When you are selling franchises, what you really have to sell more than anything is the system for replicating business success. When you are talking about a bakery business, clearly a large part of this is how to bake phenomenal bread and sweets and how to prep and assemble the ingredients for the absolute best sandwiches in the marketplace.
There is a quite a bit of science involved in creating our products, but there is also art as well – a tougher thing for beginning bakers or cooks to grasp. For new bakery owners, the goal is not only to follow a recipe and produce a phenomenal product. The real prize is being able to teach someone else (their employees in their own bakery) how to make that recipe proficiently and then have the skill level and intuitiveness to trouble shoot problems, identify errors, and ultimately be able to easily switch gears and add new products seamlessly based on the original skill set.
After my last posting about flavor combinations and the freedom gained from being able to start thinking in terms of common flavors – and even more importantly successful contrasts - I realized just how much it had in common with how I teach a new bakery owner during their training weeks prior to opening up a new Great Harvest location or purchasing an existing one. I heard from several people who read the last posting that this is truly the hardest thing about throwing dinner together when they get home from work – this improvisation.
Like a musician that can go from reading sheet music to an impromptu jam session, cooking (and baking!) should be about having fun with flavors and seasonal ingredients without having to think about it. That is when the fun truly begins and the speed necessary to be really efficient happens.
If you learn the best way to grill a steak to a perfectly seared crust and a rosy medium rare every time no matter the thickness of the piece of meat, the spices you rub on the outside are almost inconsequential. The sky’s the limit when it comes to spices and flavors. The same could be said about baking a perfect muffin, scone, cookie, or loaf of bread. Once we teach the fundamentals, our owners are armed with the ability to improvise and play as they see fit with a myriad of different recipes based on key techniques.
As we head into the heart of summer and what I like to call “produce season” I am thinking about what flavor combinations and ingredients folks should be focusing on and here are my thoughts on how to improvise some real food jazz. And cook outside – it always tastes better.
- Everyone knows summer is peak time for tomatoes and they definitely pair well with things like fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, mozzarella and olive oil. But my “it ingredients” with fresh ripe tomatoes: tarragon, mint, pecorino cheese, finely grated lemon zest (buy that Microplane this year!), anchovies, and truffle salt
- Grilling fruit probably sounds like a bit of a strange idea, but lightly rubbing halved peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots and even whole large strawberries with a touch of olive oil, kosher salt, and black pepper and grilling until lightly charred is a complete transformation. Equally comfortable in sweet or savory applications after grilling, try any of the above grilled fruit alongside sliced grilled meats such as flank, skirt, hanger, or sirloin flap, featured as part of a salad with fresh goat cheese, torn basil leaves and a drizzle of balsamic or served warm with vanilla ice cream after a summer barbecue.
- I know grilled salad probably sounds just as bizarre to some as the above grilled fruit, but if you have never taken a halved head of romaine or escarole and slathered it with a mixture of olive oil, lemon zest and juice, crushed red pepper and kosher salt and grilled over high heat until charred but only slightly wilted you are totally missing out. I place them on a platter and shave pecorino, ricotta salata, or parmagianno right over the top and it is summer on a plate. Shoot – add some sliced ripe tomatoes from the garden or farmers market and scatter a few good olives around the plate and take it to the next level.
I love summer – the cooking possibilities are truly endless if you just think slightly out of the box and let your inner chef fire up the culinary jazz and improvise. Don’t forget that every summer barbecue needs some savory Great Harvest bread on the grill. My current favorites for this: Spinach Feta and Bacon Cheddar beer.
What are some of your favorite summer meals?