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May 8, 2013
May 08, 2013 by BOB KARISNY
We never know where our talents and passions come from. It could be nature or nurture, and possibly a little of both. My passion for eating and preparing food is, as I have mentioned before, more than just a job. It really is my lifestyle. It could then be thought that this must be grounded in an upbringing surrounded by great food and great food execution.
My mother nurtured many valuable qualities in me that have helped me be the “Bob” I am today. But my eating and passion for preparing food is nature, not nurture. For all of her strengths, her kitchen abilities were designed for sustenance – not culinary excellence. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying my mom was a bad cook – she just wasn’t busting out gourmet dishes on her table.
Which brings me to Grandma’s Spaghetti. One of my kids’ favorite dishes is Grandma’s Spaghetti. Grandma’s Spaghetti is my dear Polish mother’s take on the dish, and not one many Italians would feature when momma comes over for Sunday dinner. She uses THE SECRET RECIPE. But as I was writing this post, my son informed me, “you can’t tell everyone how to make Grandma’s Spaghetti, that’s only for us”. So unfortunately, I am unable to share it. As I said, it’s one of my kids’ favorites, and one of those dishes I can easily overeat and afterwards be in blissful pain.
So instead of making my children’s favorite (since they banned me from sharing the recipe), why not pull out that favorite of your children from your grandma, mom or dad? Make an event of it by sharing in the preparation with your children, or maybe sharing the first time you ate this meal and why you loved it so much. However you do it, keep the legacy alive. If your children are like mine, the meal will be much more than sustenance.
Happy Mother's Day to all you moms out there. i can't imagine what we would be wothout your wisdom, strenghth and unconditional love.
Apr 23, 2013
April 23, 2013 by SISSY KRAMER
During Taco John’s recent National Convention in Tampa Bay, Florida, our field staff of Franchise Business Consultants and Training Consultants served attendees new menu items at our vendor trade show. These exciting new menu items will be available on July 8, 2013 (I can’t tell you what they are just yet; look for them at your local Taco John’s). As a preview, we set up the entire booth like a real restaurant experience.
The following time-lapse video shows the hard-working Taco John’s team serving over 200 people in 1 minute 35 seconds, and taking just 23 seconds for cleanup (if only it was that easy in real life!). Fun settings like this remind us why we absolutely love what we do!
Apr 4, 2013
April 04, 2013 by SISSY KRAMER
Back in November, we hosted the annual West Mex® Culinary competition. Six semi-finalists came to Cheyenne to compete for not only scholarship money, but also for a chance to see their winning creation possibly tested in select Taco John’s restaurants. The winners were Ty Jones and Reagan Vonkrisigk from Riverton High School (pictured along with alternate Rylee Crippen and Mrs. Pam Rivers).
On April 9, Ty and Reagan will return to the Taco John’s Franchise Support Center to continue developing their winning menu item. They will work with the Research & Development, Operations, Training and Marketing departments to get their new menu item designed for the Mexican fast food environment. It will take all day, with a photo shoot of the new menu item at the end of the day for possible use in the future. Understanding the creative process from conception all the way to testing is important for Ty and Reagan, and further development to get their menu item ready is essential.
Team R & D always looks forward to working with the students. Their excitement and knowledge is motivating and makes for a fun day for everyone involved!
Mar 29, 2013
March 29, 2013 by SISSY KRAMER
In the Hernandez household during my youth, Easter was as big of a holiday as Christmas. Tamales were the special treat at Christmas, but for Easter my mom would combine American with Mexican to make a feast that all my brothers and sisters would enjoy (seven girls and three boys). I remember mom cooking all day Saturday so that on Sunday, after church, it would be time to give thanks and enjoy our meal together as a family.
On the American side, my mom made the BEST homemade rolls. When you combined those scrumptious rolls with my mom’s homemade beef stew cooked all night in the crock pot, it was melt-in- your-mouth deliciousness!
For the Mexican side, it had to be beef enchiladas, Spanish rice and beans. I know this doesn’t sound like anything special, but my mom’s enchiladas were made with homemade flour tortillas and her cooked ground beef was a special blend of herbs and spices, cooked slowly to absorb all the flavors. Mom would have to make a special batch just for me, as onions in the enchiladas were not my favorite.
Dad contributed to the feast by making his special table salsa. He would roast garlic, jalapeños, onions, and tomatoes, then grind them up in a molcajete (shown in the picture). After adding just the right amount of salt, he would chop up fresh cilantro and serve it up.
Even after we all grew up and had families of our own, it was tradition to go to my parents’ house and have Easter dinner as a family. Great food, family and an Easter egg hunt in the afternoon was the Hernandez family’s Easter tradition.
Mar 13, 2013
March 13, 2013 by BOB KARISNY
We do get allot of guests into our test kitchen and whenever possible we do as any good host would do for visitors, we cook for them. With our almost three week photo shoot we had guests for a long time and although it was tough to make the time we did celebrate the long hard work on the last day with some special food. For breakfast there is a small French bakery in Fort Collins, Colorado near my home that make croissants the traditional way and with rich European butter. They are a very special breakfast treat and we not only got some of their beautiful traditional croissants but some with ham and cheese and Nutella, a hazelnut chocolate spread. For lunch I wanted to cook for our guests. They had food from Taco John’s® a few times during their time in the TK so I wanted to try some things I was personally playing with. As I have mentioned Mexican food is not just my job it is my passion so I had been playing with a marinade for shrimp and flat iron steak and I wanted to try it on them in some tacos. I started with fresh tortillas from a local tortilleria (a Mexican bakery that makes fresh masa and fresh corn and flour tortillas). I marinated the shrimp in mojo de ajo, a slow cooked very garlicky, olive oil with lime and chipotle peppers mixture. The flat iron I marinated in a mixture of charred onion, garlic, and tomatillos, with allot of fresh cilantro, toasted coriander seeds, fresh lime juice, serrano chile pepper, a touch of cider vinegar, oil and some salt. I left both of these in their marinades for about 4 days. I skewered up the shrimp and rinsed the marinade off the flat iron then grilled them both. In the tacos were these delicious meats, cotija cheese (crumbly cheese like feta but not as salty), fresh avocado slices, chipotle and chile de arbol salsas, and a slaw of shredded Napa cabbage, romaine lettuce, and jicama root (a slightly sweet and starchy crunchy root vegetable) – finished with a lime wedge to squeeze over it all. This may sound complicated but it really was simple and the flavors were so good together. I really I am glad I took the time to share some of what I love with these folks who worked so hard taking pictures of our food.
Filed under: None Assigned
Mar 8, 2013
March 08, 2013 by SISSY KRAMER
During the month of February, Taco John’s had some very special guests in for a photo shoot. This wasn’t just any ordinary photo shoot; it involved some beautiful, luscious, brilliantly colorful FOOD!
When we photograph our food, both new and existing menu items, we require people with special expertise, called a food stylist. The food stylists make sure the menu items look both appealing and accurate. Looking into a food stylist’s toolbox is pretty cool. Tweezers are an important tool for getting into those hard-to-reach places and picking up the tiniest things. Wooden skewers are used with Taco John's burritos to move things around and stabilize stacked ingredients. Different shapes and sizes of paint brushes are used to apply special oils so the menu item’s colors can be seen on camera. Brushes are also used to dust crumbs off of surfaces.
Sarah and Shelly were the food stylists for Taco John’s most recent photo shoot. Every day of the shoot, Sarah and Shelly came in bright and early to start readying the ingredients for that day’s menu items. Check out the slideshow for shots of Sarah and Shelly in action.
Food photography is quite the process and requires a team from different areas to overlook and approve the shots. Greg, the photographer, came in a day before to set up all his equipment. Our advertising agency sends an Art Director, in this case Derek or Wade, to overlook the image the advertising agency is trying to make. Kevin, Taco John’s Graphic Artist, composes the shots for print. Bob, Carl or I review the food builds to make sure they look like they should in the restaurant. Renée, Taco John’s Vice President of Marketing, gives final approval to ensure everything looks good from all aspects.
The slides below show highlights from the photo shoot. I hope you enjoy viewing them as much as I enjoyed being part of the process!
Feb 15, 2013
February 15, 2013 by SISSY KRAMER
Research requires many different formats in order to obtain the required information. We moderate face-to-face focus groups, hand out menu item questionnaires to our guests, do social media on-line surveys or conduct taste testing. Taste testing can be done in a controlled environment, such as an office or hotel, or in our Taco John’s restaurants, which provides us with a chance to travel.
During our last fact-finding mission in January, Carl and I traveled to Brookings, SD - home of the South Dakota State University Jackrabbits. We needed a specific age group (between 18-30 years old), and in reviewing our Taco John’s restaurants, decided that Brookings was the perfect place to find them. The restaurant is busier than those in other college towns, and we were able to set up shop in their facilities to conduct the research.
We spent two days making two big burritos for each participant. During day one, we asked if our guests like longer, skinnier burritos or shorter, fatter burritos. Once we found that answer, day two was all about flavor – if there is a difference between mixing ingredients together or not mixing before rolling and wrapping this big burrito.
We partnered with the restaurant’s team before the research and had them hand out flyers and put information in their restaurant to make guests aware of the upcoming research. Each guest was given one big burrito to taste, then score. They had a brief break to clean their palate, and then were given burrito #2. They didn’t have to eat the whole burrito, but enough to be able to evaluate its flavor (although, almost 3/4 of the participants were guys, who DID eat both burritos – WOW!). I have a starving college kid myself, so I know the students appreciated our taste testing!
Response on the first day was good; we got enough participants to give us our answer. The second day was phenomenal. The word got out that Taco John’s was doing taste testing AND giving students $10 TJ gift card, all just for eating and giving us their opinions. We deemed our research a huge success, and many of the college students were excited about Taco John’s possibly coming back to do taste testing again. Maybe we’ll do testing in a Taco John’s town close to where you live. You just never know!
Feb 12, 2013
February 12, 2013 by BOB KARISNY
Chocolate is the food of the gods, and as men we all know what that means in our lives – women! Women love this amazing confection born from the cocoa bean that found its roots in Mexico. The Mayan and Aztec cultures of ancient Mexico used cocoa in ceremonial events and as offerings to the gods. So to spice up chocolate for your “god” or “goddess” this Valentine’s Day, try using another well-known Mexican ingredient: dry chile pepper. It sounds odd, but just a touch of ground chili powder with chocolate creates a complimentary flavor with a slight kick. I have included a recipe you can make to add to your chocolate gift. Try packaging it in a nice bottle or cellophane bag with ribbon. Offer it as a “Spice-Up” to your normal Valentine’s routine.
Chile Pepper Dust for Chocolate
Ground chili pepper (see Note) ¼ cup
Light brown sugar ¼ cup
Salt 1 teaspoon
Too add some zest to your spice:
Finely grated lime zest 1 teaspoon
Note: You can use a powder from a specific chile pepper like chipotle, ancho or one from your grocer’s shelf.
Filed under: Recipe
Feb 8, 2013
February 08, 2013 by CARL BLACKBIRD
A couple of months back I attended an event sponsored by Kikkoman at the Culinary Institute of America’s amazing Napa Valley campus in St. Helena, CA. This hands-on, two-day event highlighted the crossover of Asian and Latin American cuisines and the blending of cultures in kitchens. The goal was to get all of the chefs, who primarily develop and serve Latin cuisine in some form or fashion in the industry, to work with and determine if and what flavor combinations work best to create new, exciting and, most importantly, delicious dishes. All the while incorporating a full line of Asian sauces in which Kikkoman produces - from soy to hoisin, to ponzu and Sriracha.
I was surprised at how well certain Latin and Asian flavors came together in everything from appetizers to desserts. For example, we started the event with some basic ingredient tastings and then some blind tastings. In one, we tried two chocolate sauces that were exactly the same with the exception of a subtle addition of a great soy sauce! The version with the soy was the unanimous favorite; it had a better balance and more complex flavor. Who knew?
Roberto Puerto was one of the participating chefs and led a few demonstrations; he's chef and co-owner of a Latin - Asian restaurant called Taqueria Tsunami in Atlanta. He prepared one of his most popular dishes for everyone to taste - Asian Nachos, an appetizer that features fried wontons instead of corn chips topped with queso, pico de gallo, corn salsa, lettuce, fresh jalapeños and Kalbi marinated short ribs (a traditional Korean BBQ dish) – it was delicious!
In my teenage years growing up in kitchens I didn’t call it fusion. Fusion cuisine seemed to have a bad reputation with all the more traditional or old school chefs I worked under. They all had similar views: “Fusion is Confusion!” I think it was because, back then, chefs were putting ingredients together that really didn’t work and without much rhyme or reason.
Today, consumers are ready for a melding of amazing flavors, as you can see this trend in nearly every food establishment’s menus. People are really just looking for delicious, bold and well-balanced flavors. There are a lot of similarities between Asian and Latin foods from ingredients to techniques, so naturally it makes sense that they have begun to grow together. Taco John’s is a prime example of fusion, with our bold and delicious Mexican flavors that appeal to the Midwestern palate.
(Pictured above: Wonton, ginger-citrus, soy marniated skirt steak, grilled corn & black bean salsa & spicy kimchi)
Jan 31, 2013
January 31, 2013 by SISSY KRAMER
Development of ingredients or new menu items is quite a lengthy process, sometimes taking six months to years – YES, years! Some things go into test and, depending how they perform, may go to further testing or a national promotion. Or they may go back on the shelf. Honey Habanero is one ingredient that took a longer process.
Results 1-10 of 26