Friday, November 30, 2012

Winter LRA Education Foundation ProStart Instructor training underway at LCI

Lawyers and accountants have a certain number of continuing education credits to complete each year in order to stay licensed in their chosen fields. The same process applies for Louisiana's ProStart instructors. The second of two training days held annually by the Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation (LRAEF) is underway at the Louisiana Culinary Institute (LCI) in Baton Rouge.

Baton Rouge's Beausoleil
Chef Owner Nathan
Gresham discusses
Restaurant Trends: Farm
to Table in Louisiana
during the ProStart
Instructor Winter Training.
Thirty-four ProStart instructors, representing 83 percent of Louisiana’s ProStart programs, are participating in this one-day professional development workshop, aimed to demonstrate the latest culinary techniques and business applications from professional chefs and culinary educators in preparation for the Spring semester and the LRAEF ProStart Student Competition, March 5-6, 2013 at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner.

Educators take the learned material back to their classrooms and apply it directly to their students’ lessons.

The topics being discussed include: “Restaurant Trends: Farm to Table in Louisiana,” with Chef Nathan Gresham of Beausoleil Restaurant in Baton Rouge; and “Foodservice Industry Spotlight: Meeting Dairy Needs in the 21st Century,” with Jeff Kleinpeter, president of Kleinpeter Farms Dairy. Rounding out the day’s program will be hands-on demonstrations on plating composition and design; and piping buttercream and modeling marzipan from chef instructors at LCI.
Jeff Kleinpeter covers
Meeting Dairy Needs in the
21st Center during the
ProStart Instructor
Winter Training.

“The LRAEF, through this training program, is continuing its mission to educate those instructors, who, in turn, will pass this vital information to their students,” said LRAEF Executive Director Alice Glenn. “We are grateful that we have such a distinguished group of restaurant industry professionals willing to share their expertise with our ProStart programs.”

The Louisiana ProStart program is grateful to its partners: Diamond- Auto-Chlor Services and the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation; Platinum- Performance Foodservice Caro; and Gold- Louisiana Culinary Institute, Ocean Conservancy and Atmos Energy.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

LRA GNO Chapter donates culinary equipment to ESJ's displaced ProStart program

Kitchenware and appliances are valued at more than $5,500 and were presented to the school November 28

Just a short time ago, Louisiana was looking down the barrel of yet another hurricane and areas surrounding the Metro New Orleans Area were greatly impacted by severe flooding due to Hurricane Isaac's storm surge. While many of us in the area were without power for days, others in the areas affected where salvaging what was left of their belongings, seeking alternative housing and officials were looking for other facilities to educate the students at the schools that experiences damage.

LRAEF Executive Director Alice Glenn, Chef Duke LoCicero
LRA Director Paul Rotner and ProStart Coordinator
James Blanchard with ProStart Instructor Autrey
Washington with East St. John HS officials.
One of those schools was East St. John High School, located in Reserve, La. in the River Parishes between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Inundated with flood waters, the damage forced students into Leon Godchaux Junior High School temporarily while the repairs are managed. Sadly, the school’s ProStart program experienced a loss of its equipment in its kitchen lab and textbooks.

The Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) Education Foundation (LRAEF) replaced their textbooks. Here’s where the LRA's Greater New Orleans Chapter stepped in. They agreed to replace much of the kitchen tools needed to demonstrate the lesson plans.

On November 28, 2012 the LRA GNO Chapter donated $5,500 in small wares and equipment to the ESJ ProStart program, which is administered by the LRA Education Foundation. NBC 33 in Baton Rouge covered the presentation here.

LRA GNO Chapter 2nd VP Chef Duke LoCicero shows off
some of the donated equipment to the East St.
“The flooding of Reserve and LaPlace affected us deeply,” said LRA GNO Chapter 2ndVice President Chef Duke LoCicero, owner of CafĂ© Giovanni in New Orleans. “The chapter, of course, was familiar with the daunting task of replacing items lost to a flood and it was especially upsetting to hear that East St. John High School’s ProStart program was in jeopardy. We wanted to help in any way we could.”

Among the items contributed were: a commercial reach-in refrigerator; two microwave ovens, a propane gas grill, two commercial lift stand mixers; knives, sharpeners, pots, pans and mixing bowls of various sizes and a whole host of other necessary kitchen items.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Know your holiday alcohol service

The upcoming holiday season will be a busy one for restaurants, as millions of Americans celebrate the occasion by dining out. Beer, wine and cocktails can be great additions to the holiday meal experience, so it's important for restaurant operators to train staff in responsible alcohol service.

The Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) is one of the largest provider of alcohol server training in the state. The two-hour Louisiana's BEST course meets the states requirement that all servers of alcohol complete the course and pass to obtain a Responsible Vendor Permit, or a bar card as it's often referred.

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) has created a “Know Your Holiday Alcohol Service” infographic to illustrate key facts. The NRA's ServSafe social media team will hold a Twitter party featuring two alcohol service experts on Thursday, Nov. 29, at 2 to 2:30 p.m. CT/3 to 3:30 p.m. ET to answer operator and employee questions. Follow @ServSafe and use the hashtag #ServSafeSeason to join.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Don't be the turkey this Thanksgiving

If you eat in a restaurant on Thanksgiving, which an estimated more than 30 million people do, the food safety and sanitation practices are covered by the chef and kitchen staff. But for the rest of Americans, they’ll likely be dining at home or be the guest at another’s abode for the Turkey Day Feast. Preparing that meal safely will ensure an enjoyable holiday with family and friends and the tips below will protect your reputation should someone get sick.
Thanksgiving dinner can be fraught with contamination is
the home cook does not keep food safety top-of-mind.

“Food and cooking are a big part of holiday celebrations, so putting food safety practices in focus this time or year will help ensure a safe and enjoyable experience,” said Greg Beachey, Senior Academic Relations and Program Manager with the National Restaurant Association. “Whether cooking at home or in a professional foodservice kitchen, basic principles like cleaning and sanitizing, and cooking to proper temperatures should be part of everyone’s food safety knowledge base.”

The food safety tips recommended by the NRA for preparing a Thanksgiving meal are:

Thaw your turkey in the fridge. While you can thaw a frozen turkey under running water or in the microwave, the best way is in the refrigerator overnight (or longer). Be sure to follow the instructions on the package.
Store raw turkey away from ready-to-eat food. Make sure your raw turkey is covered and stored in a leak-proof container on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. You want to keep it away from foods that are ready to eat, such as desserts and salads, to avoid the risk of cross-contamination.

Clean and sanitize your sink and counters. After rinsing your raw turkey thoroughly, properly clean and sanitize the sink and surrounding area before starting to prepare any other food.

Cook your turkey to safe internal temperature. Use a properly calibrated meat thermometer to check that your turkey has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Insert the thermometer to the dimple on the stem in the thickest part of the breast and thigh for accurate readings.

Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Prep salads, cranberries and other colds items first and store them in the fridge until ready to serve. Then prep your hot dishes closer to serving time so they stay hot. Keep all food items outside the “temperature danger zone” (41 to 135 degrees) as much as possible.
Safely reheat leftovers. Whether from a meal prepared at home or picked up from a restaurant, leftovers are part of the holiday tradition. Store each dish separately in clean, sealable, leak-proof containers and reheat to 165 degrees when you’re ready to enjoy round two of your Thanksgiving meal.

Through its ServSafe Food Safety program, the NRA is the leading source of food safety training and certification for restaurant and foodservice industry professionals for nearly 40 years. To date, more than 5 million ServSafe certifications have been issued. ServSafe is offered year round, statewide by the Louisiana Restaurant Association.

Part of the NRA’s continuing efforts to educate the industry and consumers about food safety best practices is its National Food Safety Month campaign, held each September.  This year’s theme is “Be Safe – Don’t Cross-Contaminate,” focusing on how to avoid transferring potential contaminates from one food or surface to another. National Food Safety Month 2012 is sponsored by SCA, a global hygiene company and makers of the Tork® brand of away-from-home paper products.

Cooler weather results in more soups on the menu

The temperatures in Louisiana are getting cooler as we head into the winter months, which means diners are likely to opt for soup as opposed to salads. While soups can be found year -round on menus, the likelihood that you’ll move more cups and bowls of cream or broth-based goodness is strong.
In the heart of Cajun country, Prejean's in Lafayette is
known for their delicious, rich Gumbo. Cajun's often
like a scoop of potato salad or
a boiled egg with in their bowl of gumbo.
The types of soups found on menus in Louisiana are much different from those in other parts of the country. Gumbo is a staple on most menus here in the Bayou state, and corn and crab bisque, turtle, French onion and oyster and artichoke soups are other popular options for diners—but the possibilities are endless. Vegetable, minestrone, tortilla, chili and chowders are popular elsewhere and sometimes make an appearance on menus in Louisiana.

In a Facebook status update by the Louisiana Restaurant Association’sWe Live to Eat” page, “It’s chilly outside! What’s your favorite cold weather comfort food?”, some type of soup appeared in 78 percent of comments – 18 out of 23.

The profitability in soup is one that educated restaurateurs and chefs know not to overlook. If a batch of gumbo yields 50 servings at $5 a cup for example, the profitability after labor and ingredients results in a hefty profit. Other less expensive ingredients used to make a soup may result in an even larger profit. It’s a win/win for the restaurant and for consumers who are looking for value at a price point they can afford.

The biggest thing for many restaurants is to reduce food waste. Therefore using seafood shells, produce prep leftovers and bones for stock are best practices for getting the most from your food costs.

According to US Foodservice, soups, appetizers and small plates are a proven way for restaurant operators to increase average check size and profit margins. These offerings appeal to a wide variety of consumers. Combo meals that provide soup with a salad or sandwich are especially popular among women for example, while appetizers are irresistible to large groups going out for celebratory dinners or family outings. Women are big soup fans and according to Technomic, approximately 60 percent of them are more likely to purchase soup as part of a combo meal with a salad or sandwich than by itself.

Market research firm Mintel found that soup sales across grocery stores and foodservice outlets have reached approximately $5 billion. They predict that this year, soup sales will reach $6.3 billion and projected growth of more than 25 percent in just a few years.

Subcontinent Sweet Potato Soup won the top prize in the
Sweet Rewards Recipe Contest in 2010. Using Louisiana
Shrimp and Sweet Potatoes, home cook
Drue Deshotels  used curry, ginger and
coconut milk to give his dish an Asian infusion.
Ethnic soups are gaining popularity. At the top 250 chains, Mexican soup flavors dominate. Emerging chains and large independents are adding more Asian-inspired soups and research supports this trend with more than 40 percent of consumer saying they would like more ethnic soup options at restaurants.
Technomic’s 2009 Soup Trend Study found that more than 75 percent of consumers were dissatisfied with the breadth of soup choices at the restaurants they regularly visit. By promoting combos that include soup, many quick service restaurants have seen check averages increase and profit margins have improved. In 2011, Technomic surveyed 1,000 consumers of which 62 percent now order soup at least occasionally during restaurant visits, up from 43 percent in a similar study in 2009.

Is soup on your menu part of your overall sales strategy, an afterthought or something you feel you have to offer?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Social media and politics

By Wendy Waren

Tuesday’s Presidential Election had citizens spouting off at the mouth something fierce. Opinions and memes were being posted well in advance of Tuesday’s showdown, but the gloating and poor sportsmanship following the announcement of the next president were just downright polarizing—even more so than we’ve seen in recent months. 

One Louisiana Restaurant Association restaurant member was lambasted by a customer on his personal Facebook page for sharing his thoughts on the state of the nation and one candidate’s lip service given to fixing our country’s problems. He reminded the customer that this was his personal page and that on his business page he refrained for sharing his political beliefs. That didn't stop his Facebook friends, who sided with him, from piling on in his defense. 

As the dust settles from the Nov. 6 hoopla, I've been contemplating whether or not some of these individuals who are cheering or commiserating actually participate in the political process other than occasionally casting their vote. Professionally, I spend a great deal of time working within the political arena. It takes time, dedication, commitment and conviction to stand up for the rights of an industry. Personally, I get involved by calling, writing letters and encouraging others to be heard on issues important to them. It’s time consuming no doubt. 

This week I was asked to speak on behalf of a program that I spend my Saturdays volunteering for, 4-H, administered by the LSU Ag Center. The entire budget was eliminated from New Orleans Mayor Landrieu’s 2013 proposed budget and after more than two hours sitting in on the New Orleans Council’s Budget Hearings, I learned that there was an error and we were not on the agenda. 

A key city official even said to me, “This happens all the time. It’s the way it goes.” I was floored at his defeated and rather nonchalant attitude after I spent time preparing and waiting for my turn at the podium, which ultimately never came. Could this be the reason more citizens don’t take part in the process? Probably. Should citizens take it lying down? No. 

My disappointment was evident. I wanted to pull out my phone and start sounding off with Facebook status updates and tweets, but I reminded myself, that in light of all of it, I needed to remain positive and focused, and remember who my online friends are—they are restaurateurs, media, politicians, family and friends. The same applied with me commenting on the Presidential Election. 

In real life it’s also important to remember that although someone may look like you, they may not have the same political beliefs. I heard from countless people this week that “We’re totally screwed,” or “We won, isn’t that great?” I keep my political convictions to myself for a reason. Voting is personal to me. 

Sometimes the situation warrants reserving the right to keep your mouth shut.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Restaurateurs are a philanthropic bunch

Just about every charitable event we attend has chefs and restaurateurs participating, either by performing cooking demonstrations or serving their unique cuisine. Restaurateurs nationwide contribute an estimated $3 billion every year to causes that impact their community, according to a study by the National Restaurant Association.

To recognize those restaurateurs who have made extraordinary contributions to their community through philanthropy, the NRA is seeking submissions for its annual Restaurant Neighbor and Faces of Diversity award programs. Earlier this year, two of Louisiana’s own—Greg Reggio and Leah Chase were honored in Washington, DC during the Public Affairs Conference—for their numerous efforts to uplift those in need.
The Restaurant Neighbor Award was created 15 years ago to help honor restaurants in the field of outstanding community service and involvement. Ninety percent of restaurants are actively involved in community activities and this award highlights the positive contributions restaurants make in their local neighborhoods each and every day.

Four national winners receive $5,000 each to support their community efforts as well as an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. The NRA and American Express are pleased to honor restaurant companies that have gone above and beyond in giving back to their communities through the Restaurant Neighbor Award program. Each year, four national winners receive $5,000 each to continue their charitable works.

The Faces of Diversity Award recognizes the diversity of the restaurant industry and the role it plays in helping individuals achieve professional and personal success. Three individuals, who through hard work and determination have realized their dreams, are selected each year as national winners and a $2,500 ProStart student scholarship is presented in their name.

The deadline to submit your Restaurant Neighbor and Faces of Diversity nominees is  January 7, 2013.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Election Day is upon us and there are nine Constitutional Amendments on the ballot

Tomorrow, you will have the right to exercise your vote for the president of the United States. Due to redistricting, there are two Congressional races up for a vote of the people. Candidates have been campaigning for months now and while you may know who will win your vote in these largely publicized races, we cannot forget the nine Constitutional Amendments that will also be on the ballot. These are formal changes to the text of the written constitution of Louisiana.

The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana is an independent, non-partisan review that offers a guide to the 2012 Constitutional Amendments. Issues that you will be called upon to decide are: whether or not to allow state government to sweep the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly, strict scrutiny review for gun laws, forfeiture of public retirement benefits for convicted public servants, membership of certain board and commissions and term limits for school board members, among several others.

Take a few moments to review the PAR Guide to Constitutional Amendments before you head to the polls. 
Recently, President/CEO Stan Harris encouraged Louisiana Restaurant Association members to reflect on these personal decisions here.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hammond ProStart Students Cook Like the Pros

Hammond High Magnet School is one of the state’s most successful ProStart® programs, having won the LRA Education Foundation Louisiana ProStart Student Culinary Competition five of the last six years and has placed in the top ten programs nationally. The students and their instructor, Patti Johnson, love the program and now have a commercial-grade, state-of-the-art kitchen to learn and teach in.

With such a fabulous kitchen to utilize—at the cost of $1.1 million—the school, the Tangipahoa Parish School Board and the LRAEF is officially unveiling it with a Grand Opening ceremony Monday, November 5 at 4 p.m.  

Prep station
The 1,500 square-foot kitchen has five cooking stations that include a six-burner range, convection oven, salamander broiler, tilt skillet and deep fryer.

“This is an investment in the future of the ProStart program at Hammond High Magnet School,” said Tangipahoa Parish School Board Superintendent Mark Kolwe. “This new facility will complement the other programs being added at the Hammond High Magnet campus.”

Many of the Hammond High Magnet ProStart Program’s 34 students will be on hand at the Grand Opening to prepare food for the attendees. Kolwe along with representatives from the Louisiana Restaurant Association and its Educational Foundation, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, state legislators, as well as other local dignitaries and government officials, will tour the new kitchen.

Kitchen ranges
ProStart is administered in Louisiana by the LRAEF and is a nationwide program for high school students that develops the best and brightest talent into tomorrow’s foodservice leaders. From culinary techniques to management skills, ProStart’s industry-driven curriculum provides real-world educational opportunities and builds practical skills, such as teamwork, communications, math and science, and a foundation that will last a lifetime.

“Hammond High Magnet School’s dedication to excellence in the culinary arts, under the direction of ProStart Instructor Patti Johnson, has certainly earned them the opportunity to educate its ProStart students in this state-of-the-art atmosphere,” said LRAEF Executive Director Alice Glenn. “They are fantastic model for all our ProStart programs to emulate.”