Thanksgiving is over, and the holiday mayhem is on. We get warmed up to the mad rush of Christmas and holiday shopping well in advance. Starting in September with the big box store displays of Christmas trees, lights, lawn ornaments, and holiday gift packages there it is, in our face. Still in shorts mowing the lawn, driving around with the top down on our convertibles, there it tis, much to our chagrin.
Black Friday, Local Saturday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday, discounts, specials, spend, spend, spend. Crowded parking lots, people in a hurry, blustery weather, dark at 4 o’clock, but we need to get presents for everyone on our list.. doon’t weee? Ahh, let’s wait till the last minute.
Easy as 1, 2, 3 Holiday Tips
Just a couple things of fancy I thought my friends and foes out there can use to their advantage in the upcoming weeks.
This past summer, I decided to accommodate my wife’s wish to write a recipe book. She always wanted me to make the great recipes of Allyn's public. I thought it a daunting task and was never a great writer (although my mom was an English teacher and I probably have writing in my genes to a degree). I was training a new chef at the restaurant and putting in a lot of hours.
Somehow, I made the determination to write the book, thinking an hour here and there would add up. Slowly the chapters started coming together but it wasn’t geared toward the many traditional standard recipes Allyn’s had. It was about the vegan recipes I recently added. I became a vegan abruptly and my voice wanted to tell that story. I started with my childhood and went from there.
Briefly, I lead a normal middle-class life in the sixties and seventies in the beautiful Berkshires. I worked in restaurants in my teens and saw the first McDonalds in our area put Great Barrington, Ma. on the map. (our only chain was a Friendly Ice Cream and Dairy Queen) My life seemed like a typical Norman Rockwell painting. Rockwell’s studio was fifteen minutes from my house. I would also like to send a shout out to another New England artist, Arlo Guthrie who wrote Alice’s Restaurant, a must listen to on Thanksgiving. Looking back, I was lucky to have such a wonderful childhood in a very pristine area.
After graduating from the University of Massachusetts, with a degree in Hotel, Restaurant and Travel Administration, I took a job with Omni Hotel and Resorts and several years later ended up in Cincinnati at the Netherland Plaza Hotel. I loved hilly tri-state area snuggled along the Ohio river. My life was to stay put in Ohio and Cincinnati and I opened Allyn’s Café in 1991. When I went to a plant-based diet at the beginning of 2013 I started making vegan recipes. I got several of them down quickly, like jambalaya, chili, red beans rice and sausage and others. I incorporated them into specials and eventually menu standards at the restaurant. We now have about a dozen plant-based recipes. Those are the recipes in the book along with dozens more.
Later Gator is finished, and my editor and I are seeking a publisher hoping to get it to market next year. The project has been fulfilling, and simultaneously I got involved in the Institute for Integrated Nutrition. There is information on this page about what IIN is. My involvement in Integrated Nutrition prompted me to create (with the collaboration of my wife) Allyn’s 21, sustainable, whole foods, traditionally made. Please check it out on our website.
Every day I wake up a joyful person because I feel healthy, my energy is like I was 20 years old again, and my mind stays stimulated. I am very thankful for my family and friends, my staff at Allyn’s and their families, the customers that come in and enjoy what we do at the restaurant, and what the future may bring. I truly wish everyone a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving.
Fast Food and Big Food
I have spent the last 28 years trying to make Allyn’s a better restaurant day by day. I have analyzed the details of everything from food and décor to budget. My belief is that you need to change the ambience of the restaurant every five or six years and at the same time keep the place in tip top shape. I have seen restaurants of past keep the same theme and slowly loose market share to the newer more relevant concepts. I emphasis newer because any day in Cincinnati there is a new restaurant emerging. I was talking to a patron a few days ago and he asked me how business was. I told him very good. He made the same point, every time a new restaurant opens everyone tries it out and that must have an impact on other venues. It does have an impact. The pie is only so big, and restaurants are all vying for their piece.
Keeping your restaurant fresh and new keeps patrons interested and coming back. It’s also an ongoing investment. Aside from replacing expensive kitchen equipment, fixing HVAC, refrigeration, (I have over a dozen refrigeration units), faucets, sinks, toilets, grease traps, washers, dryers, doors, windows, tables, chairs, roofs, gutters, etc.…. you also must put aside renovation dollars to keep the image fresh. I analyze the budget as well to keep tabs on prime costs, food, beverage, and labor. We have a third-party inventory the bar every two weeks to maintain a good beverage cost percentage. We watch portioning in the kitchen for consistency and cost. But I never try to buy cheaper ingredients to lower my food cost, never!
Another patron and I were talking about food and health. He is a lean person and told me that he doesn’t drink soft drinks or sugary beverages and doesn’t eat at fast food restaurants. Since he is in the remodeling business I found that unique. He said he was amazed at how crowded the fast food joints were at lunch time. There is always a line in the drive through.
The unfortunate truth is our nation is addicted to inexpensive, non-nourishing food, that tastes great but makes us sick. And when the price of tomatoes goes up the first thing fast food does is remove the tomato from your processed burger. Processed meat on a refined white flour roll, with white fried potatoes and 192 grams of sugar or 48 teaspoons in a 64 oz beverage. Not a prescription for good health. It’s all about the tomato in my opinion. If it costs so much for a corporation to keep a tomato on a burger in times when tomatoes are costly, what the heck. Your customers are numbers to you not patrons. The same goes for larger full-service restaurants with several locations. If produce goes up in price and you must skimp on a cherry tomato, cucumber or for god’s sake a few pieces of avocado, screw you.
Why do our major food companies and fast food restaurants always try to make products cheaper? Shareholders, that’s why. They want a good return on their investment. Ingredients play the major role and the cheaper, the better. That’s good for the investors but not the customer. High fructose corn syrup is a good example and our processed food are loaded with it. It was very difficult for me to find a ketchup for the restaurant that didn’t have HFC in it, but I did. I would think that the big food companies would have our health as their main concern and try to improve what they sell to us in that regard. Wishful thinking at least for now. That brings me back to Allyn’s and being an Integrated Nutrition Health Coach. Perhaps some of the big food companies need a more healthful approach to their mission statements. Next time we will talk about
Allyn’s 21. That is our newest concept for the restaurant that I am trying to make better day by day.
The Later Gator Blog
At Allyn's Cafe, we're about so much more than cajun food! Dive into the stories and our journey to going vegan, providing local sourced ingredients, nutritional advice, a sustainable future, writing a book and more with Allyn Raifstanger.
Integrated Health Coach
After several years of studying health and diets, Allyn embarked on a yearlong coarse at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition out of New York State. This course is accredited by the New York State Board of Education.