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Volume 16, No. 11 n November 2017

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The Energy Behind



insidefsm Volume 16, No. 10


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Volume 16, No. 11 n November 2017

foodservicemonthly monthly TM

The Energy Behind


news and information


Advertisers Index …………………………………………………………………… 24 Association News OCHMRA by Susan L. Jones …………………………… 14 Association News RAM by Marshall Weston ………………………………… 10 Association News RAMW by Kathy Hollinger ………………………………… 9 Association News VRTLA by Eric Terry ………………………………………… 15 FSM News ……………………………………………………………………………… 2

Balti-MORE by Dara Bunjon …………………………………………………… 20 Bits & Bites by Lisa Keathley ……………………………………………………… 7 Bob Brown Says by Bob Brown …………………………………………………… 4 Culinary Correspondent by Celeste McCall …………………………………… 8 FRESHFARM's FEAST ……………………………………………………………… 11 Food Smarts by Juliet Bondinetz ……………………………………………… 16 Local Cooks by Alexandra Greeley …………………………………………… 17 Modern Business Solutions by Henry Pertman ……………………………… 6 The Latest Dish by Linda Roth ………………………………………………… 13 Whining 'n Dining by Randi Rom ……………………………………………… 21

Foodservice Monthly is the only publication to be awarded the RAM Allied Member of the Year award and the RAMW Joan Hisaoka Associate Member of the Year award, the highest honor for a non-restaurant member.

On The Cover - Page 18 The Energy Behind Choolaah Indian BBQ Raji Sankar (l-r), Simran Sethi, and Randhir Sethi Story: Lisa Keathley Cover and article photos: Richard Kelly

Safer Customers. Simplified Procedures. Better Results. NO RINSE FOOD CONTACT CLEANER SANITIZER Simplified procedures with fewer steps help reduce cleaning time increasing productivity. Customers and employees will be safer with the improved food safety compliance providing protection against a variety of foodborne illnesses.

Contact your Ecolab representative at 1 800 35 CLEAN or visit Ecolab.com for more information ©2017 Ecolab USA Inc.



All rights reserved.

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NOVEMBER 2017 | 1


November 17 — Vote! Vote! Vote!

The 2018 Michelin Guide — it’s out!

No, not at the ballot box — but online for three major annual restaurant awards! The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) has teamed up with American Express, PepsiCo Foodservice, and Ecolab to honor individuals in three award categories:

Congratulations to the many deserving RAMW members and restaurants all across the District and Virginia who made it into the Washington, D.C. edition of the 2018 Michelin Star Guide. The new edition includes three local restaurants with two stars and eleven restaurants with one star. Komi and Metier are both newcomers to the star list, which now numbers fourteen. Michelin also revealed its list of 22 Bib Gourmand — more affordable — restaurants for D.C. for 2018, including three newcomers to the list: Hazel, The Tavern at Ivy City Smokehouse, and Sfoglina. The Guide also recognized more than 70 restaurants with the Plate symbol, where “inspectors have discovered quality food.” The Michelin D.C. Guide, launched for the first time in 2016, is Michelin’s fourth U.S. guide, along with New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. The star recognitions are coveted throughout the industry here and abroad, but it is an honor just to be listed. For sure, it’s a cause for celebration for the Washington, D.C. area to have its own Michelin Guide, attracting attention, excitement, and foodies to the region. The full list of 2018 Michelin honored restaurants can be found at www.guide.michelin.com/ us/washington-dc.

n Restaurant Neighbor Award – recognizes restaurants for outstanding community service and philanthropy. National winners are chosen from a pool of state winners to win $10,000 to support their favorite charity or non-profit. n Face of Diversity American Dream Award – honors individuals from a diverse background who, through hard work and determination, have realized their American dream. Three winners are honored each year with this award, and three $2,500 scholarships are awarded to ProStart students in the names of the winners. n Thad and Alice Eure Ambassador of Hospitality Award – celebrates an individual who has shown extraordinary achievement and exemplary leadership in the restaurant and hospitality industry. The restaurant industry is one of the most diverse industries in the country, employing more minority managers than any other industry, according to NRAEF. It is also one of the most charitable industries. Currently, nine out of ten restaurants are actively involved in charitable activities on a daily basis. To vote for your special candidate in any of these categories, go to https:// chooserestaurants.org/awards. There, you can also find compelling stories about last year’s winners. The deadline is Friday, November 17.

2 | NOVEMBER 2017

Keep on truckin’ — November 6-12 If you are in the Baltimore metro region on these dates, you might see a higher than normal number of food trucks at local fire stations and on busy office street corners. What’s up? It’s the inaugural Baltimore Food Truck Week. “There are

restaurant weeks twice a year almost everywhere,” says Willy Dely. “Why not a food truck week to celebrate

Food truckers will celebrate in Baltimore during Food Truck Week local chefs on wheels?” Dely is founder of a Baltimore-based food and beverage consulting agency, Au Jus Solutions, and previously ran food trucks for Kooper’s Tavern and Slainte Irish Pub & Restaurant. “Some still believe that food trucks only serve lunch at street corners, but food trucks offer an array of services, including catering,” Dely continues. “Baltimore Food Truck Week is the perfect opportunity for food truck aficionados and foodies to explore the diversity of the food truck industry.” As the weather cools, business generally drops for food trucks, and Dely said he has heard from food truck owners who are worried about sustaining business through the winter. He’s hoping the promotional week spreads awareness to customers and shows food trucks are willing and able to cater events that go beyond lunchtime pit stops. Rosa Gargano, owner of Pasta la Vista, Baby!, Mangi Amore, and Wanna Pizza This? food trucks said, “We look forward to Baltimore Food Truck Week. Our three food trucks will be on the road every day, and we can’t wait to see regular faces and meet new customers.” Local businesses and associations that have already joined the celebration as partners and sponsors include

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the Maryland Mobile Food Vending Association, the National Food Truck Association, Carey Sales, Lee & Associates, and Like The Tea Eats. For more information, contact Willy Dely at (443) 873-0837 or email at info@ baltimorefoodtruckweek.com. Like and follow Baltimore Food Truck Week on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @BmoreFoodTruck.

Congressional Seafood spins fish tales Local chefs and restaurateurs recently got a first-hand look at the habitat that supports the local seafood served in their restaurants. Where? At Congressional Seafood’s sixth annual Hook, Line, and Sinker Finvitational, held September 25, at Silver Swan Bayside on Kent Island

200 local chefs and industry supporters hit the bay in September for Congressional Seafoods's 6th annual Finvitational in Stevensville, Maryland. The highlight of the event was the striped bass fishing tournament where 200 chefs and industry supporters engaged in friendly competition to catch the biggest (or so they said!!!) fish. “It’s always good to spend the day on the water, and even more so when we have the opportunity

FSM NEWS cont. pg 3 foodservicemonthly


foodservicemonthly Volume 16, No. 11 n November 2017

From pg 2 to connect outstanding chefs and restaurateurs with the watermen and vendors that supply our product,” said Tim Sughrue, vice president at Congressional Seafood. Winners of the Finvitational tournament, which features a trophy, medals, and bragging rights until next year, were: n Kurt Frevel, from Atlantic Caterers and the Bonnie Sue n Damien Stewart, from the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center and the Miss Susie n Bridget Hannon, from Sequoia and the Loosen Up Attendees, including chefs and restaurateurs from Clyde’s Restaurant Group, Passion Food Hospitality, Great American Restaurants, Blacks Restaurant Group, and many others, had the opportunity to learn about the Chesapeake Bay and the local seafood industry. A portion of the


event’s proceeds will be donated to the Oyster Recovery Project, which finds innovative ways to use recovered oyster shells in the Chesapeake Bay.

Time for wine — it’s getting Chile out there! This November, recipients of the 14th Annual Wines of Chile Awards (AWOCA) will be formally announced at a special event in Washington, D.C. “This program was formerly held in Santiago but since 2015, has moved to priority markets as a way of generating a higher impact and building awareness,” said Angelica Valenzuela, commercial director of Wines of Chile. Host cities have included São Paulo, Shanghai, and now Washington, D.C. “This is our first year in the United States, the second largest export market for Chile, and it is a huge opportunity for respected American beverage professionals to taste the quality and

diversity of our wines.” The judging of more than 300 wines took place in early September in San Francisco during a two-day blind tasting with 27 judges from all sides of the industry, including wine writers, Master Sommeliers, and Masters of Wine. The panel awarded 82 gold medals, 13 top placements in varietal categories, including Sparkling, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Carignan, Red Blends, Pinot Noir, Carmenere, and Cabernet Sauvignon, and selected two best-in-show winners. The range of winning wines represents the diverse microclimates in Chile’s 12 wine growing regions. The United States is Chile’s second largest export wine market, representing 11% of total wine exported. Last year, Chile ranked fourth in imported bottle table volume sold in the U.S. – finishing ahead of Argentina, Spain, and New Zealand.

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Silver Communications Publisher Lisa Keathley Managing Editor lisafoodmag@gmail.com Lisa Silber Sales Manager lisa@foodservicemonthly.com Electronic Ink Design & Production fsm@eink.net Dennis Barry Juliet Bodinetz Bob Brown Dara Bunjon Alexandra Greeley

Contributing Writers Kathy Hollinger Susan Jones Celeste McCall Henry Pertman Randi Rom

Linda Roth Michael Sternberg Eric Terry Marshall Weston

Contact phone: 703-471-7339 email: lisa@foodservicemonthly.com fax: 866-961-4980 web: www.foodservicemonthly.com Foodservice Monthly, a division of Silver Communications, Corp., is owned and published by Silver Communications, Corp. The Foodservice Monthly mission is to provide MidAtlantic foodservice professionals with news and information in an informed, imaginative and insightful newsmagazine. Foodservice Monthly assumes no responsibility for material submitted to us. All information contained in this publication is believed to be accurate. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or in part or transmitted in any form without prior permission from the publisher of Foodservice Monthly.

NOVEMBER 2017 | 3


Seven Ways Successful Servers Sell Using the Power of the Senses


ow can you sell more without using words? Sure, great waiters paint pictures and use words that “taste” good, but they also masterfully use the power of the senses to create impulse buying.

Create a display case Guests often buy off the next table as much as the menu. Bet you’ve seen table-shopping guests crane their necks and ask, "What's she having over there?” Or, “I don’t’ know what that is, but that’s what I want.” Consider how the mere sight of a bottle of Silver Oak Cab on one table sends signals of sharing, celebration, and romance to another. Or, how a tiramisu slyly whispers, “Go ahead, forget about the diet."

Seductively carry dishes through the dining room Years ago, super waiter Wayne Anderson of D.C.’s Capital Grill taught me how to playfully flaunt and taunt by carrying dishes “slow and low.” I learned that, when I paraded our signature Shell Bowl (while a waiter at Paolo’s of Georgetown), it was like saying, “See they bought one, why not you?" Sashay cool dishes and drinks to evoke an “Excuse me, what’s that?” to trigger a boatload of sales.

Make a show Take a page out of Nancy Oak's Boulevard in San Francisco. Chefgazing guests seated at the open kitchen counter find dishes like the “Honey Crisp Apple, Walnut & Little Gem Salad” hard to resist. And, you only have to ask a bartender what happens when she shakes, rattles, and pours a 10 4 | NOVEMBER 2017

TASTE CAN BE MORE POWERFUL THAN THE MOST ELOQUENT DESCRIPTION. Cane Mojito or Grey Goose Martini. When she makes one, she’ll have to make two more because guests shop with their senses.

Take guests on a tour While dining at Thomas Kelleher's Per Se in NYC, our waiter arranged for Hilton execs and me to tour its gleaming, lavishly equipped kitchen. With front row seats, we watched the culinary team's perfectly choreographed performance. Choreograph your performance by walking guests to the pizza oven, raw bar, barbecue pit, lobster tank, dry aged steak display, or sushi bar. And, don’t overlook the kids — they’re your assistant salespersons.

Don’t forget sound Ring a glass to propose a Veuve Clicquot toast. It's sure to evoke a Pavlovian response from nearby guests. And, it’s no mistake that the Ruth’s Chris tag line is: "Our steaks are seared to perfection at

1800 degrees and topped with fresh butter so they sizzle all the way to the table." Steaks, fajitas, and other sizzling, fizzing dishes and cocktails triple engage with the power of sight, sound, and smell.

Offer a taste When a couple is on the fence about ordering either a glass or bottle of luscious, supple, and soft Girgich Hills Estate Merlot, pour both a taste. And, when guests fight over ordering a bottle of Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc, respond with, “Why not get a bottle of each?” Then bring two glasses for each guest, and watch how the white drinkers sneak a taste of the red — and vice a versa. Offer shot glass samples of local Flying Dog Blood Orange IPA. Taste can be more powerful than the most eloquent description.

Go techie To capture iPhone-enamored

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guests, a recent client purchased iPads and loaded them with a slideshow of desserts, cordials, and coffees. It doubled the sales. In the end, using the power of sight, sound, smell, and taste is the perfect way to engage, entice, and entertain. Guests find the allure of "sense selling" irresistible — while you maximize sales and boost your tips. BOB BROWN, president of Bob Brown Service Solutions, www.bobbrownss.com, was rated the #1 speaker at this year’s National Restaurant Show. Pioneer of Marriott’s Service Excellence Program, he has worked with clients such as Disney, Hilton, Morton’s of Chicago, Nordstrom, Olive Garden, and Ritz Carlton and works internationally with the prestigious Burj Al Arab in Dubai. He has appeared on the Food Network and is author of The Little Brown Book of Restaurant Success, selling over 100,000 copies worldwide. Contact Bob for keynotes, breakouts, and workshops at 571246-2944 ©Bob Brown Service Solutions 2016.


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NOVEMBER 2017 | 5


Holiday Season Is Here: Making It a Profitable One Is a Moving Target!


or many years, the formulas for preparing and executing plans to make the holiday season were pretty consistent. Get the staff ready, hire seasonal employees, adjust purchasing habits to reflect additional needs, modify schedules, and put a marketing plan together, among others. While the key components are still vital to be successful several months prior to the holidays, something that has been inching its way into the equation is now moving at rapid speeds and should be considered when making these plans.

That something is… …the internet and its relevant components as they relate to your restaurant business. This includes social media marketing, online ordering, and the impact of the choices your guests have in how they do their holiday gift purchasing. It is November as you are reading this, and you are seeing these components unfold around you. At this stage, you are either at the head of the pack and enjoying the benefits the internet can offer, or you are still scrambling to put the pieces of the puzzle together — watching others succeed while believing there just isn’t enough business out there.

6 | NOVEMBER 2017

It’s in the cards People are eating out more often through the year — and even more often during the months prior to the holidays. They are buying restaurant gift cards in record numbers. If you do not have a big, bold gift card program in place right now, you have been losing sales to the chain (and some local) restaurants for months now. Think about it. Hundreds of your great customers, patrons, and guests bought gift cards for Flemings, Roys, and Outback for their friends, co-workers, and families in September and October! They are no longer your prospective buyers, and the holidays are still over a month away! Put that program into play today: utilize window signs, register signs, table tents, website announcements, social media, etc. to make the public aware of your gift card program. Holiday parties are another opportunity for you to reap the benefits of the season. However, do not wait for them to come to you. Again, create a visible sign such as, “The Perfect

Way to Enjoy the Holiday: We Cater in our Private Dining Rooms or at your Home or Office!” and place it near your gift card promotion announcement.

Other creative ways to be more proactive include: Visit law offices, CPA firms, PR firms, etc. in walking distance to your restaurant with catering menus in hand and speak with the person responsible for booking holiday parties. They are there! Find them, offer them incentives, and be prepared to do a great job once you get them on board. Take a look at your customer database (you have one, right?) — whether it be a frequency and loyalty club you have in place, a business card program, or Facebook friends — and evaluate the information you get from each of these sources. Discern what may work for a company that is close enough and large enough to approach by phone, email, or in person to offer your catering services.

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Call or visit every business that had a party in your place this year and last and let them know their business is important to you. Further, you would be thrilled to help them again with their party and catering needs. Though there are still the basic components which must be planned, the most important takeaway from this and every holiday, busy season, or weekend is be sure that your training is consistent, positive, and conveys a great attitude by your service staff and management. When it is busiest, be sure that the message is the clearest: your restaurant is great, fun, and offers wonderful choices and the best possible experience for your guests! In this way, while deploying the marketing ideas, you will be assured those guests will return in January and February and rave about their experiences to their friends year ‘round. Let me know if you could use some help and focus or if you just want to chat. HENRY PERTMAN is director, Hospitality Consulting at CohnReznick LLP, located in the firm’s Baltimore, Maryland office. He can be contacted at 410-7834900 or henry.pertman@ cohnreznick.com.


BITS & BITES | Lisa Keathley

Meals for Millions ... and More

José Andrés and his team dish meals in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria Photos: @chefjoseandres

Volunteers made up to 30,000 sandwiches, assembly-line style, each day

We’ve all read the headlines and seen the TV footage. But what José Andrés and his World Central Kitchen team accomplished in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria bears repeating. For weeks after the disaster, Andrés and his network of #ChefsForPuertoRico fed nearly two million people across the devastated foodservicemonthly

island. Along with a dedicated team of volunteers, they worked tirelessly to set up satellite kitchens across Puerto Rico, with the largest operation headquartered in San Juan’s Coliseo. To feed in such numbers, the Andrés team set up 18 kitchens, coordinated the work of more than 500 volunteers, and partnered with a dozen or more food trucks to deploy more than 120,000 meals to people in need on a daily basis. They directed supplies, made sandwiches by the thousands, and cooked and cooked…and then cooked some more. This special chef network comprised a team of Puerto Rican chefs, including Jose Enrique (Jose Enrique Restaurant), Enrique Piñeiro (Mesa 364), Victor Rosado (Treehouse), Wilo Bennett (Pikayo), and Manolo Martinez (Paellas y algo más). Food trucks and special partners were — and are — essential in distributing meals to hard-to-reach areas. That list included Ocean Deli,

High Kitchen, Lemon Submarine, Pisco Labis, El Churry, Yummy Dumplings, Peko Peko, Acai On The Go, The Meatball Company, Dame Un Bite, and Instituto de Banca y Comercio. With these distribution networks in place, #ChefsForPuertoRico reached 78 municipalities throughout the island where hungry people of all ages and stages queued for food and water. José Andrés founded World Central Kitchen after the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti — with the belief that food can be an agent of change. World Central Kitchen has expanded globally and has developed into a group of chefs creating smart solutions to hunger and poverty. Visit worldcentralkitchen.org/ donate to help support this effort. José Andrés and company, we salute you!

already! “Hitting the one-million mark is about more than just sales,” said Malawi’s co-founder Blake Roney. “It means that one million meals were served to kids and their families in Malawi, and that the unique business model we developed around the core philosophy of giving back is resonating.” Roney partnered with Chef Kent Andersen to develop the restaurant and its meal exchange program after doing a humanitarian trip to Malawi. The southeast African country is one of the poorest and least developed nations in the world. Under this program, the company delivers nutrient-dense meals to children and their families in villages throughout Malawi, using local maize blended with vitamins and minerals. Malawi’s Pizza offers a new model for corporate social responsibility by making philanthropy a cornerstone of the business model rather than an afterthought. In addition to the meal giveback program for Malawi, each of the U.S. franchises also partners with a local hunger-fighting charity. More Malawi’s franchises are planned for the DMV region. More pizza, please!

Speaking of millions…

Golf + Gala = Good…for ending childhood hunger!

Gourmet pizza restaurant, Malawi’s Pizza, has a mission: pairing good food with doing good. The pizza franchise is nearing the one-million milestone in its unique Meal-for-Meal Exchange Program that delivers one meal to a child in Malawi for every meal sold in the U.S. As of late October, the “Journey to a Million Meals” campaign had donated 993,567 meals. Company officials projected that one of their franchises in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Utah, or Texas would ring up the one-millionth sale by early November, if it hasn’t happened

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The Wills Group, a family-owned company headquartered in La Plata, Md., raised more than $500,000 at its inaugural Blackie Wills Golf Classic and Gala. More than 500 people participated in the event, which supports the the Blackie Wills Community Leadership Fund and its efforts to end childhood hunger and ensure safe and healthy homes. The two-day event took place at the Turf Valley Resort in Ellicott City,

MEALS FOR MILLIONS cont. pg 24 NOVEMBER 2017 | 7


“Down Mexico Way” and Back — Aikens Freshens Espita’s Menu with Authenticity


British-born ROBERT AIKENS brings 28 years of experience to his new position. He launched his culinary career in 1989 with the Roux Brothers, cooking at their London Michelin 3-star restaurant, Le Gavroche. “It was very high pressure but focused on every little detail,” recalled Aikens. “Everything was prepared meticulously with speed and efficiency.” Aikens holds an advanced craft diploma from Norwich City College of Further and Higher Education in the UK. In the United States, he cooked at New York’s famous Rainbow Room and, in Philadelphia, was executive chef for the STARR Restaurant’s Dandelion gastropub. There, he honed his farm-to-table philosophy and cultivated relationships with farmers throughout the Mid-Atlantic. During Aikens’ three-year tenure, Dandelion received three stars (out of four) from critic Craig LaBan of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

8 | NOVEMBER 2017

obert Aikens, the new executive chef at Espita Mezcaleria, recently returned from a fact-finding jaunt to Oaxaca, in southern Mexico. There, he visited restaurant kitchens and browsed local markets, gathering knowledge about the region’s cuisine and ingredients. For four days, he cooked — and learned — alongside Chef Luis Arellano at Criollo, one of Oaxaca’s top restaurants. He also spent time at Pujol, a top Mexico City restaurant, helmed by Enrique Olvera. “I’m excited to bring a new edge to the cuisine at Espita,” said Aikens. “My goal is to reinterpret what a Mexican dish can be by incorporating new techniques that elevate the flavors and take us outside of the box of classic Mexican cooking.”

Foodservice Monthly asked: What did you learn at Criollo? Aikens: “I learned a lot at Criollo. Although the team was small, we accomplished a lot with an everchanging daily tasting menu. This is where I learned to make tamales. I always thought it was a long and arduous task, wrapping the masa in corn husks, tricky to assemble. Instead, they used fresh banana leaves, which was easier and more efficient. They made a different flavor every day: epazote (herb), zucchini blossoms, black beans, and queso. They also offered little street snacks at the beginning of the meal — tetras — a hand-pressed corn tortilla folded over various fillings and cooked on a hot comal (clay surface). Served with a different salsa each day, they were fantastic.”

FSM: Did you visit food markets? Aikens: “I went to the huge market in Oaxaca and was taken by the

hibiscus in the pickling liquid. Finally, we tie it together with Queso Oaxaca, which we also make in house.”

FSM: Where do you find ingredients in the D.C. area?

Espita's "Hamburguesa Torta," now with salsa macha (photos: Espita Mezcaleria) wonderful bounty, variety, and superb quality of the produce and how affordable it is. It annoys me that we can’t get such beautiful produce in the States, for whatever reason, and that we have to pay so much for so little…. it does not add up when we must pay a hundred times more, and we could easily grow this in the States.”

FSM: Which “authentic” dishes did you learn at Criollo and Pujol? Which dishes will appear on Espita’s menu? Aikens: “I’ve already incorporated a few techniques from Criollo and Pujol. For our butternut squash tamale — great for fall — we grind masa (corn) and finish with roasted squash puree and brown butter walnut dressing with pumpkin oil and dried Pasilla de Oaxaca. Other dishes include charred octopus (from Pujol’s menu), with my own twist. It’s light and flavorful from the poaching broth and marinade of roasted onions, garlic, tomato, red wine, olives, and fresh herbs. For Espita’s hamburguesa, I’ve added salsa macha, which I tasted at Pujol, very spicy, with chile de arbol, roasted peanuts, and tomatoes. We’ve also added housemade Kirby pickles, packed full of flavor, sour, salty, and herbaceous. They take on a pink hue from the

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Aikens: “We use multiple suppliers. Most specialty items are imported from Mexico. Others come from vendors mostly based outside the Washington area. We import dry chiles, spices, and heirloom corn for tortillas and masa. To be frankly honest, [buying] produce on the east coast is challenging for several reasons. Variety is very limited, and what is available is extremely expensive. For example, I could go to a local (Mexican) bodega and pick up an herb called epazote for $2 a bunch, but if I go to one of our D.C. suppliers, they charge $28 per pound! This plant is essentially a weed, which makes it particularly frustrating. In Oaxaca, you can buy ten pounds for about 100 pesos (about $5). I don’t know why we cannot grow such amazing produce here in the States. I guess it comes to supply and demand. When there is not much call for epazote, chepiche, or the like, suppliers want to charge a ridiculous amount. It stifles creativity.

FSM: Any advice for aspiring chefs wishing to learn “authentic” cooking? Aikens: “Go to the source where it originates. Reading a book or seeing it on TV will not give you the right experience. If you want something badly enough, you will find a way to do it.” Open daily, ESPITA MEZCALERIA is located at 1250 9th St., NW. For more information, call 202- 621-9695 or visit espitadc. com. foodservicemonthly


Cocktail Culture Thrives as 40+ Venues Celebrate DC Cocktail Week


he art of the drink across the metro Washington is as strong as ever, and diners look to the region’s mixology mavens to keep them intrigued — from happy hours, to spirits events, to tasting menus with cocktail pairings, and more. The District, once known for steak and martini lunches and the creation of the famed Gin Rickey cocktail, was the first city to start Prohibition in 1917, when many other cities didn’t adopt the ban until closer to 1920. Hard to believe! But, rumor has it that the politicians who put the ruling in


strategic trendsetters — like Derek Brown, whose Columbia Room (among many, many bars) helped put D.C. mixology on the map. In 2014, RAMW’s RAMMY Awards expanded its award categories to include a dedicated “Cocktail Program of the Year” category, after many years of honoring a more general Beverage Program of the Year. And, while the bar community continues to experiment and keep patrons on their toes, an influx of place didn’t follow the ban too closely, and the D.C. cocktail culture has flourished ever since.

Through the years, the region’s spirited offerings were shaped by the industry and influenced by some

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DC COCKTAIL WEEK cont. pg 23

NOVEMBER 2017 | 9


Gift Cards With a Difference — Good at Over 300 Restaurants If you have ever found yourself standing in front of a gift card kiosk at a local retail store, saying to yourself “Ugh, I don’t know,” you are not alone. Millions of people collectively spend billions of dollars on gift cards every year. However, most seem to be overwhelmed with the different options and ultimately unsatisfied with their purchase. The obligatory iTunes gift card purchased at the grocery store on the way to a 13th birthday party seems to be a very convenient last minute idea, until you discover that the birthday boy has an android phone and needs a Google Play gift card instead. The most difficult part of choosing a gift card is knowing the recipient’s likes and dislikes. If you know that ABC restaurant is a favorite, then everything falls into place pretty easily. But what if

you don’t know? How many times do you purchase a gift card for a co-worker, a client, customers, or your child’s school teacher? Are you really sure that Mrs. Smith likes ABC restaurant, or that one is

even close to where she lives or works? The Restaurant Association of Maryland solved this dilemma long ago when it created Dine Out Maryland gift certificates. These certificates are redeemable at over 300 different restaurants in the state of Maryland. No matter where you live or work, there are plenty of options. No need to worry about what a favorite restaurant might be or which restaurant is on the meaning-to-try list. Over the holidays, keep Dine Out Maryland gift certificates in mind. This is a great way to support the restaurants in Maryland, while not having to worry about picking the perfect one. Dine Out Maryland gift certificates can be purchased online at www.marylandrestaurants.com, with free shipping on every order.

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an EXTENSION of your kitchen

Honoree Nora Pouillon (m) with event co-hosts Ris Lacoste (l) and Spike Gjerde

Photo: Linda Roth

The Freshest of FEASTS BY LINDA ROTH AND LISA KEATHLEY FRESHFARM held its annual fundraiser — FEAST — on October 17, celebrating 20 years in operation and honoring organic food pioneer Nora Pouillon. Pouillon, a founding board member of FRESHFARM, was awarded the James Beard Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award this past May. When she opened Restaurant Nora in 1979, the term “organic” had not even been coined and the idea of buying local, fresh ingredients was merely that, an idea. Over the years, and with her leadership, she set the standards for organic certification and spearheaded the farm-to-table movement across the country. Spike Gjerde and Ris Lacoste were co-hosts at the October event, which was held at Dock 5 of D.C.’s Union Market. Gjerde is a chef, restaurateur, food entrepreneur, and local food advocate who lives and works in Baltimore. His Baltimore restaurants, including Woodbury Kitchen, rely almost entirely on locally sourced ingredients, as will A Rake’s Progress, currently set to open before the end of the year in Washington, D.C.’s new Line Hotel. Through his work, he is committed to creating meaningful and measurable change within the local food system to help ensure a foodservicemonthly

future for Mid-Atlantic farmers and watermen. Ris Lacoste is executive chef and owner of the West End D.C. bistro, RIS. A member of the State Department’s Culinary Diplomatic Corps and one of Washingtonian Magazine’s Class of 2015’s Most Powerful Women, her “favorite place to be is in the middle of a local farmers market, hunting down the freshest fruits and vegetables and creating relationships with her farmers” in order to promote the goal of local and sustainable farming. The FEAST event’s fresh, locally grown, organic food came from Coulter Farms, Shepherd’s Whey Creamery, Rappahannock Oyster Co., EcoFriendly Foods, Chris’ Marketplace, and Urban Butcher. The spirits, wine, and beer came from One Eight Distilling, New Columbia Distillers, Rockland’s Farm, and Right Proper Brewing. FRESHFARM is a non-profit that promotes sustainable agriculture and improved food access. It operates 14 producer-only farmers markets in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia that provide vital economic opportunities to local farmers and food producers. Proceeds from the fundraiser will be directly invested in the food and farms of the MidAtlantic watershed and will support outreach programs to educate children and the public about food and related environmental issues.

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NOVEMBER 2017 | 11

CONGRESSIONAL cont. from pg PB


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Performance Food Group

October 17, 2017 Martin's West

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A ‘RARE’ Sight Slated for I Street This Month beverage programming. The new décor has a floor-to-ceiling muraled foyer, custom furniture, new photography, art by Matthew Everett Ellis, and state-of-the-art lighting. Never fear, the floating wine cube is still there. Spike Mendelsohn is planning an overhaul of The Chickery’s menu. The fast casual menu has been tried and tested at his other Capitol Hill spots, so he is cooking up more adventurous (chicken) sandwiches, as well as a late night menu (open until 3:30 a.m. Thurs.-Sat.) and a dip bar with sauces that raise the bar on the rotisserie chicken fingers. All menu items begin with a hashtag.

Pictured above, Jack Sosnowski (m), CEO and founder, RARE, flanked by Frank Beltran (l) and Mike Francis of SAINT, the restaurant's design team. Right, inside RARE Steak and Seafood lounge

Chef Update:

(photos: Linda Roth)

Openings: RARE Steak and Seafood, with a November 1 open at 1595 I Street, NW (at 16th Street), will seat over 300 people in the 10,000-squarefoot, two-level space. And that doesn’t count the tented roof deck private event space overlooking the White House. It will serve Midwestern family hospitality from Wisconsin’s Sosnowski family — as well as steak, seafood, and a wide selection of wine. The kitchen is headed by Marc Hennessy, formerly of BLT Restaurant Group. Coming from the heart of beef country, RARE’s beef is dry-aged in-house, and each cut is seared in a custombuilt 1800-degree Montague infrared broiler. The Tavern is on the first level, and the more formal steakhouse is on the upper level. Baltimore-based Phillips Seafood will open a new restaurant concept at 1460 P Street, NW, where Tortilla Coast used to be in the Logan foodservicemonthly

Circle neighborhood. It will be the first full-service restaurant since the Phillips Flagship closed in 2014. The family-owned restaurant group opened 10 Tavern, a sports bar, in Penn Quarter earlier this year.

Javier Cuesta is the new executive chef at Taberna del Ababardero in downtown D.C. He was formerly with the St. Regis, Washington, D.C. Under the Mike Isabella Concepts umbrella, Michael Rafidi is in charge of the new Requin at The Wharf as well as Arroz at the Marriott Marquis.

Quick Hits: Aaron Silverman, of Rose’s Luxury, plans to move Pineapple and Pearls’ cafe, Little Pearl, at 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, where Bayou Bakery used to be. It’s slated to open this month. Silver Diner plans to open a 6700-square-foot space at 750 N. Glebe Road in Ballston, Va. in the spring of 2020, joining its other Arlington diner at 3200 Wilson Blvd. in Clarendon.

C-C-Changes: Charlie Palmer Steak DC, which opened in 2003, has undergone a restaurant rejuvenation that reveals a new look and updated food and

Oakland, California-based Blue Bottle Coffee will open its fourth store (Georgetown, The Wharf, Union Market) at the Metropole condominium building at 1515 15th St., NW. It is slated to be acquired by Nestlé USA, which oversees the Switzerland-based company’s traditional food and beverage

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business in the United States. Nestlé USA is in the process of moving from Southern California to Rosslyn, Va.

Just Opened: Bold Family Restaurant Group (formerly Capital Food Restaurant Group) Alvaro and Alonso Roche (Bold Bite, Tapabar, 202 Donuts) opened Bold Bite Market in D.C.’s Golden Triangle at 1028 19th Street, NW, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with seating for 50 inside and 30 on the outdoor patio. Breakfast + donuts + smoked burgers and half-smokes.

Pandora Seafood House & Bar recently opened in Rockville Town Square by the owners of China Garden, serving modern American fare. Calico opened in D.C.’s Blagden Alley from the folks who brought you The Fainting Goat and Tiger Fork. Think high-end barbecue and big outdoor patio. Nathan Beauchamp is the chef behind the food, and Ian Fletcher, of Tiger Fork, and J.D Quico, of The Fainting Goat, guide the bar. Naf Naf Grill, which serves Middle Eastern fast casual food, opened at 1875 K Street, NW, where Protein Bar used to be. LINDA ROTH is president of Linda Roth Associates, Inc., specializing in marketing, promotions, and publicity in the hospitality industry. Contact Linda at 202-888-3571 or linda@lindarothpr.com or visit her website at www.lindarothpr.com. NOVEMBER 2017 | 13


Make Your Date with Delicious


all is a beautiful time to make a quick escape to the beach. And, an even better reason to make a quick trip? All the delicious deals going on during Fall

Restaurant Week. From November 5 through 19, Ocean City restaurants will offer great deals and special price fixe menu options. “This is always a favorite time of the year for

us,” stated event manager, Liz Walk, adding, “Our mouths are always watering when we are reading over some of the menus that are submitted.” This palette-pleasing time of year comes when the crowds are gone, and you can sit and relax over a great meal. For participating restaurants, check out this site, oceancityrestaurantweek.com.


School, shared their vision with the Association. The goal: to enlist the entire community of Ocean City hotels to participate in the program. As they pointed out, the potential impact to save lives, reduce environmental waste, and increase tourism by contributing to a sustainable future would be incredible. Maddie has even gotten her school involved in Clean the World’s “Build Hygiene Kits” day, where the students will assemble hygiene kits for local shelters. So, next time you stay in an Ocean City hotel, you just may be helping to give hope through soap. https:// cleantheworld.org/.

Time for hospitality fun! Hotels unite for sustainable suds



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Ever wonder where all the unused soaps and shampoo go when you check out of your hotel room? In Ocean City, the future goal is for it to become recycled — in order to help save lives. Recently, OCHMRA formed a relationship with Clean the World, a worldwide not-for-profit company headquartered in Orlando whose mission is to “give hope with soap.” Clean the World partners with 5,000 hotels and resorts to collect used bars of soap and amenities. These goods are sanitized and recycled in an environmentallysafe manner and then distributed to homeless shelters and to children and families all over the world who are in desperate need of proper hygiene. This partnership began at a conference when Jackie Berger, whose family owns The Clarion Fontainebleau Resort Hotel and Marigot Beach Suites, learned of Clean the World. Jackie was moved to action, and, along with her daughter Maddie Simons, a student at Worcester Preparatory

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The Maryland Travel & Tourism Summit (MTTS) is Maryland’s annual tourism industry conference that brings together all sectors of the hospitality industry where business and public sector leaders convene, network, and learn new strategies to advance Maryland's tourism industry. The summit attracts more than 250 attendees, who engage with a variety of keynote speakers on industry trends. This will be the 38th year of the MTTS through a continued collaboration with the Maryland Office of Tourism, partnering associations, and hundreds of volunteers. Of course, it isn’t all business. After all, we are hospitality — “work hard and play hard!” This year’s MTTS will take place November 8-10 at THE HOTEL at the University of Maryland. Hope to see you there! SUSAN JONES is the executive director of the Ocean City Hotel Motel Restaurant Association.



Extraordinary "Ordinary" Awards Winners Honored


lisha Sauers nailed it with her piece in The Virginian-Pilot on October 14 when she wrote: “The hospitality group knew exactly what it was doing when it ironically rebranded its awards as ‘ordinary’ last year.” The term “ordinary” refers to one of America’s longest continually run inns and taverns — Chinn’s Ordinary — now operating as the Red Fox Inn in what is now Middleburg, Va. “Rebranded” refers to the relaunch

Hotel Employee of the Year: Rocqui Camm, flanked by VRLTA's Debbie Donehey (l) and Barry Bigger

2017 VRLTA Ordinary Award Winners:

Distillery of the Year

Bartender of the Year

Winery of the Year

Mary Garriques, Capital Ale House, Downtown Richmond

Charlie Buser Award for Attraction Employee of the Year Dana Staniunas, Massanutten Resort

Hotel Employee of the Year Rocqui Camm, Delta Hotels by Marriott Richmond Downtown

Restaurant Employee of the Year Connlan Hogan, Capital Ale House, Harrisonburg

Chef of the Year Tony Cochones, Glory Days Grill restaurants

Supplier of the Year Jo Diedrich, LeisureMedia360

Rising Pineapple Award for Hospitality & Tourism Student of the Year Lauren Schlenker, Virginia Tech

Brewery of the Year Blue Mountain Brewery + Blue Mountain Barrel House, Afton + Arrington


Copper Fox Distillery, Sperryville + Williamsburg

of the VRLTA awards program. In 2016, after a year break from the “VHTA Awards,” we opened the program to all hospitality and travel business and individuals across the Commonwealth, not just our members. It appears that our efforts are paying dividends. In the second year of the program, we saw our nominations increase threefold. And, attendance at the annual awards dinner, held October 2 in Richmond, grew by 35 percent. We — VRLTA’s staff and leadership — are truly grateful for all the support we have received for this young program from all of our

nominators and sponsors. The name “ordinary” is historic, but it is contradictory to the extraordinary individuals and business that we honor each year. During the awards event, VRLTA also honored Virginia’s Speaker of the House William J. Howell with the Legislator of the Year Award for his support of hospitality and tourism during his tenure. Tony DiFilippo, President and CEO of VisitNorfolk, was also honored before the audience with a Golden Pineapple Lifetime Achievement Award for his work to grow the tourism industry in Norfolk and throughout the Commonwealth. ERIC TERRY is the executive director of the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging and Travel Association.

Williamsburg Winery, Williamsburg

Hotelier of the Year Geoff Lawson, The National Conference Center

Jim Ricketts Award for DMO/CVB Employee of the Year Dan Cook, Discover Prince William & Manassas

Jim Wordsworth Award for Restaurateur of the Year Tony Stafford, Ford’s Fish Shack restaurants

Attraction of the Year Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company’s Chincoteague Pony Penning

Restaurant of the Year Wicker’s Crab Pot Seafood, Chesapeake

Hotel of the Year The National Conference Center, Leesburg

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NOVEMBER 2017 | 15

FOOD SMARTS | Juliet Bodinetz

Food Safety Checklist When Catering Off-Site…For Real


atering an off-site event can be a great moneymaker for a food establishment, whether you are a large firm, a small catering company, or a regular restaurant. Food safety must be just as much of a priority off-site as on-site, which, I believe, presents more challenges. For one thing, workers are out of their “comfort zone,” and food safety might not be top of mind. Food safety rules have one goal — to avoid food-borne illnesses due to contamination: biological, chemical and physical. How? By controlling time and temperature, avoiding cross-contamination, ensuring good personal hygiene, and maintaining good cleaning and sanitizing practices.

To control time and temperature… …follow all time and temperature rules. Cook foods to the proper temperatures, whether in your location or on the site of the event, to kill any food bacteria. Ensure that all food transport and storage equipment is insulated and capable of keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold. At the event, do everything possible to keep food out of the Temperature Danger Zone (TDZ) — 41°F - 135°F. Cold foods have to be held at an internal temperature of 41°F or lower, using refrigeration or ice. Hot foods have to be kept at a minimum internal temperature of 135° or higher, using hot holding equipment. If you don’t want to or can’t monitor food temperatures in front of guests, use time control as your guide — and discard food at four hours. Make sure you label food with the correct discard time for your staff or your guests to follow. Hot food definitely has to be 16 | NOVEMBER 2017

discarded at four hours — or even earlier — if it begins to measure inside the TDZ. You can keep cold food out for up to six hours, but ONLY if, at the four-hour mark, it measures below 70°F!! Protect your business, and even though it’s a hassle, keep accurate time and temperature logs as proof you have handled the food properly.

To avoid cross-contamination… …keep raw meats and foods away from RTE foods, both in transport and in storage at the receiving site. If your on-site catering kitchen or satellite kitchen is big enough, set up different work stations for raw meats and RTE to keep them separated. Use color-coded specific equipment to avoid crosscontamination. Make sure you have one serving spoon or fork designated for each food item and have extra serving utensils available if the catered event will last longer than four hours. Then you can change them out versus having to clean and sanitize them at the fourhour mark, as required. Have lots of extra plates if serving buffet style so guests looking for second helpings don’t inadvertently contaminate

food by touching a used plate with a serving utensil and then scooping up more food from the serving dish.

Regarding personal hygiene… …make sure you have a portable hand washing station available if you don’t have access to proper hand washing sinks at the catering site. If wearing gloves, follow proper glove-use guidelines — wash hands before putting gloves on, change gloves when changing to a new food or task or if they get dirty or torn, and at the minimum four hours if in constant use at the same job task. In fact, I recommend changing gloves every hour — two hours max — so bring lots of gloves!!!! We always use more than we think we’ll need! Please don’t use hand sanitizer instead of washing your hands. Hand sanitizer is to be used properly after washing hands. Make sure your employees wear clean clothing and clean aprons. Resting a tray of food against a dirty apron during butler service is a sure way to contaminate food. My pet peeve, make sure your serving staff members know not to grab used or clean glasses or cups from the rim — please. Not good!

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With regard to cleaning and sanitizing… …it is a good idea to use more single-use items like plastic cutlery, plates, and glasses to lessen the chances of contamination. If you don’t have sanitizer solution in a clearly labelled spray bottle, at least keep your wiping cloth submerged in the sanitizing solution and keep it located below food. Be diligent when it comes to food allergies. Make sure servers know the ingredients in the foods being served to avoid a potential allergic reaction. If servers don’t know if a dish has a particular ingredient, they should be honest and reply, “I don’t know.” Better safe than sorry. Many of our large catering company clients don’t allow food to be left or taken away after a party. They ensure enough food at the catered event, but they don’t want to be liable for the safety of food after the event is over. For that reason, they don’t give the leftovers to the customer. Should the customer insist on keeping the food, the catering company should state in the contract (kind of like a legal waiver) that they are not to be held responsible for the safety of the food after the event. At the end of the day, much money can be made with catering, but play it safe with proper food safety — not only for your customers but for your business, as well. JULIET BODINETZ, executive director of Bilingual Hospitality Training Solutions, has over 30 years of industry and training experience. Her Baltimore and Washington D.C. metro area instructors specialize in food and alcohol safety, ServSafe training in English or Spanish, and writing HACCP Plans. www.bilingualhospitality.com, juliet@ bilingualhospitality.com, or 443-838-7561. For the latest food safety tips, become a fan on Facebook or Twitter: @BHTS. foodservicemonthly

LOCAL COOKS | Alexandra Greeley

Rosario Gamboa and Canela Bakery — Yummy with a Mexican Flair


f you are one of those folks who craves delicious baked goods — from croissants to cakes, pies, doughnuts, and even churros — take a right-hand turn and head straight to Canela Bakery in Gaithersburg. There, you can feast your eyes on and treat your palate with a huge assortment of treats to round out your yearning for salty or sweet! All this caloric heaven is thanks to the foresight and creative energy of the bakery’s owner, Rosario Gamboa. A native of Mexico who moved to the United States several decades ago, she admits that the idea of owning and baking for a bakeshop was not in her game plan. In fact,


she said, she was trained as a nurse and did not even know how to bake when she arrived in Maryland.

LOCAL COOKS cont. pg 23





1.800.820.7194 A flowered gelatina, a specialty of the house foodservicemonthly

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NOVEMBER 2017 | 17

COVER STORY | Lisa Keathley

Choolaah Indian Food for Everyone Choolaah is a take on the Hindi term, sanja chula, a communal earthen oven once common in villages of northern India, where neighbors gathered to bake fresh bread and share conversation.

18 | NOVEMBER 2017

Biryani. Pav bhaji. Tikka masala. Naan. Many — possibly even most — Americans do not know these words or what they mean. Randhir Sethi and Raji Sankar hope to change that with their fast-casual restaurant concept Choolaah Indian BBQ. Sethi and Sankar are co-CEOs of the multi-concept restaurant company Wholesome International, which operates 18 Five Guys restaurants in Pennsylvania and Ohio. In the last two years, the company has launched four Choolaah restaurants — two in northern Virginia — with visions of many more to come.

Birth of an idea The Choolaah Indian BBQ concept was born over a decade ago. Sethi and Sankar are both engineers who decided to go into the restaurant business after achieving a good deal of success in the information technology and artificial intelligence industries. The dream was to launch a fast casual Indian restaurant, but back then, says Sankar, “the timing wasn’t right for Indian food. It was too early. We did our research and watched grocery shelves. Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, really, no mainstream grocery was devoting much space to Indian food.” So Sethi and Sankar turned to the Five Guys franchising concept to learn the restaurant trade. They also did their homework on the kind of Indian food they wanted to serve. Randhir Sethi and his wife, Simran, moved back to India for two years to test out local and traditional dishes that might work in an international setting. Simran Sethi is the company’s director of culinary R&D and product development, an engineer, a tea sommelier, and a foodie in her own right. While in India, the couple tasted and tested their way throughout the country — and beyond — getting advice from street

Choolaah co-CEOs Raji Sankar (l) and Randhir Sethi (r), with culinary R&D director Simran Sethi (m)

vendors to top chefs, from small dhabas (eateries) to fivestar establishments. The goal was to create a balance of flavors for diners completely new to Indian food but, at the same time, a “taste of home” for native Indian palates. The results can be seen on the Choolaah menu.

A sensory delight Walking into Choolaah is a delight to the senses! First, the smells of spices you can’t quite place. Subtle, yet inviting. Warm, pungent, a bit mysterious. Then there is what you see. Light-filled space with clean lines and vibrant colors, illustrated with a gallery of original art that simply pops off the walls. The Choolaah in Merrifield, Virginia features a huge 3D Ganesha elephant — the Hindu god of success — made by artist Tom Megalis,

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partly from recycled items. In the kitchen, behind a wall of glass, are several squat cylindrical tandoor ovens, where you can watch your bread and meats being cooked. It’s a bit of drama as the tandoor cooks slap naan — flatbread dough — onto the interior walls of the ovens right before your eyes! With a further touch of whimsy, each oven bears a name. In Choolaah’s Merrifield location, meet Larry, Moe, and Curly. In Sterling, it’s Tom, Dick, and Harry. (Okay, these folks have a sense of humor!) In the new King of Prussia, Pa. location (which opened in October), it gets a little more serious with four women’s names: Harriet (Tubman), Betsy (Ross), Kalpana (Chawla, U.S. astronaut who perished in the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster), and Grace (Hopper, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral). Don’t know enough about Indian food to know what to order? No problem! Guest ambassadors are ready to help as you approach the register. The idea is to create a feeling of hospitality from the get-go, honoring a Sanskrit saying that translates to “A guest is like God.” After you order, you can step up to the “hand jacuzzi” — insert your hands and let the soap and warm water flow, giving your hands a delightful, cleansing bath. As you wait for your food, which takes about three minutes, the chatter of family conversation and upbeat music will fill your ears. And then there is the best part, the tasting.

paneer (Indian cheese), while the two others turn out the bread — naan and wheat naan. Lamb meatballs, with a kick of spice, are oven roasted. Most meals include a meat, a white or brown Basmati rice, a bread, and a masala made of vegetables, chickpeas, or lentils. There are salads, tandoori wraps, and street snacks such as crispy dough samosas filled with potatoes, peas, and spices. In addition, there are vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, onion- and garlic-free, and egg-free options. Drinks include lassis — yogurt drinks — that are salted or made with Alphonso mangoes, chai tea, iced teas, and mint-ginger lemonade. For dessert, there are two flavors of homemade ice cream, or kulfi: mango and cardamom-infused. And though the food is not terribly spicy, “hot” is an option at the sauce bar. If you’re game enough, try the Choolaah lava sauce for “heat lovers only.” Truly, there is something for just about everyone with prices at about $11 or $12 per meal.

“Authenticity is critical.”

What’s it like — the food? “It’s a modern take on Indian food,” says Sankar. “It’s lighter, more reflective of Indian home cooking.” She continues, “It reminds me of my nani’s (grandmother’s) cooking. It’s Punjabi cuisine from northern India. This could be a place anywhere in Punjab.” At 700 degrees, two of the tandoor ovens sear skewered chicken, salmon, vegetables, and

Food sourcing as a defining element “Authenticity is critical,” says Sankar. “Choolaah food is not whimpy…it does not set your tongue on fire, but it is flavorful and zesty.” The goal is healthy and wholesome with no artificial colors or flavors. “Our sourcing is critical,” Sankar adds. “We use Bell & Evans chicken, the same chicken as Whole Foods.” The lamb is pasture-raised Halal lamb, the tofu is non-GMO, the salmon is from the North Atlantic’s Faroe Islands, and the paneer cheese is sourced directly from an Amish farm. “We were unhappy with the paneer we found in the Midwest during development, so we contracted with Amish farmers to use our family recipe and

Ganesha elephant, original art piece, at Choolaah Merrifield

do the cheese right!” Even the food bowls are sustainable — made of compostable sugar cane. “We’ve been in pursuit of excellence from day one, sometimes to an almost obsessive level,” Sankar says. Each new recipe and ingredient was tested and retested in tasting sessions with experts and lay people alike. Extensive tandoor studies were done in test kitchens in India and Ohio. Even the company’s hiring manual was written from scratch to set the highest HR standards. She adds, “The many steps allowed us to put better plans in place and allowed us to think big.”

What’s next? According to Raji Sankar, “We want to be a global company. We hope to see a Choolaah in every corner of the globe in the next decade!” Big dreams? Maybe. But based on the success of the first four properties, with a fifth opening in Pittsburgh next month, it’s a great start. “Every element is designed with love. When you walk into Choolaah, hopefully, what you’ll say is that we wowed you on all fronts.” “Every day, there is a new possibility for us,” Sankar continues. “To see the concept accepted and embraced by the communities is so satisfying.” she said. “That’s what drives us — to introduce the food to people who have never had Indian food and to those who have had it — and create delight each time.” A noble goal for Choolaah and its founders — to take the mystery out of this 4,000-year-old cuisine and bring it to new diners in the 21st century. www.choolaah.com; 2911 District Avenue, Fairfax, VA; 21426 Epicerie Plaza, Sterling, VA.

The fun of watching your own bread — naan — baking in a hot tandoor oven foodservicemonthly

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Photos: Richard Kelly

NOVEMBER 2017 | 19

BALTI-MORE | Dara Bunjon

The Charles — New Life for an Old Bank Building


uilt in 1900, the Federal Hill bank building has been many things, most recently Mad River Bar and Grille. The same folks who own Barcocina and Bond Street Social in Fells Point took five months to strip the building down to bare bones — brick walls and concrete floors — recreating the space into a modern industrial design with large banquettes both on the first floor and the mezzanine level. The building is visually appealing with its two-storied shelved bar, herringbone ceiling, and flat screen televisions against the whitewashed brick wall as the centerpiece. The Charles offers a tapas style menu by Executive Chef Cory

Pastor — with a fusion of both American and international flavors like curry gnocchi, cuban stuffed pretzels, and Nashville hot avocado. Two to three plates for each guest, shared, supports the restaurant’s brand of sociability. As manager Bryan Subock points out, the purple neon ‘Where are you now?’ sign on the second floor is fun — and an ideal spot for social media snaps. DARA BUNJON: Dara Does It — Creative Solutions for the Food Industry, offers public relations, social media training, administration, freelance writing, marketing, and more. Contact Dara: 410-486-0339, info@dara-does-it.com or www.dara-does-it. com, Twitter and Instagram: @daracooks. Listen to her Dining Dish radio program on Baltimore Internet Radio.

THE CHARLES 1110 S. Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21230 (410) 727-2333 thecharlesbaltimore.com Facebook: facebook.com/ thecharlesbaltimore Twitter & Instagram: @the.charlesbaltimore

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NOVEMBER 2017 | 21


Open for biz Federal Hill’s new In Bloom Restaurant, a partnership between Chefs Kevin Perry and Cyrus Keefer, doesn’t offer one specific type of cuisine — rather a seasonal menu featuring grilled or pan-fried meats, street food, French bread pizza, fresh pasta, and fusion dishes. InBloomRestaurant.com The Motor House in Station North, a theater, performance space, music venue, art gallery, studio space, and arts hub, now has a new restaurant. Showroom Cafe and Bar offers locally sourced comfort food by day and cross-cultural street food, craft cocktails, and local beers at night — all under the direction of Pantry Catering’s Executive Chef Daniel Horwitz. Various types of performances are scheduled a few nights a week. MotorHouseBaltimore.com. Zinburger Wine & Burger Bar opened its first Maryland location at Arundel Mills Mall in Hanover. The menu offers gourmet build-yourown burgers, shakes, floats, and pies and, of course, wine. Zinberger.com.

Hey cat lovers! Charm Kitty Cafe opened on Clipper Mill Road in Hampden. Baltimore’s first of its kind, the cafe basically offers a place to work in the company of adoptable cats (ya can’t bring your own), although they offer 22 | NOVEMBER 2017

construction. TropicalSmoothie.com. Chef /owner of Jack’s Bistro, Ted Stelzenmuller, is closing the doors to his wildly popular restaurant so he can open a new spot in Canton (with seating for 68) on Hudson Street. It’s called…Blair’s on Hudson. Chef Ted’s new menu will feature “regular fare,” such as burgers and noodle entrees, as well as some of the most popular dishes from Jack’s, like the mac and cheese with chocolate. AND — the whole staff will move across Canton with him. No opening date yet.

What’s happening… THE NOOK CAFE opened at 801 West Baltimore Street in The University of Maryland’s Bio Park Campus. Founded by business partners Lindsay Henry (l) and Jane Pruitt, the new spot offers fresh, homemade, locally sourced salads and sandwiches and catering. The owners have a background in the catering and event industries, with a deep passion for health conscious food. NookCafeBaltimore.com. (photo: Megan Harris Photography)

cookies from Dark Side Cookies and Zeke’s coffee. Reservations are available in 70-minute slots, and, since opening, the place is booked weeks in advance! All of the cats are adoptable through the Baltimore Humane Society. Photos of available cats, and those who have found homes, can be found on the website: charmkittycafe.com/cats. Okay…equal time! The Dog Chef Cafe opened at 863 North Howard Street. Trained Chef Kevin Matthews creates custom meal plans and tasty treats that are human grade. AND — you can book a doggie date in the party room. Buy your fur babies moon pies, kale biscuits, and sweet potato fries. LOVE THIS! TheDogChefCafe.com.

Coming soon… Husband and wife team, Laura and David Alima are opening a second location of their way popular Hampden ice cream shop, The

Charmery, at 6807 York Road in Towson. The new spot, set to open in spring or early summer 2018, will have more seating than the original location and a freezer for grab ‘n go sales. Next year, production will move from the Hampden shop to the Union Collective in Hampden. I love me some Alimas! TheCharmery. com. Chaps Pit Beef on Pulaski Highway (there’s a second spot in Aberdeen) has signed off on a deal to open its first (2,000-square-foot) franchised location in Frederick and is working on a fourth location in Rockville. ChapsPitBeef.com. Tropical Smoothie Cafe, a fast casual franchise concept, has signed a lease with Boulevard College Center in Owings Mills, adjacent to Stevenson University. Expected to open by the end of this year, the company operates over 600 locations across the country, including nine restaurants in Maryland and another four under

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Ted Levitt, owner of the iconic Annapolis eatery Chick and Ruth’s Delly recently announced that he’s sold the restaurant. Word is the new owner doesn’t plan to make too many changes. Ted’s parents, Chick and Ruth, opened the deli over 50 years ago, and it’s been a way popular hangout for neighbors and politicians. Side note: Chick and Ruth were friends with my parents. Growing up, I thought Chick’s name was Chicken Ruth. Yes, I know, not the brightest bulb, but I WAS a toddler. Good luck Teddy… in this new chapter of your life. ChickandRuths.com. The Chasseur New American Bar and Restaurant (pronounced sha-sur) in Fells Point has expanded the property with a 1200-squarefoot third-floor rooftop bar featuring a crush and raw bar, garage doors, and a retractable skylight. The relaxed neighborhood tavern serves up American fare and craft beers. TheChasseur.com The 44th Annual Maryland Irish Festival is set for November 10-12 at the Timonium Fairgrounds. Enjoy traditional Irish food and drink, live music, kid’s activities, etc. IrishFestival.com. foodservicemonthly

LOCAL COOKS cont. from page 17 But all that changed when she discovered the bakery. “I had no knowledge of baking,” said Gamboa. “But my husband and I loved the breads there. I bought the business because one of my friends is a baker. He said that he would bake for me if I bought the bakery.” That, of course, proved an incentive for her to learn the baker’s art. She took classes locally and learned how to bake cakes. She went to New York and took baking classes there. She even returned to Mexico to learn how to make local breads and other baked goods. That was ten years ago, and Gamboa and her husband have overseen a significant growth in their once-German bakery. “We started with five employees,” she said. “I was the cashier, and I was the dishwasher and cleaning person. I did all the deliveries, too.” And because she and her baker, Eloy Resendiz, researched the customer base, the store started off featuring Latino baked goods. “We introduced Latino breads, tres leches cakes, and churros,” she said. “I did a survey of sales a year later, and all our patrons, they loved our Latino goods.” But she noted they also wanted healthier, whole grain breads and baguettes, with no preservatives and no color or other additives. To satisfy everyone, she decided to offer both types of baked goods. The menu now includes 20 different types of bread, from cranberry orange, to rosemary, to classic oat. As it turns out, the store’s favorites include the tres leches cake, tamales, and churros. And, she added, the store’s cakes — wedding cakes,

CANELA BAKERY 806 Muddy Branch Rd. Gaithersburg, MD Hours: Daily until 9:00 p.m. Sundays until 7:00 p.m. 240-631-9599 canelabakeryus.com

birthday cakes, and cakes for showers — do very well. In fact, there is such a demand for Canela’s baked goods that the bakery sells wholesale to numerous local stores and appears at several local area farmers markets during the season. Flowered gelatinas are also offered at the markets, and they sell out quickly. Very popular in some parts of Mexico, these fruity desserts look like a flower in a gelatin bubble. Gamboa and her cake decorator, Erika Balleza, make them by hand using hypodermic needles to create the petals and flower stems. They are an art to behold — and to eat! The store is now open seven days a week. Rosario Gamboa finds that many customers stop by every morning on the way to work to buy bread, coffee to go, and tamales. And, she notes, the store has been so successful that it now employs 16 people. That underscores her positive game plan and how tempting her products have been.

DC COCKTAIL WEEK cont. from page 9 local distilleries in D.C. and Virginia moved in — and their goods can be found on many restaurant menus, competing with domestic and imported brands. In the District, there are now more than ten operating distilleries and restaurants, such as Farmers and Distillers from the team behind Founding Farmers. In 2016, the Virginia Distillers Association was formed to support the burgeoning Virginia spirits industry, once dominated by wine. In celebration of all things spirited, beverage directors and mixologists across the region are getting ready to launch DC Cocktail Week, with more than 40 restaurants in metropolitan Washington showcasing excellence in mixology. Each participating restaurant will offer bites and cocktail pairings at exclusive prices for guests. The fifth annual DC Cocktail Week kicks off on Monday, November 13 and runs through Sunday, November 19, with participating locations in the

District, Maryland, and Virginia. DC Cocktail Week is the perfect opportunity to enjoy libations from old hospitality standards to newcomers to the scene, such as BaBa, Silver Cathedral Heights, Stable, and Taqueria del Barrio. Guests can visit RAMMY Cocktail Program of the Year 2017 winner Kapnos and finalist Indique, both recognized this past July by RAMW for their exemplary cocktails and bar programs. A full list of the diverse restaurants participating this year can be found at www. dccocktailweek.com. DC Cocktail Week is made possible with the sponsorship of Belle Isle Craft Spirits, the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, KO Distilling, MurLarkey Distilled Spirits, New Columbia Distillers, Parched Group LLC & Cirrus Vodka, Republic Restoratives, Virginia Distillery Company, and Vitae Spirits Distillery. It’s 5:00 somewhere! We hope to see you responsibly imbibing some of the region’s best sips.

ALEXANDRA GREELEY has more than 25 years of experience as an author, editor, reporter, food critic, staff writer and freelance writer and editor, both in the United States and Asia, having performed virtually every editorial and writing task. Her expertise lies in Asian culture, having lived in China for several years and traveling there on extended research trips for her books.

Tres leches cake, a Canela Bakery crowd favorite foodservicemonthly

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NOVEMBER 2017 | 23

MEALS FOR MILLIONS cont. from page 7 Md. on September 10 and 11. Organizations supported by the fund during the past year include Farming4Hunger, a southern Maryland nonprofit that provides 26 percent of the fresh food that goes to the Maryland Food Bank, Jude House, an organization that provides housing and treatment for men and women in recovery, and Lifestyles of Maryland, a southern Maryland nonprofit that serves approximately 14,000 individuals

by providing emergency assistance, transportation, housing, and job training. Since 2006, The Wills Group has donated more than $1.9 million to communities across Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

Kindness is a piece of cake To share a little of their “sweetness” with the rest of the world, D.C. favorite Buttercream Bakeshop launched the #RememberToBeKind campaign

during the month of September. With recent natural disasters and some of the news stories of the day, acclaimed chef/owner Tiffany MacIsaac and lead decorator/partner Alex Mudry-Till decided to promote love and kindness with a kindness campaign. Throughout September, customers could buy any of Buttercream Bakeshop’s treats from the bakery and gift it to another customer, with a handwritten note of kindness. The extra 15 percent off the pay-it-forward pastries was just icing on the cake! MacIsaac remarked, “The campaign was infectious, and it was wonderful to see so many guests participate. It truly has boosted morale and elevated many people’s days!” MacIsaac and Mudry-Till have a saying: “We strive to make people happy, one fresh baked chocolate chip cookie at a time.” Kindness and chocolate chip cookies…hmmmm…works for me!

Buttercream Bakery's Tiffany MacIsaac (l) and Alex Mudry-Till celebrate their #RememberToBeKind campaign



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