May 14

Smart Kitchen Chefs on the New Movie “Chef”

Chef Poster Image


All of us at Smart Kitchen were pretty excited about the prospects of viewing John Favreau’s new movie “Chef.” We’ve all worked in the industry (Food Service not Hollywood) and thought Jon Favreau might be able to capture the certain something that makes the long hours and attention to detail of cooking worth it to its practitioners.

At the office on Monday, we set a productivity goal of pushing out 3 exercises this week. If we made the goal, we would be able to define “work” on a hot Friday afternoon as “reviewing” Chef. Selecting your own goals and managing your own work flow is one of benefits of working for a small company. There are few real managers around to label your delusions “playing hooky under the cover of a plausible rationale,” which, let’s be honest, is what they really were last Friday.


Boy, am I glad that we accomplished the work goal and that we played hooky last Friday. The new movie Chef has a fresh, life affirming plot without the typical frosted pablum that attends most movies dealing with domestic and career issues. Some of the issues are weighty ones (and its not a dig about Carl Casper’s weight) but Jon Favreau handles parenting, divorce, professional control, professional sepukku — and rebirth on all fronts with a deft hand. His message comes through, but is not preachy or in your face. You can feel comfortable sitting back and basking in the glow of a story well prepared because the seriousness is the “B Story” and the issues are wrapped around and through Carl Casper’s passion and love for food.


On the food front, it was a kick, to see the main characters of a major motion picture, shop at a Farmer’s Market, take a food road trip (like Smart Kitchen’s Summer Food Drive), argue over the menu, teach and hold standards of service, plate their fare with Flair, etc. We especially like the stop at Franklin’s BBQ in Austin, TX, (this link goes to Franklin’s) where we have been twice. Once we were skunked and once was a home run. We blogged about the stop at Franklin’s on the Summer Food Drive 2013 and got some of our own video. 
It was heart warming to see Carl Casper teaching his movie son about seasonality, about a work ethic, about waste and Yield, all of which are close to our hearts. He had much more success, much more quickly with his offspring than I am having with the little P Chefs but seeing that culinary character arc on screen was a joy. It was also great to see attention to detail portrayed as a virtue.
If you have a chance, go see Chef (the link goes to IMDB) and take a peek behind the swinging doors that lead from the dining room to the kitchen where some of the magic happens. If you just want to see the Chef Trailer (this link goes to the trailer on IMDB).


Nov 13

The New Thanksgiving Exercises are up and Live on Smart Kitchen

sk_Carving Knife_web

We have been working on our Thanksgiving Offering and the whole Intermediate Topic on making a Thanksgiving Turkey is up and ready for members. In the section there are video exercises that will teach you about the Turkey, how to Prepare a Turkey, how to Brine a Turkey, how to Lard a Turkey, how to Debone a Turkey Leg, how to Stuff a Turkey Leg, how to Roast a Turkey and how to Carve a Turkey.

We also have a few good recipes for sides that may become your new family favorites such as: Fresh Cranberry Sauce, Andouille Sausage Stuffing, Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Sautéed Apples, Roasted Potato Corn Pancakes (not bad with Hanukah sharing Turkey Day), Crab Stuffed Cremini Mushrooms and a tasty Cranberry Bread or  Carrot Bread.

Now is the time to get busy with your Organization, the first of Smart Kitchen’s 4 levers of Cooking™  so that the actual prep and work is not a chaotic rush.

If you are planning on buying a frozen bird, you still have a few days but it is not too early to hit the store for the succulent fowl. Thawing such a big bird can take 3 – 4 days in the refrigerator. If you then plan to Brine your bird you may actually need two days more for Tempering and Brining. If you have the freezer space it can’t hurt to adopt your bird a few days early.

Happy Cooking!

P Chef

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Dec 12

“Ask A Chef™” #49

We love getting good “Ask a Chef™” questions from our members.  “Are there any added enzymes in Kosher Salt? is a good one.” Below is the question and our response.


Dear Chef:


In the lesson on sanitizing a cutting board, you mention that there is an enzyme in kosher salt that kills bacteria. What enzyme is that? I thought that salt was simply sodium chloride? Is there an additive enzyme in kosher salt?

Thanks much!

Joe W.


Hi Joe,

So, you are right about plain Kosher Salt being simply Sodium Choloride. What we should have said in the exercise is that some brands of Kosher Salt have additives and enzymes that can also help kill bacteria. Very pure brands of Kosher Salt, like Diamond Kosher Salt, won’t have the additives but others out there may.

Depending on the brand, you can find Ferrrocyanide (not extremely toxic as the name might suggest), Yellow Prussiate of Soda, Tricalcium Phosphate, Alumine-Calcium Silicate, Sodium Aluminosillicate and potentially iodine in various measures in various Kosher or Sea Salts.

Most of the additives are anti-caking or anti-clumping agents that work by absorbing moisture, which most bacteria need to live and thrive. Additionally, some Kosher Salt and many Sea Salts can be iodized and as any kid with a scraped knee can tell you, Iodine is also an anti-septic.

The best way to know what is in the Kosher Salt in your pantry is to read the label and if anything is unclear or not specific to then contact the company.

Happy Cooking!

“P Chef”

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Jun 12

Contest: Who is YOUR Kitchen Idol?

We’re excited to announce the launch of our new contest: Kitchen Idol! We know you have a home cook in your life that is your true “kitchen idol.” They make the perfect side dishes, outrageous main courses or delectable desserts. We want to hear all about it!

To enter, simply nominate your favorite Kitchen Idol! Tell us what you would like to learn from your Kitchen Idol and we’ll enter both of you to win a year of online cooking classes from Smartkitchen.com and a brand new Kindle Fire!

Winners will take cooking classes from the comfort of their own homes, courtesy of Smartkitchen.com. The Kitchen Idol nominee with the most votes (and their fan) will win. One vote per Email ID.

Click here for more information and to enter!!

Apr 12

Summer Food Drive (W – E)

We were working the Scottsdale Culinary Festival this past weekend where a belief in overkill and just-in-case- planning got me there 4 hours early as a preventative measure. I turned out to be correct and this show example will live on in the litany of reasons it pays to plan for contingencies. Upon arrival at 08:00 our booth for the upcoming show was not even a thought in a meeting planners mind, nothing was onsite or even marked out.

No Boothee! - No Workee!

Organization & Preparation, the first two of the 4 Levers of Cooking™ came in handy as I rounded up some help and got the process rolling. Sitting around waiting for the booth prep to happen, after lugging in all of our gear to build the booth, I can tell you, even at 8 AM, that the days are getting hotter and that Spring was last week despite what the calendar says. Now it is just about Summer, which is a pain for an event but exciting because its almost time for the Smart Kitchen’s Summer Food Drive 2012 (W – E).

With inadequate amounts of spare time in a small company, and a forced idle due to circumstances beyond your own control, you can, on a hot day when THE BOSS has not yet arrived, try to work on your Summer Food Drive trip and blog about it before either:  it is time to get back into the booth building game or before the aforementioned Boss arrives. What the boss doesn’t know doesn’t hurt him, does it???

Summer Food Drive Proposed Route


For the last few years, early summer has been an opportunity to see some rustic places and obscure dives in the more northerly climes. We will likely be heading out of AZ into NM and then into CO to visit a bunch of cheesemakers (mostly goat cheese) . From north of Denver the stops are missing until The Drover Steakhouse in Omaha. As you may know we only eat at the stops so right now we have 900 hungry miles from Sticky Toffee Pudding in Denver to Whiskey Steaks in Omaha, NE. Traditionally, the stretch from Colorado east to Omaha or Missouri has been a challenge. It is hard to find rabid fans of obscure food stops in that stretch. Does anybody have some “You Better Not Miss ‘Em” recommendations for this famished stretch? In fact, we are open to suggestions for anywhere between AZ and the Atlantic.

From the Drover its a relatively short hop to KC, MO for Fiorella’s Jack Stack BBQ and Smokestack BBQ (see below). Depending on the timing there may be encore performances for LC BBQ (one of my favorites) and Arthur Bryant’s (another favorite).

The Pork Sandwich @ LC's in KC Sticks in the Memory! Please Sir, May I Have Some More.

Last year I had the route planned and booked when Susie Timm, of Girl Meets Fork told me she was going to Jack’s Stack BBQ in KC and that it was the best. Susie knows BBQ and I thought <DOH!> since I was going to miss it, in favor of Gate’s BBQ (ho-hum) & Stroud’s Chicken (pretty good especially with a fried chicken theme going on in 2011). Then Saveur Magazine came out for May of 2011 and said Jack’s Stack was one of the best KC BBQ stops. <DOUBLE DOH!! & ERRR!>  Now it is 2012 and we can finally try to remedy the situation.

Oh and by the way, SK Chef phoned. He is running late for the Culinary Festival. I can probably get some more detail photo work into this post. Stage 1 is up until KC. Stage 2 will be from KC over to the coast.

Potential Route & Stops in the West


Those are the proposed food stops so far. Specifically they are:

  • 3 creameries (Goat Cheeses) in the Rocky Mountains – James Ranch, Avalanche Cheese Co. & Haystack Cheese Co. Haystack’s Green Chile Jack Cheese won first place in the American Cheese Society’s (ACS) competition in 2011.  The “Hand Bandaged Goat Cheddar” at Avalanche sounded intriguing and is also an award winner (3rd place with ACS). Avalanche is also near Paonia, Co. which is idyllic and the home of Chaco Sandals.  I don’t know much about James Ranch, except that they raise some heritage goats and that they are 10 miles north of Durango (where I have friends), which is some scenic mountain terrain. They are better known for their Farm Market and were actually pretty non-responsive two years ago. I want to see if that has changed and if they have any product to write about. I am planning to run these by The Roving Cheese Monger.



  • The Drover Steak House in Omaha, NE for the Whiskey Steaks and because 2 Nebraska natives told me last year that I should have chosen The Drover over Gorat’s Steakhouse. One of the Nebraska native was Dan Morgan of Morgan Ranch who runs an American Wagyu Cattle Operation and should know something about it. To see Dan’s place and operation you can see our video of Morgan Ranch on the Smart Kitchen Channel on Youtube.


  • 2-4 KC BBQ Spots – Fiorella’s Jack’s Stack BBQ, Arthur Bryant’s BBQ, LC’s BBQ, maybe Big T’s BBQ (no website), Bear’s Smokeshack BBQ (no website), and/or Danny Edwards’ BBQ. Do you have any favorites or must visit KC places?  The original Smokestack Restaurant was on my list but it looks like it has closed. RIP (rest in rib pieces; they were known for burnt ends)

For KC BBQ, I may have to get out a quarter and do some best 12 out of 13 flips to choose here. Maybe I’ll do the drive-by and see which are passes and which are must visits. Or darn it I can get PRE-EMPTIVE and just hit them all! I WILL GO TO EXTREMES OF BBQ OVERKILL to avoid another Susie Timm or Saveur <DOH & ERRRR!> visit-marring-experience. I will even plan some mileage “A Pied” (French for on foot) along the Missouri River or Appalachian Trail to make up for the caloric overkill.

The non-food spots in the west include gyms, potentially Scott’s Bluff, NE and Jocyln Art Museum in Omaha. They have some Degas and Delacroix, etc. in their permanent collection. The Jocyln seems as nice a spot as any to do some post-prandial strolling after a big steak.

It’s getting to be showtime. SK Chef will be showing up anytime now. Shhh. I will work on the rest of the trip for the next post. Let me know if I am missing anywhere great.  By the way, the booth did get built on time and SK Chef did a great job with his knife work. We had a lot of fun seeing so many foodies in person, meeting new friends and new members.

All Tasks in the Right Time Works & The Boss was Happy.


P Chef

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Mar 12

Hankering for The Hunger Games


As Chef’s we had to read the Hunger Games (don’t tell the kids) and were taken by some of the dishes. One that caught our eye was the Training Center Meal on Page 76 where Katniss Everdeen ate her fill of Mushroom Soup, Bitter Greens, Pea-Sized Tomatoes, Noodles in Green Sauce (we assume Pesto Sauce), Blue Grapes and thin-sliced rare Roast Beef.

With the Hunger Games movie opening on March 23rd, we thought we’d take a stab (no pun intended) at the meal in case any fans want to make it at home to celebrate the premier of the movie.

Smart Kitchen’s Recipe of The Hunger Games Mushroom Soup can found by following the link.

Hunger Games Mushroom Soup with Bitter Greens & Roast Beef

A Rustic Version of Katniss' Training Center Meal

Smart Kitchen’s Chef Eric O’Neill, took the concept one better than the description on the pages and made this Hunger Games Recipe feel more in the spirit of the story by placing all the main ingredients in a single soup. He uses the Noodles in Green Sauce as a Side Dish and the Blue Grapes as Dessert.

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Mar 12

The Balut Filipino Egg Challenge


There was a lot of Twitter ballyhoo over Balut the last few days. A mention of Balut, the Filipino fertilized egg snack, in our January Blog Post on Food Truck Thursday lead to our friend Dak and Smart Kitchen essentially being called out by @HeyJoeTruck and asked on Twitter if we were game to back up our Balut smack talk.

Well, we extol palate building and cultural sensitivity at Smart Kitchen, so in theory we had to be open-minded and sensitive and try a Filipino National Dish. Integrity demanded that we live up to our guiding principles, though to be honest, I wished we could have turned them back into the Ethics Department for a day or two.

In the end, what sold me was that you don’t get to be a sorry old chef with a lot of bad experiences and “What-Not-to-Do’s” to share (over and over and over again) by avoiding challenges. So we fired off a defiant Tweet of acceptance to HeyJoeTruck.  It is easy to have ball…er Bravado over Balut safely at your own keyboard. It is also easy to freak yourself out, so to calm our nerves we launched a customized, mini-social media-campaign to try and shame some foodie colleagues and friends into sharing the pain. You also don’t get to be a sorry old chef without learning that misery loves company.

Of all the prospective pitches made, exactly ZERO (a Goose Egg ironically) achieved any traction. The universal refrain was either “No Way” or “H.E.double hockey sticks, No Way!”  You kind of lose a molecule or two of respect for your foodie friends, especially the professionals, when they cut & run instead of charging forward. I mean, to use a Filipino reference, MacArthur ran but he “Returned.” I’m talking about 5 Star General of the Army MacArthur, Dak. I didn’t say anything.


Unassuming But Don't Judge an Egg by Its Cover

So how was the experience? I kind of wish I had some graphic horror story to relate (the visuals were a bit shocking) but after the pre-game panic the game itself wasn’t bad. A Hard Boiled Duck egg with coarse salt and Rice Wine Vinegar in a paper tray. They say you shouldn’t count your chickens before they hatch, but what about the ducks in Balut? If you are squeamish, avoid the next 2 images.

The Balut is a Challenge for the Eyes and Mind.

It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better

As mentioned in the video, our friend Norm was an impromptu CHAMPION, rushing forward with the best of them with humor and good cheer. I filmed Norm’s chow down to avoid “Balut–ing” up my cameras by filming and eating. THANKS NORM. Apparently, the Balut juice tastes like Fish Soup. : ) As you can see in the video, Norm’s Appetizer was also the subject of a few more cameras and IPhones.

For me, my Balut was tough on the eyes and brain but from the Palette’s perspective the rest of the Balut, had the Umami taste of a hard boiled egg, with some Fois Gras thrown in for good measure. I did not run back in line but I did not crawl away retching either.

After the challenge, we were still standing and savored the reward of great Filipino food. Hey Joe Truck’s Braised Pork Belly was well worth it.

HeyJoeTruck Braised Pork Belly

Braised 15 Hours, This Filipino Pork Belly is Faboo!

The Pork Belly got 3 WOW’s the first round from all the carnivores at the table (the worst part of the whole Balut experience by the way was trying to poach a table) and praise on its visual appeal by the sole vegetarian. The second and third rounds, as the rich pork taste kicked around the taste buds, also evoked 3 WOWS. The Pork Belly is served with a Forbidden Rice mixture and some Julienned Vegetables. Thanks Joe & Brian. Your 15 plus hours of work were a value to at $8.50. Yesterday, you all talked some smack about sharing a recipe or two with our readers. You game to let loose with the braised pork belly recipe?

It was so Good, the Pork Belly Deserves 2 Photos

We’ll be back at the trucks until the sun & heat banishes Food Truck Thursday for the Summer and though we want to try those hot dogs and sausages everyone lines up for, we may not be able to get past the hankering for 15 hour braised pork belly.

Hopefully we will see you there and Whole Foods & The Trucks will scare up some more tables and chairs.


P Chef

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Feb 12

Has The Bacon-in-Everything Movement “Jumped the Shark.”

This is probably the end, right?

OK, if you know me at all you may not buy this, but for everyone else, this blog post is really a Public Service Announcement (PSA). Really. I derived no specific personal pleasure or glee from the activities described herein. That being said, we are food-blogging and cooking professionals and advise that you don’t try the following at home.
I read (maybe it was a late night TV Commercial) that Jack in the Box, the almost national burger chain with breakfast all day, was marketing a bacon shake as part of their loving bacon (Why don’t You Marry It!) marketing campaign.  We could not believe anyone would be so horrid & so depraved and were compelled by dark caloric forces to explore the rumor, if for no other reason than to spare our readers a similar fate. Of course it is only a coincidence that SK Chef was out of town and unable to veto this blog post.  : )

Before you say it, I strongly resent that anyone would accuse us (me) of wanting to taste such a concoction. I may drive all over the place in search of ridiculous dishes but in this instance, I am acting as a caring blogger concerned for my audience’s welfare. Really!

OK, let’s leave it at this, just because I am willing to sacrifice myself (and my unknowing friends) so that the general public doesn’t have to drink deeply from this strange taste combination that Jack is pushing from his box, doesn’t mean I am experiencing any pleasure from the act. To me, it is just culinary civic mindedness to save you, the reader, from being sucked into the dying act of an unhealthy culinary trend.  That is my story and I’m sticking to it but we can agree to disagree so that I can get back to the story.

So to begin the sampling, we slipped out of our Chef’s Coat, donned a disguise, spurned the drive-thru and since the SmartKitchen-Mobile carries distinctive “Smart Kitchen” signage, parked far across the parking lot . Unobserved, we executed a circuitous, calorie-consuming infiltration of the fast food den. We got our shake “to go,” inserted it into a brown paper bag and reversed our path to exfiltrate the house of fried calories.

Wisely, we had thought ahead and Organized, the 1st of Smart Kitchen’s 4 Levers of Cooking,™ our live sampling to account for the staggering number of calories and fat grams per ounce in something that is both a fast food milkshake and a bacon. We got a bit Tom Sawyer and disguised the rationale for the small focus group as a mid-afternoon “Gift” to our friends at the local coffee shop.

In return for the gift, we orchestrated a 3/4 reduction in the 773 calories (before Whip Cream & Cherry) of the Bacon Shake. Even with some protein (12 g) and a healthy dose of Sodium (319 mg), Nutrition is Not the Strong Suit of a 40 Fat Gram Bacon Milk Shake (only 28 g are saturated fat).


12 Grams of Protein and Loads of Sodium, Not Bad! (Not!)

In addition to calorie reduction, we also sourced “data points” on the shake as we now had 4 people who all complained, self righteously, about the decadence and depravity of such a shake, before tucking into a 1/4 sized portion.

A Healthy (er) Portion Cup of Bacon Milk Shake

The results were shameful. I should have known it, even with my good intentions, when entering upon such a caloric enterprise. It pains me to discuss it, so I won’t; all I will say is that we were all properly indignant and in the end we did our duty. Within 2-3 minutes there wasn’t a drop of bacon flavored potion in any of the 4 sampling cups. Rest assured, none can fall into untrained hands.

Now, as I type off the 193.25 calories, my mind turns to how to make the shake healthier….for others. Ingredients like hormone-free Heavy Cream, organic vanilla ice cream, and lean Nueske‘s Applewood Smoked Bacon or even Benton’s no-preservatives, traditional cured and smoked bacon comes to mind. And I am just getting started. Can a Cinnamon Beurre Blanc Milkshake be far away? Oops, did I write that? mmm…….I mean hmmmmmm…..

P Chef

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Feb 12

The New Plant Hardiness Map is Here

USDA Plant Hardiness Map

Now, at Smart Kitchen we are not gardeners for the sake of gardening, though it is nice. We are eaters and cookers, I mean gourmands and chefs, sometimes disguised as gardeners.

Nevertheless, we were excited to see that the US Department of Agriculture has revised its Plant Hardiness Map after 12 years. The new map shows some warming of the lowest lows in many areas meaning that extremes of cold should not kill off that warmer weather plants, even in more northerly climes.

The major drawback in using the map, for us as chef’s, though is that the Plant Hardiness Data Base and Zone Map only relates zip codes to one of 11 defined climate zones. To learn which garden crops grow in each of those climate zones, you then have to correlate the proper plants, zone by zone, using another database like the PlantFinder Database at Garden.org or the What to Plant Now Database at Mother Earth News. Each of those databases has drawbacks for easily finding out which edible plants might grow in any given climate zone or zip code. Sorry, the immediately foregoing is not factually true. Zone 1 is an easy because only 7 plants of any kind, including pine trees, are suitable for the frigid Zone 1. What we should have said is that it is tough for 10 of the climate zones.

Talk about foodie web surfing, wouldn’t it be cool if some database programming type could merge the functionality of the two databases for the use of bored and curious foodies? In a snap we’d know, how far north Coconuts or Dates could grow? Or how far south can one hope to  tap a Sugar Maple tree and still expect some sap to flow? I am getting excited about the possibilities but….

Until the Smart Kitchen powers that be offer us more programming time, this blog post will have to be filed under wish lists, unless you, the reader, happen to be a database engineer and want to volunteer to work on a good cause, a project to sooth the souls of the members of the foodie/gardening humanity. If it’s you sleepless in wherever, get in touch with us.

Happy Cooking

P Chef

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Nov 11

Smart Kitchen’s Perfect Turkey Event 2011


Smart Kitchen’s first ever “Live” cooking lesson, Co-Sponsored by Girl Meets Fork, was a huge success. The event took place at the beautiful Sub-Zero / Wolf Showroom in North Scottsdale and attendee’s learned how to make the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey Meal, from start to finish in about 2 and 1/2 hours and had some drinks and some laughs along the way.

Dishes prepared, in accordance with Smart Kitchen’s 4 Levers of Cooking™, were Smart Kitchen’s Perfect Turkey, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Sun Dried Figs and Balsamic, Fresh Pineapple / Cranberry Sauce, Purée of Root Vegetables, and Turkey Gravy.

Plate of Turkey with sides and Gravy

2.5 Hours From Start to Finish

A delicious and informative Wine Tasting was provided by Wine Styles and hosted by Damien Kanser, CSW of Action Wine.

Special thanks to Sub-Zero / Wolf & Lori, Wine Styles & Damien from Action Wine, and Susie @ Girl Meets Fork.

We are looking forward to the next event (perhaps in the Spring) and hope to see you there.

P Chef

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