IN HER OWN WORDS: Keep It Fresh

By on April 1, 2012
Ellen Leahy

BY ELLEN LEAHY I PHOTO BY RAINE DUFRANE

In more than three decades involved in the Central New York food scene, I can honestly say that we have a terrific audience. Our customers relish good food. And, they like it fresh, as is exhibited by their consistent travels to our regional markets and various farm markets.

Over the years, sourcing great ingredients has become a bit easier, but it’s always tricky. It’s important to “know thy source.” Instead of actions speaking louder than words, we think in terms of taste speaking loudest! It’s wonderful that a purveyor or a food writer says something is delicious. But really, how does it taste? That’s the bottom line: Taste and keep tasting. The same goes for your beverages. Especially with the rise of so many new cocktails that sound great! But how do they taste?

Around the turn of the century, I was working as a food consultant in the Boston area and was given the task of calling top chefs around the country to ask if they would ever consider using this new tool, called “the Internet,” to source specialty foods.

I contacted people such as Todd English (Olives, Boston), Chris Schlesinger (East Coast Grill, Cambridge) and Nancy Silverton (La Brea Bakery, L.A.). What is funny to think about now, is how the computer was not really a management tool or a communication device, other than as the Point of Sale System in the operation (guest check accountability, time clock, etc.). I remember pointing out to one chef who said he hated computers that in fact he used one every day with his Point of Sale System. “Oh yeah, you’re right,” he said.

A dozen years later, can you image running your business without the constant clicking of your computer, or computers? And now our phones really are smart!

Checking out current trends in the marketplace once involved a train ride to Manhattan or a jet to the West Coast if you wanted to actually view someone’s menu, let alone their vibe. Now, both are often beautifully represented on their website.

And speaking of websites, (your electronic brochure) keep it fresh, too! There is nothing worse than stale information for your guests. Also, keep in mind, there is a code of ethics in the restaurant industry called “truth in menu.” At least 25 years ago, we were challenged by the National Restaurant Association to express on our menus exactly what it was we were preparing in our kitchens. This means restaurants must deliver exactly what they say they are offering, no hype. So, when a menu says, “Fresh Fruit,” it better be fresh fruit.

Restaurants are like people in that the operation needs to be constantly evolving. People resist change, but adapt well to evolution. If you don’t evolve your business, it will become stale, and even fresh bread makes better croutons than the old stuff.

Ellen Leahy is the managing partner of bc Restaurant in Armory Square, Syracuse, which features “modern dining.”
Check her out at bcrestaurant.com or “like” bc on Facebook and follow on Twitter.

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