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

An Open Door

It was a bright morning as my fiancée Alexa and I packed our sedan with a completely full suitcase, a new camera and our fanatically prepared selves.  We were visiting my oldest sister, her husband and their dog Lily in California.  Food obsessed as all four of us are, my sister had carefully planned lunch and dinner for all of our days together. It was common knowledge that we would be spoiled by an expertise in good restaurants, food secrets and an unmatched generosity from my family.  California is a culinary kingdom, spanning styles and ingredients all along its vast coast.  We were in for the trip of our lives, and a food coma.  I should state that this isn’t the first “food-enhanced” trip I’ve been on.  I have greedily shared sukiyaki in Nara, Japan. I have dirtied more than one bib devouring blue crab in Baltimore.  I became a master of dissecting good and bad pollo pibil in the Yucatan.  I’ve eaten my way up and down California more than once.  None of these meals though, were going to be as memorable as the delights we had coming our way.

Stag's Leap Winery

Stag’s Leap Winery

We started in Los Angeles, a gigantic and immensely spread out place, with more identities and characters than can be explained in one work of writing.  The restaurants feel different there.  The first place we walked into surprised us culturally and gastronomically; serving Kampachi tostadas in a dim and square shaped dining room by a middle-aged hipster in a tightly fixed bistro apron, who could probably hold his own in any food-related discussion with the likes of Harold Mcgee or Escoffier.  Or who wouldn’t want to go to a lunch spot called “Oinkster” the next day?  With a cozy diner themed patio of red and white, home to the best chili cheese fries I’ve ever had, and a draft beer selection that any Michigan craft beer advocate would respect.  The sushi is made correctly.  Not just the process, but the fact that they are actually close the ocean, so that seafood only has to travel minimally.  Even the Thai delivery was exceptional and cured our jetlag.  We were heading to northern California next, stopping in Los Olivos and Solvang; two towns that serve as a beautiful wine country destination, as well as home to friendly and humble people, Ostrich Land and the setting of the infamous movie, “Sideways.”  Wine was great, but the stories were better. The award-winning bacon at Sides Hardware was truly worth it, as well as being from the most interesting restaurant we had been to yet.  All in all, good preparation for what was to come next, Napa Valley, where even cooks are bewildered and intimidated by the food.

Gott's

Gott’s

The air is amazing in Napa.  It’s a surreal feeling to be surrounded by so many artisans and kings of the world you know and hold so dear.  It was a shame we stuffed dozens of oysters and rich clam chowder down our throats on the day of our French Laundry reservation, but I don’t regret a bite.  Our dinner reservation was at 9:15, which was much more than a “bucket list item” or a “last meal” for me.  It was a dream coming true.  The kind of dream you take for granted, because you can’t fathom it actually being real.  Keller’s French Laundry, is arguably one of the best restaurants in the world, and could be the best meal of my life.  I will keep it short and sweet, as it would take pages to explain my experience there, and I can’t bear leaving any piece out.  The next day we enjoyed rock shrimp tempura at Morimoto’s that bent my brain on Japanese fusion like never before, and I live Japanese fusion.  If you don’t get a burger from Gott’s while in northern California, then you’ve missed a landmark.  Our last meal with our gracious hosts was at Yank Sing Dim Sum, in San Francisco.  A meal of mixed emotions; incredibly sad of parting ways with two people that mean so much to us, yet drooling over soup dumplings that I have fantasized about since I last ate them, three years prior.  Later that day, Alexa and I shared cold Anchor Steams and a buttery Dungeness crab on a wharf sidewalk, staring out into the ocean alongside fat and domesticated seagulls.  I proposed to my fiancée that night, as we watched the sunset from a sailboat.

So why glorify California and its institutions so much?  I believe the food culture has been established there, at or past its prime if you will.  They have a strong stance and have set a standard, holding up to any trends in a culinary enlightened society.

Sunset in San Francisco

Sunset in San Francisco

Their door has been closed though, and ours is wide open.

We are at the brink of an extremely exciting time for food and drink in southwest Michigan, as my peers and I are at the forefront of an economic up-turn.  We are creating the trend, painting the canvas and landscaping the map for a food culture.  A gentleman who used to work at Webster’s, has since become sous chef for a very well renowned restaurant in California, still claims to this day, “nobody does beef like you guys.”  Webster’s is proud to be a part of this movement, and will keep pushing our theory and beliefs in sourcing the best ingredients locally and regionally, supporting Michigan wine and beer, helping the community in any way we can, treating our product with respect, and maintaining restraint and originality in this exciting time for food.  So come enjoy a pastrami sandwich or high quality steak here at Webster’s Prime, and be a part of putting Michigan in a well deserved spot in the growing gastronomic world.

Nate Shaw
Kitchen Supervisor
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The Pros of Culinary School

photo 1Having just graduating from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts back in March, I often replay in my head the time I spent there and whether or not I feel it was truly beneficial. Without a doubt, I feel culinary school is not for everyone. Personally for me, I am very thankful for my time in Minneapolis and the experience I gained. It helped me get that jump start into my career path. Are you, or someone you know interested in joining the culinary profession? It’s a very difficult and life changing decision to make.  This week I’ll list some of the pros I believe culinary school has to offer. photo 4

Lack of Knowledge:

When I finally made the decision to attend culinary school, I had very little knowledge about the restaurant industry, let alone what it was like to work in a kitchen. I had worked in retail, and my only experience handling food was minimal prepping at a deli. From football shaped potatoes AKA Tourne’s (I made so many Tourne’s that I dreamt about them!), to converting 25 teaspoons into cups, culinary school taught me various basics. A lot of the knowledge I gained I still use on a daily basis. For someone who was inexperienced like myself, I found school to be extremely useful. Probably the most beneficial skill I took with me was how to handle a knife. I had an entire six week class that was primarily based on how to cut with a knife properly.

Reputation:

Granted, culinary schools sometimes are considered a con, but I believe that most employers would view culinary school as a positive. When I briefly searched for jobs in Minneapolis after I graduated, I know that most of the people I had interviews with or talked to, positively acknowledged that I attended Le Cordon Bleu. School taught me the importance of an organized and clean kitchen. This is a trait that some people who never attended school may lack. Going to school also gave me a better understanding of respect as well. Although I still love to have fun while in the kitchen, school helped me become more disciplined.

photo 3

Friendships:

In a trade school like Le Cordon Bleu, you are most likely with the same students for the entire year. This could be a good or bad thing. If you get in a large class, it’s more likely you’ll form friendships. Unfortunately for me, I had a very small class and none of us grew very close. Part of it may have been due to us not being too talkative at 6am! However, I still keep in touch with a couple of the students. Forming friendships during school I know has really helped out a lot of people in their career. If you impressed one of your peers in school, the more likely they’ll want you to work in the kitchen with them in the future. Connections are a very beneficial thing!

Resources:

The Chefs at my school were wonderful teachers and the majority of them were willing to write letters of recommendations or be used as references. Having solid references is a great thing to have when being considered for a job. In addition, the representatives at Le Cordon Bleu were great. During school they helped each student edit their resumes, and discussed the key components in what an employer looked for. They also checked up on me after graduation to see if there was anything they could do to help further advance my career. I had actually contacted one of them for advice about a seasonal job I had been hired at and she was very helpful. Throughout school they told us that even many years from now, if we were struggling to find a job,they would assist us. It was a comfort to know that I had that resource.

photo 2

Rabbit with Tournes

Recipes:

I was excited at how many recipes I was given throughout the year. I have an entire binder full of recipes just from culinary school, not to mention the two books I was given that discussed the basics of French Cuisine. I was also given numerous packets that had information about things like different meat cuts, the science behind baking, and spices. I felt all of the recipes will be very useful throughout my career.

Testing Your Future:

My dreams and goals have been one big rollercoaster ride ever since I was a child. At one point I wanted to work at Sea World and ride Shamu! However, one day I wanted a drastic change. I always enjoyed cooking for friends and family, and it was the one skill I felt I could rely on. To be honest though, it wasn’t until after the second semester of school that I realized this was my dream career. I wanted to be a Chef! I remember calling home one afternoon, ecstatic that I made gnocchi with tomato sauce and brown butter. School was the reason why I pushed forward to become a chef. That alone, is the biggest reason why I’m so thankful I attended school.

These are the key pros that I experienced myself through school. With the pros, also comes the cons. Please check back next week to see what I feel some of the cons about culinary school are! Have a wonderful week!

Amy Spalsbury
Line Cook
Beer VS Wine Dinner 037

A Culinary Look At Supporting Your Local Economy

kalamazoo550(832)One of the biggest concerns for most Americans right now isn’t where to vacation or have dinner, it’s the state of our economy, and I’m sure everyone is with me that the last thing we need right now is another age of “Great Depression”.  So you start thinking about positive things you can do to try and help turn things around, and also negative things that won’t do at all. If you’re like me, then you’ve thought of so many things by now you can’t possibly remember them all! This is the point when frustration starts to set in, when I realized just how much the chips are stacked against us right now. So I decided what I need to do is look at things in a different way, what if I start focusing my thoughts and efforts on things I can do to fix things a little closer to home.

Kale

Fresh Local Kale at the Farmers Market

When you start thinking about things in a smaller, local perspective, it becomes a bit easier to figure out a way to make an impact. Being a cook, naturally the first thing that comes to mind is putting my money back into local agriculture, artisanal products, and the restaurants that strive for both of these as well, because more money spent locally means more local jobs. Starting to think local food, I’m sure a lot of people like myself can say that their first experience with it was as a child with a parent, pulling off the side of the road to buy freshly picked fruit from a farmer with a small fruit stand. That doesn’t seem completely reliable right? But while I was working with Zazios, and when I started working with Webster’s, is when I finally realized how easy it is to buy local, and how much better it is for everyone involved. The Bank Street Farmer’s Market has definitely become my one stop shop for the vast majority of fresh food I use at home, and if your not in Kalamazoo enough to make it worth the trip, there’s also a great market to look up in Texas Corners as well! Both markets carry a great selection of the basics like beef, chicken, pork, herbs, grains, fruits, and vegetables, but the best part is all of the seasonal gems that you can’t get at the store like wild ramps, fiddlehead ferns, fresh morel mushrooms, (good) heirloom tomatoes, it really makes you wonder what other treasures are out there. It has been great to see how much the Market’s have really grown from last year to this year, and I’m happy I could be a part of the difference.NH(1)

Southwest Michigan is always going to consist of a large amount of farmland, and all this land and great food is a perfect opportunity for the right people to start crafting beautiful artisanal products. For one, Michigan is becoming a front-runner in the craft-brewing world, and Kalamazoo’s very own Bell’s Brewery is definitely one of the best in my opinion. What’s great is the new emphasis being put on creating beers made with strictly Michigan ingredients, and then brewing large batches for distribution. However, if you’re not much of a drinker, you can always head back down to the Farmer’s Market for craft made cheeses, all-natural sausages, Amish butter, noodles, bread, syrups, and homemade pies, just to name a few. The possibilities of culinary creation are limitless you just have to get out there and discover them.

Grilled Short Rib Potato, Cauliflower, Garlic Chive, Jus

Grilled Short Rib
Potato, Cauliflower, Garlic Chive, Jus

As you can see we all benefit when we support local agriculture and business. Taking your new “shop local” perspective towards buying food for home, the natural next step is to look at where you dine when you decide to eat at a restaurant. Next time you’re trying to decide where to go, take a second to look at the menu from your choice. Most restaurants will advertise where they source their product from, because you never know, a few familiar names could be the reason you choose one restaurant over another. I can’t stress how important it is to know where and how your food was grown, and also how it got to you. I do know that here at Webster’s Prime we pride ourselves on sourcing the freshest product we can get, and we’re proud to support our local farmers and artisans.

Jeremy Loomis
Line Cook
JL

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