0 comments on “8 Techniques to Beating the Winter Blues”

8 Techniques to Beating the Winter Blues

Winter is coming here. And although the holiday season is filled with reasons to celebrate, the longer and darker days of winter can often make us feel lethargic and sometimes cause a shift in mood, often referred to as the “winter blues”. This shift is caused by the reduced number of daylight hours and the colder temperatures that we experience for up to three or four months in New York. Which is why it’s important to make sure that you’re stay active during this time and planning activities with loved ones or on your own to keep your energy levels high!

Below we’ve compiled a list of some of the best ways to combat the winter blues to make sure that you’re feeling good all season long! We hope that these suggestions allow you to create a more positive environment for yourself and keep you from falling into bad habits before the snow hits.

Host a dinner party with friends. The best way to improve your mood is to spend time with family and friends that make you smile and laugh. So why not set a time for everyone to get together and bring a dish to share while enjoying each other’s company?! Or keep it simple and order in! Even better, make the dinner a weekly or monthly occurrence so that you have something to look forward to throughout the winter months!

Exercise. We know that this is a pretty standard suggestion and that regular exercise during the winter is tough, especially when there’s so much to binge on Netflix. But studies show that physical activity boosts your brain’s dopamine production, which increases happiness and improves your mood. Exercises also helps to reduce anxiety as it gives your body an outlet to release any tension being held in the muscles.

Book a staycation. Sometimes the best way to shake that melancholy feeling is to get yourself out of your normal surroundings. But getting away doesn’t have to mean that you’re flying somewhere. Money gets tight for everyone around the holidays so why not try a budget-friendly staycation?! Book a night at a hotel with a friend or significant other and spend the day taking advantage of nearby activities or relaxing on a massive bed in a plush robe. Take some time away to do as much, or as little, as you want!

Help others. Helping others in any way improves our own happiness because it makes us feel connected to other people and it causes our brain to release dopamine, which improves our mood. Volunteering at a soup kitchen or an animal shelter are two examples of ways that you can help in your community. However, the key to helping others is finding something that you’re passionate about so that there’s genuine love and care behind the help that you’re giving, making it more personal.

Get outside. Going for a walk during the day, even for a few minutes, can improve focus and lower stress levels. Although this is hard to do when the temperatures get really cold, get in the habit of getting away from your desk and going for a walk at a time every day that works for you. Work it into your schedule so that you know there’s a dedicated period of time when you’re away from the office that you can look forward to.

Purchase a light box. Since our bodies are exposed to less sunlight during the winter, a light box can help regulate your body’s melatonin and improve your mood. Light boxes are flat screens that produce full-spectrum light and help you reset your biological clock so that you don’t feel the prolonged sleepiness your body interprets from the darkness outside. If you can’t get outside during the day and expose yourself to natural light, a light box is a good but somewhat expensive option.

Meditate. Meditation is a great way to improve your mental health. Similar to exercising, it causes the pituitary gland in our brand to release endorphins, which elevates our mood, reducing stress and anxiety. The concentration on your breathing teaches the body discipline, making you more focused and efficient.

Treat yourself to a warm snack. Since none of our other techniques have focused on food, our last suggestion is to remember to treat yourself! We’re not saying to indulge every day (the increase in sugar will end up making you feel worse), we’re simply saying that if you’re having a bad day or feeling tired, it’s okay to warm yourself up with a hot drink and/or a snack. It’s a temporary fix but sometimes a little indulgence is just what you need to brighten your mood 🙂

 

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Brian Goldberg, Founder & CEO of Mr. Bing

This is Brian Goldberg, the Founder & CEO of Mr. Bing. Brian opened his first Mr. Bing location in Hong Kong in 2013 but the road that led him to Mr. Bing (and eventually back to the U.S.) is a very long and interesting one. Born and raised in Rockland County, New York, he says that his love for Chinese culture comes from a combination of relationships, food, language, film, music and literature. He grew up eating Chinese food once a week with his family. Whether it was ordering in on Friday night or going out to eat on Sunday, it was part of the culture in his community, so much so that his father taught him how to use chopsticks at age 7. In college he was required to take a language and, having grown tired of the Spanish classes that he’d taken all his life and that he’d also learned from his father (who was a Spanish teacher), he decided to take Mandarin because he was dating a girl whose family spoke Mandarin. During this time he got really into Chinese film and music and ended up majoring in Chinese. He was studying abroad in Beijing, China in 1998 when he was first introduced to the jianbing (pronounced jen-bing), a savory Chinese street crepe that a little, old lady would cook on the back of a bicycle cart outside his dorm room every morning. He had one every day when he was abroad and loved them so much that he told himself that he would bring them back to the U.S. one day. Although it would be years before he acted on this desire, it was during his time in China as a student that the idea for Mr. Bing was born. Today Brian has contributed to the food fabric of New York with his introduction of the jianbing and is committed to expanding the product’s capabilities to make bings a part of mainstream culture in the U.S. 

Brian was supposed to go to medical school after returning from China and receiving his undergraduate degree but decided to do a Masters in Chinese Studies at Columbia University instead. During this Masters program he was required to take a few classes at the business school, one of which was entrepreneurship. He was asked to write a business plan for anything he wanted, so he wrote one for Goldberg’s Chinese Crepes, a six page plan that focused on creating a chain of street carts around NYC, modeled after the hot dog stands that you can find on most corners and the bicycle carts that jianbings were traditionally sold off of in China. While completing his Masters degree, Brian was also competing as a professional athlete in luge, which was a huge passion of his. He competed for a few years and traveled around the world, simultaneously working as the translator for the Chinese and Taiwanese national teams. He retired after the 2002 Olympics and since he had no money or experience in the food industry to execute the plan for the bing business that he had worked on during his Masters program, he put the idea on hold and started working for NBC.

Brian worked as an NBC page and bilingual tour guide at 30 Rock, leading English and Chinese tours of the TV studios before moving over to CNBC and working as an assistant producer at the New York Stock Exchange. Next NBC moved him to Singapore to help cover Asian business news, which he did for a few years and then worked as a sports reporter for a few years as well. However, he really enjoyed his time at the New York Stock Exchange so he decided to leave the journalism industry and started working in finance for an investment bank. He spent ten years at this bank, first living in Taiwan and then Hong Kong. Although he enjoyed his time in finance and was learning a lot, he started getting tired of the industry and began thinking about what was next for him. He always knew that he wanted to start his own business one day but didn’t know what the business should be. Then, about six years ago while he was living in Hong Kong, he was in Beijing for a weekend trip and ate a jianbing and all of his earlier ideas came rushing back to his mind. He remembered his old business plan for Goldberg’s Chinese Crepes and figured it was time to put his plan into action. So he changed the business name to Mr. Bing, combined his money with some money from a friend and opened a little store in the financial district in Hong Kong. He ran this store for two years while also working in finance. And although they were the first restaurant making bings in Hong Kong, since they were mixed in with many other types of Asian food, they were forced to sell the food at really low prices and it was hard to make a profit. However, he noticed that most of his customers were from Northern China or were expats from the U.S., Australia and the U.K. He realized that Hong Kong wasn’t the right market for his bings and that they would do much better in the U.S. because there was no one else creating the product there. So he shut down his Hong Kong operation, quit his job in finance, sold his apartment and moved back to New York in 2015.

Mr. Bing Blog

Instead of opening a store front right away, Brian introduced Mr. Bing to the New York market by doing pop ups: the Garment District pop up, Broadway Bites, Madison Square Eats, Bryant Park Winter Village, etc. He did this circuit for about a year and won the Vendy Award for Best New Street Food in New York. During this time, he met the owners of Urbanspace who offered him his first permanent location at the Vanderbilt food hall. It opened in January 2017 and based on how well it was doing, they were able to raise enough capital from professional investors to open their second location in Times Square. This past year, Mr. Bing opened it’s first storefront in Chelsea, which doubles as their headquarters and also has a commissary kitchen for their catering business, which Brian says is doing very well. They’ve partnered with food service companies like Aramark and Compass Group to do institutional catering at companies like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Twitter and LinkedIn where they open Mr. Bing kiosks that rotate throughout the year. They’ve also expanded their menu to include dumplings, baos, bubble tea, egg drop soup and most recently, rice bowls. And although they’ve gotten some criticism from Chinese customers who say their bings aren’t authentic because they’re not the bings that they grew up eating (Mr. Bing offers a variety of meat fillings), Brian is committed to preserving the traditional bing that they started out creating. He admits that although their bings are very authentic to what you’ll find in China, Mr. Bing isn’t a 100% replica of the jianbing and he doesn’t want it to be. Their menu is more Westernized and is an evolving process that they’re always trying to improve. Being in New York, they have to listen to what customers want and develop their offerings to meet those demands. However, whether a customer loves the bings or thinks they’re just okay, he finds that most customers, Chinese customers especially, are just happy that they’re here.

Moving forward, Brian’s plan is to open more locations in New York and to continue to perfect the business model before expanding to other cities. He wants to improve their operations, streamline production and tell their story more, so that they can teach more people about where the food comes from. He would also like to incorporate more modern Chinese culture into their stores and kiosks with music and art but says that they’re not there yet. Right now the company’s mission is to introduce bings and other Northern Chinese street foods such as dumplings and baos to the Western world and in order to do so, they have to make sure that they do bings really well. For Brian, the most rewarding part of the business is seeing the impact that Mr. Bing has had on the New York food scene as he’s watched the gradual increase of people who know what bings are and love them as much as he does. It’s amazing to watch people realizing that bings exist and understand that there’s another type of Chinese food that they’ve never had before that Mr. Bing is bringing them. The growing knowledge of this unique and fun product is a testament to Brian that what he and his team are doing is meaningful and although he says he’s “only giving people good food”, he feels like he’s made his mark on the world.

 

 

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0 comments on “December Vendor of the Month: Hokey Poke”

December Vendor of the Month: Hokey Poke

The holiday shopping craze is well underway but don’t forget to treat yourself this month! One food trend that’s becoming more and more popular is poke which is why we’re treating you to a special poke offer with our Vendor of the Month for December, Hokey Poke!

If you’re not familiar with it, poke (pronounced poh-kay) is a native Hawaiian cuisine that centers around raw fish that’s diced and marinated. It’s typically served in a bowl or burrito with greens or rice and assorted mix ins, such as edamame, red onion, fresh pineapple and macadamia nuts. But there are a variety of ways to mix and match ingredients to make a poke bowl or burrito that’s perfect for you! And now for the month of December only, Hokey Poke will be offering a discounted lunch package exclusively to FoodtoEat clients! Don’t miss out on your chance to try something new this holiday season! Email us at catering@foodtoeat.com to take advantage of this special. Your team will thank you for it 😉

December Lunch Package

$13/person

Choice of One Pre-Made Poke Bowl + Complimentary Miso Soup

Bowl Options:

Ahoy There

White Rice, Shrimp (poached), Scallions, Cucumber, Radish, Edamame, Red Cabbage, Cilantro, Fresh Pineapple, Spicy Ginger Vinaigrette, Wakame Seaweed Salad, Masago, Pickled Ginger and Pumpkin Seeds

Maui Ahi

Zoodles, Ahi Tuna, Scallions, Red Onion, Wasabi Shoyu, Shredded Nori, Imitation Crab Meat, Crispy Shallots and Black Sesame Seeds

Glazed Kolomona

White Rice, Salmon, Broccoli, Sauteed Shiitake Mushrooms, Daikon Sprouts, Roasted Sesame Cream, Lotus Chips, Pickled Ginger and Crispy Garlic

Spicy Atlantic

Brown Rice, Spicy Salmon, Shrimp (poached), Radish, Red Cabbage, Scallion, Hokey Aioli, Chili Infused Ponzu, Hijiki Seaweed, Shredded Nori and Roasted Cashews

Pineapple Express (Vegan)

White Rice, Sweet Chili Tofu, Sauteed Shiitake Mushrooms, Fresh Pineapple, Pickled Jalapeno, Sweet Chili, Roasted Cashews, Pumpkin Seeds and Roasted Sesame Seeds

+ Many More!

Hokey Poke Vendor of the Month Blog

Hokey Poke is the creation of owner, Nir Kahan. He credits the restaurant as being a combination of influences that he’s experienced throughout his life. Born in Israel, he decided to travel the world in his early 20s and ended up living in Japan for about six months. It was there that he was introduced to the quality of fresh fish and started to value it in a way that he never had before. In 2009 he moved to the U.S. and after working in a few different industries, began working in food. About two or three years ago, he noticed that poke was becoming popular in New York and he saw the opportunity to blend his love of fresh fish with the more aggressive flavors and mix ins that poke is known for. He decided to transition out of the business that he was involved in and open a fast casual restaurant where he could combine traditional poke with contemporary flavors.

Hokey Poke officially opened in February 2016. In order to set himself apart from his competition, which focused on replicating traditional poke, Nir used his background to incorporate some Israeli influences into his cuisine. His time in Japan also played a part in the development of his business. Because he had a firsthand knowledge of the locally sourced, high quality ingredients that were available to him, he decided that he would only provide customers with the highest quality items that he could find in New York. Rather than using frozen fish like other poke restaurants, Hokey Poke uses sushi grade fish that is only found in high end restaurants throughout NYC. Although this choice severely impacts their profitability, he and his team are committed to providing an unforgettable dining experience that combines fresh, healthy and delicious menu elements and flavors. It’s this dedication to providing customers with the best selections possible that gives Hokey Poke a unique taste that customers can’t get elsewhere. 

 

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Steven Zhik, Operational Manager at Eight Turn Crepe

This is Steven Zhik, the operational manager at Eight Turn Crepe. The concept for this Japanese creperie was brought to New York from Japan by Hiro Nishida in 2012. Hiro was born in Japan and has 20+ years of experience in the hospitality industry through his work in both Japan and New York. Although he currently lives in New York, through his travels back and forth to Japan, he noticed that street crepes were becoming more and more popular and that nothing like it existed in his food community in New York. Served in a cone, the crepe is eaten on the go, which Hiro thought made it perfect for the hustle and bustle that New York City is known for. So he decided to introduce it to the New York market and opened the first Eight Turn Crepe location in Soho with his business partner, Tanya Mirvis. The fast casual restaurant was the first Japanese creperie to open in NYC and presented a new meal concept to the NYC food scene. Steven joined the team in 2016 after being connected with Tanya through a mutual friend. A huge fan of the product, Steven was a regular customer at Eight Turn Crepe before meeting Tanya. After speaking with her about the business, he knew right away that he had to be part of their team. His focus now is understanding their customer on a deeper level (dietary preferences, food trends and spending habits) and using that knowledge to grow their business in the U.S. and internationally.

Steven was born in Ukraine and came to the U.S. when he was 10 years old. He graduated from Pace with a degree in finance and economics in 2001, just two months after the September 11th terrorist attacks, and due the economic and social climate at the time, it was very difficult to get a job. So he and a few friends decided to pause their job searches and travel the world. They traveled for about six months and during this time, Steven ended up meeting someone in Vietnam who was from Queens and who he shared some mutual connections with. He was running a tattoo business in the East Village and told Steven to reach out to him when got back to the U.S. if he was interested in helping him out with the business. When Steven got back to New York a few months later, he contacted him and began running their storefront. Two years later, they had opened up two other store locations and Steven had become a partner in the business. This launched Steven’s career in retail. He worked in the retail industry for 17 years, opening up clothing stores and gift shops until he decided that he wanted to invest in a new business and was introduced to Tanya at Eight Turn Crepe. He thought the rice crepe was very unique and already knew that it was high quality from his time as a customer there. Although he had no experience in the food industry, he felt compelled to join the business. So he left the retail industry and became a partner in Eight Turn Crepe.

Once Steven joined the team, he took over all business operations. His day to day now centers around running Eight Turn Crepe’s store operations and catering business. Unfortunately, they were forced to close their flagship Soho location in 2016 just as he was coming on board due to increasing rent. But luckily around the same time they were invited to open a location at the DeKalb Market Hall in Brooklyn, after being handpicked by management there to be a part of it’s innovative dining experience. DeKalb Market is where they currently operate from and so far they’ve been very successful there. There’s a lot of foot traffic during the week throughout the lunch hour because they’re surrounded by a lot of corporate offices and even more so on the weekends with the Market’s daily live programming. Although the industry is much more labor intensive than Steven is used to, he says he’s never regretted his decision to join the business. And after spending two and half years learning the business and the food industry itself, he’s much more comfortable coordinating the staff (which can vary anywhere from nine to fifteen people at a time), and their schedules and the dealing with the inevitable turnover that comes with most food businesses. Like all industries, there are pros and cons but for Steven it has always been more rewarding than challenging.

Steve + Employee from Eight Turn Crepe

Steven is usually at the store 3-5 days a week, which has allowed him to get to know their customer much better than he anticipated. He recognized that consumers are becoming much more health conscious (asking if their crepe batter contains eggs, milk or gluten), which led to their menu expansion to include vegan crepes and an overhaul of their store to make it more vegan-friendly: dedicating a crepe maker to make only vegan crepes, specifying certain utensils to be used and creating a new fridge and counter area where only vegan ingredients will be stored.  Although they are still in the process of rolling out their vegan crepes and finalizing the logistics of the menu change, Steven’s interactions with customers in DeKalb Market have allowed him to zero in on areas of the business that need to be developed and put his efforts into developing them. However, he recognizes that the traditional recipe that they started with is what attracts most of their customers, so they’ll always offer the rice crepes that they’re famous for. Steven sees their menu development as a way to keep up with changing food trends and expand the business as well as to continue to reach their varied clientele. Similar to the business itself, they don’t plan on changing their recipe, just adding to it.

Steven works very hard to make sure that their customer service is top notch, so the most rewarding part of the business for him is reading reviews about how friendly the staff was or hearing from a customer how much they loved their crepe. He’s put a lot of energy into building a team that cares about the business and that care shows in their satisfied customers and the positive energy that surrounds the location itself. He’s hoping to use their DeKalb Market location as a model for future locations as he concentrates on franchising the business in places like Texas and the Middle East. But for now he plans to continue to work on getting their store operations and catering business down to a science, while continuing to listen to the needs of their customers and providing a solution that fits with their brand.

 

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Hanukkah Musts for Any Meal!

Hanukkah is the eight-day festival of lights that commemorates the re-dedication of the Temple by the Maccabees. It’s celebrated by the Jewish community with prayers, the lighting of the menorah and of course, food! It begins this Sunday, December 2nd and ends on Monday, December 10th. So, as any good party planner knows, it’s time to start menu planning and meal prepping to make sure that you have everything you need to celebrate with family and friends. Although everyone has their own traditions, below we’ve broken down the staple menu items that are typically found on the table when celebrating Hanukkah. So whether you’re hosting or attending a Hanukkah celebration, you’ll know exactly what dish or dishes to create for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert!

And if you’re looking for ways to celebrate at the office, we’re here to help! Our vendors are able to create a Hanukkah spread that includes any and all of the traditional or non-traditional food items that you love. Email us today at catering@foodtoeat.com for a custom proposal built for you and your team!

Breakfast/Brunch:

Latkes: Latkes, or potato pancakes, are made from shredded or mashed potatoes and fried in oil. Although they can be eaten with any meal during Hanukkah, if you top them with smoked salmon and sour cream, you can make this traditional Hanukkah food a fancier breakfast item.

Poached Eggs: Always a crowd pleaser, poached eggs are commonly served on latkes during Hanukkah, similar to an Eggs Benedict. However, they can always be served separately over some spinach and roasted veggies.

Apple Fritters: Apple fritters are made by slicing and deep frying apples and topping with powdered sugar. They’re an easy way to sweeten up breakfast or brunch and since they contain no yeast, you can make them in less than an hour!

Lunch:

Matzoh Ball Soup: A traditional soup served during Hanukkah, matzoh balls are soup dumplings made from matzoh meal, eggs, water and fat and served in chicken broth with carrots, parsnips and fresh dill. The matzoh balls typically absorb the chicken broth, giving them the flavor that people love.

Gefilte Fish: Gefilte fish is made from a mixture of ground, deboned fish, such as carp, whitefish or pike. Usually served chilled with a dipping sauce of choice, it can also be served on crackers or bread to make it more filling.

Challah: A Kosher loaf of braided bread, it’s simply made with eggs, water, flour, yeast and salt. Typically used for dipping during a meal or as bread for sandwiches, it can also be used to make french toast for breakfast.

Dinner:

Slow Cooked Brisket: Another classic Hanukkah food, brisket can be used to create a hearty stew or served as an entree with roasted potatoes and green beans.

Kugel: An egg noodle casserole, kugel can be served savory or sweet, depending on your taste buds. If you’re trying to make your kugel unique this year, try mixing in fruits and nuts, such as pecans, almonds, raisins, apricots and cranberries.

Salmon: As an alternative to brisket, many Hanukkah meals also offer basked or roasted salmon as an entree option. It can be seasoned many different ways but typically it’s done with thyme and a honey mustard glaze or more simply with sage and parsley.

Dessert:

Babka: Babka is not bread, although it is loaf-shaped. It’s a dense wheat cake that’s typically swirled with chocolate and cinnamon but can also be made with apricot, raspberry and even cheese!

Rugelach: A bite-sized pastry or cookie made with cream cheese dough rolled around a variety of fillings. Most commonly it is done with nuts, chocolate or jam.

Sufganiyot: A traditional Hanukkah dessert, these deep fried doughnuts are usually filled with custard or jelly and topped with powdered sugar.

Gelt: Although they’re a simple addition to any party, no Hanukkah celebration is complete without gelt! These are chocolate coins, wrapped in silver or gold foil and used as money when playing the game of dreidel.

Photo Credit: Baz Bagel & Restaurant

 

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Dhanny and Joe Palma, Co-Owners of My Kitchen

This is Dhanny and Joe Palma, the co-owners of My Kitchen. Although they grew up in different environments- Dhanny was born and raised in Trinidad and Joe is a first generation Italian American who was raised in Brooklyn- both Dhanny and Joe had a passion for food and understood that meals were always an experience that you shared with family and friends. After meeting through a newspaper ad and building an extremely successful catering business which they ran together for almost 20 years, this husband and wife team decided to take on a a new endeavor: a restaurant/banquet hall, aptly named My Kitchen, where they decided they would serve customers as if they were having a dinner party at home and welcoming guests into their kitchen. Having been in the corporate food industry for many years, Dhanny and Joe wanted to create a relaxing and inviting space where the focus is on good food and good company and nothing else. Dhanny and Joe’s passion for food and love of entertaining has allowed them to build a business with the customer in mind every step of the way. Every facet of their restaurant centers around the question: “how would we want it done for us?” and is executed based on that answer. 

Dhanny and Joe met in 1993 after Joe put an ad in the newspaper looking for someone who was good with computers to help him run the catering business he had just started. Dhanny, who was working as a broker at the time, felt unmotivated in her position, worn down by her commute and was looking for a change when she happened to see the ad and reached out to Joe to say that she was interested and to set up a meeting. They quickly became the best of friends and started building their first business, Culinary Concepts. They worked out of a commissary kitchen in Astoria and although they struggled at first to pay the bills and themselves, they grew their reputation as a reliable vendor with delicious food and began working with corporate clients like Meals on Wheels and Delta. Together they grew the business into a multi-million dollar company with 25 employees, creating pre-packaged meals and catering corporate lunches, meetings and parties. However, over time they began to see changes, both in the food industry and outside it, that were effecting the business. Less people were ordering corporate catering and more were going out for lunch and dinner and renting out venues for holiday parties. Delta filed for bankruptcy in 2005 and their profit margin with Meals on Wheels was getting smaller. They were getting by but they weren’t making money and they knew the end of the business was coming. So in April 2012, they decided to make a change and close the business.

After closing Culinary Concepts, Dhanny and Joe weren’t sure what their next step would be so they floated around for a few months. They used commercial kitchens to cater for some of their corporate clients and Joe went on a few interviews for chef positions. But after being self-employed, Joe was frustrated at the idea of working under someone else and felt he would be moving backwards. So one day, after Joe came home from an interview feeling defeated, Dhanny said let’s just find a new place and start again, so they began looking at retail locations with a broker and were introduced to My Kitchen. It was an existing business that was being sold and when they walked into the location, Dhanny says, it immediately “felt like it was us”. However, unlike their corporate catering operation, they wanted this new business to be on their own terms. They felt that the food industry had been very difficult on their family life and general well-being in the past, so they set out to run a business that worked for them and allowed them time to see their children and granddaughter, take a vacation or take a mental health day whenever they wanted. With that in mind, they signed the lease for the space in November 2012 and re-opened My Kitchen.

Dhanny and Joe turned My Kitchen into an Italian-Caribbean fusion restaurant that also does corporate catering and events, such as weddings, baby showers, birthday parties and corporate events. Because it was extremely important to them that this business be more relaxed than other restaurants, where customers come in and eat their food, they strive to make customers feel like they’re dining in their home away from home. Every dish is made to order by Chef Joe and served by Dhanny. They have no wait staff, bartenders or line cooks other than a sous chef that helps Joe in the kitchen. There’s no rhyme or reason to their menu, it’s just good food that they would eat and the specials each day are inspired by the dishes that they’re in the mood to eat or create. There’s also no rush when you dine at My Kitchen. As Dhanny notes, they would rather have a handful of really happy, satisfied customers than crowds of customers that are annoyed that their server isn’t giving them enough attention or feel that they’re being rushed out so a table can be turned over. At My Kitchen “there’s more to life than the in and out” of customers. Their focus is to create a dining experience that demonstrates the passion and love that they have for food and for creating meals that their customers love. They run the business not to make money but because they genuinely enjoy working together and they love what they do. And they want to share that love with their customers; their business being successful is just an added bonus.

Since Dhanny and Joe have so much experience in the food industry and really understand it, they don’t have the same fear that many new business owners have, which is that if you’re not open, customers won’t come back. They know that the personal touch they add by cooking and serving the meals themselves has created a loyal customer base and guests continuously come back to dine with them. And with the different areas of their business (catering and on-site events) they always have something to do if the restaurant isn’t full. Both Dhanny and Joe know that they way they operate My Kitchen is way outside the norm but they’ve put their time in in the food industry and now want to enjoy their hard work by cooking and entertaining, which is what they love to do. For Dhanny, it feels like a lot of people have forgotten what it is to go out and dine. It used to be a special time when you would enjoy the company of one or more people, without focusing on your phone or worrying about anything beyond the food in front of you. With each meal, My Kitchen tries to bring back that significance and remind its customers that a meal is an experience to take part in.

Although Dhanny had it in her mind that they would only work for five more years when they signed the lease for My Kitchen, they’ve now been in business for six years and don’t have any plans to close. “Maybe next year we’ll stop”, Dhanny says as she laughs and even though she says that a part of her would love to, she doesn’t think she and Joe could ever stop working in the food industry altogether. They love meeting and hosting customers and a lot of their customers have become good friends. One couple they met even became the godparents to their daughter. Right now though, they’re enjoying what they do and wake up each day excited to see what it will bring. So they’ll keep working until they’re ready to move to the next chapter.

 

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0 comments on “Kristen Tomlan, Owner of DO, Cookie Dough Confections”

Kristen Tomlan, Owner of DO, Cookie Dough Confections

This is Kristen Tomlan, the owner of DO, Cookie Dough Confections. Food was always an important part of Kristen’s life growing up in Missouri. Her mom is a chef so she had firsthand experience of the intricacies of cooking and baking and the creativity that it requires, which spurred her love for both. However, as a teenager she didn’t see a way that her love of baking could translate into a career, so she channeled her creativity into design and continued baking as a hobby. Kristen was working in branding and design in New York when she came up with the idea for DO. An admitted weakness for cookie dough, she would always eat it raw while baking despite the warnings that it could make you sick. After doing this for years, one day (while indulging in cookie dough with friends) she thought, why can’t we make this safe to eat and still bake-able? This moment compelled Kristen to start doing some research and began her journey to reinvent how we see cookie dough.

Other than being a lifelong baker, Kristen had no experience in the food industry before she launched the DO website in December 2014. She decided to start it online first to test the market and see if there was interest in her edible cookie dough. In the beginning, Kristen was doing everything on her own: trying out different recipes, making the cookie dough, packaging it, shipping it out, doing the invoicing, everything from A to Z. And although she says that when she started the business she had “no idea what she was doing”, orders started coming in. The idea started gaining traction through word of mouth of friends and family and then even more so on social media. Since Kristen didn’t have money to invest in any marketing or advertising, she relied on the quality of the product and the uniqueness of the concept to stand out from her competition. And it did. Soon the product got popular enough that Kristen was no longer able to sustain her lifestyle; she was still working full-time at her brand consultant firm, which she loved, and working on DO as a side hustle. She had come to a crossroads and knew that something had to change. So she decided to pursue her passion project and see where it went. She felt that there would always be a job for her somewhere but if she didn’t take a chance now and commit herself to the business that she felt compelled to run, she would never do it. So she quit her job, moved to a commercial space and started building her team.

After finding success through online ordering and catering and bringing on a solid team, Kristen opened a store front in January 2017 and used her design background to create a brand that extended from her packaging to her store. She wanted DO to look different from the typical bakery or pastry shop and to be more graphic and fun. And keeping in mind the very visual way that her generation and younger generations consume experiences and food, she wanted it to be very picture and Instagram-friendly as well. So she incorporated six bright colors to be used in different ways throughout the store (a polka dot wall when you walk in, neon pink signs) but also made sure to include items like the stand up mixers and subway tiles to make it feel more like your kitchen at home and make customers feel more comfortable. The different colors were key to making both the packaging and the store bright and cheery but also to represent the fun and happiness Kristen wants her customers to feel when they eat her cookie dough. A lot of people who try the product connect it with nostalgia because it reminds them of baking cookies with their mom or grandma, which she loves, but she also wants people to associate it with joy and happiness. The joy and happiness that comes from that memory of your childhood or the joy that comes from simply treating yourself to a sweet. Kristen hopes that her cookie dough can give customers a moment of calm during a stressful day or comfort if they’re dealing with an issue in their personal life. Even if it’s a good day, Kristen says, “we’re trying to make it better and make you a tiny bit happier”.

DO sign

For Kristen the toughest part of the business is being responsible for so many different areas of the business at once. Like many small business owners, there are a lot of parts of the business that are out of your control and there’s no rule book that tells you how to deal with these issues as they arise. You just have to figure it out as you go, which gets challenging. She’s also felt that there have been challenges she’s faced as a female business owner that her male counterparts don’t always face. When she first started the business, she felt a lot of people wouldn’t take her seriously or tell her that her idea was “cute”. As a young, female business owner she felt that a lot of people doubted her but she stayed committed to her idea and as the business became more established, people started taking her more seriously.  However, the silver lining of her struggle and the struggle of other female business owners is the change that Kristen sees happening in the food industry. There’s becoming less of a stigma about who you have to be or what you have to look like to run a successful business and more of a focus on your product, your ambition and your passion.

Another amazing change that’s been happening is the willingness of other business owners, especially woman, to give advice to others and share their experience. Most of Kristen’s friends and mentors in the food industry are also in the dessert space but they all feel strongly that the “pie” (no pun intended) is big enough that everyone can take their own piece and still support each other. There is a growing realization that running a good business means doing good by others as well and continuing the cycle; even if you have similar goals, you can still work together to help each other out. The food industry today is much different than when Kristen started out and she’s hopeful that it will continue to improve. As a female business owner, she believes that the awareness and attention that she and other female business owners can bring to the industry as a whole is good for everyone.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

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Whose Your Plus 1? Unique Ways to Impress at Your Next Holiday Party!

In need of a plus 1? We’ve got some suggestions! And no, we’re not talking about impressing others by bringing a cute date. We’re talking about the gift you bring to a party to show your appreciation to the host or hostess. It can range from a bottle of wine to a homemade dessert and when you’re attending a holiday party with friends, family or your coworkers, it’s a must. But let’s be honest- you’re most likely drinking the bottle of wine that you brought and the cookies will be eaten in under five minutes. Which is why we suggest forgetting the frantic search for a date and focusing your time pre-party on finding a gift that shows someone you care for how much you appreciate them this holiday season!

The best thing about saying “thank you” to someone is that even a small gesture can speak volumes. Majority of the time, the most meaningful gifts are the ones that show that you put a lot of thought into what would make the other person happy. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive, it’s more important that you choose a gift that appeals to the individual’s personality and relates to what they enjoy doing.

Below we’ve broken down some different personalities that you can come across in a host or hostess and put careful consideration into interesting gifts that they might enjoy receiving from a guest at their party. However, these are merely recommendations. We encourage you to take the time to examine what would make your colleague/friend/mother/brother/aunt feel special and gift accordingly. Your host or hostess will appreciate you acknowledging their hard work and your gift will definitely stand out from the rest!

For the Host/Hostess “With a Brand”: Personalized cookies or cupcakes! This is a great gift for someone who runs their own business or is trying to create their own brand. Logos, pictures, symbols, words- most branded dessert companies give you the option to print whatever you’d like on top. Not only is it a delicious, one-of-a-kind treat, it’s also a great way for them to promote themselves to the world on social media!

For the Host/Hostess “Always on the Go”: Anything caffeine-related! If you’re someone who is constantly running from meetings to events to workouts, caffeine is usually your best friend. Something small like a $15 Starbucks gift card or a bag of their favorite brand of coffee beans is a great way for you to recognize their hustle and support their busy lifestyle!

For the Host/Hostess that “Loves to Relax”: An aromatherapy candle or essential oils! Both of these options use plant extracts to naturally calm your nervous system, ease stress and anxiety and improve sleep. This is a great idea for someone who loves spending time alone to wind down after a long week OR someone who you think needs to spend more time taking care of them self. 

For the Host/Hostess that “Loves Working Out”: For this person it’s always good to lean towards a gift that’s focused around an activity that you know they love. Such as a yoga bag for yogis or hand wraps for boxers. However, it’s always a safe bet to go with a gift card to a workout class or paying for an introductory class at a new studio or gym they’ve been wanting to try out.

For the Host/Hostess that “Loves Being Creative”: An art supply kit! Creative people love designing when inspiration hits. Whether it’s pencils, paint, markers or oil, an art supply kit gives them all of the tools needed to translate their craft at any moment from their mind to their canvas.

For the Host/Hostess that “Hates the Cold”: A cute throw blanket or a new winter hat! If you hate the cold, you seek things that will keep you warm at all times. Hence, two items that will keep the cold at bay both inside and outside your home. Plus, these are two items that you can never have too much of.

For the Host/Hostess that “Loves to Entertain”: A cheese board or a wine decanter! Wine and cheese, the perfect combination for entertaining guests. Which is why either of these options is great for someone who enjoys host parties and frequently invites friends and family over. Although cheese boards are more common, a wine decanter is something most people don’t have at home, so it’s a great way to learn more about wine and the purpose behind decanting, if that’s something they’re interested in.

For the Host/Hostess that “Loves to Decorate”: A houseplant or picture frames with pictures of friends and family! The great thing about houseplants is that they purify the air we breathe as well as being a bright addition to any room. A succulent is a great houseplant option because it requires very little care and it’s unique design makes it an interesting piece in a room. If they’re not into houseplants, another idea is buying picture frames to decorate their walls with pictures already inserted. This is super helpful in cutting down the amount of time they would usually spend buying frames, finding pictures to fit them, printing out the pictures… and sends them right to the final step- hanging them up!

 

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Yaya Ceesay, Co-Owner of The Soul Spot

This is Yaya Ceesay, the co-owner of The Soul Spot, a soul food restaurant with Caribbean and African influences. Although this combination may seem strange, this unique flavor sets The Soul Spot apart from other comfort food vendors and is inspired by Yaya’s personal experience. Yaya grew up in Gambia, West Africa but emigrated to the U.S. when he was 17 to attend college. As a source of income while he was in school, he began working at a Caribbean restaurant in Manhattan called Soul Fixins, delivering food and washing dishes. However, after a year of going to school and working in the food industry, Yaya realized just how passionate he was about food and decided to start working at Soul Fixins full time. His work ethic and desire to learn quickly became clear to the restaurant’s head chef who was planning to retire. He took Yaya under his wing and began training him to take over his position. Although he had no formal culinary training or background in hospitality, Yaya’s passion for food has always allowed him to excel in the food industry.

During his training at Soul Fixins, Yaya learned how to make Caribbean dishes as well as Southern dishes. He and the head chef spent almost every weekend traveling to different cities in then South, trying different foods, doing research on the recipes and understanding how each part of the meal was created. This training early on in his career really laid the groundwork for Yaya’s dedication to his craft. After the chef retired, Yaya became the head chef and started improving the restaurant operations at Soul Fixins. He started cutting out any unnecessary expenses and improving the food quality based off of the research he had done with his former boss. However, over the years Yaya had begun to feel like he was handling most of the business, as the owners who had used to work with him in the kitchen stopped coming to the restaurant and relied on him more and more. He felt unappreciated in his role and decided that if he could run a restaurant for someone else, he could do it for himself as well. He began saving his money and looking for his own restaurant space. He noticed that a lot of his customers in Manhattan were from Brooklyn and would travel to the city for the food at Soul Fixins. He felt that there was a demand for soul food and that he could combine his training in Southern and Caribbean cuisine with the African food that he grew up eating to satisfy it. So in 2001 he moved to Brooklyn to get familiar with the area and started looking for retail spaces.

Yaya and his business partner, his cousin, Banumu Turay, purchased the restaurant in August 2002 but it was almost a year before they were able to open. No bank would give them a loan so Yaya used all of his savings to purchase the space and fix it up. The Soul Spot officially opened on June 4th, 2003 and although he had no working capital or business experience, Yaya believed in his food. He knew that if he was supplying good food, the rest would take care of itself. At first some people wouldn’t even try the food because Yaya wasn’t from the South. They thought that there was no way he would know how to make the food and if he tried, it wouldn’t be good. But soon people started coming in to try it and calling to place catering orders for their office. They were the only soul food restaurant in the area and the unique cuisine set them apart from other restaurants. For the first six months Yaya worked sixteen hours a day to keep the business going, and eventually his hard work paid off. The business took off and formed a reputation for its delicious and varied cuisine. Even now, 15 years later,  word of mouth is still how they get most of their clients for catering orders because the food quality speaks for itself.

Team at The Soul Spot

A normal day for Yaya now usually begins at 4AM or 5AM, when he arrives at the restaurant to begin prepping catering orders for the day. Depending on the size of the order or orders that they have, sometimes he’ll work from 2AM-8AM getting everything ready before the restaurant opens at 11AM.  For Yaya the best part about owning his own restaurant is being in charge of his own kitchen. He loves what he does and is very hands on creating the food because he never wants the quality of the food to change. Which is why his co-owner, Banumu, handles most of the administrative side of the business while Yaya cooks and runs the business’s daily operations. He wants to continue to give his customers the consistent product that they’ve come to know and love and never wants to be a business owner that gives up his time in the kitchen. It’s this passion for the food and the preparation that goes into it that Yaya wants people to remember when they think of The Soul Spot. And despite the naysayers that doubted him when he first started the business, Yaya believes that the passion they sow into their food is what people are drawn to and trust.

Yaya’s next plan for The Soul Spot is to open up a commissary kitchen to handle all of their catering orders. Cooking out of one kitchen is no longer feasible because his team ends up getting in each other’s way and he wants the restaurant to be able to operate more smoothly. He’s also hoping that a kitchen dedicated to catering orders will allow them to handle any last minute requests that come in without interfering with restaurant’s food prep and purchasing. Speaking with him, it’s easy to tell that he’s excited to start this new project and has no qualms about potential issues that may arise. He will handle it the same way he dealt with the critics who doubted him when he first started the business: believing in himself and staying focused on the food.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

0 comments on “Oh, Kale Yes! The Stuffing Recipe You Need to Use This Thanksgiving”

Oh, Kale Yes! The Stuffing Recipe You Need to Use This Thanksgiving

April showers bring May flowers and May flowers bring… pilgrims! (dad joke users unite!) We’re getting ready for our favorite holiday and there’s no way that we can give thanks without one of the key pieces of our Thanksgiving meal: the stuffing! Which is why we’re sharing our favorite stuffing recipe as you begin your menu planning for November 22nd. It’s super easy to make and is ready in an hour and a half, so you can cook it the morning of Thanksgiving in case you forgot that you promised your mom you’d bring a dish to your aunt’s house…

All jokes aside, Thanksgiving is a time to gather with friends and family to recognize and appreciate all of the things that we have been blessed with in our lives. We hope that this dish will be shared with loved ones in your life and represent our gratefulness to all of our amazing customers who continue to support FoodtoEat and the immigrant, minority and female-owned food businesses that we represent. We hope that you all have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving! 🙂

Chicken Sausage and Kale Stuffing

Recipe serves 8

You’ll Need:

1 large Italian baguette

1 multigrain loaf

1 lb chicken sausage, casing removed (turkey sausage can be used as an alternative option)

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1/2 cup of celery, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

3/4 cup parsley, finely chopped

1 lb kale, chopped and stems removed

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1 teaspoon fresh sage

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary

1 cup low sodium chicken stock

3 eggs

1/4 stick of butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup of pine nuts (optional)

Salt

Pepper

First, cut Italian baguette and multigrain loaf into 1 inch cubes. Place on baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes at 375 degrees until bread is no longer soft. Once finished baking, put aside until needed for mix.

While the bread is baking, add butter and olive oil to a large saute pan over medium heat. Add in onion and celery as well as some salt and pepper and cook for 5-10 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add chicken sausage, garlic, thyme, rosemary and sage to saute pan and cook until chicken sausage is about 85% cooked through. Next add the chopped kale to the saute pan and cook until wilted. If desired, add salt and pepper to your taste.

In a large bowl, combine the toasted bread cubes, chopped parsley, eggs, chicken stock and chicken sausage/kale mixture from your saute pan. If mixture looks dry, add a few more dashes of chicken stock. Mix together thoroughly. 

Once mixed through, transfer to oven safe baking dish and top with grated Parmesan cheese and a few pine nuts for some crunch. Cover dish and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, then uncover and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes or until top is brown. Serve with turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and corn bread… or whatever additional items are on your Thanksgiving menu!

 

0 comments on “George Tenedios, CEO of Fresh&Co and Brad Grossman, Executive Chef”

George Tenedios, CEO of Fresh&Co and Brad Grossman, Executive Chef

This is George Tenedios, the CEO of Fresh&Co (pictured right), and Brad Grossman, the executive chef at Fresh&Co (pictured left). These men are two of the driving forces behind the fast casual concept that focuses on providing New Yorkers with chef-inspired organic food. Although this restaurant is already extremely well-known in NYC with 18 locations throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, Fresh&Co was created only 8 years ago, in 2010, as a branch of Cafe Metro. George’s father, Steve Tenedios, founded Cafe Metro in 1982, after moving from Midwest Ohio to Brooklyn to work with his brother-in-law making doughnuts. However, as a young boy who emigrated to the U.S. from a small Greek island at age 5 and then grew up in the food industry working as a bus boy and a server at a local restaurant, he always dreamed of owning his own business. So when he realized that there wasn’t much demand for doughnuts at that time, he quit and began working with a deli group for a few years before starting his own business. George now carries on his father’s legacy with their locally-sourced food concept that has made this family business a staple of the NYC food industry.

Cafe Metro was created to be a more traditional, classic New York style deli. However, in 2010, Steve, George, Brad and their team started recognizing that food trends were changing and that there was a lapse in the market for healthy, local, clean, organic food. They were finding that as the millennial population grew in NY, more consumers were becoming aware of the different food options available to them and were becoming more conscious about what they were putting into their bodies. It was a whole new demographic of customers whose needs were not being met. There were a handful of lunch concepts that were opening but they felt that there was a lack of high-quality dining where you could get a clean breakfast, a filling lunch and a satisfying dinner without comprising on ingredients. So they set out to be the solution. Brad, who has been with their team since day 1 and helped open the first Cafe Metro in 1982, became the mastermind behind Fresh&Co’s core menu and began creating recipes that included fresh vegetables, healthy dressings and popular food item like quinoa. They opened their first location, 729 Broadway, in 2010 and three days before the grand opening, decided to remove the pasta station they originally planned to be part of the store and replaced it with a quinoa bar. It was a risky move given the time crunch and the fact that quinoa bar had never been done in a fast casual setting anywhere in New York before. But it paid off. Their customers loved it, and after that the Fresh&Co concept took off.

Fresh & Co Blog

Although it’s still under the same management umbrella of Cafe Metro, Fresh&Co now runs as it’s own entity, with a unique brand, it’s own managing team, operations and menu. And the menu has changed a lot since they first started, but one major focus that hasn’t changed is continuing to use local food as much as possible. Most of the produce that they use in their stores comes from Satur Farms on Long Island because it’s extremely important to them to support their local community and cut their carbon footprint with sustainable farming practices that these vendors have in place. Local vendors also give them a lot of quality control and allow George and his team to ensure that their customers receive high-quality, consistent produce all year round. They keep a close relationship with their partners, visiting Satur Farms and Latham Farms (another local partner) a couple times a year to meet with the farmers, check out the operations and go over the production schedule. Their team has become so invested in sourcing local food that Fresh&Co purchased their own farm about two years ago on Long Island, which employs all local Long Island residents. The farm helps them to understand how different items are grown and the practices that need to be used to keep food clean and sustainable. However, Fresh&Co farms only generates about 25% of all the produce that the stores use, which is why they’ve established and developed their relationships with their local farmers who can contribute to the demand. Fresh&Co’s commitment to these farmers creates a wholesome and trusting relationship that benefits both parties. As food trends grow, so does Fresh&Co’s business and in turn, so does the local vendors’ business.

For George and Brad though, keeping up with the ever-changing food trends is proving to be the toughest part of the business. When Fresh&Co was first created, food trend patterns happened differently, new ideas seeped into the industry slowly. But now consumers are a lot more informed about their food and have opinions on it, which makes it harder to stay on top of what’s popular. However, it’s not a bad thing, George says, it “keeps them on their toes” and he, Brad and the rest of their team are always doing their research to see what’s in demand and make sure they’re on top of it. Their goal is always to provide the best possible service to the customer so whether that means using the freshest ingredients in their soup or creating a new menu item based off of a popular food, they’ll make it happen.

Their dedication to the customer, who they say is the reason why Fresh&Co exists, and their desire to continue to supply each customer with a healthy, authentic, sustainable meal is what sets Fresh&Co apart from other fast casual restaurants. Their team set out to create a concept that filled a hole they saw in the market and by doing so, created a mission-driven business that all food vendors can learn from.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

0 comments on “November Vendor of the Month: Eight Turn Crepe”

November Vendor of the Month: Eight Turn Crepe

The weather is starting to cool down but we’re heating things up with a unique Vendor of the Month for November! Eight Turn Crepe is a Japanese-style creperie that’s perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Whether your preference is sweet or savory, these rice flour crepes come in a variety of flavors that are as appealing to the eye as they are delicious! 

Only for the month of November, Eight Turn Crepe is offering a special, discounted lunch package that combines their signature crepes and a side salad to create an out of the box office lunch experience that your whole team will enjoy! Interested in getting rid of your tired sandwich and trying something new?! Email us at catering@foodtoeat.com to place your order with Eight Turn Crepe!

November Lunch Package

$13/person 

Choice of One Crepe + Side Salad

Chicken Thai Crepe

Sliced chicken breast, mixed greens, cucumbers, julienne carrots, cilantro, Thai dressing, sweet chili sauce, sesame seeds

Eight Turn Lox Crepe

Gourmet smoked salmon, cream cheese, tomatoes, baby spinach, capers, sliced red onion

Yuzu Strawberry Salad Crepe

Sliced strawberries, yuzu citrus compote, mixed dressing, carrots, raisins, goat cheese, balsamic dressing; Vegetarian

Strawberry Nutella Crepe

Strawberries, Nutella spread, chocolate custard, whipped yogurt, hazelnuts; Vegetarian, Contains Nuts

Strawberry Banana Crepe

Strawberries, banana, whipped yogurt, custard cream, crushed almonds and pistachios; Vegetarian, Contains Nuts

Banana Nut Chocolate Crepe

Banana, chocolate sauce, house-made chocolate truffles, whipped yogurt, chocolate custard cream, almonds; Vegetarian, Contains Nuts

Served with Mixed Green Salad 

Mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, julienne carrots, corn, cucumber, raisins and a side of Italian dressing; Vegetarian

Eight Turn Crepe store

Eight Turn Crepe was brought to NYC in 2012 by Hiro Nishida, a Japanese business owner who lives in New York and wanted to share an extremely popular part of Japanese culture with a new audience. Perfect for the fast paced environment of NYC, it’s a grab-and-go meal served in a cone. Eight Turn Crepe stands out from other crepe vendors due to their attention to detail. Each crepe is created with carefully sourced ingredients and designed with specific item proportions to make sure that you have a meal that’s filling without being overly indulgent.

Nishida originally opened a storefront in Soho but due to rising rent prices, had to move their operation to DeKalb Market Hall in Brooklyn, which is where they currently serve their customers. Due to the high foot traffic in this food hall, Nishida’s focus now is to bring more awareness to the brand, educate new customers about the different styles of crepes and to change the narrative about what’s considered an “normal office lunch”. But whether you consider these rice crepes normal or exotic, the quality of these hand-crafted meals speak for themselves. Try it out today!

 

 

0 comments on “Kay Ch’ien, Owner of Hey Hey Canteen”

Kay Ch’ien, Owner of Hey Hey Canteen

This is Kay Ch’ien, the owner of Hey Hey Canteen. Born and raised in Hong Kong, Kay grew up in the food industry in a unique way. Her great-grandfather was a commodities trader who bought and sold food items such as cooking oil and flour mill in Singapore, a business that her grandfather eventually took over and stabilized, streamlining processes and building a brand around it. Growing up Kay’s parents worked for her grandfather’s business so she was always surrounded by food and its components. This saturation in the food industry gave Kay an appreciation for food and how it’s created, so when she was looking to make a change in her career, it seemed only natural to her that she would do something food-related. Kay opened 2 Duck Goose, a farm to table Cantonese BBQ concept, in 2014 but the long hours and late nights quickly became an issue for her. She wasn’t sleeping at all or seeing her husband and young son and realized that the business wasn’t sustainable for her lifestyle. So she bravely decided to close the business, re-group and take a look at what made sense for her. Which led to the opening of Hey Hey Canteen in 2016- a wholesome Chinese food concept that was born from Kay’s willingness to pivot and to create a new business that worked for her, rather than the other way around.

Kay originally moved to the U.S. to go to college. Her parents had met at grad school in the U.S. so she always had it in the back of her mind that if she was given the opportunity to go to college abroad, she would take it. After finishing college, Kay ended up loving her new home so much that she decided to stay. She went on to get her law degree and began working as a corporate lawyer. After 6 years of working at a law firm, Kay started feeling burnt out and wanted to do something more active that gave her more interpersonal interaction. Since food had always been a major part of her life, she decided to quit her job and open a food business. Although her first restaurant didn’t work out, it gave her the opportunity to figure out a model for a business that she could pursue long term and she was able to create Hey Hey Canteen, a fast casual Chinese concept that puts care and intention into it’s food.

Hey Hey Canteen differs from other Chinese restaurants because the dishes aren’t as heavy or as greasy. It was important to Kay that they produce food that, if you wanted to, would allow you to eat Asian food every day and not feel bad. Therefore, most of the recipes are ideas that Kay thought of and she did a lot of recipe testing to see what worked and what didn’t. Everything is made from scratch and a lot of thought is put into every recipe to make sure that each dish is more wholesome than other Chinese vendors. The added bonus of creating a Chinese restaurant with healthier, cleaner menu options is that Kay can appeal to a broader audience. Most of her dishes are made with Tamari, a gluten free substitute for soy sauce, so although it’s not a gluten free kitchen, she’s able to gear dishes towards those with dietary restrictions, such as gluten intolerance or vegetarians and vegans, which differentiates her from other Chinese restaurants throughout NYC.

Hey Hey Canteen Team

Right now, Hey Hey Canteen is only serving customers directly from their pop up location in Gotham Market in Fort Greene. Kay does have a storefront in Gowanus but had to close it in January 2018 due to the lack of foot traffic in the area and now runs it as a commissary kitchen for their catering orders. Kay is hoping to re-open it in the next few years but needs to see if the community picks up first, since the economic growth in Gowanus is currently going much slower than anticipated. However, Kay and her team are currently working on an expansion into Manhattan with a new location at Turnstyle Underground Market, which they are both excited and nervous for. Although they know the Manhattan scene due to their frequent lunch catering there, this is a big step for the business into a new market that is much more competitive.

Despite her anxiety, Kay is very excited to take the next step with a team of people that respect and care about one another and the business. The toughest part of the food industry for her has been building a team that she can trust and finding the people that are invested in the restaurant’s mission. For Kay, working with a team of people that you really like is the most rewarding part of the business because it creates a positive work environment where everyone is looking out for one another. Now that Kay has found this team, she’s able to think about next steps for the business and what their strategy should be to increase revenue in the coming months and years. No matter what though, she and her team are focused on continuing to create the delicious, thoughtful food that their customers love. And if food trends change and that stops working, Kay is always willing to start again to make sure that what she’s doing makes sense for her, her team and her customers.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

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Your Holiday Party Planning Survival Guide

If you haven’t already, it’s time to start thinking about your office holiday party. We know that it isn’t even Halloween yet, but once you brush away those cobwebs on November 1st, holiday season will officially be upon us and it’s important to get the ball rolling before schedules start booking up (both yours and the vendor’s)! And because we also know that coordinating an office full of people is a nightmare, we’re breaking down all the tricks of our trade to help you survive holiday party planning. You ready? Let’s get to work!

  • The Event: First thing’s first when you’re party planning- you need to figure out what you’re looking for. Will the event be drinks and small bites? Buffet style and soft drinks? A sit down meal? Is the party going to be at your office or are you going to rent out a space? Should there be food at all? There are a lot of factors to consider and it’s important to determine what you have in mind for the party and then confirm with your boss or your coworkers that you’re all on the same page. For most holiday events, people expect appetizers and drinks but it varies company to company on how light or heavy the food and drinks will be. So it’s key to decide what’s right for you and your team and then figure out what your next steps should be. Once you’ve determined your vision for the party, it’s much easier to sort out the rest of the details. 
  • Budget: Your vision for the event and the budget really go hand in hand. Since there’s a fee associated with each part of your event (except the space if you’re hosting it in your office) it’s really important to sit down with your boss and/or coworkers to get on the same page, as we mentioned above. If you have a specific vision for your event, it’s good to do a little research into pricing and get an idea of how much the event will cost. You can then approach your boss or manager with a general outline and walk through what’s realistic on their end. Your budget has to be concrete and clear from the beginning so that you can figure out what you can afford in regards to space, food, drinks and any additional costs, like staff or rentals.
  • Date, Place and Time: This will most likely be the trickiest part of the process because it requires you to coordinate multiple people’s schedules and find one night that every person is available for at least 3 hours. Generally holiday parties are scheduled on a weeknight from the beginning of December until the end of January but again, it’s all about what works for you and your coworkers. Place isn’t as difficult of a factor because it’s usually decided by your budget. Larger companies tend to rent out spaces for holiday parties because they may not be able to fit all of their employees in one office or they have a bigger budget and can afford to go outside the office. Those event spaces commonly book up 3-6 months out from the event (depending on the space) so if you’re planning to go outside the office, definitely start reaching out to event spaces and restaurants as soon as you can to determine their availability. If you’re renting out a space, this will also help you zero in on a date since you will be coordinating with the space’s schedule as well. However, a lot of companies that have tighter budgets or that are looking for something more intimate will do events in the office so that they can put more money towards food and drinks and be in a comfortable setting. Also, hosting the party at your office takes much less coordination and puts the ball in your court for determining timing, since you’re not going off of the space’s time frame. Timing is the final scheduling issue that you need to determine. Most holiday parties run from 6PM to 9PM or 5PM to 9PM, but it really depends on the employees at your company. It’s important to be cognizant of your colleagues’s personal lives (kids, spouses, travel time) and take that into consideration when setting your start and end times. Most of the time the party will start at the end of the work day or 30 minutes after (in case you need to travel to the event space) and end 3 or 4 hours later. However, you don’t want it to end too late and have people be exhausted at work the next day. With timing, it’s good to discuss what people are comfortable with and strike a happy medium.
  • Food and Drinks: Once all of the logistical issues have been determined, it’s time to focus on food and drink. If your team decided to rent out a space, you may be all set as some event spaces have catering on-site and include food and drink menus for a set amount of hours. However, if you’re hosting the event in your office, you have more leeway to figure out if you want a full meal or appetizers and beer, wine, cocktails or soft drinks. In regards to food, most holiday events don’t provide full meals because it’s hard to chat with others while holding a huge plate of food. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the event will be going on during normal dinner hours so your coworkers will be looking to eat. A good way to break it down is pieces per person and work from there. Generally a normal event estimates about 3-4 pieces per person per hour, which if you have a 3 hour event means you’ll need about 9-12 pieces per person to keep them feeling satisfied throughout the party. However, make sure that you’re including options for everyone and considering any food allergies or dietary restrictions when putting the menu together. If you’re not sure about allergies or dietary restrictions, it’s always a good to include a cheese and cracker platter or crudites and dip as an option that almost everyone can eat. Next focus on the drinks. If your company is allowing alcohol to be served, beer and wine are usually the easiest beverages to coordinate. Cocktails are a little more risky because without a bartender everyone will have to pour their own drinks and it’s hard to determine how much you’ll need. Drinks are determined in the same way food is, about 1-2 drinks per person per hour. Once you have an idea of the number of drinks you need, you can then break it down between beer and wine (1 beer is 1 drink, 1 bottle of wine is usually 4 drinks). The safest way to do so is to split it 50/50 and estimate that half of the people will drink wine and half of the people will drink beer. If one runs out before the other, they can always switch over. It’s also good to make sure that you include soft drinks such as water, soda, or juice, into the mix along with the alcohol. Generally we say about 1-2 soft drinks per person during an event. It’s always good to include options in case someone wants to break up their drinks or doesn’t want to drink at all but wants something to sip on throughout the night.
  • Additional Things to Think About, i.e. Staffing, Rentals and Decorations: These ideas are just some additional points to think about and definitely not required for any holiday event. They are extra costs that can or cannot be included with your party, depending again on the event itself and your budget. Staffing is always something to consider, especially if you’re interested in serving drinks at your party. You can hire a bartender to pour wine and beer or a mixologist to create cocktails. You can also have servers at the event passing around appetizers, cleaning up any dirty plates or spills and generally just helping out to make sure that the event runs smoothly. Bartenders and servers usually cost a flat rate and work for 4 or 5 hours. Rentals, such as glassware, tables, linens are another option to consider. If you’re looking to make your party a little more upscale, you can rent wine glasses rather than using plastic cups or cover tables with white linen tablecloths for a nicer presentation. Rental cost differs between rental companies but each place tends to have a minimum amount that you need to spend in order to have them deliver to your office or event space. However, every rental company can give recommendations on what you’ll need depending on the number of people you have and what you’re looking for. Finally, although some decorations can get cheesy, they are a cost effective way to make an event a little more exciting. Incorporating some small items into the mix like lights, streamers and signs can really transform a room and get people into the holiday spirit.

There are a lot of different components to keep in mind when planning a holiday party. But as long as you have an idea of what you want your party to be and your budget is set, it’s easy to make the other details fit around that. And if you don’t feel like considering any of these factors, let us do the work for you! We’ll examine your event requirements, budget, headcount, dietary restrictions, etc. and suggest menu options specific to you and your team. Email us at letseat@foodtoeat.com to receive a custom proposal for your next holiday party! 

**For a limited time only, clients who book their holiday party with us before November 16th will receive 10% off their order of $350 or more!**

(Offer good until Friday, November 16th. Offer good for one holiday party of choice. One per company)

 

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Alison Moskowitz, Owner of Food Trends Catering

This is Alison Moskowitz, the owner of Food Trends Catering, a family-run business that was inspired by a young girl’s dream to turn meals into events, similar to the celebrations that she grew up hosting with her family. Alison grew up in a big family and fondly remembers their tradition to throw big parties for holidays, birthdays, family dinners… every meal was an occasion in her home and family and friends would always comment how their house was so warm and inviting and that the food was always delicious. So when her family moved from Russia to the United States when she was 16, she saw an opportunity to create a business in a new community that combined her two biggest passions: food and family.

Unfortunately it would be years before Alison could act on her vision. First she focused on finishing her education, which was difficult considering that when she arrived in the U.S. she spoke no English, and then, years later, on raising her family. However, once her kids were old enough, Alison decided to go for it and began trying to convince her father to quit his job and start the business with her. Alison says that her father also had a passion for food, but was practical and worked as a nuclear engineer to support his family. He was the type of person who did what he had to do to make ends meet so he said no at first. But Alison was persistent and although many people said that she was crazy, she knew that that the food would speak for itself. Eventually her father agreed to open up a small restaurant with her. For the first year, they worked out of their shop on 3rd avenue where they sold “simple, good food”. It wasn’t easy but they were making enough to pay the bills and their employees and keep the business running.

However, Alison’s dream was to do catering. She knew food and understood that the key to good food is fresh ingredients but she knew nothing about the business side of it, so she started to educate herself. Slowly she began improving every aspect of the business: creating new recipes, developing food presentation and making their operations more efficient. She even became their first sales person, walking through buildings around the city, offering free samples of their food and asking if she could stop by another day with a tasting for their office. A lot of people who said yes and had the tasting started to order and she quickly built up a client list. Within 5-6 years they were doing so much catering that they had outgrown their store front. They decided to sell the store and focus solely on catering. They purchased a kitchen and two additional floors in the 41st street building that the business still resides in today and have expanded from there.

Group Shot 2

Alison attributes the business’s success to the people that work with her and says that she got very lucky with all of the good people around her. One of her chefs has been with her since day 1 at their original storefront on 3rd avenue and her children, Nina and David, joined the business in 2008 and 2011, respectively. Although David grew up working for the business during school breaks throughout middle school and high school, for both of the kids there was no expectation that they join the company. In fact, both were working in their own fields before their mother approached them to join the team. She saw skills in both of them that she though would be good for the business so she asked them to work there for 1 year and then leaved if they weren’t happy. Both have stayed and will be the third generation to run the business. 

Aside from her staff and her own children, since starting her business Alison’s family has expanded even farther, to include her clients. She has some clients that have been with her since her original tasting days and she’s seen them get married, have kids, have grand kids and has built a personal relationship with each of them. These people have stuck by her because she knows that the relationship with her clients is the most important part of the business and she goes out of her way to cultivate each and every one, even if it requires her to bend over backwards to do so. For Alison, it’s simple- whatever the client needs, they’re going to get, which is why it’s her job to always be “in the trenches” to make sure that every order a client receives looks and tastes right. She’s always in the kitchen with the chefs tasting food, checking on presentation, making sure deliveries are going out on time and then following up with clients to make sure that they’re happy. This is what she enjoys doing and takes pride in and she trains each of her staff to take pride in it as well. It’s her commitment to the client that has been instilled in every employee at Food Trends so that their service and dedication always stands out, creating a system of trust and loyalty that few caterers have.

Overall Alison says she’s very happy with her work day to day and takes pride in being an established, woman-owned business. She wants to see other women and girls succeed and believes that this country gives you the opportunity to be whatever you want if you’re willing to work for it. Even now, Alison is constantly coming up with new ways to generate business, creating new dishes and hiring new people to learn from. She says she never rests on her laurels because that’s when things go downhill. It’s important to always be looking for ways to improve and there’s always a chance to. The most important thing is to never doubt yourself. As Alison says, “If I can do it, anybody can do it. You just need to want it so much that you won’t stop”.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

0 comments on “It’s About to Get Reallllll Chili”

It’s About to Get Reallllll Chili

The weather outside may have finally turned frightful (ugh) but our turkey chili really IS delightful (we promise)! And it’s the perfect way to beat the cold as sweater weather commences. This chili recipe is simple to execute and really flavorful without requiring any fancy ingredients- everything you need is at your local grocery store! Our recipe makes about 6 servings, which is perfect for Sunday football with your friends or meal prep for yourself. Once you create this dish, you can freeze whatever you don’t use and reheat it as needed. It should last about 2-3 months in the freezer, making it the ideal meal for those crisp nights when you just don’t feel like cooking!

Try it out and let us know what you think on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook @foodtoeat! We can’t wait to see how you chili!

Turkey Chili

Recipe serves 6

You’ll Need:

1 lb ground turkey

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 can of crushed tomatoes (28 oz)

1 can fire roasted tomatoes (small)

1 can kidney beans

1 can black beans

1 can chickpeas

1/2 cup chicken stock

1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Add in chopped onions and saute for 3-5 minutes. Add in ground turkey and cook for 3 minutes. Then add in your chopped garlic, salt and pepper. Cook for another 3-5 minutes. Add in the rest of your dry seasonings (chili powder, paprika, dried oregano, cayenne pepper and ground cumin), mix together and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes.

Once all of your dry seasonings are in the pot, add in crushed tomatoes and fire roasted tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes. Next add in your kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas and chicken stock (you can do more or less than 1/2 cup of chicken stock depending on how thick or thin you like your chili) and simmer for 30 minutes over low heat.

Ground turkey will be cooked through after 30 minutes. Remove from heat, mix in chopped cilantro and your chili is ready to eat! Add your favorite toppings (we suggest shredded cheddar cheese, scallion, sour cream and tortilla chips) and enjoy! Need a vegetarian option?! Leave out the meat and add your favorite root vegetables! We love potatoes, carrots and butternut squash- perfect for fall!

 

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Zeeshan Ali, Co-Owner of Salad Pangea

This is Zeeshan Ali, the co-owner of Salad Pangea. He’s been in the food industry for most of his life but only recently purchased his first food business with his brother, Shadman Saeed. He grew up working in his father’s restaurant, Kabab King, which his father opened after emigrating from Pakistan in 1993 and realizing that there was a huge Pakistani/Indian community in New York that wanted halal food but had nowhere to buy it. Although Zeeshan worked in the industry for years, he was never set on making it a career until he got the chance to purchase Salad Pangea. Now, although he’s young (just 23 years old), this eager entrepreneur is committed to doing everything possible to make sure that his business is a success and that he can use his expertise to improve previous standards and redefine halal food service.

Zeeshan began working at his father’s restaurant when he was 13 years old. Throughout the years he worked heavily in their catering business, helping to execute catering orders for groups of 75-1,000 people and dealing with every aspect of logistics and operations from outreach to food prep to delivery. He worked for his father until he was 20 years old and then decided to branch out on his own and pursue other interests. He tried going down a few different paths: a food distribution business, medical school, but nothing seemed to be a good fit and it was important to him that he enjoyed the work that he was doing. Then one day he received an offer to take over a family friend’s catering business, Salad Pangea. The owner had decided to leave the restaurant industry and approached Zeeshan and his brother because he believed that they had the skills to take the business to the next level. Zeeshan says that it wasn’t a hard decision because this gave him the opportunity to work at something that he already had experience in and that he had a passion for. He and his brother purchased the business and have been running it for the last 8 months.

Growing up working for his father has allowed Zeeshan to watch how the restaurant industry works from a young age, understand it and improve it for his own business. Once they took over Salad Pangea, he and Shadman immediately began looking over business costs and cutting out any unnecessary expenses to make it more efficient. They have a small team of employees, including themselves, that work out of a food incubator, Pilotworks, in Brooklyn. They rent kitchen space for a few hours each day to prepare the food and do their deliveries so they’re able to keep their price point low, compared to other vendors like Chop’t and Just Salad that are larger operations with retail locations. Because they focus solely on catering, they’re able to go into different fields and expand, which is exactly what Zeeshan plans to do. He’s starting culinary school at the Institute of Culinary Education at the end of October and is hoping to bring what he learns there into practice at Salad Pangea and eventually evolve the business into a full scale catering company that provides halal food from all different cuisines around the world. Taking over Salad Pangea has allowed him to realize that there are so many other ways to provide customers with food and that there are so many more communities that he can introduce halal food service to.

Through his work in the food industry, Zeeshan believes that most restaurants, like his father’s, were created to fill a need. But he has a different way of looking at things. He believes that this generation of consumers is interested in trying something new, specifically in the halal community, and he wants to be the solution for them. He wants to change the perception of halal food, creating a need for a cuisine that he doesn’t believe exists yet: high-end halal dining. And he’s focused on making it a reality.  But he knows that this evolution will take time, which is why culinary school is an important step for him to be able to more deeply understand food, expand his ideas and recipes and eventually teach them to others. Although going to culinary school and running a business at the same time will not be easy, he’s focused on making it work saying, “In order for me to understand this industry, I need to have those skills. If I can’t do it, how am I going to explain it to anybody else?” As is it, he says he only sleeps about 3 or 4 hours a night but he enjoys having a lot on his plate and thinks that free time is a waste. His experience in the restaurant industry has taught him to work hard and he’s ready to hustle as much as he needs to bring his musings to life.

Zeeshan says that since taking over Salad Pangea his mind has shifted on how he should be doing business and he’s taking the necessary steps to create a new concept in halal food service focused on differentiation, quality and customer service. He knows that it will be tough, since older generations of halal restaurant owners focus on providing the food that they know, but he’s up to the challenge. For Zeeshan, the best part of the job is being able to execute a business plan as you see fit and change the plan if needed. And he’s happy to do that as he continues on this journey, as long as he’s doing it his way.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

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Spook-tacular Ways to Celebrate Halloween at the Office!

When you think about Halloween the first thing that usually comes to mind is candy, candy, trick-or-treating and more candy! But Halloween doesn’t just have to be about the candy (unless you want it to be, then we fully support that) and it doesn’t just have to be for kids 13 and under. There are plenty of ways for you to celebrate the most frightening day of the year at the office without doing the same thing that you did last year, aka running out the morning of to buy decorations and overloading on sugar. Get creative this year and try something new! We promise it won’t take up too much of your time or energy because whether you’re throwing a monster mash or planning a simple treat for your team, we’ve got fang-tastic food ideas that every office manager can execute!

Ghoulish Breakfast: If you don’t have a huge budget or are looking to do something simple to get your office in the ghosting spirit, a lot of bagel vendors do orange bagels or orange/black swirl bagels to celebrate Halloween. This is a small but fun way to get your team excited when they walk into the office on Halloween morning! Not into bagels? Try some pumpkin spice pancakes or pumpkin muffins with cinnamon cream cheese to really spice things up!

Boo-tiful Lunch: A lot of people think that Halloween is all about snacks and candy but there are plenty of ways to incorporate Halloween colors and ideas into a terrifying lunch! If Halloween isn’t a huge celebration in your office but you do a team lunch once or twice a week, make it special by doing a Halloween-themed lunch! You can do grilled cheese with tomato soup syringes, “decomposed” salad, “bloody” chicken fingers, pumpkin bisque soup- any number of items can be dressed up or given eerie names to get your team excited to sit down together. And if you don’t do a weekly lunch, suggest a Halloween-themed lunch as a special event just for that week! Even if it seems silly, it’ll give your office something to look forward to and your coworkers will enjoy it (even if they don’t admit it!).

Blood-Curdling Snacks: Holiday themed snacks are always a safe bet when you’re feeding a bunch of people, especially when you need to account for different dietary preferences. Having a variety of frightening finger foods ensures that there are a few bites for everyone and that you have options that satisfy each restriction. And the best part about the snack option is that you can schedule it for a time during the day that works best for everyone in your office and make the celebration as long or as short as you would like! If Halloween is big in your office and you’re looking to take it a step further, have your team vote on their favorite horror movie and host a viewing party while enjoying your creepy eats! Talk about netflix and chill

Haunted Happy Hour: Not in the mood for food? We got you covered there as well. Set up a boo-zy after work party at your office and invite all the ghouls and goblins to attend! Sip on some “magic potions” (dry ice is key) and jam to your favorite Halloween tunes all night long! Really feeling the holiday spirit?! Make it costume party and have everyone select the best dressed of the night. You can reward the winner with a small gift, like a Starbucks gift card or a spooky candle, whatever you see fit! Just make sure you’re prepare for a night of gruesome delight!

Whatever you’re looking for to celebrate Halloween, we’ve got a menu to fit your needs! Email us at catering@foodtoeat.com to get a custom Halloween-themed proposal for you and your team and let the bewitching begin!

 

0 comments on “Xiu Chen: Owner of Rice K”

Xiu Chen: Owner of Rice K

This is Xiu Chen, the owner of Rice K, an Asian fusion restaurant that offers Chinese-American cuisine, Japanese cuisine and Thai cuisine that caters to the varied clientele that they serve in Astoria. Xiu’s family has owned a restaurant in the neighborhood for over 22 years. Her father began learning how to cook after emigrating from China with Xiu and her mother and became a chef in the Bronx, cooking Chinese-American food. As he honed his craft and started improving his cooking skills, he decided to start his own restaurant and thought Astoria was a nice neighborhood and a good place for him to build his business. 20 years later, Xiu is carrying on her father’s legacy by continuing the family business. She effortlessly blends their established reputation and authentic recipes with modern food trends, allowing the business to continue to grow, while also raising her daughter and running the business on her own.

Xiu grew up working in the restaurant business from a very young age. She used to stand on a box on the floor at her father’s restaurant so that she could work at the register, so she knows a lot of people in the area that have watched her grow up. Although she enjoyed working there, she says she never planned on taking over the business. She studied marketing in college and after meeting her husband, they moved to China for 6 years to see how they could get involved in China’s quickly growing economy. They ended up starting a construction business and began creating a home in China. However, Xiu’s father was getting older and she felt that it was time for him to retire. At the same time, her daughter, Audrey, was getting ready to start school and she wanted her to begin her education in the U.S. Therefore, it made sense to Xiu that she come back to the U.S., take over the restaurant and set up a home in New York as well. So 2 years ago, she returned to Astoria and took over the business.

Xiu and team from Rice K

Although she never saw herself taking the business over from her father, Xiu says she really does enjoy her job, mainly because of the staff that she works with and the customers that she gets to meet. She says hearing people’s stories and getting to know each person in the neighborhood that comes in is the most rewarding part of the business. These are the people that keep her going, especially when the business gets tough. Xiu’s husband still lives in China and handles their construction business so she runs the restaurant on her own, which she admits gets difficult when you have to be responsible for everything from staffing to food prep to accounting. Most days she’s at the restaurant from 11AM to 11PM or later so it’s hard to balance her time at work and her time with her daughter but she does her best to make sure neither one feels like they aren’t her top priority. Her daughter (now in 1st grade) will come to the restaurant after school a few days a week and Xiu does homework with her and goes through her lessons before Xiu’s parents take over. Luckily they are able to watch Audrey while Xiu works, since her father is now retired, and although they have a good system, Xiu says it’s not something she necessarily wants to pass onto her daughter. “It depends in the future if she likes cooking and if she likes the restaurant business because it’s so much to encompass” but if it’s something she chooses, Xiu will support her. In the mean time, she tries not to put any expectation on her daughter because she knows how hard the business can be. When she took over the business, she knew it would be tough and it was a hard decision for her to make, but now that she has taken it over, she isn’t looking back. As she says, “you only look forward”.

Xiu’s focus now is figuring out her plan for the future and what she needs to do to keep the business growing. She’s very aware that she’s responsible for the business’s success and how that impacts herself, her family and her staff. Which is why she’s made updates to keep the business relevant with the younger generations that have been moving into Astoria in recent years. She’s made changes to the restaurant, remodeling the layout and adding a kid’s menu and most recently, adding karaoke on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. She notes that they’re “probably one of the only restaurants that does that” with a laugh, but unique additions to the business are what have helped her bring in new customers and differentiate themselves from the numerous other restaurants that surround them. However, when adding in these changes, Xiu has been sure to keep the core of the restaurant the same: a family run business that cares about its community. Xiu and her staff take the business very personally, greeting people by name if they can and making sure that each customer feels welcomed and taken care of. It’s these simple gestures and the genuine care that she puts into the business that has allowed Rice K’s legacy to live on.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

0 comments on “October Vendor of the Month: To Spiti”

October Vendor of the Month: To Spiti

For anyone that needs a break from pumpkin spice, we got you covered! Our October Vendor of the Month is To Spiti and this month it’s all about GYROS! To Spiti’s food is made from scratch in their Brooklyn-based restaurant and offers all of the authentic Greek items that you crave: spinach pie, gyros, falafel, baklava, pita bread and all of the dips.. spicy feta, hummus, tzatziki and babaganoush. YUM! It’s the perfect fall comfort food that the whole team can enjoy with their variety of vegetarian, vegan and gluten free menu options!

For October only, To Spiti has created an amazing lunch package that includes one gyro (can be made on a gluten free wrap if needed), one side and one dessert for just $12 per person! They will be offering this package to FoodtoEat clients exclusively until the end of the month so book your next team lunch with To Spiti as soon as possible!

October Lunch Package

$12/person

Chicken, Lamb or Falafel Gyro

Come with Onions, Lettuce and Tomatoes

Choice of Tzatziki, Hummus or Babaganoush

Served with Spinach Pie and Mini Baklava

Alma To Spiti Photo

To Spiti opened in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 2015 and is owned by Alma Selmanaj, a Greek immigrant who brought her and her husband’s family recipes to NYC! Alma was involved in the food industry from a young age. She grew up in Greece working in her family’s restaurant so she’s always been aware of what customers are looking for in a meal and understood the ins and outs of the food business. After moving to the United States and working in a few restaurants, she decided to put her knowledge to the test and opened up her own restaurant.

Alma and her husband are the only two full-time employees at To Spiti so they prep, cook and deliver the food themselves, adding a personal touch to every order from this family-run business. Although the work is hard and the days are long, hearing customers say how delicious the food was makes it all worth it for Alma because feeding people truly makes her happy. It’s this desire, to serve customers amazing food and the quality of the food that they serve, that makes To Spiti stand out from other Greek restaurants!