Washing lettuce

When washing any kind of lettuce, the main priority has to be that your guests are not grinding on grit or sand whilst eating your much loved salad that you have prepared for them…there is nothing worse.

When washing lettuce it is best to fill a clean sink with fresh cold water so that when all the lettuce is placed in the sink, there is at least 6 inches of water between the lettuce and the bottom of the sink.

Mix around the lettuce whilst washing each leaf individually and allowing all the sand to fall to the bottom of the sink. When this is done, whilst leaving the water in the sink, the lettuce must all be scooped out of the water and then placed to one side.

Then the water is drained off, the sink thoroughly washed and the same process completed a second time, after this is completed the lettuce is now clean.

You must not allow the water to drain first and the lettuce to touch the bottom of the sink as the lettuce will get mixed up with the sand and place you back to square one.

Sex in the Bahamas

This musing is true and one that I may or may not share with my grand kids, I have not decided yet, maybe you can help me to come to a suitable conclusion:

The Bahamas really was paradise when I moved there from Canada in the winter of 86, I remember boarding the Air Canada plane in Toronto when it was -30 and then stepping off the same plane about 2 ½ hours later into glorious warm sunshine. I was relocating there for a 2 year contract as Sous Chef, a management position I had never held before and a position which came with the benefit of complimentary staff housing.

They say there are two great days every week when working in the Bahamas, one is pay day which needs no further explanation and the other is your day off. The most popular pastime during your single day off every week was lazing around the beach, wearing mirror shades girl watching and drinking Becks beer by the bucket due to the immense boredom. Everyone at that time seemed to be having sex in the Bahamas and to be honest, being 26 years old, sitting on the beach and watching the endless parade of topless girls walking back and forth all day was starting to take its toll on me, my hormones were going crazy and I decided that I needed to find a girlfriend of my own.

There was one girl in particular who I had taken a fancy to and who was a croupier at the hotel casino, I decided to ask Susan out and after she agreed we went out for a night on the town. After having my first night dancing and drinking with her, I went back to my room and entered my bed alone and tipsy.

After I had taken care of my later than midnight munchies, I fell asleep with a half eaten bag of potato chips on the floor next to the bed side table. I was woken up with the sound of the paper bag rustling around, I moved across my bed to turn on the side table lamp and when the switch was clicked on I looked down and saw nothing. Thinking the last glass of tequila had taken its toll, I turned over and went back to sleep again only to within seconds of me settling heard the rustling of the bag again.

Feeling rather annoyed, I turned around again, switched on the table side lamp only to see the same blank space on the floor next to the bag of chips. I realized that, the sound of me moving in bed to switch on the light alerted whatever it was to hide and wait for me to turn off the light again before moving in again on my snacks.

Feeling like Sherlock Holmes, I turned off the light, stayed completely still with my hand on the switch and waited for the paper bag to move. On hearing the bag move, I immediately switched on the light and to my horror I saw the biggest, fattest, most well fed and ugliest rat I had ever seen looking up at me with my sour cream & onion chips all over its whiskers and paws.

This bloody stinking rat, no thief I should call it, swaggered ever so slowly with a waddle and its hips swinging back and forth before it disappeared behind the fridge. I walked slowly to look behind the fridge only to see a very large hole in the wall.

The next day I got the engineering to come and put a large wooden plank over the hole and believing that it was all sorted out went to sleep only to find out he had other entrances all mapped out around the apartment.

This went on for weeks, it would come in and I would follow it, find its entrance and plug the hole until I finally got fed up and went to see Rentokil.

They gave me a very large sticky glue tray, which I placed near its latest entrance and went to sleep, the next morning when I checked the tray I saw there was a very large rat arse shape stencil in the middle of the tray where the glue and the rat were supposed to be. There were glue foot prints all over the kitchen where it had obviously been looking around for something else to eat during the night.

On explaining to my Rentokil specialist what had happened, they told me that they had never seen a rat big enough to release itself from a glue tray so they decided to go for broke and gave me a very large tray of poison.

The problem was I had become very attatched to my rat friend and did not want to kill the thing, but I had realized that I could not go on like this and laid the tray of food next to its current entrance. I could not help but think what a disaster and passion killer it would be if I managed to get Susan to enter my room only for the both of us to find the rat waiting for its normal and regular potato chip supper.

The next morning when I woke up the tray was empty, as I looked at the empty tray I felt quite sad and remorse for killing my regular visitor.

A couple of days later I was in the canteen having lunch with a few of my colleagues and Susan was sitting there alone. I went to sit down next to her with two spoons and offered to share the large slice of American cheese cake and 2 huge scoops of vanilla ice cream that I had pinched from the pastry kitchen minutes earlier.

She looked very sad and I asked her what had happened, she told me that “Henry” had passed away and that she was heartbroken. I felt very sorry for her and told her that I was sorry for her loss, I enquired if Henry was her brother, father or another member of her family and she announced, “No it’s my pet rat, I live in the staff housing and I found it dead at my bed side when I woke up this morning”

Making a homemade non stick pan

In the hotel industry many of the old style hotels would never purchase non stick pans, one reason was in the “old days” they did not exist and another was that for heavy usage they would never last long. They would get scratched, dented, burnt, broken, smashed and even stolen, so to avoid this they would make their own non stick variety that would be hardened, sturdy and last forever.

I have done this many times personally and this is how they do it:

When I was conducting my training there was no such thing as non stick pans and they would use cast iron, very heavy and durable pans which needed to be “seasoned” for them to be able to be non stick.

On receiving a new, straight from the supplier, cast iron frying pan or sautéing pan, we used to first place it on a solid top stove, empty with absolutely nothing inside and get it so hot that it would be smoking.

We would then place enough course sea salt in the smoking hot pan to cover its entire cooking surface until it was about 2cm thick. We would leave the hot pot on the stove with the salt and slowly burn and cook the pot with the salt inside. The salt will very slowly “cook” by smoking, burning and turning the salt very slowly to a dark brown colour.

We would then discard the salt in a bin, get a piece of cloth (a towel cloth like an old bath towel or face cloth) dip it in oil and wipe or rub the pot until the hot metal would absorb the oil making the pan shiny.

When the pan is smoking hot, we would them wipe the pan clean with another piece of kitchen towel and then proceed with the whole process all over again from the beginning.

After doing this 2 or 3 times the metal will have absorbed the oil making the metal very shiny, “seasoned” and have a homemade non stick effect. When you have done this you need to try out the pan by making an omelet, if the eggs stick, you have to start all over again until the pan cooks an omelet without the eggs sticking.

The act of “seasoning” the pan may take a few days, a week on more than a week, but it is definitely a loving care process.

It is VERY important to know that this kind of pan, once seasoned can never be washed in water; they are just wiped clean with a dry kitchen cloth or paper towel. Water and this type of non stick pan are worst enemies, washing the pan with soapy water will ensure that you have to start the whole process again from the very beginning.

Once any metal which includes a barbecue grill, pots and pans or skillets absorb enough oil and become seasoned, nothing will ever stick to them again if you take care of them.

Even when you are using a barbecuing grill, you must rub the grill irons with an oily cloth enough times to ensure the metal has absorbed it. The metal will look moist and shiny and no food will stick to this metal. If the bars are hot, very dry and dull, anything you add to this grill will immediately stick and when you pull away the food half of it will still be stuck to the grill bars and then burn.

Metal which is used for cooking needs to be seasoned with oil and this takes patience, time, tender loving care and lots of effort, but once you get the pan the way you want it, protect it with your life as you will be the envy of the chef community.

Happy Pan Seasoning!!

Easy steps to cutting a mango

Cutting a mango correctly could not be easier if you have the right tools and the basic knowledge to do so.

The first step is to cut a mango as you would normally cut it, if you make a mess of it please do not worry, all you want is the stone from inside as this is the secret to cutting a perfect mango.

After you have eaten the broken mango wash all the left over bits and pieces of fruit off the stone until it’s clean and lay it on your cutting board.

Then you get need to get another whole mango and lay that next to the cleaned stone.

Both the stone and the mango will lay on the board in a similar fashion, the stone will look like a elongated, funny kind of flying saucer shape.

Then you must peel the skin off the whole mango with a small pairing knife, we use smaller knives as they are easier to control whilst holding them and much better for any intricate work that needs to be done.

Lay the peeled mango next to the mango stone and take a good look at them both.

You now know what the stone inside the whole peeled mango looks like and which way the stone will be laying inside the whole fruit.

The stone will be lying inside the fruit exactly as it is lying on the cutting board, flat on its side.

Here is the secret, by using a thin bladed and sharp knife, by holding the fruit with your left hand ever so gently, you insert the edge of the knife into the right had side of the mango.

You feel around for the stone with your knife and when you feel the stone, you turn your hand to ensure the knife is laying down flat on the stone and cut across the top of the stone cutting the top half of the mango off.

You then turn around the mango and do exactly the same to cut off the top half of the fruit.

In other words you are using the knife to follow the exact shape of the stone thereby cutting around the stone.

You will then end up with two rather large pieces that you can slice and serve, however there will still be more bits and pieces left on the stone that you need to cut off any way you can.

The smaller pieces you have would normally be cut for fruit salad and the larger ones sliced and served with ice cream or another accompaniment of your choice.

Notes:

When holding a peeled mango, if you squeeze it too hard, the fruit will crush or at least end up with large indents or finger prints all over it. Mango is a very delicate fruit that needs to be handled with lightly touched care. You need to ensure that the cutting board you are using is very clean and fresh without onion, garlic or fish smells (for example) as Mango is also a very delicately tasting fruit as well and will absorb left over smells on the board. There is nothing worse than biting into a wonderful piece of fresh fruit only to find out that it tastes like garlic.

Happy Cutting!

Simple points to cooking vegetables

When cooking vegetables most people would believe it to be the most simple of tasks, but if done correctly, you can retain all the vitamins, minerals and the wonderful natural colours. Let’s take a simple vegetable such as long beans and go through the steps taking into consideration that most vegetables can be cooked the same way.

Start off by placing a large pot on the stove, ¾ full of water and seasoned with rock salt.

Bring the pot to a steady boil before adding the vegetables, the vegetables should roll over in the water as the water boils.

Get a bowl ready filled with ice, do not add the water until the last minute as the water will melt the ice rather quickly.

After cooking for 5 minutes, every 1 minute or so after that, fish a single bean out of the pot and bite into it, when they are almost cooked and there is a slight “bite” left they are ready.

Fill the bowl of ice with cold water on top and plunge the “fished” out and almost cooked green beans right into the ice cold water.

When they are plunged into the ice cold water the green colour will jump out at you.

The ice cold water instantly stops the cooking process and they can be left there for hours and will be safe, thereby not cooking any further.

You leave the cooking water still in the pot and simmering gently on the stove.

You then get a sauté pan, add some whole butter, shallots, garlic or whatever herbs, spices and so on that you wish to add.

When all the ingredients are sautéed nicely together, you plunge the beans back into the simmering water for just long enough to heat them up.

You then fish them out again and add them right into the sautéed garlic and herbs, toss them around for a second and they are done!

Notes:

We should never put a lid on green vegetables when you are cooking them as the entire natural colour will disappear and they will turn brown.

We should never over cook vegetables as if we do that all the vitamins and minerals are transferred into the cooking water, to get the natural benefits from the vegetables we have to drink all the cooking water.

If we are cooking lots of vegetables we should cook them in batches, if there are too many vegetables put into the boiling water it will take too long for the water to come back to a boil and the vegetables with loose their colour. The quicker the vegetables come back to a boil the better. It should actually only take a few seconds after adding the vegetables for the water to come back to a boil, if this is not the case you have added too many.

Every different type of vegetable takes a different amount of time to cook so they have to be cooked separately. If we cook them together, you have to wait for the vegetables that take longer to cook to cook properly and this will ensure that the vegetables that take less time to cook are over cooked.

Happy Cooking!

Service Shenanigans

I Arrived in Hong Kong to work in my first five-star hotel in Asia in 1988, and was totally blown away, not only by the quality of the staff and services offered. Nonetheless, I thought that the quality of service could only improve as the industry developed and competition for supremacy in service quality standards intensified.

            However, in spite of the huge, ever-growing demand for well-trained, experienced professionals to fuel the light speed development of hotels worldwide, I could not have been more wrong.

            A lasting solution to the dwindling standards of service is needed; unless we do something now, we risk losing forever the valuable “old” standards. Hospitality is at the core of our industry, and that is what we should keep in mind when we open our doors to weary international travelers who trust their welfare to us during their stay, A clean, safe, friendly, professionally-run home-away-from-home environment – those are the minimum requirements for any international hotel, and what sets one business apart.

            I would like to share an experience that I encountered when visiting a five-star hotel; I don’t mean to criticize – goodness knows, we all have problems – but I do think that it is time we addressed this important issue. It’s a funny story about a serious problem.

            After calling the hotel ahead of time to organize my stay, I walked into the lobby after 10pm; I was tired and just wanted to shower and rest. On arriving at the desk, I offered my name and was surprised with the response – “Welcome home, Mr Saxon, we have been expecting you! What a pleasure it is to see you returning – your usual room is ready and your favourite fruits are awaiting your arrival. We have taken the liberty of placing some imported beer in the mini bar for you,” said the guy at the front desk, whose name tag proclaimed him as “Raymond”.

            Now, this was the first time I would be staying in this hotel, so I thought this was rather peculiar – but then, I thought that maybe as I was a hotelier myself, they were taking special care of me.

            “Let me escort you upstairs right away,” said Raymond, and as he marched on ahead, he signalled the bellboy to carry my large and rather heavy suitcase. I tried to convince them that I was able to carry my own case, but Raymond said, “Carry your own bag?! Absolutely not, we insist on transporting your luggage to your suite for you!”

            The rather petite bellboy came running over; he wasn’t much bigger than my suitcase and I hoped that he wouldn’t get a double hernia trying to help me.

            Something else occurred to me at this point and I enquired, “Excuse me, did you say ‘suite’?”

            “It would be criminal to place a gentleman like your self anywhere other than in one of our finest suites,” he replied. At this point, I was very impressed with what was happening and a glimmer of hope was beginning to illuminate my slightly bleak outlook for the short-term industry service standards – this was to be very short-lived, however.

            As we entered the elevator, Raymond whispered rather bashfully, “Your usual masseuse will be here in half an hour, Mr Saxon. We had problems locating Ms Fifi this time, as she changed establishments and failed to inform us,”

            At that moment, I knew for sure that there was something seriously amiss.

            “I think that you have me confused with somebody else – I never organised a massage from Fifi, or anyone else for that matter, and I have never stayed in your hotel before. And to be honest, I only booked a standard room,” I said.

            I was becoming slightly irritated that he was not listening to me at all. As we exited the elevator on the top floor and sat down at the executive lounge express check-in, I thought I would give revealing my true identity another go.

            “I believe that I am being confused with one of your regular and more important guests. This lounge is exquisite, but any second now, you’re going to realise I don’t actually belong here! I specifically booked a room on the lower floor, as I am scared of heights, you see,” I said.

            The executive lounge manager looked at his reservation screen and said, “Your PA booked the top floor, sir, with a double bed, for your entire two-week stay”. I was only staying for three days, and as my factual input we being ignored yet again. I silently leaned back on the soft leather sofa and wondered what was going to happen next.

            I was whisked away to a very large two-bedroom suite with a king-sized bed. There was Champagne in an ice bucket with two gleaming crystal flutes, a large tower of imported fresh fruits and a very large plasma television.

            “Will there be anything else you require, Mr Saxon?” offered the very polite chap on his way out.

            “Yes, just one thing – I noticed that there is a welcome letter by the huge pile of fruits,” I said.

            “Yes sir, we always make our VIP guests as welcome as possible – guest recognition is our forte,” he replied

            “Yes, one thing though …” I rejoined, “Who is Mr Jones?”

            “Excuse me, sir?”

            “Mr Jones – the name on the card is Mr Jones.”

            The poor chap glanced at the card and swallowed deeply, saying, “Let me check on that, sir, and I will get back to you in a second.”

            Being a hotelier myself, I sat down in an armchair, careful not to mess up the room setting, and watched the news.

            Five minutes later, the duty manager arrived in the room to apologise on bended knees for checking me into the wrong room; my name had somehow been listed in the booking system as the managing director of a huge public listed trading company.

            “Let me escort you to your room, Mr Saxon,” said the manager. As we were leaving, my luggage arrived. The bell staff placed it on the suite floor at my feet and then left.

            “Will you require some assistance with your luggage, sir?”

             I was astounded, and could not help saying, “You mean that you are not going to insist that you carry it for me?”

            The manager went outside and squealed down the corridor to get the bell staff to come back. I was escorted to my “standard” room; however, I was very nicely upgraded to the executive floor, to a room which nonetheless had no fruit, not to mention a lack of Champagne on ice, and just a normal “old-fashioned” box television set.

            “I guess that Fifi will not be coming then?” I enquired with a grin.

            During the couple of days I stayed there, when entering the executive floor, the security asked me every question possible, CIA-style, to confirm my identity; on a different occasion, I walked past a staff member busy texting on their mobile phone, who didn’t even glance up once.

            Overall, the hotel was fine and I enjoyed my stay, but I must say that I noticed a disconcerting slow trend in the industry. The days when you used to see the general manager hanging around the lobby for a couple of hours a day, talking to guests and enquiring about their comfort, is slowly disappearing as the industry becomes more focused on the bottom line. It is my belief that as we eventually come full circle, we will remember why we all entered the industry in the first place, and that without our valued customers, there would be no bottom line at all.