Gourmet food trucks – are they the next big thing?

What are Gourmet Food Trucks?

Gourmet food trucks have taken America by storm and they are now becoming a regular contributor on the food scene in South Africa (particularly in Joburg and Cape Town). Essentially they are a mobile eatery that can serve delicious coffees and confectionaries to the trendy in various locations and at various times of the day.

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Gourmet Food Trucks are taking South Africa by storm

Why are they so cool?

It’s a revolutionary way to tackle location issues – if your guests can’t come to your restaurant, you can travel to your guests. Eat Out reports that these mobile trucks are “giving diners the opportunity to indulge in Nutella bombs overlooking the ocean, gourmet coffee in the heart of inner-city Jozi and oolong tea at rock festivals.” It’s Al Fresco dining at its best!

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The Balken Burger Bar, Jozi

What are the ups and downs?

Well, licensing can sometimes be difficult to arrange when you’re operating a mobile unit, but once you get the hang of it – there’s so many wonderful places you can serve your tasty creations. Getting people to know where you are next is half the fun – social channels like Twitter are an easy and cheap way to let your customers know where you’re going to next, what time they can expect you and what’s on the menu. So easy and simple to arrange.

If you’re looking for an entrepreneurial angle to pursue after your studies at The International Hotel School, this may be a really great project to start with – and you can rope in your industry mates to help out! Get outside, travel, cook, work, play….what more could you want?

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Place your order on the fly

Where can you find out more?

Here’s the Eat Out guide to the ultimate alfresco dining: a list of food trucks currently operating in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. Take a look and enjoy some gourmet treats from a trendy mobile food truck near you! http://www.eatout.co.za/article/21-food-trucks-to-follow/

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Reinventing Room Service – what’s your take?

Room service has been an ongoing Food & Beverage operation in many hotels over the years. It has been incorporated as a brand standard in many properties and to some extent, a differentiator for various hotel brands i.e. you would find room service in certain star or graded properties. The thing with room service is that historically, it costs a bomb to run and makes very little money. Hospitality trends for 2014 indicate that room service is due for a shake up! So how would you change room service if it was all up to you?

A traditional room service approach. Image by ©www.acbnews.go.com

A traditional room service approach. Image by ©www.acbnews.go.com

The concerns

It was reported by Lodging Magazine  that the New York Hilton Midtown (New York’s largest hotel) recently closed its entire room service operation because it wasn’t financially viable any longer. So is the writing on the wall for other hotels who offer room service? Do guests even want a room service option given that its reputation is battered because of cold, uninteresting food that is served at ridiculous prices? 

The bottom line is that guests still want room service because it’s convenient. Here are some ideas that we think may help:

Quick and simple breakfasts

What about breakfast bags to go? Pick up your breakfast bag on your way out the door and enjoy a fresh fruit juice or coffee, croissant, yoghurt or a ‘breakfast roll’ which could be in a veggie option or standard bacon and egg roll. These items are easy to prepare, bags are easy to make up and if it’s displayed in reception, chances are, you’ll grab a few extra customers for breakfast than you normally would.

A new approach to Breakfast ©www.lodgingmagazine.com

A new approach to Breakfast ©www.lodgingmagazine.com

Lunch to go

Again, sandwiches, wraps, pre-made salads, sushi and fresh smoothies are a great ‘to go’ option. Eat in or out with the pre-prepared options that take minutes to assemble. Fresh, fast and reasonably priced.

Dinner time grill option

Many South African resorts have a braai/grill on the patio of each room. Hotel Interactive reports that Boulders Arizona offer a ‘Grill Your Own’ menu where they provide a picnic basket of ingredients for starters and mains and you are able to grill your own meal, at your own pace, with all your dips, accompaniments and sauces at your fingertips.

Whichever way you go, know that room service needs to change in order to move with the times – like technology changes, so our service offerings will need to be tweaked continuously to ensure we are satisfying what guests want, and that we’re making money whilst we’re doing it – we are in business after all to satisfy both.

If you have some cool and clever room service ideas, give us your thoughts in the comment section below. We’d love to hear from you!

Super cool Ice sculptures for the most talked-about event

Ice sculpture or ice carvings can make or break the look of any event. Pristine, beautiful and picture perfect, these carvings are no simple task! Imagine if you will, 8 hour shifts in -5 degree temperatures whilst you carve out your next creation using chain saws, chisels, angle grinders and other bizarre tools.  Sounds a little freaky but we think its tons of fun when you get the hang of it!

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Ice Carving by The Ice Box

The fun side of ice

Similar to fruit or butter carving, we think every young Culinary Arts students should give it a try. Start small of course and use what you can find from your chef toolbox to get going – but you never know how big you can go. The Ice Box in London carved a life-size VW Polo, an entire Guinness pub, functioning ice bars and more. Locally in South Africa, Ice Art can install your very own ice lounge (where you can ‘chill’ out with mates) or even carve you a little party trick called a Shooter Luge. The Shooter Luge is the perfect party piece because you can carve any sort of sculpture (the more creative the better) and then drill a hole through the entire sculpture so that when the shooter is poured through the top, the shooter comes down perfectly chilled, straight into the waiting mouth below.

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Vodka Luge

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Life-size VW Polo carved in ice

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Guinness pub carved in ice

Working with ice to make money

Fun aside; ice carving is an amazing skill to acquire as a chef. Detail, detail, detail…it can make such an impact to the client you are representing if you are able to produce quality sculptures that aren’t just pretty to look at, but that capture the essence of the brand. It’s a unique way to create additional revenue too. Say you’re the manager of a bar or club and you want to spoil your guests with a Vodka Luge every Friday night – the shooter sales will rocket and the guests will enjoy the effort you made for that evening. Or maybe you’re a chef who would like to add an ice-carved table sculpture to the banqueting or wedding options available at the hotel your work at?

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Ice Bar carved by The Ice Box

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Three Cities Ice Bar carved by Ice Art

But are there any downsides to ice carving? Well, let’s face it, your creation will melt! That in itself is perhaps the key to having fun with your brand. Place a branded product in an ice sculpture and leave it somewhere public where it can get noticed. Ask the passersby to guess how long the sculpture will take to melt – the winner can walk away with the product that eventually melts from the ice. That’s a ‘cool’ way to get potential customers to engage with you or your client’s brand.

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Product frozen in ice by The Ice Box

Will ice carving get you further in your culinary career? Maybe, maybe not. But if you can rock an ice sculpture in the place where you work, chances are, you’ll be a chef in hot demand! Give it a bash, why not!

Amarula Cheesecake – a South African culinary favourite

We found a really amazing no bake, flop proof, fuss free, ‘anyone can make this’ cheesecake that will have your guests begging for the recipe. We’ve adapted it slightly from the original that we loved so much from the SmittenGlutten blog, but we’ve kept the step by step pictures from the original for your enjoyment!

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Amarula Cheesecake

Ingredients (Local is lekker)

200 grams digestive biscuits (about 13 biscuits)
100 grams butter, melted
200 ml whipping cream (very cold)
150 ml Amarula cream liqueur (if you’re stuck, you can use Cape Velvet or leave out the booze for a plain no-bake cheesecake)
4 teaspoon gelatine powder
500 grams cream cheese, softened to room temperature
130 grams caster sugar
30 grams dark chocolate, melted

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Plus, you’ll need loads of bowls (so nominate your mates to do the cleaning up) and a 9-inch springform pan

Method:

Step 1: Smash up the biscuits into smithereens! Such fun

Step 2: Melt the butter and mix it into the crumbs until it feels a little mushy, squishy, and pliable.

Step 3: Press the mixture into a 9-inch springform pan until it’s a pretty firm and even layer, and then pop it into the freezer (easy peasy)

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Step 4: Whip the cream into stiff peaks (but don’t go too far and make butter. That’s not cool)

Step 5: Open the Amarula and give it a taste test. Why not!

Step 6: Place the booze and the gelatine into a bowl and leave it to stand for 3 minutes. Then place the bowl into a pan of boiling water and heat the mixture until all the gelatine has dissolved. (The start of the many bowls you’re going to have to wash at the end)

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Step 7: Beat the sugar and cream cheese until light and fluffy. (Unless you’re fit, use an electric beater.)

Step 8: strain the gelatine and liqueur mixture into the cream cheese and sugar mixture, and mix together gently. (It’s a delicate process, concentrate!!)

Step 9: Fold in the whipped cream (you deserve a shot of Amarula for all this effort)

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Step 10: Take your frozen base out the freezer and spoon on the cheesecake filling (save a little in the bowl for a sneaky spoon licking session later)

Step 11: Melt your chokie wokie and drop small (ten cent piece size) drops onto your mixture. Use a toothpick to make swirly wirleys and get carried away

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Step 12: Refrigerate for a minimum of 5 hours or overnight if possible (which gives you plenty of time to taste test more Amarula)

Step 13 – indulge in a little cheesecake heaven. Happy baking and let us know how your Amarula Cheesecake turned out.

Futuristic kitchens that would rock your culinary training…or your next house party!

In an effort to create an easier and more enjoyable cooking experience in the kitchen, a number of leading brands are designing the most incredible futuristic kitchens. Imagine listening to your favourite tunes blaring from your fridge whilst you search your dinner menu on your interactive stove’s internet? Then, you could upload images of your dinner creation from your stove so that your mates can check out your latest efforts and high-five you on Facebook.

Cooking on stoves with a dash of digital

Mashable reports that the Whirlpool Interactive Cooktop can certainly help you achieve these fun kitchen experiences either with the touch of a finger or by using a voice command to help you. Let’s say you’re keen to make Chicken Cordon Bleu. A command to your stove to come up with recipes and images from the net, Facebook or Pinterest will provide you with plenty of inspiration. Instead of having to flick through your cookbook, you can simply scroll down your stove’s ‘page’ and follow the recipe next to your pan. When you’re done, you can upload those images and any tips you have and show off your culinary skills.

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The Whirlpool Interactive Cooktop

What music would your fridge play?

Of course having Whirlpool’s upcoming connected refrigerator that can stream music from any Bluetooth-enabled device will set the tone for your cooking experience. In fact, the cool vibe in your kitchen may well redefine the new ‘house party’ concept because it’s more fun to be in the kitchen.

But these are just design ideas for now – as technology grows, we can look forward to new and exciting kitchens. What would you like to see in your culinary kitchen when you do practicals? Maybe it’s a sink that can double as a stove? Or stove/fridge combo so that you don’t have to wonder far for your ingredients? Or a fridge that can scan your products and tell you how many calories are in each product or it can work out recipes for you from scanning your ingredients? Perhaps lecturers won’t need to watch you in the kitchen because you can submit that practical via your stove when you’re done. Who knows…but it sounds like fun!

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Worlds first intelligent refrigerator

It’s definitely a great way to share your tips with friends – become your own recipe blogger straight from your kitchen, whilst you’re cooking. Upload your recipe, photo’s and tips in one easy and instant step. Imagine…instant fame! But for now, we can simply dream and look forward to some rather hip and happening kitchens down the line.  If you’ve got some awesome kitchen design ideas, please share them with us in the comment section below – we’d love to know your thoughts.