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New Year, New Diet.

The Facts About Top Diet Trends

diet plan

Anyone on a new diet this year, err lifestyle plan?  New Year’s resolutions are all about losing weight, getting healthy and making changes.  There is certainly no shortage of diet trends out there but picking the right one for you can be tricky.  Not everyone has the same goals, or the same budget.  So, I thought I’d help you narrow down the choices based on facts.  Here are the top diet trends, a list of some important info, and a link where you can find more information.  (*Disclaimer: this list is in no way comprehensive or meant to cure or treat any disease or illness.  You should consult your doctor before beginning any new diet plan.  Also, I do have my degree in dietetics and have studied food, nutrition and culinary arts for the entirety of my adult life.  But I’m not a doctor.  The statements below are a collaboration of my opinion (the list itself) and researched facts (specifics pertaining to each diet plan).)  There are a zillion diets out there.  If the one you are interested in is not on this list, email me and I can help!

 

Paleo:  www.thepaleodiet.com

The basic premise is to eat like a caveman.  There are some conflicting ideas about whether the intention is to eat only foods found in the paleolithic era.  But since woolly mammoths and cave lions are now extinct, we have to be a little flexible.  While finding food is a smidge easier, i.e less hunting and gathering, more loading up the cart at Whole Foods- the idea is that the foods should be about the same; whole, nutrient dense, not-processed foods.

 

 

Foods Allowed:

  • Grass Fed meats, Eggs, Fish and Seafood, Vegetables, Fruits, Nuts Seeds, Healthy Fats and Oils (olive, walnut, coconut, flaxseed, grapeseed, and of course avocado). Organic, non-GMO as much as possible.

Foods to Avoid:

  • Grains, Preservatives, Dairy (though some raw dairy is sometimes allowed), Refined Sugar, Refined Vegetable Oils, and even a few surprising foods like Legumes, Beans and Potatoes.

The various foods allowed and not allowed are not just based on what was available when our stone-age ancestors walked the Earth, but also about potential health benefits and harmful properties inherit therein.

 

Whole 30: whole30.com

You can do anything for 30 days.  And 30 days is just enough time to cut out the junk, let your body heal, establish healthier habits with food and get to a better you.

Foods Allowed:

  • Moderate amounts of meat, seafood, eggs. Lots of vegetables.  A few fruits.  And plenty of natural fats.  The idea is to consume whole, natural foods that are not processed, as minimally processed as possible, or to be able to read and understand every ingredient on a food label.

Foods to Avoid:

No Alcohol

  • Added Sugar- of any kind. So, no honey, agave, date syrup, coconut sugar, stevia or maple syrup.  Basically, if it makes the food sweeter, it’s a no-go.  I see you sneaky fruit juice!
  • Alcohol, even for cooking.
  • All grains.  Glutenous or Gluten Free.  Period.
  • No one really knows what legumes are (just kidding, we do!), but things like beans, lentils, soy and peanuts qualify.
  • Eggs of all forms-raw, pasteurized, fermented, frozen or soured.  If it comes out an animals mammary glands, it’s dairy.  And just to be clear, eggs are not dairy…they are just usually found in the diary section of the grocery store because that’s where the refrigerators are.
  • Some popular preservatives like Carrageenan, MSG and Sulfites.
  • And they also discourage the creation of “junk like foods” made from approved foods. Trying to make a chicken breast and broccoli brownie just misses the point altogether of avoiding junk food, doesn’t it?

Weight Watchers: www.weightwatchers.com

This oldie, but goodie, just got a face lift!  Their new Freestyle program offers greater flexibility with food choices, but still keep the accountability and tracking features that have scientifically proven to contribute to overall weight loss success.

Foods Allowed:  

  • All of them! Each food is assigned a point value, and based on your goals and current stats, you are assigned a certain number of points each day.  Spend, or rather eat, the points as you like, but track it all for greater success.

Foods to Avoid:

  • The usual- highly processed foods, added sugar and unhealthy fats.

 

Mediterranean Diet:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801

mediterranean dietAnother classic, this diet has been on the top 5 list for decades.  Developed after the eating habits of Mediterranean countries like Greece, Spain and Italy, it mingles moderation and foods proven to help reduce risks for chronic and acute illness.

Major Points:

  • Eat primarily plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts.
  • Replace butter and other saturated or trans-fats with heart-healthy fats like olive oil.
  • Limit red meat to a few times a month.
  • Eat fish and chicken several times a week.
  • Enjoy red wine in moderation (optional).
  • Get plenty of rest and enjoy meals with friends and family.

 

Ketogenic (aka Keto) Diet: https://ketodash.com/ketogenic-diet

First, it is important to note that ketosis is not the same as ketoacidosis.  They are related, but the latter is very dangerous and can lead to serious complications.  Ketosis is the precursor to ketoacidosis, and while it is technically considered an adaptive nutritional state, it does have some important medical benefits.  The diet first started as a treatment method for epileptic patients to reduce seizures in the brain.  Previous therapies included outright starvation, which produced the same result.  However, the body suffered greatly as there was no nutrition to support the rest of the body.  What is now called “fed starvation”, the body gets the nutrition it needs thru the high fat, moderate protein, very low carb diet, and the brain gets the relief it needs thru the production of ketones.

Keto Diet

So what if you don’t have epilepsy?  Here’s where the science happens.  I’ll try to keep it simple.  Basically, the human body “prefers” glucose as a fuel source.  Think sugar and carbohydrates.  That’s why when you are hungry, I mean really really hungry, you unconsciously go for the sugary snacks and drinks.  They work fast because it is an efficient fuel source.  But what would happen if fat was the primary source of fuel for the body, and carbohydrates the last?  Well, that’s the Keto diet!  In a nut shell, the body doesn’t use fat directly as a fuel source, but instead has to convert it to glucose for use.  In that process, ketones are produced, and the body uses them for energy.

So how does someone lose weight eating mostly fat, if they already have excess fat?  Great question!  The answer, it takes some time.  Being in ketosis doesn’t happen overnight.  It can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months, depending on activity level and other factors.  But once you reach that stage, your body has basically converted its primary fuel source from carbohydrates to fat.  And just like ALL FOOD you consume, taking in too much will lead to the excess being stored as fat- so you have to find the ratios that work best for your body and your activity level.

Foods Allowed:

  • Fat, like olives, avocados, bacon, fatty meats, butter, full fat cheese and other dairy, nuts. About 70% of your total calories for the day should come from fat. (As good an excuse to by the Wagyu beef as any!)
  • Moderate amounts of protein like red meat, chicken, eggs, fish and seafood. About 25% of your total calories should come from protein.  (This can be tricky to calculate since most protein is not just straight protein, but also contains some fat.)
  • Net Carbohydrates. Net, meaning total carbs minus the dietary fiber.  You can find it on a food label.  But remember, vegetables are technically carbs, albeit high fiber carbs.  But only about 5% of your total calories should come from carbohydrate food sources.

Tracking is key until you find a rhythm.  I suggest the My Fitness pal app, #notsponsored, because it does all the work and math for you.  Also, it is really easy to select foods from a list or add your own with the barcode scanner feature.

Foods to Avoid:

  • There isn’t a specific list of foods to avoid. Although high sugar foods like sweets, sodas, candies, etc. should just generally be avoided.  Also, high glycemic index foods like potatoes, pasta, rice, etc. are going to be hard to factor in because of their high net carb value.  That 5% will go fast!
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Get Ready for Cooking Season

Cooking Season is right around the corner, folks!  None of us are ready.

Every year, we see it on the calendar.  And as if we are daring ourselves to see how long we can procrastinate, the week before Thanksgiving always ends up a flurry of planning, cleaning, shopping and cooking, and it all goes downhill from there.

This year, let’s do something different!  Let’s all start planning a little earlier.  Of course, I am the one that ends up cooking the majority of the T-Day meal in my family.  I’m ok with that.  I like it.  But it never fails that I get down to the day before, make my list, and decide I need a new insert-favorite-kitchen-gadget-here and I either can’t find it, or it’s too late to order it.

There are a lot of kitchen gadgets on the market that can help you do a lot of really fun things.  But there is also some ridiculous stuff out there too that ends up cluttering your cabinets and drawers more than it is helpful.  Each dish will require different equipment to get it ready.  But there are some universal basics that all chefs swear by, and we want to share them with you.

Sheet Pans:  aka, rimmed baking sheet

What these are good for: EVERYTHING! Not just for baking, the multi-purpose bad boys will become your new favorite.  Ever wonder how to make your baked fries crispier?  Sheet pans.  Want to bake 10 chicken breasts at the same time?  Sheet pans.  Want to bake thin layers of cake for a dozen tiered cake extravaganza?  Sheet pans.  Don’t worry about if they are non-stick (though I rarely recommend non-stick anything), shiny or dark metal, or if they have handles or not.  You can usually buy the aluminum ones in a three-pack at your local big-box store on the cheap.  Or you can busy super fancy ones at the restaurant supply store or online.  Line them with parchment paper or aluminum foil when you are using them (unless you are baking cookies, then don’t use anything!) to keep them clean and shiny forever.

 

Cutting Boards:

The bigger the better. If it came as a free gift with purchase of tequila, leave it in your bar cabinet.  At least 18” x 12”, minimum!

You need more than one, because sometimes you are prepping meat at the same time as veggies and you don’t want to cross-contaminate.  Two or three is recommended.

Wood or plastic, those are your only two options.  Glass is not a cutting board.  It’s a trivet.  And so is that extra piece of granite your countertop guy gave you.

Sometime that little divot that goes all the way around the edge to catch juices is handy.  But you should let your meat rest long enough that you don’t need that.  Just sayin’.

 

Mixing Bowls: To put your prep in

Cooking is 80% prep work.  So, you need something to put your prep into before it gets cooked.  A 5-piece nesting set is a great space saver.  You want a really big bowl, like 5qt or larger, a couple of medium sized ones, and a smaller one or two.  Or something like that.  Digging around the Tupperware cabinet is never fun, and generally what you find there is not very helpful.

 

Knives: The most important tool!

It’s self-explanatory, but your hands and a good knife set are the two most important tools in any kitchen.  You don’t have to have the most expensive set either.  But if you are using your grandmother’s hand-me-downs, that haven’t been sharpened since 1952, it’s probably time for an upgrade.  There are 3 knives you should always have on hand: a large chef’s knife, a small paring knife, and a serrated long blade for slicing bread, tomatoes, etc.  Also, you need a honing steel.  These come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials, but you should learn how to use it properly, and use it every time.  If you take good care of your knifes, they will take good care of you.  As in, not cut you.  And who knows, you may even be able to pass them down to your grandchildren.  Just kidding…don’t do that!

If you really want to get serious about it, there are about a hundred different decisions to make before purchasing which knife is best for you.  Do you want German made, or Japanese?  Carbon or stainless steel?  Full tang or partial?  Handle material?  Handle fasteners?  And on it goes… The point is, find a cutlery store near you and go talk to a pro.  A really good knife will last a lifetime.  And if you like it, you are more likely to use it.

Next to not putting them in the dishwasher, sharpening is the number one most important way to take good care of your knife.  Not honing…that’s different.  I mean really sharpen the blade.  At least once a year if you don’t use them often.  Up to once every few months if you are a pro.  You can take them somewhere to have them professionally sharpened, or you can buy a stone and do it yourself.  But now is the time of year to do it!  Most places charge a minimal fee per knife, so there is no reason not to do it.  Most cuts happen because the blade is too dull, and you must compensate by using more force to push the knife thru the food.  Also, most Thanksgiving Day ER visits are from self-inflicted knife injuries.

 

Plastic To-Go Containers: think deli-counter macaroni salad.

One of the restaurants I worked in early in my career used these for all of their prep.  We had several different sizes.  And at the end of the night, we put all of our station prep into the appropriate size to store overnight.  They are stackable, disposable, dishwasher safe, and great for prepping several days ahead.  

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The Great Pumpkin Adventure- Beyond the PSL

IT’S PUMPKIN SEASON!!

And beyond the ever loved PSL, there are about a million things you can do with the delicious gourd.  A friend recently told me that she isn’t a huge fan, because she has only had it prepared super sweet.  She didn’t even think of the gazillion other spices she could put with it.  But trust me, if you like butternut squash, you will love pumpkin.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind before you begin your Great Pumpkin adventures (see what I did there!)  First, don’t use the jack-o-lantern that has been sitting on your front porch for the last several weeks.  One, it’s rotten.  Two, it’s not the right kind of pumpkin.  Three, it’ rotten.  “But we just carved it last night?”  Yeah, and about a bazillion flies and other bugs have already made it a fun little breeding and feeding ground overnight, if the squirrels didn’t get to it first.  Plus, you’ve had it for several weeks, or days, sitting in the hot, direct, daytime sunlight.  Not an ideal storage place for vegetables.  Trust me, it won’t be good.  And it’s not even the right kind to begin with.  What you want is called a pie pumpkin.  They are small-ish, cute and have a much sweeter and more tender flesh than the big guy you bought at the pumpkin patch.  You should be able to find them at your local patch or grocery store pretty easily.

“So how do I cook it?”  They are quite easy to prepare, actually.  You can either cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and roast it in a 400-degree oven for about 30-45 minutes.  Or you can prick the whole thing with a fork or paring knife and roast the whole thing, same way as above, for about an hour.  Save the seeds though!  After a quick scrub, some olive oil and sea salt, and quick toast in the oven, they make the best salad toppings and granola add-ins!  You can save the seeds from your carved pumpkin too, if you haven’t already thrown them away.

“Now what do I do with it?”  Well…whatever you want, really.  Think of it just like any other squash.  It makes a velvety creamy soup, is perfect to hide in chili and sauces for picky-kids, pancakes, French Toast, muffins, breads, cakes, pastas and even cocktails.  The sky is the limit.  Your pumpkin may yield more than you need for whatever recipe you decide, but it freeze well.

If cooking a whole pumpkin isn’t your things, no worries!  The canned stuff is delicious too.  And most brands are simply ‘just pumpkin’, so you don’t have to worry about getting a bunch of extra stuff you don’t want.  Check out this link from Food Network Magazine for 50 ideas to get you started.  And if you aren’t a big fan of cinnamon and nutmeg, you are in luck.  Because pumpkin pairs well with lots of other spices and herbs.

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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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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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Round 2 Battle of the Brands

#MarchMadness in KC

We made it past Round 1 of the 2017 Battle of the Brands and need your votes again to make it to the #SweetSixteen of this #NCAATourney bracket style competition! #KCBattle2017

Followers from all the cities we service are welcome to vote once per round, from each of their devices. Voting starts each week Monday morning, and concludes Thursday at midnight.

A vote for Friend That Cooks is a vote to support our mission of providing a better “quality of life” for our clients AND our chefs through #healthy and #affordable weekly #mealprep.

Comeback next week to see if we made it to the next round!

 

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Battle of the Brands

Battle of the Brands bracket
Let the battle begin!

We’re in!

We made it into the 2017 Battle of the Brands in Kansas City! It’s a NCAA tournament bracket style competition to choose Kansas City’s favorite brands. We’ll go up against one other company each round, with four days to get people to vote for us. The winner with the most votes advances to the next round for more voting.

The voting in each round runs Monday thru Thursday and votes can be cast once per round from each device a voter owns.

We have followers for our service in Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Wichita, Des Moines, Omaha, Denver, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Minneapolis and St. Paul. We would be honored for all of you to show Kansas City how much influence you can have on a Kansas City contest! #KCBattle2017

Visit the KC Battle of the Brands webpage and vote for Friend That Cooks in the Second Stage Companies bracket. While you’re there, show some love to some other great Kansas City brands. Some of our favorites include Studio Build, Shammerific Shine and Innovating Solutions. Share our post with your friends to spread the word!

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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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Chef Spotlight | Pha Le

pha le
Pha Le, Friend That Cooks Personal Chef in Chicago

In our Chef Spotlight this month

…we introduce you to Pha Le, a Friend That Cooks personal chef servicing clients in Chicago, IL.

Pha Le was born in Vietnam and grew up in Nebraska, Texas, and now resides in Chicago, IL. After graduating from high school in Houston, Texas, she decided to go straight to culinary school. Wanting to stay close to home, she attended the Art Institute of Houston.

While attending culinary school, she did her internship at St. Regis Hotel in Houston, Texas and stayed after earning her degree to further her understanding of hospitality.

Her culinary background in Houston includes Haven Restaurant, which was the 1st certified “Green” restaurant that she helped open for Randy Evans, (formerly Brennan’s & Commander’s Palace, Louisiana). She also helped open Hendricks Deli & Grill and later became the sous chef before moving to Chicago to further her culinary repertoire.

With Haven being such a “green” restaurant, vegetables and herbs were grown and harvested on site. She was able to learn and understand farm to table dining and the true meaning of “cook what you can grow”. This inspired her to learn and mix finesse from fine dining and local ingredients while still maintaining integrity and utilizing each ingredient to its full potential. That kick started her decision to move to Chicago where there’s so much opportunity and back to her midwestern roots.

While in Chicago she worked at Paul Kahan’s Blackbird restaurant as a line cook before leaving to work at the legendary Pump Room conceptualized by Jean-George Vongerichten at The Public Hotel as a Sous Chef. During both times, she was able to learn more about Midwestern ingredients, farmers, and local purveyors. She was able to establish a rapport and push their products and businesses and the knowledge of farm to fork.

Farm to fork really cemented when she left the Pump Room and went to work for Nicole Pederson at Found Restaurant as her Executive Sous Chef. During her 3-year duration, there were multiple field trips for back-of-house and front-of-house employees to farms to learn about where the products came from. She enjoyed making last minute specials based on ingredient availability, changed the menu every two to three months based on seasonality, and worked with local purveyors to see the smile on their faces when a restaurant supported their life’s work.

Pha continues her passion for using local, fresh and seasonal ingredients with her menus for her Friend That Cooks clients. She has been with FTC since October of 2015.

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