Planning the future with chef Michael Bennett
In the times when you never seem to be able to get the word out about you and your food, the FOODBRAT comes through… here is an article that Chef Michael Bennett (the FoodBrat) wrote about Chef Scott Andres.
Part one of three
Ex – Publix GreenWise Chef –
Scott Andres is Florida‘s Food Liaison.
When you go about your daily responsibilities, shopping for dinner is something everyone does eventually. Chef Scott Andres has awakened all of us in the Southern United States with his culinary propensities.
Chef Scott’s Culinary Soul.
If you lived in Florida any time between the years 2006 to the present, Chef Scott Andre’s ideas about food and his ideals about cooking have cultivated a relationship with you through tonight’s family dinner.
The chef defines his approach and translations of his cookery through his reflections of dining in Las Vegas at Aureole, when he was a culinary student team member where he played a key part in the annual American Culinary Federation’s Robert G. Galand Knowledge Bowl.
Here is the link to Aureole in Las Vegas, where Chef Andres affirms that, “this is where I ate the best meal of my life”.
Chef Scott Andres describes his culinary approach of his cooking views through his reflections of his culinary tour of Las Vegas restaurants as a fledgling Foodie.
“My favorite dining memory is dining at Charlie Palmer‘s – Aureole – in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay hotel. While dining at Aureole, I discovered that their neo-classic cuisine was formulated by assembling layer upon layer of complex, yet harmonizing flavors. Till this day I can’t eat an elegant meal without relating it to the dazzling cookery styling of Chef Charlie Palmer”.
“At Aureole, Chef Palmer demonstrated that there are no food-pairing boundaries under one creative roof. He showed me that you can use savory ingredients in desserts and sweet ingredients in savory. These principles have led me to my latest creative venture”, say Chef Andres.
“I combine all of my culinary experience with my gift of creativity to create food that is new, exciting and makes people feel happy when they eat it”, says Chef Andres.
This is key to Chef Andres as he prepares a delectably genteel new gourmet dining standard. He says: “I want my cooking to spawn a feeling of happiness from the inside out”. While traveling to Las Vegas he encountered a new culinary ideal. One that draws a diner into solely focusing on what they are eating.
He describes it as: “being able to bring the diner into a singular realm of concentrating on what they are relishing and blocking out everything else they have going on in their lives for that isolated moment.”
Walking a Day in a Chef’s Shoes…
Chef Andres has been the developmental chef in charge of producing a business program so important to Publix Corporation that they gave it their most critical and important “Tier 1” designation. The importance of this new business idea and the NEW profits that were generated by Chef Scott Andre’s ideas have made the largest impact on the grocery business this decade.
Working with all the top level executives in the Publix Corporation, Chef Andres developed the ground breaking gourmet grocer based individual business units that feature a diverse and individual carte du jour – Action Stations (as he calls them) enterprises and distinct personality for their new corporate strategy across the United States. This new business unit was baptised GreenWise prepared foods. Anyone buying dinner across Florida can see his fingerprints on what you have bought for tonight’s dinner.
“It is important that my at-the-moment cooking a.k.a. Action Stations and, Publix’s “Aprons” cooking school recipes, tell a story about the culture they characterize. The dishes that are prepared at the (moment they are requested) action stations must be colorful and visually captivating, combining textures and shapes to create a visual work of art that you are eager to devour”, says Chef Andres.
As Chef Andres developed these new dishes, he insisted that Publix use the freshest ingredients to prepare dishes and, they must be in their optimum appearance and of the highest premium quality. Ingredients must be prepared with the utmost in culinary professionalism as these innovative recipes have been shaped with an extreme respect to maintaining their distinct cultural integrities. Their ingredient pantries have been deployed in a perfect balance to create a dish that delivers the best culturally-based representation that you could experience anywhere and, one that you remember forever and, compare all others for the rest of your life.
“I want that person to be completely drawn into focusing on every aspect of their food as they block out everything else they have going on in their lives for that moment. It is important that the new dish they are experiencing tells a story about the culture it represents. The dish must be colorful and visually captivating, combining textures and shapes to create a visual work of art to get you excited to eat it”.
“This is what I am thinking about when I fashion a new dish. I strive to achieve these strategies every time my hands create food. These guidelines of thought are the obligations that I am asking myself, am I creating a recipe that will accomplish this? And, can these recipes be prepared by another chef”, continues Chef Andres.
Scott Andres- Florida’s latest Food Truck Chef to enter Tampa Bay’s Foodie scene.
As a creative; I want to create. Whether it is written words or complex delicacies that build an edgy spark for your tastebuds. These words are screaming in my mind while listening to Chef Scott Andres talk.
The pearl that one discovers while writing about cooking with a Fusion cuisine head is that there are no limits to your subsequent footing. (the foodbrat)
As a Florida culinary creative, you always strive to produce new compositions and new-fangled twists on cookery classics. That is where Food Trucks and Fusion Cuisine have made a big impact with seriously experimental chefs. Doing it with style is what any chef tries to accomplish to gratify his characteristic Top Chef’s golden-era head, as he works to build a treasure trove of ingredients spiked with bold and sassy flavors of cultures from around the World.
A chef’s responsibility is to keep true to his own culinary foundations while building upon BLUNT bedrock to his culinary esteem. We as creatives have found these descriptors are our lineage and our future. Tomorrow’s cuisine necessitates the establishment of an innovative cuisine based upon culinary classics that are newly fused with innovative cookery philosophies. This is how Fusion Cuisine and Food Trucks are going to blossom.
Throughout the centuries, change arose this way. Every innovative culinary break through began by first using the current culinary wisdom and augmenting it with a new hook.
Back to our interview with Chef Scott Andres.
Throughout America, today’s hottest culinary trend is operating a Food Truck. The entirety of what Food Trucks are doing is different business-wise yet, is based upon what has come before it.
Before it all Started….
As we left off in our first part of this interview, Chef Scott Andres was describing his experiences developing new menus and a gourmet culinary concept for the prolific grocery store chain – Publix | Greenwise market. (the FoodBrat)
Years before the first Publix GreenWise concept was constructed in 2007, Chef Scott Andres worked on defining this project with top Publix Executives. Due to his life-long culinary experience and Fusion Food philosophies he would define their new globally-inspired Fusion menu strategies used at all new GreenWise markets. That is when the ball started rolling and Chef Andres ideas were implemented at multiple high-trafficked Publix markets.
Lake Mary (Florida) Publix was the first regular Publix to be retro-fitted with the new gourmet-market menu marquee and it became his recipe testing ground for all other Greenwise market concepts to follow. This beta situation helped with framing new GreenWise menu strategies and hundreds of recipes which developed an abundant following.
Fusion Food Chef Scott Andres harkens back to the time when he was a young foodie, all the way back to when his mother taught him about the classic American home-style “comfort foods”. He maintains, “everyone I know loves recipes such as: beef Stroganoff, Shepherd’s pie and Brown gravy, simmered pork chops with buttery White rice and, they still hold a special spot in my heart. To this day I use them to evaluate any of the new, yet wonderfully intricate recipe that I create”, he continues.
A Journey that starts now….
“My life’s journey has afforded me what I consider to be my biggest challenge and greatest opportunity yet. It seems as though I am going to finally create and cultivate what I set out to do when I began attending culinary school many years ago”, Chef Andres admits.
“I am discovering my aloof dream by fashioning a mobile bistro from the ground up. My vision will be on wheels, not your usual brick and mortar restaurant, that young chefs dream about. I am creating my culinary legacy for myself and my forthcoming family ”, say chef Andres.
“It will be a full-on kitchen Food Truck concept. My dream is to create a professional mobile kitchen based inside an edgy logo-wrapped truck with a boisterous menu that has a funky name for funky-little menus that vaunt plenty of personality and of course a brilliantly executed dishes. The concept will center around smoked meats offered with a variety of traditional barbecue sides. The smoked meats will be served in non-traditional ways by incorporating many boldly flavored personalities from formable cuisines such as: Southwest, Indian and Asian influences”, states the chef.
From the Chef:
“The goal is to incorporate as many fresh components as possible as a way to accent the smoked meats and set them off with complementary and assertive hand prepared sauces”.
“In some dishes the smoked meat may stand alone and others will BE FASHIONED as hand held, dashboard cuisine-style dishes. The smoked meat may be served on a warm flatbread or tortilla then garnished with additional fresh ingredients that add color, textures and flavors to enhance the presentation and the overall eating experience. We will also provide daily changing chef inspired creations to keep the menu options new and exciting”, says chef Scott Andres.
“I wish I could tell you the name of the food truck at this time but, you’ll have to stay tuned for that information at a later date”.
The truth is, I have not been able to land on the definitive name. Trust me this will be an exciting time for everyone pursuing the same goal. During the phase of recipe development and menu targeting, I will be merging emphasis on building in a streamlined linear menu execution plan that can be replicated for additional trucks or a brick and mortar location. My ultimate goal would be to create a food brand with such a committed customer following that franchising will be a possibility down the road.
Any thoughts about the growing trend – of chefs putting their own name on packaged foods?
“When I was a young cook I remember having a few buddies that went into construction and were making much better money than me; they were usually done working by 3 pm; holidays and weekends were always taken off. I did not care because I had found harmony in my life and money did not matter (Ok, I was a little confused). Then, I worked for a chef who was pretty famous, had multiple restaurants and was making loads of money”. He asked, “why did I cook for a living?” “I said because it is my passion”, he looked me in the eye and said, “passion does not pay the bills, money does”. “You should do whatever it takes to make as much money as possible because there are very few old chefs that are still successful cooking on the line at 60 years old”.
So, I am good with chefs that put their names on packaged foods”.
It all comes down to this.
Questioning the Food Truck Myths…
“Everything comes to you as they are supposed to be”, a wise man said to me once in the Caribbean. And, so goes the Food Truck business. These articles are finishing with a recap of Chef Scott Andres Business plan. I have been learning about the Food Truck business for the past few months as he told me of how he plans to develop his business. He is now under the gun of his own self-imposed timeline. A timeline that is constantly being replaced with another unfolding opening date.
Now that gas prices have increased so dramatically, his bottom line has shrunk without serving even the first hand-held morsel. Here are a few things that have come up to keep the wheels spinning in his head but, not on the pavement.
What is the Name of your food truck concept?
Chef Andres is waiting for that A-ha moment. A spark that will generate the right name, one that encompasses and represents the entire concept and defines his menu accurately.
“I actually have multiple pages of names written down but, I want to fall in love with the name of my food truck concept” say Chef Scott.
“Right now, none of the names really excite me. I don’t like cliff-hanger endings, I’m more of a closure kind of guy. So believe me, when I know, you’ll know. Sorry, you’ll have to patiently stay tuned for now”.
What will Core Menu and Specialties be:
“Smoked meats that are served both hot and cold will be the mainstays additionally, the entire menu will be established around using the liveliest of ingredients with key notes prepared using whole foods”, says the Chef.
Why did you decide to start a food truck concept?
“I began my quest in culinary school at Florida Culinary Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida. My idea was that one day I would take everything that I learned, and apply it in my own business, leaving a legacy for my children”, says Chef Andres.
“Well, here I am, I have finally arrived at that very important place in creating my gourmet food truck concept and, I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity” opines Chef Scott Andres.
Troubles and Challenges?
“Relying upon others to help make needed modifications”. Chef Andres relies upon many different people to get his business going. Just finding someone to work on the step-van truck was another problem. When he has to repair his mobile kitchen, he has a hard time getting the proper parts.
His truck is a converted food delivery truck. He found that the person who owned the truck before used parts from other varieties of step-vans. Step-vans are also on the road for decades. The companies that build these vans built themselves out of business. So getting parts can be hard because some of these step-van builders are gone. Custom repairs seem to be the only answer.
Work Flow and Placement…
Fitting your equipment into your new Food Truck could be as difficult as using a shoe horn to get an elephant’s foot into a stiletto. The equipment has to be set up to be removable if the menu changes and placed into the van so your steps to accomplish a dish are streamlined. The equipment has to be convertible. Meaning that a flat-top refrigerator should always be bought because they need to be used for a working surfaces.
Truck Approved for Full-on Production.
The Health Department can be your best friend or, cost you more than you planned. They lay down the rules about where and how you plan to prepare food. The Health Department watchdogs can examine your food preparation kitchen (that is usually in your home) and approve it or, insist that you have to conduct your business through in an approved commercial kitchen.
Increase Customer Flow….
To increase customer turnover and get them through the ordering and cashing-out process has to be streamlined as well. “No one wants to wait, but they will if they see the lines are moving at a steady pace, they will wait to order”, says chef Scott.
For me meats such as beef, pork, turkey are going to be the culinary stars. The Accompaniments are going to be the supporting Cast members. My sauces and condiments will be paired with the main ingredients to create an interactive culinary experience for the customer. The scope of accompaniments will give people the opportunity to play with their food while mixing and matching to their preference.
The Chef Highlights:
Smoked rare roast beef piled high on a soft roll, with a fresh grated horseradish sauce and my own special home-made ketchup will be the sauce that might be my main forte. Then the sides of a SouthWestern slaw and crisp chili-dusted potatoes will the side available to add to the hand-held masterpiece.
“Cross-utilization is not only going to be a money savings process for my business, because I will offer so many alternative choices it is also going to be a time saving device for me while providing variety for the customer. If am going to serve something with cabbage, this condiment will also have alternative uses”, says Chef Andres. The cabbage will of course be offered as an old fashion slaw but, it will also be the ingredients in a dispenser so the customer can add a South-Western soiree slaw. This slaw will be available for a Bajan Fish Taco as an alternative to the Asian-style slaw that I created for the taco.
Twists that were Not Expected?
Propane gas instead of natural? As the Chef details all these little things, some questions come up such as how are you going to cook the food? The gas available to fuel the equipment is commonly overlooked. “Natural gas of course burns hotter and heats more efficiently, but the availability and ease of attaining propane gas is a no-brainer.”
How did you Work through the Down Times?
“We always have small events being booked. I started this business with a small smoker trailer. The smoker trailer gives me the availability to do smaller events that are peppered throughout the year to sustain us during down time where we have been waiting for business approvals and custom truck renovations”.
“My staff is only on-call right now. We still have no full time commitments except for family members. It is just extra money for my on-call staff. For now, my calls to work are just a little unexpected something extra”.
What Food Truck Groups did You Hook-up with?
Tampa Bay Food Trucks. It is a small group of about ten Food Trucks. Small groups make it better for everyone involved right now during the first year of these Food Truck rallies. The customer base is relatively plentiful so there are sufficient business to be divided among vendors.
Another cost that Food Truck Vendors do not realize ahead of time is the Pay for Play – to be involved with these rallies. A surcharge is levied upon the Vendors to pay for city permits and lot rentals that the organizers have to pay the city. Sometimes, this a pre-event cost, other times an Event Managers might just take a cut of your sales. So plan for both, yet remember this is just one more thing you have to build into the cost of selling your products.
Is it Important to be Involved with the other Vendors at these Rallies?
The learning early on from another vendor might be the most important thing you can obtain ahead of time. “Go to some local Rallies and ask questions. I find, the more trucks involved in a rally, the better. It makes the event more popular, drawing more customers. They will likely have extra customer-friendly activities to draw even more customers”, says Chef Andres.
$100,000 estimated sales for my first year, providing me a small gross profit and the out-right purchasing of my used Step-van Truck was better to free up operational cash reserves for the long run. The way we built this from the ground up, I save at least $100K in cost of buying a pre-Fab Food Truck. It was a decision of time vs. the amount of start-up money. I had a lot more time than money to get this business going.
In Five Years…
I will have my second or third truck on the road so, I can cover more events.
Your Traveling Range and Days Off…
I plan on doing rallies from Orlando to Sarasota. “My weekend events are going to be my most important. Thursdays through Sundays are going to be my bread and butter. Monday through Wednesday will be my days for preparing for these events”.
Article published 4-1-12
Examiner and all over the Internet.