These chefs are taking small steps to make big changes this year

Three Chefs Share Their 2020 Culinary Resolutions

by Kenya McCullum


hat do you want to accomplish this year as a chef? Every year, many people make a myriad of personal resolutions when the clock strikes 12, only to forget about them by around January 7. But there are some resolutions well worth keeping to help take your culinary skills, as well as your business, to the next level. We spoke to three chefs who shared their culinary resolutions for 2020 and how they plan to achieve these goals.

A Resolution to Create

For Michael C. Brown, Executive Chef of Barrel Republic and Jalisco Cantina in San Diego, California, 2020 is going to be all about increasing creativity and cooking up interesting dishes that customers won’t be able to easily replicate at home.

“My goal is to continue creating unique dishes, available in an environment that people will want to be a part of and that they are excited to visit,” he said.

In order to reach this goal, Michael plans to use a combination of data and customer guidance to create the most memorable, mouth-watering dishes that keep diners satisfied and intrigued.

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Chef Michael Brown

“We use our item usage report in conjunction with shoppers’ notes and daily guest feedback to steer us to make clear decisions. The item usage report helps track what moves through the restaurants, from purchase-point to consumption-point,” Michael said. “We also review notes and critiques from secret shoppers who come through the restaurants to help improve and take pride in speaking with guests on their experience while at Jalisco Cantina and Barrel Republic. Many of our regulars will suggest dish ideas or share flavors they love, and we love hearing feedback or ideas for future menu items.”

A Resolution to Learn

All chefs want to learn as much as they can about their craft, but sometimes the daily grind of the kitchen precludes them from really being able to travel and sample different types of cuisine as much as they would like. This year, Jessica Shillato of Spotted Salamander in Columbia, South Carolina plans to carve out time to make her desire to learn a reality so she can better serve her customers.

“I’m a caterer and one of my favorite things is when a bride or groom wants a dish their grandmother made and I go to learn how to prepare the dish from the grandmother,” said Jessica. “Now that I have a little more time, I realize it’s time to learn from people as much as possible and to stop just reading about food culture and recipes. I feel like I need to experience it.”

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Chef Jessica Shillato

In order to experience other culinary cultures, Jessica plans to spend a few days working in her favorite local Korean restaurant to learn from the elderly couple that runs it. And of course, she’s also planning to pack her bags.

“To reach my goals, I plan to travel every chance I get,” Jessica said. “For spring break, I am planning another food trip to the all-important New York City. Also, in the spring, I’m going to Texas for a proper barbecue lesson and I hope to travel to Tokyo, Copenhagen, and Portland.”

A Resolution to the Environment

When talking about her culinary resolution, Jamie Poe of Poe and Co. and Poe To Go Meal Delivery explains her plans this way:  “As humans and as chefs, to turn a blind eye to the current state of our environment is irresponsible. The magnitude of the climate problem is daunting, and like others, it’s hard to know how to start, which is why we’ve chosen to focus on single-use plastic and regenerative organic farms. As food professionals, we understand that margins are slim, and each line on a profit and loss is impactful, but it’s time to start making small changes, which will lead to bigger changes.”

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Chef Jamie Poe

To make these changes, Jamie plans to use more compostable to-go utensils and glass containers for her meal delivery business, purchase products in recyclable containers, and follow Patagonia’s Regenerative Organic Certified Program to support the farms that participate. However, with all of these decisions, she will always consider the impact they have on customers.

“Like anyone else, we are mindful of our purchases and we know consumers won’t pay $50 for a sandwich, so we’re constantly measuring what small swap-outs we can make,” she said. “From a pragmatic standpoint, we’re aware of the higher costs associated with these goals, and are making our resolutions around small and conscious steps forward.”

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