Here Comes The Holiday Gauntlet, PAZAZ™ Style!

If you are in the food and beverage industry (especially in the fine dining end of things) you know that the Holiday Season brings with it a myriad of challenging meal preparations, service logistics, and reservation/table configuration juggling.

The beauty of this season is that these “logistics” will expand your intellectual horizons, and if properly executed, provide a real sense of accomplishment. The Holiday Season begins with Thanksgiving, followed by Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Years Eve… however for posterity sake I will begin this Holiday Season with Halloween. Heck, we’re already wearing a mask so in effect its been Halloween all year long.

Halloween is sort of the ramp up with no new menu just the difficulty in dealing with people in costume, in Vegas. Vegas is like no other because of the fact that many attempt to lose their identity during the year and couple that with a costume… you have the potential for unbridled debauchery.

Keeping a lid on the guests in costume while controlling the dining experience provides some semblance of normalcy for the surrounding guests. Why you would want to go out on Halloween for dinner speaks volumes to me. It is the thought of excitement, what you might see, and what you might be able to get away with that compels diners to place their collective toes in the water and gauge the temperature of the experience.

The real test for the restaurant is compiling a menu that satisfies the expectations of the diners while giving the kitchen the ability to execute the manufacturing of the food reflecting wonderful flavor, beautiful presentation, in a timely sequence. Turning the tables and providing the guest a memorable dinner is very important during the Holiday Season. Most guests are with family and friends thus adding to the joyful dynamic interlude between plane arrivals and exists or just the departure that takes them across town.

Each menu representing the different Holidays begins with organization. There is the thought process of giving twists to age old dishes (not straying to far) enhancing a flavor that might become a new old dish. It’s very important to translate recipes well in advance to the kitchen staff to make sure the hot side or cold side are not overwhelmed with too many dishes and too many prep lists. While the kitchen is the backbone of the restaurant it is the translation of new menus to the front of the house that guarantees success as they are the delivery conduit between kitchen and guest.

As we begin this new season of menus and experiences I think we must give thanks that this year is coming to a close. Lets bring back the optimistic fervor for next year, hoping and praying for some semblance of normality followed by an inordinate amount of success for all those we love and care about and especially this great country we live in.

2021 Where Hope Springs Eternal, PAZAZ™ Style!

Thank God 2020 is almost in our rear view mirror. The view for 2021 is a hopeful yet cautious approach, like sticking one toe in the water to gauge the temperature. Some things to look forward to would be open businesses, more transparency from our news sources, and a climate that brings masks, social distancing, and the constant fear of contamination into the distant past.

It has become more apparent to me than ever how important our industry, the restaurant business is. We have so many people coming to Las Vegas, escaping from California, to enjoy some semblance of normality with each guest asking the same question, “Why?”

Unfortunately this answer is complicated and delves deep into places most of you don’t want to go. However, on the horizon is the hope that all small businesses that have survived and those that will be spawned from the eventual awakening will thrive like never before. I think most people can now truly appreciate what we had prior to our current situation and will enjoy with great adulation the freedom we took for granted.

If there was a time to celebrate the New Year… now is the time. Pull out the good bottle of champagne, try foie gras, eat some Kobe beef, and dance like its 1970 when disco was introduced. Disco was born on Valentine’s Day 1970 when David Manusco opened “The Loft” in New York City… the peak was 1979/1980. So here we are drinking, eating, and dancing to our hearts content un-tethered by a mask, or the distance between us which in reality is only the six inches between our ears.

Plant tulips so you can look forward to the beauty of nature. Donate your time (or if you don’t have that precious commodity) then donate money to your favorite charity. And most of all protect your heart for it is the beat that helps you march to a path that awakens that great spirit within.

When we are younger we can hardly wait for summer away from school and maybe closer to adventure and complete relaxation. When we’re out of school and have a job we look forward to that precious vacation that helps us recharge our batteries. Almost without exception we look to the future as a window that will open new opportunities in both our personal and professional lives. Then there is the life ahead of us without the job or the house full of children.

This is where the metal meets the road. If we’ve planned (or just been lucky) we see the years ahead to hone our hobby skills which may include music, writing, painting, cooking, building something, or unbridled travel. One of the most important aspects of all of this is taking care of our health. This will determine our quality of life so that when hope does spring eternal we can take advantage of our hard work and truly enjoy the nuances of life with those we love and care about.

Days of Christmas Past, PAZAZ™ Style

 

When I was much shorter I would dream of Christmas because of the magic that was associated with it. Santa pulling a sled guided by reindeer across the sky entering homes in a single night around the world… seemed plausible to me. Of course this was at a time in my life when I thought there was an Easter Bunny too. I think I was in high school.

It’s funny how time embellishes the past with a warmth that emits from the heart in a time that seemed to be so simple and innocent. That goes without saying as I didn’t have to think about anything other than which friend I would play with and what toy I would ask Santa for.

Back in my shorter days I only thought of myself, the toy I was fixated on, and the craft I would bring home to make my parents proud. Ah, the lack of stress gave me pause to drift constantly into the land of make believe. This usually occurred at school sometime between math and english. Perhaps this is why the teachers never really complimented my intellectual prowess but seemed to focus on my gift of “daydreaming”. I thought it really was a “gift” to be able to shut the constant droning on of the teacher in exchange for staring out the window. Apparently in some parallel universe this was frowned upon.

My dad had a good friend “Wolo” whom was an artist, puppeteer, and humanitarian. Wolo had a shop in North Beach in San Francisco. We would every once and a while go there so I could play with the puppets and enjoy the childlike atmosphere of this magical shop. This is where my dad purchased an advent calendar (made by Wolo).

That calendar I so enjoyed as it was the countdown to Christmas. Each date represented one step closer to that magical day, December 25th. I was really worked into a frenzy by the time Christmas rolled around. Between the expectation of Santa climbing down the chimney and the constant influx of candy, I was ready to pee out the bottom of the sowed on feet of my pajamas.

I remember the specific year when I stopped believing in Santa, I was seven years old. I had asked Santa for a firetruck. My mom took me to the grocery store the day before Christmas and this little neighbor kid comes up behind me and tells me that Santa isn’t real. I told him (very diplomatically) he was wrong. However, somewhere in my heart I knew he was right. That night I searched the house to prove he was wrong and in the room downstairs under the bed I found the firetruck.

In that moment I realized two things:

      1. Life can be cruel.

      2. Don’t always believe what you hear, no matter who is telling you.

After I thought about it for a while I understood that my parents loved me enough to try to keep the spirit of Santa alive. T

he other thing I learned was how much better it is to give than receive. To see that wonderful smile appear as you gave something of yourself to someone you love… is really what Christmas is all about.

Once Upon a Time… In a Land Far Away

Once upon a time in a land far away there lived a family that lived, loved, and shared there benevolence through-out the kingdom. They were famous for their ability to listen, heal, and help those less fortunate. The word spread of their kindness. Many would come to this family for assistance, commiseration, and guidance to solve issues and problems that beset them within the confines of this small village.

One such villager, Maria, was faced with a very difficult decision. She had wandered from her household and become involved with a nefarious crowd that dishonored her in ways I will not describe. But suffice it to say the scars were deep and the growing sadness within her was changing her once pleasant manner. She had spells of cursing and fits of rage that would make even the local ruffians blush.

And so it was that one night Maria and her band of scoundrels absconded with some jewelry and other valuables from a home they had burglarized. Unbeknownst to them the home they had burglarized was the home of the town crier. When John Hamlin the town crier came home after a night where he magnanimously spoke to the village with his eloquent dissertations on the past, current, and future events happening in the village. He was shocked to see his home in disarray, turned Topsy-Turvy with items strewn across his once immaculate home.

John couldn’t imagine whom had disrespected his living quarters. He was bound and determined to find the culprit or culprits that had caused such chaos. Because he was the town crier he went to the streets from his pulpits around the village to decree that an injustice had been perpetrated upon him and he wanted vengeance. He pronounced with his most determined voice that the scoundrels that had stolen from him should be flogged and dispatched from the village post haste.

Later that night in a pub just beyond the outskirts of the village the scoundrels and Maria were in full celebration mode. They went to a pub where they drank, danced, and sang until the wee hours of the night. The drunker they got the more they bragged of the riches they had and what they were going to do after selling the goods in a distant marketplace. The innkeeper, being a friend of the town crier new nothing of what had happened or the fact that the goods they were bragging about belonged to his friend.

However, later in the week several merchants stopped by with the local gossip (which at that period in time was the way news traveled). There was no other form to disseminate information, and so the most reliable source was the town gossip. The innkeeper put two and two together and realized his friend had been robed. He also realized that several nights before the hoodlums that had drank themselves silly in his tavern were, how should I say, “persons of interest”.

After asking around the innkeeper found where those hoodlums were hiding out and began a journey into town to find the local constable to take this matter to the sheriff. When hearing the egregious account from the town crier of the theft of some of his worldly goods the sheriff became involved.

In the meantime Maria was being passed from outlaw to outlaw without reproach. She was thinking of how to leave this terrible situation when a group of men led by the sheriff approached their hide-out. As quickly as circumstances could change two of the scoundrels were killed by the constables enforcing the law while the others and Maria were dispatched to the nearest hoosegow.

At the trial the whole town turned out. This was a great opportunity to throw fruit at these vagabonds and speak new disparaging remarks practiced prior to this event at the local tavern. The trial was secondary to the primary spectacle of the fruit throwing and the inane conversations. Usually the conversations would center around comparing certain parts of their anatomy to farm animals which blanketed the crowd with a cacophony of disparaging remarks.

As fate would have it the town crier announced the crimes which brought a blistering review from the villagers. Maria and the two scoundrels stood shoulder to shoulder on the precipice of a stage quickly constructed for this event. Tears were streaming down Maria’s face as the other two prisoners were stone faced looking with disdain at the crowd.

It just so happened that the benevolent family was in the crowd. They were looking to see if there was any solace they could offer the prisoners while at the same time providing commiseration to the victim of the crime. The head of the family, James, had been widowed several years prior to this event. His heart was still heavy from an accident that had taken his wife.

As he looked on he noticed the subtle innocence of Maria and her obvious regret for the event she had been a party too. His eyes locked with hers. The tears were now streaming down her face and she stared at the ground ashamed of her association with these vagabonds. James quickly found the town cryer whom had brought the charges against the group.

Fortunately the goods had been returned but there was still the flogging that had to take place, and of course the incarceration. Maria was the first to take the whip as the crowd cheered for blood. Seven lashes for the women and ten lashes for the men, in addition to that thirty days in jail.

The whip struck her back with a crack, as skin and blood shot into the crowd gathered below. The screams and the tears flowed above the cheering of the crowd. Maria had never experienced such pain and after the fourth whip she grew silent as the pain had rendered her a vacuous shell of the person she was. Being held up by restraints her head drooped and sat motionless upon her upper chest cavity.

Waking in a distant fog, as she slowly became conscious again, she was in a wagon being escorted to jail. The other prisoners were bloodied and in disarray as they were all bound together by scraggly rope tied by the constables. Finally the jail was in sight. All three were thrown in the same cell which consisted of hay on the floor, a long bench and two beds. A bucket was in the corner for their convenience to use as a receptacle for their excrement.

As the end of the thirty days approached a young man had visited Maria on several occasions. It was James from the benevolent family showing her kindness and forgiveness for the crime she had been accused of and convicted.

Knowing that the road to forgiveness through-out the village would be a difficult road to hoe he offered her a position as a cleaning lady at his home. He knew that there would be gossip but he was willing to suffer the consequences of his actions. His two children became quite enamored with the young Maria and soon Maria was considered part of the family. The gossip subsided and soon James was smitten with Maria. The attraction became mutual and after several years they were married.

Where they lived, happily ever after.

‘Tis the Season to be Thankful

For all we’ve endured this past year, perhaps we can give pause to be thankful.

Thankful for those friends and family that help make our lives the kaleidoscope of passion, laughter, and caring we live for.

Each Christmas season there is a sense that giving to others is the real present underneath the tree. No matter what age, the binding together of family and friends is heightened during this magical season. If prayers for peace and the cleansing of social and political wounds can be healed, this is the season to forgive and forget.

Beyond all of that I see the beauty of nature from the perspective of an artist. Santa, elves, reindeer, angels, and every other representation of Christmas takes us to moments in time we will never forget. These thoughts painted on a canvas we hold so dear are etched in our memory unfolding one of the greatest gifts we have to protect, the joy within, while stimulating our senses to create.

This transcendent experience melts from the season of giving, to the hope that the coming year will bring with it the strength to overcome the obstacles that will lead us to our goals and dreams. The sense of exploration through travel, the books we read, or the people we meet can best be explained through living our lives to the fullest.

Don’t ever give up on learning about things you’ve always wanted to do. Within that realm we can create possibilities that brings perspective to understand how thankful we should be for this moment in time. Your body doesn’t live in the past, why should your mind?

If its a new recipe, writing a poem, building a table, painting a picture, or whatever can stimulate your creativity (which brings out the best in all of us) to expand the horizons beyond ourself… then that truly will bring us to a point where we surrender to being thankful for all we have, all we know, and all we contribute to those we love and care about, including ourselves.

Just think for a moment about the future and what it could look like if we completely, without question, believed in ourselves.

And to kick thankfulness up a notch, we have gratitude. Here is a poem about Gratitude by Melody Beattie:

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. “

Perhaps the vision you see is the purpose you wish to create a space where thankfulness for whom you are is enough. May the peacefulness we seek become the mantra we believe where in that one moment in time we produce a random act of kindness that makes others thankful for what we did and whom we are.

This blog is sponsored by PAZAZ™ “The Magic of Cooking”, Kitchen tools for the discerning chef. Please go to www.pazazshop.com to enjoy the finest in hand-crafted kitchen tools.