Whether I inspire you with love or I inspire you with hate, I have still inspired you.
Whether I inspire you with love or I inspire you with hate, I have still inspired you.
My Favorite of all the steaks…Hail to the King Baby.
Decadent is the perfect synonym for this primal nugget of beastliness.
I normally prefer my meat very,very rare, but the ribeye steak is one of the few exceptions to the rule. I eat my ribeye at a perfect medium. Ordering a ribeye medium is a sure fire way to ensure your steak is melt in your mouth tender and not a kin to Fido’s favorite chew toy.
The reason is quite simple: fat content and the Maillard reaction.
Ribeye Steaks are exceptionally high in fat content, and the ribeye needs this added heat to turn the large deposits of fat in the eye and spinalis from the daunting, chewy globules of white fat into translucent melting masses of beefy godliness. No worries, the Maillard reaction here to help.
This lovely chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars gives browned foods their flavor and color. A well broiled steak is no exception to the rule. The reaction is a form of non-enzyme browning, and at higher temperatures, caramelization, coloration, and the melting of primal fats become more evident.
This, in my book, is the most flavorful of all the steaks, and goes high of most succulent things on earth. The addition of foie gras and black truffles…heaven.
Here is a quick rundown of 10 things that are a true indication of your lifelong quest in the kitchen. This list is by no means complete, as the transformation to a lifer is a gradual and often painful one. Please feel free to add to the list and send me your ideas of what a industry lifer looks like…
1. If you weren’t in restaurant, you wouldn’t know what else to do with life.
The idea of sitting behind a desk seems dull, bland, and a bit confusing. Normal people are boring. You seek the adrenaline and slow self destruction that comes with the lifestyle. You think hood fans are a calming sound and love standing for 10-14 hours a day. You never got over playing with your food as a child, and now you get paid to do it.
2. You eat most of your meals over trash cans and 80% of your diet consists of sandwiches or burritos.
There is no time to sit down and savor a meal in this industry. If you cannot shovel it into your gullet in a maximum of 2.2 seconds, it is not a meal.
3. You give your knives and all the tools in the kitchen “pet names”.
“Machine Gun Kelly” the immersion blender, “Sir Mix-alot” the Hobart, “Sting” the spiteful and blood thirsty knife that “bites” anyone silly enough to handle her,
4. You view cuts and burns as free tattoos and wear them as badges of honor.
If you didn’t know, upon request, a line cook is willing to display their personal collection of cuts, burns, scars and permanently disfiguring blemishes. Each has a very unique story about some point in their career and are worn like badges of honor.
5. Waking up at the crack of noon is normal, and you enjoy wearing pajamas to work- You will pay ridiculous sums of money for dreadfully ugly clogs, but you are not a dirty hippie.
6. The largest bookshelf (and probably your only bookshelf) you own is dedicated to cookbooks and romantic collections of out of date grimoires including a minimum of one (but generally more) copies of Escoffier & le gastronomique.
7. You don’t know what an accident form is, and you use super glue to seal your wounds. If it is good enough for Vietnam vets, it is good enough for a line cook.
8. You know what the cornstarch in the bathroom is for and you have found it hidden in odd locations.
9. You can say multiple dire kitchen phrases and curse words in a gratuitous number of languages, but may not know any of them fluently.
10. You don’t watch the Food Network and you don’t want to be on a reality kitchen show.
You don’t care for the sunlight, the glitz and the glamour- those kind of dreams are for the “pampered chef” pushers with the overly soft hands. You want to be in the fiery pits of the kitchen where you belong.
Few things are quite as transcendent than a bone in filet.
Though scientific evidence suggests that the bone itself does not contribute greatly to the overall flavor of the meat, the connective tissues and fats that sit closest to the bone do add a immense amount of texture and visceral bite that is hard to resist.
The pleasure of the barely cooked meat flanking the inside of the bone is glorious! The few bites are a true testament to all of the beefy virtues of the filet with a touch more of the deeper meatiness that comes more pronounced with the other primal cuts.
I age all of the beef at Rococo Steak for a minimum of 21 days wet age before they step foot into the kitchen. For those who don’t know, wet-aged beef is aged in a vacuum-sealed bag to retain its moisture and allow the enzymes to begin to break down the meat. There is very little weight loss in comparison to dry aging, and wet aged beef has a more mild flavor and giving texture than dry aged beef.
All in all the bone in filet is a dynamic cut with so many virtues it is impossible not to enjoy!
I know I am going to take a ton of flack for this, but regardless, Farm to Table is Bullshit.
But please, before you scoff and label me as a heretic hear me out.
I know food. I have been a professional chef all of my adult life and grew up with a natural affinity for all that is green. My grandfather had a 100 acre farm and orchard. I gardened all of my childhood- In fact I drafted my first plans for my grandfather’s crop rotation and planting schedule at the ripe age of 11. I can still taste the dirt. I know the ins and outs of that heirloom tomato on your caprese salad from seed to fruit. In my own personal chef career I also was the executive chef at a 160 acre ranch with 10 acres of sustainable farms. All of the vegetables, fruits, and herbs were picked every day by my master gardener or myself. I have lived farm to table. So why would I say something so monumentally eviscerating about America’s new super trend?
I will some it up quite simply in one word: marketing.
Merriam-Webster Defines marketing as:
a : the act or process of selling or purchasing in a market
b : the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service
: an aggregate of functions involved in moving goods from producer to consumer
It is never an idea itself that is to blame, rather, it is how people utilize great intentions to drive personal profit through the exploitation of great ideas. You are being sold a bill of goods. Americans love it. But I must tell you, denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.
The push toward organic farming and farm to table-ism is ripe for scam artists. It has nothing to do with not using chemicals (as, guess what, they use all sorts of chemicals on their crops, including pesticides. “All natural” pesticides such as copper and nicotine based toxins). It has lower yield per acre, meaning it uses far more water and land and energy, which is why it is so much more expensive. Also, new studies are proving there is no end-user difference to organic or local farming. There is no difference in toxicity level, no difference in nutrition, no difference in taste. The trend fits nicely into the warm blanket of guilt releasing trends- much like buying carbon credits. Before you jump on the band wagon look to see if what you are doing is for your mind, or your feelings and if you are being willfully exploited by another special interest group that has profit in mind.
As a farmer, I have found that growing more food with less effort, less energy. THAT is true power and this is the future of agriculture and has always the future of agriculture. The fewer farmers you need, the better off society is – and the more energy that can be spent on very real global problems like increasing ocean salinity, alarming rates of desertification, and epidemics of mass starvation in third world countries due to antiquated and inefficient agricultural processes.
Every time we’ve decreased our dependence on agriculture as a job, it has vastly improved society. Farming is all about producing what is needed to support civilization. It isn’t an end to a mean , this is what we must learn to understand.
I Leave you with a quote by a food blogger Jason Sheehan in his article, “Top 20 Worst Food Trends of the Decade”, I found it quite clear, concise, and to the point:
“Unless you own the farm, shut up. Unless you’re Dan Barber, shut up. Being able to name the farm or ranch on your menu does not give you the right to jack the price by ten bucks. If you’re committed to making the world a better place with your restaurant, have a little class about it. Do good without drawing attention to yourself. Being a decent steward of the environment should not be a marketing hook.”
The Bacon Flight: my triumphant exhalation to the new super food.
The original inspiration I cannot take credit for though. My father Steve Potts, a retired chef, has been watching the crazy reach fevered heights came to me with a simple suggestion for the Rococo Steak Menu: “Find the coolest bacon you can, and show it off!”
The summation of my research, development, and multiple late night tastings was a triumvirate of three super hand cut bacons. Spoiler alert, Kevin Bacon is not included.
Bacon one; Neuske’s Award Winning Apple wood smoked masterpiece from the heart of bacon country itself: Wittenberg, Wisconsin. The perfect balance of smoke, fat, and lean bacony goodness is unrivaled by any other producer. One bite and you will be hooked!
Bacon two; Wild Boar Bacon. Slow smoked and still wild, this boar bacon exudes a subtle nuance of both game and tame. With a lower total fat content the bacon has a deeper crunch and meatier flavor.
Bacon three; Thick sliced Duck breast bacon. The texture is stunningly addictive. The flavor blooms with brown sugar, apple, and petite duck fattiness. It is best served with a small bit of chew to really enjoy the textural nuance!
All three are served with wood grilled rustic baguette and a healthy side of 100% Pure Vermont Maple syrup. The bacon flight is a great way to start your meal and enjoy everything bacon!
There is one sure fire way to tell a restaurant trend has finally met its end- being so thoroughly chewed up and well digested by the popular culture that it becomes the gastronomic equivalent of “beating a dead horse”.
How you say?
When the beloved food super giants enter the ring to get a piece of the pie your favorite trend is on the scenic route to sure fire extinction. Luckily I have had a chance to see the ebb and flow of some pretty monumental shifts in my career, and have been equally as entertained by the food mega giants ploy to clone the trend into something easily digestible to the less than discerning American pallet.
Some fun examples,
Resurgence of South west cuisine–> McDonald’s Premium Southwest Salad, Burger King’s Southwest breakfast Burrito, TGI Friday’s Southwest wedge, Southwest sliders, and enough chipotle mayo cover the entire earth.
Fusion Explosion-McDonalds Asian Salad, Fried Potstickers (every quick service chain restaurant from TGI Fridays to Ruby Tuesdays), Teriyaki wings, chickens, burritos, salads, bowls, cups, noodles…you get the point.
Spanish & South American revival- creating both a new ideas from old classics including empanadas at McDonalds and susprio doughnuts at Dunkin’ Doughnuts.
So enough with the examples…
I have a prevailing theory for this. Bare with me, I like lists.
Phase one: Most major trends start with a significant amount of capital in a fairly large city-scape. Well refined and well traveled palettes decide something is, “in”. The newest and hottest trends slowly trickle through the long long lines of restaurants through word of mouth, social media, and industry publications. This diffusion can be slow and steady, but will culminate with the item being on every trendy restaurant’s menu or be systematically exercised from the public eye like a malevolent demon. This is the purest form of natural social selection possible.
Phase two: Large companies hate change. Many Mega giants have been running the same business model for upwards of 100 years. The product of this stasis is a consistency that every independent restaurant and small corporation drools over. This stasis is what makes them inflexible but enduring. This is exactly the same reason that in order for them to take a leap of faith on a new menu item, the concept must be so thoroughly masticated by the public maw that the opportunity for failure is next to nil. Imagine rolling out the newest trend at your eatery with three locations. Daunting? A little. Now, try doing it for 14,000. Yeah, a little bigger deal, huh?
Phase three: The idea must be made as “vanilla” as possible. The general public does not want to be challenged. For many Americans a culinary challenge is eating fresh veggies. Case in point, ask one of your non-foodie friends if they like fish sauce. Go ahead, I dare you. The shocking result, they don’t, and many of them may have never even heard of it. Most wonder bread eating Americans do not like any form of ethnic food- they do like the idea of it though. So, corporate chefs begin toiling at test kitchens hashing out recipes that have the inheritable traits of the original idea but none of the “scary” characteristics. If a six year old will eat it with ranch dressing, the job here is done.
Phase four: Market, market, market. When you are done, market some more. People already like the idea, they want to taste the latest trend, but often the demographic going to the Mega giants will not have the same disposable income as their foodie buddies hoarking down the latest and greatest at the newest concept in Chicago or NYC. They want the idea, but they want it for cheap. They have heard about these crazy new trends from The Food Network, Cooking TV, and the latest issue of (add tabloid or junk periodical here), and want in on the action. And as we know, “If I saw it on TV and that giant billboard it must be good.”
Repetition in marketing works people. It has for years.
Stage Five: At the end of the day, the trend suffers the cruel and slow death of mass media maceration. The writhing may take days, it may take weeks, hell- it may take years to finally end. But when it does, be sure a new trend will be there to take its place. This is the beauty of our market consumer society; there will always be a latest, greatest, and newest. Especially in the US, where we strive to create new and inventive things- to push the boundaries, and to walk a little too close to the metaphoric edge.
So slave away fair chefs, create the newest trend. Push the envelope and go where no cook has gone before. Just remember one thing: Mega Big Brother is watching you with envious eyes waiting for the exact moment where your loving creation can be scooped up, stripped down, and marketed for millions.
So, are you selling out, or are you buying in?