This must be the Place (and I’m glad to be back)

“Feet on the ground, head in the sky.”

I wouldn’t call myself a diehard Talking Heads fan, in fact, this post has absolutely nothing to do with the Talking Heads.  Pretty opposite actually, my return to Event Coordinating at Webster’s Prime, sipping wines, craft beer, favorite restaurants, local food, cooking at home, floral arrangements, the crazy, strangely addictive restaurant world and everything in between will most likely be the mixed up direction I go when posting to our blog. These new wave gods come into play for two reasons; one, because let’s be honest, they are amazing and that has to be a reason and two, because “This Must be the Place” reminds me of the point in my life when I realized that I belong in restaurants. Some say it’s a love song, which it certainly is, and others say it’s about the moment when David Byrne found his small place in the world.  The moment he found his way, the moment he was home.

Event Coordinating is all in the details.  These mason jars are filled with arborvitae from my backyard.  Beautiful and inexpensive, more event planning tips to come!

Event Coordinating is all in the details. These mason jars are filled with arborvitae from my backyard. Beautiful and inexpensive, more event planning tips to come!

As long as I’ve been working, I’ve been in the restaurant world.  My first job only lasted one short shift.  I was hired as a waitress at a small family owned restaurant, in a small village (yes, village … that small) near the very small town that I grew up in.  The other servers were ladies that were easily 60+ and I was barely 16.  Training consisted of a brief crash course on ticket writing, throwing me on the floor and then handing my tips over to Betty. The day started to wind down, and I was actually feeling pretty good with how I handled everything, until I saw the linen bag.  We didn’t have linens on the table, this was a mom and pop diner, so why the linen bag?  Then it hit me … I had probably thrown away over 60 cloth napkins throughout the course of my shift!  Needless to say, maybe my stomach started to hurt at that very moment, and maybe I had to call my mom to come pick me up because I was “sick”, and maybe my first day was my last day.

Luckily, things could only go up from there and I was able to leave the faraway diner behind.  I’ve served in multiple different restaurants over the past 8 years from Bob Evans, to Texas Roadhouse to finally landing at Webster’s Prime inside the Radisson. By that time I was almost 23, and hanging on to college by a thread.  I was lost, and desperately searching for my small place in the world.  After 3 years of searching, I realized I was already home.  My passion lied in the restaurant.  I took on the role of Event Coordinator, which grew into so many things. I eventually grew into a management position at Old Burdick’s Bar and Grill, then moved on to Zazios Italian Restaurant, and now a new chapter begins as I step back into the Event Coordinating role at Webster’s Prime.

Webster's allows for so many great opportunities, some of my favorite are our local food & charity driven events.  This is shot with our volunteers from Eat Drink Give 2014.

Webster’s allows for so many great opportunities, some of my favorites are our local food & charity driven events. This is a shot with our volunteers from Eat Drink Give 2014.

Events for me is all about the details, those little  moments or surprises that make an evening or event memorable.  Whether it’s something as large as a cocktail event for 100 guests, or an intimate anniversary dinner for 2, I love to help create that special moment.  I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in so many of our guest’s special days, and look forward to those on the horizon.  On the docket this spring we have the Greenleaf Hospitality Group 2nd Annual Signature Chef’s Dinner, taking place on May 15 at 6:30 p.m. This is going to be an amazing night, with chefs from all of the Radisson restaurants, including our very own Chef Stefan, Chef John and Joe from Zazios, Chef Brandon from Burdick’s for Breakfast, Chef Alec from Old Burdick’s, Chef Howie from Radisson Catering and Sherrie our talented pastry chef!  Each chef is cooking up a delicious course, with a wine paired from our featured winery Duckhorn Vineyards.  We’ve paired with our friends from Great Lakes Wine and Spirits on this one, and they have really knocked it out of the park with the wine this year.  All of the wines will be available for retail, and Duckhorn plans to have most, if not all of their portfolio available for ordering.  I know I’m saving my pennies for some of those mouth watering reds!

Our GHG Chefs gearing up for the Signature Chef Dinner last year.  Join us for the 2nd Annual Signature Chefs Dinner on May 15th. Call me at 269.226.3144 for reservations!

Our GHG Chefs gearing up for the Signature Chef Dinner last year. Join us for the 2nd Annual Signature Chefs Dinner on May 15th. Call me at 269.226.3144 for reservations!

I love what I do, and it spills into every aspect of my life.  My fiancé is an amazing chef, we love good food, we love good wine, beer and cocktails, we love dining out together and we love cooking at home just as much.  Whatever my passion is at the moment, is what I plan to share, whether it’s the bold Barbaresco I recently discovered, my recent trip to the farmer’s market, wedding details for our December wedding (at Webster’s Prime of course), insider event planning tips or the latest excitement coming out of the restaurant.  Whatever it may be, I look forward to sharing it with you.

I’ve worked in multiple restaurants here at GHG, and I’ve enjoyed and learned from every experience, but Webster’s will always be my home.  I am very happy to be home.

 

I love my Webster's family, we are certainly a tight knit crew.

I love my Webster’s family, we are certainly a tight knit crew.

 

If you’re looking to plan any style of event, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.  We have a very versatile space at Webster’s Prime and can accommodate a variety of groups.  Love craft beer?  Let’s plan a beer tasting, or a menu paired with your favorite beers!  Not big on beer, let’s plan a menu paired with your favorite wines or cocktails.  Birthdays, Rehearsals, Corporate Events, Weddings, Anniversaries, Graduation, Cocktail Events, Girls Night Out, Bachelor/Bachelorette Parties, Reunions, Baby Showers, Bridal Showers … you name it and I’ll plan it.  Looking for a lunch event?  Webster’s isn’t open for lunch, but we’ve done plenty of lunch events and are happy to accommodate groups during the day.

E-mail me at atipton@ghgkz.com

Call me at 269.226.3144

I look forward to hearing from you!

– Alexa

 

 

Visit http://www.bit.ly/chefswinedinner for details on the GHG Signature Chef’s Dinner!

 

Follow us on Instagram @websterprime

Marie-Antoine Carême “The First Celebrity Chef”

Marie-Antoine Carême has been considered the first ‘celebrity’ chef.  He was also known as the “king of cooks and cook of kings” (Kelly 2003: 225).  Along his maturation into the culinary world, his cooking and creativity helped to develop haute cuisineHaute cuisine or Grande cuisine is the “rich, intricate and elaborate cuisine of the 18th and 19th century French aristocracy and upper classes.  It is based on the rational identification, development and adoption of strict culinary principles.  By emphasizing the how and why of cooking, Grande cuisine was the first to distinguish itself from regional cuisines” (Labensky et al 2007:  5).  Carême followed strict principles in creating a genealogy of sauces which he categorized into béchamel, velouté, espagnole, and allemande.  In the simplest form they are thickened milk, thickened stock, thickened dark stock with tomato, and egg/acid emulsion like Hollandaise (Kelly 2003:  201).  These rules are evident and discussed in his five volume encyclopedia on cookery called L’Art de la cuisine which is basically a ‘how-to’ book on haute cuisine.  How did Marie-Antoine Carême become this great chef and create a new cuisine for the world?

Marie Antoine-Carême

Marie Antoine-Carême

Marie-Antoine Carême was born in Paris, France on June 8, 1784 to the poorest of parents.  He was named after the infamous Queen of France which he would become known as Antonin for the rest of his life.  Carême was part of a large family that might have ranged from eighteen to twenty-five children of Marie Jeanne Pascal and Jean Gilbert Carême.  Many of his early records were destroyed in 1871 from the Franco-Prussian war so that is why there is such a large range of siblings.  There are many stories of Antonin’s departure from his family.  The basis of his story is that Carême was abandoned on the streets of Paris and so to be fortunately picked up by a local cook.  Was this fate or a lucky circumstance that placed one of the future great chefs of the world in the hands of cook?  Whether it was fate or a lucky happenstance that landed Carême into the household of a chef, this new life facilitated his future into the exciting culinary world.  Antonin lived and worked with his ‘new’ family for six years until he was the age of fifteen.  He worked to earn his keep in the new household as lowly kitchen-boy in a chophouse that was where the cook who took him in was employed.  The work in the chophouse was basically the bottom of the Paris food chain while the top or most prestigious was the confectioners or pâtissiers.  This would add another chapter in Carême’s story of becoming a great chef to the world.

At the age of fifteen, Marie-Antonin Carême started his journey into the world of pastry.  Carême began his apprenticeship with Sylvain Bailly who was a pâtissier in Paris on the rue Vivienne (Kelly 2003:  35).  This was a very fashionable section of Paris and in view for many locals that would pass the windows of this patisserie.  All this work in this shop may have started Antonin’s health demise.  He worked in conditions that were very unhealthy because that was the design of the day.  The kitchens existed below the house in the late 18th century and some even lived below the street level.  Though his work days were long, hot and foul smelling, Carême would spend his afternoons studying and reading at the Bibliothèque Nationale where he would research ancient and foreign foods.  Along with studying foods from around the world, his other passion was architecture which would influence his pastry centerpieces or as they were named extraordinaires.

Updated Kitchen Uniform

Updated Kitchen Uniform

While working at Bailly’s patisserie, one of its patrons of Carême’s windows was another gourmand named Charles Maurice de Talleyrand.  These public displays of his works would have a big influence on chef Carême’s culinary life.  Talleyrand was a significant French diplomat which he served from Louis XVI to Napoleon I and other leaders of France.  Carême partnered and cooked for Talleyrand for twelve years.  Talleyrand did not visit Bailly’s patisserie, but Carême’s talent was noticed by Talleyrand’s maitre d’ named Boucher.  Boucher persuaded Carême to leave his position at Bailly’s to take a post with Gendron.  Antonin was not of legal age when he joined Gendron, but he worked out a deal that he could do some free-lance work.  Most of these special jobs came from Talleyrand.  These two men had much in common such as both were abandoned by their parents.  Their friendship would last for more than thirty years (Kelly 2003:  49).  In Talleyrand’s employ, Carême mainly made his extraordinaires, but he gained experience in both banquet cooking along with his confectionery skills.  As time went on, Talleyrand introduced Carême to many of his influential friends.  Through these meetings, Carême cooked for Napoleon’s sisters, and by 1803 and with the money he earned from his sugared centerpieces, Carême opened his own patisserie.  At his own place, Carême could create new desserts.  This was where Antonin started to pipe meringue through an icing bag which nobody did before.  Meringue was formed by using two spoons to get the shape that you want.  He ran that business until 1815 or 1816, but it remained an establishment, in name, until 1863.

Antonin Carême’s career was gaining notoriety among the powerful and with the nouveau riche.  And with Talleyrand’s connection to Napoleon, Carême got to make the food preparations for his wedding banquet along with designing and making the cake.  After his time creating for Napoleon, Carême began his connection to the Tsar of Russia, Alexander I who was the grandson of Catherine the Great.  A few years later Carême worked for the crowned Prince of Great Britain who later became George IV.  With all these influential people that Carême worked for, he got to travel to many different countries.  He worked and visited countries and cities such as Great Britain, Russia, and Vienna, Austria.

Marie-Antonin Carême contributed many ideas, dishes, and techniques to the culinary world.  One of his main contributions was to the chef’s uniform.  Carême updated the uniform and introduced a new style of hat worn by chefs.  This hat is called the toque.  This form of hat is still worn by chefs today.  Carême was the first chef or person to create categories for the sauces in the culinary milieu.  These became the four mother or leading sauces which are mentioned above in this paper.  He also helped to create a new cuisine that branched away from local or regional cuisine, and it was name haute cuisine.  Influenced by what Carême witnessed in Russia, he changed his service of meals from service à la française with service à la russe.  This modernized the way people served food from all at once on the table to bring out each dish according to the menu.  Carême was also credited with “introducing cream as alternative to vinegar in Russian sauces” (Kelly 2003:  167).  Carême not only had influence on techniques and dishes, he had some influence on future chefs such as Auguste Escoffier.  Escoffier took Carême’s haute cuisine and modernized and simplified it along with adding another leading sauce to the list.

Elaborate Dessert Designs by Carême

Elaborate Dessert Designs by Carême

During his last days, Carême wrote in total five books on cookery and desserts.  Most doctors said that he had intestinal tuberculosis, but the main reason Carême was dying was because of his life in the kitchen.  Antonin endured with a low-level carbon-monoxide poisoning from his days in a charcoal smoked filled kitchens that had no ventilation system.  On January 12, 1833 Marie-Antonin Carême suffered a stroke and passed away just a few months from fifty years of age.

By working at Webster’s Prime in Kalamazoo and in the culinary world, I believe that it is very important to learn the history of the kitchen.  We as chefs can learn from the past to move our career and field to new levels of the art of cookery.  Today’s kitchen is still influenced by Carême by the uniform we wear and the sauces we make, plus the way we serve our menu in course instead of all at once.  I will leave this blog with a quote from Carême to all chefs, future chefs, and to everyone:

“Advice to young chefs:  young people who love your art; have courage, perseverance…always hope…don’t count on anyone, be sure of yourself, of your talent and your probity and all will be well.”

Richard J. Steward
Line Cook

Richard

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited and Reviewed

Chefs Toque Culinaire. 22 March 2006. 26 May 2010 <http://www.chefstoqueculinaire.net/modules/AMS/index.php?storytopic=11&gt;.

  1. 27 May 2010 <http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=4436&gt;.

Kelly, Ian. Cooking for Kings: The Life of Antonin Careme, The First Celebrity Chef. New York: Walker & Company, 2003.

Labensky, Sarah, Alan M. Hause, Steven Labensky and Pricilla Martel. On Cooking: A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals. Upper Saddle River: New Jersey, 2007.

Stradley, Linda. History of Sauces. 2004. 26 May 2010 <http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/SauceHistory.htm&gt;.

 

 

Parting Words

Radisson Plaza Hotel & Suites Kalamazoo, MI

Radisson Plaza Hotel & Suites
Kalamazoo, MI

I remGreenleafember my first day with Greenleaf Hospitality Group, outlet – Zazios Kalamazoo; I was 19 years old and had not a care in the world besides completing my college degree.  If you would have stopped that 19 year old girl in the lobby of the Radisson hotel and asked her where she saw herself in seven years, I assure you the answer would have been quite different from where she is today.

I started working as a hostess for Zazios Kalamazoo in the fall of 2006.  I was thrilled to be a part of something so special and unique.  I was excited about the way Greenleaf Hospitality adapted the ‘Yes I Can’ attitude towards their guests and how eager they were to accommodate both their internal and external guests.  I learned so much from Zazios Kalamazoo.  I learned how to appreciate the fine cuisine that my father always encouraged me to try, but I never would.  Scallops, mussels, rapini (it’s terrible don’t try it,) brussel sprouts, radish, beets, veal, prosciutto, pork belly, lamb, duck, the list goes on…  Zazios opened my eyes to the wonders of many exotic foods that I used to snub my young, undeveloped palate to before joining their team.

For Today (Wood)

Zazios Salami Tasting

It was here at Zazios that I met many of my best friends, including Shawdy Moaiery whose start date was just a day before mine – November 28th, 2006.  We attended all of our human resources training classes together and have been friends ever since.  I also met many others through the years, Kristin Mantila Brown and Jess Southerland (Armstrong) both of whom I still meet almost once a week for a girl’s date.  It was also here that I met my incredible boyfriend, Alec Durocher, whom I’ve been dating for over three years and we are planning our futures together.  It would be hard for me to say that I could imagine my life without these amazing people who have helped shaped the person that I am today.  So it is safe to say that Zazios Kalamazoo will forever hold a special place in my heart.

Zazios

Zazios Italian Restaurant + Bar

 

Upon completion of my degree from Western Michigan University, I wore a duel cap; working days at a local school as a Paraprofessional and nights as a server at Zazios.  When the elementary school year ended, we were in the process of opening Zazios Birmingham in 2010.  I decided (because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life…to apply to graduate school or not to apply to graduate school,) that it would be worth life experience to move to Detroit, MI.  It was here as a bartender/server that I learned so much about life, love, and what I wanted for my future.  I also met another acquaintance, Allie Tucker, who will forever be a life long friend.

Zazios Birmingham, MI (This location is now closed.)

Zazios Birmingham, MI (This location is now closed.)

It was in the fall of 2012 that Alec and I moved back to Kalamazoo and I was extended the hand of Stefan Johnson as my future mentor – an experienced and trusted adviser, who was much more than a boss.  Stefan had faith in who I was as an individual; he saw the promise in me and gave me a chance at a career with Greenleaf Hospitality.  Sure he “made me” host, serve, and bartend before I took on the role as Event Coordinator, turned Restaurant Supervisor of Webster’s Prime, but he also invested in me.  He helped mature my many talents and strengths and learn how to develop them for a future career path.

Webster’s Prime is where I really got my feet wet in hopes for a future career path in food and beverage.  I met so many wonderful people from all different walks of life.  Some guests I met through corporate or private events, some through sharing in their special days – wedding ceremonies, rehearsal dinners, and receptions, some were entertainers that I booked to play in our Tasting Room, and some were frequent dinners in our restaurant who were just looking for a great dining experience.  It is these people who make working in food and beverage such a reward.  I will miss many of them deeply and will hope that our paths cross once again in life.PicMonkey Collage

Aside from all of our sensational guests here at Webster’s Prime, it is the brilliant people that I had the privilege of working with every day who will be greatly missed as well.  You don’t always get to see all that goes into running a successful and unique restaurant.  For example we meet with our marketing department every Tuesday, our food and beverage department every third Wednesday of the month, and our all staff meeting is held every month as well.  All staff includes leaders from the sales and catering department, the banquets department, Wings Stadium, Wings West, Rio, Sydney, Blush, front desk, The Wedding Studio, and the list goes on…with a team of 800 people employed here at Greenleaf it’s hard not to miss such a group of wonderful, talented people!

Stefan and Alana

It is for all of these reasons that Webster’s Prime, Zazios, and Greenleaf Hospitality will forever be a part of who I am.  When I decided to put in my two weeks and accept my new position with The Hinman Company I had a hard time.  It was a challenge to leave the comfort of what this company has provided – friends, support, and potential.  However, I know that The Hinman Company will be a new and exciting challenge for me and I am so thrilled to start on April 16th!

So for some parting words –

THANK YOU!

Thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout the last seven years with Greenleaf.

Thank you to our patrons for choosing to dine in such wonderful downtown Kalamazoo restaurants, Webster’s, Zazios, and Old Burdick’s.

Thank you for staying in our distinctive downtown hotel, The Radisson Plaza Hotel and Suites.

 

I look forward to seeing you in the future, at The Hinman Company.

All the best,

Alana Fisher
Event Coordinator
Restaurant Supervisor

The Angler’s Assumption: taking our seafood for granted

Prawn - Florida, wild caught, roasted tomato 'salsa'

Prawn – Florida, wild caught, roasted tomato ‘salsa’

I will never forget the first time I caught a fish. A bluegill whose fair size was relative to the ‘Twin Lakes’ outside my childhood home in mid- Michigan. I remember the wonderment I felt as a young boy peering at this fish, so alive with its sheen and squirm, dangling from my arched fishing pole. Time held still as my father’s strong hand slid down the top of the fish and held its sharp dorsal fin in place. I listened closely as he carefully removed the hook from the mouth and instructed, “this is a gift, and gifts come with responsibility.”

Skuna Bay Salmon from Vancouver

For about twenty years, those words have stuck with me.  They are subconscious aspects of the food I cook in my personal and professional life, especially when it comes to seafood. I certainly didn’t learn about sustainability, locational sourcing or birth-to-catchratios in my five-second “life lesson” on the Twin Lakes that day, but I’ve always known I hadto respect the food I eat. As I’ve progressed through my life and have had the privilege of experiencing and experimenting with rare ingredients, the humane responsibilities of making that selection are imperative.

I know that seared blue gill with acidity and contrasting texture is phenomenal, or that Michigan is known for its Friday Fish Fry. What about having Coldwater Maine Lobster, Alaskan Halibut, Scallops from Massachusetts, or Japanese Oysters? Eating these delicacies are a rarity, and should be treated as one. We should all be educated on the horrors of over-fishing and net-rigged catch of beautiful fish such as the Chilean Sea Bass or the Pacific’s massive Bluefin Tuna, the toxicity caused by certain mass fish farming and the proper harvesting season of crustaceans.

Ocean Tasting

We should all also know that being responsible for what seafood we eat is much simpler than understanding every aspect of our aquatic kingdom on Earth.

In coastal California, not far from San Francisco, is the beautiful Monterey Bay, where my sister was wed and home toone of the most important and relevant aquarium/research institutes in the United States: Monterey Bay Aquarium Research institute (MBARI). Located in Moss Landing, the bay is vastly blue and filled with lush sea life, colorful coral and the occasional humpback whale. They are globally recognized for their research and standards concerning oceanic habitat.

Their website also has a convenient app for mobile devices, MBA Seafood Watch, which I use regularly when ordering seafood for the restaurant, buying fish at the store and researching into menu design. MBARI clearly decides and explains what seafood by location is categorized as a ‘best choice’, ‘good alternative’, ‘bad alternative’ or ‘avoid’.  There is also great detail into fishing practices and specific weather effects in all areas of the world.  They even have now added a social media aspect, connecting people to share where they source sustainable seafood.

33lb Striped Bass, hand-line caught, Maryland

33lb Striped Bass, hand-line caught, Maryland

If you’re having a hard time sourcing high quality and sustainable seafood, come into Webster’s and we would love to meet you and aid in supplying you with responsible seafood.

It is a big world out there, and we cannot allow its size to make us oblivious to what we eat. As all of you know, the future is inevitable. We need to share information and help each other to better this planet, and ourselves. I see myself sitting on an old wooden dock one day, early in the dawn of the beautiful Michigan fall, casting a fishing lesson with my child.

 

http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/

http://www.seafoodwatch.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx

http://www.webstersrestaurant.com/

Nate Shaw
Kitchen Superior

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