The Joy of Simplicity (and a tasty Crab Salad)

Last week I had a small, but important, epiphany about business, cooking and life in general.
I was on the phone with our Program Manager Lisa trying to figure out how to better setup our newest service for clients, the Birthday Pizza Party.  It’s a great event, where a chef teacher leads a 2-hour party where kids make their own lunch or dinner while having fun with their friends.  It’s the birthday entertainment AND food wrapped up together.  The menu?  Kid favorites:  Pizza, Caesar salad and a sundae bar.  
In our after-school class,  one recipe in an hour-long after-school class has its challenges.  Now take that experience, add more recipes and have it take place at a client’s house on a day when kids feel they can have fun and do whatever they want.
It’s not easy to pull off, but we talked and brainstormed.
The important question:  How can we simplify the experience for the Chef teacher, the kids and the parents for the birthday party?
What are the highlights of the experience?  
What elements can we subtract that don’t impact the core experience?
How can we make it more time efficient and easier for the Chef teacher?
Lisa was driving home and I was walking my dog Emmet during this chat.  It was gray outside and started to rain, but that didn’t matter.  I kept walking, ignoring the rain drops overhead because I was excited about the new ideas for the next birthday party.  Emmet didn’t mind as well, because he got a longer walk and got to sniff everything around him.  
After our chat, I called up our Director of Chef Training, Omar, with details on how we would simplify the process and got his insights from the culinary angle.   We had figured it out!  (or, at the very least, developed a great plan to try out for the next party)
It got me thinking about simplicity vs complex.  We have streamlined the process a LOT for the after-school classes.  We got rid of equipment that was heavy and rarely used from the cooking sets.  We had everyone teach the same recipe all week so subbing wouldn’t be so hard.  We kept the Kid Restaurant, and removed extraneous activities. 
When I write recipes I think, what can I remove?  What will make it simpler for the chef teacher and for a child and parent to try this recipe at home?  
I’m sure you’ve encountered recipes from cookbooks, some with 15 ingredients and some with 5.  If you’re new to the recipe, which one are you going to try out?  
Probably the one with 5 ingredients.  You’ll  buy the ingredients, prep, cook and taste the dish.  Then you’ll decide if you want to keep it the way it is or play around and add more ingredients.
Key Part:  In life, you often have to first TRY an activity in its most basic state before you can refine it.
You TRY the birthday pizza party one way, learn and make adjustments for the next one.
You TRY teaching a cooking class one way, learn and improve on the next one.
You TRY a recipe for the first time, then play around and improve on it the next one.  (I do this one a LOT.  My latest focus is the perfect Caesar dressing)
You TRY a workout routine or fitness class, see how it is, and do another one or try something new.
Improving and refining is a never ending process until you find a way you like.  Even then, you’ll probably tinker with it.
In business, simplicity is the way to go, especially when you’re a small one.  I’m excited for our upcoming birthday party experience as it’s much more streamlined.
Will it run really well?  YES.  Will it run perfectly?  Probably not, but that’s ok.  We’ll make small improvements and keep the momentum going.
Chef Lynne has a personal motto that rings true for me and probably you too: “Easy, Breezy.”
Keep it simple.
Keep it light
Keep it flowing.
Think about this the next time you’re trying something new in life like  a recipe, a habit, a new hobby.  
And now, a recipe to try
Crab Salad by Chef Lynne

Enjoy this healthy and delicious lunch, preferably outside on a sunny day
Time:  15 minutes  Serves:  1

8 oz lump crab meat
1/4 cup shallots, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/4 cup green onion, chopped
3 tbsp lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
1/4 cup mayonnaise or creme fraiche
2 cups arugula
1/2 cup heirloom tomatoes
5 baguette slices toasted
Pink sea salt & black pepper

Dressing: 1/4 cup olive oil, 3 Tbs vinegar, 1 Tbs grated parmesan or romano cheese, 1 tsp roasted garlic, salt and pepper


In a bowl add crab, shallot, red onion, green onion, lemon juice, mayo, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper and mix together.

Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.In another bowl, mix together the dressing ingredients.
On a chilled plate, add the arugula, heirloom tomatoes and place the crab salad on top. Drizzle with salad dressing and serve with toasted baguette slices

All of this talk of a refreshing Crab Salad makes me think of eating “al fresco” in Italy.
While I won’t be going to Italy anytime soon.
Italy will be coming to Southern California in a few weeks for our Spring session!

To join our after-school cooking class:  Sign up here 

I can’t wait to get cooking!

Chef Eric

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