Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Global Culinary Expedition

August 28

The Hooters fact in the posting below came from the corporate chef of Hooters' South Florida franchisee. He mentioned it during one of Smithfield's after-hours "hospitality suites."
As a journalist, it’s very important to attend hospitality suites because it affords you the opportunity to socialize with potential sources and to discuss issues in a less formal setting.
Also there are free drinks — and if Smithfield’s the host, free cold cuts.
Since the corporate chefs from Qdoba and Baja Fresh were there, I heard great, salacious, unsubstantiated rumors about the corporate culture at Chipotle (which Qdoba executives have been known to refer to as “the C-word”).
Here are some other things I learned, during presentations, cooking demonstrations, idle chatter etc.
An economist at Smithfield predicts stable commodity prices through the rest of the year, but an increase of between three and five percent in 2008.
As of the last census, 62 languages were spoken in Mexico.
The fastest growing sauce or flavor in 2005 was chipotle. In 2006 it was aïoli (according to Datassential).
Mole, believe it or not, is available in 31.4 percent of Mexican restaurants in the United States (also according to Datassential).
In the Mexican state of Colima and parts of Jalisco, ginger is traditionally used in cooking, but it isn’t anywhere else in Mexico (from Roberto Santibañez, who by the way has not moved to San Antonio as indicated but not actually stated in The New York Times, but still lives in New York; he did a terrific demonstration of Mexican cooking).
It's important to dust off chiles before using them, because the dust on them is bitter (also Roberto Santibañez).
Also from Roberto:
Adobo means different things in different countries, but in Mexico (excluding "the Sister Republic of Yucatán" where the food’s totally different) it is either a paste made with dried chiles for marinating meat or a sauce in which to cook that meat.
He said Mexicans seem to like to make their food more mysterious than it is, and that they’d be better served by explaining it more clearly. He’s actually working on codifying Mexican cuisine, much as Escoffier did with French food, in a Culinary Institute of America curriculum that he’s developing.
Roberto made the former kind of adobo in his presentation, and he did it without toasting any of the spices beforehand because he wanted the flavors that are released through heating to be released while the dish was cooking, thus flavoring the meat better.
Also cooking at the conference was the Puerto Rican culinary world’s answer to Bruce Willis, Wilo Benet, who made a bunch of yummy sauces for us, and what he called a Puerto Rican sloppy Joe.
Perhaps that would be a sloppy José.
As is usually done at these meetings, the corporate chefs teamed up and cook things. My favorite creation: the Dagwood quesadilla filled with all the Smithfield deli meats the chefs could find.

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