Brian Wubbena, Truluck’s Director of Culinary
Welp, there is no getting around it. It is a strange new world out there. While there is certainly plenty to mope about, for the people that are willing to embrace the challenge and pivot, it can be exciting as well. I’ve personally learned a few things that interest me over the past few months and thought that I might share with those interested. Admittedly, I’m a kitchen nerd and typically far behind the times when it comes to useful tech so bear with me.
O.K. TO BE A LUDDITE
As a luddite and someone whose tech savvy doesn’t extend past the use of a PS4 and single finger typing, I have typically relied on typed recipes and in person visits to explain the preparation and subtleties of dishes. As you can imagine, what I intend for the outcome to be and what makes sense to me, doesn’t always compute to everyone. Everyone tends to learn in different ways. While it has always been a joyous occasion to see the chefs in person, the sad truth is that is that no one can be everywhere at once and dishes can be prepared incorrectly for extended periods of time.
ZOOMING THROUGH TRAINING…
Zoom has changed everything for both myself and our chefs. I am painfully aware that this is something that most people have discovered years ago but, for us, it is a game changer. Online “cooking classes” can easily allow us to pinpoint details that can’t be expressed with written word, photographs or phone conversation. Being able to see every detailed step of a dish being prepared and being able to explain in real time what went wrong leads to immediate results and allows us to deliver the goods to the guest immediately rather than waiting around for an in-person visit. This is extremely important because, at the end of the day, we are a special occasion restaurant by design. There is a ton of joy in being able to celebrate these types of events but it is also a double edge sword. There is a lot of weight when you can literally destroy a memory for people who are out for the sole purpose of making lasting memories. We have to be able to deliver a reliable, consistent experience that enhances the special time that guests are celebrating. I am very confident that using Zoom and the like can aid in this goal. Eye contact, voice inflection, visual instruction and detailed explanations of the why instead of simply how, only makes us stronger and more capable of delivering our promise and obligation to the people who are entrusting us to aid in making their special day special. I cannot tell you how thankful I am that this mess of the past few months has forced us to find new avenues to communicate to our people. I love it and we are never going back. In fact, I love it so much that someday, I may even learn to send meeting invitations on my own.
Months ago, we made the decision to commence what I like to call Operation De-Goop. The challenge was to simplify and clean up our menu in order to showcase the gorgeous seafood and steaks that we take a lot of time and effort to seek out. Covering these items with cream, butter laden sauces and toppings is, in all honesty, a slap in the face to the committed fisherman, farmers and artisans who supply us. Back in the day, when being somewhat landlocked and having limited supply chains were a thing, gigantic portions covered with sauces were a way to make people see value in restaurant dining rooms. Oh, the times have changed. The general public is more food savvy and they have also adopted healthier lifestyles. The result is that there is a greater appreciation for delicious seafood and quality meat. As chefs, we have the entire world at our fingertips. If you are committed to your concept and craft, the possibilities are endless. Here is an example. We bring in a Dutch yellowtail. This fish is delicate with a nice almost olive oil like finish on the palate. Why in the world would we cover that up? People deserve to experience all that the jewels that the sea and land can produce in the purest form. Cooking without a safety net and the tried and true smoke and mirrors bit can be a daunting task but it is immensely satisfying and enables us to show off freshness and quality without putting guests into a food coma. After all, no one wants to be wheeled to the car after a Valentine’s Day dinner in a wheelbarrow. I am very proud of what we are doing and our commitment to bring in the best of the best that is good for the palate and the planet. This, of course, brings up the last point of this novella.
People want new and exciting things that aren’t readily available at the local grocery store. After all, why go to a restaurant if you can cook it at home? At long last, we have the need to seek out like minded purveyors for our food. In the past, and I freely admit it, we have worked with products simply for food nerdism. Now, nerdism can certainly be a good thing and this time, it has paid off. We have long standing relationships with craftsmen who are as committed to us as we are to them. These people are extremely proud of what they produce and rightly so. Could they deliver on the cheap? Sure. Could they shortcut and produce mass amounts of product? Absolutely. They don’t. They don’t because of their love of the planet and their respect for the lives of the animals involved. Below, I’ll share a video from our scallop guy (Dan from Raw Seafoods Inc.) that will be a huge eye opener and, hopefully, really impress you. Watch it here: Truluck’s, A Scallop Journey
Here’s another fun thing about Zoom. If I’m going to serve something, I’m going to know about it. I typically go to the source and see it firsthand. That doesn’t always mean that you see every aspect of the operation. I don’t want to give the impression that I’m super crunchy and granola (not that there’s anything wrong with that) but I absolutely cannot tolerate the use of chemicals and gross, inhumane practices. You can’t stop it unfortunately but there is no way in the universe that Truluck’s is going to contribute to it. Point is, this technology is the great exposer. I want to see how the food is made? Hey Rich (he supplies our Alaskan king crab), whip out your phone and lemme see it. I want to know how something is harvested and what boats look like? Hey Willie, let’s Zoom it and do a walk through. Willie supplies our shrimp out of Panama. I want to make sure that everything will arrive in the restaurant safe and sound with health and sanitation in mind? Hey Jose Louis, let’s see that stuff being processed, packed and loaded before going out the door. I can even look at the temperatures there these days. It is amazing.
Anyhoo, I have taken up more than enough word space and veered off topic 17,000 times at this point. We can get into individual seafood and meat operations at another time. I’d love to do some interviews and allow these guys to speak for themselves and the quality of work that they do. Additionally, I have tons of photos from my various trips to show off. If you made it this far, I truly appreciate it. If not, although you won’t see it, I still appreciate it. Stay safe, stay kind and stay demanding the best of the best. It is a beautiful world out there and everyone deserves to experience it.