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Chef’s Spotlight- Elizabeth Armstrong

 

This month’s Chef’s Spotlight features our new admin and office assistant, Elizabeth Armstrong.  Elizabeth was born and raised in Olathe, Kansas. She graduated from Olathe South High School in 2006 and went on to receive a Bachelor’s in Mass Media Advertising with a minor in fine arts from Washburn University in 2013.  Elizabeth spent a period of time designing websites and teaching drawing classes to elementary school kids.  She has also worked in the service industry for 14 years.

Elizabeth has a passion for all kinds of art and helping others. Staying creative is an ongoing outlet for her. She enjoys going to art exhibits, being out in nature, spending time with her niece, going to concerts and binge watching Netflix.

WELCOME ELIZABETH!  Not technically a chef, but definitely an important addition to our Friend That Cooks family, Elizabeth started with us in early May.  She works in our new headquarters office in Shawnee as our office assistant, website tamer and social media guru.  Check out her work on our Facebook and other social media platforms.

 

 

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Build Your Cookbook Library Like A Pro

We all have it.  That one book sitting on the counter.  Bent spine, dogeared, bookmarked and stained.  It’s the go-to.  The favorite.  Maybe it’s a collection of family heirlooms, a digital wallet stored on your iPad, a wedding present from your dear Aunt Sally, or a corner bookstore find.  A good cookbook can help plan that Thanksgiving feast for 20 or Tuesday night’s meatloaf supper.

For our chefs, they are a source of inspiration, and a education.  Just like a any other professional, chefs need to keep up with current trends, and brush up on techniques learned early in our careers.  It’s more than a hobby- it’s a lifestyle.

We get asked all the time, “What book should I have in my kitchen?”.  So we wanted to put together for you a  list of our chefs’ favorites.  Some are more reference books than recipe books.  But we still think they are great, even for the most novice of cooks.  Check out our list below and comment on your favorites.  Follow us on Instagram for the latest updates from Friend That Cooks!

The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook is great for everyday recipes.
Charcuterie, for meats: smoking, curing, salting and more. 
The Chefs Reference Guide is a great resource for the advanced home cook.
Instead of Google, grab a copy of Food Lover’s Companion. A great resource for anything food.
Composing the perfect dish is a breeze with Culinary Artistry. A great resource book for all home cooks.
Genuinely delicious and fun “fancy southern” cuisine from a Top Chef contestant, Fire In My Belly.
Learn everything pasta in Flour+Water: Pasta.
If bread is your thing, or maybe you want to learn, Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast is great to have in your kitchen.
The French Laundry Cookbook delivers beautiful pictures and exquisite technique.
TV show personality delivers classic and fun foods in Guy Fieri Family Food.
Sean Brock, a Charleston legend in his own right, shows you how to make classic, southern dishes that are beautiful and sustainable.
Momofuku is a must for anyone looking to step-up their Asian culinary game.
On Cooking, a texbook and staple for any cook. A must-own for all.
Staff Meals is fun and original cookbook with wholesome recipes, unique ingredients and a laid-back approach.
Bon Appetit’s The Grilling Book should be your can’t-live-without, summer grilling guide.
Get serious pastry skills with The Pastry Chef’s Companion recipe and resource guide.
Not just for vegans, Thug Kitchen’s NSFW first official cookbook has taken the food world by storm. Get serious about eating more vegetables and get a copy of this book…yesterday!

 

Ethnic Food Lover’s Companion makes cooking your favorite ethnic dish a breeze.
The Cook’s book is a great resource for tips and tricks from chef’s all over the world.

 

If you like breakfast foods, you need The Breakfast Book. Think farm-house simple.
When you aren’t sure what to pair with this, or how to spice that, The Flavor Bible is every cook’s go-to.
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Too Many Tomatoes I From Mama Natural

28 Things to Do With Too Many Tomatoes

tomatoesLate in the summer, many gardeners end up with too many tomatoes! Come late-August, you may end up with a dozen or two heirlooms ripening on your kitchen counter, with dozens more cherry, San Marzano, Brandywine, Yellow Pear, Roma, Campari, Jubilee, Beefsteak and countless other tomato varieties ripening on the vines outside.

This is not necessarily a bad thing but it can be intimidating trying to think of ways to utilize them. Before we start, I have an idea of my own. First, cook down those fresh tomatoes and add some onion, celery and celery salt until the vegetables are tender. Now run that through a food mill and add some salt and lemon juice to taste. Don’t forget the last and most crucial ingredient…Vodka!

Now that you have a delicious bloody mary in your hands, you can click the link below to find out 28 ways to use all those extra tomatoes from your garden while they are at peak freshness!

28 Things to Do With Too Many Tomatoes

Leave a comment below with your favorite ideas and recipes using your garden vegetables and herbs.

Click here to learn more about Friend That Cooks Personal Chef Service.

 

 

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From Food & Wine | Maple Roasted Ribs

Maple Roasted Ribs

Hey, here’s a great maple roasted ribs recipe we found at Food and Wine magazines website. Not all ribs have to be smoked, here’s another great way to make spare ribs. Our talented personal chefs know many fun and interesting recipes like this that we use every day for our weekly meal prep clients…

http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/maple-roasted-pork-spareribs

Maple roasted ribs from Food and Wine magazine
Maple roasted pork spare ribs from Food and Wine magazine

Learn more about weekly meal prep from Friend That Cooks Personal Chefs on our website.

 

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Goat Cheese Quiche Recipe

Goat Cheese & Caramelized Onion Quiche

Egg facesQuiche is our favorite!  It is versatile, can be eaten at any time of day, and is super easy to make.  This recipe comes from our very own Christina Hoffeld in Chicago.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 store bought or scratch made crust
  • 6 eggs
  • 6-8 ounces goat cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1 onion, caramelized
  • 2T chopped fresh chives

Procedure

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  
  2. Place the pie shell into a deep-dish pie pan and crimp the edges with a fork.  Prick the bottom of the crust all over with the tines of a fork.  Cover the interior of the shell with parchment paper and add baking beads or dried beans to weigh the crust down. Bake for 15 minutes.  
  3. Meanwhile, combine eggs, cheese, cream caramelized onion and chives in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.  
  4. Remove the parchment paper and baking beads from the par baked crust.  Pour the quiche filling into the crust and bake for 40 minutes more, or until set in the center.
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Shakshuka Recipe

Shakshuka Recipe

EggsShakshuka is probably one of the best egg dishes known to man.  A Middle Eastern dish of tomatoes, peppers, spices and eggs, this dish can be enjoyed at any time of day and rivals even the best Mexican chilaquiles.  Feel free to experiment with your own spice blends to make it your own!  But whatever you do, be sure to have lots of bread ready to soak up all that tomato goodness!

Yield: 4

Ingredients

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 red bell peppers
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 diced spicy pepper such as jalapeno, serrano or thai chili, depending on preference (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • Pinch of cayenne (optional)
  • Pinch of coriander
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • (1) 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 4 eggs, whole
  • Chopped parsley, about 1 handful
  • Crusty bread for serving

Procedure

  1. Prepare a grill or broiler on high heat.  Rub the bell peppers with olive oil and grill or broil until well charred on the outside skin.  Place in a heatproof bowl covered with plastic wrap and let sit for 20 minutes.  Remove the charred skin, remove the seeds and stems and discard, and dice the peppers.  Set aside.  
  2. In a 12-inch frying pan with a lid, heat a small amount of olive oil on high heat.  Add the diced onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, but not browned.  
  3. Add the chili, if using, and continue to sauté until soft.  Add the spices and stir until fragrant.  
  4. Add the tomatoes, reduce the heat to medium, and allow the mixture to simmer for about 5 minutes, or until a full, spicy aroma develops and the sauce thickens.  
  5. Carefully crack the eggs into the mixture and reduce the heat to low.  Cover the pan with the lid, and allow the eggs to steam in the mixture until cooked to your desired doneness- about 3 minutes for soft, 5 minutes for medium, or 7 minutes for hard cooked eggs.  
  6. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately with lots of crusty bread for dipping.
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Chef Spotlight – Nate Lane

Nate Lane FTC
Chef Nate Lane of Friend That Cooks

Chef Spotlight – Nate Lane

This month’s Chef Spotlight features one of our Kansas City chefs. Nate joined Friend That Cooks almost a year and a half ago and has really enjoyed working with the company. He started his education at Kansas State University with the goal of obtaining a degree in Dietetics. However, he soon realized he would rather work with food directly and transferred to Johnson County Community College for their renowned Culinary program. Shortly after, he obtained his Sous Chef Certification and began working for the Indian Hills Country Club. Since then, he has also worked as a Sous Chef at Garmin, and as a Storeroom Manager for the Art Institutes International of Kansas City.

New restaurants are always being added to his list of places to dine in order to keep an open palate and update his menu ideas. A few of his favorites include the Harvest at Renee Kelly’s, ABC Cafe, and El Salvadoreno. 

Nate enjoys supporting the KC Chiefs and Royals, playing frisbee golf, and spending time with friends and family. He looks forward to another year working with the FTC family. He lives in Lenexa with his wife and young daughter.

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Friend That Cooks Issues Challenge to Food Service Industry

It’s Time For Paid Maternity Leave

by Brandon O’Dell, Founder Friend That Cooks

Friend That Cooks Personal Chef Service has added paid maternity leave to the benefits package for our personal chefs in Kansas City, Chicago, Milwaukee, Wichita, Omaha, Des Moines, St. Louis, Minneapolis, St. Paul and Denver in an effort to pressure the food service industry to adopt paid maternity leave as a standard benefit.

The food service industry has a long history of using up and burning out employees. I’ve been there myself. I worked the 60+ hour weeks as a low level manager, and 80-100 hour weeks as a general manager. I’ve spent years consecutively missing Easter celebrations with the family, and other holidays. As a food service consultant, one of my primary focuses in helping food services has been teaching them how to get the most out of their employees by giving the most to their employees. It only made sense when I started Friend That Cooks that I practice what I preach when it comes to my own employees.

Benefits in a small business are very difficult to budget for. We don’t start out with the economy of scale our larger counterparts have, and government regulations like The Affordable Care Act create a large hurdle for companies looking to transition from small businesses into large ones. They create a “barrier to entry” making it so expensive to be a big business, that it becomes impossible for most small businesses to get there. We small businesses compete with those same companies for employees though, so it is very important for us to pay as well or better, and to offer comparable benefits if we want to compete for those employees. For companies like mine, it means starting out offering what benefits we can, then improving them as you can afford to.

From the day I started Friend That Cooks I treated our company like it was going to become a large business. I created our services with a 8-5, weekday work schedule in mind for myself and our future chefs. I wanted cooks and chefs to have an option if they didn’t want to sacrifice their personal lives for evening, weekend and holiday hours that are mandatory with most restaurants, caterers and other food services. I knew we were going to have to offer benefits as we grew to keep those employees from leaving to work for other food service companies, so as we’ve been able to afford it, we’ve added a healthcare bonus to help pay for health insurance. We added flex hours without restrictions so employees could decide whether to use them for sick days, holidays, personal days, or just to pad a light paycheck. We added a fuel supplement because our employees work off-site at our client’s homes. Most recently, we’ve added paid maternity leave for both female and male employees and a retirement plan. I also came up with a pay scale that allows our cooks to earn around 50% more per hour than they can on the line at a restaurant, caterer or meal delivery business.

No matter how big or small you are, all the businesses within a sector, like food service, are competing for the same employees. Usually the big names get the top talent, and the rest of us have to spend more money training to create talent. Within the food service industry though, employees at both big and small companies have to sacrifice a lot to have an actual career, missing dinners with friends, birthdays and holidays with the family. Usually without benefits.

Friend That Cooks does NOT accept that employees have to sacrifice their personal lives to have a career in the food service industry. We do NOT accept that holidays are just another mandatory shift, nor Friday night or Saturday night. We do NOT accept that the best employees should have the most work put on them, making up the slack of less productive employees, nor make the same pay as less productive employees. We do NOT accept that our industry is one where you shouldn’t expect benefits. We do NOT accept that mothers and fathers in the food service industry with new children shouldn’t have a few months to bond with their children before choosing to return to work, just as they do in some other industries. Most importantly, we do NOT accept that government force should be required to make the food service industry adopt employment policies that are beneficial to itself if done voluntarily, because they can be very detrimental when done by force. That’s why we’re going to apply some pressure to the industry organically by offering more ourselves.

We are challenging our food service industry counterparts to do the right thing. Consider the needs of your most valuable asset, your employees. We challenge you to start with an inexpensive and easy to implement benefit, then build off of that. We are challenging you to offer paid maternity leave of some sort to both female and male employees.

Paid maternity leave is a huge benefit for an employee. As a two-time father, I realize how important it is to have time to bond with your new son or daughter. You can never have back those first few months to build the foundation of your relationship with your child. Especially in a job where 60+ hour weeks are mandatory like most food service management jobs, and missing your family is expected.

For an employer, paid maternity leave is not a huge expense. It’s really fairly affordable. It’s maybe 1/2 or 2/3 pay for one, two, or three months. It can even be extended to indefinite leave beyond that without pay or cost, as long as it’s also without penalty. Consider how few times you have an employee welcome a new baby. It’s rare. If you don’t retain that employee, or others that leave for better benefits, you have to hire and train a replacement which might mean $250 in help ads, $100+ in new uniforms, and several hundred in training labor expenses. Not to mention the hundreds or thousands of dollars in lost productivity until that new employee is as good as the lost employee. I think we all know that it’s cheaper to retain help than it is to replace them.

Even if they don’t include maternity leave, your benefits are one of your most valuable tools to retain employees. Your food service employees want a quality of life they see other people enjoy, and that doesn’t always mean more pay. In the food service industry, especially full service restaurants, many employees already enjoy good pay. But what happens when they need time off? Especially extended time for something like having a baby?

Friend That Cooks recently experienced this dilemma when we faced our first occurrence of an employee planning a birth. We decided that the right thing to do for both the employee and for ourselves was to offer paid leave. Our employee got 2/3 of their average paycheck for the first two months after their leave started. They got 1/2 of their average paycheck for a third month, and began light duties part time to ease back into work and maintain more pay. Our employees also have the opportunity to have indefinite unpaid leave after that, without penalty, and we will hold a position for them for as long as they need.

From our employee’s perspective, this is a safety net. It provides stability for a new parent during a time that I personally know is incredibly crazy. It provides piece of mind to know there is no chance of losing their job, their seniority or momentum in their chosen career. From our perspective, we save the cost of replacing a valuable employee. In some instances, we will likely have to hire a new employee to pick up some of the extra work, but it won’t be because we lost someone good. We also won’t have to pay for help ads, uniforms and training for the next new hire because we will have one returning to us from maternity leave within a few months.

This is my challenge to the food service industry, both large and small businesses. Reconsider what you are offering for benefits. I know that health care plans have skyrocketed in the last few years, so you can only do so much on that front. There are many other things important to employees though, and many benefits you can offer that truly are affordable. Stop thinking in terms of “This is just how it is in the food service industry”, and think of non-traditional perks you can offer employees, or different ways to offer traditional perks. Create a small budget and build on it as you can. Do the small things until you can afford the large things. Offer paid maternity leave as a start.

Friend That Cooks is still a fairly small, but growing operation. We aren’t 100% where we want to be with our benefits program yet, but we are close and we have a plan to get the rest of the way. In the future our healthcare benefit will increase, eventually to a full blown group health plan when possible. For now, we do what we can until we can do more. The rest of you should do the same, and a HUGE pat on the back to those of you who already do.

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Chef Spotlight | Jillian Mahl

In out Chef Spotlight this month

…we introduce you to Jillian Mahl, a Friend That Cooks personal chef servicing clients in Des Moines, IA.

jillian bio pic
Jillian Mahl, Friend That Cooks personal chef in Des Miones, IA

Chef Jillian Mahl has been cooking professionally for 13 years.  She started out, as all good chefs do, at the bottom of the proverbial food chain in a fine dining restaurant in Omaha,NE and worked her way up from there. She graduated top of her class in Culinary Arts at the International Culinary Center, New York City in 2010 and went on to work in several NYC restaurants such as Restaurant Allegretti and Bergdorf Goodman.

She returned to the Midwest after several years on the coast to pursue a personal business venture.  In 2015, she joined the FTC family in Omaha, NE.  She now cooks for her clients in Des Moines, Iowa.

When she isn’t working, Jillian enjoys playing with anything involving yarn and needles, reading about all sorts of real and fictional things, practicing Tae Kwon Do and yoga, and visiting with her gentleman friend.

Watch our Chef Spotlight every month to learn about another Friend That Cooks personal chef. Visit www.friendthatcooks.com to learn more about weekly meal prep from Friend That Cooks.

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Personal Chefs vs Meal Kit Delivery

personal chef vs meal kit delivery

Top 5 reasons Friend That Cooks in-home meal prep service is better than meal kit delivery

The new meal kit companies use phrases like “meal prep” or “home chef” to try and fool busy families into believing they provide chef prepared meals. The truth is, their ingredients are packaged in large production facilities by under paid and overworked factory workers who have no culinary background at all. They are mass produced, impersonal, and leave all the real work to the customer. So ditch the “apron”, think outside the box, and read on about a better way to put healthy, delicious meals on the table.

Here are the Top 5 Reasons why using a personal chef for in-home weekly meal prep from Friend That Cooks is a better value than any of the meal kit delivery services:


convenienceReason #1 – Convenience

Friend That Cooks provides real “meal prep“. Meals are prepared by professional chefs. They are simply reheated, attaining their optimal state after reheating, with almost no work for the customer. We plan the menu, shop, cook, clean up and stock the fridge with food for the whole week.

Meal kit delivery services ship the ingredients with recipes and leave customers with no culinary expertise to do the cooking themselves. 30-minute preparations and 15 more minutes of clean up every night means you’ll invest hours every week to use a service that is supposed to be convenient.


better ingredientsReason #2 – Better Ingredients

Friend That Cooks chefs hand pick every single ingredient from your local grocery store, making sure you only get the best tomato in the pile, and can take advantage of local and/or organic ingredients. Every piece of meat or produce is the absolute best of what’s available or we don’t buy it.

Meal kit delivery services buy ingredients in bulk. They have to use every tomato in the pile to make money, meaning only one meal will get the best tomato, while everyone else settles for lesser ingredients, and you won’t find anything sourced locally.


more menu optionsReason #3 – More Menu Options

Friend That Cooks chefs have huge repertoires of ethnic and classic dishes they can make from scratch. By cooking from scratch, we can tailor all of our dishes to meet the specific tastes and dietary needs of every family individually. We take requests, invent new recipes, and tailor our service to your tastes. We make the foods that you want to eat without limiting you to a set menu.

Meal kit delivery services offer limited selections. You choose from a small list of dishes and any dietary need has to bend to their menu instead of the other way around. Vegetarian? Paleo? You’ll be lucky to have any choices.


professional chefsReason #4 – Professional Chefs

Friend That Cooks carefully recruits, screens and trains only the best cooks. We test their knowledge, cooking ability, and even do background checks. Our chef’s skills are well beyond not only home cooks, but most professional cooks too.

Meal kit delivery services use underpaid, overworked factory employees with no culinary experience to package your meals into boxes and mail them to you. You have to do the cooking yourself and the meal kit company has to make sure the recipes are fairly basic to suit the skill of a novice cook.


more for moneyReason #5 – Better Value For The Money

Friend That Cooks quality of service is well above that of the delivery services, yet the price can be similar or even less. For example, a family of four in Kansas City uses 4.5 hours of service ($166.50) and has a grocery bill of $100 per week (an average cost for clients in this market). This family would typically get 24-28 total meals yielding an average cost per meal of $9.50 to $11.10. Depending on the menu, our clients have seen meal prices as low as $7 per meal and even menu items with more expensive ingredients rarely average more than $15-20 per meal. With Friend That Cooks, you have complete control over the number of meals and the grocery budget every week.

Meal kit delivery services charge $9.95 and up for their meals. For moderate to premium ingredients, you’ll spend $15, $20 or even more than $30. And not only do you have to cook them yourself, but you won’t have the culinary training and experience to get the most out of those expensive ingredients.


About Friend That Cooks

Friend That Cooks Personal Chef Service offers in-home weekly meal prep for busy families and couples. We send a talented professional chef to the homes of our clients every week for a half day to shop, cook, clean up and stock their refrigerators with a week’s worth of healthy, prepared meals to reheat. We charge an affordable hourly rate plus the cost of groceries.

Click the button below to set up a free consultation with a Friend That Cooks chef about weekly meal prep in your home:

contact button

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Autumn Flavor Ideas | The Apple

The Apple

Autumn Flavor Ideas
Autumn Flavor Ideas
The first iconic flavor of Autumn, until pumpkin spice came to town. But we want to bring back the apple. Because it’s not just for pies, although it does make one heck of a dessert. With thousands of varieties to choose from, you are sure to find the right one. And if you don’t want to find a local orchard and pick your own, you can usually find about 10 different options at your local grocery market. They look great, taste great, and pack quite a nutritional punch with vitamins A and C and antioxidants. Weather you eat ‘em or drink ‘em, you know the old saying. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

Looking for a new way to mix apples into the menu? Try some of these ideas!

  • Grated or julienned apples in a classic slaw
  • Diced with black beans, avocado, jalapenos and lime juice salad
  • Cored and sliced, roasted with pork tenderloin, onions and rosemary
  • Swap out the beer or red wine in your Sunday beef roast for Apple Cider or Applejack
  • Add diced apples the last 5-10 minutes when roasting Brussel’s Sprouts
  • Add grated apples to braised red cabbage or homemade sauerkraut
  • Instead of raisins, add small diced apple on peanut butter and celery boats for a tasty and fun snack
  • Thinly slice apples and fennel bulb for a vibrant and light salad
  • Add apples to your butternut squash soup recipe
  • Dice an apple and add it to your oatmeal for a hearty and warming breakfast
  • Add small diced apples, or applesauce, to pancakes and crepes
  • Add sliced apples to the bottom of a pumpkin pie. Best of both worlds!
  • Peruse the blog and find more recipes and fun ways to use great ingredients! Check out our website to learn more about weekly meal prep.