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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Promo's-Chefs and the Cohen Bros. Fargo Lady

Bakers often times gain clients like drug dealers. we lure you into our den, give you the first hit for free, but after that........

This process is called "Promo", short for promotional as you might have guessed. If you are an active bread pimp, you'll canvas the entire city.

"Babe...do you want to stop by my place, or should I come out to you?"

Its always better if they come to you, that way you can take them into the production area and romanticize their "drug of choice."

I'll bet the break down is 50-50.

In 20 minutes I am off to a road promo, over by the Twins new ball park, but today I already had 2 home promo's the first one was a man and a woman who own restaurants in small towns outside of the Twin Cities.

Each week they act like a cowboys, or minors and come into town to stock up on provisions. For years they have worked together baking their own bread at one of their raunt sites, and end up splitting up the bounty, but their mixer recently broke, and in addition to having difficulty finding a Hobart mechanic, they struggle finding proficient bakers.

Dude was maybe 56ish and had a thick German accent. He explained that most of their bread was used for toast. He told us (as if we never left the Metropolis) that small town folks demanded toast.

Now the woman, who I am guessing was 42ish, she was pretty in a small town kind of way. I so don't mean that to come across as a diss, I mean it as an ultimate compliment. Her face,hair and clothes were simple, but her personality was outgoing. She was kinda the voice piece which was going to represent this tandem.

At first I will confess, when they met Klecko. The thought of meeting anyone, or anything that would allow itself to be addressed as a "Klecko" befuddled them. I could hear them receiving instructions from our Office Manager as I sat in my office.

When I joined them...yeah, they recoiled....just a bit, but I get that every year on the first day of Little League when parents of 10-12 year olds see me. You know they drive home thinking "That man will NOT have an influence on my child's life if I have anything to say about this!" LOL

So we go out into the shop, the tour starts and the woman starts talking loud so she can be heard over the droning of the production equipment. On the rare occasions when she over compensated by tossing to many decibels my way. I wanted to laugh, respectfully of course.

This woman had the exact-exact-exact same voice as the Prego Sheriff chick in the movie FARGO, what was her name...Francis McSomething?

As we talked, the German dude was so swept up, You could see it in his eyes, hear it in his voice....he did not want to leave. he LOVED bread and just wanted to soak it while in its presence.

I can't type in a German accent, but if you can imagine it, apply it to the following paragraph.

"You know, when I come into the city, or go to a nice restaurant. it makes me sad. Most times the staff will bring me a popover, fresh from the oven. They are tasty, but then they don't give me any bread. what ever happened to dinner rolls. Do you remember when the dinner roll was an entitlement?"

I wanted to hug the guy (but not) because I know what world he is talking about. I lived in that world, and I use to service that world. Back in the day I used to knock out over 1000 dozen per day. Now I'm lucky to push 50.

After these kids slid out, promo #2 showed up. It was a young looking guy who is looking to open a concept at a busy location in Saint Louis Park. I thought he was 25ish, but when he mentioned Sous Cheffing at the Mission American, and dropped some Saint Paul Hotel names, I realized this guy had to be older than I originally anticipated.

Meeting with seasoned chefs that you've never worked with before is about the best part of my job. 9 out of 10 times you'll get to hear an epic story about somebody you love or hate.

It's a lot like having the "Fox at Yellowstone" puzzle. I'm sure you can relate to this, you spent an entire day and night on it when you were 11, but when all you needed was that last piece to fill in the Foxes hind quarters, it wasn't there. So at first you get pissed, throw a tantrum, but you you realize it simply doesn't change anything....you surrender to it, but then maybe a week later when you pick up a bag of Meow Mix to feed your cat, you see it under the bag. The puzzle means little if nothing to you by this point, but you do march upstairs just to insert it. Just so you can have one last Ariel view of how completion was meant to be observed.Why is that such an important factor in life? do we always need some kind of closure?

So the old-young looking chef guy says some cat in banking wants to bankroll a concept where things are healthy, a concept that "buys local" and he makes a reference to Lenny Russo who is the king of that genre in the TC's.

So I took him over to meet our Pastry Chef Gilson and explain to him how she worked at Heartland with him, and open the Guthrie with Lenny as well.

So now old-young chef and Gilson are jabbering on, and on, and on about pastry.

I respect that scene, but I don't understand it, or its rules....kinda like hockey I guess.

But, the one fun part was when the 2 of them starting talking about Shariff. He was a French baker way back in the day. He ran a place called Napoleons for awhile, after getting burnt out he shut down, got antsy, and then opened a newer concept called Josephines.

Gilson laughed while explaining to the chef that she worked there for a brief stint, and how people would drive across town to lay accolades at our cities finest French baker, but it wasn't enough......he walked away and worked as an instructor at a local looking academy.

The old/young chef said he had Shariff as an instructor, and the guy cracked him up.

"We'd be in class and Chef would have us on our hands and knees scrubbing residue out of the tile grout. he was hard core, but boy was he good."

Now as this kid is reflecting he starts to laugh and looks at Gilson and shares that "puzzle" piece I mentioned earlier.

"I'll never forget the chocolate tempering unit. some girl asked if her chocolate was too hot, so Shariff walks up to her, and before she can react...he stuck her hand into the pot. She screamed, and then she cried. Shariff just walked away and said if it makes you cry it is too hot."

I never knew him, but I could tell by the look on Gilson's face, the 3 of us had just contributed to keeping yet another food icon alive.

I gotta fly - later

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