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Eat This Now!

Here is what you should be eating RIGHT NOW!  This is the best time of year for late-summer produce.  Get it at its best, before it’s too late!

https://www.seasonalfoodguide.org/ 

Lima Beans, Green Beans, Snap Peas
Lima Beans, Green Beans, Snap Peas

Apples, Arugula, Asian Pears, Basil, Beets, Black-Eyed Peas, Blackberries, Blueberries, Bok Choy, Cantaloupe, Carrots, Celery, Celery Root, Chard, Chili Peppers, Chives, Cilantro, Corn, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Garlic, Grapes, Green Beans, Green Onions, Ground Cherries, Horseradish, Kale, Leeks, Lima Beans, Melons, Mint, Mushrooms, Nectarines, Okra, Onions, Oregano, Parsley, Peaches, Peppers, Plums, Potatoes, Radishes, Raspberries, Rhubarb, Rosemary, Sage, Snap Peas, Snow Peas, Sprouts, Strawberries, Summer Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Thyme, Tomatillos, Tomatoes, Turnips, Watermelon, Zucchini.radish

If you have ever thought about trying something new, now is the time to try these foods!  Tasting them at the peak of their season means maximum flavor.  Not sure how to prepare them?  That’s why you called us! 😉

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Sounds in the Kitchen

Podcast, Pandora, Talk-Radio…

What do you listen to while you are cooking?  Heavy metal, soft rock, Boss Nova radio on Pandora?  Maybe you don’t listen to music at all or, you prefer talk-radio or the news.  We asked our chefs, and most of them said Pandora or podcasts.  Here are some of their favorite foodie and food-adjacent podcasts.  Share with us your favorites!

Starving For Attention with Richard Blais * Gastropod * Sporkful

The Stew * Stuff You Should Know * The David Chang Show

Gravy Podcast * The Eater Upsell * FoodStuff * Burnt Toast

Serious Eats * Four Top

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Chef’s Spotlight: Chef Tyler Wicezorek

Chef’s Spotlight: Chef Tyler Wicezorek

This month’s chef’s spotlight is dedicated to Tyler Wicezorek.  He is a personal chef and Friend in Indianapolis

In his own words. 

In 2006, I graduated Cum Laude from Sullivan University with an Associate’s degree in Culinary Arts. When I started I could barely cook a grilled cheese sandwich or scrambled eggs, but I knew I didn’t want a normal “desk job”.  I also knew I wanted to work with science. I figured at the very least I would never have to worry about going hungry being a chef (I was right!). However, it was a bit different than I expected and a whole lot harder.

Chef Tyler Wicezorek
Chef Tyler Wicezorek

Luckily, I made it through school with my raw determination and friends I had made along the way. I’ve been cooking professionally now for 13 years in kitchens throughout Louisville, including the ones at Churchill downs. Working on the riverboat, The American Queen, cruising the Ohio and Mississippi rivers was definitely my favorite job of the bunch. Before Friend That Cooks, I worked at the steakhouse in Hoosier Park.

When I’m not cooking, I’m the Vice President and co-owner of Wizard of Paws Wildlife Education Inc. along with my wife of 5 years. We are a 501(c)3 nonprofit wildlife sanctuary that takes in domestic wildlife that can’t be released back into the wild.  We use them to educate schools and the community about the delicate ecosystem all around us.  Currently, we take-in foxes and New Guinea singing dogs, but are looking to expand and care for more animals with the help of donations from the community.

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Chef’s Spotlight: Krystal Vazquez

Chef’s Spotlight: Chef Krystal Vazquez

This month’s chef’s spotlight is dedicated to Krystal Vazquez.  She is a personal chef and Friend in Kansas City.

In her own words.
Krystal Vazquez
Krystal Vazquez

If there is any universal language (apart from Math, ha) it is food. We all speak it. Food is memory, comfort, caring. Not just the thing that fuels us, but something that brings us together for all manner of celebration. The joy you can bring someone simply by fixing them a scratch-made meal is remarkable. Being a born people pleaser, I knew that in cooking I would find the perfect conduit to spread this joy to others.

Growing up I wasn’t much the Saturday morning cartoon type of kid – I would rather be watching Justin Wilson on PBS. We all remember him, that Cajun chef with his jolly catchphrase “I Guar-on-tee!”. Watching Mr. Wilson was like spending time with a beloved grandparent. I loved his gentle style of storytelling and learning about the food that moved him. With his help, I was about 10 years old when I decided that being a Chef is what I wanted to do with my life.

In high school I took every culinary, nutrition and home economics course offered. I was president of the FCCLA and traveled state wide to participate in cooking competitions. It was at this time I discovered Johnson & Wales University, alma mater of the likes of Emeril Lagasse and Tyler Florence. In 2004 I graduated Summa Cum Laude with my Associates in Culinary Arts from the Norfolk, VA campus. Several years later after marrying my high school sweetheart and starting my family, I graduated again from Johnson & Wales with my Bachelor’s in Food-Service Operations and Culinary Management.

My career has been spread across prestigious country clubs (The Country Club of Virginia and Pinehurst to name a few). I have been a sous chef in private catering establishments and at upscale senior living communities, which have given me experience not only in event work and fine dining but also therapeutic diets. Joining Friend that Cooks over a year ago has by far been the most gratifying career move I’ve made to date. I’m able to continue my dreams of sharing joy while being able to spend more time with my family. The best of both worlds!

In my free time I also spend time with my goofy bulldogs, I enjoy painting and interior decorating. I’m also fond of the music scene in Kansas City and am always game for a live show. Having the Royals and the Chiefs in the same town is fantastic and I love going to games when I get the chance.

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More Than Salt: The Elements of Cooking

Seasoning Doesn’t Just Mean Salt & Pepper

saltYou’ve meticulously studied the recipe. You’ve gone to specialty grocery stores and purchased every single obscure ingredient. You followed the directions exactly. You seasoned with salt and pepper, plated the exotic meal beautifully, put it on the table, and it tastes. . . ok.

To me, the most important skill a cook can master, in regards to savory cooking, is the ability to taste what you’ve made and then know what you can do to elevate it to perfection. No matter how closely you follow a recipe, there will always be variables in your kitchen and ingredients that differ from those of the author of the recipe. A skillful chef or even a good home cook knows how to combat these differences and fix a meal that needs just that little extra. Most recipes encourage you to season with salt and pepper. I would argue that seasoning with acid, sweetness, and fat are just as important. limesThere’s a reason restaurants often garnish fish with citrus wedges to squeeze or top a steak with a pat of garlic-herb butter.

I think the easiest way to practice the skill of tasting and adding salt, acid, sugar, or fat to perfection is to make a simple vinaigrette. This is the simplest balance of the four components. Whisk up your favorite vinaigrette recipe and then taste it. Does it taste bland? It probably needs more vinegar or salt. Is it too sour? Some added oil (fat) or honey should temper the acidity. Is it too salty? You can dilute the salinity by adding volume to the vinaigrette with vinegar and oil. Does it taste right, but somehow doesn’t feel rounded out? A dab of honey should round out any rough edges. Mastering this process to find the perfect balance is the key. Once you have this skill, you can easily apply it to almost any situation where dinner just seems to need a little pop.

Almost every ethnic cuisine incorporates ingredients that fill the need for each of these elements. Many ingredients bring multiple elements to the dish. The table below lists some basics, but the possibilities and combinations are endless once you become familiar with new ingredients and recognize which of these elements they add to your food.

Cuisine

Salt

Acid

Fat

Sweet

Mexican Salt, Cotija Cheese Lime, Hot Sauce, Pineapple Avocado, Cheese, Crema,

Corn Oil

Pineapple, Piloncillo, Honey
Asian Soy Sauce, Fish Sauce, Miso Yuzu, Rice Wine Vinegar, Lime Coconut Milk, Silken Tofu, Sesame Oil Mirin, Mango, Papaya
Italian Parmesan, Anchovy, Prosciutto Tomatoes, Balsamic, Lemon Olive Oil, Cheese, Egg Yolk Marsala Wine
French Sea Salt Red Wine Vinegar, Lemon Cream, Butter Port Wine, Orange
Spanish Salt Cod, Iberico Ham, Manchego Cheese Sherry Vinegar Olive Oil, Almonds Honey, Sugar
Southern US Bacon Hot Sauce Butter, Cream Molasses, Sorghum

-Mark Maybon has been a personal chef and Friend for three and a half years.  He serves our Kansas City, St. Louis, Wichita and Twin City markets.

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Artichokes: Worth It!

Cleaning Artichokes For Stuffing and Steaming

ArtichokesArtichokes are one of the more underutilized vegetables in the produce isle. They for sure do not scream “Eat me!  I’m delicious!” with all of those thorns, tough, bitter, outer armor and hairy insides.  But once you get down to the sweet delicious meat, we promise the effort will be worth it!  Sure, you can buy a can of artichoke hearts for $4 a can.  And that’s all fine and well for a seafood pasta or pizza topping.  But nothing says summer like a stuffed artichoke and a cold can of beer (or a glass of rose, we’re not judging.)

Getting them ready, though, that takes some finesse.  So, we broke it down for you in the handy step-by-step guide.  The stuffing?  That’s all you!  Use whatever you want.  But for the best combos, we recommend a little cheese, breadcrumbs and herbs.  Crab, shrimp or even white beans would also taste delicious.

How To

First:  You gotta buy the artichokes.  Look for ones that are heavy for their size with tight, green leaves.  Some brown spots are ok.

artichoke globes with tight leaves
Select globes that are heavy with tight leaves.

Second: This is where the prep starts.  Remember the 80/20 rule?  This is definitely a situation where being prepared pays off in the end.

You will need: a large cutting board, kitchen sheers or scissors, a sturdy and SHARP chef’s knife, a large soup spoon, a large bowl for scraps, a parchment lined sheet pan (or a steamer basket on the stove top) and your stuffing.

Third: Tear off the bottom leaves from the stem of the artichokes.  Next, using your sheers, cut just the tip off the leaves working in a circular pattern all the way around the artichoke, removing the thorns.  It works well to hold the artichoke over the scrap bowl, so the leaves fall right in.  Makes for easier clean-up.  Then, turn the artichoke on it’s side and using your chef’s knife, slice off the top third of the choke, exposing the purple flower center.  You can also remove the stem now.  The leaves are tough, so be careful and use your knife in a sawing-like motion to make the cut.  Don’t try to push straight down…that won’t do anything except bruise the leaves and hurt your shoulder!

Flower and choke center
Remove the top third to expose the flower and choke center.

Fourth: Take out the choke.  The purple center is actually the flower of the plant.  If left alone, the artichokes would bloom and drop its seeds.  Underneath the soft purple leaves is the center, or the choke.  It is full of fine, hair-like seed pods that float in the air after the plant blooms.  They are not very tasty and do not have a good mouth-feel, so they gotta go.  Plus, we need to make room for the stuffing!  The easiest way is to use the side of a large soup spoon.  Work the edge of the spoon under the little hairs and scrape them out, exposing the edible choke, aka “meat”, underneath.  Again, work over a scrap bowl for easier clean-up.

Fifth: Stuff it, bake it and eat it!  Or don’t stuff it.  Either way, it’s delicious!  They can be baked on a sheet pan in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or steamed on the stovetop.  Use the tip of a paring knife thru the stem end to check for doneness.  When it inserts easily, they are cooked thru.  To eat, pull off a leaf and scrape it against your teeth to remove the meat.  Don’t eat the green leaf.  No amount of cheese could ever make those tasty!  (If you are not stuffing them, dip the choke end of the leaf in clarified butter for extra deliciousness.)  When the leaves have all been picked, the tasty sweet choke heart is left behind and up for grabs!

 

You can keep the choke centers and use them for other recipes or eat them plain.  To clean the artichoke all the way down to the choke center, have a bowl of acidulated water off to the side and then follow steps one thru three above, but keep the stem attached as there is good meat inside.  Remove the outer leaves using a chef’s knife, working in a circular pattern around the artichoke.

artichoke outer leaves
Remove the tough outer leaves to expose the tender choke heart.

Leave the hairy choke attached while you do this to keep the center from oxidizing.  Once the outer leaves have been removed, rub the choke center with ½ a lemon to stop the oxidation process.

rub lemon on artichoke
Rub with lemon to prevent oxidation.

Next, follow step four to remove the hairy choke and drop immediately into the acidulated water while you work on the others.  Work quickly as they will brown quickly from the air.  The now clean artichoke hearts can be steamed, fried, roasted, sautéed or grilled and used in hundreds of different recipes! Click the link below to get some recipe ideas from delish.com!

https://www.delish.com/cooking/g950/artichoke-recipes/

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Top 6 Job Seeker Tips For Chefs And Cooks

While being a skilled cook or chef is the best way to get ahead cooking in the restaurant and food service industry, its not going to get you in the door to get an interview because potential employers haven’t seen your work to even know they should interview you. For that matter, you WON’T get an interview at all if you don’t follow some key job seeker tips and give them a resume that makes them want to talk to you. Don’t make the common mistakes most professional cooks and chefs make, follow these tips to greatly increase your chances of getting an interview.

job seeker tips hiring manager pic

Here are the Top 6 Job Seeker Tips when applying for a cooking or chef job, coming from the founder of Friend That Cooks Personal Chef Service, Brandon O’Dell.

  1. Don’t just fill out the application – Applications aren’t great tools for learning about applicants of skilled positions, like cooking. They don’t have a good structure to really tell about you. There’s room for basic information and that’s about it. If you really want a job, heed this job seeker tip and share what makes you more suited for it than the other people applying, why you’re a great fit for this job, and why you love to cook. If you do have to fill out an application for a position, attach a current resume and cover letter to it. Those are the tools you need to share your skills and passion to a potential employer.
  2. Read the ad, follow the directions – A smart employer will include directions or details in their ad to test whether you’re actually reading it, or if you’re simply scrolling through all the ads and “resume-dumping” (applying for every job you can). Employers don’t want resume dumpers unless they don’t respect their own business or the job they’re hiring you for. They want to know you’re actually interested in working for them and that you took time to learn what the job and company is about. If they can tell you didn’t even read the ad, you might as well not apply. Memorize this job seeker tip for every job you apply for; read the ad, follow the directions.
  3. Keep your resume updated and complete – The purpose of a resume is to share yourself with an employer. You can’t do that if you’re lazy about your resume. Giving an employer an incomplete resume (less than the last ten years work experience), or an outdated one sends a statement to them that you’re not really interested in working for them, or that you’ll be a lazy employee if you do. Put the same kind of effort into your job hunt that you will your job, because how you conduct yourself during the job hunt is the only clue a potential restaurant or food service has about how hard you’ll work for them.
  4. Avoid gaps in your work history – While employers don’t want to see a lot of information about your past positions that don’t have anything to do with cooking for food service work, they also don’t want to see big gaps in your resume. Another important job seeker to is to make sure if you were out of the industry for a time, you list what you were doing. Don’t spend a lot of time on the details of the position, but also don’t leave gaps that may lead them to assume you weren’t working. If you weren’t working, and had a good reason for it, list that too. Better you don’t leave it to their imagination.job seeker tips cooking pic
  5. Avoid looking like a job-hopper – A history of short tenures at multiple jobs is a red flag to potential employers. Cooks and chefs who haven’t stayed at their previous positions long tend to not last at their next one. An employer will overlook one or two short employment terms on your resume if you have a good reason for leaving, and your tenure at other jobs is longer. They know perfectly well that there are a lot of bad managers and bad restaurant jobs out there. If you’re lasting less than a year at most of them, their just going to assume you’re flighty and they’ll move on to the next candidate. If you do have a history of not staying at jobs long, follow this job seeker tip and consider leaving some of those jobs off your resume. Short tenures aren’t real experience and that employer doesn’t want to hear how you think you can “do it all” because you’ve worked at 10 different restaurants in the last 4 years.
  6. Know how to use a cover letter – If your cover letter reads something like, “I’m a hard worker who is eager to learn and make myself the best employee I can be for my next employer”, just forget the cover letter. Listen to this next job seeker tip very carefully and take it to heart, because THIS is the most common mistake job seekers make. Don’t put anything in a cover letter that applies to every job to which you’re applying. Statements like the one above belong in an introduction paragraph in your resume. Things that you want all potential employers to know about you belong in the resume, not the cover letter. A cover letter is where you talk about why you want to work for this company, and what skills or passion you have that make you a better fit for this particular position than any other applicant. If your cover letter is generic and isn’t speaking TO THIS EMPLOYER specifically, it isn’t going to be effective. A cover letter needs to be written new for each job you apply for. It needs to show that you looked into THIS company, and want THIS job; that you’re not just dumping your resume and the same cover letter on every job posting you can. That’s not an employee for a skilled position, that’s someone they hire to do a job anyone can do, and those jobs don’t pay as well.

Brandon O’Dell is the founder of Friend That Cooks Personal Chef Service. He is also an operations and marketing consultant for the food service industry. His company, Friend That Cooks, prides itself in being “employee-centric”, offering pay and benefits not found in cooking positions elsewhere in the food service industry. If you would like to see employment opportunities available at Friend That Cooks, go to www.friendthatcooks.com/hiring

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My Whole 30 Experience

We have a dear friend who does Whole30 every January. She stays committed and has pretty decent success. This January, she roped her husband into doing it with her and he lost twenty pounds. They posted on Facebook about his success and immediately, MY husband said, “let’s do it.”

As the words left his lips, my head spun, quite possibly, ten times around my neck. I said, “Are you sure? There are a lot of foods you LOVE that you can’t have. We won’t be able to drink.”

I repeated the statements above probably twenty more times trying to convince him this was a bad idea. I became a little savvy and even delayed the start by saying to my husband, “Your birthday is in a couple weeks and birthday cake is NOT on Whole30…at all, are you sure you want to do it?” He’s wise to my games and said we would begin the week after his birthday…cue sad heartbreaking music and imaginary tears rolling down my face.

As we prepared to begin, all I could think was what a crock this diet is because we already eat relatively healthy and balanced. So I bought the cookbook. I wanted to stay committed and ensure we were following the rules, so what better way to follow the rules than to have them laid out for you in recipes and measurements. BAD IDEA FOR SOMEONE WHO COOKS PROFESSIONALLY!

I meal prepped all of our breakfasts, lunches and dinners for the first week thinking this will be great. There aren’t any excuses of why this can’t work, except the 16 boxes of assorted Girl Scout Cookies taunting me because they are unopened.

We had success in the first week, kind of. We were mildly hungry throughout the first day but were able to add fruit and Lara Bars to help stave off the symptoms of being hangry. Day two was problematic. The hunger pangs were like none I’ve ever had. I was weak and a little disoriented. Not a fun time by anyone. Day three, I hit a wall. I woke up nauseous…my body was in full detox. I couldn’t eat or focus. I was irritable and I just wanted it to end. For me, that was the day the severity of the rules ceased to exist. I almost fell asleep/passed out at the wheel of my car and rear ended someone.

I changed the plan because that isn’t a way to live. I added an english muffin for breakfast and it made all the difference in the world. I also found my self disregarding the cookbook. The food I made the first week was good, but it wasn’t great. I cook for a living, I love eating great food. There was an Ahh Haa moment when I said to myself, “Girl, you are a chef, make it taste good.” I’d been so intent on following the rules, my professional rules went out the window.

I found everything in the book to be under seasoned and bland. I first thought it was my taste buds changing, but as the diet went on and I used my professional know how combined with the book for ideas, Whole30 became far more manageable.

We have decided to use Whole30 as a guide for lunches dinners Monday-Friday, but if we want a glass of wine, we are having it. If we want a couple (not an entire sleeve) of thin mints, we are going to have them. As with any diet, MODERATION IS KEY!

In conclusion, here is a list of super positive things I took away from the diet because we did lose weight and feel better.

1. READ YOUR LABELS (these days, everything has sugar in it)
2. When reading recipes, season until you think it tastes good
4. If I never eat another Lara Bar, it will be too soon
5. Balance is key, meaning: one glass of wine rather than the bottle
6. LIVE YOUR LIFE
7. If you can’t make it taste good, hire someone who can

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Empty Tomb Rolls

Just for Fun! “Empty Tomb” Rolls

Looking for a fun and easy recipe to bake with the kids this Easter weekend?  Check out these “Empty Tomb” rolls.  You can’t go wrong with marshmallows, butter and cinnamon and sugar!  Just be sure to seal them tight so the gooey goodness doesn’t escape from the “tomb”.

https://www.the-girl-who-ate-everything.com/empty-tomb-rolls/

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Chef’s Spotlight: Chef Jacob Gordon Wright

Meet our March Chef’s Spotlight: Chef Jacob Gordon Wright!

Chef Jacob prepping for a weekly meal prep client.

Chef Jacob Gordon Wright was born and raised in the rural town of Lawson, Missouri, forty miles north of Downtown Kansas City.  In high school, his focus was chemistry and playing tuba with no set career goals.  After high school, he was introduced to the culinary program at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, KS.  Since day one, he fell in love with the culinary arts and soon realized his passion for preparing really great food.

Jacob has always felt strongly that he wanted to experience everything the hospitality industry has to offer.  He has worked in many different types of food service operations, from hospitals and hotels to catering and country clubs, absorbing all he can at every location.  In fall of 2013, Jacob earned his chef certification through the American Culinary Federation, and two Associate Degrees in Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts with an emphasis in dietary management.

Creating food is his art, but Jacob wanted to do more for others too.  Teaching soon became his next goal.  Just over one year ago, Jacob joined the Friend That Cooks family of personal chefs.  It has been an incredible stepping stone for him to move from behind the line in restaurants to helping families improve their quality of life and educate them on basic nutrition that the general public lacks.  At the end of the day, Jacob does not cook only to fill stomachs and nourish minds; he cooks to bring happiness into everyone’s life.  Being able to connect with his clients and their families, and to see first-hand how the food he prepares directly improves their lives, is such an important part to loving what he does.

When he is not cooking, Jacob enjoys spending his free time with family and friends, wood working and being outdoors.  He especially likes foraging and camping in the spring.  In the winter months, when he is stuck indoors, he likes playing video games and experimenting with new recipes.