Exploring food culture | modern restaurant management

Have you ever wondered what the chiefs were discussing behind closed doors? A new book coming out today has answers.

“Conversations Behind the Kitchen Door: 50 American Chefs Mapping Today’s Food Culture” by Emmanuel Laroche offers insights from top chefs and readers will leave with advice and inspiration from renowned chefs, restaurateurs, from bartenders and industry leaders, all of whom shared their stories in their own words. Topics include where they got their start, what they learned from mentors, how they mastered proper techniques and trends to broaden their culinary horizons.

Born and raised in France, Laroche is Vice President of Marketing at Symrise North America, a global manufacturer of flavors for the food and beverage industry. In 2015, Emmanuel developed an exclusive partnership with StarChefs for Symrise and began hosting panel discussions with successful culinary professionals. In 2018, he launched the podcast, Flavors Unknown, featuring a series of conversations with acclaimed and award-winning chefs, pastry chefs and mixologists from across the United States.

Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine caught up with Laroche to learn more about why he wrote this book, the state of restaurant culture and more.

Why write this book and why now?

My passion for food started when I was a child in France. When I was six or seven years old, my mother taught me how to cook a Lorraine quiche from A to Z. I grew up in a family where food was omnipresent at home as well as when traveling and in a country with a strong heritage. culinary.

When I arrived in the United States, my French family and friends constantly teased me about the lack of culinary traditions in America. Twenty years ago, I was not able to answer it correctly. Today, after four seasons of my podcast, “Flavors Unknown,” where I interview acclaimed American chefs, pastry chefs, and mixologists, and numerous tasting adventures across the country, I felt I had enough knowledge and content to write a book to formulate an answer.

“Conversations Behind the Kitchen Door” is also a way to get more people to listen to my podcast. These are personal projects related to my passion for food and the desire to understand the people who produce it, transform it, celebrate it and share their passion for food with others. I’m a marketing manager for a global food ingredients company and I travel often for my daily job. The pandemic gave me time to write the book.

How has the pandemic affected restaurant culture?

Much has already been written on the subject. During the pandemic, I had the good fortune to host two podcast episodes featuring panel discussions with several chefs from different parts of the country and representing distinct restaurant profiles. After these episodes, my conversations with culinary chefs continue to point out that a number of people have left the hospitality industry for good. Chefs from various walks of life first mention that it is difficult to find skilled labor and that there is a shortage of labor and a shortage of food.

Since the pandemic, many chefs have created fast-casual concepts and we are seeing more and more tasting and prix fixe menus. I am very happy to have witnessed much more community spirit and support between restaurants and with farmers and suppliers.

What traits or characteristics are necessary for a good restaurant chef?

In the last chapter of the book titled “Cooking as a Metaphor for Life”, I recount something that chef David Burke told me. He said four things are important in this business: having an open mind, a good work ethic, a drive for success and enthusiasm. From all the other conversations, I pick up, in the same chapter, a lot of advice on leadership. I picked a few; be present and approachable, create a positive environment, encourage respect, implement standards, and remember that great reviews are earned.

A good restaurant chef must understand how to balance discipline, creativity and consistency.

A good restaurant chef must understand how to balance discipline, creativity and consistency. Discipline as a way to get results, creativity as a way to find creative solutions to achieve something, and consistency as having a common goal and what is expected of everyone to deliver food to the highest standards every day. high.

What lessons did you learn while writing the book?

I learned many lessons from writing this book, about leadership, about food, and about me as an individual. I have already mentioned some leadership lessons. Regarding food, I should cook locally and buy more in season because the products taste better and are cheaper. My time spent with Chef Drew Adams in the woods along the Potomac River in DC convinced me that I should explore foraging more. I am now working hard to access better quality ingredients and support farmers markets and local businesses.

The purpose of this book is to demonstrate that people should not be afraid to experiment in the kitchen and only use recipes as guidelines. Not everyone has the same restaurant ingredients, and everyone has different markets and different seasons.

For me, as an individual, I have learned that the future is about collaboration. I always have to look for opportunities and anticipate and prepare for the unexpected. I shouldn’t be afraid to fail. And finally, resilience is the secret ingredient to success. I love to travel and go on culinary adventures. All the culinary chefs I’ve had on the podcast are challenging the new generation of cooks to travel to wider horizons. They suggest tasting everything, taking pictures, writing notes and bringing back ingredients. In the chapter “The Saveur-Memory Database”, I give a list of twenty travel tips for setting up a tasting circuit.

What do you hope readers take away from the book?

People emotionally connected to the food and drink they love will enjoy learning about the travels and stories of the chefs who make them. This book will help readers learn how to choose quality ingredients, build relationships with farmers at farmers markets, and find inspiration while traveling. Individuals interested in the current state of the food industry and how it has shaped eating habits, with advice from chefs on how to be more creative in the kitchen. Food enthusiasts will learn how America eats today and understand how chefs think. Culinary students will learn the importance of setting short and long term goals and finding a mentor to guide and challenge them. Cooks will find new sources of inspiration and guidance to grow in the industry. And finally, chefs will find out what their peers are doing.

The pandemic has fundamentally changed the restaurant industry and despite food business closures, bankruptcies and uncertainty, the hospitality industry has proven more resilient than expected.

“Go and Travel” is probably the top recommendation I took away from my conversation with culinary chefs. It is a great source of inspiration. It resonates with my DNA. I have identified seven common paths when it comes to the chef’s creative process (which can be used alone or in combination). I share them in the chapter titled “Creative Decisions”.

Many of the culinary chefs I spoke to were also mentors. I share in the book eight key tips that most of them have learned from their mentors and passed on to others.

What do you think are the main challenges restaurants will face in 2023?

There is still a cost of living crisis and the restaurant industry remains highly competitive, and we will continue to see chefs use their creative thinking and collaborative approach with farmers and suppliers to find a way to reduce the costs. One thing I’ve learned from all my conversations is that leaders are resilient. The pandemic has fundamentally changed the restaurant industry and despite food business closures, bankruptcies and uncertainty, the hospitality industry has proven more resilient than expected.

Food trucks and ghost kitchens are here to stay and with changing behaviors and attitudes towards food for new generations, new opportunities for food and beverage innovation will emerge. More and more people are working from home, which will provide opportunities for quick casual ideas for breakfast and lunch. More creative packaging will come into play as convenience will continue to drive innovation. Plant-based food is here to stay and more and more people are adopting the flexitarian diet. How can chefs make plant-based foods more desirable?

What excites you about restaurants and the industry?//

The passion I have had for food since my childhood in France never needed to go away. I still want to explore. I have the chance to take part in more than sixty tastings a year. Am I feeling FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), a syndrome so often mentioned in reference to Millennials? Probably me. When I travel, I always plan my trip by searching the web for unique restaurants, coffee roasters, breweries, and local bakeries. When I interview culinary leaders, I’m curious about their innovation and creative process. Chef Elizabeth Falkner says in the foreword she wrote for my book, “Emmanuel really looks like he’s trying to solve a puzzle, which is why this book is such an important piece of writing.”

What advice would you give to someone new to the industry?

I give eight tips from chefs and their mentors in the chapter “Cooking as a metaphor for life”. Here are four: lose your ego!, set goals early in your career, find great mentors who can guide and challenge you, and respect everyone and everything. And to be successful, focus on satisfying local customers, because you need to attract the neighborhood. They will be the ones to help pay the bills.

What is your favorite or most colorful anecdote in the book?

Among the cooks:

There are lots of little anecdotes like when chef Shamil Velazquez mentioned he applied to the CIA when he was in 9th grade, or when chef Brother Luck shared that he went to work in restaurants to eat at the end of the evening.

A colorful story recounts the moment chef Fiore Tedesco decided to stop playing drums in a band and start cooking.

A moving story is when chef Bonnie Morales mentioned that the name of her restaurant Kachka is linked to the hard story of her grandmother escaping from a ghetto in Belarus during World War II.

What are some of the most surprising things you learned from the chefs you interviewed for Conversations Behind the Kitchen Door?

Only a few of the people I spoke to consider themselves artists. It was an idealistic mental image I had of them. During my conversations, I learned that the creative side of their work is becoming less and less of a focal point. As they progress in their career, execution, techniques, process, leadership and simplicity take over.

About Imogene T. Bishop

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