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8 Tips To Improve Your Social Media Presence

Written by: Marty Schecht, ’16 Graduate of the Professional Culinary Arts Program, CEO of Restaurant Growth Marketing

A key factor in determining a restaurants success in today’s world is social media marketing. If you’re a restaurant, bakery, or any other food business, these digital platforms have evolved into an extension of your daily operations that can help you to succeed.  Social media is a powerful tool that changes every day.

Here are eight tips to improve your social media strategy to reach more customers, grow your following, and improve your brand:

  1. Post 4 – 6 Times a Week
    • Each post you make is only seen by about 5% of your followers, so don’t worry about posting too much content.
  2. Engage with your Followers/Customers
    • Interacting with customers makes them feel heard, wanted, and important. Respond to reviews, comments, and messages, both good and bad.
  3. Post More Videos
    • Videos have a much higher attention rate than pictures.
  4. Re-Post Pictures that your Customers Post about your Business
    • Pick and choose the best pictures your customers have posted on Instagram by searching your businesses geotag (location) and reposting them on your page. Make sure to give the customer credit and thank them for coming in.
  5. Use Local Hashtags (if you’re a local business)
    • Using local hashtags will generate local awareness.
  6. Always Post your Specials/New Menu Items
    • Any new deals, specials, menu items, or products should be posted. Let customers know about specials and that it’s for a limited time.
  7. Follow your Competitors
    • Interacting with your competitors is good for business. Friendly competition is interesting and gets people involved and talking about your business.
  8. See your Post from the Eyes of your Customers
    • Before each post, ask yourself, do my followers care about this, is it interesting or unique. How rare is it? Will my followers want to share it?

Bonus Tips:

  • Partner with Food Bloggers
    • Locate food bloggers and influencers and interact with them. Build relationships. Invite them in for a free meal.
  • Ask Your Followers to Share
    • The biggest mistakes businesses make is not asking their followers to share their content. Sometimes a little instruction is all a follower needs.

We sat down with Marty to learn about his background, business, and the world of restaurants. Below, find our interview with him and learn more about his company!

 

How did I get involved in the culinary industry?

Taking the Professional Culinary Arts Program at ICC represented a crucial measure of my life’s path to becoming an entrepreneur.  Fueling my motivation, it drove me to a level of confidence that is required when starting your own business.

I learned numerous tangible skills but the greatest attributes I took away from my time at ICC were time management and organization.  Skills I use every day, whether I’m in a kitchen, taking notes during a client meeting, or just planning my day-to-day schedule. I am grateful for my time at ICC.

 

Why is Social Media and Digital Marketing so important to me?

Before heading off to culinary school, I studied entrepreneurial marketing at the University of Iowa.  Opening a restaurant was always my goal, even when I was studying business in college.  The restaurant industry fascinated me, and I wanted to be a part of it.  Although, I never ended up opening my own restaurant, I discovered a unique opportunity to help restaurants and other food businesses thrive using strategic social media marketing and advertising.

Therefore, after attending ICC, I invested a significant amount of time and money to understand what was happening in the constantly evolving world of online marketing. I came to understand the power behind social media and what it can do for a business—if used strategically.  I found a way to combine my passion of restaurants and the food industry, with my education and knowledge of social media.

 

How have I used my education to help others?

I started a company called Restaurant Growth Marketing as a way to help businesses reach their true potential.  As founder and CEO, my focus is to help restaurants, and other food industry related businesses, efficiently utilize the world of online marketing to grow their business in ways they never thought were possible.

My motivation derived from a few mentors I found who taught me about mind-set and how to best educate myself.  They taught me about the world of online marketing and how 95% of businesses needed help.  So, I decided to invest in my own education and apply that knowledge to assist business owners in the food & restaurant industry.

 

How do I manage my business and what services do I offer?

My daily efforts are currently focused on the Miami metropolitan area, but I have clients on both the east and west coast and can help any restaurant/food business anywhere in the United States.  Each day I aim to get face-to-face with more business owners to express the power of the internet and social media, when it’s used the correct way, and show them how I increase sales 10-20% for my clients, often in the first year.

The first step in the process after we take on a client is to dive deep into the minds of the target market to figure out the consumers’ interests, behaviors, and buying habits so we can cost-effectively reach and communicate with them.  Our goal at RGM is not to just reach lots of people or manage your social media, but rather to bring new and repeat customers – to increase revenue.

 

Where do restaurant owners go wrong and how do I help them avoid common pitfalls?

Most restaurant owners are not used to developing such a strategic marketing action plan focused on results.  One of the biggest mistakes’ restaurant owners make is not having and implementing a strategic-executable marketing plan.

What we do at Restaurant Growth Marketing is help businesses create and implement their marketing plan, through result-driven, proven marketing strategies. We focus on results and getting our clients an ROI that makes sense and makes them excited to work with us.  My objective with Restaurant Growth Marketing is to provide restaurants with a customized service focused on growing their brand and increasing customer base.  We’re excited to have such a great opportunity to provide business owners with more stability, strategy, revenue and most importantly, time to work on their business – instead of in it.

 

For more information about Restaurant Growth Marketing:

Please visit our website: https://restaurantgrowth.marketing

Check us out on Facebook: @restaurantGM or https://www.facebook.com/restaurantGM/

Follow us on Instagram: @restaurantgrowthmarketing https://www.instagram.com/restaurantgrowthmarketing/

Things to Know Before Culinary School

As a new student at ICC, it is OK to have never cooked in a professional kitchen before and to not know everything– that is why you are coming to school in the first place! When you come to culinary school, you will develop a foundation for your career and set yourself up for future success. But, coming into any new situation can be nerve-wracking, so we put together some tips and terms to learn and practice before you begin your culinary journey. Read on to start the foundation of your success!

1. Test Your Technique

You’ll learn more than 250+ professional techniques in our Culinary and Pastry Arts programs, but we think these skills are great to practice before you come to ICC. These are skills that all chefs develop overtime, so working on them before you even come to school will make you feel prepared and ready to get cooking!

  • Clean as you cook. This is possibly one of the most important kitchen skills you can learn. Having a clean station is stressed in the classroom, and getting into the habit ofClean station being neat will set you up for your future professional career.
  • Learn the basics of the metric system. Units are typically codified into the metric system in the classroom and professional kitchens, so understanding the differences between ounces, liters, grams, and so on, will make it easier to get cooking.
  • Practice visualizing the steps of a recipe and writing out the steps in shorthand onto a notecard. Professional kitchens and the classrooms of ICC do not allow for recipes or phones, so it is important to know the recipe before you step into the kitchen. Writing out the steps is said to be the best way to study and truly understand material.

2. Know Your Kitchen Terms

Brigade is a system of hierarchy found in restaurants and hotels. The hierarchical structure can vary, depending on the kitchen. Some of the variations include:

  • 1 Executive Chef and Line Cooks
  • 1 Executive Chef, 1 or more Sous Chefs, and Line Cooks
  • 1 Executive Chef, 1 Executive Sous Chef, a Chef de Cuisine for each restaurant, a Banquet Chef, perhaps a Sous Chef for each Chef de Cuisine, a Pastry Chef

 

Mis En Place, also known as mise, is all of the prepped ingredients that a chef will need in order to have a successful service. These ingredients are readily available for the chef to quickly prepare the dish needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mother Sauces are the 5 sauces that every chef should have in their repertoire, and each one can be transformed into its own family of different sauces. They include:

  • Béchamel Sauce
  • Velouté Sauce

Fire: When this is heard in the kitchen, that means it is time to start preparing a dish! Typically, orders are made when they are received, but sometimes they have to be delayed to make the timing of the dishes spot on. If a table orders appetizers and entrees, the appetizers will be fired first!

 

Heard: If you’ve ever watched a cooking show before, you’ve heard this term! This is shouted back at whoever calls out instructions to the kitchen to let them know that they have been understood.

 

Behind: This term is key to kitchen safety. Any time you are crossing behind someone in a kitchen, it must be said so that the person who is dealing with the hot pan or plate of food does not injure someone else. Other terms to do with behind include sharp knife and hot behind.

 

Stage: Pronounced st-ah-j. This is the French term for externship/internship and is commonly used in kitchens and in the classroom.

 

Yes, Chef! is said in response to the head chef of the kitchen. This is to let the chef know that you have heard them and understood their message. Although it is a sign of respect and is earned in kitchens worldwide, it is also a safety measure to ensure that the kitchen runs smoothly.

3. Brush Up On Food Safety

In level one of the Professional Culinary and Pastry Arts programs, you’ll receive in-depth training on food safety & handling, and have the opportunity to receive your ServSafe® Certification from the National Restaurant Association. But before you learn the ins and outs of food safety, here are a few key tips to remember:

  • Perishable food should be kept below 45° or above 135°.
  • Dairy or protein based foods should not be left at room temperature
  • Refrigerators should stay below 41°F at all times

How to Improve your Plating Skills with Chef Hervé Malivert

Chef HerveChef Hervé Malivert’s enthusiasm for the kitchen began at a young age and his love & experience with plating journeys back decades. Enjoying photography as his favorite hobby, Chef Hervé has an eye for creating beautifully intricate dishes which he shares with his followers on Instagram (check him out on Instagram @chef_herve_malivert).  As the Director of Culinary Arts & Technology, Chef Hervé’s sense of adventure is put to good use researching and developing new techniques to include in ICC’s curriculum.

From kitchens across the globe, to the kitchens of ICC, Chef Hervé has always understood that plating has an important “visual effect” for guests and students. It will not change the taste of your dish or the understanding that the student has, but it will change the first impression and set them up for a flawless meal or lesson. Think about looking at two pictures of the Caribbean, one has a picture perfect blue sky, and the other is during a hurricane. Which picture would inspire you to venture to the Caribbean? It is the same with dining, eating, and learning.

Plated dishIf you do not innately have an artistic eye for plating, it is possible to train yourself and improve with time. Most chefs are not born with an immediate knowledge of how to create an artistic dish. It takes years of precision, practice, and patience, so we joined ICC’s resident Master-of-Plating in the kitchen to get a behind-the-scenes look at his process.

Read on to find out Chef’s tips to improve your plating:

  1. Learn how to cook and properly combine flavors together. A beautiful plating will mean nothing if the food doesn’t taste good or go well together.
  2. Knife skills, knife skills, knife skills! The first step of presentation is symmetry and accuracy.
  3. The focal point of the dish is the item which draws your attention. Be aware of what your eye will notice first, avoid negative space, add some elevation to give your dish depth, and of course be mindful of the plate itself.
  4. A well designed plate will have a sense of balance. Balance doesn’t necessarily mean symmetry. Putting too many items on the plate will make it visually unappealing.
  5. Simple geometric shapes are the skeleton of plating design. All plating presentations can be defined by simple geometric shapes: lines, arcs, circles, etc.
  6. Most importantly: love what you do. Be passionate, and the inspiration will come.

Now that you have some plating tips in your chef’s toolkit, it is important to understand how to develop an idea for a dish. Follow Chef’s steps on how he conceptualizes, cooks, and plates a dish and you will be on your way to mastering your own artful creations!

PlatingChef Hervé’s Steps to Plating

  1. Start by envisioning the dish you’d like to make. You may even have an idea already in your head.
  2. Pick your protein or main ingredient, if you haven’t already. Decide how you want to cook it and how you want to cut and present it on the plate. This is vital to how the dish will look.
  3. Conceptualize the flavor profile of your dish. Do you want a bold dish, or would you rather the flavors speak for themselves?
  4. Pick the plate your dish should go on. Does a soup make sense in a long shallow bowl? Probably not. The plate will allow your food to speak for itself.
  5. Cut your ingredients properly as you are prepping and cooking. A thin slice of an onion may work better than a minced onion on your dish. Think about this beforehand and make sure to execute it with the knife skills you have been practicing.
  6. Cook your dish.
  7. Plate it. It may be helpful to use tweezers. Hint: Chef Herve uses surgical grade tweezers to plate, and this is what many fine dining restaurants do as well!
  8. Try again and edit your dish. You will never be satisfied with your first plating. It is perfectly ok to edit it and try again.
  9. Serve to your happy customers, family, or yourself!

Plated dish

 

 

Always remember to admire beautiful plating, and that the inspiration from a dish can come from anywhere. Working alongside amazing chefs helped Chef Hervé to find his inner inspiration and allowed him to improve his skills. Nowadays, with the power of social media, the internet, books and magazines, inspiration is endless!

Jacques Pepin a the Demo

Essential Tips from Chef Jacques Pépin

July is #FCIFlashback month where we are celebrating our founding as The French Culinary Institute with exciting programming and demos that embrace our FCI legacy—after all, the International Culinary Center® is still The French Culinary InstituteTM.

On July 11th, ICC was fortunate enough to have Chef Jacques Pépin, Dean of Special Programs, visit us for his classic La Technique demonstration. Chef Pépin’s technique, skill, and knowledge are unparalleled. His impressive display of knife skills is incredible to watch and learn from, and he has been an extraordinary resource at the International Culinary Center since 1988. Chef shared some of his vast knowledge with our audience during his demonstration.

Here are some essential tips to mastering your knife skills & more straight from the source:

Have a good knife.

As you use your knife continually, it will dull. Sharpening it on a stone will make the knife last longer. To do so:

  • Saturate your stone with water or mineral oil, depending on what is recommended for your particular stone.
  • Use steel to realign the teeth of your knife.
  • Always keep the knife at the correct angle on the steel that you are sharpening the knife with, or the teeth may break.
And if you need to realign your knife blade on steel:
  • Cover the entire blade back and forth on the steel
  • Apply pressure
  • Keep your angle constant, or else you will destroy the teeth of the knife
Glue your hand to the knife you are working with.

This controls the knife, allows for an even distribution of cuts and prevents accidents.

The sharper your knife, the less you cry when cutting an onion.

Did you know that onions make us teary because a reaction in the onion releases a chemical called lachrymatory factor? A sharp knife causes less damage to the cell walls of an onion where irritants are unleashed, causing tears to form. The sharper the knife, the fewer irritants that will be released.

When using a vegetable peeler, use it flat on the cutting board.

If you wrap your hand around the peeler, instead of pinching the peeler at the top, you will be too far away from the cutting board and it will make it much more difficult.

Vinegar and salt cleans copper.

Ever wonder how Chef Pépin keeps his copper pots and pans so clean on TV? Well it’s not all in the magic of TV! He recommends using a combination of salt and vinegar to clean the grime and tarnish off of copper. It works because the acid in the vinegar strips the oxidized patina from the copper and the salt acts as a mild abrasive to remove any caked on grime.

And lastly, one of the most important pieces of advice that Chef Pépin shared with ICC students is to see the food through the chef you are learning from. He advises aspiring professionals to take pride in what the chef wants you to learn. After working with different chefs over the course of many years, you’ll have a wealth of knowledge to create your own style.

Chef Mark Demonstrating

Sustainability: Beyond the Plate

 Written by: Mark Duesler, Chef Consultant for the Food Service Technology Center

Chef Mark

My name is Mark Duesler. I am the Chef Consultant for the Food Service Technology Center (FSTC), a resource for foodservice professionals. In California, we have programs set up specifically for energy efficiency in the foodservice sector and for good reason: refrigerating, cooking, holding, and serving food is incredibly energy intensive! On average, foodservice facilities use 5-to-10 times more energy than other commercial businesses.

To give you a better idea of this disparity, in 16 hours, a small fast food restaurant uses about the same amount of energy as a Home Depot or other big box store would in 24 hours. And with so many restaurants, it is important to consider energy use not only from a business perspective, but from an environmental approach as well.

From rebate incentives for energy-efficient equipment to invaluable design consultations and equipment demonstration programs, the FSTC offers many programs to culinarians as they grow and learn about their craft. We’ve collected several ways to curb energy use in foodservice operations from instituting best practices among staff to avoiding common pitfalls leading to unnecessary consumption. Check them out below!

 

Best Practices

  • Fix Water Leaks– While they may seem small, that constant drip adds up.
  • Replace Worn Refrigerator Gaskets– Refrigeration is always running. If the door gaskets are worn, a cooler or freezer is working harder than necessary, it is sucking energy and shortening its life. From experience, walk-ins always seem to go down at the end of service on a Saturday night (and that is no fun).
  • On/Off Schedules– Most modern equipment only needs about 15 minutes to preheat. If it doesn’t need to be on, then shut it down. This practice also keeps the space more comfortable.
  • Purchase Rebate Qualified Equipment– Rebate-qualified equipment has been designed/tested to be more efficient. This often means that the equipment performs better as well. Lost revenue to utility bills can be much more costly in the long run than the initial up-front cost of purchase.
  • Energy Audits– A free service provided by the FSTC (for PG&E customers). We can come out and identify where the best energy efficient opportunities are in your kitchen.

Common Pitfalls

  • All equipment is the same”– These tools are the backbone of any operation. Not taking the time to examine the various energy pits in your operation ends up costing more money and precious time.
  • Not Cleaning Condenser Coils– If you don’t clean the refrigerator’s coils, it is being starved of much needed air to cool the unit. This can also lead to a short life span and increased energy usage.
  • Complacency– Ask questions and keep asking. There are a lot of resources out there to help you. Restaurants are constantly evolving with many moving targets, so the answer today may not be the same answer tomorrow.

Did you know you can try out the most advanced appliances without committing to a purchase? At the FSTC, we have an inventory of high-end demonstration equipment such as combination ovens, high-speed ovens, pressure fryers, vacuum sealers, and immersion circulators. These pieces of equipment are available for you to test your recipes and hone your skills. As a cook, it is a terrific way to expand your knowledge as you further your career. It’s an opportunity to learn what tools and technologies are available, which can help you gain an advantage in the particularly competitive culinary world.

 

Missed our Foodservice Sustainability Workshop? Learn about energy saving practices with Chef Mark Duesler & Matt Greco, owner of Salt Craft Restaurant, at the Food Service Technology Center on Thursday, July 19th. Event is free & open to the public. Click here to learn more.

Chef Mark demonstrating

Chef Michael volunteering at an event

7 Ways To Make The Most Of Culinary School

 Written by: Michael Zozobrado, 2017 Culinary Graduate

Chef Michael meeting Chef Cesare

My name is Michael (aka McKoi) and I recently graduated from the Professional Culinary Arts program at ICC’s campus in California. My background is in the medical field. I am a licensed Physician, and currently am running a facility for people with intellectual disabilities. It’s funny to think back on the fact that, for about eight years, I passed by the ICC campus during my commute and I never imagined I would set foot in it, let alone, take a course.

Originally, I was trying to encourage a friend to pursue his love for making desserts. We visited the campus and talked to the lovely Ginny Cook, ICC’s Managing Associate Director of Admissions. In an unexpected turn of events, I was the one who ended up enrolling! Before starting, I was just an average cook, and on my first day of class the Chef Instructor mentioned that after we complete the course, we would be better than average. From that moment on, I accepted the challenge to learn as much as I could. In retrospect, the learning didn’t only happen during regular classroom hours; there were many things outside of class that contributed to a full and successful experience.

Here are my 7 tips for making the most out of your culinary education:

  1. “On Time” is late. Be sure to come in early. Coming in early gave me time to prep my work space, a chance to get to know my classmates, and psych myself up for the class ahead of me. The reality is, the kitchen can be stressful. Having prep time allowed me to prepare physically and/or mentally. It gave me the chance to prepare for the “what not’s” and the “what if’s.”
  2. Read the lecture before class. This one, I totally geeked-out on. I have all sorts of highlights and scribbles on my handouts. Plus, I keep a tiny notebook for things that I learned during class. Reading the lecture beforehand gave me a boost, a sort of upper hand, for the classes tasks. When I came to class well prepared, I had more confidence. It’s not surprising that when I read ahead, I learned more and was able to ask smarter questions. This strategy works particularly well if there’s someone you want to impress in class.
  3. Attend demos. The school offers many after-class demos, skills workshops and occasional off-campus student outings. During these events, I was able to get an insider’s view of what’s happening in the “real” world. Best of all, I got to learn from other people’s mistakes and/or successes. What’s more, most of these events are free ̶ take advantage of it. One of my favorite demos was led by ICC Dean of Italian Studies, Cesare Casella. It’s not every day that you meet a legend and a rock star in the kitchen.
  4. Volunteer. Aside from demos, the school is connected with many local organizations who seek student volunteers to assist them with food related events. Getting involved with these organizations provided great opportunities for me to learn and to network. Most notably, I regularly worked with the Second Harvest Food Bank where I had the opportunity to conduct cooking demos for other people. Volunteering with the SHFB was a definite win-win situation; I had the chance to give back to the community, while teaching others helped me retain what I learned in class. The experience also showed me that even as a student, I had learned enough knowledge to share with others.
  5. Participate in all the culinary competitions you can. It was a privilege to be included in both the annual Culinary Clash, a competition put on by the Intercontinental Hotel Group, and the International Panino competition sponsored by Gambero Rosso of Italy. Although competing was nerve-wracking, joining these competitions showed me my strengths and weaknesses in the kitchen. As cliché as it may sound, knowing those is half the battle.
  6. Take a recreational or amateur class before enrolling in the Professional Courses. Something unique to my student experience is that I took the Culinary Techniques class (20 session’s total) before going on to the Professional Culinary Arts program (9 months for night class and 6 months for day class). Speaking frankly, there is a lot of money and time involved in the decision to enroll. For people out there who are in doubt and still wrestling with the prospect of building a career in the culinary industry (like I was), I believe taking a short course first is a great way to wet your feet. The moment I started rolling my dough and cutting my mirepoix, I felt alive inside and knew I wanted to take the next step.
  7. Attend the commencement ceremony in New York. One of the highlights of my whole ICC experience was attending the commencement at Carnegie Hall. It was indeed the cherry on top. It was inspiring to be in a place where music legends have performed and walked those very hallways. During ICC’s ceremony, you get to be the legend! We, the students, are the focus of that day. All eyes are on us. That’s the moment we can savor all the hard work we put in the kitchen. I walked out of Carnegie Hall with a cute bamboo spoon etched with the school’s name, logo, and the date to commemorate it. On top of that, I walked out feeling confident that ICC prepared me for the kitchen career I aim to have, and hopeful that with hard work and perseverance this dream will become a reality. As ICC Dean of Pastry Arts, Emily Luchetti, mentioned during her speech, “Tenacity is frustrating and hard, passion is invigorating and fulfilling… It is with a combination of your passion and your tenacity that you will succeed.” I always thought that passion alone is enough to carry me through the challenges until I heard Chef Emily. Tenacity is indeed a key ingredient. Like making a mayo, you have your main ingredients (your passion) but without an emulsifier (your tenacity) sooner or later it will break. For both incoming students and outgoing graduates, persevere. Don’t give up. Be strong. As we work towards our dreams, let passion abound and tenacity fuel us through.

With my own excellent advice in mind, I move forward with my culinary journey. With my knowledge in healthcare and in the kitchen, I want to combine my interest in healthy lifestyle and preventative medicine. I hope to forge a culinary career where great food is synonymous to healthy and nutritious.

 

Michael Holding Souffles Michael in Class