They are teammates during the day, working to take your orders and prepare a delicious meal for you. But when they get home, they figure out how to put their own stamp on the menu.
Gecko’s Grill & Pub has been running its annual Iron Chef competition for the past few weeks, inspiring staff in the back of the kitchen to develop their creative muscles and transform the regular menu.
There are more online this year than most; the competition has not been held since 2019, and four-time championship defender James Weldhaus withdrew from the competition fire.
This means that the competition is wide open and the three-time winner Dana McCormack, kitchen manager at Hillview Gecko’s, is excited about the opportunity to shine.
“This is a time when you want to try and do something a little more sophisticated, to show some skills you may have,” he says. “You’re also trying to do something that’s possible for the restaurant. What if they want to take your recipe and include it in the menu? You try to use things you already have at home. ”
McCormack, known for his spicy pepper growing skills, always strives to add a little warmth to the menu. And that’s the fun of the Iron Chef competition: All Gecko employees are encouraged to adopt the existing menu and add their own taste.
The competition has already passed in four weeks and the staff at each Gecko venue is mostly competing against each other. Six local champions will be crowned next week, and then the final will be held among the champions from June 27 to July 3.
Courtney Hancock, Fruitville Gecko’s assistant kitchen manager, says the best part of Iron Chef is the camaraderie between employees who want to make an impact.
“I like it just for fun,” she told Iron Chef. “I like to create new dishes and see what my staff can do, as far as they are creative. And I love the way my team works together to make these dishes great. For the first week, my man was a dishwasher, but he wanted to jump in and help.
“And he did. I was so proud of him and I was glad he did. He’s really talented.”
Weldhaus, a former chef at Fruitville Gecko’s, has used the Iron Chef as a springboard to rise in the world. He is now the chain’s director of culinary operations and says Gecko’s loves to see his employees take some initiative.
“We like to see creativity,” he says. “Many of the items and specialties on our menu are derived from the things that people have done from these competitions. We find things that work well. Not everything that works in a special menu will always work in your main menu. Sometimes people order more of it when they can’t have it that often. ”
Veldhouse said his previous winning dishes included the blackjack group Ruben, fried steak in the country, and a shrimp and mussel dish topped with risotto. And what are the secrets to lasting victory?
Veldhouse says you have to work together; he often told his servers that he would share his profits if they helped push his records.
Interestingly, however, it’s not just about finding a winning taste. Kitchen managers must work within Gecko’s normal price points and must choose ingredients that are readily available.
Not only that, but sometimes you have to stay up late to make sure things are ready.
“You will have a finished product or it will not be sold,” says McCormack. “It’s up to them to make sure their things are ready, and then to be able to work with the other chefs on the line. It’s a competition, but at the same time you have to be a team, because you have to be there to help each other. “
There are bonuses to the salary and the right to brag about charging. There is also a trophy, but more importantly, there is an opportunity to improve their skills and make a statement.
For some athletes, this is a year-round obsession. They look at the sales trends in their kitchens and figure out how to set them up the next time Iron Chef spins.
McCormack jokes that you don’t have to outdo everyone; only the people in the kitchen you don’t like. But at a more serious point, he echoes Hancock, saying it’s an important team-building exercise, as Iron Chef directs you to skills you didn’t know your teammates possessed.
“It’s a great way to find new people for your kitchen,” says McCormack. “You have someone working on a plate for a year and suddenly they make dinner and you say to yourself, ‘You’re not a dishwasher anymore. You will now be online.
“It’s a great way to move up. We already have a kitchen manager, whom I hired as a dishwasher and moved up over the years. You apply and the opportunity is there. “
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