0 comments on “This Shakshuka Recipe is Egg-cellent!”

This Shakshuka Recipe is Egg-cellent!

If you haven’t heard of shakshuka before, we’re about to introduce you to your new favorite food! Although it’s traditionally seen as a breakfast food, shakshuka is a dish that you can eat for any meal because it’s so flavorful and filling. A combination of eggs, tomatoes and spices, this recipe is delicious and something that you can customize to your personal taste- add some meat for extra protein or make it spicy with some hot sauce! Plus it’s really easy to make if you’re not too comfortable in the kitchen.

Whether you’re looking for a quick meal on a cold night or hosting a brunch at home with friends, shakshuka is a great way to mix it up and keep your cooking from getting boring. Continue reading for the ingredient breakdown and instructions to create this unique dish!

Shakshuka with Feta Cheese

Recipe serves 4-6

You’ll Need:

3-6 large eggs (depending on your preference)

1 can (28 oz) whole plum tomatoes 

5 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)

1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced

3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

3 tablespoons parsley, chopped

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat (make sure that the skillet you use is oven safe!). Add in sliced onions and cook until very soft, about 15-20 minutes. Add in garlic and then stir in your spices (cumin, paprika, cayenne). Cook for about 1 minute or until your spices are all mixed in. Next pour in your tomatoes and break into smaller pieces once they’re in the pan. Season with salt and pepper and then simmer on low heat until the tomatoes thicken. This should take about 10 minutes. Next stir in your crumbled feta. Finally, gently crack 3-6 eggs (based on your preference) into the skillet over the tomatoes. We used 3 eggs for our recipe but you can do up to 6. Again, season with salt and pepper and then transfer into the oven.

Bake in the oven for about 7-10 minutes until the eggs are just set. Depending on the consistency you prefer for your eggs, baking for 7 minutes will make them runny and baking for 10 will make them firmer. Sprinkle on chopped parsley for garnish and enjoy!

Pro tip: Serve shakshuka with your favorite bread for dipping. Toast in the oven for a few minutes before serving for an extra crunch! 😋

0 comments on “Ratsanee Suksawas, Owner of Le Viet Cafe”

Ratsanee Suksawas, Owner of Le Viet Cafe

This is Ratsanee Suksawas, the owner of Le Viet Cafe, a restaurant on the Upper East Side that combines the best of Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. Ratsanee worked in the food industry in New York for 15 years before deciding to open her own place. Things had begun changing with the economy and working for someone else was too unpredictable for her. She wanted a change and to be in a position where she was responsible for her own security. Due to her experience in the food industry, she knew when opening the restaurant in September 2015, that being successful means standing out. So rather than making her menu strictly Thai cuisine, she asked her husband (the chef at Le Viet Cafe) to reach out to a friend that he used to work with that was Vietnamese to teach them how to make traditional Vietnamese dishes. She knew that offering banh mis and vermicelli noodles along with pad thai and green curry would differentiate them from other Thai restaurants in a very saturated market. Today, she says, the amount of competition has caused the landscape of the food industry to change even more. You can no longer wait for a customer to come to you, you have to go out and get them. So she continues to look for ways to grow her business by offering unique menu items and interactive meal experiences, while providing the same genuine customer service that her business has been known for since they opened.

Ratsanee started out in the food industry in 2000, when she emigrated to the U.S. from Thailand. She had no previous experience in food but was looking for a job and heard that you could make a lot of money working in a restaurant because people were spending a lot on food at that time and tipping well. Her plan was to work in the U.S. for a few years, save up some money and then move back to Thailand to open a small coffee shop. However, once she began working at SEA (a restaurant that’s now closed) and met her husband (she was a manager there, he was a sous chef), her plans started to change. She got married and had kids and it was important to her that her kids get a good education in the U.S. Now 8 and 11 years old, both of her children attend dual schools where they’re taught in English and Spanish, which she sees as a key requirement for success later in life. She’s raising her children to understand that just like in business, your unique assets and uncommon skills are what make you stand out.

Her children are also the reason why Ratsanee is so committed to her business and is always finding ways to survive among the competition. She recently began recipe testing for some new menu items while also planning out the logistics of operating a pop up experience for corporate catering. She feels that it’s not enough to wait for people to come to them, she wants to go directly to the customer by bringing their food into different offices and testing out various industries to see where customers are the most receptive. She sees this as the best way to introduce customers to the food currently on their menu and drive traffic to the restaurant as well as test some unique recipes that she thinks customers might like. Rather than only offering rice or rice noodles as bases, she is trying to incorporate spaghetti into the mix and create more opportunities with customer by offering these new items that come with a different sauce and a different consistency but a familiar item. She believes this is something that other Thai/Vietnamese restaurants aren’t doing yet and could interest customers that don’t like rice or rice noodles. So they’ve been testing recipes to include spaghetti as well as build your own options, which they’ve never done in the past. Right now it’s hard to know if clients will like the food or not so they’ll need to test it out before fully launching the menu and the pop up experience. But once they’ve found the dishes that they think customers will be receptive to, they’re planning to go to different businesses to see which markets would work for this new concept.

Team at Le Viet Cafe

Although finding unique ways to meet the customer and make her business grow is very exciting to Ratsanee, she recognizes that she’s still battling one factor that she can’t control: technology. Being on delivery apps like GrubHub, Seamless, MealPal and UberEats are a necessary evil for her, something that you need in order to gain access to more customers and more orders. But she gets particularly frustrated with Yelp because if someone has one bad experience, they can write a bad review, which other customers see as a fact rather than an opinion. People have more choices now so they don’t have to get to know you as a business owner or your food, which Ratsanee sees as unfair since 80% of her customers are recurring customers. “If people don’t like me”, she says, “they can just write a bad review”. She feels that Yelp removes the trust from the vendor/client relationship and is always painting the business owner in a negative light. Even when a customer is in the wrong and she has proof of it, they can still write a bad review and she can’t say her side of the story because it comes off as rude and customers get mad. If she does say her side, she says, no one really listens to it anyway, they listen to what they’re reading from others, so she’s stopped trying to defend herself. Ratsanee takes these negative reviews personally because she wants everyone to feel like part of their family when they eat her food, whether they’re visiting the restaurant or ordering delivery. She and her staff are friendly and genuinely care about the food that they create and the people that they serve. They don’t see them as customers who eat the food and that’s it, they see them as friends and family and try to make the restaurant as welcoming as possible. Which is why it’s so frustrating, because they have so many clients who they do have relationships with that will come to them directly if there’s an issue with the food. In these situations, she doesn’t have to worry about someone thinking that they’re good or bad, the customer knows that her team will fix it because they appreciate the feedback and are always trying to make their food better. If it is her fault, Ratsanee doesn’t mind giving a discount or free food because she knows she was wrong. However, when every negative review requires her to give a discount to make the customer happy, she doesn’t make any money, which makes it harder for her to take care of the people that work for her. Her employees are very important to her so making sure that they’re happy, getting paid enough and not getting frustrated with their job is even tougher when she has to factor in discounts, that are sometimes undeserved, on a limited budget.

Dealing with negative reviews and criticism on a regular basis is hard for Ratsanee but she has seen an increase in orders and new customers recently, which is very gratifying for her. A lot of the new customers are people that have tried them out through catering at their office and liked the food so much that they began ordering personally. Ratsanee loves that more customers are learning about her business and visiting the store, where she feels they really get a sense for the business and the positive atmosphere that she and her team create. On one of the walls in the store, “life is beautiful” is written out in books in both Vietnamese and English. Ratsanee hopes that that grateful, easy nature is what customers associate her business with, because she truly does create food from the heart. Moving forward, she’s eager to see how customers react to the new menu items and pop up experience and feels that these unique offerings will help the business immensely. Even if something doesn’t work, she says, they’ll continue testing out different ideas to make sure that they’re staying top of mind for customers. It’s a demanding industry, but she’s ready to fight for it.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

 

0 comments on “Stella Likitsakos, Owner of Mamagyro”

Stella Likitsakos, Owner of Mamagyro

This is Stella Likitsakos, the owner of Mamagyro. A Greek immigrant who moved to the U.S. with her parents and sister in 1974, food is a part of who she is and opening her own restaurant she says, “was always inside of her”. Stella’s parents owned a small store in Greece before moving to the U.S. so, like her granddaughters now, her life revolved around the store and watching her mother prepare food for their customers until she was a teenager. Once they moved to the U.S., Stella’s father worked as a dishwasher and her mother worked at a fur company making furs. Her father worked for a few years before retiring (there was a significant age gap between her mother and father) but her mother continued working, showing Stella that hard work is the key to success. “She’s the rock”, Stella says, referring to her mother, but this description can also be used when speaking about Stella. A woman who is at her restaurant every day helping to prepare the food and is so committed to providing her customers with an all-natural, clean meal that she doesn’t use butter in any of her recipes or stock in any of her soups, just like her mother. Stella now runs Mamagyro with her daughter, Vicki Giannopoulos, who manages all business operations and catering on top of raising her two young daughters and together they’ve made Mamagyro a staple in the NYC food community. However, more than carrying on their family’s tradition of creating all-natural, authentic and delicious food (which they do), this mother-daughter team is also an example for future generations of women of what hard work combined with passion can forge.

Since she was surrounded by food throughout her childhood, Stella was immediately drawn to the food industry once she started working. She met her husband working at a supermarket that he owned and once they were married, she began running the stores with him. They ran three supermarkets on the Upper East Side and every two years or so, Stella would add something new to the markets, expanding them and slowly turning them into gourmet markets offering everything from fruits and veggies to meat and cheese and prepared food. However, they were still small stores so once large chains like Whole Foods and Fairway started opening and delivery services and online ordering became popular, they started losing business. Their stores were unique with a lot of good quality products but consumers were looking for the “one stop” shopping experience that they couldn’t provide and they had to begin closing the stores. Also during this time, Stella’s husband got in an accident and hurt his neck and was unable to continue running the stores. Stella was in a difficult position and wasn’t sure what to do next. Then one day, as she was walking to Lenox Hill Hospital to visit her husband, she saw a storefront for sale on 77th street and thought, “why can’t I open a little homemade gyro shop here?” It had always been her dream to open her own restaurant and since the supermarkets weren’t doing well, she thought it was time to do something different in the food industry. So she bought the storefront and opened Mamagyro in 2011.

Stella was running Mamagyro for about a year and a half before Vicki joined the business. Vicki had been working at PR company but knew it wasn’t a place she could stay if she wanted to started a family, so she approached her mom and asked her if they could open another store together. So in 2013 they opened their second Mamagyro location on Broadway in Union Square. However, the clientele in Union Square was much different from what they were used to at their flagship store. It was mainly teenagers and young adults who didn’t know them and didn’t want to spend money on good quality food as opposed to the regular customers whose neighborhood they were a part of on 77th street. The lack of steady business combined with staffing issues forced them to close the Union Square store not long after it opened. Soon after closing their Union Square store, they started looking for a commissary kitchen to cook out of because they didn’t have enough space at the 77th street store. However, bad luck struck in 2017 when the building their restaurant on 77th street was in was sold to a new owner who decided to demolish the entire building and kicked out all of the tenants. They now operate solely out of their kitchen space on 106th street, which they were able to turn into another fast casual restaurant. Although they miss their location on 77th street, they’re working on improving the space they’re in now and believe that there is a lot of potential in their new community. The people in the area are very happy to have a new food option available to them and Stella and Vicki see it as an opportunity to expand their reach in a new environment.

If you ask Stella, their all-natural, homemade food is the most important part of their business. And if you ask Vicki, Stella and her hospitality are what customers associate the business with. But both are vital components of what makes this fast casual concept work. All of the recipes for their food are Stella’s mother’s recipes that were passed down to her and now Stella has passed them on to Vicki. It was very important to Stella when creating the menu that everything be high-quality and authentic. They don’t use any canned items in the restaurant. Everything is either made from scratch by them and their team or imported from Greece. They even have their own pita bread recipe, which they have a bakery mass produce for them. For Stella and Vicki, the most rewarding part of the business is knowing that they’re one of the few restaurant in NYC that actually serves good food with clean and fresh ingredients and it’s something that their customers appreciate. To them, it feels good knowing that they’re giving customers all-natural items rather than cheating them with bad ingredients just so they can make more money, which some restaurants do. It would be easy for them to cut corners but they wouldn’t feel right giving customers food with fake ingredients and it’s not the way they want to run their business. It’s this commitment to their food and their passion to keep their brand from becoming commercialized that customers are drawn to as well as Stella’s hospitality. Stella believes that when customers are making a conscious effort to come to their store and buy their food when there’s so many restaurants to choose from, she needs to make it the best experience possible for them and give them more than just food. Vicki says that the way Stella is at home is the way she is in the restaurant. She wants everyone to be comfortable and get the best dining experience possible, which is why they have loyal customers that come in every day and thank them for food that’s been the same great quality since they started.

Although this mother-daughter team is lucky in the fact that they have one another to lean on, they recognize that having a team of people who are dedicated to the business is key for success in the food industry. And it’s an issue that they’ve struggled with in the past. One of the most challenging parts of the business for them has been finding reliable staff that are as committed to the Mamagyro brand as they are. Even though they have each other, there are a lot of different areas to handle when running a business and you need to have team members that have different strengths so that you’re not doing it all on your own. You need to have people behind you that are willing to go through good and bad times with you and continue to push you to do better. That’s the only way your business will grow and it’s something that Stella and Vicki are still working on. However, for the time being they’re excited to see how their business increases in their new location and are considering taking some of the Mamagyro products wholesale (spanakopita, dips, yogurt). They see a need for preservative-free, all-natural food in grocery stores and they feel that taste is being lost with the artificial products that are on shelves now. Stella says she would also love to open a sit-down Greek restaurant in the coming years that focuses on traditional Greek food and seafood. But these are both ideas that they’d like to focus on down the line. Right now their main focus is improving Mamagyro and creating a successful business that Vicki can one day pass on to her daughters.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

 

 

0 comments on “Honoring Black History Month”

Honoring Black History Month

February is Black History Month, a time during which we recognize and honor the contributions of Black Americans throughout our country’s history. Not only is it essential to use this month as a way to commemorate the lives of leaders of the Black community, it also allows us to reflect on the history of the U.S. and to appreciate the changes that have been made to better our society. However, we still have a long way to go. As Americans, we each make a commitment to tirelessly fight for equality and opportunity for all. Remembering and celebrating the impact of these Black Americans in the face of such adversity  is a critical part of that commitment. 

The History of Black History Month

The idea of formally celebrating the achievements of Black Americans originally came from historian Carter G. Woodson in 1915. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland, a prominent minister, founded the ASNLH (the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History) in order to dedicate time to researching and acknowledging the accomplishments of Black Americans that weren’t be represented in American society. In 1926, their foundation sponsored a national “Negro History Week” during the second week of February to honor the men and women who were pioneers of change as well as to connect the event with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. This first celebration inspired communities across the country to organize their own festivities and to begin hosting performances and lectures that highlighted Black culture. These celebrations continued annually in cities nationwide, eventually evolving into a month of commemoration until 1976 when President Ford officially recognized Black History Month as a month-long observance.

Today the ASNLH is known as the ASALH (the Association for the Study of African American Life and History). They continue the work of Dr. Woodson to “promote, research, preserve, interpret and disseminate information about Black life, history and culture to the global community”.

2019: Black Migrations

Every year the ASALH announces a theme for Black History Month to be the focus point during their month-long observation. This year the theme is Black Migrations to “emphasize the movement of people of African descent to new destinations and subsequently to new social realities”. The migration of Black families and individuals throughout the U.S., and globally, has resulted in more diverse populations, the establishment of new religions, and the genesis of new forms of music and visual & literary art. This movement allowed communities to evolve in new and unique ways, and laid the foundation for the society that we live in today.

The FoodtoEat Community

At FoodtoEat, we strive to unite all people around a communal table and seek to add diversity to the local food community by highlighting the immigrant, women and minority-run food businesses that we represent. We believe that every person’s history is essential to who they are and contributes to every aspect of their lives, including the food that they create. For those reasons, we’re so excited to kick off Black History Month by highlighting some of the Black American vendors that we work with and telling their story about their business and the mission behind it. If you’re interested in supporting these business this month (or any month!) please email us at catering@foodtoeat.com to inquire about pricing for your next meal or event!

Novar Excell, Owner of Excell Kingston Eatery: Excell Kingston Eatery is a Jamaican style catering company that was created in 2014 by chef Novar Excell and his wife Keelia Excell. The duo are originally from Jamaica and migrated to Brooklyn, New York in 2014. They use authentic, homemade recipes that will transport you to the Island after just one bite. Based in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn, they service all five boroughs of New York City, catering any event from birthday parties to corporate lunches to large food festivals.

Yemisi Awosan, Owner of Egunsifoods: Yemisi  is the chef and owner of Egunsifoods, which she created to introduce others to the diverse, delicious and flavorful cuisines of West Africa. She was born in Nigeria but raised in New England and wanted to create a farm to table company that honors her background, while also focusing on flavor, taste and nutrients. She sources her ingredients from locals farms in New York as well as partners with farmers in Africa to source their raw materials. Her mission is to actively give back to African farmers and artisans, creating a long-term impact through social entrepreneurship instead of short-term donation through philanthropy.

Charles Chipengule, Owner of Jaa Dijo Dom: Charles is the owner and chef behind Jaa Dijo Dom. He was born and raised in Botswana, Africa and growing up he always had a passion for food. After graduating high school, he was able to save up enough money to open a breakfast food stall, which funded his technical college courses in engineering and culinary courses. However, due to the dire economic conditions in Botswana, he eventually had to close down his breakfast stall and emigrated to the U.S. After arriving in the U.S., Charles worked at various restaurants and took culinary classes in NYC to pursue his dream of becoming a chef. It was during this time that he was inspired to open Jaa Dijo Dom (an African name that means “a place to eat”) with the idea of bringing together the various cuisines of African nations to a wider audience. Today he takes the time to select the best dishes and flavors from different countries in Africa in order to share the food that he grew up eating and to create a diverse and flavorful dining experience.

Yaya Ceesay, Co-Owner of The Soul Spot: Yaya is the chef and co-owner of The Soul Spot, a fast casual restaurant that combines the best of African, Southern Soul and Caribbean food. Although this may seem like a unusual mix, Yaya serves a unique array of food that represents the food that he grew up eating and the food that learned how to prepare through research during his time in the U.S. Yaya came to the U.S. from West Africa when he was 17 and worked as a chef in Manhattan for many years before opening The Soul Spot in 2003. Although people doubted him when he first started his business, he’s been a staple in his Brooklyn community for 16 years and believes that the passion he sows into his food is what his customers continue to be drawn to and trust.

 

Resources:
https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-history-month
https://thewitnessbcc.com/5-reasons-you-should-celebrate-black-history-month/
https://asalh.org/asalhs-2019-theme-black-migrations/

 

0 comments on “Edward Song, Owner of Korilla BBQ”

Edward Song, Owner of Korilla BBQ

This is Edward (Eddie) Song, the owner of Korilla BBQ, a fast casual restaurant that strives to advance Korean cuisine through innovation. Eddie’s entrepreneurial aspirations began in 2008 when he was graduating from Columbia University in the midst of the Great Recession. There weren’t many job opportunities available so he thought it was a better time than ever to be your own boss. However, unlike many entrepreneurs in the food industry, Eddie’s interest in the hospitality/restaurant business didn’t come from a strong focus on food throughout his childhood. He, like many other people in 2008, was looking for the safety and comfort that was lacking in the midst of the financial crisis and started thinking a lot about what made him feel comfortable and safe. He immediately started reminiscing about going out to eat on the weekends with his family, which, because everyone was so busy, was the only time they had to get together and catch up. So he decided to open a food business that could fill the need for comfort in others as it did for him. He enrolled in a free four month culinary program offered by Kingsborough Community College in conjunction with The Restaurant Opportunities Center United but quickly realized that he wasn’t a good cook. So when everyone else in his program began thinking about specializing in baking vs. cooking and interviewing at restaurants, he started thinking about food concepts. After trying out a bun concept that never took off (the idea was to take the Chinese pork bun and make it more internationally appealing), he began realizing that there weren’t many restaurants focused on creating Korean food. Of course there were communities throughout New York where you could find amazing Korean food but it wasn’t as widely represented as he believed it should be. So he decided to take Korean food and make it more mainstream and readily accessible to the American public through the Korilla BBQ brand.

Korilla BBQ started as a food truck with a menu that Eddie says came through a “series of fortune events”. He wanted Korilla BBQ to represent the aspects of Korean food that he loved as well as the other foods that he and his siblings grew up eating. Growing up in Queens, there were many cultures on a single block so mixing Korean food with Mexican and hints of Southern BBQ and American fare seemed very natural to Eddie and he was able to find a chef who understood his concept. Although the chef was Japanese, he was also from Queens so he had grown up eating Korean food and was familiar with the flavors that Korean food is known for. They began pulling their favorite elements of dishes (proteins, flavors, textures) from Korean food as well as other cuisines, visiting Korean restaurants that Eddie liked and seeing how they could make their items better. Then Eddie got lucky and met a Korean restaurateur who owned a quintessential Korean restaurant in Flushing that was extremely popular. He liked the concept that Eddie was working on and allowed them to observe and work with his chef to learn how to make all of the best Korean foods that they had grown up eating. Through their own research and the help of this restaurateur, they were able to cobble together their first menu, mixing the recipes that they had been taught and the ones that they had reverse engineered.

Once the menu was created, Eddie was able to officially launch the first food truck in October 2010. He believed that the food truck would be the best way to bring their food directly to their customers and for the next three years, they were very successful. At one point they even had four different food trucks operating at the same time. However, in 2013 a lot of new food trucks began opening, increasing competition and aggravating restaurant owners with brick & mortar locations. They began complaining that food trucks were stealing their customers and blocking their store’s visibility and the police started getting involved to help resolve the issue. However, this meant that they would keep food trucks from parking in their usual spots on the street or they would make them move, typically during their lunch rush when it was impossible for them to shut down, move and find another parking spot to sell from. This started happening consistently enough that Eddie realized that he needed to accelerate their transition into a brick & mortar location. They opened their first location in the East Village in October 2014 and replicated the same “build your own” experience that they had on the truck inside the store. They also extended their trademark Korilla orange and tiger stripe motif from the truck to the store design. Eddie chose a tiger as the symbol for Korilla because it’s the national animal of Korea and it’s also very reflective of the food’s bold, fierce flavor. He kept the coloring of the trucks and stores bright and eye-catching to make sure that they stood out and enticed people to walk up to the truck or into the store and see what they were offering. Every location that they’ve opened since the flagship East Village store incorporates the same color palette and tiger motif but each one has it’s own layout. Eddie says that this was done on purpose because each store is an evolution of what he thought Korilla was at that moment in time, giving each location it’s own unique personality.

For Eddie, the most rewarding part of the business has been introducing others to Korean food. One of Korilla BBQ’s core mission statements is to advance Korean cuisine and to create more awareness of the 5,000 year old history of Korean food through the Korilla brand. So seeing customers come into the store who have never tried Korean food before and fall in love with the rich flavors and unique taste validates his mission. He believes that he is a part of a larger movement to take Korean food, which he saw as a relatively obscure cuisine in 2008, and bring it to the forefront of the food industry. Since the majority of Koreans started emigrating to the U.S. in the 70’s and 80’s, including his parents, Eddie sees the elevation of Korean food as his generation’s job. He recognized that no one was pushing Korean food into mainstream American culture not because it was a bad idea but because the only people who were able to do it were people like his parents who were working tirelessly to support their families. Therefore he’s trying to make Korilla BBQ a lifestyle brand that revolves around this movement and hopes that people can think of Korilla as a symbol for change, creating for them a sense of inner confidence and boldness, with which they can attack any situation. However, creating such a strong brand does have challenges, especially when it requires every person in the business having the same zeal and passion for the brand that he does. Eddie is constantly striving for perfection and always wants to provide an A+ experience to his customers every single time. But at the end of the day, he’s ultimately relying on other men and women to provide that experience, which due to so many external factors, may not always reach that expectation. So dealing with the variability of a food business can be very difficult as an owner.

Right now Eddie says he’s still in the process of creating the perfect blend of all four values that he believes are key to a successful business: quality, taste, speed and price. There are a lot of people that he sees in the restaurant industry that are willing to make value sacrifices and trade-offs to keep price low or sell food faster but he doesn’t believe in doing that. Which is why he advises other entrepreneurs to understand that what determines your success is what you’re willing to do or not do and as hard as it gets, you can’t give up, you have to keep on trying. In the food industry especially, you have to be passionate and determined enough that even if you keep getting the same results every single day, you can keep pushing to make it to the next day, the next chapter, the next year, because eventually you will get it. He also advises that every business owner has to be his or her own cheerleader and allow themselves to celebrate small victories. For Eddie, it’s the small victories that feed his passion and motivate him to keep moving forward.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

 

0 comments on “DIY Game Day Snacks!”

DIY Game Day Snacks!

The big game is right around the corner (ICYMI, the Super Bowl is this Sunday) and it’s time to focus on the most important part of the day: the food. If you’re not taking advantage of a  Super Bowl special at your favorite bar or restaurant, it’s time to get your menu ready for the snack-a-thon that Super Bowl Sunday is known for.

Lucky for you, we’ve taken the liberty of breaking down the recipes of some of our favorite football eats that are always a crowd-pleaser. Not only are these appetizers delicious, they’re easy to make and don’t take more than 30 minutes from prep to passing to your guests. Plus they’re lighter and less greasy than your typical football finger foods so they won’t make you feel as guilty for cheating on that New Year’s diet (we all do it, the diet gods forgive you). Check out the recipes below and start perfecting your touchdown dance, cause these snacks will have you #winning all game long!

Buffalo Chicken Egg Rolls

Recipe makes 10-15 pieces

You’ll Need:

1 package egg roll wrappers

1 8 oz package cream cheese

1 cup Cheddar cheese

1/2 cup Buffalo sauce

2 chicken breasts OR 1 cup of shredded or diced chicken

1 egg

2 scallions (for garnish)

For this recipe, you have the option to buy a cooked rotisserie chicken and shred it OR buy raw chicken, dice into small 1/2 inch pieces and saute in a pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil- either way works! When your chicken is ready, add cream cheese, Cheddar cheese and Buffalo sauce in a bowl and mix until combined. Once you have your mixture, add 2 tablespoons to the center of the egg roll wrapper and roll (following the instructions on the egg roll wrapper package). In order to seal the egg roll, you’ll need to use the scrambled egg. Use a brush to dip into the raw egg and rub along the edge to secure it (if you don’t have a brush, your finger works as well). Once secured, bake in the oven at 425 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Once cool, serve with your favorite condiment (we recommend Ranch or Blue cheese)!

Pro tip: If you have it, these Buffalo Chicken Egg Rolls taste even better in the air fryer. Cook for about 8 minutes and enjoy!

Zucchini “Fries”

Recipe serves 4 

You’ll Need:

2 zucchini

1 cup Panko breadcrumbs

1 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1 egg

On a flat plate, add the Italian seasoned breadcrumbs, Panko breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. In a separate bowl, scramble the egg. Next cut off the ends of the zucchini and slice into individual “fries”. Once the zucchini is cut up, dip in the raw egg and then in the breadcrumb/cheese mixture to coat the zucchini. Repeat until all of the zucchini are prepped. Set the oven to 425 degrees and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Plate and serve with your favorite marinara sauce or garlic aioli. Yum!

Pro tip: You can make the Zucchini “Fries” in the air fryer as well! Cook for about 6-8 minutes and serve!

Guacamole

Recipe serves 4-6 

You’ll Need:

3 avocados

1/2 small red onion

1 Cubanelle pepper

1 lime

1 small handful of cilantro

2 large cloves of garlic

2 plum tomatoes

salt

pepper

Chop red onion, Cubanelle pepper, garlic and tomatoes and place in a bowl. In a separate bowl, smash avocados up before adding to the bowl of vegetables. Add in chopped cilantro, salt, pepper and lime juice. Mix together until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips (for a healthier, grain-free option, we used Siete tortilla chips with lime) and indulge!

 

If you’re testing out our recipes, we want to see! Take a picture of your creations and tag us @foodtoeat. Happy eating (and footballing)!

 

0 comments on “Giuseppe Viterale, Owner of Ornella Trattoria Italiana”

Giuseppe Viterale, Owner of Ornella Trattoria Italiana

This is Giuseppe Viterale (pictured left with his son Angelo, right), the owner of Ornella Trattoria Italiana, an Italian restaurant named after his wife, Ornella, who he met by chance one evening as he was walking down the street in Williamsburg and offered his hand to help when he saw her slip on some ice. Their unique encounter, which sounds like the beginning of a romance movie, is not uncommon for Giuseppe, who shapes his restaurant around just that principle: uniqueness. Giuseppe grew up on a farm in a small village in Salerno, Italy. His father owned a flour mill, which he and his siblings helped run, so his earliest memories are connected to food. At the time, Giuseppe says, he didn’t even realize that he was involved in the food industry because it was the only world he knew, one where everything went directly from the farm to their table. However, Giuseppe had no intention of getting into the food and restaurant business. He had bigger dreams for himself and began studying architecture. But after failing his certification test the first time, he decided to take a few months off and go to New York for a little adventure and fun. He wanted to see a different part of the world and be immersed in a new culture where he knew no one and didn’t speak the language. He was in New York for a few months when he met Ornella on the street that night and as soon as he could, he went back to Italy and passed his architecture test before returning to New York again and getting married. 30 years later, Giuseppe has created an Italian restaurant that’s known for it’s fresh ingredients, uncommon dishes and philosophical yet engrossing owner.

When he returned to New York, Giuseppe began working with a big construction company but got laid off during the recession in the early 90’s. He had to continue to work to support his family so he went to a staffing agency, which placed him at a job in a restaurant in Greenwich Village. Although he had grown up surrounded by food, he had never worked in the restaurant business before and it was much different than the food-related world that he knew. He decided that if he was going to work in this industry, he didn’t want to embarrass himself with his lack of experience so he started from scratch and began training at many different restaurants, learning as he went. Once he felt like he had a good understanding of different restaurants and how they operate, he spent a few months working at a restaurant in Brooklyn Heights. Things were going well there until one day, when he was standing outside the restaurant, a bum passed by and asked him what he was doing there. When Giuseppe responded that he was working, the bum laughed and told him that if he wanted to make real money, he had to work in Manhattan. So Giuseppe took his advice, left his job in Brooklyn Heights and asked the agency to find him a job in the city.

The staffing agency placed him at Cellini, an upscale Italian restaurant where he quickly excelled. He started out as a waiter and after a month, had become their head waiter. A year after that, he became the restaurant’s manager and maitre d. Giuseppe ended up working at Cellini for 15 years, during which time he used his background in architecture to study the real estate market and invest in Brooklyn, slowing purchasing about 50 residential rental properties. Eventually it got to the point that he was doing so well at Cellini and in his real estate ventures that he had to choose to focus on one and shockingly, decided to stay in the food industry. Over the years, his passion for the industry (specifically the restaurant operations, the workers and the customers) had started to grow and he couldn’t leave it. And then Giuseppe got the opportunity to open his own restaurant. Someone he had met during his time at Cellini was looking to open a new restaurant and wanted Giuseppe to run it. Giuseppe was excited for this new endeavor but unfortunately, the business didn’t make it more than a year before it closed. In order to pay the bills and make up for the money he had lost, Giuseppe was forced to sell some of his real estate properties, but instead of getting frustrated with the situation, he decided to start over and open a restaurant his way. He found a small restaurant in Astoria for sale in the paper, went to see it a few times, bought it and then put all of the experience he had learned in his childhood and throughout his life into action. He hired a bunch of cooks, rather than one chef, and started creating recipes based off of the food and flavors he knew from the dishes his mother had cooked on their farm. And in 2010, Ornella Trattoria Italiana officially opened. 

ornella trattoria

Over the years, Giuseppe says he’s found more passion for food, rather than just the restaurant business. Although he doesn’t cook, he loves to create dishes that customers can’t find other places. He says that his philosophy about food is different than other restaurant owners. Like an architect, he builds the foundation of the dishes that he dreams up, based on flavor and fresh ingredients rather than a recipe (something he learned to understand on the farm) and his cooks create the dish itself. He explains to them what he wants and tries it and if he doesn’t like it, they do it again until it’s right. And once they’ve perfected it, they add it to the menu. Although creating these unique dishes and keeping their menu items fresh as well as keeping up with customers’ expectations for new items is challenging after so many years, it also keeps him on his toes, which he loves. He likes that he can surprise even his regular customers with new menu items for them to taste and give feedback on. He never wants his customer to get bored so he’s always trying to re-invent their menu and incorporate food items as they become popular. And he’s proud that the customers he attracts are young, intellectual people that know about food and current food trends and want to learn more. Giuseppe believes that as a food business, you have to be on top of everything going on in the industry, which keeps him from getting complacent. His mind is constantly active and working on ways that he can make a recipe better or improve the restaurant’s operations. “Even if there’s a line out the door” he says, “I’m always thinking of ways how I can keep this line out the door. Because the moment you stop trying to re-invent yourself, someone will do it better than you.”

Giuseppe’s uniqueness extends from his recipes to the restaurant itself. One of his hobbies is carpentry so all of the tables and chairs in his restaurant were made by him as well as the sign outside the restaurant. And rather than buy his ingredients from a food supplier, Giuseppe goes to the market every morning and buys what he needs for that day. Although buying from a supplier would be easier, Giuseppe doesn’t like that you can’t control the quality of the items that you receive and buying the items himself allows him to keep his food cost low. It also allows him to get ideas for new dishes that he can create if he sees produce he’s never used before that he can try out as a special for that day. And even though people may think that he runs his business in an “old-fashioned way” because he runs it with his sons (Giovanni, Angelo and Pino), Giuseppe understands that in order to connect with his customers, he needs to create an experience around his food. Which is why the first thing he does in the morning is check his social media, where he frequently posts videos showing how he created a new dish or curing meat at his farmhouse in the Catskills. He also doesn’t ignore negative reviews on Yelp like most restaurant owners. Instead he responds to them and uses it as a marketing tool, creating wallpaper in the restaurant’s bathroom with print outs of the negative reviews, which he says makes most customers laugh and even attracts customers because he says what people want to say but don’t. Because he’s so established in Astoria, he’s not worried about a lack of customers. He has so many positive reviews that he can afford to deal with the negative ones. It’s more important to him that he’s authentic because his customers appreciate his personality.

For Giuseppe, the most important thing that he sets out to do is deliver good food to his customers. But he hopes that people connect with his business because it’s memorable. From food to furniture, he doesn’t like anything in his restaurant to be “standard” and does everything in his power to create a unique brand that allows him to stand out from other Italian restaurants. He believes that people don’t remember the recipe for a dish they ate but they remember the story of the person behind the food and the atmosphere that they’ve created. His sons understand this mission and now help him run the business, which gives Giuseppe more time to experiment with dishes at his farm upstate, where he plans to build a greenhouse this year. Moving forward, he’s hoping that he can more deeply connect the restaurant to his farmhouse and bring it more in contact with nature to further influence the way he cooks. He wants to use his food to remind people that nature is where everything comes from and that we need to be more in touch with it. He’s hoping that his focus on nature’s impact and his unconventional branding will keep customers coming back to his restaurant.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

 

0 comments on “Monurai Bhakdina, Owner of Queen Cobra Thai”

Monurai Bhakdina, Owner of Queen Cobra Thai

This is Monurai (Mony) Bhakdina, the owner of Queen Cobra Thai, a business that she credits for making her realize that cooking is her true passion. Like many entrepreneurs in the food industry, Mony started Queen Cobra Thai because she had grown unhappy with her position in the corporate world. But unlike other entrepreneurs, Mony’s food tells a very personal story of carrying on her family’s tradition in a new home. Mony grew up in Bangkok, Thailand and came to the U.S. in 2004. Back then, she says, she couldn’t find any food that was like the food in Bangkok, so she began cooking a lot, recreating the recipes that her grandmother had taught her, as she was the cook in their family that everyone learned from. Her grandmother grew up in Thailand in the 1920s and when she was 10 years old, she was sent to work as a cook in the palace for a royal family. She worked there for fifteen years until she got married and then moved to Chiang Mai, where she opened her own restaurant, specializing in high-end Northern Thai cuisine. In 1983, when Mony’s parents decided to open their own restaurant in Bangkok, her grandmother taught them the recipes that she had created and how to cook each dish. Since her own restaurant had closed at this point and Mony’s father was working as an architect, her mother and grandmother ran the restaurant together for six or seven years until her grandmother was unable to continue working and they had to sell the business. Her grandmother then began teaching Mony how to cook, starting with food prep then spicy beef salad and massaman curry before moving onto more complex presentation skills like carving fresh ginger into flowers (which Mony says she’s still unable to do). It was this personal connection to food, and her family, that spurred Mony’s love for cooking and became a source of comfort for her when she moved to New York. Now Queen Cobra Thai is Mony’s way of passing along the authentic, home cooked, Thai meals that her grandmother taught her to others.

Before starting Queen Cobra Thai, Mony was working as a graphic designer at a small advertising company in Manhattan. She had decided to come the the U.S. after earning her degree in graphic design in Bangkok because she wanted to experience the New York lifestyle and since her brother and some relatives were already living in New York, it seemed like the perfect time. But after a while, she realized that the role she was working in was not her dream job. She was constantly feeling disappointed because clients were picking other designs over hers. She had started questioning herself and wondering if graphic design was the right career for her. Her friends and family, who she frequently cooked for and loved her food, saw how frustrated she had become with her job and kept encouraging her to start a food business. The idea stuck in her head and she thought about it more and more until 2013, when she decided to go for it. She knew that Smorgasburg was looking for new vendors and decided to test her food out there since the market would give her access to a large audience. She began selling her food at Smorgasburg on the weekends and working at her graphic design job during the week. She did this for a few months until her food became so popular that she was able to quit her job in graphic design and focus on her food business full-time.

For the first few years of the business, Mony sold her food at Smorgasburg, street fairs and other food festivals, cooking everything in her commercial kitchen in Bushwick and then transporting it to events. She was doing really well and getting a lot of compliments on the food as well as a lot of returning customers. Her customers soon started asking her to do catering for events and to host cooking classes so that they could learn to make the dishes themselves. After getting involved in catering and teaching, Mony decided to shift her business to focus solely on these two facets as the food market/street fair circuit had started to cause issues because it was forcing her to depend on a lot of other people to help run her business. Now she only offers catering and small cooking classes (for 2-6 people per class) out of her apartment. She no longer has her kitchen in Bushwick so she rents kitchen space from her friend who owns a restaurant in Chelsea where she preps and cooks all of her catering orders. Mony’s cousin, who works at the restaurant that she rents from, helps her cook the food and she also has four other people that she hires for a certain amount of hours for catering orders that help her with food prep and delivery. But for Mony, her personalized, hands-on cooking classes have become the most exciting  part of the business. She’s able to tell her story to small groups of people who really care about her food and are interested in learning where it comes from.

Just like her mother’s restaurant, all of the food on Queen Cobra Thai’s catering menu are recipes that Mony’s grandmother created. However, Mony tries to add her own style or twist to each dish, which sometimes ends up happening out of necessity when ingredients that she would typically have access to in Thailand (herbs, spices, palm sugar) aren’t available in the U.S. In some cases, she has to adjust the recipe altogether because she can’t make a substitute with a different ingredient. Although changing her grandmother’s recipes is hard for Mony, she’s used to customizing dishes for her clients that have allergies or dietary restrictions and is able to accommodate those changes. The toughest part for her though is trying to get her customers without dietary restrictions or allergies to stop limiting themselves with food that seems unusual to them. For Mony, Thai food is all about fresh herbs, unique ingredients and balancing flavors, and she wishes that more people were able to experience that and enjoy it rather than questioning it. She cares so deeply about each dish and what she’s putting into it that she wants every customer’s experience to be as authentic as possible so they can really understand the food and the culture behind it.

Food and beverage is an extremely hard industry to work in but doing so has allowed Mony to finally figure out what she loves to do and she’s excited every morning when she wakes up to teach a cooking class or prep food for a catering order. The reason she started Queen Cobra Thai was because of her grandmother and her family and her desire to share their story through the food that she creates. And although she hasn’t been able to yet, Mony still has her sights set on opening up a brick and mortar location within a year or two and continuing her family’s tradition. However, since running a restaurant is so expensive and she doesn’t want to risk all of the money that she’s earned in her food business, she’s planning to open a dessert shop where customers can pair Thai desserts with tea. Not only is this Mony’s goal because she likes sweets, she’s also realistic and recognizes that a smaller-scale operation will provide her a better chance of success in the long run. As Mony knows, once you find something that you’re passionate about, you just keep doing it, no matter what.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

 

0 comments on “Food Festivals to Look Forward to in 2019!”

Food Festivals to Look Forward to in 2019!

As the weather continues to get colder, we’re daydreaming more and more about the warm weather that spring and summer bring. One of our favorite things to do from April to October is to get outside and eat some delicious (and mostly unhealthy) food!! And if you’re a New Yorker, you know that the best way to satisfy all of your food cravings is at a food festival. Not only do you get to try everything from BBQ to ice cream, food festivals are the best way to find the newest food trend as well as support the local, small businesses that commonly sell their products at these venues.

In order to help you start mapping out your 2019 schedule (or maybe just brighten your day with our thoughts of warmer weather, sigh) we’ve compiled a list of some of the best upcoming food festivals for you to keep on your radar. 

Smorgasburg: One of the largest open-air food markets in NYC, Smorgasburg began in Brooklyn in 2011 as a spin off of Brooklyn Flea. It attracts 20,000-30,000 people each weekend and it’s a must on any foodie’s festival list. Both the Williamsburg and Prospect Park locations re-open in April with their normal Saturday and Sunday schedule, respectively.

The World’s Fare: This Queens-based food festival celebrates the diversity of New York’s food industry with over 100 vendors representing 100 different cultures. It’s purpose is to remind us that everyone is equal around the communal table as we celebrate the unity of food. You don’t want to miss this 2-day event on May 18th and 19th.

NYC Vegetarian Food Festival: For all those looking to explore a plant-based lifestyle, this 9th annual event is fully vegan with over 100 vendors that focus on plant-based food and products. This festival will run for 2 days on May 18th and 19th with a full line-up of speakers, chefs and entertainers. 

New York Pizza Festival: Get ready to leave a pizza your heart at this 2-day festival that focuses solely on everyone’s favorite food! This is the second year you’ll be able to taste test pizza from the top pizza makers in the U.S. and Italy while sipping on beer and wine and listening to live music. Mark your calendars now for October 5th and 6th!

New York City Wine and Food Festival: Considered the largest food and wine festival in NYC, this weekend-long event runs from October 10th to the 13th. Hosted by the Food Network and Cooking Channel, it has more than 80 events to raise money to support the No Kid Hungry campaign and Food Bank For New York City.

New York Beer Fest: We couldn’t leave out our beverages! The New York Beer Fest is one day only but runs for two different sessions (12-4PM then 6-10PM) and features over 200 beers from 80 different breweries. This event takes over Citi Field and offers games and entertainment throughout the park. If you’re a beer connoisseur, buy your tickets now for May 4th!

Cherry Bombe Jubilee: Although this is more of a food conference than a festival, if you’re a woman in the food industry, this is for you! Cherry Bombe’s Jubilee is a day-long event that combines food and drink with inspiring conversation and meaningful connection. It’s female-focused but open to all genders and it’s all going down on April 7th.

 

0 comments on “Eva Lokaj, Director of Marketing & Public Relations at Old Traditional Polish Cuisine”

Eva Lokaj, Director of Marketing & Public Relations at Old Traditional Polish Cuisine

This is Eva Lokaj, the Director of Marketing and Public Relations at Old Traditional Polish Cuisine. Beside her are her husband, Grzegorz (Greg) Gryzlak (right) and his best friend, Przemyslaw (Mek) Motyka (left), the co-owners of Old Traditional Polish Cuisine. This 3-person team began brainstorming how they could fill the void they saw in the New York food industry after realizing how underrepresented Polish food was throughout all five boroughs. At the time, Eva was working at Calvin Klein, Greg was working in construction and Mek was running a cafe in Ridgewood but they felt the need to create a solution since there were limited Polish restaurants to begin with and more and more were closing. So after about a year of research into the market and creating recipes for the menu, they decided to open a food truck with a five borough permit to not only re-introduce Polish food to consumers but to also be able to meet demand, whether it was in Manhattan or Brooklyn or Queens. The food truck gave them the ability to service more people by bringing the food to them directly on the street as well as to specific locations for private events, weddings, after parties and catering. The food truck officially launched in April 2013 and after five years of business, their mission is the same: to bring their culture and traditions to the streets of New York City.

Eva, Greg and Mek all felt a connection to Polish food because it’s the food they grew up eating. However, Eva notes, the concept and passion for the food truck really started with Greg and Mek as a way to bring a piece of home to New York. Greg and Mek were both born and raised in Poland and emigrated to the U.S. when they were teenagers. Eva was born and raised in New York and although she speaks Polish fluently, had a more typical “American” upbringing. She went to St. Vincent High School and then Iona College and growing up she says she didn’t have a lot of Polish friends. In fact, she hadn’t dated any Polish guys until she met Greg through a mutual friend. However, her mother made sure that she understood her heritage and growing up her home was constantly full of Polish dishes that her mother created. So when Greg and Mek decided to pursue the food truck full-time, she left her job to help them run the business. She now does all the marketing and PR for the food truck as well as running their catering operations. She also works part-time as an office manager at a jewelry company. Luckily the schedule is flexible with a certain amount of hours that she’s responsible for each week so she’s able to coordinate her work at the jewelry company around marketing outreach, meetings and their catering schedule each week. Eva doesn’t have any formal training in marketing but tries to work every angle to get their name out there. From social media to email marketing to creating doughnuts with the Polish flag on them in celebration of the 100 year anniversary of Polish independence, she knows that the more recognizable their business is, the more customers will be attracted to it.

eva & team in food truck

Although the food truck gives them the ability to meet consumer demand directly, Eva says the logistics of the truck is also the most challenging part of the business. Every morning they load everything onto the truck and get to their spot for the day between 5AM and 7AM, depending on the spot. It’s crucial that you get to the spot you want before construction crews come with their trucks and vans or before the street gets too packed so that you’re ready to serve for lunch time. If you’re late, you’ll lose out on customers in popular areas or you could lose the food that you prepared for that day. However, over the years she says they’ve figured out how much food they’ll need for each day on the truck so that’s usually not an issue for them, especially since they now have a commissary kitchen in Brooklyn. They use the kitchen to prep the food needed for the truck, a majority of which they source from local Polish food vendors throughout New York. Their kielbasa is made by a Polish butcher specifically for them and their bread comes from a Polish bakery in the city. They work with a few different vendors to help create their dishes as they’re not able to prepare all of the food themselves. However, they will create a few dishes on the truck (Hunter’s Stew, grilled chicken, salads) and there’s no one main chef, all three of them contribute to the cooking. Any other items that they can’t get in the U.S. (such as Polish mustard, soda and water), they import from Poland to make sure that every item on their truck is Polish.

Just like their cooking, the inspiration behind their recipes comes from all three of them. Since they all grew up eating Polish food, they wanted to create a menu based off of their family recipes. However, every region in Poland adds their own unique spin on most dishes so they decided to combine each one of their “personal touches” to create their own recipes that they thought everyone would enjoy. They then had Eva’s mother taste test everything and approve it before it was added to the menu. They want customers who try their food to feel like they’re enjoying a traditional Polish lunch or dinner in Poland, so it was vital to them that each recipe was as authentic as possible. And it seems that they’ve succeeded. Customers will come to their food truck with a smile and say “This is how my grandmother used to make it!” or “I miss Polish food so much, I’m so glad that you guys are here!”, which Eva says is the most rewarding part of the business. Being able to bring their food to diverse groups of people all over New York and have them appreciate what it is and the tradition behind it is their passion.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

 

 

0 comments on “The Keto Kraze”

The Keto Kraze

The Keto Diet. If you’re like us, at least one person you know is on it or talking about starting it. It seems like this diet has become more and more popular in recent years (we’re looking at you Vinny Guadagnino) so we decided to do some research to learn more about the diet itself and how it affects the body.

As it turns out, the Ketogenic Diet is not a recent fad, it was actually used by physicians in the 1920s to treat epilepsy. A diet rich in fat and low in carbs was proven to produce ketone bodies in the liver. The increase in ketone bodies causes a change in metabolism, which scientists believe allows the body to remove the toxins from the intestines that cause the convulsions that plague epileptics. However, although ketone bodies have proven to help in reducing symptoms for those suffering from epilepsy, scientists still don’t completely understand why. The ketone bodies seem to have an anti-electrical effect on the brain but why that is is still under investigation. As for the diet being used to aid in weight loss, that’s also under investigation, as doctors have mixed feelings about if the benefits outweigh the costs. However, it has proven effective when men and women commit to this lifestyle change, rather than using it as a quick weight loss fix. 

What is the Keto Diet?

The Ketogenic Diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet. The purpose of the diet is to reduce carb intake and replace it with fat. The reduction of carbs from your system puts your body in a metabolic state called ketosis, which tricks your body into believing that it’s starving so it begins to efficiently burn fat for energy. 

What are the do’s and don’ts? 

The main focus of the keto diet is eliminating foods that are high in carbs, such as sugars and starches, and adding more proteins, vegetables and natural fats to your diet. However, it does allow for limited carb intake, depending on how strict you choose to be. A true ketogenic diet suggests under 20 grams of carbs a day but if that’s difficult for you to start out with, aim for staying under 100 grams of carbs a day. This will give your body more time to adjust to the diet and then limit the carbs from there, if you would like to. We’ve listed the common do’s and don’ts of the diet below. 

Do Eat/Drink:

Meat

Fish and Seafood

Eggs

Natural Fats (butter, olive oil, cheese and yogurt)

Vegetables (leafy and green vegetables are best: cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, zucchini, avocado)

Nuts in moderation (pecans, almonds, peanuts, walnuts)

Berries in moderation (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)

Water

Coffee (without sugar and limited milk or cream)

Tea

Bone Broth

Don’t Eat/Drink:

Sugar (candy, cakes, cookies, candy bars, doughnuts)

Starch (bread, pasta, potatoes, sweet potatoes, potato chips, french fries)

Grains (rice, quinoa, bulgur, barley, oats)

Beans (kidney beans, chickpeas, black beans, lentils)

Fruit

Soda/Soft Drinks

Juice

Beer

Cocktails

Pros of the Keto Diet:

Quick weight loss

Decreased appetite

Increased energy

Lowers risk of heart disease

Lowers blood sugar

Reduces insulin levels and inflammation

Cons of the Keto Diet:

May reduce muscle mass

Causes headaches and nausea 

Digestive issues such as constipation

May increase risk of coronary disease

Difficult to commit to following the diet

If you’ve done your research into the diet and are interested in trying it out, we’ve got the perfect meal to get you started: our keto quesadilla! The recipe is below along with step by step cooking instructions. Test it out at home and let us know if you’ve become a #ketoconvert.

Keto Quesadilla

Recipe serves 1

You’ll Need:

2 Siete almond flour tortillas

shredded Mexican cheese (use as much or as little as you’d like)

1 tablespoon ghee

1/4 lb ground turkey

1 clove fresh garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon olive oil

Heat skillet on medium heat. Add the teaspoon of olive oil as well as the minced garlic. Next add the ground turkey and all spices. Mix until cooked through. Once cooked through, remove from heat and set aside.

Wipe down your skillet with a paper towel (you can wash the skillet if desired but wiping with a paper towel should be enough to remove all of the turkey mixture). Return skillet to medium heat and add the ghee. Once the ghee has melted, add one Siete tortilla and cover in shredded Mexican cheese. Next add the cooked ground turkey and cover the ground turkey with more shredded cheese. Then place the second Siete tortilla on top. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side or until both sides are crispy. Pro tip: add avocado slices to make your quesadilla even more delicious or add a side of your favorite salsa and sour cream for dipping!

We served ours with sauteed purple cabbage and kale (which we sauteed with olive oil, fresh chopped garlic, salt, pepper and a dash of chili powder) but a mixed green salad or roasted vegetables are also good alternatives!

 

Resources:
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ketogenic-diet-101
https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/keto/foods#keto-diet-food-list
https://www.news-medical.net/health/History-of-the-Ketogenic-Diet.aspx
https://perfectketo.com/ketosis-for-epilepsy/
https://perfectketo.com/ketogenic-diet-foods-to-avoid/
https://eatsmartproducts.com/fitness-and-wellness/the-pros-and-cons-of-the-ketogenic-diet/
0 comments on “Jacob Ryvkin, Co-Owner of Let’s Poke”

Jacob Ryvkin, Co-Owner of Let’s Poke

This is Jacob Ryvkin, the co-owner of Let’s Poke, a restaurant that he started with his business partner, Alex, who he’s been friends with since high school. Alex handles the back-end operations of the business and Jacob handles the restaurant itself (the management, the menu creation, and the daily operations), since he he began working in restaurants when he was just fifteen years old. Jacob grew up in New York and comes from an immigrant family. His parents were musicians in restaurants so he grew up very familiar with the restaurant lifestyle and always had a love for food. He was independent from a young age and wanted to make money, so it felt natural for him to seek work in the restaurant industry. He started out busing tables and then waiting tables, doing various jobs in different restaurants throughout high school and college. And although he ended up getting a degree in business management and finance and worked a few corporate jobs in finance and real estate, he always found himself getting bored and unhappy with the work. He was constantly drawn back into food and restaurants and eventually realized that his “fall back option” had turned into his passion. Now Jacob uses his 20+ years of experience in catering and fine dining to provide restaurant-quality, high-end, ingredient-driven food to his customers in Let’s Poke’s fast casual setting.

Once Jacob realized how happy he was working in the food industry, he started educating himself on the different aspects of each restaurant’s operations: front of house, back of house, kitchen, bar, and as he worked his way up the chain of command, his love for the industry grew. By the time he was twenty-four, he was managing Rasputin, a night club in Brooklyn, NY, where he was running a crew of 100 people with full banquet service, a band and cabaret and doing over $10 million in sales a year. Jacob eventually left Rasputin and worked at a few different banquet halls and night clubs before deciding to put his experience to the test and branch out on his own. He was on the West Coast scouting spaces to open a new night life concept when he was introduced to poke. Being someone who eats a ton of sushi, he found that a lot of the great sushi flavor was offered in poke, while also being a healthy, filling meal that’s more unique and complex than a salad. He immediately started playing with the poke concept in his head and when he returned to New York, he began doing research into the poke spots that had begun popping up at that time. He thought he could do a lot with the poke concept and was so excited about executing it that he and Alex decided to steer away from night life environment and put their project on hold to pursue this fast casual idea. They began brainstorming and planning a little over a year and a half ago and officially opened Let’s Poke in April 2018.

let's poke sign

Since Let’s Poke is such a new business, Jacob says that it’s been challenging to spread awareness about the business itself, especially since a lot of poke places have opened recently and every one of them is on social media. The New York market is so saturated to begin with, it’s hard to gain recognition, even if your current customers love what you’re doing. However, he knows that they have an excellent product due to versatility of their menu items (there’s over 6,000 ways the customer can customize their bowl or burrito) and the chef-driven ingredients that they offer. All of their sauces are made from scratch and most of the items that they serve are also made in-house. They use premium grade fish and have chicken and beef available as alternative protein options. They also offer a lot of high-end sushi ingredients as toppings for the poke that other restaurants don’t have, such as tamago, crispy salmon skins and ikura. However, the most unique thing about Let’s Poke is that they’ve also adapted the poke concept to fit New York’s fast paced environment with their self-ordering kiosks. Jacob recognized that since not everyone in New York is familiar with poke, walking into a poke restaurant can be daunting. The customer may not only be confused by the vast variety of items themselves, a line set up where they’re talking to multiple different people while trying to place an order as well as ask questions about the items can make it even more confusing and can quickly turn the ordering process into a frustrating experience, for both the customer and the staff. So they removed the confusion and made the process more efficient with self-ordering kisosks, where the customer is shown the menu in a step-by-step guided motion with pictures of each item and a brief description (if needed). Not only is this less confusing and more efficient (cutting down on order time by up to three or four minutes), it also eliminates 90% of errors that come up during an order. Jacob admits that errors still do happen, someone may misread a ticket or forget an ingredient, but at least they know the error is on their end as the customer has taken the time to select exactly what they wanted for their meal. Their ability to provide authentic flavor while making the ordering process so customizable with unique menu elements is something other poke vendors simply don’t offer.

Although they’ve only been operating Let’s Poke for about nine months, Jacob is focused on creating more buzz for the business by scaling out into more catering and events and eventually creating more brick and mortar locations. Because he and his team try to go the extra mile with food preparation, he feels strongly that they have restaurant-standard food that they’re able to provide to customers in the same time frame and for the same price point as you would expect to get at a fast casual place. And he hopes that their commitment to quality is reflected in each customer’s experience. For him, the best part of running a food business is the diverse group of people that you meet and the fact that you can have such a personal experience with each one of them. However, his advice for other entrepreneurs in the food industry is to really love the business and to research and understand the amount of time and energy that you need to contribute to produce a successful business. Although food has been very fulfilling for him and he loves interacting with customers, hearing their feedback and introducing new customers to poke, he recognizes that it’s very complex and stressful industry. So he advises everyone from the business owner to the bus boy in a restaurant to truly love what they’re doing because “unless you have love for the game, this business is for the insane”.

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

 

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January Vendor of the Month: The Picnic Basket

Happy 2019! We hope that everyone enjoyed their time celebrating the end of 2018 and the beginning of the new year with friends and family. This month we’re kicking off the new year with a new Vendor of the Month special for January from The Picnic Basket!

The Picnic Basket is known for it’s high quality ingredients and it’s unique twist on the office staples: sandwiches, soup and salad. Their Mediterranean-inspired cuisine brings new life to lunch meetings and team meals with their fresh and local components. From now until the end of January, FoodtoEat clients are able to order a discounted lunch combo of one full sandwich and one soup from The Picnic Basket’s wide selection of menu items! Kick off the new year right with a lunch the whole office can enjoy! Inquire now!

January Lunch Combo

$13.50/person

Choice of One Sandwich + One Soup

Sandwich Options:

Mediterranean Turkey

Wood smoked turkey, hummus, Mediterranean pickles, fresh greens and tomatoes

Classic Mediterranean

Hummus, eggplant, hard boiled eggs and Middle Eastern chopped salad; Vegetarian

Chicken Amarillo

Grilled chicken in traditional Peruvian hot sauce with Parmesan flakes, fresh greens and tomatoes

Filet of Roast Beef

Roast beef, Swiss cheese, sauteed onions, fresh greens, tomatoes and house mayo

French Goat Cheese

Goat cheese, sun-dried tomato pesto, grilled zucchini, figs, tomatoes and fresh greens; Vegetarian

Turkey and Swiss

Wood smoked turkey, Swiss cheese, fresh greens, tomatoes and date mustard

Veggie

Hummus, eggplant, fire roasted red peppers, cucumbers, alfalfa sprouts and tomatoes; Vegan

Chimi Chicken

Grilled chicken filet, mild Chimichurri sauce, fresh greens, tomatoes and house mayo

Crunchy Tuna

Tuna with Mediterranean pickles, corn, chopped carrots, mayo, fresh greens, tomatoes and house mayo

Fresh Mozzarella

Mozzarella, fire roasted red peppers, alfalfa sprouts, fresh greens, tomatoes and balsamic vinaigrette; Vegetarian

**Sandwiches can be made on gluten free bread upon request & will result in an additional charge**

 

Soup Options:

Lentil (Vegan, GF)

Chipotle Sweet Potato (Vegetarian, GF)

Roasted Vegetable (Vegan, GF)

Turkey Chili (GF)

Hungarian Mushroom (Vegetarian)

Tomato Garden (Vegan, GF)

**Soups can be modified to accommodate dietary restrictions upon request & may result in an additional charge**

sandwich_box_8181

Owners and creators of The Picnic Basket, Yariv Stav and David Vacnich believe that freshness makes the difference, which is what sets The Picnic Basket apart from its competitors. When developing the menu over seven years ago, they were determined to provide the highest quality food possible to their customers. And in doing so, have been successful in growing their business every day since The Picnic Basket was founded in 2012. They serve only handmade bread, which is delivered daily to their locations in Midtown and the Fashion District, along with their vegetables, cheeses and many other ingredients. All food is prepared on site and to the highest food standards.

The Picnic Basket menu combines simplicity with unique and distinctive tastes. They merge flavors from the Mediterranean, Italy and Asia to create a diverse menu with an intriguing amount of variety and edge. They offer more than fifteen different types of sandwiches as well as a selection of delicious soups, sides and salads with homemade signature dressings. They regularly update and increase their menu selections so that their offerings are always new and enticing and they pride themselves on the fact that they can appeal to any palate with their ability to customize their menu items to satisfy common dietary restrictions, such as vegan, vegetarian and gluten free. The Picnic Basket takes the mundane sandwich and elevates it to a new level, creating a one of a kind experience that you must taste to believe!

 

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Susan Palmer, Owner of Little Red Kitchen Bake Shop

This is Susan Palmer, the owner of Little Red Kitchen Bake Shop. A native New Yorker, Susan grew up on Long Island with a family that always seemed to have a connection to food. Her grandfather owned a wholesale candy business in Brooklyn so growing up she remembers hearing stories about the “candy man” whose staircases were always lined with boxes of candy. Watching Julia Child on PBS or other cooking shows was a normal occurrence for her and her three brothers, all of whom worked in restaurants throughout their lives as servers and cooks. One of her brothers even went on to open his own restaurant in Great Neck. Although no one in her family is trained professionally, both of her parents cooked regularly so cooking, baking and working in restaurants always felt natural to them and they all had a passion for it. However Susan didn’t think of pursuing a career in food until 2011 when she decided that she wanted a hobby to dedicate her free time to and started a food blog. After growing frustrated with the lack of growth in her corporate job and realizing that she could earn a living from the content she created on her blog, she took a risk and turned her hobby into a career. And although her kitchen is no longer little or red, Susan is committed to staying loyal to her brand of home style baked goods by using high quality ingredients and only creating small batches of her mouthwatering desserts.

Susan was a music major in college and worked at a theatre company on Broadway for eight years before starting her own business. Although she loves music and plays orchestral percussion, she has stage fright and recognized that as a woman in the music industry with limited performance spots to begin with and no interest in teaching, building a career in music would be hard for her to sustain. So she decided to work in an industry where she could still appreciate the music without the uncertainty of being a performer. She says that she really enjoyed her time working in the theatre industry but as the years continued, she hit a plateau in her position and became unhappy with her job. She began dreading going to work and turned to her food blog (named after the red kitchen she was cooking in in her 7×7 apartment) as a side project since she was already making various dishes at home and taking pictures of them for fun. During this time she also began entering different cooking competitions, most notably The Takedowns, a competition that was started in Brooklyn by Matt Timms where self-taught cooks bring their various creations, including cookies, for people to taste and vote for the best ones. Susan did the cookie takedown in 2011 and 2013 and won both times and also won in 2012 when she did the ice cream takedown. Through these competitions she realized that people enjoyed what she was making, since she kept winning, and her blog was bringing in enough revenue to allow her to earn a living. With this knowledge, she decided to turn her love of cooking into a career and began working on her own recipes and taking steps to open her own business.

Susan continued entering competitions, running her food blog and working full time until 2014. Once she had committed to the idea of running her own business, she strongly believed that if she was going to open her own bake shop, she was going to do it right and took the time to do just that. She used the entire year of 2013 to create a business plan with a consultant and did a lot of research to perfect her chocolate chip cookie recipe. In May 2014, she did a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the business and officially launched it that fall. However, she continued working for the theatre company for another year after that to give herself a solid foundation to rely on before transitioning to the bake shop full time. She says that she did have some anxiety about lack of money and stability when starting the business and then again when she made it her full time focus. But it wasn’t as much anxiety as a music career would have given her or the anxiety that she felt at a job she was unhappy doing. Food brought her joy and she felt less uncertainty starting her own business because she was taking matters into her own hands and choosing her own path. Like any entrepreneur, there were a few moments when she second guessed herself but she kept pushing through them and was quickly able to learn the hustle of the food industry.

Today Susan has grown the blog that started in her little, red kitchen into a successful wholesale business. She sells her cookies, brownies and blondies at small retailers throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn and also does food service for the catering department at Murray’s Cheese and 10Below Ice Cream. She does her own catering as well and has a reputation for creating custom items for her clients. The toughest part of the business is that the dessert market is very saturated in New York so it’s difficult to find customers to sell her products to. Which is why she’s so intent on keeping her items homemade and authentic in order to differentiate herself from the many other bake shops and dessert businesses that she’s competing with. Everything is made to order in small batches by Susan or her baking assistant. She’s very picky about the types of ingredients that she’ll use because quality matters to her more than anything. Almost every ingredient they use is organic. She won’t use corn syrup or enriched flour and will only use food coloring when a client requests it. On top of having a product that tastes good, she doesn’t want her items to be loaded with additives that are bad for her customer’s bodies. It’s more important for her to create high quality products than do something that’s better for her financially. Which is also why she bakes a lot of vegan and gluten free customized items and takes her time creating them so that anything vegan or gluten free doesn’t “taste” vegan or gluten free. She enjoys that her customer’s dietary restrictions have helped her think outside the box of what’s considered “normal” for baking.

Susan recently moved into a larger commercial kitchen in Brooklyn and her focus now is expanding into more retail locations and doing more catering. She’s always working to make sure that her products are the best quality possible and that they create a taste that you remember. Her mission is to take the cookies that you loved growing up and make them even more delicious, so that when you bite into one of her cookies, you get a flashback to your childhood… but it’s even better than you remember. The most rewarding part of the business for Susan is making customers happy and she strives to recreate “that warm feeling inside” that you get when an experience makes you nostalgic. She hopes that when customers buy her products she’s able to transfer to them the joy that she gets from cooking and baking and will always go the extra mile to make sure that her customer is satisfied. 

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

 

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To Our Customers and Vendors…

We wanted to take a moment to say thank you to all of our amazing clients and vendors who made 2018 so special. We truly would not be where we are today without the hardworking business owners that we represent and the thoughtful customers that value our mission and are helping us to create a more diverse food community throughout New York City!

We’re so proud of everything that we accomplished this year with the help of our loyal clients and dedicated vendors who create the delicious food that we’re able to showcase during team lunches, office happy hours and so much more. Thank you for continuing to support our team and giving purpose to our journey. We appreciate all of you!

We hope that everyone is enjoying this holiday time with friends, family and of course, some delightful food! We’re looking forward to continuing to improve our concierge catering service in 2019 and can’t wait to see what this next chapter brings!

From everyone at FoodtoEat, we wish you happy holidays and a happy and healthy new year! 

The FoodtoEat Team

 

0 comments on “Spread Holiday Cheer with Our Shepherd’s Pie Recipe”

Spread Holiday Cheer with Our Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

Tired of the serving the same food every holiday season? Switch things up with our lentil shepherd’s pie! Although it’s typically a dish that you make in March around St. Patrick’s Day, the flavor and warmth that this feel good food provides makes it the perfect meal to indulge in during the winter. And we’ve got a simple and straightforward recipe that will make creating it a breeze!

Instead of doing the traditional ground beef or lamb, we made our recipe with lentils and mushrooms, which is a crowd-pleaser for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. Plus you get the added bonus of this recipe being somewhat healthier for you (what can we say, it still has a layer of mashed potatoes…) while also tasting delicious! So next time you’re looking for some comfort food when the temperature drops, try it out and have some friends over to taste test your work! Slainte!

Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

Recipe serves 6

You’ll Need:

For the Filling

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

5 large carrots, chopped

3 stalks of celery, chopped

1 lb mixed mushrooms, sliced (ex: shiitake, cremini, mini portobello, white button)

4 large cloves of garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup red wine (ex: cabernet, merlot, chianti)

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons flour

3 cups vegetable broth

1 lb cooked lentils

1 cup frozen peas

2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley

1/2 cup tomato sauce

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons pepper

For the Topping

4 large potatoes

1/2 stick of butter

1 cup whole milk

3 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped 

2 teaspoons garlic powder

salt 

pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees while you make the filling! First, heat olive oil in a large skillet (we used a cast iron skillet for easy stove top to oven transfer) then add in onions, carrots and celery and saute for about 10 minutes. Next add in the mushrooms, garlic, herbs and 1 teaspoon of salt and cook for about 8-10 minutes until mushrooms have softened. Once the mushrooms are cooked down, stir in tomato paste, red wine and Worcestershire sauce, scraping the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spatula. Continue to cook for another 10 minutes or until the wine is almost completely absorbed. Then stir in flour, vegetable broth, cooked lentils, tomato sauce, frozen peas, parsley, pepper and remaining salt and cook for 5 minutes. Once cooked through, turn off stove and set aside.

Next you’ll make the topping. Bring a large pot of water to a boil while you peel and cut the potatoes into large chunks. Once the water is boiled, add the potatoes and cook until they are fork tender. When the potatoes are tender, remove from heat and drain the water. Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl and add the milk, butter, garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste. Mix or mash the ingredients, being sure to add the milk 1/2 cup at a time so that the potatoes don’t get too watery. Once the potatoes are smooth and creamy, add the fresh chopped chives and mix.

Once your topping is complete, you’re ready to put both parts together! Spread the mashed potato topping over the filling mixture that you prepared in your skillet. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes and then broil on high until the top of the mashed potatoes are lightly browned and the filling is bubbly (should be about 4-5 minutes, depending on your oven). When the topping is at your desired crispiness remove from the oven and serve for a delicious Meatless Monday…. or Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday or Friday or Saturday or Sunday 🙂

 

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PriaVanda Chouhan, Owner of Desi Galli

This is PriaVanda Chouhan, the owner of Desi Galli, a fast casual restaurant that specializes in Indian street food. What makes Pria such a unique business owner is that before Desi Galli, she had no experience in the food industry (other than a few years working at McDonald’s). Her parents moved from India to Montreal, Canada in 1973 and at that time, there wasn’t much variety in regards to Indian food. There were only one or two Indian restaurants in the city and they found that they didn’t have traditional Indian flavors and weren’t as authentic as what they could create themselves at home. So growing up, food was a major part of Pria’s life as lunch and dinner were made daily in her home. However, it was typically either her mother or her sister cooking. Pria would always help in the kitchen, peeling potatoes or washing dishes, but she hated the grunt work of food prep and had no interest in learning how to cook since someone else in the family was already doing it for her. It wasn’t until she moved to New York and got married in 2009 that she decided to to learn how to cook. She and her husband were gaining weight eating out at different restaurants and they never felt satisfied with the Indian food that they tried because it never tasted like the food at home. So she taught herself to cook watching Food Network and shows like Rachael Ray and calling her mom, her sister and her mother-in-law for advice on creating different dishes. At the time, she says, she didn’t have any bigger picture in mind other than gaining “basic life skills”, but after trying in vain to get a job during and after the recession, she was frustrated and decided to create her own destiny. So she created a menu based on the dishes that she and her husband grew up eating and in 2012, opened Desi Galli.

Desi Galli was not an overnight success. Although Pria had been cooking for two to three years at this point, starting with simple recipes and then building upon that foundation, she had issues transferring her recipe knowledge from feeding 3-4 people to mass production. In the restaurant she had to do a lot of taste testing to make sure that each ingredient was portioned correctly so that the dishes weren’t too salty or too creamy. She also had never been in charge of a kitchen so with the help of her first employee (who now manages her Lexington Avenue location), they figured out what equipment and set up was needed to run a line as they went. In the first year, her husband managed the restaurant while also working at his full-time job so that he could help Pria as she was learning the different areas of the business. Despite the insane hours she and her husband were working and the threat of bankruptcy looming over her head, Pria worked through her mistakes and was able to start listening to her customer’s requests. Their menu started out as mainly Indian street food because she wanted that “tapas feel” of having a little bit of everything that she and her husband enjoyed. But she noticed that people were coming into the restaurant and asking for traditional dishes, which they didn’t offer. She realized that she had to “ease the customer into the food”, i.e. let them try the traditional, staple items first and then educate them about chaat and kathi rolls. So she changed the menu to incorporate the classic dishes that customers were looking for as well as heavier items for dinner, such as biryani and naan. These changes helped in stabilizing the business and allowed her to get a better understanding of how a fast casual restaurant needs to run.

Looking back Pria says that she may have jumped into the restaurant industry a little too quickly. She was offered the space for her restaurant in February and opened in May and admittedly did very little research into the business beforehand. However, she knew how to run a business from her time working as a Regional Sales Manager for a clothing line in Canada (where she managed the province of Quebec and had 250 employees working underneath her) and she trusted her instinct that this was the right move. Now she has a handle on how the industry runs and is ready to focus on improving her business model and expanding it. One of the biggest things she’s concentrated on at the moment is educating people about her food. She said people will sometimes tell her that her food “doesn’t taste like India”, which she tries not to take personally as all of the recipes for her menu items come from somewhere in their family, with Pria adding her own spin to it. However, she attributes this comment to the lack of understanding that there are different interpretations of Indian food, which are often based on where your family is from and the way you grew up eating a specific food. For Pria, Desi Galli is her interpretation of what she and her husband grew up eating. But one significant thing that does impact the taste of her food is Pria’s commitment to cutting back on heavy creams and oils that are traditionally found in Indian food. After her weight gain the first few months in New York, she started educating herself on what she was eating and became much more conscious of that fats and oils that your body can’t digest and make you feel bad. Therefore, when creating the menu for Desi Galli, she tried to keep items lighter and healthier, which benefits customers and also allows her to stand out from the heaviness of her competitors.

Desi Galli is a unique business. The name itself comes from the restaurant’s structure: desi meaning “one from the Indian subcontinent” and galli meaning “alley”, so “Indian alley” because the space is so narrow. It makes it seem like you’re going to a hole in the wall, which Pria plays into with her delicious and unique menu items like chicken tikka sliders or their famous desipoutine (french fries with tikka sauce and grated paneer). But more than being known for their unique food, Pria also wants to be known for being a “no pressure” restaurant where people can sit and have a cup of chai or eat a snack without feeling like there’s any rush. In New York she found that there weren’t many places to eat, drink and hang out as compared to Montreal, where cafes are very common. So she created Desi Galli to be a cafe-esque space with outlets everywhere so that customers are encouraged to hang out and do work, read or just chill. She incorporates this European vibe to remind customers to take some time alone to slow down and relax when things get hectic. For Pria, keeping customers happy is the most rewarding part of the business. Whether they’re eating in the restaurant or ordering catering, she loves hearing that her customers love her food or got so many compliments at an event that they’re recommending Desi Galli to a friend for catering. It gives her the belief that customers are becoming more open-minded and willing to step out of their comfort zone when you create a good product.

Although the unpredictability of fast casual restaurants is one of the most challenging parts of the business for Pria, she’s looking forward to continuing to expand her business. She now has a second Desi Galli location in the East Village and both locations are doing very well. She says that she’s open to reinventing menu items if she sees that demand again from customers but her current concentration is continuing to do what she’s doing and do it really well. She did face some sexism when she first started out, specifically from other male business owners in her area but now that she’s established herself, she feels that she is part of a larger community that’s working to diversify the New York food industry.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

 

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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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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.