhibit their products and services for thousands of restaurateurs and hoteliers.

New to this year’s EXPO is the IDEA ZONE! We’ve gathered industry experts, chefs and restaurateurs to present on various topics targeted toward your success, profitability and creativity. The Saturday line up was covered in last week’s post.  This week we are giving you a preview of who you will hear on the Show Floor Sunday, August 12.

Cochon Butcher Chef Ian Barrilleaux
will kick off Sunday's Idea Zone with
"Charcuterie Showdown."
Charcuterie is popping up on menus every day and with the rich German influences in Louisiana, we turned to Donald Link’s Cochon Butcher Charcutiere Ian Barrilleaux. Just blocks from the EXPO, sits an artisanal meat show, where Barrilleaux focuses on delivering delicious European cured meats and Cajun sausages influenced by James Beard Award Winning Chef Link. This session kicks off the Sunday line up at 11:30 a.m. and promises to increase your knowledge of the process, spices and products of this ancient form of meat preservations.
Sara Kavanaugh
Sommelier for the
Windsor Court presents
"Does your nose know?"
At 12:30 p.m., Windsor Court Sommelier Sara Kavanaugh will lead attendees in, “Does your nose know?” where she’ll present 30 different scents commonly found in wine. Explore the fruit and floral scents found in white wines. After you’ve familiarize yourself with the scents, she’ll pull the corks on five bottles of white and train participants to detect those aromas in their glasses.
Tory McPhail of
Commander's Palace will
present Eating with your eyes:
presentation techiniques
that Wow! Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
James Beard Award Nominee and Commander’s Palace Executive Chef Tory McPhail will share his passion for plating techniques and innovation at 1:30 p.m. Sunday –Eating with your eyes: presentation techniques that wow! He’ll discuss why visual presentation is essential to the customer experience. Chef McPhail will be assisted by Louisiana ProStart students who will gain experience and knowledge of plating first hand.

GM for Acme Oyster House
Leslie Thornton with Gunter
and Rotner will inspire you
to create a culture of service.
Getting the best from your staff ambassadors begins at 2:45 p.m. and guest presenters are Acme Oyster House executives Lucien Gunter and Paul Rotner along with Leslie Thornton, general manager of the French Quarter restaurant. Acme’s professional development program has created a culture of service that has earned the company a reputation that diners will literally stand in line for. For restaurateurs looking for motivation and inspiration for training and influencing their staffs, this session is for you!

It’s estimated that nearly 18 million Americans have some degree of gluten sensitivity and there is an opportunity for restaurants to gain loyal customers. At 3:30 p.m., Diane Schaefer, Chair of the Celiac Sprue Support Group of Greater New Orleans will present “Gluten-free: Necessity or Choice?” Restaurants that provide gluten free meal options are highly sought out by those suffering with gluten allergies or intolerance. Schaefer will provide intel on the gluten-free diet for celiacs, the gluten intolerant and those who simply choose the diet.
Chef Haley Bittermann
Restaurant Sustainability
Rounding out the Sunday IDEA ZONE Sessions on Sunday is “Restaurant Sustainability Initiatives” at 4 p.m. You’ll hear from Haley Bittermann, Executive Chef for Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group, Johnny Blancher, owner of Ye Olde College Inn and Ann Tuennerman, founder of Tales of the Cocktail. Each has made a concerted effort to reuse, repurpose and recycle in their respective areas of the business.
Johnny Blancher
Restaurant Sustainability
Ann Tuennerman
founder of
Tales of the Cocktail
Event Sustainability
Bittermann is composting prep food waste and exploring wine in kegs to reduce glass bottle waste. Blancher has a one acre garden where he grows vegetables, fruits, herbs and fresh flowers used in the restaurant. Tuennerman measures the success of her five day series of events in garnishes which are also composted. They will provide insight, information and ideas that will certainly inspire you to be kinder to Mother Earth.

Be sure to visit the LRA EXPO online to register, review the list of exhibiting companies and check out the full IDEA ZONE schedule!

Any particular IDEA ZONE session you’re looking forward too?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Charley G's chef attributes success to the power of mentorship

Chef Holly Goetting attributes her success to
hard work, determination and the mentors she's
been fortunate enough to have as her career
has developed.
Mentoring others is not only necessary, but rewarding. Holly Goetting, a Lafayette native and chef, has benefited from the mentoring process and encourages others to do so as a measure of giving back and preparing the next generation for a career in the industry.

A mentor provides sound advice, guidance and an interest in an individual’s professional development. The Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation (LRAEF) has embraced the principle that “everyone in the industry should have a mentor or be a mentor,” which is a specific effort for the ProStart program.

With workforce needs topping 17,400 by the year 2022 in Louisiana, ProStart is designed to attract young people to the restaurant industry and if they choose to further their education—to college culinary programs.

Goetting’s path to Executive Chef for Charley G’s in Lafayette wasn’t predetermined one. She attended the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and worked at Lafayette restaurants. After a while, she decided the traditional college setting wasn’t a good fit for her—she felt alone and uncomfortable. After speaking to her mother, she was encouraged to consider a career in her childhood passion of cuisine.

“I was going to college and working in restaurants,” said Goetting. “My mom asked ‘why don’t you go to culinary school’. A light bulb went off for me and not long after, I enrolled at the John Folse Culinary Institute in Thibodaux.”

There she found the camaraderie and teamwork aspect she loved in high school as a soccer player and in the restaurants she had worked. Goetting felt welcomed and at home.

At the young age of 33, Goetting’s career has been impressive. She was named by Louisiana Cookin magazine as a “Chef to Watch” in 2005, awarded first place at “Palates and Paté”, an event benefiting The Outreach Center in Lafayette, and most recently, she was selected as one of 12 chefs to serve on the Louisiana Seafood Chef’s Council, along with Donald Link, Susan Spicer and Greg Reggio. She attributes her success to three mentors that she has had so far in her career.

“I couldn’t have gotten to where I am right now without the support of my mentors,” Goetting said. “One of my general managers early on taught me to come to work with a good attitude and try to get along with everyone.”

Monday, June 11, 2012

Jr. Food Critic shares thoughts on healthy eating

The Louisiana Restaurant Association's recent A La Carte magazine featured four Q & A style articles designed to provoke, and perhaps inspire restaurateurs, to consider their own meal choices and what they offer on their menus for their health conscious patrons.

The National Restaurant Association launched Kids LiveWell last July and has seen an outstanding number--96 to date representing 15,000 locations--of restaurants sign on and commit to offering parents and children more healthful options and information so they can make choices that are right for their families.

Twelve-year-old Michael Prados launched his blog,, three years ago. It features his dining adventures, both in restaurants and at home, and has garnered attention from local Baton Rouge media and delivered some 57,000 visitors to his site.
Michael Prados, the Jr. Food Critic, cooks with
Chef John Folse in 2011.
Prados shared what's important to him and how he balances his dining out with his desire to be healthy.

ALC: What are your goals as Jr. Food Critic? JFC: I love food and consider myself a foodie. I love to cook and to eat out in restaurants across the state with my parents. The site allows me to share the meals and experiences with others.

ALC: What are some of your preferred healthy items?
JFC: At each meal, my family includes a meat, a starch and vegetables. I really enjoy broccoli and asparagus, as well as spinach salads. At school, we have a salad bar so I try to eat salad often.

ALC: When you dine out in restaurants, are you conscious of ordering healthy menu items? JFC: Yes, I try to consider the healthy aspect of what I order. However, I don’t eat out but once or twice a week, so I do splurge on some things that don’t fall in the healthy category.

ALC: Do you think that restaurants do a good job offering healthy menu options? JFC: Yes, I do. It really just depends on what someone orders, but restaurants do offer healthy options.

ALC: What else do you do to live a healthy life? JFC: I work out three days a week with my dad at 4:30 a.m. Because he’s so busy with his job and I’m busy with school, getting up early and getting our work out in is important and something we do together. I’m looking forward to going to camp this summer and there’s a big focus on being active and eating healthy.

Do you consider the healthfulness of the food you eat? Are you more conscious of your caloric intake now than in previous years? Does your age factor into what you consume?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Crème de Violette adds pop of color and sweetness to cocktails

While reviewing the Louisiana Restaurant Association Facebook newsfeed yesterday, we saw a photo of a lemonade cocktail made with Crème de Violette that was a gorgeous shade of lavender. Of all the colors of cocktails out there, that one is not common, thus it immediately sparked our interest.

Crème de Violette, a product of Rothmam & Winter and made in Austria, was introduced at the request of bar specialists for classic cocktails such as the Aviation and the Blue Moon and by sommeliers for champagne cocktails. It is distributed in the U.S. and as we imbibe at various restaurants and watering holes, we’ve seen its popularity grow.

The Aviation cocktail dates to 1916 as air flight was gaining momentum. Originally the recipe included a small amount of violet, but as time went on, it became scarce and procurement was nearly impossible. As a result, the violet was eliminated from printed recipes. But in recent years, the elixir is back and has returned to its rightful and original place in the recipe books and bartenders’ acumen.

The Aviation also features another liqueur, Luxardo Maraschino, which adds an intense aroma to cocktails. Distilled in Italy, it is made from marsca, a sour cherry variety exclusively cultivated by Luxardo, and also includes honey for sweetness and notes of an almond-like flavor from the crushed pits of the cherry.  Luxardo Maraschino also produces jarred cherries for cocktails that are added to cocktails commonly at craft bars.

1 ½ Dry Gin
½ oz Fresh Lemon Juice
½ oz Crème de Violette
1 tsp.  Luxardo maraschino liqueur
Stir with ice & strain

We also like this classic recipe by David Embury found in the 1948 book, The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks.

Blue Moon
2 oz Dry Gin
½ oz Fresh Lemon Juice
½ oz Crème de Violette
Shake with ice and strain

It is produced from the Queen Charlotte and March Violets found in the Alps. Crème de Violette captures their fragrance, vibrant colors and taste. The liqueur is produced from a careful maceration of the flowers in “Weinbrand” which is distilled from grapes, with cane sugar added for sweetness.  

Crème de Violette over its three generations, Destillerie Purkhart has produced the liqueur by special request of its regional gastronomy customers. In these local markets, the buyers are most often the “Konditorei” who will use the Violette in special cakes and chocolates.

It was the first true product of its type available in a decade when we first encountered it in 2009 at Tales of the Cocktail, a five-day series of tasting rooms, seminars and parties, this year July 25-29 in New Orleans.

Have you encountered Crème de Violette during your drinking adventures? After reading this, are you curious to try the product?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Monroe Chef takes top prize on Food Network's "Chopped"

Many Louisianans, including us at the Louisiana Restaurant Association, were on the edge of their seats last night when owner of Restaurant Cotton, Chef Cory Bahr, appeared on the Food Network show Chopped. As the opening of Chopped unfolds, the rules are revealed, “Four chefs, three courses, only one chance to win.” What does the reigning chef win? A whopping $10,000 cash prize!

Bahr admitted that he had never seen an episode of the show before he was selected to compete. His unfamiliarity with its premise influenced his decision to prepare for the competition in a way that one might not expect.

"It seemed pointless to me," said Bahr. "I would never be able to guess the mystery basket ingredients, or recreate any dish I could come up with during any practice. I just decided to focus on technique and flavor and hope that it would be enough."

The challenge throughout the competition is to create an unforgettable meal using the items in a mystery basket and staples available in the show’s stocked pantry and fridge.  In last night’s episode, the appetizer round’s mystery basket included corned beef, black olives, baby corn and gummy fried eggs.

From those ingredients, Bahr prepared a corned beef steak with regular and sweet potato hash peppered with olives and baby corn that he and his competitors had to shuck.  The judges liked his hash but remarked that the corned beef was a little tough. Despite that small criticism, Bahr moved on.

In entree round, the mystery basket revealed striped bass, sour lemon candy, Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes) and cream of mushroom soup. Bahr saw the fish and was really excited, although he said, “I can’t go back to North Louisiana if I don’t cook this fish right.”

The judges really liked Bahr’s preparation of the striped bass and the sunchoke puree, but didn’t think his treatment of the sour lemon candy was creative enough. Regardless, Bahr moved onto the final round.

The dessert mystery basket held raisins on the vine, spearmint leaf candy, knodel—a type of potato dumpling—and almond flour.

These ingredients inspired Bahr to call upon his grandmother’s recipe for bread pudding, which the judges loved but commented on it being a little undercooked.

His overly-confident competitor in the final round looked over at Bahr’s bread pudding and said, Yea, I got this.”

In each round, candy was one of the mystery ingredients. Did their inclusion throw Bahr off his game?

"I tried to use the candy's flavor profile to enhance each course," Bahr explained. "In the first round, I used the gummy fried eggs in the viniagrette because of its citrus and sweet flavor; the lemon candy in the second round was used as an acid to the fish and also for its textural component and the spearmint candies in the dessert round were used in the mint sauce for the bread pudding."

When host Ted Allen lifted the cloche to reveal his competitors dish, Bahr exclaimed, “Yes! My grandmother is going to lose it!”

Not only did he flex his culinary chops, he represented Louisiana and his native Monroe extremely well. Throughout the show, Bahr maintained a positive and friendly attitude and steered clear of any trash talking that some competitors on Chopped partake in. Those watching at the restaurant’s viewing party were ecstatic and so are we!

"I really agreed to do the show, in part, to show the country that there is great food, great restaurants and great chefs in North Louisiana," said Bahr. "I want people to know that you can get an awesome meal anywhere in our state."

Bahr, of course, has known that he was the winner of his episode since February. He found it extremely difficult to keep the secret, especially because every day, someone would ask him how he did.

"I only told my wife and my grandmother," Bahr confessed. "It was hard, though, because everyone was so nice and sincere in wishing me good luck. I just told them I tried my best and that I hoped it carried me through the competition."

Congratulations Chef!