Peter Howard AM | Australia Day Honours Awards

Posted on February 5, 2018 , No comments

Everyone likes a pat on the back and to be told they have done well. There are many ways by which that can happen including the boss saying to you how well done you’re doing your job. Maybe you’ve just left a school where you excelled and were awarded a prize for excelling. So, you know that feeling.

So, for me to receive an honour in the last Australia Day Honours Awards was an extremely large pat on my back. As such, I was awarded the AM (Australian Medal) for my significant service to the food and wine tourism sector as a commentator, TV presenter and author and to the hospitality sector. What an honour to be granted such an award. Was I surprised? Yes, indeed and still pinch myself.

I am left to think what did I do get the ‘gong’ as it sometimes referred to in our larrikin Aussie way. I do know that what I did do for near on 50 years (49 years and 10 months) as I worked in an industry that used to be called the Service Industry and is now Hospitality. I always loved it. It was the basis of all I ever did regardless of the lofty jobs I got from it.

Like everyone, I didn’t know the purpose of being told how to wash pots and pans (in the Army where I was for 2 years it is called Dixie bashing) or learning how to chop parsley forever, cleaning out after service in the restaurant dining area and of course, in the kitchen. From being able to cook on top equipment and also on make-do barbies in the bush, gas to wood-fired, or catering for two to two thousand. When I represented my country as I did countless times, I was always proud and sometimes not completely prepared. When I was cooking Australian lamb in the National Restaurant Association show in Chicago, the big day out of the 6 days was Sunday where I and the team had were to have 6000 samples ready for the crowd to come by and taste. I did that promotion for the ALMC (now MLA) for 5 years both in Chicago and LA or San Francisco.

Trying to tell you of what I think I did to be able to be rewarded with an AM would take forever and would be a little self-congratulatory – but to sum up, I can say that just about all I ever did in those years of working in so many aspects of the Hospitality Industry, I totally enjoyed. Sure it was hard work and the mates I formed in those years are still my mates. Accolades are nothing without being able to say Thank You to an industry I love and thanks to HTN for letting me be their Patron.

Now that’s an honour!

– By Peter Howard AM

 

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MinaPeter Howard AM | Australia Day Honours Awards

5 Things on Peter Howard’s To-Do-List for 2018

Posted on January 15, 2018 , No comments

Like so many of your fellow cooks or chefs, you were most likely working on the big night of celebration to see 2018 in. However, I send you all belated best wishes for the New Year and hope it will be sensational time for you. I have established five things I want to do this year.

Firstly there are about four different recipes that I want to perfect that I have identified as my being deficient from cooking over the Christmas period. One of them is to cook turkey better than I did this year. Also, we have had a glut of prawns and I want to expand my recipe ideas for cooked King prawns. Any ideas – I would appreciate them.

Secondly, I need to do more exploring of local produce and to see the new products coming up in the new delis in our area. There can be no doubt we are getting more and more new and interesting products. We have a rich dairy culture in our region and more new cheeses coming into our markets. I need to enrich my product knowledge.

Thirdly I will be doing more reading in purpose written magazines and online about the increasingly new manufactured products I see in our supermarkets. I am fascinated by the new presentations and flavours around smoked meats and also the numbers of outlets popping up that process and sell smoked items. There are products coming to us from all over the world reinforcing the rich multicultural product range that already exists.

For the fourth one, I am determined to make the best basil pesto ever. I have been researching some of the recipes online and there is a real variation – including the nuts that you can use. It seems that it is possible to use cashews and not pine nuts. I am convinced that the Parmesan cheese chosen has a huge influence on the resultant flavour (see point 2). Do I do it traditionally using a mortar and pestle or do I blitz it with a Robot Coup? Such delicious decisions to make around the huge crop of basil I have growing right now – alongside the bumper crops of tomatoes. Gotta love Summer!

My fifth promise if you like – yes you guessed it. I need to lose weight/ Ugh, I hate this one. Perhaps I should find another promise!

During 2018 I will be doing some appearances at various trade shows and if you see me, please say hello and have a chat. More of that later through the year – in the meantime, make the most of 2018. Happy New Year.

– Peter Howard

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Mina5 Things on Peter Howard’s To-Do-List for 2018

Christmas with Peter Howard!

Posted on December 7, 2017 , No comments

Without wanting to put a damper on your Christmas festivities, we need to think about people who may not be as lucky as we are – well I guess I should say, as I am and I am indeed very lucky and will share my Christmas with my partner and my expanded family. That day will be filled with a huge amount of food and beverages and lots of family love. Don’t ask how many will be there? Dozens as I am from a large family.

I know I am in charge of carving the ham – I always get that job and love it as I still use the carving knife I bought in 1970. We bring dishes as well so my sister does not have to cook for us all. She is a great cook and could do it. There are so many new salad ideas as well…and of course proteins like chicken, boned and rolled and stuffed turkey and my elder sister is making Coronation Chicken…very old recipe but delicious.

As for me? On the big day, I go to cook and serve a Christmas lunch for our local homeless and needy. That will be a full-on lunch for over 100 people organized by a group called Coolum HeARTS. They are so supportive of local homeless, disabled people and others. Many other volunteers are involved and the meal consists of Roasted Chicken, Ham (all donated) – at least 4 different salads. And of course, there is Christmas pudding, Christmas Cake, Pavlova, Trifle…all donated. And I will be Santa as we give out Chrissy presents.

Do I feel good to be able to do this event? You bet I do and also I feel honoured to be able to be a part of really vibrant community group like the Coolum HeARTS. Normally, I used to have to cook for the various businesses I was in and like you, I was so used to working Christmas Day lunch or dinner. Whatever I was doing I somehow felt I was sharing the joy of this Festive Season.

It is a time for sharing and while you may wish you were at home with your family –if you are working – try to remember you are making so many people happy with your excellent service and cooking.

See you next year and in the meantime – Happy Christmas to you and your family.

 

– Peter Howard 

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MinaChristmas with Peter Howard!

Christmas Preparations by Peter Howard

Posted on November 6, 2017 , No comments

Look around you and the warning signs are everywhere – Yes, it is Christmas time and a time for various celebrations. Christmas is the main one I guess.

For us in the kitchen of wherever we are working, it is business as usual and time for us to provide our usual service to our customers who choose to eat out inside of at home – they are an increasing demographic. These days, Christmas has changed so much from when I was younger and we, as cooks or Chefs must be able to read the public’s needs. Or we must create the dishes and events that will entice the general public to our place.

Is the traditional Christmas meal gone? Certainly, the roasted meats and turkeys etc are still popular but more and more our customers are demanding more than the Roast Turkey and the trimmings. So many places now offer cold seafood luncheon and while the price point may seem high, the appeal of this delicious fare is fantastic. The justification? And after all, it is 1 day of the year and the credit card can take another serve. One thing I used to do was to start stockpiling the prawns and whatever would freeze well now – well, in fact, a month or so ago. Prices are better now…not so expensive.

In one way or another, pork will always feature on Christmas menus – I should say for those cultures that love it – in so many countries, hams are the traditional main attraction on the plate; needless to say, there are some cultures that do not use this meat so loved in Australia, Europe and the Americas. In our business, we must be aware of those ethnic groupings that do not use pork. However, in so many of our eateries, Christmas without roasted pork and that scrumptious crackling, simply would not be Christmas. I hope you have your Ham order in by now.

I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy Christmas around the world and in the northern hemisphere where it is so cold, the traditional English fare is so acceptable and expected. However, also think about some dishes from Scandinavia – different fish dishes as so good…and different. I love pickled herrings and that was served once at Christmas lunch in Stockholm. Have a look online at the various offerings of dishes from around the Scandinavian region – maybe some will be applicable to you.

Do you have to make your own Christmas cakes? Pudding?  It is not necessary. So many excellent Christmas cake and pudding wholesalers now exist and they can be a quick and economical way to serve this traditional finishing touch to a Christmas lunch.

Let’s not forget that New Year’s Eve comes into this celebratory time of year – again traditionally it is a huge event. More and more we are asked to temper drinking rituals and with Responsible Service of Alcohol, we perhaps now look at quality, not quantity. It is up to us if we are in a position of influence in our establishment, to respect these laws of alcohol consumption. Look to good booze and great foods to make the celebration zing.

After having worked so many Christmases, I was at a loss for what to do when I did not work on Christmas Day when I retired. I think I still am wondering and as my family Christmas celebration is held before Christmas Day itself, I find that this year I will cooking and serving Christmas lunch to the homeless in my local community where I live. Gotta love it!

roasted whole carp stuffed with vegetables and almonds on wooden table

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MinaChristmas Preparations by Peter Howard

5 Tips To Know Before Going To The US

Posted on October 6, 2017 , No comments

The USA has always held some intrigue to me and I first visited there in 1979 – consequently, I have spent many interesting, educational and fun times in that amazing country. Having just returned from four weeks in the Mainland and Hawaii, here are some aspects of the hospitality industry I noted.

PORTION SIZES
The amount of food served on the plate has always been huge in comparison with the portions served here. Then if you analyse the plates you will see a huge amount of carbohydrates are used which traditionally have a less expensive food cost than protein. What has changed is that the price point per plate has increased dramatically. The wastage of uneaten food on plates is still noticeable albeit a lot of food is taken home –you box it yourself at the table.

This shot shows the half of a sandwich which I could not eat and so it was ‘boxed’ to go – the price was near US$19. Last year in the same restaurant, the same sandwich sold for near US$15. I go there, Palm Springs California, every year to visit friends and this is the best Jewish deli outside New York.

WAIT STAFF SERVICE
USA wait staff is amongst the most friendly and efficient in the world. That permanent smile and that I-Can-Do-Anything attitude is infectious and appreciated. Sure they work for tips and have to do so as their wages are appallingly low. If you have a Union job in a big Hotel, for example, your hourly rate may be around US$8.75 to US$9 per hour. Otherwise, your hourly rate can be abysmal. In one case, in speaking with a waiter, the wait staff work for tips only and no wages (totally illegal but then if you want a job – ruthless employer) and the waiter told me he made around US$25 per hour from tips. Then there’s was a trunk system and so the bar staff, kitchen and others had to be paid out of that hourly rate. Still, the staff is fantastic and used to being totally busy. There is a much better staff to customer ratio than here. The busboy system is excellent although sometimes very noisy.

RESTAURANT DÉCOR & ATMOSPHERES
There is, as here, much more casual dining than ever before. Tablecloths a thing of the past – cutlery in containers on the table where you are seated, paper napkins of various qualities abound. Over the 4 weeks, I was there, I did not see a linen napkin. This means the whole atmosphere is more casual and yet the American customer still expects swift service – and they get it. You can eat a two-course meal in a good eatery in 30 minutes. Boy, do they pump it out in this casual eating situation!

MORE ETHNIC EATING
More than other visits, I noticed a much stronger influence on ethnic eateries. This is huge in Hawaii and while the call for American style eateries is still very strong, you can notice more Indian, fusion Asian, Mexican, South American and upscale restaurants like Le Colonial in San Francisco which is Colonial Vietnamese. This very smart restaurant is up an alleyway off Post Street and the fare is excellent as is the service.

DIVERSE WINE LIST OFFERINGS
As is the case here, the wine lists now list very diversified wines from around the world and no longer is it that you can only buy Californian wines in California. International wines from around the world are on show and available with the influence of Spanish and French Rosé very clear – great wines. To take the multicultural aspect to its ultimate – try a French (Alsace) Gewurztraminer in an excellent Thai restaurant in Kehei, Maui (Hawaii) served by a Korean/native Hawaiian man. And a great eating experience.

These are a few of my observations from my recent trip. And my opinion is that we still do it so much better than anywhere in the USA and that is a fact.

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Mina5 Tips To Know Before Going To The US

What to Do With Tail End of Seasonal Vegetables – Peter Howard

Posted on August 20, 2017 , No comments

It’s hard to remember when seasons begin and finish these days as we can now buy what was once considered season vegetable and fruits all year around. However, there are some vegetables that really are best used in their season. Right now Winter is finishing and Autumn is approaching very quickly.

In effect, that means we’ve been eating the same vegetables for the last few months.

Brussels Sprouts – good with the outside leaves quickly deep-fried and used as a garnish in salads; the trimmed centre of these crisp mini cabbages can be halved and blanched, drained and cooled and finished in butter and napped with Hollandaise.

All cabbages are not all the same and the sweet Savoy or Sugarloaf is abundant now. They can be finely sliced once trimmed of the ribs and flavoured with a citrus juice (say Pink Grapefruit), salt, pink peppercorns and a sprinkle of Spanish Paprika. Toss together as for a coleslaw.

Turnips, both white and yellow, have their own peculiar flavour and texture loved by some and despised by other (I am on the former mob). Peel and cut into chips size pieces, boil until cooked through – strain and cooled. Toss the chips in heaps of browning butter, chives, sage and green peppercorn. Great served with roasted duck.

Parsnips generally end up in soup around now although they can’t be beaten roasted. Try peeled and trimmed parsnips combined with cauliflower and some potato for texture cooked in a stock and pureed for a soup. Season when reheating  – serve hot with knobs of goats curd and cracked black pepper.

Although it is hard thinking outside the usual ways in which these Winter beauties can be served, it is worth trying different approaches to relieve the typical way of serving them and to get our palates ready for Autumn.

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MinaWhat to Do With Tail End of Seasonal Vegetables – Peter Howard

Ask Peter Howard

Posted on August 7, 2017 , No comments

I was watching Mary Berry Absolute Favourites on TV the other night and not only did I think about when I first interviewed her on my radio show in the early 90ies, I also thought about the fact that here she is still up there and at it. Now I am not being ageist but Mary is older than me and that is something in itself. But Mary is a complete professional as all good TV chefs/cooks have to be.

It brought to mind that HTN is conducting a Masterclass on just how does one become a TV Chef with Sam Burke and me; as I continue to watch the modern Chefs, I realise that one thing has not changed over the decades I have been involved in media cooking and that is that they all make it look so easy – that’s the art than of being a very good TV chef. But it ain’t, believe me!

Remembering just how much time it took to get a TV cooking segment together, I also recognised how much I missed this part of my old life. It surely was exciting and challenging especially when you’re cooking out in the middle of a field and the wind is blowing and so.

Perhaps the most important aspect of being a TV cook is that I could never do a TV segment on my own. I was definitely a part of a team and without that team, I was up that creek without a paddle.

Doesn’t that make you think of your job in the kitchen? If the team is not there and the teamwork doesn’t happen, then you’re up that same creek. Teamwork in the kitchen and else is the essence of professional service.

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MinaAsk Peter Howard

Ever wondered why there are holes in doughnuts? – Chef Jock Stewart

Posted on July 18, 2017 , No comments

Why Are There Holes in Doughnuts?

There are a couple of common theories about the origin of the doughnut’s hole. One of the most popular credits American seafarer Hanson Gregory with inventing the donut’s hole in 1847 while aboard a lime-trading ship. He was just 16 years old at the time.

As the story goes, Gregory wasn’t happy with the doughy consistency of the fried cakes served on the ship. Although the outsides and the edges were crisp, the centres of the donuts were always greasy and doughy.

Gregory suggested punching a hole in the middle of the fried cakes, so that the insides of the cakes would cook as evenly as the outsides. Experts believe that this reason makes sense, because of the way that doughnuts are cooked.

When dough is placed in a fryer, the outsides and edges will cook quickly, because they’re exposed to the hot oil. To fully cook the insides of the dough, the dough would have to stay in the oil for a longer time, which would lead to the outsides becoming burnt.

Punching a hole in the middle of the dough, however, allows the insides and the outsides to cook evenly, creating a perfect doughnut. There may be another reason for the holes in doughnuts though.

Doughnuts became popular in America around the same time bagels were becoming popular. Bakers and street vendors would often sell bagels stacked on long sticks or strung on a long rope. Some people believe that the holes in doughnuts allowed them to be sold in a similar way.

So what happens to all those doughnut holes that are cut out of the dough? Many people believe that those pieces of cut-out dough are what are used to make doughnut holes, which are those little round doughnut pieces that so many kids love to eat with milk.

In truth, though, many doughnuts with holes don’t actually have any dough cut out of them to make their shape. Instead, special machines spray dough into a fryer in a circular pattern. The donut holes you buy at the bakery or grocery store are usually made out of dough simply cut into small squares.

Author – Chef Jock Stewart 

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MinaEver wondered why there are holes in doughnuts? – Chef Jock Stewart

The Origin of Hawaiian Pizza – Chef Jock Stewart

Posted on July 18, 2017 , No comments

Despite its tropical name, Hawaiian pizza is actually a Canadian creation. The pineapple-laden pie is the brainchild of retired cook, Sam Panopoulos, who first served pineapple on pizza at Satellite Restaurant in Chatham, Ontario.

By the mid 60s, Satellite Restaurant (now under different ownership) had been serving pizza for a few years, the dish was still a novelty for Canadians, who at the time topped their pies conservatively.

“People only put on mushroom, bacon and pepperoni, that’s all,” said Panopoulos. “I had pineapple in the restaurant and I put some on, and I shared with some customers and they liked it. And we started serving it that way. For a long time, we were the only ones serving it.”

As we know it today, Hawaiian pizza is a classic American-style cheese pizza topped with ham and pineapple. Variations may include bacon in place of or in addition to the ham, but Panopoulos says that his major contribution was simply adding the pineapple.

“You could have only pineapple, you could have bacon and pineapple, you could have mushrooms and pineapple, anything. Just like today, you could have a choice,” he says.

Panopoulos enjoyed a certain amount of media attention over the last few years, but the pizza claim overshadows what may actually be Panopoulos’ most enduring legacy: a passion for introducing diverse flavours to Canadian diners.

In the early 60s, says Panopoulos, pizza was considered ethnic food, an Italian-American curiosity that adventurous Canadians would try when they crossed the border. Back then, Panopoulos would drive to Detroit for a taste of the cheese-topped pie.“[Then] we bought a little oven and learned how to make pizza,” he said.

Panopoulos didn’t stop with pizza. Over the years, the Satellite Restaurant introduced a variety of novel flavours to Chatham residents, like Chinese food prepared by a Chinese cook, and dishes from Panopoulos’ native Greece.

“Today you can go to a Chinese place and have a chicken salad, Thai place they give you something else. But in those days there was no way you could mix flavours,” said Panopoulos. “When you told someone to try pineapple on their pizza they looked at you like, ‘Are you crazy?’

Say what you will about Hawaiian pizza, a polarizing dish that seems to attract as many fans as detractors. But it’s this spirit, exemplified by Sam Panopoulos and other culinary innovators, that has expanded Canadian cuisine beyond maple syrup and bacon, to represent the cultural diversity that makes this country — and its cuisine — great.

Author – Chef Jock Stewart 

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MinaThe Origin of Hawaiian Pizza – Chef Jock Stewart

Ask Peter Howard

Posted on July 7, 2017 , No comments

Too many years ago, when I was learning about menu writing, seasons were a serious influence on the dishes chosen to make up the menu. Normally it was a quarterly issue and so Winter would herald great big soups (delicious and profitable), casseroles, braises – more deliciousness and profit.

Apart from the fact, our bodies need different foods for nutrition in the colder parts of the year, there is also the expectation from our customers to see these winter warmers on our menus. There can be no confusion about how our customers’ love of these flavour packed dishes that now days are increasingly mass-produced by food manufacturers and come already prepared to be reheated.

Where I live, in the sub-tropics, I guess I am surprised to see steamed puddings listed on menus in Summer when I would naturally expect to see them only as winter items. However, to me, seeing these profitable puddings on the menu is only an indication that the majority of customers would rarely see these Granny desserts at home. Steamed Caramel Pudding, Sticky Date pudding and self-saucing chocolate desserts, Bread and Butter Puddings and variations on that theme, are always popular and is really easy to prepare.

And that idea goes along with a lot of other slow cooked, flavour packed casserole-style dishes.  Even with the advent of slow cookers at home, many people love to eat braised lamb shanks and other similar dishes in our eateries. Why not? They are scrumptious and always profitable for operators.

It is another lesson for us that if we give our customers what they want to eat, they will be satisfied, regardless of the season.

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MinaAsk Peter Howard