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Home and the Holidays

with Chef Hal

The holidays are obviously a very busy time of year. However, both personally and professionally this year, it’s been even more so. We had, Thanksgiving, then the book release parties, and now Christmas and New Year’s Eve which in the end will all have happened within a 5 week period.

My in-laws were in town in November, and I was working a busy restaurant while trying to spend time with them. My mom then came to town ​just days after ​for the book release. We then headed out to Oklahoma for a wedding, and when we got home I immediately began to focus on Christmas.

As ​we​ have such a great staff, and they have most of our routine and the logistics for this season under control, ​we are​ very blessed that it allows ​us​ the opportunity to do some Christmas shopping and be organized for ​our​ families​​ this Christmas.

There is so much to do besides the restaurant and getting ready to play Santa Claus. I am going to spoil my family with gifts this year. But the food part is also a gift from me. I have a piece of paper in my pocket right now that lists the foods I plan to cook for my family at Christmas. I enjoy cooking at this time more than any other time of year. Another reason for this is that we are going to be closed for 4 days in a row this week.

We are always closed Sunday, but the way that Christmas falls on a Friday this year, we decided to also close on Saturday. This is a special time as we are able to settle into our home in a way that doesn’t happen any other time of year. The fireplace is on​ (unless it’s 60 degrees outside)​, the stove is simmering with something wonderful on it…

As a young family, too, it’s important to me to begin creating and maintaining traditions at home. We have been doing a rib roast for the past two years. But, I just wasn’t feeling it this year. So I asked my wife if we could do something a little different. The conditions were, whatever we chose, had to be fun, festive and indulgent. I want to eat food at Christmas that I don’t eat any other time of year or that I don’t eat much of due to health goals or for some other reason. Selfishly, I will be cooking what I want to cook, but everyone needs to be happy with it.

I originally suggested fried chicken, but my wife didn’t want to go that direction. When I suggested pizza and pasta ​​my wife liked that idea. ​Cole and I love pizza and my wife likes pasta. ​If you have read our book, you will see a page in the Pizza section where I talk about a particular calzone. Growing up, when my aunt would come to town, we’d get a ham and salami calzone and I’d split it with her. I am going to recreate that dish for me and Stacy. And too, I am going to bring all the stuff home for Cole in order to make pizza—which will be a great afternoon activity for us.

I have been working with my 3 year old son on how to spin dough, add cheese and bake it. ​ Whenever he comes to the restaurant these days he always wants to make his own pizza. ​Showing him the process from beginning to end, from raw to cooked is exciting. Last night he said to me, “Daddy, when I grow up, I want to be a Chef like you”. Naturally I replied, “I will be happy to teach you everything I know.”

In regards to the pasta, I am going to simmer down some sausage that is from a meat shop in Wisconsin where Stacy’s grandmother lives. I’ll add some peppers, onion and tomatoes and it will cook all day. The pasta will be coming from ​N​ico​letto’s​ which is here in East Nashville​. He is going to bring me some for our family dinner. We will also be be using their pasta for our New Year’s Eve menu. Then the tiramisu will fall down out of the sky, which is one of my wife’s favorite desserts, if not her favorite.

Ringing in 2016
There are always logistics here every day to plan and prepare for, but none more so than for New Year’s Eve. It’s our busiest night of the year.

When we get back from Christmas we have a couple of days to get ready for it. But you have to get ready before Christmas. We will be very organized. At a time of year like this, you have to be—and Danny and I will be. If you’re organized, than all you have to do is cook. It’s about ordering the right amount and getting the product here on time. We have to come up with the right numbers. For example, if we are serving 175 and we are covering 4 entrees, how many of each will we sell? We know beef will be number one, fish will be second and then the other protein, chicken or pork will come in third. The vegetarian dish will be last. When I create a veg dish, you have to offer an item for each course, appetizer, and entree. That option could beat the chicken this year as we are doing a beautiful pasta dish with ​N​ic​o​letto’s bucatini which you can find on the menu for that night.

Basically, you have to plan a bit high overall so that you don’t run out. If we did run out of beef at 9:30pm we know we have other options we can substitute in for the filet. All of this has to happen before the actual night. Danny and I will meet on that this week. We’ll just lace up our boots and do the work.

As far as being busy goes, I prefer it. I love waking up in the morning with a long list of things to do. It motivates me and gets me going. I am a man who judges myself on production, so that helps me live with myself. Now, that being said, being too busy isn’t a good thing. But you just have to know your limits, not go over them on a daily basis, and plan well. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Just fit in the bag what fits. If you can discipline yourself well enough to do that, I think your happiness and success rate will be happier and better. With that, Merry Christmas and we hope to see you New Year’s Eve.

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