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A history of Champagne cocktails

There’s no better way to start the new year than by enjoying a glass of Champagne. And, not surprisingly, the tradition of beginning each year with a taste of the bubbly is an enduring one.

In fact, as early as 1855, written records praise Champagne cocktails, though they were probably enjoyed even earlier — considering the creativity of French bartenders.

Initially, Champagne cocktails were not served in elegant coupe or tulip glasses, but in hand-held tumblers over crushed ice. One of the earliest champagne cocktails was made using a simple sugar cube soaked with bitters, mixed with Cognac, and then topped up with a cold splash of Champagne.

Other early cocktails also matched Champagne with Cognac or a similar orange-scented spirit. The Black Velvet, supposedly created in 1861 to mark the death of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, mingled Champagne and Guinness beer. Even ice cream was added when bartenders created the surprising Soyer au Champagne.

By 1867 bartenders on both sides of the Atlantic were considering blending gin with Champagne. No less than the world-touring Charles Dickens recorded that he personally mixed gin, champagne and lemon, a cocktail he called “Tom gin and Champagne cups.”

The popularity of gin and Champagne continued to grow throughout the late 1800s. World War I (1914-1918) prompted the creation of the French 75 cocktail, made with Champagne and gin and named after France’s high-caliber, long-range cannon.

Even Prohibition during the 1920s didn’t stop Champagne’s ever-increasing popularity. Enter the mimosa. Initially created in Paris at the Hotel Ritz by Frank Meier, it soon became a worldwide favorite, blending champagne and fresh orange juice. It is believed to be named after a common European yellow flower known as, you guessed it, the mimosa.

The Great Depression (1929-1941) and World War II (1941-1945) limited the creation of new Champagne cocktails, but the prosperity of the 1950s saw a return of interest in them. One drink that arose from this era is the Atomic Cocktail, developed in Las Vegas and strong enough justify its nuclear namesake.

Meanwhile in France, the return of prosperity was celebrated with the Kir Royale, a close cousin of the original Kir, created by replacing the traditional Aligoté grape wine with fine French Champagne.

Today, Champagne cocktails are as popular as ever and available in a wide variety. There’s the Beijing Bellini, a modified version of Italy’s famed Bellini white peach and Champagne cocktail, made to honor the amazing 2008 Summer Olympic Summer Games in the Chinese capital. There’s an Old Cuban Champagne cocktail as well as a Champagne Martini.

In its endless forms, the Champagne cocktail continues to be a revered part of culinary tradition — a beverage that American Mark Twain enjoyed when he remarked, “Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.”

With that thought, here’s to you, Chefs! Enjoy 2019! May you enjoy only the best in the year to come!

9 ways to engage your line cooks

by Chef Paul Sorgule of Harvest America Ventures

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With the current labor challenges faced by restaurants across the country it may be time to think differently about how to attract, excite and retain quality culinary staff members.

If we begin with an assumption (yes, I know the danger in assuming too much) that most individuals who are interested in cooking have aspirations of one day assuming the role of sous chef, chef or chef/owner, then it is possible to build a uniquely attractive employment model for your kitchen. In the vein of the apprenticeship model we might assume that cooks have a real desire to learn, grow, build their skills and enhance their resumes. The question is, how much value is placed on the ability to move in this direction?

Most chefs, if asked, would be quite content to know that they had the ability to attract enthusiastic and committed cooks who were willing to invest three or four years in a restaurant. So, how might a property manage to attract and retain this level of cook?

Pay and benefits are important issues that must be addressed, but a package of solutions will have a more significant long-term impact. Here are a few examples:

  • UNDERSTAND WHAT IS NEEDED

It is very important for the chef to be part of the labor solution and avoid being part of the problem. The perception by a growing number of young cooks is that the kitchen takes a lot more than it gives. On the surface they may seem to focus on rates of pay, but a longer-term answer needs to address the deficit of investment in each cook’s future. Part of the chef’s job must be to develop young cooks into tomorrow’s kitchen leaders. This must become an integral part of the chef’s job description.

  • COMMIT THE TIME

Any investment that a chef makes in his or her staff will pay back tenfold. Cooks who feel appreciated — who know that the chef is committed to developing them, improving their skills, and building their brand — will be more inclined to give 100 percent and stay the course. The chef needs to look at his schedule and plan employee investment time as a regular commitment. In-service training, counseling, providing shadowing opportunities to learn about the processes surrounding the management of a kitchen, and even visits to vendors, farmers, cattle ranchers and artisan producers are effective ways of demonstrating a chef’s commitment to staff.

  • INVEST IN MENTORING

Being a mentor to young cooks is, by far, the most important and rewarding part of a chef’s job. As chefs, we all share a responsibility to prepare the next generation for kitchen operation. To paraphrase William Arthur Ward:

“The mediocre chef tells, the good chef explains, the superior chef demonstrates, and the great chef mentors and inspires.”

Help the cook define his or her short and long term goals, work on defining a path to get there and help keep the cook on track. There are few things more rewarding in life than helping someone else reach his or her professional goals.

  • BUILD A PROGRAM AND STICK WITH IT

Whether formal apprenticeship or simply mentoring cooks through skill development, professional brand building, character building experiences, or occasional attitude adjustments, chefs need to take the time to build a manageable program for staff development. Become your own human resource department!

  • REWARD PERFORMANCE

What gets measured gets done and what gets rewarded helps to inspire. A chef must find ways to recognize a cook’s effort and make it part of his or her routine. The days when chefs simply viewed performance as an expectation without the need for some level of recognition are over. The program might be as simple as thanking a cook for a good service, giving a thumbs up for a well prepared dish, pulling your team together at the end of an event and talking about what they accomplished, or even sharing positive comment cards about a restaurant’s food. As simple as these ideas are, they demonstrate that a chef recognizes good work.

  • BE THE DIFFERENCE

The feeling that cooks work for a restaurant is oftentimes misguided. A professional cook works for the chef or the owner — a chef or owner who inspires, who demonstrates a concern for the employees professional and personal well-being, and who is consistently firm but fair. The retention of cooks, then, is clearly in the hands of the person who wears the tallest hat. Understand this and take the responsibility seriously. Be the difference.

“More than half of people who leave their jobs do so because of their relationship with their boss. Smart companies make certain their managers know how to balance being professional with being human. These are the bosses who celebrate an employee’s success, empathize with those going through hard times, and challenge people, even when it hurts.”

-Travis Bradberry

  • HAVE HIGH EXPECTATIONS

Being fair and committed to the employee need not mean that a chef should let things slide or overlook inconsistencies. The best chefs, the ones that cooks admire the most, are the ones who never sacrifice quality and the need for excellence. The best chef mentors will always expect the highest level of excellence from employees — from the simplest task to the most complicated. Excellence is a habit and as such must be the standard by which all work is measured.

  • PROMOTE PROFESSIONALISM

Chefs who are focused on attracting and retaining good employees must always be the example for others to follow. Professionalism must be as important as product quality. Chefs must promote by encouraging proper uniform, treating other cooks with respect, the expression of good attitudes towards all other employees and guests, as well as quality of work regardless of task assigned. Be the example and then expect and demand the same from your cooks.

  • CELEBRATE SUCCESS

Finally, know that the success of the restaurant, the reputation of the chef, and the image that the operation enjoys is directly connected to how committed and focused your staff members are. When the restaurant wins then the chef must work hard to ensure that all members of the team know that it was due to their effort. Find ways to celebrate this. Reinforcing the importance of a cook’s involvement will help to make sure that the same effort becomes commonplace.

“Celebrate what you want to see more of. “

-Tom Peters

Check Out the Winners of the ACFEF’s Gingerbread House Competition

by Heather Henderson

Last month, the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation (ACFEF) and William Racin, CEPC®, ACF’s 2018 Pastry Chef of the Year, held the inaugural Gingerbread House Challenge, inviting teams of students from accredited Baking & Pastry Arts programs around the country to battle for the best gingerbread house. This year’s theme was “Winter Wonderland”.

After careful review of many beautiful submissions, two winning teams were chosen, each receiving a prize of $250 towards their Baking and Pastry programs! 

The Winter Wonderland Village built by students from Lebanon County Career and Technology Center was the secondary school winner and the model of the Seattle Children’s Hospital built by students from The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Seattle was the post-secondary winner. 


Lebanon County Career and Technology Center

The village built by the Lebanon County students consists of 20 houses and a church, totaling over 200 pounds of gingerbread and 100 pounds of royal icing.


Lebanon County Career and Technology Center

Lebanon County Career and Technology Center Gingerbread Recipe
2 lbs. Sugar
6 lbs. Honey
14 oz. Sweetex
9 lbs. bread flour
1/2 oz. ginger
2 oz. cinnamon
4 oz. baking powder
8 eggs
2 oz. water

The students made this recipe five times to have enough gingerbread to build their whole village!


Lebanon County Career and Technology Center

The team from the Art Institute of Seattle took 38 hours to complete their gingerbread hospital, on which they put their own winter wonderland twist.


The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Seattle

Unlike the real thing, their gingerbread hospital has an open roof that reveals a Christmas party happening inside the building.

The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Seattle

The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Seattle Gingerbread Recipe
2 c. corn syrup
1½ c. brown sugar
1 ¼ c. butter
9 c. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt

Along with royal icing made of egg whites and powdered sugar.

The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Seattle

Congratulations to the winners! We are already looking forward to next year’s competition!

Let’s Talk Turkey

By Ana Kinkaid, editor of the culinary magazine CONNECT

Every November, American restaurants order turkeys in order to prepare the nation’s traditional Thanksgiving feast. And while this large, flightless and somewhat strange-looking bird is now accepted as standard on the menu, it brings with it a long and sometimes forgotten heritage.

Turkeys are indigenous to the Americas. The wild turkey is a majestic, fast running bird — it can run up to 25 miles per hour over a short distance! Excavations at ancient sites indicate it was first domesticated around 10 BCE by Aztecs, who ate its meat and prized its iridescent feathers for elaborate ornamental headdresses.

According to surviving records, the food-loving Aztecs staged a turkey festival every 200 days and traded approximately 1,000 birds daily in their open air city markets.

By the time the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the Americas, turkeys had become the staple meat of the indigenous peoples of Mexico and Central America. Both Cortes and Columbus ate turkey and found the meat flavorful enough to take a few live birds back to Spain.

Within a short time turkeys were popular amongst the European aristocracy due to its rare and exotic nature. Prior to the discovery of the New World, European nobility had enjoyed peacock and pheasant as a status food, but both birds had a tough, stringy meat texture. Because turkeys offered a softer, more enjoyable texture, they soon replaced their showier feathered cousins.

By the 1500s, the British referred to the bird as turkeycock, but the true origin of the word is lost in time. In India a turkey is called tuka. Other linguistic authorities claim the name comes from the guttural sound turkeys make.

Surprising as it may be, when the Pilgrims sailed to North America in 1620, they actually took a few domesticated European turkeys with them aboard the Mayflower. These were, however, so different from the wild turkeys of the Americas, that they considered them two different kinds of birds.

The wild turkeys that the Pilgrims encountered in America were fast, sharp sighted and able to easily hear distant sounds. They ate seeds, berries, buds, grubs, little snakes, frogs and lizards. At night they were able to quickly fly a short distance into trees to roost.

Because such a bird was not easy to hunt, historians believe it was probably not served at the first Thanksgiving dinner in 1621. Research indicates that the easier to catch geese, ducks, swans and passenger pigeons were most likely on the menu instead.

The popularity of turkeys grew throughout the colonial period. It was during this time that the phrase “talking turkey” appears in American English, referring to bartering a turkey for other goods. Today the phrase has come to mean a truthful conversation.

The turkey was so admired by the early Americans that no less than Benjamin Franklin proposed that the bird should be America’s national bird. He was deeply disappointed when both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson firmly said no and chose instead the fierce soaring eagle.

Prior to the American Civil War, various communities held general harvest festivals. It was not until Sara Josepha Hale, editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1860, and a weary President Abraham Lincoln in 1864, supported by the Union Clubs of Chicago, New York and Boston, brought the idea of Thanksgiving (and turkey eating) forward to a war-torn nation.

In the ensuing generation, thousands of hunters pursued the wild turkey so persistently that by 1930 there were fewer than 30,000 wild birds left in America.

As the clouds of war darkened over the U.S. in 1941, another president, Franklin Roosevelt, declared Thanksgiving a national holiday, so that amidst the fears of war America would remember its heritage of supportively gathering together.

During World War II (1941-1945), many American farmers received massive government contracts to raise turkeys as part of the effort to feed the millions of soldiers fighting in both Europe and Asia. As a result, many a hungry G.I. learned to enjoy turkey, even if it wasn’t Thanksgiving Day.

The returning soldiers brought their preference for turkey home with them and food companies noticed. Soon a variety of turkey cuts were available to chefs. American turkeys further won the day when ACF Master Chef Ferdinand Metz, and the USA Culinary Olympic Team, served an impressive Stuffed Turkey Roulade to acclaim and applause at the 1984 IKA Competition in Frankfurt, Germany.

Thanks to the efforts of such creative chefs, Americans today consume an average 17.5 pounds of turkey per person annually! But be assured, turkeys will always be a key part of Thanksgiving, because where else would a nation, built on free speech, gather together and celebrate the right to “talk turkey” at the table.