Friday, February 24, 2006

High School Pro-Start Competition

 High School Pro-Start Competition Judging Colorado



Well the interview was over and for the first time I would be a kitchen
judge for the Pro-Start High School Culinary Competition. My assignment
would be the kitchen and I would be paired with long time Master Chef
Stuart Harrison, recently returning to the Grand Junction area after a 7
year stint as EC in New Mexico for a hospital.

Stuart was one of the people that helped start the Colorado Culinary
Academy years ago. It was good to talk with someone that was around and
helped with the formation of our local Culinary Arts School.

Well 7:30 AM I am on my way to the judges meeting for the event. Meet
with Stuart to get a game plan. He asks me what I want to do, I
explained this is my first event so I really want to be guided through
how to go about doing this judging job. Stuart teases me about the fact
when he started judging there was only three mothers and some kids added
a couple more mothers later on. Then tells me OK lets get you started on
something you are going to love to do!

The Pro-Start competitions are headed up by the Restaurant Association.
We go over the rules together and gather up a game plan. The job of this
competition is to get the students ready for the state competition in
two months. We ask a few questions of the head of judges Chef Jon St.
Peter who is the lead Chef instructor for the Colorado Culinary Academy.
Stuart wishes to handle more of the safety and sanitation since that is
one of his focuses running the hospital food and beverage. I will handle
prep and technique critique. We have six four person teams entered into
the competition. They will start in 15 minute intervals and will have 15
minutes Mise en place, 60 minutes cooking prep time and a 10 minute
plating window. Followed immediately by a 30 minute clean up window.

The first thing I notice is the students are very nervous about the
competition. I ask Stuart if it is ok to talk with the students and try
to calm them down a little. He nods. (He seems to do a lot of
communication by nodding) I gather up a group of the first two teams and
start talking. First we expect you to check your equipment before you
get started, we expect you to follow all safety and sanitation methods,
we expect you to have all your ice, water and sterilizer at the station
before you finish Mise en place, as with the state competition, after
the Mise en place window closes you have no access to any other area but
your workstation. Down through the rules I go, everyone nodding yes to
the rules, end of it. Now time for the relax talk.

Ok folks you have made it this far because you like this industry and
you like to cook. You must be competent to an extent because you
teacher recommend your team come here. So some words of advice from
Master Chef Stuart and myself. If you lose track of something and it
burns up, if you dump something over your work station, if you screw up
a prep, if it does not turn out the way you had hoped, if you get
yourself DQd or if you actually forgot something during Mise en place.
Don't worry about it. The sun will rise tomorrow, you will sit up and
eat the next day, we no longer flog the contestants that don't place in
the top three. The policy against selling the organs off of the lowest
two teams was rescinded. Folks the end of the world is not coming if this
does not go correctly, life will go on. So get in there and do what you
practiced, have fun doing it, talk to each other a lot and we will see
you on the other side of this 75 minutes.

Couple of questions for you. Chef Stuart has offered the two of us to
meet with each team after the event and take you through our notes. Do
you want to do that? (YES)

We are allowed to talk with you during the event, would you like us to
or do you want us to just judge and not speak? (Talk with us)

Last, both Stuart's and my own coat have buttons just like yours, don't
get to worked up just because Stuart cooked for Jesus! (Stuart is
nodding in agreement.)

We planned it ahead in the opening meeting. Stuart told me that hardest
part of High School Competitions is to get the students to relax. Make
it like your own kitchen, joke a little, let them know we are human and
sort of normal.

Part two (Cooking the menu) to follow shortly:

Til we talk again, think about how you can help the younger wanting to
enter this industry and act on it!

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Monday, February 6, 2006

Wedding Show 2006 Grand Junction, Colorado

Grand Junction Wedding Show 2006 Presentation


While I mentioned in other blogs the importance of the Grand Junction
Wedding Show, I have not mentioned the opportunity it opens as we expose
brides to new possibilities for having their reception be very very very

First, I like service add ons, (that are value added, meaning we can
charge for it) by that I mean it is real nice to show them a menu and
quote a price, but I like the brides to have options for adding special
services, so this year we added in two options we hope will increase
bookings. First the Afternoon Tea (Low Tea) which we hope in a year will
have several Maids of Honor booking Afternoon Tea for their bridal
shower. This is one of those ideas you throw out there and put in front
of 2006 brides, not expecting them to sign up, but all the brides maids
running around get to see it, and when its their turn to be Maid of
Honor or a bride we hope they remember and want this neat thing they saw
at the wedding show. The second thing we are putting out there is the
Cheese Cave a special presentation still in its infancy but sure to pull
in more money as an add on service. I think this will be a big part of
every wedding in latter 2006 and all of 2007.

So the cheese cave starts with Chef Ballantyne hanging out with the
granite guys. This was suggested by C2C's own Chef Florian of the
Chimney park Bistro. Yes it has paid off well. The Rock Cutter is my
friend and holds pieces for me he thinks are interesting and that I
might want to look at, I stop over every two weeks or so to check out
the pieces.

Then we put Chef Mike to work on building the thing before transport.

As he continues to work on the display it comes together

Then it takes a ride to the display booth and is assembled in position.
In the mean time we work on the live serving side. We feel that our
competitors using only pictures of food in their booth gives us a chance
to well pound them into the ground a little. I am not saying that
someone is suggesting there is a reason they bring pictures instead of
letting you taste food, but what reason is there for not letting the
brides have a taste of what you sell? Ah, once again the straw man is set
up and burned to the ground!

This is one of the tasting table displays. I was doing a side by side on
the Trout and Salmon for the brides as well as our own smoked cured ham
and Bar-B-Q'd beef brisket. At the other end of the booth we also had
the appetizers out for tasting.

All in all the tasting tables came together the way I expected. That is
not to say we can not improve for next year. We can always improve, but
all in all I think we accomplished what we came to accomplish. And I
hope you will agree as we blog through the other theme tables in the
weeks to come.

And lets not forget my favorite part of this years show. Chef Al and his
wife Mary launched the business. I want you to see this happy picture
now. We will compare it in a blog later next year to see how the hours
of cake building are affecting these smiles. Hopefully the smiles will
still be there. They did have a great launch and I know Chef Al is
booking cakes!

It is a little cool out tonight I would suggest a nice Hot Buttered Rum
and sit and read a little. Personally I have the wood stove cranked up
and the Hot Buttered Rum already poured! Join me won't you?

Til we talk again, take care

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Grand Junction Wedding Decorating Show

Grand Junction Wedding Catering Decorating Show


I took a lot of prep pictures for the wedding show and quite a few
pictures of the finished product at the booth. I am going to have to
bring this info to you in parts. The Wedding Show is very important to
the catering business. We have most of the summer booked but need to
constantly reinforce in the publics mind our position as THE caterer for
weddings that count.

We do attend a lot of food shows and catering shows to gain ideas for
presentation in our area of the world. Zane saw a presentation of fruit
for a chocolate fountain that was wild. It was also expensive so we
figured out how to make our own. The Western Colorado Wedding Show is a
great time for us, lots of work, but a great time. To give you an idea
you can read the first wedding show blog if you want to. Basically we
start months in advance talking about what the booth will be like, it
finally gels and we have to get down to business. For me it will be an
all day Friday til 2:30 AM Saturday, back at 8 AM Saturday til 1 AM and
back at 3:30AM Sunday morning to plate for the show. We all have these
type of hours so it is not just me.

I did do my English Trifle presentation this year. It did receive a lot
of interest. Which we wanted it to, our plan is to add a Bridal
Reception Afternoon Tea (low tea) to our services offered for the

I offer to you my version of the English trifle, displayed as I like
things, non-traditionally! When I do put on our Low Tea function this
brings those really neat Red Hat Society ladies to their feet!

Now that you are all thrilled with an English trifle, we move on to
another money maker. Chocolate Fountains, we have a lot of them, little
ones and big ones but the presentation of the fruit has always been a
problem. Zane found this idea and brought it to me, I researched it and
broke it down to how it could be made, I passed that back to Zane and he
made it.

First you build the tree and load it with fruit and marshmallow and

Then you load the leaves onto it so it starts to look like a palm

Then you take it to the show and put it on the linens and you end up
with a display like this:

So there you have it a way to present the fruit in a much more
professional manner. And as we are always fighting for space, using the
vertical to hold what was spread out horizontal always helps the display
look tighter and brighter!

I will have more about the aspects of the Grand Junction Wedding Show as
I work through the pictures to build the 06 website up for the things we
did at the show. Lots and lots of work but lots of fun as well. And Al
had the big launch of his business which will be a blog of its own since
Chef Al doesn't seem to blog. Lets just say it was a great great launch.
I know he booked one today already.

Tell we talk again, sit down with a nice white and enjoy!

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA