0 comments on “Janie Deegan, Founder of Janie’s Life-Changing Baked Goods”

Janie Deegan, Founder of Janie’s Life-Changing Baked Goods

In the realm of desserts, cookies and pies will always be at the top of the list. Imagine both of them combined into one type of dessert… Now THAT is a mouthwatering thought. Good news for you, it can be! After many trials and errors creating cookies, cakes, and pies in her home kitchen, Janie Deegan (founder of Janie’s Life-Changing Baked Goods)  created something special: her famous Pecan Pie Crust Cookie.

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But before we go into the details of this delicious cookie, Janie’s story needs to be heard. In her early 20’s, Janie was an alcoholic and an addict. Her addiction eventually lead her to being homeless and isolated, with no communication between Janie and her family and friends. Her life was at a standstill, and close relatives started to feel helpless after telling her multiple times to get sober. It was a dark time for Janie, who says that her problems with addiction had been building for years, due to her inability to deal with stress and anxiety. . But when Janie turned 25, something inside of her changed. She started to crave the desire to turn her life and to become sober one day at a time.

Janie found a job as a superintendent in a building in the East village where was taking people’s garbage out but “living life!”. She started to realize that she wanted to develop skills of her own and pursue a career. One thing was crystal clear to her though: in order to deal with her anxiety and stress as well as continue to combat her addiction, she needed to have control over the results in what she did. And that is why baking was perfect for her! She baked a lot of cakes as a child with her mom, so she knew she was good at it. And it turns out that baking is more than creating something sweet. Baking is accompanied with a broad amount of psychological benefits. Baking for Janie, and for many others, allows her to cope with stress, to express her love, to communicate better with others, and to give back to those who always loved and supported her. Baking gives Janie control in her life as well. It is a step-by-step process, always (well, most of the times) following the same metrics. If you put the right amount of sugar, butter and flour, you will always create that perfect cookie.

Years of gaps in her resume and very few work experiences were no excuse for Janie to not start taking her life back. “I mean, I wish I could put my sobriety on a resume because what I’ve learned from not drinking has totally changed my life. It is crazy for me to think of the person I was at 25 – always scared, meek, filled with fear and no concept of self love. What I have developed in the past six years is all about strength, courage and learning to follow through. I have found the real me – not the better me, not the worse me but the real me. And that is a huge blessing”.

Taking a leap of faith, Janie made her first investment in herself and purchased her very first $25 mixer. She started baking pies and cakes, the sweets that brought her the most joy as a child, and she would bring them to friends’ dinners and parties since it was all she could afford to offer. But people would immediately ask her where she bought these delicious treats! And they always kept asking for more. It was because of these friends and family that supported her that Janie started regaining her self-confidence and pride in her work that had been lost for many years.

“I was definitely scared to start since I did not go to culinary school. I would keep thinking: Who am I to think that I could be a business woman?! But it’s funny because whenever I think about what type of career I want, I always tell myself: one where I am able to work out in the middle of the day or grab lunch with a friend. But so you hear this word “entrepreneur” and it freaks you out because it is such a big word. But I’ve come to realize that if you are doing something you love, then you are already an entrepreneur”.

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And so right before turning 30, Janie decided to fully focus on growing her business. She stopped working as a superintendent and as a nanny, and committed to her dream of being an entrepreneur. Since she needed financial help, Janie applied for the Pepsi’s “Stacy’s Rise Project” and won the grant because of her story. This program was specifically focused on elevating women in the food industry through an entrepreneurship program – and that is exactly what happened. For the past two years it has been a nonstop mission for Janie to be completely genuine and dedicated with what she is doing. She wants her story to reach as many people to encourage those who have struggled with an addiction or those who lack the courage to build a business due to self-esteem. “I think that is why people keep asking for more. I mean, the cookies are great but people really relate on a personal level with what I am doing. You need to find something that sets you apart from the others; that is how you succeed”.

As for what the future holds, Janie wants to continue doing corporate catering and selling at local markets but is looking to switch her products to consumer packaged goods to reach a wider audience. She knows that it will definitely get more challenging as the business grows since she is the chef, the sales person, the PR person, and everything in between. “It is hard to keep the business alive while trying to grow it. Seeing me on my Quickbooks is like pulling hair!” But New York City is the city to be when seeking business resources. There are so many programs for small businesses and people to connect with and Janie has found a lot of support in this community. The food industry, surprisingly enough, is very nurturing of each other – especially among female-owned businesses.

Past experiences have led Janie to value what is important for her, what her goals in life are and what it takes to pursue them. She intends to be a second chance employer, and work specifically with homeless shelter and halfway houses to be a resource for a community that she was once a part of. Janie is the perfect example that you do not need to have a particular degree to pursue a dream or discourage yourself if going through a rough time. Dedication, passion, and a genuine mission will get you far ahead of the game.

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0 comments on “Food Waste: Think. Eat. React.”

Food Waste: Think. Eat. React.

OVERVIEW

 “If food waste were a country, it would come in third after the United States and China in terms of global warming” (Frischmann, 2018). It is no secret to anyone that food waste, especially in the U.S., is a major problem. Every year, $210 billion is spent on food that is never eaten, amounting to 52 million tons sent to landfills annually. Another 10 million tons are discarded or left unharvested on farms. Yet, one in eight Americans (estimated 49 million) are food insecure. 

Food waste not only has social and economic implications, but also environmental. As 40% of food in the United States goes uneaten and sent to landfills, it contributes to 8% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. When the food rots in the landfill, it starts to release a chemical known as methane that is known to be “25 times more powerful than CO2” (Vogliano and Brown, 10). Only about 3% of the food in the U.S. is actually composted. 

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But food waste is not generic. Companies, consumers and countries contribute to food waste in different forms. In developing countries, for example, most food waste occurs before even reaching the market. Some reasons include inefficiency in transportation, equipment, packaging and storing the food. On the other hand, developed countries contribute in a larger extent to food waste once it has reached the consumer level. Big contributors are businesses such as grocery stores, institutions, catering departments and restaurants. Grocery stores specifically generate an absurd amount due to “cosmetic imperfections, expiration dates, damaged items and food returns” (Otten, 4). Other sectors such as restaurants generate due to “food trimmings, planned overproduction, spoilage and food served that customers do not eat” (Otten, 4). 

According to the National Resource Defense Council, “if we are able to just rescue 15% of the food waste in the U.S., we could save enough to feed 25 million citizens” (Move For Hunger). Surprisingly, consumers waste the most food compared to supermarkets and other businesses. 43% of the food waste occurs at home, equaling a loss of about $1,300-$2,200 for a family of four every year (Move For Hunger). Moreover, wasting food affects the environment not just from the gases that are released but also from the unnecessary excessive use of resources – 21% of fresh water, 18% of cropland, and 19% of fertilizer used to produce the food wasted.

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SOLUTIONS

As a community, we need to start working together to reduce the amount of food waste sent to landfills. Because solutions vary from corporations to restaurants to consumers, we’ve provided a general view of what solutions can be implemented in order to tackle this issue. 

For Businesses (grocery stores, catering departments, corporations, restaurants, organizations): 

  1. Improve data on food loss to estimate how much is being thrown away and how much should be bought 
  2. More accurate forecast demands based on consumer purchases to only bulk those items who sell the most
  3. Connect with organizations that provide surplus food to local shelters, after-school programs and other non-profit organizations.  
  4. If you are part of a company that caters often, partner with a catering service, like FoodtoEat, that knows how to portion correctly.
  5. Educate consumers on what the difference is between “use by” and “sell by” dates, on how to decrease food waste with more efficient storing methods and on how to better reduce, recover and recycle. 
  6. Invest in new technologies that can lengthen shelf life of fresh meat/poultry/fish, can delay the ripening of fruits and vegetables during shipping and storage, and monitor food waste in large communal kitchens to reduce costs. 
  7. Find creative ways to sell or avoid wasting food that has been mislabeled, bruised or overproduced.  

For Consumers:

  1. Move older food products to the front of the fridge so you remember to eat them!
  2. Take your restaurant leftovers with you and refrigerate them. That way, you don’t have to spend money on your next lunch at work. 
  3. This is going to sound weird, but check your garbage. Not to pick the leftovers, but to know what food you are tossing regularly so you buy less of it. 
  4. Compost excess food if you have a terrace or lawn. This will enrich your soil and help decrease greenhouse gasses. 
  5. Meal prep! By knowing what you have in your fridge, you know what you are missing in order to buy. 
  6. Most importantly, embrace the so-called “ugly” fruits and vegetables! They have exactly the same minerals, vitamins and nutrients as those more pleasing to the eye. This is BY FAR one of the biggest issues with major grocery chains. 
  7. Freeze! Freezing food is the best method to not let it rot. For example, those leafy greens that seem to soft for your salad are perfect to be put in the freezer for smoothies. 

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THE BOTTOM LINE

Food waste is a big challenge, but there are already numerous companies investing in technology to combat this battle as well as individuals taking action. Addressing this problem is beneficial for our communities, our bank accounts, our health, our soil, and individuals with very few resources.

While we need all possible solutions to be implemented in parallel, our daily decisions on how we produce, consume, and purchase is the most important contribution. We, the consumers, are the most significant cause of food waste (Robbins, 2018) since our way of thinking triggers companies’ actions. For example, if we demand more “ugly” products in our supermarkets, these chains will start promoting more and wasting less of them.

That being said, individuals being the main cause of food waste can be seen in a positive light. If we want to improve the ecosystem that surrounds us, we can change our decision making process to make businesses and organizations act quicker and smarter. In fact, we can all start today…

References:
0 comments on “Manal Kahi, Co-Founder of Eat Offbeat”

Manal Kahi, Co-Founder of Eat Offbeat

Imagine hummus in 2013. Can’t remember? We can tell you – it was not good.

Lebanese Manal Kahi had the exact same thought when coming to the U.S. for her master’s degree in International Affairs. She was surprised by how popular the dip was and even more surprised when people said how great it tasted. As popular as these brands were, pre-packaged foods never taste as good as if you cook it yourself. And for Manal, it was common to have great quality products since she grew up with an orchard outside her home that was filled with tomatoes, lemons, parsley and other vegetables. Having all of these fresh ingredients, it was impossible for there to be pre-packaged hummus or tabbouleh on her family’s dinner table.

So when she decided that she didn’t want to continue eating supermarket hummus anymore, Manal started making her own and bringing it to her friends’ parties and events. After so many compliments and requests, Manal knew there was a gap in the market for hummus that she could fill. When thinking  “who can bring really good hummus to the U.S.!?”, it was a no-brainer for both Manal and her brother, who grew up in a family that created it fresh every day and whose recipe was passed down through generations.

At the same time, the Syrian refugee crisis was continuing to worsen, and many refugees were searching for a better life in the U.S. Manal herself had to leave Lebanon because of the intense turmoil and living in the U.S., she felt powerless watching the devastation in her country. She wanted to help her people but wasn’t sure how to do that across the world. After thinking about the crisis non-stop, Manal connected the dots and found a way to be useful to those who were suffering in the midst of the crisis. She contacted the International Rescue Committee, an agency that helps refugees resettle and find housing, employment, childcare and education. Her initial idea was to solely hire Syrian refugees to make hummus and other kind of authentic Middle Eastern meals. But she quickly found out that hummus in the U.S. was a market that was completely over-saturated and very competitive price-wise. And after seeing so much potential and diversity in the refugees, Manal decided to expand her idea. She started to create a community that would open it’s doors for refugees that came to NYC looking for a job and allow them to create the dishes authentic to their culture. Now, refugees from countries such as Afghanistan, Senegal, Sri Lanka, and Guinea replicate the meals that they cooked back home and deliver them to hungry New Yorkers. That is how Eat Offbeat started in 2015.

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Eat Offbeat is a social impact catering company that serves authentic meals made by talented refugees. They cater office lunches, happy hours, private parties and large conferences. The company’s goals are to introduce New Yorkers to real, authentic food products, to build bridges between those eating the food and the refugees who make it, and to flip the narrative to what it means to be a refugee. Most importantly, they focus on erasing the negative connotation around the word “refugee” and educating customers about the human beings behind the food at Eat Offbeat. Because of these refugees, Eat Offbeat is still able to be in business. The refugees themselves are the ones who come up with the recipes, and then are trained over a four to five month period in order to have the recipes standardized and scaled to feed larger groups of people for catering. Over 40 refugee chefs have been trained since Eat Offbeat began by exceptional people like Chef Juan, a Michelin star chef who works with Manal and her team to give each chef the kitchen skills needed to produce their dishes on a daily basis. In addition, these refugees take a lot of pride in their work. All of the dishes served include a small description and a picture of the chef who prepared it. It is part of the company’s mission to ensure that the refugees are being represented and are part of the consumer’s experience. Any dish served is served as a dish from a particular refugee, not the company itself. Giving the chef ownership of their dish restores dignity for an individual that has lost everything and has to start over again in a country separated from their family and friends.

But as in any business, challenges arise. When asked, Manal said her two biggest challenges are the margins on food being too low, and the perception of being a non-profit organization. From an investor’s point of view, Eat Offbeat is sometimes seen as a business that is less aggressive or less profitable because of having refugees as employees and being looked as a non-profit. From a customer’s point of view, the initial thought is usually “Oh, it’s a cute non-profit that supports refugees. They probably are too small to cater for us” (Manal). Manal finds that many customer assume they are a non-profit and can provide free food or discounted food for events or meals. However, she runs a business just like any other restaurant, so changing the way consumers see them is something her team is working on. However, Manal believes that despite these challenges, the impact the business has on the refugees they employ is worth the struggle. “All the effort, all the trouble and all the challenges are worth at the end of the day. Knowing customers are trying something completely new and exotic, and that they are happy motivates our chefs. They are kind of taking a step off the beaten path, and trying to be more open minded to where food comes from; connecting with our team, with immigrants and their status” (Manal).

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An open mind brings more opportunities. This is how Manal wants consumers to start thinking when connecting with her business. It is very important for her to build a personal connection between Eat Offbeat’s mission and the customers that order from them. Manal says, “for me, we have achieved our mission if someone tries chef Nazreen’s chicken and goes crazy for it, automatically associating Iran with that dish, rather than anything else they may have heard about Iran or what they think about Iran’s problems. So instead, when they think about Iran, they will think about Nazreen and how amazing the flavors of the chicken were. And how lovely Nazreen is, rather than any preconceived notions they may have had about the country” (Manal). Human connection beyond food is what many food businesses strive to have. These refugees learned in the kitchen with their mothers and grandmothers while most of us find inspiration through blogs and websites. Consumers today don’t have the personal connection that they once had with food, mainly because of the digital era we are in. It’s very rare to have a connection with the people that produce our food but that’s what Eat Offbeat is hoping to change. Manal wants to reconnect people with food and let them know more about who cooked the food arrives on their plates.

Eat Offbeat is a company where they shed light the skills of their refugees, rather than what their status represents. They are refugees by status, but chefs by nature.

 

Need catering for you and your team? Contact us!

 

 

0 comments on “This Recipe is on Fire: Our Grilled Summer Flatbread Pizza!”

This Recipe is on Fire: Our Grilled Summer Flatbread Pizza!

Pizza is one of our favorite food groups. It’s a staple item that can be eaten any time of year and is consistently delicious. No matter how you top it, if there’s a crispy crust and melted cheese, we’re in.

Which is why we’re so excited for this month’s recipe blog! We get to share our amazing flatbread pizza recipe that looks like it was created by a gourmet chef but really requires 7 ingredients and is ready in under 20 minutes. Oh yeah! So whether you’re looking for a quick meal or a fun way to spice up the menu at your next rooftop party, our Grilled Summer Flatbread Pizza is the perfect way to turn up the heat this month!

Grilled Summer Flatbread Pizza

Recipe serves 2 as a meal/3-4 as an appetizer

You’ll Need:

2 pieces naan (we used roasted garlic but plain works as well!)

1 ball Burrata cheese

1/2 cup fire roasted corn (you can buy frozen or char corn on the stove or grill)

1 bunch of asparagus

1 teaspoon fresh chopped parsley

handful of heirloom cherry tomatoes, sliced

arugula (for garnish)

Before you start cooking, you want to make sure that all of your ingredients are prepped, so we’ll start by blanching the asparagus! Bring a pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add the asparagus and cook for 30-60 seconds. After 30-60 seconds, immediately remove from water and transfer to a bowl with ice water to stop the cooking process. Leave in ice water until you’re ready to use!

Once your asparagus is ready, start your pizza creation by grilling your naan. We used a cast iron grill pan but an outdoor grill is preferable! Grill the naan for two minutes on each side or until grill marks have been formed.

Next spread the burrata evenly on the naan and top with fire roasted corn, blanched asparagus, sliced heirloom cherry tomatoes and arugula. Broil for approximately 3 minutes or until naan begins to brown and the cheese gets bubbly. Or, as an alternative, you can place directly on the grill until the cheese gets bubbly. Once at your desired crispiness, remove from grill and let cool. Serve with your favorite chilled beverage and enjoy!

0 comments on “Einat Admony, Owner of Taïm”

Einat Admony, Owner of Taïm

This is Einat Admony, the owner of Taïm. Born in Israel, she grew up eating Yemenite and Persian food, in addition to Moroccan and Eastern European dishes. She was a curious girl that loved exploring, especially different cuisines and cultures. From a young age, Einat would always help her mother prepare the Shabbat dinner. When she turned eighteen, she served both as a driver and ad hoc cook in the Israeli Army, where she understood that cooking was her real passion and that it was something she would never get bored of. After spending a few months traveling, she came to New York City to begin her culinary career as a chef. 

Einat spent seven years working in different fine dining restaurants such as Patria, Bolo, Tabla and Danube in New York. Because she loves to travel and learn from other cultures, Einat knew the best way to immerse herself in these cultures was to work in restaurants with differing cuisines and familiarize herself with their dishes. These greater experiences made Einat want to start building an empire of her own. In 2005, she opened Taïm: a fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant in the West Village. Realizing many people did not know exactly what Israeli/Jewish food looked like, Einat knew she had to change that. “Israeli food is much more colorful, full of flavors, with spices and layers of excitement that many people do not imagine it to be!”. That said, Taïm is the ultimate representation of how people should eat Middle Eastern/Mediterranean food!

Surprisingly enough, Einat mentions how easy it was to open her first Taïm location. It took Einat and her husband just a couple of months! As we all know, competition wasn’t as fierce and harsh as it is nowadays. And since she did not have any children yet, Einat and her husband had more flexibility on spending longer evenings at the restaurant and building the business.

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After seeing the extensive line of hungry customers craving more and more of her delicious falafel, Einat decided to expand to other locations in Nolita and Midtown. And when dreaming even bigger, Einat and her husband decided to explore nearby cities for growth. Both found that Washington D.C. could be the perfect hub to expand their business. Besides D.C. being very culturally well-rounded, its proximity to NYC made the most sense as to the expansion to a new state. 

So what is chef’s Einat hidden secret to Taïm’s success?! She mentions there are many in order to keep a busy restaurant running, but you always need a key differentiator to keep people coming. For Taïm, Einat is confident about her falafel! In Israel, according to Einat, eating falafel is as cheap as eating a slice of street pizza in NYC. She grew up being surrounded by it, especially because her mother would always make them. But when creating her own, it took her many months to perfect her recipe because she wanted it to be the item that Taïm is known for. Knowing the methods used to prepare the food as well as cook it was very important to her. For Einat, making falafel requires the freshest ingredients, the correct seasonings and flavors, the perfect amount of chickpeas, and the right texture – “crispy, crunchy on the outside but moist on the inside” (Taïm). There are many other restaurants that offer falafel, but many of them leave your plate filled with oil. This is a no-go at Taïm, where falafel are fried but to the precise moment where they don’t become greasy. To Einat, this is a very important difference, it provides customers with richly-flavored products while still keeping them healthy. 

Besides falafel,  Taïm serves a vast amount of other healthy, fresh menu options – many of which are vegan. Having vegan and vegetarian dishes for Einat is extremely important, as she wants to educate more consumers on the importance of cutting down on animal products for health and environmental reasons. Her focus on healthy dishes directly correlates Taïm’s identity of being “a vegetarian mecca, a vegan temple”. 

Educating customers about Israeli food and vegetarian choices as well as watching them enjoy her food and seeing the happiness that it brings them are the many rewards of the business, Einat says. With the amazing team she currently works with and her husband’s constant involvement, Einat is confident that she will be able to expand the business further as time goes on. Although it’s challenging to do so in NYC, due to the intense competition in the market, Einat says, ” if you make it in NYC’s market, you can scale up anywhere!”.

It is always easier to compete with others when doing something one loves and is passionate for like Einat with cooking. She is motivated to continue cooking and can’t imagine what it would be like if she couldn’t. Experimenting in the kitchen is what keeps her going; it is her fuel. Inspiration, she says, comes from multiple sources: colors, music, flowers and other food creations. One just needs to dig deep and find them!

 

 

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0 comments on “Your Guide to Celebrating LDW in NYC!”

Your Guide to Celebrating LDW in NYC!

When you think of LDW (Labor Day Weekend), the images of beaches and celebratory BBQs most often come to mind. But for others, LDW means watching the city empty out and enjoying all of the amazing parts of New York without the crowds. If a long weekend getaway isn’t accessible for you (which is the case for many New Yorkers), there are still plenty of ways to enjoy the days that are dedicated to acknowledging the contributions of workers throughout the country.

From food and drinks to live sporting events, it’s easy to find activities to take part in with friends and family while you say goodbye to summer and prepare for fall. Here are a few ways for you to celebrate LDW like a true New Yorker!

Eat, Drink and Be Merry at Maison Premiere: Many restaurants extend their happy hours or offer discounts on food over Labor Day Weekend but our favorite way to celebrate is at Maison Premiere in Brooklyn. Opening at noon on Labor Day, enjoy live jazz, fresh seafood and BBQ specials while sipping on delicious drinks. To check out all of the details and make a reservation, click here!

Watch the Classics at The Met’s Live in HD Festival: The Summer HD Festival hosted by The Metropolitan Opera runs from August 23rd to September 2nd and features ten amazing performances, including Aida, Carmen and Luisa Miller. Join over 3,000 of your closest friends and neighbors (not kidding) as they watch the music come to life. Bonus: it’s free! Check out the full line up of performances here.

Experience the West Indian Day Parade: There ain’t no party like the West Indian Day Parade party… which also happens to fall on Labor Day! This parade is the culmination of New York Caribbean Carnival Week, ending with a seven hour carnival that runs down Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. It’s the perfect way to celebrate the end of summer while immersing yourself in Caribbean culture AND some amazing costumes!

Attend a U.S. Open Match: The U.S. Open Tennis Championships start on August 26th bringing the best tennis players in the world to Queens. With multiple games going on each day, you have plenty of options to fit this thrilling tournament into your schedule. Need recommendations for where to eat while you’re there? We got you covered.

Take a Dip in Astoria Park!: Sometimes you just gotta beat the heat. And if you’re looking to cool off anywhere, make it at the Astoria Park pool. The largest swimming pool in NYC, it’s conveniently located under the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge and walking distance to some of the best bars and restaurants that Astoria has to offer. But don’t miss your chance- it closes for the season on September 8th!

 

0 comments on “Rohan Aggarwal, Co-Owner of Queens Bully”

Rohan Aggarwal, Co-Owner of Queens Bully

This is Rohan Aggarwal, the co-owner of Queens Bully. A first generation Indian American, Rohan was born and raised in Queens, New York and was immersed in the food industry from a very young age. Growing up Rohan’s father owned a chain of Indian restaurants, so from the time he was five or six years old, his weekends and summers were spent working there. He started out cleaning dishes and busing tables, then doing deliveries and, as he got older, worked his way up to serving and bartending. Although he admits that there were periods of time where he disliked the work, he says that he was drawn towards a career in the restaurant industry because “it runs in my blood”. It’s a business that he’s always known and had a passion for and despite the difficulties, he loves it. It was this passion that lead him to ask his father if he could take over the lease for one of his restaurant locations on Queens Boulevard that had closed down two years beforehand. In 2016, Rohan and his friend, Suraj Patel, took over the space and created Queens Bully, a multi-faceted barbecue restaurant that was designed specifically for the neighborhood to love and enjoy. Their focus on building a culture where everyone is treated like family has turned Queens Bully into a neighborhood hotspot where different people of different ages and different ethnicities all feel at home.

Rohan studied hospitality management in college and after spending a year in India learning Indian cooking techniques and helping to operate his family’s restaurant there, he returned to the U.S. and started working full-time for his father. He was placed at Devi, a standalone location that wasn’t part of the restaurant chain, and began running it’s operations. It was there that he saw a need for a caterer with unique offerings rather than your typical Indian food and expanded the business into catering. However, as Rohan came up with new dishes that tied Indian flavors into other cuisines and curated menus to reach a wider variety of customers, he started getting pushback from his chef. The chef had his own way of doing things and didn’t want to get onboard with these new ideas. Since Rohan had only had front of house training in the past, he wasn’t able to communicate on the same level with the chef and make him understand what was needed and why. He realized that his lack of cooking knowledge made him dependent on the chef for the business to function, which wasn’t something he felt comfortable with, so he enrolled in the Institute of Culinary Education. When he graduated from culinary school in 2014, he continued running catering operations for Devi, despite the fact that they had to close the physical location in 2015. He would rent out a commissary kitchen and have the chefs from Devi come in and cook, piecing together the orders as they came. However, the catering business didn’t last long without a standing space to cook from. It was during this time that Rohan and Suraj had started brainstorming about opening their own restaurant. They both lived in the neighborhood and saw it undergoing rapid gentrification and felt that it was needing something different for the community to enjoy. And since they had the space where they envisioned it existing, they started developing their business plan. When Rohan approached his parents with his plan, they were hesitant at first. They didn’t want him to be in the food business because they knew how hard it was. But once they saw his motivation to run his own place and prove that he could do it, they agreed to let him take over the lease for the space. After a few months of construction, Queens Bully officially opened in July 2017.

Queens Bully

Rohan decided to focus Queens Bully around barbecue as an homage to his father. As an immigrant to the U.S., his father was always fascinated with barbecue as a cuisine and planned to open up an American barbecue restaurant at some point in his career. Unfortunately he never got around to opening the concept so Rohan wanted to do it for him and create a place that his father would be proud of. He and Suraj collaborated with their chefs to make barbecue the base of the menu but made sure to incorporate different flavors and put their own twist on certain recipes to showcase the diversities of Queens. Although they have their top selling items that they can never take off the menu, they do change the menu about twice a year to incorporate seasonal items. A lot of the inspiration for new menu items comes from Rohan or Suraj- from places that they’ve traveled or restaurants where they’ve eaten- but they’re also very open to suggestions from their team. Whenever anyone comes up with an idea, they’ll take it into consideration, play around with it and do it as a special one night to see the reaction from customers. If it goes over well, they add it to the menu. For Rohan, one of the best parts about opening Queens Bully is that there are no rules on the menu. So even though their focus is barbecue, their menu is so broad that they can get away with serving any sort of item, which Rohan loves because it allows him to be creative and play around with a bunch of different flavors.

The name Queens Bully refers to Queens Boulevard, which a lot of Queens natives call “Queens Bully” for short. Rohan says that he and Suraj used the term a lot when they used to park in the area and take the train to wherever they would go out in the city or in Brooklyn. Over the years, they started questioning why they were going out in other boroughs rather than staying local and realized that the problem was finding a place near them in Queens that served good cocktails and beers, had great food and a nice ambiance. They realized that other people in the area must be having this same issue and that there was a really big area of the market being missed. So when opening Queens Bully, they really tried to focus on creating a space in their neighborhood that incorporated all of those different factors that they craved from other establishments. Combining those ingredients together has developed a unique culture that makes them stand out from other restaurants. They’ve built a welcoming environment by treating each customer as if they are a part of their family and designing a restaurant layout that works for a couple that’s going out for a date night as well as a bunch of guys who want to watch the game during happy hour. They’ve been able to create an atmosphere that works for any group of people because it’s very laidback and comfortable and doesn’t try to define itself as a specific establishment. It’s all about what the customer is looking for from the experience and working to meet those expectations. For Rohan, running a business that appeals to and meet the needs of so many different people is a very fulfilling feeling. Having created a neighborhood hangout that attracts such a wide variety of men and women shows him that they have created a change in the neighborhood and that people appreciate them being there.

Although customers love the culture at Queens Bully, Rohan says that the toughest part of the business is creating an environment that your employees trust and getting your employees to see the same vision that you do. Rohan had never created a team culture for employees before Queens Bully so he’s dedicated a lot of time to working with each member of his team so that they understand where he sees Queens Bully going and how he or she is a part of that growth. He wants his staff to be excited about what they’re doing on a day-to-day basis and continue learning, innovating and creating to improve their current operations. In regards to the future of Queens Bully, Rohan is clear that Queens Bully will only be one location, since it was built specifically for it’s neighborhood and just that space. As Rohan says “this concept was strictly made for these four walls”. However, once things are running smoothly with Queens Bully, he does plan on starting a larger hospitality group with Suraj. Seeing himself and his team become leaders in the hospitality industry and create wonderful concepts for people to enjoy is what keeps him motivated. They already have a few concepts that they’ve brainstormed and have been working on but they’re focused on finding the perfect fit location and neighborhood-wise. Rohan says that above everything else, what he’s learned from Queens Bully is that neighborhood matters and if you’re not creating something for the neighborhood, it won’t work.

 

 

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Where to Eat at the 2019 U.S. Open

Nothing can beat watching a live sporting event. Whether you’re inside the stadium or somewhere else, watching the game can be almost as intense as playing. There’s something exciting about cheering for your favorite team or player, and nothing beats the deep emotion you feel when they are victorious.

And what would a sporting event be without great food. One of the biggest sporting events in New York this year is the U.S. Open, which runs for two weeks starting Mon, 26 August and finishing Sun, 8 September. Both inside and outside the famous tennis grounds is a long list of wonderful establishments where you can sample some of the city’s best food. Here are three places you must try if you’re watching the U.S. Open this year.

Champions Bar & Grill

Champions Bar & Grill is a U.S. Open fan favorite and is famous for its meat cuts including a clothesline of bacon. Another favorite is the Ivanaka Salad, served with your choice of shrimps, salmon or chicken. Prices range from $11 to $30 – just what you would expect from a trendy, upscale eatery that will let you watch the tournament from the comfort of the bar’s leather chairs. The Champions Bar & Grill has multiple TVs – all of which are guaranteed to play live matches during the tournament. Whether you are having a break from watching the tennis live or want to catch a game while you eat, you won’t miss a single point.

The Heineken Red Star Patio Café & Bar

The Heineken Red Star is located within the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, and only available to those who are fortunate enough to get tickets to the tournament. City Guide NY recommends The Heineken Red Star Patio Café & Bar for having the best grab-and-go offerings. The recommended choices include the grilled chicken sandwich and lobster club. In its spot on the eastern patio at the center court, it now provides its customers an amazing view of the tournament grounds. It’s also one of the best places to pick up a souvenir glass to take home.

Tianjin Dumpling House

Flushing is a small neighborhood to the east of the USTA Billy Jean King National Tennis Center and home to New York’s very own Chinatown. Tianjin Dumpling is a hidden gem in the basement of the Golden Shopping Mall, a food court located on Main Street. The place is famous for its lamb and green squash dumplings that will cost you $5 for a plate of 12. You must also try their steam buns, fried scallion cakes, and tea eggs. It’s the perfect budget-friendly place to visit in between matches. And as a bonus you will get to see part of New York’s diverse culture.

Who Will Win U.S. Open 2019?

The question on everybody’s lips (in between mouthfuls) is who will win the tournament this year. As the competition draws near many are speculating on who they think will be triumphant in this year’s tournament. The popular picks include up-and-coming Alexander Zverev and tennis veteran Serena Williams.

Zverev’s stellar performance during the 2018 ATP Finals Championship, has resulted in him being hailed as the next big thing to take over from the likes of Djokovic, and he is one of the favorites this year.

Despite failing to win her 24th Grand Slam title last year, Williams is a clear favorite to win this year’s tournament. Her success at this competition (six titles) is a big part of why Serena Williams is the fourth highest earning tennis player of all-time, and the top female earner. With 23 Grand Slams, and maybe a 24th on its way, she will certainly be the one to watch in the women’s side of the draw.

Food is a key part to enjoying a sporting experience, and as the aforementioned places show, the U.S. Open has a wide range of options for every budget. Even if your favorite players don’t win, at least your palette will.

 

Article specially written for foodtoeat.com

By: Chloe Violet

 

Resources:
Image from Pixabay
0 comments on “Antoine Skrzypek, Owner of Cassava House”

Antoine Skrzypek, Owner of Cassava House

This is Antoine Skrzypek, the owner of Cassava House. Growing up in Paris, Antoine says that there was always something going on in his kitchen at home and he always loved to cook. As a young boy, he would frequently bounce back and forth between helping his mother in the kitchen and helping his father outside (repairing things around the house or gardening) until one of them got fed up with him and would send him back to the other. Although he never went to culinary school, Antoine says he was lucky enough to be taught next to the greatest chef in the world- his mother. A small Spanish woman who grew up near Madrid, his mother didn’t have any formal culinary training either but rather learned how to cook out of necessity, as she was the youngest in her family and was expected to help her mother in the kitchen. However, her skills paid off when she moved to Paris and began cooking professionally as a chef in people’s homes and catering dinner parties. Antoine would spend his days watching her cook and learning from her as she created meals for their family and entertained friends who were constantly coming over to eat her amazing food. Despite his passion for food, Antoine never sought it as a career because he didn’t have an official culinary background. In France there was a certain expectation about how a chef should be qualified in order to work in a restaurant, so he was hesitant to take that step into the industry. Instead he stuck to more practical occupations with the thought that he could one day pursue it. In 2017, Antoine opened Cassava House and was finally able to realize the dream he had always had for himself- providing joy to others with the food that he grew up eating.

Antoine’s first job was repairing computers. His father was a builder so Antoine had gotten very good at using his hands and was interested in the mechanical part of the tech industry that had just started developing at that time. He went back to school for two years to learn the trade and ended up getting a great opportunity to be a part of the first company in Paris to work for Apple. However, after two or three years, Apple had come up with technology that made repairing computers unnecessary. Antoine got frustrated and unhappy working with electronic equipment and decided to leave the company, jumping briefly into a role at a restaurant in Paris before deciding to join his friend on a trip to New York. After working in a position that wasn’t fulfilling for him, he says he wanted to do some exploring and see what other opportunities were out there. So he packed his bags and bought a ticket to New York, telling his parents, “If I stay, I stay. If not, I’ll come back.” However, it didn’t take him too long to find an apartment, find a job and get going. He stayed in New York for a year, then spent a few months in Miami working at a restaurant before moving to Seattle for six months and then finally settling back in New York. Living in New York, he noticed that between his roommates and friends, there was always someone who needed something fixed or something built that he was willing and able to help with. It went from Antoine building a loft bed to putting tiles in a bathroom and continued growing. Little by little he started taking on larger projects until he needed to hire someone to help him and then another person and then another. Eventually he started running his own interior renovation business but his passion for food never went away. He would work a whole day and then come home and put himself in front of the stove for an hour and half to make a meal for his family. He found himself cooking for his team and catering dinners for friends but still, the renovation business was working for him so he continued to stick with it.

About thirteen years ago, Antoine stumbled upon bubble tea in Chinatown and got really interested in how he could create a clean, natural version of the jelly and fake syrup that other places were using. Unfortunately he soon realized that he wouldn’t be able to make a satisfactory product because the natural juices didn’t blend well and it would be too expensive to make his own, so he gave up the idea. But, having come up with Cassava House for this concept (bubble tea is made out of cassava), he decided to keep the business name just in case he had a chance to revisit it in the future. That chance came four years ago when he realized that he didn’t want to be a contractor anymore. He was no longer interested in his work or motivated by it. He wasn’t happy waking up to do renovation anymore but what did make him happy was cooking. He decided that after so many years being passionate about food, he had to give himself the chance to run his own food business. So he got a business partner to take over the renovation business and he took the next two years to look for a spot for his restaurant, renovate it and prepare a menu. By this point, he had given up on the bubble tea idea because he realized that it wasn’t as healthy or clean as a normal juice. So he started creating a menu for fresh-pressed juices, smoothies, breakfast items, sandwiches and salad that was influenced by the food that he grew up eating and focused on healthy, clean ingredients. For Antoine, it was key that they make everything they could in house- their salad dressings, their condiments, their soups- so that he knew exactly what was going into the food and to keep things from getting overprocessed with unnatural additives. He wanted to keep everything as healthy as possible so he made sure that he could be in control of the items on his menu.

Cassava House Outside

Antoine believes that their focus on healthy ingredients combined with their unique flavors and their ability to appeal to plant-based, vegetarian and meat-heavy customers is what sets Cassava House apart from other restaurants. They have an extensive vegan menu and all of their sandwiches can be transformed to satisfy a vegan diet. Antoine says that this wasn’t a specific choice that they made or something that they thought needed to be done to meet a demand in the market, it was just natural for him because he grew up with that kind of cooking. They didn’t eat meat every day at the table in his house, his mother came up with her own ways to incorporate protein without meat, so it was normal for him to have that reflected in his menu. And it felt right that he use some of his mother’s recipes throughout the menu as well. Which is why the way they do things at Cassava House is really unlike the way it’s done anywhere else. A lot of their flavors are different because they combine ingredients that customers wouldn’t necessarily expect to go together. It creates an entire experience around the food because it causes customers to think through their palate and try to pick out the flavors that they’re tasting. Antoine says that watching customers try the food and seeing the surprise on their face when they taste something unexpected is the most rewarding part of the business for him. Those reactions have made him realize that the food is different but also brings people joy because it’s something new that they’ve never tried before. There’s a double reaction where they’re satisfied but also surprised by the flavors in a great, fun way and hearing compliments from customers on top of that is even more rewarding. Hearing people say that it’s “original”, “great”, “unexpected”, “unique” and seeing them react to the recipes that seem so normal to him will never get old for him. He created the menu items to be food that you want to sit down, savor and enjoy. He doesn’t just want to feed people, he wants them to be happy with what they eat and taste the difference of food that satisfies your palate.

Since the business started two years ago, the menu has definitely expanded. Antoine says that he has an endless list of sandwiches that he’s always working on and he pays a lot of attention to feedback from customers to see what items they like or don’t like so they can adapt the menu accordingly. As a business owner, the brainstorming of recipes and the introduction of new menu items keeps him motivated to continue exciting his customers with the unexpected. Right now he’s working with their chef, Laura, who’s vegan, to start exploring more vegan protein options and work towards creating sandwiches around them. But staying on top of what customers may and may not like is difficult, especially when you’re trying to create items that people can eat every day. You don’t want to introduce a new item that isn’t up to par with your current offerings and lose potential future customers. Which is why Antoine focuses on keeping everything very consistent so that customers can come into the restaurant multiple days in a row and always have their food taste the exact same. Antoine admits that the food consistency is challenging but after so many years, dealing with these issues doesn’t bother him because he’s finally in an industry that he’s passionate about.

 

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(Cauliflower) Rice, Rice Baby!

If you’re like us, summer is all about clean eating (or trying to at least). And we’re always looking for creative ways to make our meals healthy without being bland. Enter cauliflower fried rice!

Not only is this dish half the carbs of regular fried rice, it’s just as delicious! Both filling and healthy, it’s one of our staple recipes in the summer when it seems like there’s even less time in the day to cook a full meal. Ready in 20 minutes, it’s an easy way to satisfy your craving for Asian food without the guilt. Top with shrimp, chicken, tofu or any protein that you prefer, this dish will always be just as tasty! 

Cauliflower Fried Rice with Shrimp

Recipe serves 4

You’ll Need:

1 bag of frozen cauliflower rice

1/2 bag of frozen peas & carrots

1/2 bag of frozen edamame

1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

3 scallions, chopped

1/2 yellow onion, chopped

1 egg

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 package raw shrimp (20-25 pieces)

sesame oil

low sodium soy sauce

sesame seeds

olive oil

First heat a small skillet on medium to low heat and add a dash or 2 of sesame oil and 1/2 a teaspoon of olive oil. Scramble your egg in the skillet and set aside once cooked through.

Use the same small skillet to cook your shrimp (estimating about 5 per person). Add 2-3 dashes of sesame oil and 1 teaspoon of olive oil to skillet and again, heat skillet on medium to low heat. Add 1 clove of chopped garlic, cook for 30 seconds and add raw shrimp. Add black pepper and sesame seeds to taste as well as 1 tablespoon of low sodium soy sauce. Cook for about 4-5 minutes or until pink and firm to the touch. Once cooked through, set aside.

Next heat a large skillet on medium heat and add 5 dashes of sesame oil and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add 1/2 chopped yellow onion to the skillet and cook for about 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add in 2 cloves of chopped garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Next add frozen peas and carrots, edamame and asparagus (cut into 1/2 inch pieces) and saute for 3-5 minutes. Then add your cauliflower rice to the pan with approximately 1/4 cup of low sodium soy sauce and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add black pepper to taste and mix well.

Once all of your ingredients are combined in the large skillet, turn off heat and add your cooked scrambled egg and shrimp. Mix well and garnish with chopped scallions, adding more low sodium soy sauce to your taste!

Pro tip: Pack your leftovers in a mason jar for an easy lunch to take on the go! Plus it’s eco-friendly 🙂