Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanks for the memories Chauncy Choco•Dile.

Captain Cup Cake - Twinkie The Kid - Happy Ho Ho - Fruit Pie Magician

This week we were given the news that another iconic American business was in trouble and would be shutting the doors. I stay away from writing about politics and will not be sharing my opinion about the striking employees or the high paid executives. I stick to what I know. The food.

Everyone has...I mean HAD their favorite Hostess snack. You can't deny it. I don't care if you are someone that lives on junk food or someone that is total health nut. You can't deny it. You have a memory attached to one of their products.

Which one was it? The Ho Ho with its ability to be unrolled and enjoyed in different ways? Maybe the Ding Dong and the way it had more of the filling in it than the other snacks. How about the Twinkie and the moist yellow cake that left little pieces behind on the cardboard that acted like a post snack snack. Fruit pie? Lots of flavors wrapped in sugar coated crust there. For me though it was the less touted and often hard to find Choco•Dile. I'll get to that later though.
Don't get me started on my Wonder Bread memories!

As a chef I am someone who understands food and food science. I have never bit into a Twinkie and said "Man! They put just the right amount of cellulose gum, Polysorbate 60, and calcium sulfate in that one! Apparently, these ingredients are also used in sheet rock, shampoo, and rocket fuel. I SHOULD steer you away from this stuff.

However I believe that 90% of why we love certain foods is because we have memories attached to them. If not then why did I have 4 separate highly spirited debates over what hostess snack was the best this week? At one point my daughter asked my wife and I why we were arguing over snacks. Ha! We made sure she knew we were not fighting we were passionately debating the tasty treats of our youth.

As a child I loved going shopping with my Grandma Hoover. I was the youngest grandchild and it was no secret that I was spoiled by her. She took me shopping one day when I was 5 at "The Pop Shop" as she called it. It was located at the "Park and Shop" on Williow Pass in Concord California where I grew up.

One day while on one of our trips to the pop shop I saw it. I saw the cardboard cut out of Chauncey Choco•Dile. An ad made perfectly to attract a child and it did just that! I was mesmerized. I had to know what it was!

"Grandma...What are those!?"

"Sweetie, those are like chocolate covered twinkles"

"Grandma...Can we get one of those?

"Honey, we can get one of those if you promise not to tell the other kids when we get home. Deal?"

"Deal Grandma!"

So then she loaded up the trunk with our treasures from the pop shop and several bottles of planters salted peanuts for my grandfather. Those combined with a ice cold Miller High Life were his nightly tradition every night after work. We are talking some high society gourmet culinary roots I have here.

So there I sat in the front seat...yes front seat with no seat my grandmothers '64 impala with my Choco•Dile in my hand. I opened it, slid it out of the wrapper and bit into my secret treat. It was delicious. At least I think it was delicious. I don't really remember. What I DO remember was a moment with my grandmother who loved me. She made me feel special. Like I was the only kid in town while she had a house full of grand kids waiting for her at home. Truth is she probably had these secret deals with all of us.

The snack wasn't what was great, it is the memory I made with my grandma. To this day if I see a Choco•Dile I am transported for a few seconds back to the front seat of that old impala and can almost smell my grandmothers perfume again. She passed away a year later and now as an adult I realize she knew she was ill and wasn't going to say no to her precious grandchild.

So here we are at thanksgiving. A time that we are encouraged to look back and remember the things we are thankful for and stuff our self with food and tradition. Much like we could debate over who's stuffing, potatoes, pies, or turkeys are better we could debate over what Hostess snack was best.

The reality is that while all thanksgiving food and hostess snacks are found tasty it's not really about the food. It's about the memories. For my wife it was the Ho Ho. For a buddy at work it's the pink snow ball. I still remember giving my good friend Nancy who grew up behind the wall in Germany her first Twinkie! It wasn't amazing tasting. It was an experience and a memory made with my friend, much like the one made with my amazing grandma Hoover.

I am sure Hostess will re-emerge after they are bought or rebuilt by another company but it won't quite be the same. Maybe it will be the new coke / coke classic debate for this generation. You never know. For now though I say Thanks for the memories Hostess.

Enjoy the holidays. Make some memories. Eat some good grub. - Cameron






Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Perfect Turkey!

Cooking the perfect turkey is something that is a intimidating task every year for just about everyone. There are so many different ways to do it and everyone has their favorite. This week I have received several requests asking how I do it so I thought I would share.

First of all the most important part of roasting the perfect turkey is your prep and timing. The prep is something that you should do the day before and set timers or alarms to make sure you start cooking at the right time the day you are serving it. You never want everyone waiting around for the bird!

I like to brine my turkeys. It is a little extra work but its easy and adds a great flavor. In order to do this your bird needs to be thawed. Be sure to buy your turkey either thawed or a few days in advance to get it COMPLETELY thawed before you start your prep.

When it comes time to cook the turkey there is always a question of time. Here is a chart of what I have had success with.

8 to 12 pounds -- 2-3/4 hours to 3 hours

12 to 14 pounds -- 3 to 3-3/4 hours

14 to 18 pounds -- 3-3/4 to 4-1/4 hours

18 to 20 pounds -- 4-1/4 hours to 4-1/2 hours

20 to 24 pounds -- 4-1/2 hours to 5 hours

24 to 30 pounds -- 5 to 5-1/2 hours

Now that you have your times be sure to figure out what time you are eating and set an alarm for what time to get the turkey in. Be sure to have everything prepped the night before to make your day easy and organized. The technical term for this is "Mise-En-Place".

Mise-en-place is pronounced [miz on plas], It is a French phrase which means "everything in place, as in set up". It is used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and arranging the ingredients that a cook will require for the menu items that he or she expects to prepare during his/her shift.

Follow the simple rule of Mise En Place and you will be thankful on your Thanksgiving day!

Before reading the recipe and getting to work please take this bit of advice. Cooking should be fun and providing it for your loved ones should be even more fun. Don't let the stress of the day ruin the experience. Thanksgiving should be a time of love and reflection. Do the hard work the day or days before so you can have a wonderful cooking time with family the day of. The Lord has given us much to be thankful for. If you have a bad turkey it won't Change any of that! Love you all! - Cameron

1 whole turkey, neck and giblets removed

2 cups kosher salt

1/2 cup butter, melted

2 large onions, peeled and chopped

4 carrots, peeled and chopped

4 stalks celery, chopped

2 sprigs fresh thyme

2 Lemons

1 bay leaf

1 cup dry white wine

1. Rub the turkey inside and out with the kosher salt. (Please start using kosher salt for everything rather than iodized if you haven't already)

2. Place the bird and 1 sliced lemon in a large stock pot, and cover with cold water. Place in the refrigerator, and allow the turkey to soak in the salt and water mixture 12 hours, or overnight.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Thoroughly rinse the turkey, and discard the brine mixture.

4. Brush the turkey with 1/2 the melted butter. Place breast side down (upside down!!!) on a roasting rack in a shallow roasting pan. Stuff the turkey cavity with 1 onion, 1/2 the carrots, 1/2 the celery, 1 sprig of thyme, 1 Lemon, and the bay leaf. Scatter the remaining vegetables and thyme around the bottom of the roasting pan, and cover with all the white wine wine except 1 glass. Drink the remaining glass of white wine.

*I know your grandma never cooked hers upside down the first 2/3rds of the way through...but I promise this isn't your grannies bird!

5. Roast uncovered 3 1/2 to 4 hours in the preheated oven, until the internal temperature of the thigh reaches 180 degrees F (85 degrees C). Carefully turn the turkey breast side up about 2/3 through the roasting time, and brush with the remaining butter. Be sure to check the chart I provided if you have a different size. This is for a 18 pounder.

6. Allow the bird to stand about 30 minutes before carving. Enjoy!

PREP 30 mins

COOK 4 hrs

READY IN 17 hrs


Friday, November 16, 2012

You asked, you receive! Country Gravy!

I have received several e mails and Facebook letters this week asking me for a good country gravy recipe. Seeming how it is thanksgiving next week I have a feeling people are getting their kitchens loaded for battle!

Thick, luscious, and delicious!
This is a simple recipe that has more flavor than you can imagine and is super hearty! Perfect for biscuits and gravy or just to out on your mashed potatoes!

If you don't have the chickens to trim the fat or skin from you can do the exact same thing using the oil drippings from your turkey. I suggest going the chicken route!

Prep Time: 15 mins | Cook Time: 30 mins | Makes: 1.5 Gallon


Chicken skin and chicken fat - 1.5 lbs (buy a full chicken and trim or a thigh and breast package)

All-purpose flour - 1.5 cups

Chicken base - 2 ounces

Whole milk - 1 gallon

Ground black pepper - 1 tablespoons

Kosher salt - 1.5 tablespoons


1. Cook chicken fat and chicken skin in a pot and until crispy and golden brown. Do not add oil. Just let it cook slowly on low heat at first and the oils will release and cook the fat and skins.

2. Strain oil into pot a separate pot. Chop CRISPY chicken skin into small fine pieces.

3. Add flour to the pot with the oil and cook for a few minutes minutes creating a Roux.

4. Add chicken base, salt and black pepper to the milk and simmer.

5. Add roux SLOWLY making sure to stir constantly until the sauce is thickened. You don't need to us all the roux! Stop when it's just a little bit thinner than you desire. It will continue to thicken!

6. Add the chopped chicken fat and mix well with a hand whisk.

��WARNING! This is not a low calorie meal! It's thanksgiving. Let it go!��

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Everyone is a critic.

Being a chef is an amazing journey. It isn't always a fun journey and is often filled with days full of stress and tiresome duties. Many days it is filled with praise from your guests through smiles and rubbing of full bellies. Chefs live for this!

The worst feeling as a chef though is when you feel you have let a guest down. It used to be that you didn't hear about a complaint very often but with the increasing amount of "foodies" out there we are forced to hear them everyday.

Their is a four letter word in our business that strikes fear into the heart of every chef and restaurant professional I know. That four letter word is YELP. In fact every time I go to look at it that's exactly what I am going to do...YELP in pain! Yelp has provided a fairly uncensored format with a limited amount of rules to the public allowing them to become instant food critics holding people's careers in their hands as they click away on their smart phones. Go to for an example!

This week there was a scathing review of Guy Fieri's new restaurant in Times Square? "Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar". Pete Wells is the restaurant critic for the New York Times. His review said...

"Somewhere within the yawning, three-level interior of Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar, is there a long refrigerated tunnel that servers have to pass through to make sure that the French fries, already limp and oil-sogged, are also served cold?"

How Can You Not Want To Punch This Clown?
How Can You Not Want To Punch This Clown?

Mr. Wells rips every part of that place! Guy is probably my least favorite celebrity chef to date...Replacing Rachael Ray...and as a professional I don't feel sorry for him but I understand the frustration and pain it must bring. I have been ripped on yelp and its painful. It ruins your day every time.
We work hard to write menus and then plan them out. Prep lists are written, foods are prepped, cooks work hard. Then we hand our hard work off on a plate to a server who will probably make more than us that night and hope the guest enjoys what we served them. Then they head to yelp. Sometimes good and sometimes bad.

After a great review last week I was really stoked. The next day we were ripped...BY SOMEONE WHO HAS NEVER ATE AT OUR RESTAURANT! She complained we are too busy for her to get in. Everyone is a critic and everyone has something to say.

This got me thinking. God has worked hard. He created us, made plans for us, provided for us, nurtured us, and given us a free will to do as we wish. He gave us gifts and talents. He has provided us with a planet that provides all we need and brains to create things that are always progressing and becoming more unbelievable. I'm typing this on my iPad. Something that was only in futuristic movies of our past.

God has put so much work into us and provided so much for us. How do we respond? Everyone is a critic. Often when things go our way we praise him but when things get hard it often is our gut reaction to send out a yelp of "Why!?" towards the heavens and lose the ability to see that there is still a path and a plan.

Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

This was a lot of typing and a lot for you to read in order to get to this...When you have a hardship come your way are you quick to negatively" YELP" about God? The creator of our universe loves you with every ounce of who he is. I love every dish I put out but not the way He loves us. I can't imagine the sadness it must bring to him to receive our bad reviews of his recent work in our lives.

I hope this week when a good time comes along you are quick to give him a positive review and when a hard time arises you are quick to look for the path he just set before you and thank him for the growth you are about to experience.

I am also going to try and take my advice. Love you all.


I'm thirsty...I think I'll go lick my dresser.

About 2 years ago I spent several months as a "pescetarian". Now before you think I have flipped out and dropped my Christian roots and joined a cult to hand out “meat is murder” pamphlets and pose nude for Pita let me explain. (Sorry for the posing nude visual)

According to Wikipedia a Pescetarianism is the practice of a diet that includes seafood, and excludes other animals. In addition to fish and or shellfish, a pescetarian diet typically includes some or all vegetables, fruit, nuts, grains, beans, eggs and dairy. The Merriam-Webster dictionary dates the origin of the term "pescetarian" to 1993 and defines it to mean: "one whose diet includes fish but no meat".

As you may remember if you read my blog then I was on a one year journey to better health. I wouldn't say I failed but I wouldn't say I did what I set out to do either. Phase one I dropped all red meat, pork, energy drinks and soda. Phase two I dropped poultry, phase three dropped all meat and went vegetarian, and phase four I stuck to my vegetarian phase and whenever possible make it all organic. During all of that time I was adding certain vitamins and supplements to my daily regime.

At the start of the final phase I was offered my job at Lucille's and as you can imagine I was once again inundated with meat of all kinds.

So as I found a desire to start blogging again and I wanted to revisit some of the most significant results and start my blog again there. This probably will be my longest post but please read the whole thing…I did a lot of studying for it.

1. I felt much better without all the energy drinks and soda! That is the biggest difference. This was also the hardest to drop. I notice my joints feel so much better. The truth is that my joints are a mess from years of abuse, but they are better than they were. I am looking forward to seeing them continue to feel better as I lose some weight. I am convinced the weight loss will be more apparent on phase two. If you pay attention to the news at all the soda and energy drink companies have been taking a beating the last few weeks…as they should! A new study suggested that people drinking diet soda regularly may raise the risk of stroke by 61 percent. Researchers at the University Of Miami Miller School Of Medicine studied soda habits of 2,564 people for more than 9 years to see if there was an association with stroke.The subjects, who were 69 years of age on average, completed food questionnaires about the type of soda they drank and how often. Results showed that those who drank diet soda daily compared to those who drank no soda were 61 percent more likely to have a vascular event.

The study goes on to say that the numbers are nearly the same for heart attacks as they are for strokes. This is shocking and alarming to me! I was up to nearly a 6 pack a day! I think that almost everyone I know drinks more soda than they realize. Here’s the kicker…it’s not the soda that is killing us. It is the ASPERTAME. I know we have heard this for years, but I am now a believer from the affects I have noticed on my own body through this experiment. Here is the science behind it…it’s worth reading I promise.

When you drink a diet soda, your body breaks down the aspartame into aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol, one molecule of each.aspartic acid is harmless; it’s broken down into alanine, an amino acid, and oxaloacetate, an organic compound. Phenylalanine is an allergen to some people. It is broken down into mostly tyrosine, an amino acid, and to a lesser extent into phenylethylamine, an alkaloid, and phenylpyruvate.


Methanol (wood alcohol) is broken down into formic acid (the toxin in ant bites) and formaldehyde which is a carcinogen. Each diet soda with aspartame produces about 20 mg of methanol. The methanol breaks down further into 6 mg of formaldehyde which is three times the daily EPA limit. I believe we are killing our self with artificial sweeteners when God built sugar by his design and made it just for us to use. Besides, who has ever been bitten by an ant and said…Hmmm, I bet that ant venom tastes great!Some would argue that sugar is also bad for us and I would agree to a certain extent.

I would agree that ANYTHING is bad for us when we do not use moderation and self control. My wife is reading a book titled “Reshaping It All” by Candace Cameron Bure. Yes…DJ from full house and sister to Kirk Cameron. I laughed at first and thought this was a book by another over privileged actress and wife of a super star athlete. She is married to NHL star Valeri Bure. I assumed it was ghost written and would just be another lame self help book. I was wrong. Ill even go as far to say I was very wrong. Moms go get it and read it! I see the change it is having on our home. It isn’t just about weight, it speaks of self control we all need in the home as well.

In it she speaks of her weight struggles and points out that food had become a sin issue for her. She didn’t have self control. When my wife described how Candace worded it in the book a light went off in both of our heads. If the fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, then maybe it is the self control part I have an issue with. Please do not take this as a direct quote from her book, I am paraphrasing. However…It makes total sense. I am not going to poison my body with a diet soda and drink something God didn’t design for it when I could have a regular drink sweetened with the product he made for me! Then I will show self control in the amount I consume.

A while back I took Kayce to lunch at Firenze Osteria in L.A.. It is owned and operated by Chef Fabio Viviani of the TV show Top Chef. He was providing lunch while discussing food issues and showing the crowd how to make fresh pasta and gnocchi. His point of view was refreshing to me. To see another chef adopting the idea that we do not need these chemicals in our food is comforting. Friends, processed food while delicious at times and easy is killing us. When you see red heart shaped chicken nuggets in the grocery store and we feed them to our kids on Valentine ’s Day for a fun little treat…do you know what you’re REALLY feeding them? This was his analogy:

“Lemonade in our stores is made with lemon flavored chemicals & our furniture cleaner boasts of how it is made with real lemons. It might be healthier to just go home & lick my dresser!”

- Chef Fabio Viviani

Fabio I couldn’t have said it better. The point he was making about pasta being unhealthy to some people. He stated pasta is simple, its Flour, Eggs, Olive Oil, Salt, and Pepper. Can those things be bad for you? Yep. Eat them applying the self control I mentioned above though and they are fine. More often than not we have an issue in our health because we abused it at one point. You cant have salt due to a blood pressure problem? Well what did you (me) do in order to get ones self to the point of a problem? See what I am saying? We only have one life and one body. You need to fuel it correctly. Food allergies are on the rise (gluten especially) because of what we have done to our surroundings, environment and diet. If not why didn’t our grandparents and great grandparents have the gluten issues of today? So soda, I quit you, and Aspartame, I got my eye on you. Now for part 2, it will be shorter I promise.

2. I didn’t lose weight on phase one. I surely thought I would lose weight cutting out burgers and bacon. Not a single steak or pork chop during the first 90 days! How is it that I cut out red meat, soda, sugar filled energy drinks, and pork and didn’t lose weight? Even more frustrating? How did I GAIN 4 pounds?! Simple…

My name is Cameron and I am an addict.

I don’t say this lightly, I know addiction is not a joking matter. I have seen in it many people’s lives that when they are smoker, an alcoholic, or a drug addict that they replace the thing they got rid of with another. It is a self prescribed replacement therapy and it is just as bad for you as what you were trying to quit. Even some people who have gastric bypass surgey replace their food addiction with drugs, alchohol, or sex addictions. Read the studies! The numbers are staggering. Alchohol, food and sex are a natural and wonderful part of life but with out the self control I continue to mention they can all ruin your life.

I as a sinner was not showing the restraint I needed in order to have good self control. I have come to the realization that my passion for food can be a tool for my career for sure, but misdirected and handled incorrectly it is a wedge between God and I. It is a drug that makes me a weak, fat, slow glutton unable to show that fruit of the spirit named self control. The scale and your belt don’t lie.

When you drop soda and don’t replace it with water and tea you have a problem. I drank a lot of iced tea! However, I did notice I had more beer. It was that craving for the crisp bubbly feeling soda gives and that is worse for you in a caloric sense. I also ate a lot more chicken. People no matter how hard to try to make your case, Chick Fil A and Fried chicken are not a good replacement for the things I dropped. “But a Chick Fil A sandwich is under 10 points on weight watchers!” Who cares, I know you had fries and sweet tea with it! I found myself cooking better but I also found myself cooking RICHER. I am also a restaurant chef. I am used to cooking for large amounts of people at a time. So I would always have left over’s.

3. My third and final observation is this. The better we look the better we feel. The better we feel usually the better our moods. The better our moods the better our relationships, and the better our relationships the better our lives in general are. I once heard that as a man that is in a marriage grows closer to God he grows as a leader to his wife and children. As a woman that is in a marriage grows closer to God she grows as a supporter and nurturer to her husband and children. The closer they both grow to God the closer they grow to each other. Picture a triangle and you are at the bottom of one end and your spouse at the other. You’re still connected but the closer you get to God whom is at the top of the pyramid the closer you grow to one another.

Healthier life, healthier marriage, healthier family and longer life expectancy when you drop all the chemicals. I do believe I am on to something here.

I by NO means expect anyone to take this and implement it into their lives. I also pass no judgment on those whom don’t! Call me up! Let’s go hit a Five Guys Burgers & Fries, or a Fuddruckers! (I eat at my restaurant far too often) I’ll be happy to find whatever is on the menu I can eat in moderation and realize the real gift is time spent with a friend. Love you all. Have a great day. Can’t wait to hear what you have to say in response.

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