We're back from our trip and I walked straight into a crazy week with the American Bar Association hitting us hard. Now that business has fizzled out a bit I can finally post. We flew into Burlington, Vermont late Sunday night and headed straight for the hotel. Coming from some nice 60F weather we were hit with some 6F weather right off the plane. Not as bad as expected. My human resources associate and I made a mad dash for Montpelier early in the morning. Of course I was on time for the cab to pick us up and my associate was about 15 minutes behind. Good thing the cab drivers in Vt are patient, any where else and we'd be on the meter or possibly left behind. A nice 30 mile drive through the mountains and we were in Montpelier. I will say the sunrise in Vt is awesome when your driving through the mountains. It's been a while since I've been in a small town but it seemed like everywhere in Vt was a small town. People were actually nice!
We arrived at NECI and found our contact.
After we found where the job fair was located I also found out that I would be prepping our passed apps across campus. See the building just to the right of the bigger building. Yeah, that's where I was cooking. So haul ass over there, get in the kitchen which was the cafeteria for Vermont College where the NECU students worked and prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner for the College. i'm pretty sure this wasn't a class but I could be wrong. Hats off to Chef Dave who showed me around and ran a full kitchen with students. They all worked throughout the morning with me jumping in the middle of there 8 burner line taking up space. I was told 300 students would be attending so lots of work to do right off the bat.
I got everything prepped then ran it over to this building, an old basketball gym where the job fair was being held. Note to self, carrying lots of shit and running through the snow in clogs, not a good idea. I forgot for a second we were in a small town, actually the smallest capital city in the US. I was trying to cross the road with an arm full of prep, freezing and cars were actually stopping, waiting for me to cross. Not the norm for where we are from. I can see why having a hospitality institution makes sense here. We hit the job fair, mostly local or nearby hotels and resorts were there. It's hard to convince people to move 1500 miles away with no promise of housing to do an externship but most were receptive and appreciated the apps we provided as we were the only with food offerings. i actually was approached by a former TE cook that worked at Kingfish Hall and new me from when I was training in Todd's restaurants to take over bluezoo. it's a small world being in this business and I try to make an effort to remind my guys that when they are working with us.
Finished with the job fair, we took off back to Burlington to catch a glimpse of the Magic Hat Brewery. They do a good job of making the place look weathered and run down but it is neither of those.
This is a full scale operation, brewing nonstop. They just recently entered our market at the hotel about a year ago but we we had a pretty limited amount to distribute. Now they are coming full swing. Oddly enough the day I was visiting the brew house the Owners were dining in bluezoo! They met with our F&B execs at the hotel and we're are expected to carry Magic Hat No. 9 (their signature brew) pool side for the upcoming months.
The brewery itself is based on the Mardi Gras theme and what we were told is that their Mardi Gras festival generates the largest F&B revenue in Vermont. There is Mardi Gras art posted throughout the brew house.
We took the self guided walking tour since they only offer the guided on Fridays and Saturdays, on top of the fact we had a cab waiting outside for 20 minutes. It was like walking into a bakery, that yeasty, sourdough, wet goodness filled the air. They happened to be bottling that day so there was some action. This time of year they bottle about 4 times a week and during the warmer months it's a nonstop process. "As long as there is beer, it will be put in a bottle" is what I was told. These signs are placed aling the brew line to tell you what is going on.
Out of the filler, the bottlers are shot down the line.
Here they get labeled and while another machine builds the boxes and the line workers fill, seal, stack, and ship.
Now off to the airport on our awesome prop plane to LGA then on to PITT. Same deal, get to the hotel, sleep, get to the school and start cooking. I had 3 demos set up and Tammy was my go to all around you need it I can get it assistant. She was great and is looking at doing here externship at the white house. She deserves it!
PCI was great. Everything prep to a T. Chef Will Hunt did a great job setting me up. I had a full demo kitchen so we got started right away. If there is anything I hate it's public speaking but I love teaching and they made us feel very welcomed so it was easy. I'm not a big fan of formal, I'd rather be a little outside of the box an engaging with the students so sitting classroom style didn't last very long.
We got them so up they could get a first hand look at what we were doing and it seemed much more comfortable for all.
All in all a good trip. There are some bright culinarians coming our way. Some interesting questions were asked by the students and I learned a lot about what they really want out of the education that they are getting. I don't sugar coat anything when it comes to what we do and the dedication that it takes to make it happen and they were very receptive to someone being up front and honest. When I went to school they asked us this question, "where do you see yourself in five years?", most of the responses were along the lines of owning a restaurant. I think reality has set in a bit more and these culinarians have a better grasp of their future in the business. I'm not saying that it can't be done, I'm just saying that most of the people I talked to realize that they will be working their way up, letting their actions in the kitchen speak rather than their diploma.
Wild Blueberries at Black Queen Angus Farm
2 years ago