Thursday, May 20, 2010

Don't overthink it - Creativity in the Kitchen.

As the one who's home while Tony's at the restaurant every day, I love hearing about how he runs the kitchen, especially his creative process. Being an artist myself, I can relate in that more often than not, my best ideas are the ones I don't over-think. The ones from my "gut." The creative cooking process is much like that with art. Sometimes the best ideas are the ones done on the fly.

Not all dishes, sauces and sides on our menu were carefully formulated months before we opened Caribe. In fact, some of our most popular items Tony came up with, on a whim, right before we opened. I admit being a little nervous when we'd discuss the (future) Caribe menu and he'd say things like, "I'll come up with something, I'm not worried about it."

Many of you took part in our menu survey we ran months before even finding a location, so you saw some of Tony's ideas early on. But many of the recipes themselves were not at all figured out or even tested! Tony's jerk chicken sandwich that got a great review by CityPages this month, was a sandwich he had never made before we started the restaurant.

When he needed something to serve with our lunch sandwiches, Tony came up with his pineapple mango coleslaw with a hint of cilantro & just the right amount of "kick." It is as popular as the sandwiches.

Pineapple Mango coleslaw served with the BLT and other lunch sandwiches

When the Chicharrones needed a dipping sauce, Tony came up with the jerk barbecue sauce. A unique blend of ingredients that might surprise you. Time and time again we hear from customers how they either want that sauce "on everything" or that we should bottle and sell it.

Chicharrones (chicken drumsticks and wings) with jerk barbecue sauce

And the Caribe Eggs Benedict was an entire dish, not planned until Tony got in the kitchen and thought it up one day. Now our signature breakfast dish and a good seller.

Caribe Eggs Benedict. Poached eggs on roti, sauteed curried spinach, sweet potato,
tomatoes, onions, & chick peas. Topped with Creole hollandaise.

And the creativity will continue as Tony has the staff come up with our omelets of the day and other specials on occasion. It only seems fair to pass along some creative freedom to our staff, as it was the previous cooking jobs where Tony was allowed some creative freedom that helped him grow as a chef.

How about you? Have you come up with some great recipes under pressure or on the fly?

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