Guestiquette: Some Do’s and Don’t for diners out.

I was working at Gramercy Tavern in NYC, when my mother came up for a visit. There was a Puerto Rican restaurant about 10 blocks from where my brother and I lived. We went for lunch one day before I went to work. Now, there’s two things I really love, Alcapurrias and Pasteles. They had a plate with two of each, but they didn’t have a plate with just one of each, which was how I wanted to order. When I asked if I could order one of each, the server responded in a way I will never forget. “Yes, we will do it for you, but it will slightly ruin the rhythm of the kitchen.” I knew the rules, and here I was now the one causing the problem. I had not thought of “rhythm” before. I have not forgotten it since. – Chef Hal

When it comes to dining out, manners aren’t just knowing how to choose the right utensil or how to show up on time. Good and proper behavior at a restaurant or eatery can come in many shapes and forms. Knowing the do’s and don’ts, or let’s say protocols, can not only determine one’s quality of life in many ways but can also affect the outcome of your restaurant experience as well. Learning how to act and respond in various situations whatever and wherever they may be is key. Sadly, many times, we haven’t been properly informed, or trained, and the results can be unfortunate. The same can be said for securing a positive and pleasurable dining experience.

Here at Lockeland, we have a desire to not only provide our guests with great food but to insure a memorable evening, as well. In order for that to happen, it requires a mutual understanding of what is to be, and should be, expected of both parties involved. As odd as this may sound, it’s not a one way street. Many times, a guest may not realize what this reality truly entails. That’s another reason why we enjoy working to educate those who come to Lockeland. It just makes for a better overall experience.

“Hey waitress, we’re ready to order!”
First of all, the correct term these days is actually “Servers.” In life we call people by their names. A good server will offer you their name, and that is how you should refer to them the rest of your stay.

dining_areaThen, there’s ordering.
First and foremost if you have an allergy— start there. Before you look at the menu, let your server know of any issues. We can easily accommodate you. Our servers are knowledgeable on these subjects and they deal with them daily. Just let them know. They can help guide in making your experience in what you want it to be.

We recently had a guest who ordered a side dish that came topped with cornbread crumbs. We had not been informed they were gluten intolerant. Had we known at the beginning, we could have quickly adjusted by leaving the cornbread crumbs off as the rest of the dish was gluten free. Unfortunately, when the plate arrived at the table, it was soon returned to the kitchen. This causes a major domino effect that many are not aware of. Small things that come down the pipeline involve a larger number of people than you might imagine.

First domino: The Guests.
Those dining with you at your table are now involved in the situation. You are now affecting their experience as well. Either they will be polite and wait on you while their food gets cold, or they just start eating in front of you. It’s awkward all around.

Second: The Restaurant (the server, the kitchen, and the business)
The server is now distracted. They have a situation on their hands and can’t focus properly on their other guests. Next, this is where the flow and the rhythm of the kitchen has been disrupted. The kitchen was finished with that table and has moved on to the next orders. But now, they have to go back and the cook has to stop what he was doing. Whether we can do that same dish using the same product or using new has to be decided. He too has to figure how to get it back to the table as quickly as possible. This is now the top priority in the kitchen taking away attention from the other paying guests. This causes tension in the kitchen. We were all in a good mood, and working like a smooth machine, and now this. Sure we have to all be in control of our own emotions, however, all of this could have all been prevented had we only been made aware of the situation in the beginning. People may forget, the business too is now affected. We now have to cook something twice and it will be paid for only once. When this happens, we only break even on our efforts. No profit. If everyone that walked into our restaurant did this, we’d be out of business. Basically, people simply don’t understand the cause and affect of these situation. What may seem like a quick fix to the guest has now thrown the entire chain out of alignment.

Third: The Return
There’s a proper way to send things back. It’s all in how you ask. How you present it. If I made a mistake, I would apologize and tell the server to let the kitchen know what has happened and that I am happy to pay for the change. I wouldn’t expect it, but I would offer it.

Now, as much as we’d like to create a menu that meets everyone’s dietary needs, that’s just not realistic or logistically possible. That doesn’t mean we won’t work with a guest, but we need to know in advance, not after the food has reached the table.

forkCould we just add one more?
Unlike chain restaurants, we are limited on seating. It’s very strategic. Cara can work some amazing magic, but there are just some things that can’t be worked out. Our restaurant seats a set number of guests. There are configurations of tables, 2s, 4s, 6s, 8s. We had one party that went from 10 – 13 suddenly. We were able to make it work on a dime, but there may be times, due to being booked solid, we might have had to turn them away. We work hard to fit people in, and if you have patience, Cara or our hostess will find a way to make it work.

Then, there is the timing involved. We don’t want to rush those guests and we don’t know how long they will stay.

And too, we don’t want to give a server over 16 guests at a time. The quality will suffer after that number. Every nook and cranny is accounted. It’s hard for a walk-in or a person making a last minute add on request to process or understand this. Many times kids aren’t included in the number. Babies are people too, and they require space as well. We do have a certain number of high chairs. Just be sure to let us know.

“Hi, we’re running late.”
If your reservation is for 6pm and you call at 6:05 and let us know you’re late…we know that. At that point, let the games begin. Enough said.

We’re currently working on a Lockeland Table book that will include this etiquette idea in one of our sections. It too will focus on ordering and behavior in a restaurant. Cara is also working on this concept for a book that will be titled Guestiquette. That should be a fun project for us to sink our teeth into as well. Pun intended.

Fashion Forward

deviledeggsTrends come and go…look at clothing or car styles to know that fact. But what most people don’t think about is that when it comes to the culinary world, Chefs have to keep on top of what’s in and what’s not—just like a fashion designer.

While I was at the Second Harvest Food Bank dinner this month, I was talking with several other chefs. I was asking them, “When did using only 20% of the plate happen?” ​As you can see, t​here are trends in plating just like there are in any other aspect of tastes and change.

Plating, or designing the dish prior to its presentation or serving, is truly a form of art. I don’t think it’s about portion control when you see ​those ​minimized serving sizes. If you research artwork​,​ I am sure you’ll find some “off-balance” styles. The point of view of the artist allows ​them​ to do as ​they​ please. The beauty of art is that not everyone is going to get it, or like it. The person taking in the art will always have their own opinions on what they’re observing. And that’s okay.

No chef is the same. That’s why it’s fun to eat at everyone else’s restaurant. Th​ose experiences allow you​ ​to ​pick your favorites, of course. But that’s the great thing about food. ​Take Collard greens​, for example​. I’ve never eaten the same batch of collard greens twice. Everywhere I go that offers th​em​​ I order them because I am excited to see what’s different, or how th​at particular Chef​ cook​s​ theirs.

If you have ever noticed what we refer to as a “spoon drag” on the plate, it too, is a trend. I had a young chef assisting me​ awhile back​ and he did some amazing spoon drags. He had it down to a definite technique with a perfect flick of his wrist. He was like a machine.

platingA Chef will always have a tendency to default to how they were taught. At the Greenbrier Hotel & Resort, where I trained, we did most savory dishes ​in a ​high and tight​ style. We had to build and design the plate in equal quadrants. Each ​quarter​ had to be balanced. Even the buffet platters—if I had only used one third of the plate back then, I would have been ridiculed even by my classmates.

dessertAs time moves on and things change, I imagine chefs will continue to use new styles ​that incorporate old-school techniques. Spoon drags are good.​ I am definitely not a dot guy. You know, when you see all of those dot designs on a plate. Now, in the dessert course, I do like dots. If you have a whipped cream element to the dish, and you place three hits of the cream, that’s cool. But I don’t like using them in savory courses. I can find some things acceptable on sweet courses that I wouldn’t on a savory. Desserts are probably the most feminine dish of the night and can afford to be presented in more of a delicate fashion.

Food is definitely masculine and feminine. A fish dish should be gentle and nicely put together. Whereas a steak dish is going to be a bit more rough/rustic and have some masculinity to it.

​Anyways, that night of the dinner, after we submitted our courses to the Second Harvest Food Bank, they asked us about plateware. The event had decided on using all different sized square plates. At Lockeland Table, we’ve never owned a square plate. My reason for this is a sexy pun, basically, ​”Curves are always better than corners.​”​

All in all, trends come and go, and are constantly evolving, but I don’t plan to be driven by them. I keep an eye on them, and respect them, but at Lockeland Table we have the final say of what trends and styles we want to pay attention to. I guess you could say we’re “fashion-forward”! We like to cook and prepare food the way it makes sense to us. That’s how we’ve created the Lockeland culture.

Spring Has Sprung

…But you won’t find all of the current season’s bounty in my kitchen.

springingredientsMy favorite thing about Spring is how everything pops. We get busier. You can feel it. Whereas we’ve all been layering up and hunkering down, people are now coming out of their houses and beginning to wear less and lighter clothing. It stays lighter longer due to the time change. The patio opens up for our guests. Energy and attitudes change. Even spirits change. It’s almost like the rebirth of the soul. The ingredients start to change and the menu lightens up. Produce is becoming more plentiful and Mother nature begins dictating what we should be doing and when.

We’re in the thick of the Spring menu during April and the heavier foods are coming off. For example, the Shepherd’s pie has gone away. We’re all ready for our strawberry shortcake and for peaches which will begin arriving soon. As for other menu items, it means lamb, peas with grilled red onions and mint, mushrooms, ramps, fava beans…

I’ve been cooking long enough to know ramps are one of the first things we see when Spring hits. Then come the English Peas, the strawberries, and the peaches. We then start to see the tomatoes, the zucchini squashes and the peppers. Heirloom tomatoes from Mexico are appearing. But some people are getting a little too happy jack, if you ask me. I understand people are excited, but in the Nashville area, things just aren’t really hitting just yet. We’re close. I personally would rather wait than ship things in. Overall, I am committed to local and community sustainability.

I get that it’s about seasonal usage and that it’s spring. I get the earth, food, table thing. But just because something is offered or available however, doesn’t mean a chef has to use it.

The farmers are now calling me saying, “Hey, here’s what’s going on…” and so I go out for a visit. I was out at White Squirrel Farms this past week. We looked at the seedlings in the hothouse and went out to the garden. We saw what was about to go into the earth once all of this rain stops. We communicate about 2-3 times a week now, but in summer that will jump to about 4-6 times a week as things become more plentiful. Knowledge on the seasons is a constant study and conversation. It’s these kinds of outings, text messages, phone calls, emails

These types of connections, getting on and monitoring social media 2-3 times a day, talking with other chefs, this is what helps me keep up on what’s available, what’s going on, and what’s coming next in our local area, our region, the country, and the world for that matter.

springdish_1Take soft-shelled crabs for instance. I saw something about them awhile back and that’s when I began thinking about them—as I knew they were coming our way soon. So, I began planning. When our shipment from St. Helena Island in South Carolina arrived, I was ready for them. Soft-shell crabs are cool. They are a blue crab species. When the weather warms, they shed their shells and grow. As the weather warms different places in the world at different times, that determines when and where you may receive that particular item.

When something hits the first week, it’s usually a bit expensive and the big-time chefs are the first to jump. If you want a part of the first batch, that’s great, but I usually like to wait to week two and then get them. That way, I can get a better price, which in turn means I can offer my guests a better price. I struggle with asking for too much money in regards to food, even if that is truly the price I need to be asking. There really is a formula behind it all.

As you can see, I don’t exactly embrace everything that is available. I’m not interested in using certain ingredients to simply be cool. I want to work with and serve fresh quality ingredients which result in great food. Fiddlehead ferns, spicy nettles…I’m not interested in all of Spring’s bounty just because it’s here. I don’t mean to be close minded, but I do think that there are some things that are not within me as far as caring for them, or for the taste of them. I enjoy cooking for people the way I like to eat myself. I choose not to force something on my guests just because it’s “hip ” or what other chefs are doing. One of the beautiful things about chefs is that they are all so different. That’s why we can go to a variety of places and have wonderful experiences.

Basically, I guess what I am saying is this, there’s just not a place in my kitchen for everything Spring has to offer. But what we do prepare for you, I know you’ll enjoy. Come see us.

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The Road to Beard House

“Football players want to go to the Super Bowl, Chefs want to go to the Beard House.” -Chef Hal

beardhouseIf you’re a chef, cooking at the Beard House is something that should naturally be on the agenda of your professional life. Chefs are invited to “perform” there. Once there, you present either a lunch, brunch, workshop, or a dinner to James Beard Foundation members and the public.

When you’re invited, you provide everything…staff, food, travel…it’s expensive. The House provides the waiters and the dishwashers. From an exposure standpoint, you’re sharing yourself with other people who have the same values within the industry. The house only seats about 74, so it’s a very limited and exceptional experience. People that are into this world would rather go there for a date night than a restaurant.

Most people know of Julia Childs, but if you like good food and enjoy dining, you’ll want to be familiar with the name James Beard. He was a man who dedicated much of his life to the art and science of culinary production and even the New York Times dubbed him “Dean of American cookery”. He nurtured a generation of American chefs and cookbook authors who’ve changed the way we eat.

He wrote several books and even appeared in his own segment on television’s first cooking show on NBC in 1946. He wrote articles for Woman’s Day, Gourmet, and House & Garden. He was a consultant to restaurateurs as well as food producers, and ran his own restaurant on Nantucket.

He established the James Beard Cooking School in 1955 and then his personal home, located in New York City’s Greenwich Village, became a center for cooking and training. The mission of the Beard House today is to celebrate, preserve, and nurture America’s culinary heritage. The best chefs in the country cook in that kitchen. The energy that must live within the walls of that building…I can’t even imagine. The minds that have passed through it, the excellence that has been executed…it’s a sacred ground for chefs for sure.

Nashville isn’t a stranger to Beard House. Good f​riends in town have gone and participated. ​Just recently, Patrick Martin (Martin’s Bar-B-Que), Carey Bringle (Peg Leg Porker) Tandy Wilson, (City House), Brandon Frohne (Mason’s).​​ ​Lockeland Table was fortunate enough to be nominated for the coveted James Beard Best New Restaurant award​ ​back in 2013.​

Last November we participated in the local inaugural Beards for Beard event at Green Door Gourmet where the Whole Hog Roast proceeds went to the local James Beard scholarship fund where​ future culinaries can apply.

dudeChefs are invited to cook at the Beard House by the director of house programming—and it’s a process. Talented, independent restaurant chefs seek this…and should. Chefs, members, staff, volunteer program committee members, or other interested parties can recommend a chef to cook there. The criteria they use for selections includes things like national or regional reputation, the restaurant’s known use of high quality, seasonal, and/or local ingredients, demonstrated excellence in a particular discipline (regional, ethnic, pastry…), a desire on the part of the chef and restaurant, and even the submission of a complete event proposal, including menu and wines. It’s intense.

Apparently, final selections are based on your proposed event menu and wine list, consideration of calendar and events, holiday or theme that appropriately match certain chefs, historical trends, professional expertise and a bunch of other things.

The people making those decisions are some pretty heavy hitters, like food and wine professionals and gastronomic enthusiasts who represent the Foundation on a volunteer basis. They meet monthly and suggest the various chefs.

I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I want to cook there. And soon. Keep an eye on our social media for when we land a spot. When we do, you’re all invited!

Chef Hal’s Private Dinner Experience Sells for $35,000

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Feb. 25, 2015)— On February 7, 2015, the Nashville Wine Auction held a private vintner dinner to raise funds for a local cancer related non-profit organization. Hal M. Holden-Bache, executive chef and owner of Lockeland Table, donated an in-home dinner package to the action, including a custom menu for 14 guests. The organization was thrilled to announce the top bidder, bringing in $35,000 for the charity!
With each seat for this dinner costing $3,000, Chef Hal wanted to ensure each person got their money’s worth. His effort was reflected in the custom menu being paired perfectly with unique wine selections.
Nashville Wine Auction is a non-profit organization which exists solely to raise funds to support the fight against cancer. The Nashville Wine Auction engages local and global communities to produce wine related events that raise money to fight cancer.

Other news from Lockeland Table:
Chef Hal participated in his 13th Soup Sunday on February 22, 2015. Lockeland Table has participated in this event every year since their opening.

This year Chef Hal created a Blueberry Pie soup with fresh local blueberries he canned this summer. The blueberries were paired with a dollop of whipped Mascarpone cream and topped with a coin-sized pastry round. The combined elements resembled the taste of blueberry pie.

Also, Chef Hal’s Grilled Hereford NY Strip with Chimichurri made this year’s Thrillist of the eleven best dishes in Nashville. This is the dish he prepared in the finals of the World Chef Challenge competition at last year’s World Food Championships in Las Vegas.

Chef Hal is an award winning executive chef and owner of Lockeland Table in Nashville, Tennessee. Lockeland Table community kitchen and bar is nestled into the historic neighborhood of it’s namesake in East Nashville. Woven into it’s very fabric are elements of the community, history and camaraderie that make up it’s charm.

News from Lockeland Table: For more information contact Stephanie Huffman (615) 491-3653

Lockeland Table is for Lovers

champagne_smallThis month, co-owner Cara Graham brings the LT Blog. She gives readers a behind the scenes look at Valentine’s Day taking a look at: what it takes for the restaurant to help make your night great, three tips to help you make it your best experience yet and the one thing you need to do as soon as you finish reading this blog!

Valentine’s is a very festive time for a restaurant. It’s one of those nights of the year when servers have a bit more spirit to them. They dress differently, just like they do on New Year’s Eve. They put on some sparkles and such. The feel of the restaurant is more like a Hallmark Holiday. It’s special. You can feel the difference in the air.

The pace is different on that night as well. When the kitchen and the front of the house find their timing everything falls together into a nice rhythm. They know what to prepare for, and it gives the entire restaurant a different feel. When those doors open, they’re ready. It’s not one of those nights where you have walk-ins or just random situations. It’s very organized and very planned. We have fewer curve balls thrown our way.

The menu is limited on Valentine’s. That’s the only way you can produce that amount of food for that amount of people in that short amount of time. For those of you who may not know, we offer five courses that are specially designed just for Valentines. We start you off with champagne and lobster popcorn.

When it comes to Valentine’s Day, there are some key ingredients to assure the guest has a great night. One of them is organization. For example, a casual diner may not be aware that on this one particular night, you have to literally reconfigure the restaurant to fit just tables for two. No groups. In the food industry we refer to these as two tops (tables that seat only two).

This means that it changes the whole dynamic of the entire restaurant. Whereas on a normal night I am working around tables for 4 and 6, now I have to redesign the tables and chairs to fit tables for two only.

bouquetAnother ingredient is timing. On an average night 2 tops are given about 1.5 hours for a turn (which means the length of time the diners are at the table). Four-tops get about two hours, six-tops usually 2.5 hours. 90% of the time that is about dead on. But on a night like Valentine’s Day, you have to allow more time.

It’s funny. In preparing for this blog, I actually asked random people, “Give me your first thoughts about Valentine’s Day.” The majority of the responses were, “It’s Amateur night.” What that means to industry folks is this: that is the night when the rest of the world comes out to dine—basically, those who only go out to eat at a fine restaurant about twice a year. We are happy that they have trusted and chosen us with their hard earned money. They can also be assured that we don’t take this lightly. We will ensure they have an amazing night.

So whether you’re a professional diner or feeling a bit like an amateur, no worries. Here are three tips to ensure you have a great Valentine’s experience:

Cara’s Top Three!

1. Be Nice.
The first person you are going to encounter is the one who answers the phone at the restaurant you call. When you make your reservation be nice…that is the first step into your night. Whether you know it or not, you are setting the tone for your entire evening. Remember: You will see them again. Your interaction with them sets the whole tone for your upcoming night.

2. Be Calm.
Chill out—as best as you can. People get very uptight and expectations are high on Valentine’s. Sad, but true. What you need to hear is this: there really aren’t a lot of fumbles on that night. So, spare yourself the stress. Don’t set expectations so high, enjoy the moment that you’re in, and relax. Our job is to take excellent care of you.

3. Be Aware.
One thing you need to know—Everyone else on the entire planet wants to come to dinner at 7:30 pm. Unless you call 2-3 months in advance, chances are slim to none that you’re going to get that precious time slot. Believe it or not, people that call me during Christmas are the ones that get that spot. And it fills up fast! (Hey, if you’re smart, mark your calendar next Christmas for your Valentine’s Date. Even if you don’t have a Valentine yet, be prepared.) To be honest, this situation is true for every Friday night and Saturday, but we really want to focus on Valentine’s at this time.

If you’re still reading this and you don’t yet have a reservation, stop what you’re doing, pick up the phone now and make them. People actually walk into a restaurant on Valentine’s without a reservation. Don’t let this be you…


Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers…

I grew up canning with my mother. We always had a small garden. Perhaps an 1/8th of an acre—peppers, tomatoes and herbs. Never corn or anything like that. We pickled peppers and canned them. She’d make salsa and can that too. She’s always been into jellies as well.

When I was growing up, we used to go to local farms. During strawberry season you could go and buy them or pick them yourself. Which is obviously cheaper, as the person picking is doing the manual labor of the picking. It’s easier when you’re shorter. You’re closer to the ground. My mom always took me and my brothers or some friends and we’d go and pick them ourselves. We didn’t think of it as work. It was fun. An activity. We’d pick, then go get ice cream and go swimming. In middle class homes growing up, people were also thinking financially. When we finally got the berries home, Mom would then make the jelly. The real reward wasn’t the berries or the jelly, it was the strawberry shortcake. Mom would always make the warm biscuits and the whipped cream. And that was the treat. As a kid, you don’t care about the jams and jellies or the processing of them.

Cara is not new to canning either. Her Aunt Tootsie always made blackberry preserves and would “put back” corn in the summer. She made Cara and the girls shuck it. “Putting back corn” is not canning. It’s actually a process where you remove the corn kernels from the cob, and freeze them.

Why does LT have canned goods?
We never began canning in order to sell. It’s something I wanted to get good at it. Though I’ve been doing it for years, I really got involved with it at the restaurant, even before we opened Lockeland Table. The reason is, you want to preserve things when they are in season in order to prepare for the time when they aren’t. As I look around at the canned goods on the shelves, I realize, this is the time of year to get these opened up and stop looking at them.

When I began trying to can by myself, I was a bit nervous. I made mistakes as my mother wasn’t there to lead the process. When I started on my own, I would make the product, cool it, then can it the following day. I called my mom to try and figure out what I was doing wrong. She explained that you have to put the hot product into the jar. What seals it is the temperature of the product vs. the temperature of the bath. That is what creates the vacuum. When you’re canning and the bubbles coming up, it’s that little bit of air between the product and the lid somehow that is being pushed out that creates the vacuum. That’s what seals the product and keeps it safe. It was my friend Farmer Kevin (an East Nashvillian who has a farm) that first said to me: Canning doesn’t care if the power goes out…freezing does.

Take our pickled ramps for instance. Ramps are a wild onion, very indigenous to West Virginia. I feel privileged to be familiar with them as I grew up in that wild wonderful state. We had ramp festivals. Cooking with ramps was just something you did. We’d spend three to five days cleaning and preserving them. You have to work hard to enjoy the fruits of your labor. What is the saying? “Preserve or die.”

Ramps are like the Poke of the south. Back in the day, Pokeweed was wild green similar to a collard and turnip. It was what poor people would forage for as it grew wild and was available to them. They’d cook it was what was available as well. Water and salt may have been all they had. But it worked. That was the beautiful thing about Poke. It would go well with their hamhock, or country ham, or bacon. Ramps are the same.

Now ramps have become one of those “cool-kid” products that famous chefs pay $28 a pound for when they first come available each year. These guys have the institutions that can afford those ridiculous prices as ramps have a mere four-week window, in early spring. We used them on our New Year’s Eve menu.

Ramps remind me of firewood. You cut it in the summer to have it for the winter. Same with canning. You’re always thinking ahead to survive. I think we missed a lot of that in the last generation. We have Kroger on every corner these days, which makes this way of life not as necessary. An article that I did in the Local Table five years ago talked about this subject.

Today, it’s important to me as a father to teach my son these things. I want him growing up knowing how to can, harvest a garden and gut a fish. I’d even like to get him into hunting a bit. Things that were special to us and that we experienced or learned in our childhood, as we become adults they become the standard and the ethics that we decide to pass down, or not, to the next generation. I’m interested in and excited about passing on these traditions. It’s all about education.

In culinary school we never visited a farm. I remember when it was the day to learn to roast a chicken. No one asked where the meat came from. We were talking about methods. Thinking time and temperature, and procedures. Nobody cared. I think as a society we’re returning to caring about the origin and source of our food again.

At Lockeland Table, we’re blessed to be a part of this movement and certainly hope this is more than a trend. We hope that we continue moving in this direction as a culture and as a society too. A way of life if you will. Grandma always preserved. Even meats. And whereas our grandparents had to grow a garden, today it’s a choice.

When it comes to the topics of canning, supporting local and regional farms, we have to commit to teaching the next generation. And, too it’s about educating our guests. Part of job as an independent restaurant is to educate the diner. They’ll ask, “Why don’t you do this or that?” and we have to explain our reasoning and methods. If it doesn’t make sense to them, we have to accept that. But it makes sense to us. We are the ones that create the standards at LT. We don’t mean to be rude in any way, but the thing about standards is this, they’re worthless unless you maintain them. Once you create a standard, you then have to live by it.

As a family, we strive to buy our vegetables seasonally and locally. In the summer we buy them from a tent-stand at a farm and there’s always the farmer’s market, too. We take our son. He sees where the food is coming from.

It’s important for us to pass these traditions and values down to him. That’s ultimately the way we’re going to live from here on out—what we have taught and left behind.
That’s why you’ll see shelves lined with home canned goods when you come into Lockeland. It’s part of our culture, it’s part of the new way the world is moving, and we’re pleased to be a part.

Chef Hal
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Holidays with the Lockeland Table Family

ChefFamBlogLT Christmas Tradition: We adopt a family every year. This year we have a family of six. Cara makes a list of what each person needs and hangs it in the kitchen. The staff chooses what they want and circles or initials the items they will purchase. The staff gets excited about that. We’re also going to buy the children a gift card.

The holidays are alive and well—the season where businesses make money. And while that’s true, it’s more than that to us here at Lockeland Table. Sure, the holidays are all about food, but one of the things we understand is that it’s also about family. The time of year to build relationships. That’s why we’re closed on the holidays.

Depending on how Christmas falls, we close more than that day. Our first year it fell on a Tuesday or Wednesday…so we were closed Sun-Wed…if it falls that way, we do close a bit more. It’s family time! That’s the Lockeland way.

Most restaurants (Independents) close on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Hotels have no choice. They have to be open. Could we make money, yes. But we choose to be closed.

I’ve worked on holidays. The hotel I trained at was open and I remember working Thanksgiving. That was a very busy day. Cara recalls a chef at the Hermitage Hotel mentioning the amount of mashed potatoes needed to get through the day could fill a hot tub.

We served family style where I worked. It was quite a process. If it was a table of 4, 6 or 8 we’d determine the exact amount of each sides for that table. We had to plan too, if they would want leftovers. It makes me exhausted just thinking about it. At the end of the day, however, even if we worked on that holiday, we sat down and ate together as a staff.

Personally speaking…
ColeChefBlogWe got the tree up last night. We made some cookies and had some fun.

Cole liked all the different colors and shapes of all the ornaments. He struggled with getting them out of the plastic holders. He’d look at me and say, “Help, daddy, help. Help, Daddy.” He’s at the point where he’ll be more involved in this Christmas than before.

Cara has a routine too. On a Sunday, they all go and pick out the tree together. She puts on a Christmas movie and the music…it’s about a four hour process. Her mom and the nieces even come. It’s always been that way. Every ornament she owns has a story and she tells it as it’s being hung.

We have the same. I have an ornament of Cole’s first Christmas, one from the first Christmas for my wife and I, even one from my hometown. When I pull an ornament out of the box I usually hear myself saying, “Oh, I forgot about this one!” When we were done this year, the family was tired, but I kept going. All the ornaments that were on the bottom row, I moved them all up and made room for presents.

Again, family is key. That’s why Lockeland Table adopts a family each Christmas. We want to be involved with our community at many levels. This year the family we chose has four kids. It’s the largest family we’ve ever had. Each staff member selects a person from that family. Cara makes a list of needs and you choose what you want to buy or how you’d like to contribute. The staff gets excited about that. We don’t make it mandatory, but we want our staff to be involved and have a heart for the community.

Staff is family too. The holidays are a time when we can look for ways not only for ourselves, but for the staff to express themselves. For example, I suggested to Anthony that he come up with the fish dish for the New Year’s Eve menu. He’s excited.

Speaking of, get your reservations in now. You don’t want to miss it. I’ve got some pickled ramps that will be displayed. Come check ’em out. Our menu is live now. You can see it if you click here!

Thank you for your continued support for yet another year at Lockeland. Come ring in the New Year with our family and bring in yours! We’d love to see you at the table.

Chef Hal
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Just like in cooking…it’s all about the preparation.

Table Tip:
When cooking, it’s all about how your prepare before you begin. The time you take to research and organize are what makes the difference in your final presentation.

Just like in cooking…it’s all about the preparation.
Chef Danny and I recently returned from the World Championships. The preparation that happened behind the scenes there was intense. It’s a process that the guests and the public don’t generally get to see.

My mentor chef passed away this past month. Moments like these get you thinking…it’s a very deep time. Chef Timmins was a Certified Master Chef (CMC) and was a recipient of many accolades and awards. He wasn’t just a mentor to me. He was a great educator who also helped many other young culinaries who have become successful. He was a very special Chef. He was my chef.


Chef Timmins and Chef Hal
at Greebrier Apprenticeship Program Graduation

He is the man who gave me a chance when others didn’t. I was a bit of a wild child when I started out, but my will and my work ethics were very strong. He was the reason I got into the Greenbrier Apprenticeship Program. While there I studied under his leadership for three years. That is the place where I received most of the tools that helped me become who I am today. In a chef sense, Chef Timmins is the one whose lessons I will remember forever, and that I will pass down to the generations behind me.

It wasn’t his rewards that made him such a great Chef. Rewards don’t make a great life…or a great business. He told me one day, “Cooking is the easiest part of your job.” I didn’t understand what he meant until I went into management. If all I had to do was cook all day, that would be easy. But it’s not only about preparing great food, it’s about running a business. Chefs with amazing talent have not always been able to run successful businesses. The cost analysis of the food,the organization in the kitchen, and the behind the scenes business things—those are the things guests don’t see. The menu planning that you do between midnight and 2:00 in the morning and bring into work the next day. Most people aren’t aware of all of the legwork that goes into making the magic happen.


Master Chefs Judging the students

When I think about all of the years of training and preparation that have led to Lockeland Table, that’s pretty amazing as well. We didn’t just get lucky, wake up one morning and someone handed us Lockeland table. There was a lot that happened before we became owners. Like work experience, training and learning. Cara and I both as individuals had worked in this industry for over 22 years. The knowledge we gained over those years allowed us the opportunity to try and be owners. It’s a long hard road that leads you to the place of ownership. It generally doesn’t happen overnight.

For example, you can see an image here of one of my test pork platters from the Greenbrier Apprenticeship program that would serve eight. There were rules. A guest would have never know we were drilled on sizes, portions, quantity and more. There are 16 pieces here, eight there and a gross piece that has to be large enough for eight more pieces. Those were things we were judged on at our final critique and at graduation.


Hal’s Pork Platter for Graduation

We even made chocolate butterflies. You pipe the butterfly on clear parchment, put it in a “V”-mold. (The butterfly was under our parchment and we followed the lines on the transparent part and then placed it into the mold.) When it hardens, it looks like it is ready to take off.

At graduation, each chef in training had to prepare a table. I had to do the flower arrangement and the ice carving besides the food. 
Some people stayed the course and continued cooking similar style food. But that is food I began to move away from. After the Greenbrier I wanted to come into my own as a chef. And work my way into who I would become for the rest of my life. I began leaning toward cooking that was more in the style of my grandmother and mother. Not to say I dropped our food down a notch. Carrington Fox said it in a nice way. In her Nashville Scene article, she referred to it as “easygoing sophistication”.

Just recently at the World Food Championships, I ran into an old friend and classmate from The Greenbrier Ken Hess. While there, Ken and I were able to hang out and spend some time together and share old stories about Chef Timmins.

After returning from Vegas, an old friend from the Greenbrier that I haven’t seen for years, Jaco Smith, was in town. He stopped by and we, too, were able to reminisce. It was very nice to be able to spend time with an old friend/classmate whose mentor was also Chef Timmins, the conversation was somewhat healing to the emotional loss. The smiles that came out of those moments together, to be with those who have become successful chefs themselves…the timing seems to be a bit ironic, or perhaps “God-sent”. We remembered him in a way that he would appreciate being remembered. It was wonderful to have them nearby to connect with at this time.

At moments like these, and at this time of year, you are perhaps extra especially thankful for the people who have poured into your life—and for all that you learned from them. I want to be that kind of person in return. I now look forward to pouring into those who come behind me.

Chef Hal
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LT Chefs Advance to Chef’s Challenge Finals of World Food Championships

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Updates: November 15, 2014

Lockeland Table Chef Hal Holden-Bache and Sous Chef Danny Bua, Jr. Advance to Chef’s Challenge Finals of World Food Championships
Chef Hal and Sous Chef Bua also Top 10 Finalists in the Recipe Division of WFC

LAS VEGAS—(Nov. 15, 2014)—Lockeland Table Chef Hal Holden-Bache and Sous Chef Danny “Boston” Bua, Jr. of Nashville, TN have won one of three spots in the finals of the World Food Championships’ Chef’s Challenge being held this week in Las Vegas. The Chef’s Challenge finals will be held on Sunday, November 16, 2014 from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. PST at the Downtown Las Vegas (DLV) Events Center.

Chef Hal and Sous Chef Danny are also Top-10 finalists in the Recipe Division of the WFC competition. This year’s theme of the Recipe Division competition is Cheese. Chef Hal and Sous Chef Bua’s cheese recipe dish was a Tennessee Beer Cheese Soup made with The Bloomy Rind : Artisan cheese, Yazoo Beer, and a Porter Road Butcher chorizo corn fritter, all local Nashville ingredients. The finals of the Cheese Recipe Division competition will be held today, November 15 at 2:00 p.m. PST at the Kenmore Kitchen Coliseum.

Chef Hal and Sous Chef Danny won their positions in the World Food Championships by winning the Nashville Scene 2014 Iron Fork competition sponsored by U.S. Foods and held in April competing against top-flight chefs from Nashville. “We’ve been really impressed with the kindness of not just the hosts of the World Food Championships, but also everyone in Las Vegas,” Chef Hal said.

The 2014 World Food Championships is a nine-category competition with 550 competitors held in Las Vegas in a tournament style event. The World Chef Challenge consists of 21 world-class chefs.

“We’ve met our goals as far as the vision of what we set out to do and the categories of competition,” added Chef Hal. Tomorrow’s Chef’s Challenge winner will take home a $2,500 cash prize and a $15,000 Southern Pride Commercial Smoker. Today’s Cheese Recipe Division winner will take home a $10,000 cash prize and compete for the $100,000 grand prize against eight other category finalists in the Final Table Competition at 9:00 a.m. PST on Tuesday, November 18 at the FSE 3rd Street Stage.

Chef Hal and Sous Chef Bua’s travel costs to the WFC competition in Las Vegas were offset from proceeds raised by a dinner hosted at Lockeland Table sponsored by Peg Leg Porker, Olive & Sinclair Chocolate Co., Best Brands, Heineken, and U.S. Foods.


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