Skip to content

The King Cake – A New Orleans Carnival Tradition

King CakeAnyone from New Orleans will tell you that the food most synonymous with Mardi Gras is the King Cake. This blog post will tell you briefly about the cake; but, more importantly, I’m going to walk you through the ingredients, procedure and show you shot by shot how to make this delicious creation.  Click on the link below for the full text and photos associated with the blog.

Blog – The Quintessential Taste of Mardi Gras

Advertisements

Planning Ahead for a Potential “Significant Business Disturbance”

Regardless of the type of business you work with and/or for, you must take steps to plan ahead to preserve your assets.  Significant Business Disturbances (“SBDs”), such as Hurricane Sandy in New York, put business assets at risk.  Establishing Business Continuity Plans (“BCPs”) arms organizations with contingency plans to preserve their assets, communicate with colleagues and business partners and ultimately resume operations as soon as possible.

Since 2004, financial firms have been required by regulation to establish, maintain and test BCPs.  And, I’ve been intimately involved in composing and testing these plans.  Having most recently graduated from culinary school and seeking to transfer my skill set over to this industry, I started to noodle about how this industry, depending on the business would establish a workable plan.

Core Considerations

Before putting pen to paper and writing a plan, the following must be considered:

  • How large is the organization?
  • What type of business is it? . . .a restaurant, a store, consulting, catering, an office complex, or a mixture of several types
  • Where is the business located? . . .One city, several locations in one city, several cities, states and international locations, etc.
  • What is the management structure of the organization?
  • What types of communication are in place?
  • What types of technology does the organization utilize?
  • Are there schedules specific to the business that must be treated with sensitivity (i.e., time and temperature sensitivity related to certain types of food products)?
  • What are your assets and how valuable is each?

Once these core details are clear, it becomes apparent where basic improvements are needed; and, management can begin to plan for protecting the organization’s assets.

Sketch out a Plan

How can basic improvements be made and plans put in place to protect assets?  Below are several considerations that can help an organization develop a workable plan.

  • Engage people within your organization to be involved in the process.  Sharing ideas is the best way to discover innovative solutions.
  • Can existing relationships with current and former employees, business partners (e.g., local farms upstate with livestock and produce) and community leaders be leveraged in planning and in the case of an emergency?
  • Investing in cloud or online storage in addition to the data stored in local servers (e.g., If there is a flood or power goes out, local servers cannot be accessed and in some cases may be destroyed).
  • Create agreements with locations outside of the immediate area in which a business operates as a means to have alternate locations to which valuable assets may be transported and stored.
  • Create agreements with transportation companies to garner vehicles appropriate to the organization (e.g., If there is high value food that must be transported within certain time and temperature restrictions, perhaps the most appropriate vehicle is a refrigerated truck; If there are more locations than one, perhaps it would be more beneficial for the organization to centralize evacuation efforts).
  • Are there easily accessible means to communicate with all staff (i.e., 800 numbers with updates, call trees, email, etc.).
  • Is personal contact information obtained for all individuals within the organization (i.e., cell phones, personal email addresses, physical home address, emergency contact, etc.).  Where is this information stored?  How often is the information tested?  How often is the information updated by staff?
  • What sort of emergency items should be maintained on site? . . .Head lights, flashlights, garbage bags, batteries, walkie talkies, etc.; Are generators appropriate? Is gas for generators able to be obtained and or allowed to be stored on site?

Final Thoughts

Once you have a plan in place, circulate it for comment within the organization and with business partners whose opinion you value.  Only by sharing information and best practices can we work together as a community to address and survive SBDs.

Test your plan regularly (i.e., at least annually but ideally quarterly).  Update contact information on your staff and business partners as often as changes are made (i.e., monthly).  Make the plan available to all managers and senior staff within the organization to share responsiveness and ownership in the plan.

Link

The Potato Chain

Who would even think it possible to cut a potato into a chain?  You may ask whether it is even worth the trouble.  “If you put a fried potato chain on a customer’s plate, they will never forget it,” André Soltner (February 2012).

Let me attest to the fact that this is totally doable.  You too will be able to cut potato chains after reading this blog post and trying it yourself.

Click here to see the process and illustrations

Link

Tickle Sauce Menu Project 2012

Tickle Sauce Menu Project 2012

The purpose of this project was to put into words the tangible New Orleans family meal, as it had been experienced through the mind’s eye of my grand mere.  Try these recipes and make them your own.  When food is made with love, it tastes better.

Jojo’s Sriracha

Life is serendipitous.

A year ago, I/Tickle Sauce participated in Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Home Grown event, which catered to local Brooklyn foodies, local artisans and small business owners to get them exposure at a minimal cost, while providing a reason for people to experience all that the Garden has to offer.

It rained cats and dogs all day, which kept most people at bay, except for an aspiring sriracha maker from Park Slope, Brooklyn.  Jolene Collins, or “Jojo”, as she prefers to be called, and I talked through the afternoon about the process of getting a product to market in New York State.  We started by talking about Cornell’s Food Entrepreneur program, which led to us talking about NYSSFPA and other resources that were available.

Jojo’s story with sriracha began back in February 2010 in Denver, CO.  While training to become a yoga instructor, she started to cut refined sugar out of her diet.  This move away from refined sugar would transform the way Jojo looked at food and lead to the creation of a very special sauce.

Cutting out refined sugar from a diet essentially means you’re going to make all of your food at home, since most foods in the commercial market contain it.  Her favorite condiment was sriracha sauce, so Jojo set out to create her own at home.

Fast forward through several test batches to a batch of homemade sriracha that was shared with friends who would say, “This is delicious.  You should bottle it.”  Like most people experimenting with creating a sauce, bottling and selling it is a far off aspiration.  Jojo was no different.

She moved to NYC in May of 2010 and almost immediately started volunteering time at Queens County Farm.  It was through making meaningful connections with the farmers there, discussions about her aspiration to create sriracha and their interest in testing out their peppers that she was able to start experimenting with batches again.  They loved what she produced and helped her connect with Eckerton Hill Farm and Oak Grove Plantation to have access to more peppers of different varieties.

With the warm support of these farmers and the exponential variety of peppers, the sauce flavor was developing rapidly.  This was her “aha” moment, when Jojo realized that connecting with local farmers, utilizing locally sourced ingredients and producing a flavorful sauce to share with the community was what she wanted to do.

The next step was doing ground work and puzzling out how to get the sauce from her kitchen to a store shelf.  Sriracha is a different type of sauce that requires more care than most:

  • Special equipment not available in all commercial kitchens;
  • Storage space to allow time for the batch to ferment; and,
  • A kitchen that allows products with capsaicin (i.e., cooking with peppers permeates the entire kitchen and often some kitchens don’t allow these types of products to be produced so as not to contaminate equipment or otherwise permeate the overall space).

If you seek to produce your own sauce, consider 3 hurdles: education and certification (i.e., Better Processing Control School certification), finding the right kitchen space and making sure the equipment available for use fits your product.  Each state’s requirement is different.  In New York State, Cornell’s Food Entrepreneur Materials and their office as a “phone call away” resource, have been extremely helpful in making progress.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that Jojo’s only product will be sriracha or even culinary-based.  Her talents are multi-dimensional, and she has been developing face and body scrubs, oils and a whole separate line of holistic products for a better well-being.

Jojo can be reached at loveofjojo@gmail.com.  Like her on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/loveofjojo.

New York Small Scale Food Processors Association

Useful resources are key for turning ideas into reality in the food service industry.  In my last blog post I wrote about using the great resources at Cornell to create a scheduled process.  To read more on the Cornell Entrepreneur materials, click here: https://ticklesauce.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/food-entrepreneurs-you-can-do-it/.  My next breakthrough was finding the New York Small Scale Food Processors Association (SSFPA), http://www.nyssfpa.com/.

Beth Linskey and Liz Beals, members and mentors

The organization includes local farmers as well as small businesses with local products.  It’s the perfect organization for people with a small business, who are trying to get their products up and running.  SSFPA has been extremely helpful to connect us with other like-minded individuals with small businesses like ours and with local farms from whom we buy produce to make our sauce.  It’s run by people like us for us.It’s incredibly satisfying to reach out to people wanting to share information, act as mentors or help us puzzle through a problem to find a viable solution.  Annual membership dues are inexpensive at $30 per year, and you can benefit right away by joining.  Read on to find out exactly how.

Let me take you back to the mistake I made before finding SSFPA.  I thought I needed to get a nutrition label in order to apply for insurance and in order to be prepared for my meeting with a co-packer or other production facility.  I wanted to get the product up and running; and, the nutrition label was one of the pieces I needed in place for that to happen.

What I didn’t realize was that the nutritional information on your product is one of the last things you will need.  In the final steps leading up to production, your recipe may change slightly, which then results in changes to a nutrition label.  Liz Beals, a SSFPA member helped me understand that.  She also let me know that the organization has a resource that supplies members with nutrition labels for as low as $50 per product.  I found this out after I had already spent $150+ getting a nutrition label.  Needless to say, I couldn’t use the original nutrition label.

If you need nutrition labels for your product, the SSFPA is the most economical resource around.  And, membership in the organization comes with so many benefits.

Send an email or tweet me if you have other questions about turning your food product ideas into reality.

Food Entrepreneurs – You Can Do It!

If you think you have a winning product that all of your friends love, can’t get enough of and bring you their empty containers asking for refills, . . .  You too can get your product from your home kitchen to a store shelf.

ImageI started making a hot sauce in 2003.  Friends would bring me their empty containers asking when I was making more to refill their stock.  I made a sauce that I loved and couldn’t otherwise find in local stores.  In 2010, a friend said that he was opening a store and wanted it on the shelf when he opened.  Essentially, I was told to get a move on it, make it happen, and step on it!

I did just that.

When you start a company, there are many factors to consider (i.e., focus of product, business plan, potential client base, test marketing, structuring the finances / planning how to fund the venture, production options, labels, insurance, etc.).  We will get to many of those components in future posts to this blog; however, we need to crawl before we walk and walk before we run.  Where do you start?

Start by educating yourself on the state requirements for your product.  Start by contacting Cornell.  Cornell is known for their strong restaurant program.  What people don’t know is that they have a “test kitchen” of sorts that is structured to help small businesses get their products up and running.  The entity at Cornell is called the “Northeast Center for Food Entrepreneurship at the New York State Food Venture Center” (“NECFE”).  They provide the basic information and are there to answer questions along the way.

When I first called NECFE, they answered as if they already knew me.  I guess they get these types of calls from people a lot.  They sent me a disc in the mail with a 500-page tomb.  It was a daunting read, until I realized that the document was a roadmap for many products.  It was a one-stop repository for many people like me, and not all of it applied to my product.  I quickly stripped out only the sections that applied to me and set about putting my outline together of things I had to know.Image

The most important thing to get together in my opinion is your “Scheduled Process”.  This is a fancy way of saying, “List your ingredients and how you compile them.”

What I pulled out from the materials were essentially that I needed to:

  • Put together a “Scheduled Process”;
  • Make a test batch (you can do this at home and do NOT need to rent commercial kitchen space for this test batch);
  • Put the test batch in two separate glass containers of at least 4 ounces each; and,
  • Mail it off to them safely (be sure to include 2 copies of the scheduled process and to wrap the two containers to prevent them from breaking).

After sending everything off, it’s a 2-3 week wait for the news of whether your product is safe for sale in the state.  In my case, I got a letter asking me to send in a check for a certain amount, which covered the test Cornell performed on the bottles.  And, my approved scheduled process came in the mail shortly after they received payment.

Note:  I used natural preservatives of vinegar and lemon in my product.  Cornell was sure to tell me where to keep my pH levels in order to retain this safety level, etc.  They literally guide your hands through the process of what you need to do.

In a nutshell, this Cornell test allows budding entrepreneurs to get a piece of paper that gives them the go ahead to get their product to a production facility and let it grow.  Several other components are needed to actually make that happen, but nothing can happen until you get the recipe reviewed for state regulation.  Cornell does this for less than $100.

One mistake we made that you should not is getting a nutrition label for your product yet.  You will not need that at this starting phase and will not need it before you talk to production facilities or for insurance.  Your recipe may change slightly when you scale it for certain production sizes, and that is one of the last things you’ll need to acquire.  We have a very inexpensive option we found out about too, so look for our upcoming blog on the New York Small Scale Food Processors’ Association.

We’ll have more posts like this that talk about the other steps associated with the process (or at least the process that we followed) to get a product up.  Stay tuned.  And, don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or topics you’d like to see.  We will do our best to research and share what we discover.