Ask Peter Howard AM

Posted on October 4, 2019 , No comments

Just when I was getting used to Spring, yesterday I noticed a bright notice, in a local restaurant window, advertising Christmas bookings and another with the menu for Christmas Day. I guess I am joining the group that says ‘Where did the year go?’ and yes time seems to have flown.

I remember the Christmas Days that I worked and all the different menus and dishes I have tried over the years and still, I know that there will always be the essentials that represent a tradition that is Christmas. Roast Pork + apple sauce, Turkey + Cranberry and gravy and so in it goes. It is a very traditional time of the year.

Tradition also, for we Cooks/Chefs, is that we work out butts off over the silly season while our customers have a great time at Christmas parties, annual get-togethers and family gatherings. And for me it was a fact that this time of the year was when I could make some extra profits in my businesses. Did I have time for family on the Day? No, but I did make up for that precious time later on. After all our business is to work while our customers enjoy their time.

So I worked many Christmas Days and when I retired I did not know what to do with my time on that special day. I soon found out how to enjoy myself but as usual, I found myself in the kitchen cooking family fare and enjoying my time in the kitchen. Instead of numerous chickens to roast, there was one; kilos of potatoes to roast were reduced to one and so on it went.

I have to admit I really liked cooking on Christmas Day and for the Christmas season and I realise that old habits die hard and for this up-coming Christmas Day, I will help cook a charity lunch for our local homeless here in Coolum Beach where I live. I know I will enjoy doing this event…tradition is hard to break.

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MinaAsk Peter Howard AM

Ask Peter Howard AM

Posted on August 22, 2019 , No comments

On Vietnam Vets Day (August 18th, 2019) I was a guest speaker at an RSL event at Woodgate Beach. It was an honour to be asked and in my speech, I concentrated on what I had learned in my 2 years of National Service duty from 1968-1970.

So many things I learnt were to be invaluable to me when I went on to a career in cooking. I felt the most important lesson I picked up was discipline which is essential in the Army and in kitchens.

Discipline is, as you know, crucial in the kitchen where you are required to always take orders from your boss, your Chef or to whomever you are working with/for. I well remember the first time in the kitchen and getting more orders than I could process but I did work my way through them…with a little help. In the Army, we were required to take orders and not talk back or question an order and it took a lot of discipline to shut up and do as I was told – something I was not used to. The same in the kitchen…never backchat the Chef.

In your studies, you need to discipline yourself to knuckle down and do your assignments or whatever is needed to achieve your educational goals.

When I started my first restaurant in Rockhampton, I had to discipline myself to work the long hours that are required when you run your own business. Short days were 15 hours long.

It is 50 years ago that I returned from Vietnam to complete my service here in Australia (January 1970) and to go to East Sydney Food School to start studies in cooking and hospitality – happy days, lucky days for me to fall into an industry I learned to love and respect. I am forever grateful for the lessons learned in the Army days especially discipline.

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MinaAsk Peter Howard AM

Chefs Table Awards Dinner – 2019

Posted on August 7, 2019 , No comments

Last night we attended the Awards evening for the 2019 Chef’s Table Competition, created by ClubsNSW.

Chef’s Table was created to award and recognise the many talented chefs, cooks, and apprentices in NSW Clubs, by challenging kitchen teams in a supportive and collaborative environment.

It has been exciting to see the incredible talents of our up and coming apprentices, with the dishes created for the competition at a world-class standard.

HTN is delighted that apprentice chef, Summer Carson, has been recognised as Chef’s Table 2019 Apprentice of the Year.  Summer who works at The Illawarra Master Builders Club was recognised for her passion in the kitchen, and her fantastic technique and hygiene. Summer was also applauded for her polite and courteous manner throughout the competition.

Summer and the other chefs involved in the competition experienced working collaboratively and with senior chef’s who have supported their development throughout the competition period.

The standard of cooking that we have seen throughout the Chef’s Table competition suggests that many of our country’s best and up and coming chefs are working within our Clubs.

The Chef’s Table by ClubsNSW is now the largest culinary competition in the Southern Hemisphere.

Who will be the next superstars to be discovered in next year’s competition? If you’d like to find out more about Chefs Table for 2020, click here.

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MinaChefs Table Awards Dinner – 2019

Ask Peter Howard AM

Posted on August 7, 2019 , No comments

Over this last weekend, I participated in the Queensland Professional Chef of the Year 2019 competition at the Food & Hospitality Queensland Expo in Brisbane – August 4 -5); I was the MC for the two-day event.

As usual, it was so very exciting and just amazing to watch brilliant young Chefs at work as they had to prepare and present 2 courses (4 plates for each course) in one hour from surprise ingredients. An hour goes so quickly in this event. The winner was Chef Matthew Lee from the Brisbane Convention and Entertainment Centre and it was his third time to compete in this marvelous event conducted by Tim Collett of Specialised Events. He and his team are dedicated to running the best events.

As I watched the Chefs and the judges at work, I got that this whole process of competing was dedication in action. The competitors, the judges, the organisers (Chef Gary Farrell and his wife Renee), the audience – they are all dedicated to the cause of bringing Chefs to the forefront of the Hospitality Industry.

So what do I mean by dedication? Surely it is just another competition. Well no, it isn’t because so much time and effort goes into making a competition like this work and believe me, this competition works not only in Brisbane but also in Sydney and Melbourne at the FSA Show.

Sponsors are found (Unox Ovens and Australian Pork are Gold Sponsors), competitors are found. 98 Chefs applied for Brisbane and 28 were chosen and they had to dedicate time to practice their dishes and then to be at the event itself…get time off work etc and in the case of 3 Chefs, travel from Cairns at their own expense – dedication to cooking for sure.

Judges volunteer and they had to be top-notch because of the caliber of the Chefs they are judging. The Chair of Judges was Chef Karen Doyle (LCB and President of ACF) with fellow Judges Chefs Paul Rifkin, Andre Kropp, and Shane Keighley. Now, these guys epitomised dedication to me as they tasted 64 dishes over two days and adjudicated. They were on their feet all day (as Chefs they are used to it) and they had to concentrate all the time as they judged.

I come back the point that to get such an important competition together, there has to be organisation and dedication from all involved and I saw it again as I MC this event regularly. With everyone who participated, I saw dedication and love…passion if you like and that is what we all need if we are going to be Chefs in this competitive business.

Compete in Sydney in 2020 -email info@specialisedevents.com.au  for information.

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MinaAsk Peter Howard AM

Ask Peter Howard AM

Posted on July 15, 2019 , No comments

The old saying that everything old is new again has never disappeared. Constantly we see fashion showing old designs with a new twist to suit us in our era. The same is true in the world of food and wine and especially for us cooks/Chefs.

Last week I was very happy to be a judge at the HTN & ACF Apprentice Chefs’ Culinary Competition run annually by ACF (NSW/ACT) and HTN at Ryde TAFE and I was impressed with the ability of the competitors. It was a very well conducted competition with judges from ACF, LCB and TAFE.

The judges discussed the fact that techniques that are time honoured were on show. Techniques that I was taught in 1970, nearly 50 years ago at East Sydney Food School, the forerunner to Ryde Campus. And the competitors using these techniques were 2nd and 3rd apprentices.

Gnocchi being made by hand and piped into the simmering water – excellent. There was a brilliant example of a Lemon Meringue Pie with excellent short crust pastry; and I watched in awe as individual Pavlovas came together by hand. It made me very happy that a young apprentice would whisk the meringue with a balloon whisk and not an electronic implement.

Look I know it is slower than mechanical and it is good to do it but a machine which is certainly quicker. However, to be able to prepare food using older methods shows knowledge, skill and patience.

Knowing what to do comes from training and having that knowledge is crucial to being an all rounder and that is what training is meant to provide – a cook/Chef who can adapt to any cooking situation. If you watch Heston enough you will know that he uses time honoured cooking techniques as a basis to the magic he performs.

Perhaps you may be tired of training and learning but as you age and continue cooking, you will never forget what you learnt and come to be very glad you were taught. The winner of competitions 3rd year category had brought with him all the bells and whistles…suos vide and other modern implements but he still used technical knowhow with the modern appliances.

Yesterday, I proudly turned out a choux pastry to make Cream Puffs and that process took me back 50 years to when I first learnt how to make that brilliant pastry with its unique properties. Extraordinary and all done by hand; the Cream Puffs were just delicious. Learning and training in all methods and ages is the best thing to ever happen to you in cooking.

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MinaAsk Peter Howard AM

Cooking Competitions – Peter Howard AM

Posted on June 14, 2019 , No comments

I was never very good at cooking competitions but have always admired Chefs who do compete. Competing Chefs require planning abilities, organisational skills and nerves of steel to perform under pressure. They are confronted with an environment they are not used to and mostly they are cooking in front of an audience. They could not be further removed from their comfort zones.

Yet 32 Chefs from around the country will front up to compete for the Chef of the Year Competition at the FSA Exhibition in Melbourne from June 23 – 25th., 2019 with the winner being announced at 4pm on the 25th in the competition area. There are many heats each day.

Each year the competition gets more demanding as the competing Chefs try to win the $6000 grand prize as Chef of the Year 2019. Come and see them in action and it is my pleasure to be one of the MCs again this year.

I have often questioned the need for competitions – we cooks and Chefs are in a very competitive business regardless of where we end up cooking. In every meal service we are applying the pre-requisites of competing. We are getting our dishes up in a defined time and every meal we serve up is being judged by our customers. Just like a cooking competition isn’t it?

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MinaCooking Competitions – Peter Howard AM

Ask Peter Howard AM

Posted on April 22, 2019 , No comments

Training, one way or another, in the Hospitality Industry has been a big part of my working life. Not only was I trained at East Sydney Food School in the very early 70ies (1970 through 1972) I went on late to be a trainer (teacher) at Ryde on the early 1980ies for nearly a decade.

Both of these experiences reinforced my belief that training is crucial if we are to maintain the high standards of service we have in Australia. And we do have high standards which makes our customers amongst the luckiest in the world.

It is in the embracing of multiculturism that we have achieved such a diverse range of ethnic cuisines and services on offer around the country. We have to be trained to use some of the ingredients and cooking methods…in my case, it was basic French cuisine I was taught in my starting days. And I was taught/trained brilliantly at the forebearer to catering colleges in Australia (East Sydney Food School).

It seems to me that there are two ways we are trained – one is at home for our social behavior and the other is for our industry training. The latter is available although it is very different to the days I trained to be trained.

However, it is still training that we do these days and HTN are so strong in their beliefs in training.

That and many other reasons, make me very proud to be the Patron of this modern group training company.

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MinaAsk Peter Howard AM

Modern Skills for Smart Chefs

Posted on April 9, 2019 , No comments

What do employers want, beyond prepping, cooking and organising production? Here’s a bunch of 2020 skills that set you apart from most cooks and chefs – what do you need to improve?

Upgrade your digital skills. You know all about mobile phone, but what about spreadsheets for costing recipes, checking menu profits and organising the stocktake? Learn how to read reports from a POS system, and be ready to take good photographs for marketing and training. Start to use online rostering, and maybe you’ll be one of the first chefs to use digital order screens in the kitchen?

Learn to use the latest control systems. Combi-ovens, refrigeration, power consumption – more and more equipment can be managed remotely. They all have sophisticated electronic controls, and many are now connected to a PC or app. A lot chefs avoid this – you can be the smart operator.

Learn how a business works. Learn how to understand a Profit & Loss Statement, and what parts of it are influenced by the kitchen. If you’re given a food cost budget, make sure it’s explained to you, and ask for the food cost percentages to be prepared weekly.

Learn about modern menu marketing. A clever menu not only looks and tastes good, but also maximises profitability through layout and pricing. Menus may also need to work for takeaway, online delivery services, on a digital display and an order kiosk. If you cater for tourists, add good photos to the menu essentials.

Take a positive approach to healthy menus. Food that doesn’t rely on huge amounts of sugar, fat and salt, and a ‘no problem’ approach to allergies. As the world gets fatter and less healthy, many people ask for better options.

Become a food safety expert. Food safety plans, HACCP and tighter Workplace Health & Safety rules are all part of a modern kitchen. Build up your skills with extra short courses, and learn about temperature control systems. You may even want to become a Food Safety Auditor for a future career move.

Understand how to reduce utility costs. Implement energy and water saving measures to reduce costs eg: equipment washing, use of chemicals, use of hot water, use of ventilation etc. A practical ‘green’ approach makes a big difference to the bottom line.

Develop modern people skills. Build your experience with teamwork, personality types, anger-management, negotiation, delegation and effective meetings. Modern kitchens are like the United Nations, and you need the ability to work with everyone: Irish, Filipino or Italian, younger or older, gay or straight, male and female. You are a modern hero when you take the diversity that’s available and use it to create a high-performing team.

Learn how to talk to the boss. Sometimes called ‘managing upwards’. Work out the best way to make your case with senior management when you need more equipment, staff changes, different work hours or even a raise. Make an appointment, prepare some written notes, be ready to talk about the financial side and sell the ‘benefits’ of your request.

By Ken Burgin, www.SilverChef.com.au

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MinaModern Skills for Smart Chefs

Ask Peter Howard AM

Posted on March 29, 2019 , No comments

After months of heat and humidity here in the sub tropics of the Sunshine Coast, we are getting the first glimpses of Autumn. It is cooling down at last.

If we didn’t know it from our weather, we are reminded that the cooler times are on their way just by shopping and seeing the pears and apples on sale that herald a new season and eventually Winter. Oh, and don’t forget the importance of Easter in signaling the change too.

Although it is hard to recognise seasonality these days as we can buy any fruit and vegetables all year round, it is very noticeable in supermarkets as the displays of seasonal items increases. You will also see there is an increased emphasis on seasonal dishes in food and associated magazines.

On TV, different meals and dishes are offered by food advertising and on TV cooking shows – all steaming and inviting; traditional stews and casseroles, soups that brim with enticing flavours and nutrition. Nutrition is something we sometimes forget about as Chefs, but we do have a responsibility to serve the most nutritious dishes we can while appeasing our customer’s needs for flavor and fashion.

One more point of note on seasonal foods/dishes is that they are generally more profitable which makes them more appealing to operators.

I was very happy to see Chef Karen Doyle come into the Presidency of the National Australian Culinary Federation (ACF). I know that she is a great industry person and she supports apprentices and HTN. She steps into some big shoes that Chef Neil Abrahams left when he retired. Thanks Neil for all you did for the ACF National and all you do for Industry.

Congratulations Karen and well done ACF.

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MinaAsk Peter Howard AM

Ask Peter Howard AM

Posted on February 18, 2019 , No comments

I am in the middle of moving house and I think everyone dislikes this process as much as I do. However, there is no way around it. Soon it will be just another move.

On the upside, I have seen the benefit of the many services available when you move and couldn’t help but think or compare the services that are used with the services we provide in our business of cooking. We service the needs of our customers.

Indeed, when we were homeless for a couple of days, we found the local pub to be excellent for down to earth meals and service that made us feel at home. So many other services that we take for granted, just like we are taken for granted in what we do.

The guys who moved our furniture were amazing – they were four brawny guys who took so much care of our precious personal stuff; their service was brilliant. Same for the guys who came to take away the excess rubbish – again another excellent service. Nothing was too much trouble. And then there is the changing over of services for the new home…the electricity supplier, water provider and so on.

I guess the main thing I got from this whole adventure is that we are in the hands of people who provide services and that reminded me of all the years I cooked and worked in the industry, I was providing a service that my customers were there for. Just as you are now.

And if you want to know if your service is appreciated how about the fact that Luke Mangan has just received his OAM for recognition to all the service he has and does provide to the industry. Well done Luke and congratulations.

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MinaAsk Peter Howard AM