There was an error in this gadget

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Cat Named Klecko

Some days are good.

Others are bad.

Today made me smile.....

Well maybe not at first, as most of you know, today is August 27th, and that's Sue McGleno's birthday.

And today marks the 10th year I have had to work the Big Top during her special moment.

I posted last year to you L.A.B. Rats that this is also the day that my wife uses guilt to force the CEO of Capitol Cities favorite bakery to go to Dairy Queen to purchase her an ice cream cake.

As I stood inside my demo kitchen (A.K.A. The Fish Bowl) I was thinking about this until I saw something unusual, a pretty woman walked towards me holding a vase of flowers.

This woman was - I'm guessing in her 70's and at the same time.....she handed the vase to me, while speaking in Polish.

My life has been good, and bad, but one of the things that has pumped me with pride has been that I have become a safe haven for the Pollacks of Saint Paul.

Most of them come to visit me at the Fair if they get around to attending.

When the woman started speaking in her native tongue, my heart sank.

"You don't speak Polish Klecko?" she asked........

"Nah, as a kid my grandparents told me that as an American, I should place my full attention on English."

As I said this, I won't lie....I felt ashamed, not that anybody wronged me or anything, but I've always assumed that God converses in Polish, and at one time or another it might be good for me to pick this up.

Now the woman went on to explain to me how the Russians / Communists used to come to the city of her youth and strip the grain from the milling houses.......

"You don't know how much you value bread Klecko until somebody has taken yours from you."

As this women spoke, I was in awe of her.

I could see in her eyes that she had lived a life of survival.

Odds are she had - had things much tougher than me, and yet she brought me flowers and stories.

What else could a guy want?

My next show was about to start, so I pried myself away, and in closing I confessed to the woman.....

"You have inspired me beautiful lady, I am just sad I don't know how to send you away with a proper good bye in Polish."

Now the woman looks at me with a stern face and says....and get this!!!!!!

"Klecko, you have learned a second language, you speak to us with your bread. It is a language that you have mastered."

Then she kissed me on the cheek and left.

I was numb, that may have been the most encouraging thing that any soul has uttered to me.

Later in the day, when My last demo was over, I had to go over to our bread booth and send Bread-Girl on a 30 minute break.

So she takes off, I'm in a good mood now right?

And then a couple walks up to me, I don't know them, and the woman says to me........ 

"Klecko I named my cat after you."

I stood there silent, I mean I was speechless, and then the woman continued......

"I rescued this cat, and if was pretty damaged and rough, but now things are better, the cat is happy."

Guess who got a free cherry strudel?

Are you kidding me?

10 years at the State Fair have given me a lot of memories, but flowers from a Pollack, and the knowledge that some Klecko-Kitty exists in the world is pretty freaking glorious.

Some days are good.

Others are bad.

But today in many ways was epic.

With that said....I better go, sue McGleno wants to cut the cake.




Sunday, August 26, 2012

Thank You Rah...................

Friday - 4:12 P.M.

Klecko bounces into the Admin building......

He waves hello to Fickett -

Next he evaded a flurry of eyerolls from the Intern -

After that he walks over to Gid's cubicle, shakes the Magic 8 Ball on her desk until she gets pissed....

"Klecko, you don't shake the Magic 8 Ball, you ask your question and roll it over in your hand, don't you know anything?"

I explained to Gid that it was she who might be in the dark on this, boys never play with Magic 8 Balls and therefore don't know the rules, their gender is more Etch-A-Sketch focused.

She's not buying this and with words of silence.....she whisks me away.

The Intern it still sitting in that blasted cubicle, legs stretched out...arms crossed, and now her rolling eyes have turned into a jetting stare that have me frightened so I double step it past her and dive into Rah's Cubby.

Rah is sitting there with Noo, and the 2 of them have this strange look on their face, like a look that might indicate that I just missed them smoking cigs, or watching stuff on the internet that might be considered compromising.....

Rah -

"Klecko, I was just dialing your number, I got something big for ya. We got you the Breakfast with Kare 11 tomorrow...Saturday morning if you want it."

Her and Noo were smiling. they know that a breakfast slot on the first Saturday of the Fair is almost as good as running a commercial just prior to the Superbowl.

This is the slot that every concept at the Fair would kill for.....myself included.

I was proud of them, and happy for me.

Then I found out that I would have to pretty much wake up at the hour that Satan goes to bed, to do this gig...but in show biz, everybody has to make compromises.

"@#$&*!" I thought, this was the one day I wouldn't have my ride because Sue McGleno was taking Tydus back to college, but my friend Rah interceded......

"I just live this close to you Klecko, I'll be in front of your place @ 6:15"

I like to get rides from Rah. she is an even 5 feet tall, so when she drives her car...her legs stretch out straight like she were riding a go kart.

Most of the time when I am with Rah, we are surrounded by mobs of people.

But at 6:15 on Saturday morning...it was just the 2 of us on Hartford Avenue.

It was still a little dark, a breeze was blowing, and our world was quiet.

The moment was kinda surreal for me, so I just took a mental snapshot, because I figured sometime later in life, I'd probably want to come back to this experience.

Tick - Tock goes the clock, we are at the Creative Activities Building.

Now we're waiting for the camera guy right?

And while we do this, we kill some time looking at the ribbon winning crafts that are secured inside the glass show cases.

BTW...the Intern has joined us now, and our 3-Some strolled through one aisle after another...

Hah...all of a sudden the Intern laughs, points her finger towards a display, and when Rah and my eyes made contact with it....we recoiled in fear.

It was a needle point project, about 8" x 11" and in a frame, the quality was superb, but the content was bizarre.

It was a picture of some doofus looking kid with a smart a** grin and a pair of aviator glasses.

Dude was sitting at a picnic table, and across the way was a young chick in a bikini.

We get a side view of this chick right? And I'm not making this up.....the chick had boobs so big and plastic looking, you knew that she had implants.

Out group laughed, and pondered out loud, how could somebody be so gifted that they could convey plastic breasts through the art of cross stitch?

I mean they actually had a sheen on them.

Rah and the Intern giggled in a tone that made me uncomfortable, and at that point...I decided to divorce myself of their company.....

But then I saw something else, something so disturbing....I was afraid to be alone.

Remember, we are by ourselves in this big old building, the lights are low.......

"Girls.....GIRLS, get over here!"

So now they show up, and I posed the question......

"Just curious, when you ladies are going throughout your day, do you want the world to see you as beautiful, or maybe as a Plop-A**?"

My companions were confused so I suspended my question and then instead offered up some advice.....

"If I were as pretty as you two, I think I would want to show off my spectacular bod with this...wouldn't you?"

And then I directed their attention to this Moo-Moo looking frumpy dress that had a million shades of aquatic blues, and that was covered with patterns of Orca Whales.

I mean come on......Skinny Minnie - Chubby Cubbie....who wants to shroud themselves in an Orca garment....

And it won a ribbon!!!!!!!!

Then Intern yells out.........

"And theres turtles on the back!"

At this point the camera man entered, we set our shot, the roving reporter entered, and then thousands and thousands.....and thousands of people got to watch Danny Klecko pimp Bundt Cakes and his bakery.

That took place 36 hours ago, and I can tell you the impact it had was phenomenal.

My 3 p.m demo featuring my Irish Bundt had the largest audience I have ever seen in 10 years, in fact.....even the Vice President of Nordic Ware came out to watch it with his wife.

The fruits of SouthSide's Labor have reaped some big things for me, just in the last 24 hours...hundreds of people approached me and discussed my 6 minute slot on the airwaves, and in my business....that kind of attention, or focus are priceless.

But with that said, now that the buzz is fading down, I don't think being on TV was nearly as much fun for me as hanging out with Rah and the intern in an empty building.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hobo's and my friend Noo

Every morning, when I pull into to work, I enter the back parking lot and wind around to the front of the building.

My back lot, or loading dock area, is middle ground between the bakery, and my neighbors which are a mission.

Nobody likes the fact that we have to have a homeless population, and I sure am not here to preach like I understand my cities indigent demographic.

Like many of you, what I know about these people, I've learned from watching in movies or news stories.

Often times I wonder how these people get there.....is it the economy?

Or lack of health care, or what?

My neighbors have a surplus of people in need and now the overflow has been camping out in the landscaped strip that divides us.

When I drive by and witness this group of people suffering, my heart melts.

But then I've began to notice that these squatters who are camping in my parking lot are not picking up after themselves, and what was once a beautiful industrial park is now becoming littered and run down.

I don't like it, not a bit.

But if a guy goes to war with hobo's....it's kinda like spitting in the face of Mark Twain I think.

Drifters have been and always will be an important part of all cultures, but c'mon.....

It's not like I don't have 3 huge green garbage dumpsters where they could toss their cardboard beds and potato chip bags.

You might say that these people have bigger issues to tackle, more important demons to exercise......

Yes, and maybe NO.

I don't care where I am, you could put me in prison, or a P.O.W. camp and I would like to think I would pick up after myself.

If I had a bed, I would make it before I was forced to break rocks.

Order is the launch pad to a better life.

Speaking of order, today was the set up day of my Demo Kitchen at the State Fair.

This is my 10th year out there, and I probably shouldn't confess to this, but my shows are not my favorite part of the Great Minnesota Get Together.

The crowd, sure I love them as Christ loves the church.....but they don't qualify as the part that I will remember the most when I retire.

I have told you L.A.B. Rat's in prior posts how important the Administration people are out there, and how often times the crowd will never know how much they do, or if they did....they might not know where to find them to relate their gratitude. 

But I'm a 10 year guy. I know the nooks and the crannies, so after I pieced together my kitchen (which this year is loosely based on church basement baking) I strolled over to visit my girls in Admin.

The building has security and after getting past the "secret door" the first person I went to visit was Fickett.

When you walk into her cubicle, it is filled with piles of papers and folders, but her mess does not denote "slob", in fact quite the opposite.

Her stuff is more of a "I'm an important person, but too humble to mention this, but the clutter that you are looking at is what it is...because I pretty much run the world."

Fickett may have the coolest painting I've ever seen in a cubicle, I mean the thing is as big as a bill board, and it is layers of flower painted over one another.

I'm not sure if the artist is copping a Dutch vibe here, but Fickett has bequeathed this work of art that she bought for $2 at a junk shop, so don't even call dibs.

I've known Fickett for a decade now, and even 10 years ago, when nobody in the world knew who Klecko was.....Fickett always showed me kindness and was cool with me.

I'm not trying to act like we hang out in fishing boats together, but on the rare occasions I've been lucky enough to corner her, or bribe her with free demo food....I always seem to walk away receiving more than I give.

Fickett is a good woman.

I realized she was busy, so I exchanged pleasantries, asked for inside scoop gossip, and then I let her off the hook.

As much as I dig the Fick, it's not as if she's southside.

On the southside of the building is the publicity department......also known as, the area where the "fun girls play."

This year, some Einstein came up with the bright idea to add more cubical sections.

I pretty much had to navigate a maze.

I hadn't shaved in a couple days, so I kinda had this Brett Favre mini beard thing going, so knowing that, I popped my scruff mask around the corner and into Rah's area, and when she saw me......

I read her face, she was surprised to see me, but within a second she smiled.

I love when Rah smiles, because when she smiles at you, you feel lucky, because if you just knew Rah, you can be pretty certain she doesn't like everybody...LOL,

I asked if I could sit down, and she said yes.

I should mention there was other people in this workspace.

Boss Lady, an intern and an Asian woman.

Rah, blurted out that she (the Asian woman) was actually of Japanese descent and she shared the last name Ronald Reagan's speech writer.

Now all the woman start talking at once, but I'm not listening, because I am talking as well, but then the Japanese descent chick says..................

"I read that blog post you wrote about our building earlier this summer. Did you notice that I responded around midnight?"

I mentioned it was closer to bar closing time, and now the other girlios laughed, she continued.....

"I think it's cool that everybody gets nicknames in your posts. After reading the ones you've submitted, we've kinda gone with them around here. I wish that I could be in the mix."

"Duh" I exclaimed....."Who doesn't want to be in the mix? But what you have to realize is that me and the women in this building have crossed deserts together. We've slain dragons, side by side. You simply can't rush stuff like this."

Now I hear a shrieking, not of peril...but of joy. Everybody is thrilled because our last family member had arrived.

It was Gid.

Of all the woman on the southside of the building, I have known Gid the longest.

When I was a day out from the doctors placing rods in my head, it was Gid that called me on the phone and made me feel better.

Other people tried to extend kindness, but Gid has a quality that is hard for me, a man of a thousand descriptions to describe.

Sometimes when you get older, you gather up pockets full of wisdom, and if there's one thing I've learned lately it's....don't wait for spectacular jackpot moments....they just don't come.

To fully enjoy life, you just need to keep your eyes open, and when a moment is perfect.....don't try to capture it, or try to record it for prosperity.

All you need to do is acknowledge to yourself how blessed you are to have these moments.

I've got 12 days of frivolity (and hell) ahead of me, but I'm gonna tell ya, that 12-15 minutes I spent with those naughty girls on the southside of Admin was priceless.

BTW.........girls in Admin, you can tell your Social Media Director......

I'm tagging her with the name Noo, it's official.

don't forget...showtimes are 11-1-3 and 5

  

Who Are You? (Statistics Revealed)

It's official, not that it matters, but it kinda does to me........

The Last American Baker has been read in over 100 countries (102 in fact).

I'm not sure how other Blog writers view their audience, not that it matters, but each day I like to track what countries have participated in my world of story telling, recipes and sometimes, but hopefully not too often.... factual musings.

The thing about Blogs is it gives people a chance to either live vicariously in the world that the writer specializes in.

For others....who knows? Maybe they just want to "creep" on your scene.

To me, and you should know this by now, it doesn't matter in the least. I'm just happy to know YOU people are out there.

Sometimes in the early morning, I think about you guys.

I think about you collectively and indavidually.

It's a real honor to know that you people take time to visit my cyber camp, but Klecko does not want to be a taker.

For what it's worth, it's important for me, to make sure you know that I value you guys, even and maybe ecspecially those of you that live on parts of the globe that are so far from me.

Russia - Germany - Canada - England, you cats are like my siblings.

You guys have been huge in the international success of this site.

I am in your debt.

The thing about Blogs is even though there is a course for both sides to exchange communication, it seldom happens.

People are protective by nature.

In addition to having blood-bones and flesh....they have another thing called social filters.

I also have one, but my model is worn out, and truth be told...it never was good even when it was new.

Not that it matters, but it does to me......

I love most of you.

Thanks for reading, and for those of you keeping score at home....here you go.

                                                         LAST AMERICAN BAKER
                                                          (COUNTRIES VIEWED IN)
Albania – Anguilla - Argentina – Armenia - Australia –Azerbaijan – Bahrain - Bangladesh – Belarus – Belgium - Bolivia – Bosnia & Herzegovina – Botswana - Brazil – Brunei - Bulgaria – Burma – Canada – Chili – China – Columbia – Croatia – Cyprus - Denmark – Ecuador - Egypt – Estonia – Fiji - Finland – France – Gabon - Georgia – Germany – Ghana – Greece – Guatemala - Guernsey Island - Guyana - Haiti – Hong Kong – Hungary – India –Indonesia – Iraq – Iran – Ireland – Isle of Man – Israel – Italy – Japan – Jordon – Kazakhstan – Kenya - Kuwait – Latvia – Lebanon – Libya – Lithuania – Luxemburg – Macedonia –Malta – Malaysia – Mauritius - Mexico – Moldova - Netherlands – New Zealand – Nigeria - Norway – Oman - Pakistan – Palestinian Territories - Papua New Guinea - Peru – Philippines – Poland – Portugal – Puerto Rico – Qatar – Romania – Russia – Saudi Arabia - Serbia –Singapore – Slovakia – Slovenia - South Africa - South Korea – Spain – Sweden – Switzerland – Taiwan – Thailand – Tunisia - Turkey – United Kingdom – United State – Ukraine – United Arab Emirates – Venezuela – Viet Nam

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Cowboys, and Cookies (Recipe Enclosed)

Sometimes my life becomes completely intrenched in routine.

As a middle age man, that could be considered a comfort zone.

Then all of a sudden, for no apparent reason, or maybe a random happenstance, something will occur and "WHOOSH" through the time machine I go, and there before my eyes sits a past memory staring me in the face.

Today's memory not only stared at me, but it made me chuckle.

After dropping off 4 dogs at the vet by 7 a.m. for bi annual comps, I stopped at my coffee shop (the Bean Factory) for the usual.

Today Shane was the Coffee guy.

He's been Coffee guy many times when I've stopped by over the last year, but today....a thunderbolt hit me.

"Hey Shane" I said......

"I think Shane was the first book I ever read, not counting Dr Suess and Where the Wild Things Are.".

Shane is 19, and although he lives in a different generation than me, I had to ask...

"Hey Shane....how often do people say it?"

I didn't even have to mention what I was talking about.....

(for those of you from Trinidad or Holland, I should fill you in. One of the most famous lines from any Hollywood movie came at the end of this classic Western when the kid screams out to Alan Ladd..."Shane come back." and it's kinda a tear jerker.)

Shane topped of my double shot depth charge and said....

"If I had a nickel for every time I heard that...I would have a few dimes. That is for sure."

Isn't that funny?

The movie came out in the early 1950's and it still has a script with pull quotes strong enough to capture America's youth 60 years later.

I have never been a quick reader, or one who you might consider "Well Read", but I do read well and often times in spirts.

As a child my mother would sit at the kitchen table and read paperback books and smoke Merit's.

At the end of a session, there would be enough butts to fill 1/2 a pop can.

I'll new forget how she and her friend Sandy read Sybil and The Exorcist together over the phone.

One woman would read a couple pages while the other smoked, and then they would rotate.

At some points they'd both be so scared they would whisper, and on a few occasions they screamed.

I would run out of my bedroom to see what happened, when I saw my mom was freaked out over a "Devil Book" I began to laugh.

Everybody read the Exorcist that summer.

Anyways, I am always interested in hearing what your first book was, and as I sign off....I'm gonna leave you a great cookie recipe.

It comes from First Lady Laura Bush's collection.

It is a Cowboy Cookie.

But even though we are in an election year, reserve your political comments, in the L.A.B. space we are respectful in our kitchens and First Ladies are hands off........

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup butter (at room temperature)
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups sweetened flake coconut
2 cups chopped pecans


DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in bowl.

In 8-quart bowl, beat butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, 1 minute. Gradually beat in sugars; beat to combine, 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each. Beat in vanilla extract.

Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Add chocolate chips, oats, coconut and pecans.

For each cookie, drop 1/4 cup dough onto ungreased baking sheets, spacing 3 inches apart. Bake for 17 to 19 minutes, until edges are lightly browned; rotate sheets halfway through.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Rainbow Flags and Wine Bottles

The thing I admire about my pastry chef....Hennessy, or one of the many things I admire about her is her even temperament.

Pastry people have a tendency to have a flair for the dramatic.

But Hennessy....well she has the demeanor of that cowboy you see that rides into town all alone...cool, confident and collected.

You could give Hennessy a dozen roses, or throw a rock at her head and she's pretty much give you that grimace that never lets you know quite what she's thinking.

8:41 a.m. this morning -

Hennessy -

"You got any errands to run?"

Klecko -

"Huh?"

Hennessy -

"I forgot my bottle of wine for honey-wine jam for the Sunday event, it's at my house, but if you are busy...."

Then she walks into the production area to bake products for the Farmers Market.

Now I've been to Hennessy's house a couple of times to drop her off.

She has a large family that often times rotates vehicles throughout the day.

The odd part of the story you are about to hear is........

She only lives 2 or 3 miles away from me, but her house is tucked into one of the few Saint Paul pockets that I haven't had a reason to visit.

OK....she tells me that she called her husband, he's gonna put the bottle on the porch right?

And their house is no more than 10 minutes away.

By the time I got out off the production floor Hennessy was elbow deep in chocolate.

So here goes the little bread truck......

Down the highway -

Take a left -

Take a right at the Dairy Queen...........

Now as I begin to troll down her street, I remember - remembering that she lives next to a house that has a rainbow pride flag.

Of all the people you have ever met.....Klecko may be the most directionally challenged guy you know.

I mean it's so bad I practically have to use a G.P.S. at night to go pee.

Some people have that internal compass......but not me.

So all I have to do is find the rainbow flag right?

Well what I'm about to tell you almost seems like a build up for a Twilight Zone episode.......

As I cruise down her Avenue at "Drive By" speed, I made a remarkable observation.......

"There's my Pride flag." I say to myself......

"Hmmmm but her house is next to the flag house, and Hennessy's house has a porch, but theres no porch here.".

So then the Last American Baker cranes his neck, sports a look of befuddlement, and peers further down the street.

"Oh...dude, there's another flag".

And then I laughed because in all of Saint Paul I'll bet I've only seen 6-7-maybe....maybe 8 Pride Flags in a decade, and here on this street I run into 2..

"Oh Sweet Polish Christ." I exclaimed as I glanced down the same side of the street of the next block.

There was a couple more rainbow rags flapping in the wind, and then another....and another, and I'm not making this up...yeah 3 more.

I'm not gonna lie, I sat stunned.

You know what I mean, we are all adults here.

My surprise had nothing to do with anything revolving around gay issues or gay neighbors,,,,I was just freaked out that this little hood, so close to mine, had it own identity.

 When you look up and see more rainbow flags than the Castro District in the mid 80's, you have to be impressed at the commitment to unify.

If my neighborhood was on fire, and there was only one bucket of water, all the peeps on Hartford Avenue might choose to burn alive instead of fellow shipping with their neighbors.

Klecko gets the wine -

Klecko drives back -

Klecko hands Hennessy the wine -

Klecko asks Hennessy.....

"I knew you had a Pride flag next to your house, but so do what????? like 72 other houses?"

Hennessy just gave me that Hennessy look and reported.....

"We live in a Gay Friendly neighborhood."

I've gotta tell ya, I've been thinking about this all day, and now even into the night.

For 20 years in the Capitol City I've sat in on countless board meetings, attended a dozen churches, coached 90% of the kids enrolled in Little League....

And in so many of those experiences, the collective almost never could reach a consensus on anything.

But yet in this small little pocket, in an area that receives little outside attention, there exists 3 consecutive blocks of folks of people that find it important enough to hang Pride flags to lets the gay community know that they have their support.

This act of kindness and clarity really inspired me.

Saints of Warsaw........we can all learn a lot from the people on Hennessy Street.   



  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

State Fair Hand Out - Pirate Bundt Cake

Father - Son and Holy Ghost.......

What do we love to bake the most?????

Bundt Cake -

Bundt Cake -

Bundt Cake -

Do I hear an amen?

You Know.....alot of people view the Bundt as an EZ-Peezy form for shlopping out a cake.

Yeah, I guess it can be, but you can also use this wonderful medium to elevate flavors and entice even the most bored palate, however...there are a few things you might want to consider.

Scratch VS Cake Mixes -

You know Klecko isn't a snob, but I must say....if you are not mixing from scratch, your "Cake Canvas" is really going to be simular to a warped piece of plywood.

Flour Type -

Most of the recipes I run across in cookbooks or the internet call for patent, cake or low protein flour.

Klecko disagrees....

If you use a High Gluten or Bread Flour, your base for liquid is going to be so much stronger, and therefore you can build a structure that will hold more moisture.

Why be the little pig who builds a house of sticks when there is a pile of bricks in the back yard?

Trust me on this.

Oil VS Butter -

It isn't even close. Oil is far more valuble to a Bundt Cake than butter. You can always infuse butter into a Bundt (as we will in todays recipe), but you can't infuse tenderness and quality mouth feel with butter. It will simply produce a drier cake.

Oven Temp -

As usual, cook books and internet recipes will almost always say......

Bake at 325 - 350 (F).

They are stupid.....sorry to be so frank, but they are not well thought out.

Bake @ 375 for the first 10 minutes, but then drop your temp down to 350 (F) for the remainder of the bake.

By doing this you will create a much stronger crumbwall that will support the weight of your hefty cake temple.
Preparing Your Bundt Pan -

I posted on Facebook....How should a baker prepare their Bundt Pan, and you know what? I got a billion different answers.

You kids are so overthinking this.

Just spray the aerosol pan spray. some have suggested to use the stuff with the flour in it.....

You shouldn't have to.

Spray the entire interior heavy, just prior to pouring in your batter, and if your pan is in good shape....well it's gravity that will plop that Bundt onto the platter.

Bake Time -

I have had recipes inform me my Bundt would be done in 35 minutes...and you know what? It took 52.

Your Bundt is done....when it is done.

Look for the cake to start pulling away from the sides of the pan, as well as the core.

Type of Pans -

Theres are 5 cup pans

7 cup pans

Dark coated pans

Light coated pans

Metal pans

Plastic pans

Single unit pans

Multi unit pans

They all work different peeps. There is no right or wrong. Just different, stick with a pan you like, Klecko loves the heavy Nordic Ware versions...but it's not my dream, it's your dream.

Just pick your pan and roll with it.

These are just a few idea to to help you improve your Bundt Baking.

And before I continue on, I want to make certain that I am not trying to come off as a know it all.

Without the advice from the likes of Kim Ode, Gilson or Hennessy....my cakes would be ghoulish.

I just get excited about stuff that excites me.

If you want to impress, this is a great baking arena to choose because so many crappy Bundt's have been served and if you just put a wee little thought into this......

Like the Pied Piper, all the wharf rats and L.A.B. Rats will be chasing after you for your crumbs.

Oh yeah.....nothing like adding booze to your cake interior or glaze.

Anyways.....here it is........

THE PIRATE BUNDT CAKE RECIPE

Step #1

You can use fresh or dehydrated pineapple (1 1/2 cups) for this recipe. If you use fresh, just add it into the wet bowl last.

But Klecko enjoys booze, so the night before baking, he pulls out the dehydrated pineapple and soaks in a cup of rum.

Step #2

In your "Wet Container", you can use a bowl, but I like higher walls to prevent splashing.

Drop in.........

2 cups canola oil

7 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup sour cream

1/3 cup heavy cream

I will blend lightly with a spatula, and when this liquid comes together, I then use my hands. I squish it through my fingers. I make certain nothing is clinging to my container.

Step #3

I remove the dehydrated pinapple from the rum, and place it into the wet bucket, and gently incorperate it.

*don't toss out or drink that rum, reserve it for a later step

Step #4

In a large bowl drop......

2 1/2 cups sugar

3 cups high gluten or bread flour

2 tablespoons of B-Soda

1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt (Kosher breaks down quick....that's a good thing)

Step #5

Dump the liquid into the dry bowl, fold it with your spatula, then finish with your hands. Your fingertips will be paramount in your Bundt baking career. They will automatically sense if that cake is wet, dry.....or in your case....PERFECT.

Step #6

Spray your pan

Step #7

Pour your Bundt pan 66%-75% full

Step #8

Bake

Step #9

Take out of oven, let cool for 10-15 minutes.

Then I like to place my serving plate onto of the Bundt pan and quickly flip it over.

Give a little "Thump-Thump" on the counter top....and everything should be perfect.

If you follwed the directions, you'll hear a solid "PLOP"!

I love that sound.

Step #10

Get a sauce pan and dump.......

3 cups water

1 cup dark rum

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup (4 ounces) butter

4 tablesponns vanilla extract

Boil this together, it isn't going to get super thick, so just bring it to a boil and let is "set up" for a couple minutes.

While you are waiting you can poke tooth pick size holes into your Bundt and then you can either keep it on your serving plate, or place it on a wire rack.

What we are going to do is ladle tyhe rum syrup over this cake.

If you keep it on the platter, the bottom will get a little soggy from the rum that has built up within the inner cavity.

This doesn't bother Klecko, he's not a savage LOL.

Klecko knows that a real Bundt is best after sitting a day to build flavor.

After soaking for the day, I simply flip the Bundt upside down, and the syrup goo will drain back into the cakes interior while I sleep.

However, his best friend Sue McGleno doesnt share his opinion....or restraint.

She wants to delve in the moment the glaze coats the Bundt, so in this case, it might be worth having a few grooves on the bottom, just pop the cake onto a wire rack and that will erase any issues with a soggy Bundt.

Alright, Klecko is grateful you stopped by at the Fair to visit him, good luch with this recipe, and if you have any questions...shout at me.





Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The State Fair Skeleton

Pearl Jam is blaring from the bread truck, while Klecko cruises down Snelling Avenue.

It's a week night, and although the sun is shining, one can sense Capitol City is tired.

We are amidst the dog days of summer, and although most of us are now thrilled to encounter the alternative weather that is preparing to stick us in igloos for 1/2 the year......

The energy is gone.

It's been a tough summer in the Twin Cities.

Most hotels, restaurants and food concepts have written this quarter off as a loss.

Our temps have been record high, it was hot, and people didn't eat or go out as much.

Everybody in the show, including myself is ready to welcome....chapter next.

So now I pull up to the intersection of Snelling & Selby.

On the South-East corner is a bar-restaurant call O'Garas. 

Saint Paul is filled with Irish joints, but O'Gara's is iconic.

In fact, above the bar is a series of rooms, I don't know if it's office space or apartment units, but I do know this is the space where Charles M. Schultz began penning his world famous Peanuts comic strip.

The street light stays red for an obscene amount of time. It always does at this intersection.

Klecko smirks remembering Snoopy, and then he proceeds to slink and mumble under his breath.......

"Don't call me daughter
Not fit to......
The picture
It will remind me."

Being true to the 90's.....I kinda mumbled more than sang, but as I did this, to my left, in a small Nisson is woman driver, a boy around 5ish who I'm guessing is her son, and somebody in the back seat that I can't quite make out.

The first thing I notice is that the 5 year old boy is surveying my left arm that is loosely hung from the drivers side window.

You can just tell this kid is taking mental notes of each tattoo inked up and down my arm, and from the look on his face.......

you can tell the kid kinda worships me.

Consequentially, the mom is looking over in our direction too, but she isn't looking at the Last American Baker, she's looking at the thrill in her sons eyes, and a look of panic, or worse yet...terror has seized control of her face.

My guess is while I was chanting Eddie Vetter lyrics, she copped a quick look at Klecko's guns (which consequentially are only 1 inch less in diameter than Scarlett O'Hara's waist) and realizing that these flesh temples have become a source of inspiration to her beloved son.....she's freaked out.

The light is still red.

Now the surreal body in the back seat straightens up.

I'm betting this was the daughter of the woman driving. This kid had a cast on her right arm, and her fingers that protruded though the opening were all purple-puffy and swollen.

Klecko's stomach turned.

I've never liked medical stuff.

To even think about blood,bones and organs...you know, stuff inside the body, well....I'm border-line phobic about it.

But with that said, I've always liked skeletons.

Skeletons are the bodies platform to opportunity. 

As I continued down Snelling, I passed the State Fair grounds, took a deep breath and crossed myself.

10 days until the Great Minnesota Get Together starts.

Many of my demo kitchen guests are contacting me, I'm still staffing our product booth, and I'm trying to keep things afloat during my absence.

I think it's safe to say, even-though I know all will end well, I still am overwhelmed.

But then I start thinking about body stuff, and how I never stop to think about, or be grateful for my big Pollack bones, and then I get clever and begin to paint a Jesus like parable to myself.

I know it sounds corny, but in some ways, I think one of the coolest perks I've ever experienced in life has been being able to witness what takes place behind the scenes of America's biggest State Fair.

Over a month before the extravaganza kicks off there is a whole army, literally a city of people amist the grounds getting everything built out, and in perfect running order.

Sure, bodies are bodies, and workers are workers.....but the people servicing the Minnesota State Fair do this with a sense of pride and urgency.

They won't settle for anything less than perfect.

My demo kitchen is in the Creative Activities building.

It is but a grain of sand on the ocean we call State Fair, but none the less, my little corner of the universe has an impressive volunteer staff that will work countless hours for weeks prior to opening day.

These people set up my building, take in the zillion baked and food entries, then they judge them, tag them and then place ribbons on the winners and then place these masterpieces strategically in display cases that would fill an entire Wal Mart store.

The space is huge, and it is just one building out of a 1000.

I won't even venture to guess how many peeps it takes to keep my building afloat, but I'm guessing 75ish.

And that's not even counting the Admin Women who camp out just across the street from my building.

Fickett, Gid and Rah are akin to Keebler Elves and pretty much live inside of this space year round.

Sure, they have a list of minions who assist them, but 365 days a year these beautiful-beautiful woman set there focus onto details that will assure a life time of tradition and memories.

But the second the Fair kicks off, it could be EZ for people to get caught up in the energy, and forget the collective commitment.......the skeleton that had to be in place before an entire State could celebrate another year together.

Every time you go to a Fair, a stadium event, the opera, a Little League game......you can be certain there has been an army of volunteers that put in a full day before you even stepped onto the field.

OK......the rant is officially over, almost.........

Fick-Gid.....Rah.......Love you guys, thanks for all you do.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Bakery Olympics (Mexican Gold)

What I am going to do now?

For the last 17 days I haven't had to turn my TV.

For 17 days, it didn't matter if it was morning noon or night.

For 17 days, I just stood still and let the world come to me.

Other than work.....I just watched the Olympics.

As a kid I was raised to only cheer "RAH" for the Red-White and Blue of America.

But as a man.....I have learned that it isn't about countries, but to understand greatness you should really be focussed on players....and plays.

If you work in a bakery.......

If you work in a kitchen.......

If you work in a restaurant in the country you were born, chances are you are a minority.

I have the honor of working with people across the world.

So when the Olympics start....it isn't a slam dunk that my colleagues will be rooting for my squad, they're going to have interests of their own.

On Sunday, the final day of the London games, I have to admit......

It was hard to get stoked when the USA men's basketball team took gold.

We have Lebron, Kobe and my home boy K-Love, if we didn't win....I would have been shocked.

To me, the coolest part of the Olympics is when a person or country defies the odds and accomplishes the impossible.

This last Saturday, I pulled the single shift. Only one guy works at the plant on Saturdays, and basically their job is to put out fires in the event one of our orders gets botched.

So after dropping an order to Irish fest, I do some paper work, and it occurs to me that the Mexican men's soccer team is playing that Brazilian juggernaut squad.

My heart kinda sunk because many of my Mexican co workers are the most sincere humans I have known.

They work hard....

They play hard....

But they also come from a country that is dirt poor compared to the Brazil.

The odds of winning were slight.

But that's why the Olympics are so special to me.

I do believe in miracles.

I think it only took 28 seconds into the match before a Mexican forward got through Brazil's touted defense and scored the first goal.

Dude...Brazil is like the Yankees of soccer, you just kinda knew they would come back..........

But they didn't.

The Mexicans wanted it more.

All day Sunday...

All day today.....

At the bakery, and at the restaurants I visited.

At the gas station and at the gym.....

Every Mexican person I ran into had a smile and glow.

And to me, when I see the brightness in these peoples eyes, I take a second to cherish the accomplishments of their country because.....

When you get to be my age, it's not about countries.

It's about players and plays


Mexico 2

Brazil    1

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Mall of America

This morning marks the first time in years that I have made a Saturday morning drop to Irish Fair without it looking like I was entering a war zone.

Those poor Mick's have had the toughest luck weather-wise.

The festival only lasts 3 nights and 2 days, but every year on Friday night......

Rain -

Hail -

Gusting Winds -

More Rain -

And one time......even a tornado.

So I made the drop and stood next to the Mississippi River.

The breeze was perfect. I have to think God's Favorite People were going to have a great day.

So now I jump into the bread truck and begin to leave when dude on the radio informs me.....

"Today is the 20th birthday of the Mall of America."

O-M-G, it seems as if just yesterday that slapped that contraption up.

I have never been a big "M.O.A." fan.

In my opinion the place is an eye sore.

It has to be the size of several stadiums.

But thats me, and most locals in the Twin Cities I'm guessing.

Most of us usually do what you might expect a cultured person to do.....

We shop on-line.

Over the years there have been rapes, stabbings and shootings out there, and people keep going back.

I remember the first winter the Mall opened, Sue McGleno, baby Tydus (and I mean baby-baby, like 4 months) tried to be all green and took the bus there.

When it was time to go home, the transpot platforms were filled with over a thousand people, most of which were teenagers that you'd profile as "Urban Gang Bangers" if you were just going by appearance.

Inner city kids love the Mall of America because Metro Transit practically picks them up at their front door and drops them off with flexible times.

So there's Sue McGleno holding Tydus who is wrapped like the baby Christ in a swaddling cloth when all of a sudden a riot breaks out.

I'm not being over dramatic here.

My circumstances were like those movies where there is civic unrest in a 3rd world nation and the residents decide to overthrow whoever is in charge.

People were going nuts.

SWAT Team members in full riot gear crashed the scene.

I was standing next to some cat from Nigeria who appeared to be my age.

He had on the tribal gown - matching pill box hat thing right?

And dude has a look of terror in his eyes while informing me......

"I think it is we who have trouble here sir, would you not agree?"

Anyways.....by the grace of all Polish Deities, both the Nigerian family, and mine escaped unscathed.

One of the SWAT team members pulled me aside and said.....

"Don'r ever take the public transpertation friend, it's like this most every weekend."

When I asked why the media jackels hadn't reported on this, he just shook his head....

"Theres way too much money invested in this place. The last thing the city is going to allow is for people to find out how crazy it is out here, nobody would ever come."

Anyways, that was 20 years ago.

I'm guessing they've figured it out by now.

Each year over 40 million people will visit the Mall of America.

40 million!

People from Japan fly across the planet just to shop the M.O.A.

I'm not kidding ya. They'll rent a hotel (theres only a billion of them in that part of town) room, shop all day and night, then they'll go sleep and come back and do it again.

People from across the world will spend their entire vacation week here, in a place I won't even spend 10 minutes to get to.

In addition to a multitude of stores and restaurants, the M.O.A. also has an amusement park, movie theaters, arcades, bowling and traveling exhibits.

I think if you pay like 28 bucks, you could go in and see the "Princess Diana" dealio today.

Over the years, our bakery has made attempts at sevicing this monolith, but truth be told....it simply isn't worth it.

There are only so many loading docks at this structure, and sure.....somedays you can make a quick drop.

But other days, you can become engulfed in lines so long, it's EZ to feel as if you are Jonah trapped inside the whale.

My kid Tydus loves M.O.A.

He works at Champs (during the summer while off from college), which is a subsidiary of The Foot Locker, and in fact....last night on the Eve of the mall's big birthday....my kid had a special moment of his own.

"Tonight I was top seller Pa Pa" he bragged.

"I did over $3500 of merch in 6 hours. I am awesome"!

I had to laugh.

Then I started to toss numbers around in my head.

If my kid, just one employee of many....at one store of many, can take $3500 out of peoples pockets in less than one 8 hour shift......just think of the cash that mall generates.

Staggering.....simply staggering.

Anyways L.A.B. Rat's, if you ever pass through Kleckoville, maybe you should check this joint out.

Just make sure you buy a pair of Nikes off Tydus though.

And with that, I guess I'll cave and say it......

Happy 20th Birthday Mall of America.




Thursday, August 9, 2012

State Fair Handout - I.C.B. Bundt Cake

Welcome to the Great Minnesota - Get Together.......

Welcome to the Minnesota State Fair.

My name is Klecko, and I will be your Master of Ceremonies here at the Saint Agnes Demo Kitchen, located in the Creative Activities building.

What is this now, year #10 out here?

As you know, show times are daily at 11-1-3 & 5.

This years theme is Bars-Bundts and Hot Dish, we are kinda going for a church basement vibe.

Today I am going to give you the recipe for what has w/o a doubt become America's favorite cake flavor this year, the I.C.B.

What is I.C.B. you might ask?

Well it's short for Irish Car Bomb.

But I think I.C.B. is a little bit more sensitive for people who may be offended by this. I mean the last thing a guy wants to do is offend somebody with a cake.

BTW...peeps, it's not me who makes these names up, just do a Google search and you will find that the I.C.B. is this years "Red Velvet".

Anyways, before I get started, I will state that much of my Bundt confidence came to me from working with Hennessy.

Kris did a great job pointing out some of the finer points along the way.

To be truthful, I always viewed the Bundt as more of a quick bread baked in a fancy pan, however Hennessy assured me that Bundt really is more cake like in matter.

Also as a fellow Catholic, Hennessy took exception in a previous Blog to a comment I made that Catholics made Bars and Lutherans made Bundt's.

As usual....I stand corrected, but whatever religion you are (or are not), I am sure you will agree that this recipe is a keeper.

One of the fine points Hennessy has schooled me in is that you don't always want alchohol to come off too boozey.

She stated that she had sampled some I.C.B. cup cakes and all she could taste is the booze.

Let's get started..........

I.C.B. BUNDT CAKE

Ingredients -

1 cup  Guinness

8 ounces  Canola Oil

3/4 cup  Cocoa Powder

2 cups  Sugar

2 cups  High Gluter (or Bread) Flour

1 1/2 tsp  B-Soda

3/4 tsp  Salt

2  Eggs

2/3 cup  Apple Sauce

Glaze

6 ounces  Semi Sweet - Chocolate Chips

6 tbsp  Heavy Cream

1 tbsp  Baily's Irish Cream

1 tbsp  Jameson Whiskey

Baking Instructions -

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (F)

Pour your canola and stout into a sauce pan and place over medium heat and simmer.

While this is taking place, whisk in the cocoa powder.

You want these liquids to become gelatinized. When they do, turn off the heat and let it cool.

Now grab a big bowl and add all the dry ingredients and toss them in.

Next you will add the eggs and apple sauce and slowly stir them in.

I like to use my hands so I can meassure the moistness.

Next dump the stout and canola in.

Continue the incorperating (not mixing) of ingredients.

It is very easy to over mix.

Now for the tricky part......

Everybody has a different way of prepping their Bundt pans.

I just spray mine really-really good.

Then you dump in your cake batter.

Tap it on the table twice or thrice to remove bubbles.

Then place it in the oven.

Klecko loves to bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes, then finish off the bake at 350 degrees.

Does that really make a diff?

Yeah....it does.

So your total bake time is going to be around 45-50 minutes.

When you think it's done, insert a cake pin. if you pull it out, and it is clean, you are good.

Now set the Bundt pan on the counter to cool for 10-15 minutes.

While this is happening......

Take your chocolate chips, heavy cream, Baily's and Jameson and place it in a plastic container.

Then I microwave mine for 30 seconds, remove and whisk like mad.

When that is complete.......

Place a board, platter or board on top of the Bundt pan, then slowly turn over.

The gravity should make it slide out, but you can assist with a gentle thump.

Now all you have left is to glaze your masterpiece.

I hope you enjoy this recipe, and have a great time at the Fair.










Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Blue Ribbon Baking Tips

It happens every year, and if the Polish Christ allows me to stay alive a few more weeks.....

Its gonna happen this year too.

It happened to Aunt Bea, when that meddling Clara shocked the world with a new and improved pickle.

It happened to Ma Ingalls, when Harriot Olsen commisioned assistance to help her bake her submissions.

It even happened to Wilma, When Betty became Judas by producing a better teradactyl berry pie.

Every year, for every person who wins a blue ribbon......

There will be dozens of people who walk away losers.

Now days, many people don't like the word loser, but when you've witnessed as many dejected souls as I have, I find it quite fitting.

How many times....

How many times....

How many times, has some downtrodden saint approached yours truly and asked.........

"Klecko, I am pretty certain my entry should have won. Wouldn't you agree?"

First off, asking afterwards is always a bad idea.

Asking before hand is typically the best way to get positive results.

So what I am about to do is give you kids a major head start towards winning a blue ribbon by listing the most common pitfalls that can knock stellar bakers from the award podium.

After reading this, if you enjoy it....feel free to forward it to your friends that might benefit from this as well.

Lets get started......

#1 -

The very first thing you need to remember, win or lose, is that there is a HUGE element of luck in winning a blue ribbon.

You have to get the proper product in front of the proper judge on a precise day.

#2 -

Always remember, and never forget.....you are baking for the judges, not for yourself. Over the years I've noticed a few things.

Judges are an interesting breed of person.

Most judges are not impetuous, they are well thought out, methodical indaviduals.

So what I'm getting at here is whoever judges apples pies this year is most likely going to be judging apple pies next year, and the year after.

Some judges love the bells and whistles, while others are more conventional and will want to see items stripped down to their purest form.

I have been nothing short of blessed to live in the same city as Marjorie Johnson.

She is the worlds all time winningest blue ribbon baker.

She has won thousands and thousands of ribbons and contests.

The one thing I have learned from watching Marjorie at the Fair is, there are no shortcuts.

When other bakers have left to drink beer or cruise the middway, you'll find the blue ribbon magnet slowly strolling down the aisles with a note book.

She marks all the categories down, and then she'll enter notes like.........

The 1st place German chocolate cake had chocolate shavings on top, this has been the case 6 of the last 7 years.

Stuff like that.

Marjorie is a Master baker, but she doesn't bake what she likes.....

She bakes for the judge.

#3 -

Find categories that have fewer entries.

Its easier to win against 7 people than 142.

#4 -

Read the rules.

You would think a guy wouldn't have to remind you of this, but yeah....I've seen gold slip from between peoples fingers because they simply did not take 30 seconds to read the rules.

If you ever worked a contest from a judges side, you would have a whole new appreciation for what they have to go through.

Contestants who lose can become savages....jackels, I have seen it over and over again.

Judges have to have rules to protect you from all the creepy bakers out there that would cheat, steal and rob to possess that coveted sweepstakes award.

#5 -

Always bake multiple products when possible.

If you are entering a loaf of white bread, you are not allowed to cut it before handing it over to the judges. So bake several loaves. chances are, if one loaf has interior holes, the entire batch does.

#6 -

Hey Klecko, what's the biggest mistake the even the pro's make?

EZ....they underbake. Many entries has raw dough pockets. this is so un-sexy.

I had this girlfriend Jodi who entered banana bread a few years back. I think there was something like 112 entries.

Jodi took 2nd place.

Call her up and ask her if you don't believe me, she was going to pull the loaf out when Betty Crocker told her to. But remember....Betty is baking for dinner guests, you will be baking something that will typically sit a day or two before it is judged.

When in doubt, keep it in the oven a few minutes earlier.

#7 -

Are you hardcore?

If so, you might want to consider getting oven thermometers and meassuring the temps of all 4 corners of your oven.

an equal heat source can make a huge difference.

#8 -

When you write out your entries on the cards or internet, don't use abbreviations. Judges won't tell you this, but if they see it.....they will secretly hate you...LOL, Fact!

#9 -

Consider packaging and transportation.

Nothing on Earth is more crushing than taking hours, months and years to put together a winning baking entry only to have it toppled in transit.

It happens every-every-every year.

Think it out L.A.B. Rats.

Pack snug, do you need a cooler?

Do you need dry ice?

Wll you put your box unattended in the back of your car?

I would do every thing posible to bring a friend to help with the tranport, but that's me.

Anyways, these are just a few hurdles you should consider before daring to dream the impossible dream.

Best of luck you crazy kids.....I'm pulling for each and every one of you.










Sunday, August 5, 2012

How to handle "Jerk Customers"

It doesn't matter whether you are schooled in business, or in hospitality.

The first rule they teach you is......

THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT.

Do they teach you this sometimes?

Most of the times?

Nope, "always" is the way it has been taught in the old school.

THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Yesterday, while you were doing something of great importance, Klecko grabbed Sue McGleno and visiting Granddaughter M-Rose and headed up to the park.

The park isn't a public one.

It's actually more of a playground that sits behind the Catholic school.

This place has one of those jungle gyms thats the size of a small mountain, and a swing set.

If I remember right, it's about 6ish or 7:15 p.m.

The sun is out, and fittingly the sky is really bright with enormous clouds.

It looked like one of those religious post cards that you'd find in a Bible Belt gas station.

We've entered August now, so I guess technically we are into the dog days right?

Nobody else is at the park.

First I look at the 3 year old.......

Then I looked at the young girl I married, and today......she's a grandma.

Wow.....

If there is 2 things I've learned about grandmothers, one would be that I'll never be able to bake the things they baked as good as them.

Technically, I can.....

But in practicality, you're just never going to see it that way.

Your mind needs you to believe that your Grannies P-Nut Butter Cookies are 10 times better than mine, and ya know what?

I don't blame you.

That cookie trapped in your memory is a sanctuary from all the ridiculous crap you'll have to put up with at work today, or the routine-routine-routine you will have to continue to experience when you get home from work tonight.

Cook Dinner -

Walk Dogs -

Pay Bills -

Go to the Gym -

Do the Laundry -

The other thing I've learned about grandmothers is, granddaughters worship them.

Many times more than their own mothers (within reason).

As I get older, I am becoming sensitive to how powerful the bond between grandmothers and  grandchildren.

Its sacred.......and a little spooky if you ask me.

So now that we have this entire playground to ourselves......

and now that I realize I am only going to get about 13% of the attention,

Klecko sat on the swing set and hung like a monkey while the tandem of "Power Chicks" continued climbing a plastic wall that I'm guessing was supposed to replicate the face of a cliff, and then they would glide down a long-twisty slide.

They did this over, and over, and over, and over.......

If you've ever spent the evening with a 3 year old, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

So while the girls were engaged, I just swung.

The sun blasted the west side of the school.

It's a 2 story brick school, and it was kinda cool because the first level was shaded with a shadow that cut off perfectly between the 2 flloors.

The contrast was spectacular.

The girls weren't talking that much, so it became easy for Klecko to squint into the bright reflection of the upper windows let his mind drift back decades.

Sometimes if you stare at an empty building long enough, and you keep your body still and your mouth shut....

You see things.

Some might say ghosts, but I'm not certain I believe in them.

But I do think there is something about energy, good and bad that remains on certain locations.

But you have to look for it, and you have to focus.

I wish I could tell you what I saw last night, but if I used words.... I would just be selling the energy short.

But trust me.....it was amazing.

So then as I began to drift back into the present. The first thing I began to think about was work.

I had just spent an entire day setting up and participating in our monthly Retail sale which is open to the public.

At one point during our sale, a woman who was accompanied by family member became belligerent and even a little hostile.

I did my best to extinguish whatever was upsetting this woman, but after several attempts, it was obvious she was going to remain difficult.

So let's go back to the golden rule of....THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT.

What would you do if a man or woman stood amongst your wares projecting an additude of anger?

Do you let it run it's course?

As a Pollack, it's not in my DNA to work like that.

I told the woman if she was going to continue being disruptive, I would have to escort her off the property.

With a sense of entitlement she snapped backed.......

"Fine, I won't buy your baked stuff then."

"Yes you will." I said, "Or otherwise you just wasted a trip, and you'll look silly. Neither of us want that for you."

The woman set down her bag.....

Walked out the door.......

Leaving her family bewildered,

And thats when it happened......

A small pocket of customers applauded for not letting that woman ruin their experience.

Customers are getting smarter, actually they are full fledged - wise.

Consumers don't hate the proprietors like they used to.

Most people realize these days that small business isn't out to dupe them.

In some respects I think customers have come full circle and realize that a sharp business owner can also protect them from the weirdo's that inhabit every concept.

A great deal of my Retail client base don't just support my company.....

They support me, and the team of people I work with.

I gotta say that's a humbling feeling.

So now the silence is broken.....

Sue McGleno says "One 3 more rides down the slide."

And as baby M-rose fought on this, I just not only thought.....but actually felt like a Grandfather......

The plan to shut down was timely since a bunch of 17 year old's were drifting into the adjoining picnic area.

As they pulled out their cigarettes and pledged their love (in whatever fashion today's youth do), I just plopped the kid onto her Big Wheel and gave her a shove.

My day was over.
 


Friday, August 3, 2012

Mentally Feeding women (stalking Heidi Klum)

OK Ladies,

I won't lie to you.

I like girls.

Some boys find girls attractive.

Often times we think about them.

But different boys think different things about girls.

Recently I was talking to this guy, and he was telling me some things about that chick who plays Cat Woman.

Is that Ann Hathaway?

He was telling me about how "HOT" she was in her Leather Cat suit.

Don't get me wrong......I saw the film, and she was really pretty.

But sometimes when Sue McGleno isn't around, I secretly think about other woman.

I think about what I would feed them.

The first woman than drove me mad (biologically) as a kid was Sally Field in THE FLYING NUN.

Sweet Jesus od Warsaw, she looked good in that pristine white habit huh?

Then as I got older Doris Day flipped my trigger, a year later I had it bad for Mrs. Cleaver and Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke.

But now days I am a grown man.

Now days, other than Sue McGleno.....there is only one woman for me....

Heidi Klum.

I shouldn't tell you this, but even though I have to wake up for work in mere hours, yep....Klecko scans the internet.

Looking for Heidi Klum Recipes.

What does the worlds favorite German Super Model eat?

Or not.

To my surprise, she actually had many-many recipes.

Most were entry level, and many were on sites that she shared with her Mother.

Ladies (and boys too...I guess).

Wanna know how to stay thin?

Well check out this (Soup?) recipe I found that was attributed to the Klum clan. 

If your mom cooked this, you know you wouldn't touch it right?

Klum Family Soup

1 1/2 lbs ground beef 
 
1 1/2 lbs ground pork 
 
 5 large white onions, chopped fine 
 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
 
 3 (14 -16 ounce) cans sauerkraut 
 
2 (6 -8 ounce) cans sliced mushrooms 
 
5 whole sweet gherkins, chopped rough 
 
1 (12 ounce) bottle Heinz Chili Sauce (or regular ketchup) 
 
2 quarts vegetable broth, made from 4 vegetable bouillon cubes salt and pepper heavy cream 
 
Directions: 
 
 1 Sauté ground beef and pork and onions with olive oil in a soup pot until brown.
 
 2 Add sauerkraut and mushrooms (with their liquids) and pickles; stir together with the meat.
 
 3 Add entire bottle of sauce or ketchup and the vegetable broth. 
 
4 Simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. 5 Add salt and pepper to taste. 6 Add heavy cream and cook for 1 more minute, then serve.

Can you believe that?

Sweet Virgin Mary....let Klecko have this woman for just one night.

I promise I will cook her something she will never forget.

Alright girls, if you stalk any guys recipes online.....Klecko wants to hear about it.



Thursday, August 2, 2012

Hillbillies, Kevin Costner and Conflict

OK kids, it's that time of the month again.

That time where I schlep and shill my monthly column for Food Service News.

If you were smart, you would vulture it on line instead, because that version will actually be edited by master mind Mike Mitchelson, so basically it will make more sense, and there is bound to be a butt load of other stories that are fun to read.

3-2-1....and

CONFLICT
On Memorial Day, 13.9 million people were glued to their television sets to watch the History channels debut of Hatfield’s and McCoy’s.  Over the next couple of days, the ratings not only maintained, but on the final night of this miniseries, the show closed with 14.3 million viewers.
These statistics pleasantly surpassed the expectations of those who worked on the project, and I think it’s safe to say that the Nielsen ratings staggered the entertainment industry as well.
I don’t know why everybody was so shocked; Americans love to dwell on conflict.
To be honest, I had no interest in watching this series. When you grow up with parents that are Irish and Polish, you get enough quarrelling on Christmas Eve to last throughout the year.
On the other hand, I think I might have been intrigued if the program focused on resolving this long standing conflict instead.
To me, concepts that focus on the art of negotiating win-win situations have always been more interesting than petty squabbles.
Case in point…
The company I work for has hundreds of commercial accounts, and each morning when I step into the plant, our Office Manager and I run through early hour voicemails.
Now I realize I’m supposed to tell you guys that we never get complaints since we are such an efficient operation, but if you’ve ever worked a single shift in the hospitality world, you know that would be an embarrassing lie.
Truth be told, I’d speculate that one out of two, or one out of three days, I start off my shift with a fire that needs to be put out.
Over the years I’ve never kept a running tally as to how often these problems were caused by our accounts, and how often they were caused by us, but I would really be amazed if the ratio wasn’t close to 50/50.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, when a moment of crisis rears its head, people typically respond to this in one of two ways…
#1 They blow up and hurl accusations.
#2 Or they remain calm and help you fix the problem.
It’s that simple, and how these parties involved react to these rough waters will influence their finances for years to come.
In any service driven industry, you better put your client’s needs ahead of your own if you are going to make money.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnesses a long standing relationship come to an abrupt end over a momentary fit of anger.
Let’s face it, the hospitality industry can be incredibly stressful, and often times many of us are shouldering huge burdens in unison.
The following is a list of strategies that I have employed throughout my career, but before I list them, I would like to make one thing clear.
These are not bullet points designed to simply get you through a momentary storm until your client and conflict fade into your rear view mirror.
Instead, I’d view this as a formula that I would feel comfortable with, no matter what side of the conflict I was on. Whenever a blunder takes place, in the long run it’s usually in both parties best interest if there is a red carpet of retreat for everyone concerned.
THE CONTACT –
The following is pretty much my opening line anytime I have to address a situation steeped in conflict…
“Hello, it’s me Klecko and I’m calling to follow up on our problem, and determine what your immediate needs are so I can get to work on this.”
After this statement is completed, extend the courtesy of remaining silent while the person you’re dealing with has completed their full assessment of the situation.
When a person is already in a terse mood, the last thing they’ll want to hear is you interrupting, or offering excuses in a defensive manner.
THE TONE –
Somebody once said “Screaming defines boundaries.” If I knew who coined that phrase, I’d call them an idiot. Never scream in business, under any circumstance. No matter how volatile a situation is, screaming is never the answer. In fact…I would contend it is a sign of weakness.
People of power and influence don’t need to yell.
I’m not going to name names here, but think of the people in our industry who have floated to the top of their chosen field, then ask yourself, did they get there through intimidation or negotiating.
THE FIX –
Time kills deals. That’s why when turmoil enters into your business relationships. Attack it immediately. People will be impressed by quick action. Remember, every second that there is disharmony in a business partnership, this moment will leave a bad taste in your partner’s mouth.
If you can minimize the damage, and escape conflict without terminating your alliance you’re home free, trust me…this is the hospitality industry and odds are a far worse calamity will befall your associates within the next few days and your point of contention will be forgotten.
Let your colleagues hate their allies that won’t attend to their needs.
THE IDENTITY –
Before I got married, I was forced to take counseling from a priest. One of the best pieces of advice the padre gave me was…
“Just remember, when you marry that beautiful woman, you are also marrying her family.”
The same can be said for working in the Food Show. How many times has an F&B Director or an Executive Chef called me and asked…
“Where the he** is my order?”
What this person probably doesn’t know is that the Sous Chef or purchasing guy on their day off forgot to place the order.
Situations like this put a guy in an awkward position, but if I’m handling this personally, I’ll never throw the forgetful cook under the bus.
Remember, I want his/hers business too. Most people in the Hospitality Industry rotate employers. So it is in your best interest to remember, if you Judas just one food worker, when they skip to their next concept, they’ll gladly where a T-Shirt with your face, or worse yet, your company’s logo within a bulls-eye on it.
THE APOLIGY –
All too often, when a conflict is resolved, your initial contact won’t be on site to see it rectified. Make absolutely sure that you pay them the courtesy of keeping them in the loop by letting them know you saw this problem through.
If you know for sure that you or your company was responsible for the gaff, man up and extend an apology. This won’t be viewed as a sign of weakness, but perhaps to some, a refreshing change.
If the party you are servicing was at fault, close by not mentioning it. This is not a good time to point fingers, or pat yourself on the back.
Actions really do speak louder than words, so once you have your people up and running again, your job is done.