A Public Relations Workbook for Restaurant and Food Service Operators, Management and Staff
There are numbers of competent recipe writers available in every state, and it is well worth making the small investment to enhance the reputation of your business.
To locate a recipe writer in your area, contact the International Association of Culinary Professionals, at (502) 581-9786, or log on to its web site at www.iacp.com.
Compose anywhere from one to three signature recipes and be ready to include them in your press kit, whenever requested. Be sure to include the name of the restaurant, address, phone, name of chef, and title of recipe at the top of each one. If a recipe is longer than one page, repeat the name of the recipe after the page number on subsequent pages.
Examine your collection of recipes; are there three that you cannot remove from the menu? These are signature recipes , the kind that represent your philosophy and your restaurant well.
Next, I would recommend that you look at a few cookbooks for recipe writing style. These books are written for the home cook, and that's exactly what you're doing now - writing recipes for people cooking at home! See how they describe steps in a recipe, organize ingredients, and explain cooking methods. This will be a valuable exercise, as you'll soon see when you begin writing recipes of your own.
Cookbook authors to look for: Paula Wolfert, famous for her work on middle eastern cuisine; Jacques Pepin and Julia Child, the father and mother of classical French technique in America, as far as I'm concerned; and Mark Bittman, who writes comprehensive, authoritative volumes on cuisines and/or food groups. (There are also professionals who specialize in recipe writing. For further instruction or books on the subject, search the web for "books on recipe writing.")
Once you've familiarized yourself with successful recipe writers, look carefully again at each of your recipes; are they written in such a manner that a home cook (a.k.a., a non-professional cook) can use them? (Usually, chefs don't write recipes for people; they write ingredients on a list, and maybe one or two words about cooking them.) You need to make your recipes look something like the successful cookbook authors mentioned above for the media to give to their audience, the home cook. It's not all that hard, if you give it some attention.
First, lead your recipe by telling your reader how many it serves (such as, "Yield: 4 appetizers," or "6 main courses," or "2 cups of sauce"). Follow the recipe's yield with the list of the ingredients (you can either list all the ingredients for a recipe at the beginning, or list them by recipe component, followed by the method for assembling those ingredients; you'll have ingredients/methods, ingredients/methods (see the sample recipes following). No matter which you choose, list all the ingredients in the order that they are used.
Ingredients are followed by cooking method. Explain how you put the ingredients together, and use very simple language whenever possible. If you use kitchen or restaurant vocabulary, like mise en place or chiffonade, you may lose your reader.
Finish by telling the cook how to plate the dish; a good visual description will give your reader the sense of being professional. And it can be another way to name your restaurant (i.e., "At Oceana, we serve the striped bass with a puree of parsnips and braised wild mushrooms; spoon some of the vegetable puree into the center of a shallow bowl, top with one fish fillet, and surround with mushrooms. Pour any juices over the top...").
Attached are two recipes from Oceana (not new ones!) that I'll use to illustrate a few points you need to remember when writing a recipe for the home cook.
Yield: 4 servings
Wash 5 rhubarb stalks and cut them into chunks.
In a pot, place water, cut rhubarb, sugar, orange zest and cinnamon; bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook the soup until the rhubarb falls apart, remove from heat, place in a container, and chill until cold. Once chilled, discard the cinnamon.
In a juicer, add the remaining rhubarb stalk and juice. Add the juice to the soup, and place soup in a chilled bowl.
Garnish with the ice cream, berries and mint.
This dessert consists of 3 small delicate flavor combinations tied together with crunchy vanilla textures and temperatures. You will need three days to prepare the components of this recipe.
Yield: 24 portions
Combine the half and half, heavy cream, sugar and vanilla beans in a sauce pot and heat over a medium flame to almost a simmer, mixing with a wire whisk occasionally to help release the vanilla flavor. Remove from heat, cover and let the vanilla bean infuse the liquid for 1 hour. Return pot to heat, and bring back to temperature.
Place egg yolks in a bowl, and add a small amount of vanilla cream to the yolks to temper. Add yolks back into vanilla cream mixture and stir to combine. Remove from heat, and strain liquid into a bowl over an ice bath to cool.
In a skillet, flambé the bananas with the sugar, butter and rum. Remove bananas from skillet, allow to cool, and fold them into the cream. Turn the ice cream into a 1" deep container, spreading the ice cream flush with the top, and freeze overnight.
The next day, melt the chocolate in a double boiler until smooth. Spread into a sheet pan and allow to harden in the refrigerator. Cut into 1" sheets. Remove the ice cream from the freezer and cut into 1" cubes. Place chocolate sheets over top, bottom, left and right sides of ice cream cubes. Store in freezer.
Prepare the vanilla coconut blanc mange:
In a bowl, combine 2/3 cup of coconut milk with the gelatin and let soak for 5 minutes. In a separate pot set over a low flame, heat the remaining coconut milk, milk, sugar and vanilla beans; turn off heat and allow to infuse for 10 minutes. Add the gelatin to the infusion, and cool down slightly.
In a bowl set over an ice bath, whip the cream, then fold into the vanilla infusion. Pour infusion into a lightly oiled 1" deep container, and place in refrigerator to set.
Meanwhile, combine the raspberry juice and sugar in a bowl and mix to combine. Fill a plastic tube with the raspberry granite and pipe into rods onto a sheet pan. Place pan in freezer.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler until smooth. Scrape the vanilla beans out of the pod and add to the chocolate. Spread chocolate in a sheet pan and set in refrigerator. Cut into thin, 1" squares.
Once the vanilla infusion is set, remove from container and cut into 1" cubes with a thin knife. Place chocolate sheets over the top, bottom, left and right sides of each cube. Reserve in the refrigerator.
Prepare the vanilla creme brulee:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
In a sauce pot set over a low flame, combine the cream, sugar, vanilla and salt; heat for 30 minutes, but do not boil. Place egg yolks in a bowl and add some of the cream to them to temper. Add the yolks back into the cream and stir to combine. Remove from heat and strain into another bowl. Pour cream into a half sheet pan and bake for about 5-10 minutes, or until set. Remove from oven, allow to cool and then freeze.
Meanwhile, place the unopened can of condensed milk into a pot filled with 1" of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 3 hours and 15 minutes. Place dulce de leche into a pastry bag and set aside.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler and spread onto a sheet pan. Allow to set in the refrigerator and then cut into 1" sheets. Once the creme brulee is frozen, unmold and cut into 1" cubes. Using a pastry torch, brulee one side of each cube. Working quickly, cut a hole in the center of each cube, where it is bruleed, and fill with dulce de leche. With the hole side facing you, cover the top, bottom, left and right sides of each cube with chocolate sheets. Reserve in the freezer.
Prepare the vanilla sticks:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a mixing bowl, whisk the butter and sugar on medium speed just until smooth. Turn off mixer and add the rest of the ingredients; mix on medium until smooth. Remove bowl from mixer, wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and chill for 2 hours.
Once chilled, roll out dough on a clean work surface until thin in width, and cut into wide strips. Roll each stick up and place on a baking sheet. Bake in oven for 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.
Prepare the warm mandarin sauce:
Place water in a bowl and dilute the arrow root in it. Meanwhile, in a small sauce pot, combine vanilla, mandarin juice and sugar, and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes. Add the arrow root to the mandarin juice and simmer for 2 more minutes. Remove from heat and strain through a fine sieve. Set aside.
Pretend like you're balancing building blocks on top of each other: place the dark chocolate square in the center of the plate with one of the uncovered sides facing forward. With an uncovered side of the white chocolate square facing toward the left, adhere the left edge of the white chocolate square to the right edge of the dark chocolate square using a small amount of melted chocolate. Be careful not to apply too much pressure to the square, and allow it to dry thoroughly before moving forward. With the opening of the milk chocolate square facing forward, adhere the right edge of the milk chocolate square to the left edge of the white chocolate square using a small amount of melted chocolate. Allow it to set, and then place the vanilla sticks and raspberry granite in a strategic position, leaning one against each square.
To serve, place the dish in front of the guest and ladle a small amount of the warm mandarin sauce around the plate.
These two recipes by David Carmichael, Oceana's long-time, extraordinary pastry chef, differ greatly. The first recipe calls for a simple list of ingredients that are readily available to home cooks, and a few simple steps to do that will result in a delicious home-cooked recipe every time.
The second recipe was specifically requested by a trade magazine, Food Arts, and it's written specifically for industry, not the home cook. As you can see, there are an unreasonable number of ingredients (three different kinds of vanilla beans! Mandarin juice!) and an incredible number of steps to preparing this one single dish. The expense and the effort for the home cook would never be worth it; it is clearly a chef's recipe for chefs.
As you can see, it's very important that you simplify any recipes you choose to publish so that the home cook will enjoy success with your recipes and think of you kindly. That adds up to good marketing for the restaurant. Write out three of your restaurant's simplest recipes and place them in a separate file ready to be used in your press kit, again, upon request.
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