Yoga in the Zoo

Today, the first of June starts yoga in the zoo. I have been practicing yoga for the past two years. My wife, Margie, had done it for years before but I never really wanted to participate. How wrong was I? I love it now. It focuses me after a week at school. I love the stretching and the way it makes my body feel. Yoga at the zoo meets every Saturday morning at the pavilion on the lagoon just across from the farm in the zoo. It’s a covered area but quite open.ImageToday was very crowded, perhaps 40 people. Usually it’s about 20. There are several teachers and they are all great. If you are thinking about practicing yoga this summer, this is a great place to start.

A Baker Tutoring Math?

I’m in the library today tutoring our culinary and baking students on any food subject they want. Most have good questions about different vegetables, animal protein or grain. But most want to understand food costing. Food costing involves a bit of mathematics. It’s all multiplication and addition but still some find it very difficult. I did at first too. I didn’t see the need to understand the costs of things.  I thought you just charged a fair price for your food and you would make money. How wrong I was! Using the food costing formula we have at school, I can determine if where I buy the food is a good fit for me. I can tell if there are ingredients that can be reduced or eliminated to lower my cost. Also I can adjust the standard recipes to fit my cost. Here’s an example: I was making peach cobbler and putting in quite a bit of nutmeg. Now I like nutmeg but you don’t want to use too much. Nutmeg is very expensive and by lowering the amount of the ingredient by just a little, I was able to lower the food cost by .65. That may not sound like a lot but over time and many batches, it adds up. 

I can better decide on a menu price using the costing formula. If I have a product that costs .76 to make like a banana bread loaf, I could use 50% food cost and the loaf would sell for 1.52. Would you pay 1.52 for a decent loaf of banana bread. I think the market might bear more than that. Once I have my cost per loaf I can make my own price and profit. Let’s say I wanted a 17% food cost. I would take my .76 cost divided by .17 and I would get 4.47 as my selling price. Would  you still buy my buttery, moist banana bread for that price? I think you would. You might even expect to pay more! This is the reason I think the costing formula is a valuable tool for the restauranteur or baker.


banh_mi_sandwich I love taking pictures especially of food. You’ll find pictures here of stuff we make at school, restaurants I visit and so much more. Send me yours if you want and I’ll post them.roasted_chicken

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Chef Tom Beckman

Chef Tom Beckman

Check out our photos on our wall of fame at Le Cordon Bleu Chicago

Having a Clover at Starbucks

Its officially the coldest day of this winter. I have errands to do today and I don’t want to be outside.

20130121-102504.jpgso here I sit drinking some great coffee. The clover machine brews each cup of coffee individually. I am enjoying the Maui Mokka. It’s a full bodied coffee with a cocoa overtone. I must force myself to go now. I’m going!

Baking and Pastry for Culinary Students

I have been teaching the baking course for culinary students for a while now. Some students take to it very quickly and some fight it. Baking isn’t for everyone but encourage students to try it. We have a new course for 2013 and I think it’s a good one. Yesterday we made chicken pot pie. That was a revelation. I hadn’t made something like that for 15 years. It was terrific and fun to make. The lesson plan suggested poaching the chicken breast which I did for the first class. It was good. For the second section of the day, I sautéed the chicken and it was even better. I sweated the vegetables, added them to the veloute and then added the chicken. I cooled the filling before assembling the pie. The pie crust was 50 percent vegetable shortening which I never use either. I usually use 100 percent butter. The crust was very good and flaky. The pot pie came out great. I have been making pies for a long time. Usually I make sweet pies. The chicken pot pie was a great addition to a winter menu. I would suggest it for a hearty cold weather dinner. You won’t be disappointed.