Following positive responses from Mise En Place’s inaugural workshop in 2014, we organised a 2015 edition that featured more live interaction and to further drive home the points we make within the pages of the magazine. On 20th and 21st August 2015, the Hospitality, Tourism & Culinary Arts faculty of Taylor’s University Lakeside Campus in Selangor, Malaysia, in partnership with Mise En Place, hosted participants of the workshop. In attempting to look at kitchen operations with a more comprehensive over view, participants were taken through preparation, cooking, preservation and cleaning with our partner manufacturers present to explain the technologies in such equipment. On top of equipment knowledge, operators must know the technicalities surrounding setting up as well as day-to-day operations because the smallest of detail, if left out, could actually end up affecting the business thus we had industry professionals talk about “leaving no stone unturned”.
LEARNING THE TRICKS
How to work around your produce and schedule to fully maximise the yield of ingredients and improve efficiency? Such ‘tricks’ can be per formed using equipment but what matters more is understanding the technologies of such tools to enable one to benefit from it. Besser Vacuum’s Ms Lisa Zancanaro spoke about the benefits of vacuum packing food in portions to be kept and used only when necessary. Following the theoretical explanations, we sampled food cooked with the sous-vide method where sealed bags of beef, chicken and salmon were gently immersed in a water bath; precisely calibrated in terms of time and temperature. From preparation, the advancements in volume cooking was showcased by combi-oven manufacturer, Rational. Ms Millie Chan took us through how to evaluate returns of the investment; not purely based on a “dollar for dollar” viewpoint but also how it enhances chefs’ creativity to reinvent the traditional and create new items. We might admit that it got a little hard to concentrate when delicious smells clouded our senses as Rational’s chefs prepared roast chicken, roast lamb and croissants for the tasting session.
Next up was about blast chilling technologies that enable optimum preservation of cooked and fresh foods that meet food safety standards; a logical application especially for large scale cooking establishments or even for preserving seasonal items for all-year round availability. It was important to understand the difference between a blast chiller and a regular refrigerator as behind the stainless steel box are vastly different mechanisms. As Mr Gabriel Vendruscolo of IRINOX was explaining, there was more munching as frozen berries and blanched and chilled vegetables made its rounds. Well, nothing works more than ‘seeing (and tasting) is believing” in the case of this workshop! What follows after all the cooking and food service? Employing a dozen manual labourers to wash or investing in one machine that definitely works faster and is more consistent in delivering clean wares? Mr Rudolf Kitzbichler of MEIKO spoke about automating warewashing to improve deployment of labour, elevate an establishment’s image with consistently clean wares that also helps improve food safety levels and how to look at the investment in the long run.
As Mise En Place always believes in sharing from experience, Mr Soh Chung-Ky of Bangi Golf Resort related his experience in utilising equipment like those demonstrated by the various manufacturers. Speaking with conviction, we heard how his kitchen is able to serve 2,000 diners at a single event without frenzy – possible by detailed planning, researching the right equipment and constantly studying how to maximise its potential and at the same time achieving an average of 20% in food costs when industry standards hover between 25-30%.
AVOIDING THE PITFALLS
We know a great percentage of food businesses are opened with passion for sharing their specialty. Nothing wrong in that but often they neglect to consider other things outside of the food. For example, should business partners pay for meals eaten at the restaurant? Might sound like common sense but many business partnerships have fallen by the wayside because partners wanted to look good by “buying” meals for people yet they are never around to scrutinise food costs, expenditure, profit and loss. Mr Rick Chee of F&B Facilities, one with more than 25 years in setting up various food outlets, ran through the silly but common mistakes budding entrepreneurs make. A big roadblock to distinguishing yourself from the crowded market is the ability to perfect a sync between your concept, menu and budget.
Too many places suffer from identity loss and although they were popular in the first 3 months; a swankier place comes up and then easily takes over because the former had no enigmatic X-factor to begin with. With his experience, he was able to reflect on the country’s F&B trends; providing insights and ideas to thrive according to the prospectus. And as there is no right answer to this topic, a Q&A session was opened for participants to field any questions to Rick and his business partner, Mr Vincent Soon. Somewhat reinforcing Chung-Ky’s business methodology, the next session was about drawing up a workable business model with Vincent explaining what a steering committee is and why it is crucial alongside the 5 Key Performance Indicators to evaluate if a business is on the right track. Last but not least, the setting up of standard operating procedures (SOP) and the reason for it was discussed alongside how to evaluate work processes. It was definitely two informative days and from feedback received from our participants who comprised of chefs, educators, restaurant owners, consultants and even manufacturers; we realise there is so much more ground to cover in terms of finding the right formula to succeed in an industry where there are so many variables affecting one’s business and we’re looking to run more workshops of this nature. Stay tuned!