Saturday, June 30, 2007

Most restaurant reviewers are low, but "food snobs" are LOWER

Our show, Chef and the Fatman the Blue Collar Chefs, besides doing a live cooking show for two hours each and every week, we also have been in the restaurant review business for the better part of the five years we have been on the air, we have reviewed over 185 restaurants in five cities.

We started our reviews as a on-air "response" to the bevy of sarcastic, bashing, nasty, skulking and ego driven reviewers that I had been exposed to over the years. The "Food Weasels" as I refer to them are the spineless jellyfish that hide behind their anonymity (claiming loudly, "it is the only TRUE way to be credible"...they honestly believe that) as they scorch, sear and shred restaurant owners much more often than they compliment them, it is their "BADGE of EGO" they so fondly wish for, since anonymity strips away their "fame", no picture no way to recognize these geniuses, so they have to be content with the fact that people "talk",laugh and chortle about their latest addition to their gastronomic "trash heap". They try and build their reputation off the sweat, toil and hard work of those that have the cajones to "put it out there" for all to see, feel, touch (with gloves I hope)hopefully consume and yes even critique. Sad but it is the life they choose. I would like to add this little caviate...NOT ALL restaurant reviewers are weasels....there are some decent ones out there...I just can't remember who they are, and that is good.

This blog is not about the Review Weasels this time! It is about a more insidious creature skulking around the culinary world....the dreaded "food snob".

Believe it or not, the "food snob" is in my opinion WORSE than the Review Weasels....they are even further below contempt, to me, than the aforementioned RW's. Thanks to the internet the food snobs are becoming more emboldened. As "food snobs" watch their "food snob" buddies get and find more "screen time", they feel that THEY should gain equal or greater recognition by sharing "their genius" with their very small world. "Food snobs" are the self proclaimed "gastronomic geniuses" with their only credentials (most of the time)being, "they eat out a lot" most of the time by themselves or in very small "food snob" packs. The "food snob" is the one that rips, tears and snarls at anything they don't agree with reviewer or fellow threader alike, THEY decide who should or should not be reviewed, THEY rip the reviewers and write the most vitriolic names, and yes, they are known to only a select few by their REAL names, the few being like minded "snobs". They sneer with contempt at almost anything that isn't in "their opinion" upscale, they laugh with contempt at most any restaurant that doesn't plate properly...the dreaded "food snob" is beginning to believe that they are "credible" that they are worth listening too, that, my friends is why I am dragging them out of their sleazy hiding spots behind their little screens and dragging them kicking and shrieking into the purity of the light, the light of fairness and revelation.

Food snobs cheer plating and small portions with HUGE prices...because that is "UPSCALE. Oh yes, they even have their own cutesy jargon, their cool hip IM acronyms....they've got it all baby....

They will spew forth all of the above with great relish, oh yes, the above and so much more....all from the security blanket of their tiny little screens "sending" their ugliness across the airwaves nightly (or whenever the great unwashed dares to question their favorite "resto").... I often wonder, what would "food snobs" REALLY say or do if they had to tell their bilge to someone face-to-face. I'll never know, because "food snobs" never will. It would be fun to see!

"Food snobs" opinions may actually be accurate at times, seldom, but at times. Their postings may even be witty, rarely, but you will always know who the "food snobs" are, for they will post to the world and proclaim to everyone of their genius...after all they eat out more than you do... "almost every nite". They will spew forth from their little screens and then, they will post their web name....proudly.

Y'all know who you are and we all know who they are (at least by screen name) I offer this "suggestion".

Why not tell people WHERE to go and why...not WHERE not to go with nastiness.

Come out from your murky shadows....TELL PEOPLE proudly who you are, state your "opinions" (try using the word goes a lot further)to the owners, chefs, servers or other patrons, be helpful not hateful, be a true reviewer NOT a negative critiquer. Take responsibility for your actions and try to help the owner AND the consumer. Bring something POSITIVE to the "plate".

For if you do, you will rise out of the murky depths of sleaziness and breathe in the fresh-air of fairness, it will feel oh so good....try it, and let me know who you are. I'd be honored to know you. I will welcome you with open arms to the "positive"-side of our industry and you will become welcome anywhere....come scattered, smothered or chunked...I'll leave the light on for ya. And I won't care what "resto" you like....honest!

Respectfully submitted,

Kevin Jenkins
Chef and the Fatman

You may speak to me face-to-face at a weekly public appearance near you. It's on our appearance page.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Life is good, in Cordele, GA

It is with a fond farewell that I bid adieu to the 58Th Annual Watermelon Festival in Cordele GA (about 3:15 minutes South of Woodstock GA). This year was in many ways a milestone for me and the the show.

It was the Official Release of our first Cookbook, Chef and the Fatman Red, White and Blue Collar Cookin', our first book signing, the first Watermelon Festival for young 1 yr old Lindsay aka "little blob" as I affectionately refer to her as (Mike and Chris Bresnan's offspring) it was a festival milestone (our fourth official trip to the same event) in our five year on-air history and yes, the first time I had a chance to eat some AWESOME BBQ at Smoakies on Cemetery LN. I had my first interview with a local media legend...Phil Streetman (who had already interviewed me five times in the last four years) who has spent the last 48 years on local radio and television, bringing locals a "little good news today" like I am sure Anne Murray would be proud of, this might be Phil's last year covering the Festival, I know he will be sorely missed not only for his obvious love for the Festival but for his true "American Spirit" that drove him every day (three interviews a day 7 days a week) to find the "good news" (which is so much harder).

Ah, so many firsts, although memorable, it was the constants that really made me feel whole again. The incredible friendliness of the people of Cordele everyone saying hello, hi, how are ya? (and meaning it), Monica Simmons (the President of the Cordele/Crsip County Chamber of Commerce) running crazy but gettin er done! It was dinner at the Daphne Lodge and the fabulous fried pickles, drinking a couple of ice cold beers on our little deck outside the very fine Best Western on a warm balmy Cordlele evening. The extreme triple digit heat index on the show set in cozy Watermelon Park, it was Watermelon Queens singing country classics, and the town crooners singing God Bless America. It's watermelon eating contests viewed by hundreds of happy onlookers cheering on their favorite "slogger" (name for contestant), kids coming up for air with watermelon juice covering them from head-to-toe and no mother caring. It's guys and gals of all ages and social strata working very hard to catch the wind as their watermelon seed comes flying out of their mouths, delighting the crowds but making every "spitter" take note of techniques used and making sure the judges count every inch but giving none.

Yes, Doc Hollywood can have his "squash festival" it looked nice, as nice as Hollywood could make it, but for me, give me Cordele Watemelons (the sweetest watermelon in the's the soil you know), the 59Th Annual Cordele Watermelon Festival and the REALITY of that hot summer weekend next year, all the firsts and all of the constants that I will be experiencing with such relish, and....I'll be happy, happy to just "spit one" for the team and remember how lucky I am to be in Cordele GA for the 59th Annual Watermelon Festival.

Then all will truly be at peace with my world.

Thank you Cordele!


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Salt and Pepper.....Why is it so difficult?

On this beautiful warm sunny day in Georgia, when everything seems right with the world, I feel obligated to raise a concern with restaurant owners in order to make my day even better. Owners it's your salt and pepper shakers, those little conniving containers that have caused me grief yet again, this morning, and it's time for me to make MY day even better by telling you about it!
I don't know, maybe it's me, but whenever I go into a restaurant and reach for the salt and pepper shaker I feel like a real crap-shoot is about to begin, will I, or won't I, have to take the lid off the shakers in order to season my food!
I challenge you friends to go into a decent restaurant or most any restaurant for that matter and use the salt and pepper shakers without having to take the top off, go ahead try it ( I know most of you know where I am going with this). You shake, you shake harder, then you bang and take the lid off (those holes in the container are ALWAYS to small).
Oh, I know there are those of you out there that are more physically fit than I (probably 90%), and that you truly enjoy the shaking, banging and the eventual aerobic workout that you receive before you are blessed with a "dash" of either or both, to you, I have nothing to say.
For me, I just want to pick up the shaker and with minimal effort apply my condiments and eat on...but no, most restaurants feel incumbent upon themselves to create this challenge for me and mine, and to you I say...SHAME.
I often ponder as to why it is that the nicer the restaurant, the smaller the openings on their shakers? I guess it follows right along with the nicer the plating, the smaller the portions the smaller the portions , the higher the price. I get are looking out for me, thanks, but no thanks.
Owners, why not take a moment and "walk in my moccasins" as the great Charles Carnegie once wrote and shake your shakers baby, then please make sure those shakers that go on your tables are dispensing with ease instead of causing us all of the aforementioned hassles and the eventual opening of the lids and inevitable pouring out to much condiment ruining, your culinary delights.
Step up, be a leader in your industry...shake it one tiiiiime for US, your customer.
Make our dining experience juuuust a little more memorable, we would appreciate it.
In return, maybe we won't be as disgruntled with your smaller portions and nicer plating, maybe just maybe, we won't grumble so much about the sticker shock....maybe.
I finish with this side note: I cannot guarantee to silence the grumbling of my 1/2 empty stomach, from the weenie portions you have plated so beautifully and I am still unable to control the chirping of the crickets coming from my completely empty wallet, for that, I humbly apologize!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Try picking some blackberries.....

With the stress of cheffing on the show for the first time under my belt, and, with the final (hopefully) edits for our new book completed, and Father's Day over at my shop completed for another year, all I can say is that it was a "stressful week".
Soooo, I grabbed a plastic bag and headed out early yesterday morning to ....pick blackberries.
As a kid this time of year was great, blackberries on cereal, blackberries just plain and oh, on homemade ice cream and the homemade cobblers, well, you get the idea.
The stress of the week just melted away like a fine scoop of that homemade ice cream on a hot summer day and the berries (small this year due to the dry conditions of N. GA.) just continued to mound up in my bag.
I wondered as people drove by, some smiling, some frowning some just looking, well, indifferent, I wondered, that if I could just get a plastic bag in their hands on this beautiful sunny, sultry Sunday morning in beautiful N. GA, with the dew of the early morning making those black jewels stand out beautifully, against their equally beautiful but not so ripe crimson bothers and sisters, just beggin to be picked. I wondered if all of those folks could have joined me on this Father's Day journey, would it be as memorable, happy, stress relieving and yes, a little nostalgic for them as it had been for me? I think, no I am sure it would have.
So please, just grab a bag, head out to your favorite picking spot (keep a vigilant eye out for roadside harvest spots during the week) by yourself or better yet, with the ones you love, and just pick blackberries for awhile....don't mind the thorns or the chiggers (we didn't as kids), juuuust pick and think..... cobbler, ice cream and then do what all great chefs do....taste along the way, make sure there OK!
Oh, your hands will be stained, but that's OK too, because those stains tell the world that you stopped and picked some blackberries....they'll smile and they'll understand!


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Service, it's all about COMMUNICATION!

SWMBO (she who must be obeyed) and I very recently ate at a restaurant the we have enjoyed the first two times we have eaten there,however, the last trip was a service nightmare. I only mention the following as a guide for servers and customers. (On our show, we have reviewed and reported on over 175 restaurants in 5 cities.)
We were greeted very well as soon as we walked in (by a rather tall pleasant brunette), we were told there was a 20-30 minute wait (very good COMMUNICATION)! We were asked if we would like to sit at the bar, we chose to, and a few minutes before we ordered our drinks we were told a table would be ready shortly, the hostess then asked if we would like to wait and order our drinks from our table instead(EXCELLENT COMMUNICATION).
We were seated at 6:25 pm with silverware and menus placed in front of us....then things/COMMUNICATION broke down, horribly. (Note: Hostesses need to COMMUNICATE with servers to let them know someone is seated in there area....this is just a suggestion, but when practiced it helps alleviate problems like the one soon to be described...I do not know if this was done or blame here, just a suggestion)
We were TOTALLY IGNORED by everyone (Note: at least 3-4 staffers cruised our area the whole time....bussers you can COMMUNICATE too, let the server know someone is at there table) till approximately 6:43 (at the same time I went up to find the hostess to inquire as to what server we are supposed to have).
Now, the server that was waiting the table behind and to the side of us did a nice job of taking care of HIS tables but could have cared less about ours (Note to servers: If you see a table that is not yours that has obviously been missed ASK THEM IF THEY HAVE BEEN SERVED then HELP THEM...I know it's not your station, or your tip, however you need to COMMUNICATE that a customer needs assistance...really. If they do not need anything I assure you they will appreciate the COMMUNICATION). I digress.
The hostess (NOT the same one that seated us) seemed genuinely concerned when I told her of my dilemma and she followed me back to my table where we both saw a server had finally soon as she saw the server, and, before I could say anything she took off and went back to her station....(Note: Let the owner or GM know right away that there is a service issue....let them decide what to do, but, let them know....COMMUNICATE).
Now our server came up cheerful (like we had just been seated), knew his menu fairly well and asked us what we would like, we ordered our drinks...they came out in about 5 minutes...OK I guess, then we ordered our apps and said we would order main course when apps came out...apps took about 20 minutes during which time we never saw our server again, except, to run food and drink to the table behind us while our glasses and bread dip lay barren. SWMBO finally took it upon herself to go and get refills, yes my wife went and got our refills, our server came back shortly AFTER she got our refills and asked if we needed anything. Hmmmm, we have full glasses and no bread dip (a signature item) what would you think, why would you ask if I needed something... the dip plate is EMPTY let me know your going to fill it...don't wait for me to ask you!....well you get the picture. (Note: Servers need to follow up at least twice between courses to check water, and whatever....COMMUNICATE with your customer, let them know you care and are there for them, let them know generally what the disposition of there food them the love baby). When the app finally made it out, the risotto and scallops were very flavorful but lukewarm at best. (Note: Now, nobody new that our apps were lukewarm because our server never asked us.... COMMUNICATE, ask your customer how there food is within a reasonable time after they receive it...don't be afraid, it's OK if it's not right, this gives YOU the chance to fix it and become a hero and possibly another 5%, not asking, makes you the goat).
Finally, someone COMMUNICATED with us, as the OWNER/Chef/Expediter came to our table and asked how everything was....we COMMUNICATED back to him our concerns. He was noticeably shaken, and I told him I would send him and e-mail with my concerns. The service nightmares ended right then-and-there!
We like and respect the owner of this establishment, so we COMMUNICATED our concerns to hopefully help him, his staff and his business.
When you get bad service or have major concerns it is your OBLIGATION to COMMUNICATE those concerns to management and or owners. For then, can you truly say, you have done your part at being a good customer. Then, observe how the management/owner team reacts to your concerns, that will speak volumes as to what kind of team they really are. The true test of a team/restaurants quality, is not necessarily how things are handled when everything is right, but, how the team handles problems when things go wrong....that is the true test.
A good chef and good food can be destroyed by poor service....conversely, so-so food can seem much better when very good customer service/COMMUNICATION is practiced.
Try a Waffle House sometime....we kinda like the service (overall)....and the scattered, smothered, covered and chunked....


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Go ahead...Try it....You might be surprised.

Well the show is in the "can" as the old axiom states and yes, I survived. Having created and been the host of Chef and the Fatman the Blue Collar Chefs for the last 4 1/2 years, I had a feeling, that it would be inevitable, that the stars would align in such a way, that I would have to Chef. They did and I did. I had great trepidation about Cheffing as I am not really anything more than an above average part-time "slinger". Trying to "create" the recipes, present the recipes, keep the banter with the audience, stay on point, plug the place and the rubs and cookbooks, stay on-time, provide culinary info and entertain people that would need to stand for 2 hours kinda concerned me.
Heck, it's no different for me than it is for others who are faced with similar situations of being put into the "spotlight" without wanting or expecting it.
I had 3 BIG things working for me, Chef Mike a steady hand at cooking (his two nephews BJ and Chris) secondly, a GREAT engineer that new how "to get my attention" and finally a crowd that was willing to accept anything we said.
This is not too dissimilar to what almost everyone faces at one point or another in their life....your turn in the "unexpected spotlight"....think about those around you, you've probably got a great helping hand (you may not know you even have), a support structure ( your friends and colleagues) that understands a little of your trepidation but WANT to help you succeed and a "crowd" (everyone else around you) that is willing to believe in YOU.
Take the challenge, grab the friggin it head-on, here are my suggestions to make this moment work ( I want you to succeed!)....organize your game plan (critical), surround yourself with great people and dive in with confidence (although, a little trepidation is cool, trepidation can be an ally) believe that everyone that COUNTS around you will support and work hard to make your "trial" a positive one.
When it works (and it will) baby, you feel on top of really rocks. Bathe yourself in the glow of success, it is even sweeter than you thought....indulge in the moment....Then, THANK GOD for the people around you and remember to thank them again-and-again. It just feels good and is the absolute right thing to do.
Go ahead....try it, take the step into the unknown when the moment is thrust upon you...FEAR NOT...leave that comfort zone (it will be OK)...believe baby, BELIEVE in YOU and everyone AROUND YOU and you WILL be GLAD you took that step on the "wild side".
I did, and, I'm so thankful for everyone that made this moment feel so good, Chef Mike, Engineer Karen, Chris and BJ, the BGE and most of all the crowd that stood there for 3 hours I kid you not....3 hours.....standing, laughing, cutting up and asking for autographs throughout,....Y'all ROCK baby, it really does not get more humbling than that.



Thursday, June 14, 2007

I love it and Monti gets it!

A couple of weeks ago I went into a new restaurant in my hometown of Woodstock GA (as we refer to on the show as the "culinary black hole" of the South) named Monti's Express.
This is a breakfast and lunch place that is small and rather unassuming. This is a place that GETS IT. You don't have to have the biggest menu, the most items, the foofiest platings....just serve up good food everyone can recognize, good portions for a fair price and serve it hot and quick. HELLO how difficult can that be? CIA grad and owner Chef Monti truly understands.
Baby it ain't fancy but his Monti's 5 minute breakfast sandwich ROCKS, 3 eggs scrambled, good quality bacon a nice cheese on a Kaiser Roll (or plain white for me) a BIG sandwich with a container of OJ and a drink, made fresh to order in 5 minutes or less, $4.99. God love you Monti. Monti has other free standing locations in NJ and I think maybe in FL.
This CIA chef from Jersey GETS IT and I LOVE IT. Woodstock, your seeing light at the end of the black hole. Thanks MONTI!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Cookbook!

After 4 1/2 years of airing our show, a cookbook was the inevitable outcome. We all agreed that this was worth the effort. We gave birth to "Chef and the Fatman Red, White and Blue (Collar) Cookin'"
If I knew then what I knew now....
After 2 1/2 years of sweat and toil I have learned so much. Words like, Word, Adobe, PDF and CONVERSION, 81/2x11, 9x6, 1 inch, 1/2 inch MARGINS.....CONVERSION again. I think you get the drift.
Now, I am a very hands-on person, who doesn't delegate well. I have taken it upon myself to speed up the finish and bring it home....I have.....I think FINALLY brought it home.
Only time will tell.
The pre-releases (about 70 copies) sold for 1/2 price (with errors) just to get a feel, and, the feeling was very good.
The FINAL change to the FINAL change has just been submitted. We, meaning the team can take great pride in the finished product. Yes, I did over 200 hours of editing, tweaking and "messin" not counting the other hours Erik and Karen put in, but I think I can say it was worth it now....I think!
Please, if you ever think of doing a cookbook.....let me know! I can save you literally hundreds of hours and a number of strokes. PLEASE, e-mail me and let me save you from the HELL of your first cookbook.