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Rockway Beach Club

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Rockaway’s lease is finally up. Caracas Rockaway, Rippers and the Low Tide Bar have been operating the boardwalk concessions of the Rockaway Beach since 2011. But even after selflessly serving the community, the park department of NYC has denied their proposal for a new contract. 

Let’s keep in mind they have served the community through COVID19 and Hurricane Sandy. The department instead plans to award Rockaway Beach Bazaar, another group that bid for the fifteen-year contract. 

The news of the bid has been received with skepticism and dismay by majority of fans of the current vendors. Aaron Broudo and Belvy Klein were the ones who submitted the Bazaar’s proposal.

This year, the two were awarded the bid for McCarren Park House. They are also waiting to hear from Riis Park. The duo’s offer for the Rockaway Beach is $300,000 for the first lease year. It is then expected to rise every year after that. 

Members of the Rockaway Beach Club (Caracas Rockaway, Ripper and Low Tide Bar) are unsure of how the duo will bring in such an amount. As someone who has worked in Rippers before, I know the masses don’t appreciate paying $5 to have a Modelo. 

How much will the prices be if rent rises by 300 percent? The Low Tide Bar’s general manager questions who will pay to have the Bazaar’s vision come to life. 

Since the call for proposals in December of 2019, the final decision has been awaited. However, it was only last month that the decision was made. 

The announcement came right before Christmas. Critics viewed the timing as convenient for Parks as it limited the exposure of the news. Even so, New Yorkers began voices their disagreements once they heard. 

Sarah Parachini quickly created SaveRockaway.com in support of the Rockaway Beach Club. She is both a resident of Rockaway and Chris Parachini’s (Ripper’s owner) wife. She urged other supporters to email the department before the public hearing. The Ripper’s owner wife learned of the hearing from the Rockaway times Newspaper on Thursday.

 Since it wasn’t likely that many people saw the print, she decided to post on Instagram. She got popular accounts to reshare her posts which included Alison Roman, Brooklyn Grange, and Frank Prisinzane. She added that the contract was public and it was necessary that the people were heard. 

The crowdsourcing tactic worked and more than a hundred callers made it to the public hearing. The committee also mentioned receiving more than a thousand emails in regards to the concession award. Support for the Rockaway club was overwhelming as many wanted them to continue operations. 

For an hour, the Bazaar owners also gave their testimony. They mentioned everyone was free to make a bid as it was public. They added that bids varied bids varied between higher and lower than theirs. They defended the amount of their bid by saying they chose numbers they thought was appropriate for a lease that would last fifteen years. 

While they were making their testimony, they were interrupted by a caller. This led to shouting by other callers. To avoid continued interruptions by callers, they were muted. Klein continued to mention that he was a great fan of RBC and their past work. He added they intended to retain most of the previous vendors. He made it clear they had no intentions to replace anyone. Once he finished there was another outburst from a caller mentioning they knew where he lived.

However, Bazaar’s plans differ greatly with that of RBC. Both non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks will be Bazaar’s responsibility whereas before they were handled by vendors. This will leave many people without an income. Broudo defends the agreement by pointing out Rippers is well known for its fries and buggers. He argues the food concession has the potential to make tons of money during summer. If the current vendors are open to paying more rent minus alcohol sales is a question only they can answer. 

Bureaucracy is inevitable when running a food business with your landlord being the Parks department. Menu prices and items have to be approved by the department. RBC’s managing operator, Maribel Araujo, who is also the Caracas Arepa Bar had few sentiments to share. She mentioned that other than having to learn English after she moved to the city in 2001, she also had to learn a different language. She added that the experience with reshaping the Parks department view concerning concessions was intense. 

After working together with Parks during trying times, Araujo feels disappointed that the dedication and flexibility of her team hasn’t been recognized. These moments included beach closure, Hurricane Sandy, and COVID-19 pandemic. She was surprised at their attraction to the new money after their previous dedication in assisting small businesses be sustainable and survive.

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How Technology is Reshaping the Restaurant Experience

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In an era of rapid technological advancement, the restaurant industry is undergoing a profound transformation. From artificial intelligence to augmented reality, innovative technologies are reshaping every aspect of the dining experience, from how we order our meals to how restaurants manage their operations. This digital revolution is not just changing the way we eat out; it’s redefining the very concept of what a restaurant can be.

The integration of technology in restaurants has been accelerating for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically hastened this trend. According to a report by the National Restaurant Association, 62% of adults say they’re more likely to use technology in restaurants now than before the pandemic. This shift in consumer behavior has prompted restaurants to invest heavily in digital solutions, creating a new landscape of dining that blends the physical and virtual worlds.

One of the most visible changes in restaurants has been the widespread adoption of contactless ordering and payment systems. QR code menus, once a novelty, have become commonplace, allowing diners to view menus, place orders, and pay their bills directly from their smartphones. This not only enhances safety by reducing physical contact but also streamlines the ordering process, improving efficiency for both customers and staff.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is playing an increasingly significant role in the restaurant industry. AI-powered chatbots are being used to handle customer inquiries and reservations, providing instant responses and freeing up staff to focus on in-person service. More advanced AI applications are even assisting in the kitchen. For instance, Spyce, a Boston-based restaurant, uses robotic kitchen assistants to prepare meals, ensuring consistency and reducing labor costs.

The rise of delivery apps and ghost kitchens is another technological trend reshaping the industry. Ghost kitchens, which operate without a physical dining space and cater exclusively to delivery orders, have exploded in popularity. These kitchens leverage data analytics to optimize their menus and operations based on local demand, demonstrating how technology can create entirely new business models in the food service industry.

Augmented Reality (AR) is adding a new dimension to dining experiences. Some restaurants are experimenting with AR menus that allow customers to visualize dishes in 3D before ordering. This technology not only enhances the dining experience but also helps reduce food waste by ensuring customers are satisfied with their choices before the food is prepared.

Voice-activated assistants are another emerging trend in restaurant technology. Devices like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home are being integrated into restaurant systems, allowing customers to make reservations, check wait times, or even place orders using voice commands. This hands-free approach to interaction is particularly appealing in a post-pandemic world where hygiene concerns remain at the forefront of many diners’ minds.

The back-of-house operations in restaurants are also benefiting from technological advancements. Inventory management systems powered by Internet of Things (IoT) sensors can track stock levels in real-time, automatically reordering supplies when they run low. This not only reduces waste but also ensures that restaurants always have the ingredients they need on hand.

Predictive analytics are being used to forecast demand, helping restaurants optimize their staffing and inventory. By analyzing historical data, weather patterns, and local events, these systems can predict busy periods with remarkable accuracy, allowing restaurants to prepare accordingly.

Sustainability is a growing concern in the restaurant industry, and technology is playing a crucial role in addressing this issue. Food waste reduction apps are helping restaurants donate excess food to local charities or sell it at a discount, reducing environmental impact while potentially creating new revenue streams.

While these technological advancements offer numerous benefits, they also present challenges. The cost of implementing new technologies can be prohibitive for smaller restaurants, potentially widening the gap between large chains and independent establishments. There are also concerns about data privacy and security, particularly when it comes to handling customer information through digital platforms.

Moreover, as restaurants become increasingly reliant on technology, there’s a risk of losing the human touch that many diners value. Striking a balance between technological efficiency and personal service will be crucial for restaurants moving forward.

Despite these challenges, the future of dining looks increasingly digital. As 5G networks become more widespread, we can expect to see even more innovative applications of technology in restaurants. Virtual reality dining experiences, where customers can “visit” restaurants from the comfort of their homes, may become more common. We might also see advancements in food 3D printing technology, allowing for highly customized dishes tailored to individual dietary needs and preferences.

The integration of blockchain technology could revolutionize supply chain management in the restaurant industry, providing unprecedented transparency about the origin and journey of ingredients. This could be particularly appealing to consumers who are increasingly concerned about food sourcing and sustainability.

As we look to the future, it’s clear that technology will continue to play a pivotal role in shaping the restaurant industry. From enhancing operational efficiency to creating novel dining experiences, these innovations are transforming every aspect of how we eat out. While challenges remain, the potential benefits of this digital revolution in dining are immense.

Restaurants that can successfully navigate this technological landscape, balancing innovation with the timeless appeal of good food and warm hospitality, will be well-positioned to thrive in this new era of dining. As diners, we can look forward to more personalized, efficient, and exciting restaurant experiences, powered by the cutting edge of technology.

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Chefs Speak Out: The Realities of Today’s Restaurant Industry

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In recent years, the restaurant industry has faced seismic shifts due to external crises and internal challenges, evolving significantly in response to global events like the pandemic, movements such as #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, and changing societal expectations. As the culinary world emerges from these trials, a comprehensive report by the New York Times provides a candid look into the thoughts and feelings of chefs across the United States.

Cultural and Economic Transformations

Chefs have long been heralded as the steadfast captains navigating the bustling environments of kitchens. However, their roles have expanded as they tackle the complexities introduced by recent societal upheavals. The COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, wasn’t just a public health crisis—it represented a critical inflection point for many culinary professionals. Government data reflects significant job losses and closures within the industry, but also highlights a resilient sector that is rebounding and redefining itself.

With movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter influencing public consciousness, chefs have also recalibrated their kitchen cultures, prioritizing inclusivity and respect. This shift is evident in the changing dynamics within kitchen staffs and how customers are engaged. The industry’s response has been a promising push towards more equitable workplaces, despite the pressures and historical challenges associated with these environments.

The Controversial Subject of Tipping

One of the most contentious topics among chefs is the practice of tipping. The consensus indicates a general disdain for a system that many believe perpetuates inequality and fosters a stressful atmosphere for both staff and patrons. Despite the discontent, tipping remains entrenched, a sentiment echoed in broader industry reports. Chefs express frustration over the difficulty in dismantling such an ingrained system, but there’s a burgeoning dialogue on exploring more sustainable and fair wage models.

Education and Workforce Dynamics

The question of culinary education’s value has also come under scrutiny. Many chefs argue that while culinary schools provide foundational knowledge, they are often not commensurate with the financial investment required. The practical, hands-on experience gained within the walls of a kitchen is frequently touted as more beneficial and cost-effective. This viewpoint is supported by research on culinary education outcomes versus industry expectations.

Furthermore, there is a notable generational change in kitchen staff dynamics. Gen Z cooks are praised for their assertiveness and advocacy for better working conditions, yet they also face criticism for what some perceive as a lack of long-term commitment to their roles. This generational shift is influencing hiring practices and how kitchen operations are structured, as evidenced by rising wages, now reaching up to $25 an hour for line cooks.

Customer Relations and Online Reviews

The relationship between chefs and their customers is also evolving. There’s a growing sentiment that “the customer is not always right,” particularly in the age of online reviews on platforms like Yelp. Chefs are becoming more vocal about the impacts of unjust reviews, advocating for a more nuanced approach to customer feedback that acknowledges the complexities of food service.

Moving Forward

As the restaurant industry continues to navigate these diverse challenges, the path forward is being carved out by chefs committed to innovation and sustainability. They are not only adapting to the changing tastes and dietary preferences of a more health-conscious public but are also spearheading efforts to make the industry more resilient and responsive to the needs of its workforce.

The resilience of the restaurant industry, underscored by these candid insights from its chefs, is a testament to a sector that is accustomed to constant change and adaptation. The ongoing dialogue among culinary professionals is shaping an industry that aims to balance tradition with innovation, ensuring that the art of dining continues to evolve in ways that respect both its heritage and its future.

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Philadelphia’s Pop-Up Chefs Turn Leftovers into Culinary Delights

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In the dynamic culinary scene of Philadelphia, where pop-up restaurants and one-off dining experiences frequently captivate food enthusiasts, a lesser-known aspect of these events often goes uncelebrated: the creative repurposing of leftovers. This practice not only underscores a commitment to sustainability but also showcases the ingenuity of local chefs who turn what might have been waste into gourmet treats for the next meal.

One notable example is Ari Miller, previously at the helm of the now-closed Musi restaurant. Along with his wife, Kiki Aranita, former owner of Poi Dog (now a sauce company), Miller finds himself frequently orchestrating private dinners and pop-ups. A recent culinary endeavor left them with an assortment of leftovers, including oysters and ahi poke from an event at Samuel’s Seafood. These ingredients were transformed into a delightful meal featuring fried oysters and seared ahi poke, proving that leftovers need not be mundane.

The challenge for pop-up chefs is significant; without a permanent restaurant space, there’s no daily menu to absorb extra ingredients, nor a regular staff meal to consume leftovers. However, this hasn’t deterred chefs like Reuben Asaram, known for his Mexican-Indian fusion dishes. Asaram’s leftovers, particularly his vibrant “Smurf sauce” and beet-lime crema, frequently find their way into personal meals at home, enhancing even simple dishes like hot dogs and tacos.

Alejandro Gonzalez, the culinary mind behind Señor Slices, runs pop-ups that are eagerly anticipated throughout the city. His approach to leftovers is community-oriented, often sharing unsold Mexican sandwiches with neighbors or contributing to community fridges. This practice was particularly notable during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic when he made it a point to distribute sandwiches throughout the city. More about his efforts can be found on his Instagram.

Evan Snyder, another local chef who specializes in modern Jewish cuisine, uses leftovers as an opportunity to get creative with dishes at home. After a pop-up event that left him with surplus crab, Snyder whipped up a crab and cream cheese dip, turning what could have been wasted into a delicious new dish for family meals. He often finds ways to repurpose single unused components from his courses, turning them into what he jokingly refers to as “mishmash staff meals.”

The art of transforming leftovers is perhaps most vividly illustrated by Liz Grothe of Couch Café, soon to be of Scampi restaurant. Grothe’s solution to excess ragu is making pot pies, a dish she passionately champions regardless of the filling. Her experience with transforming leftovers into pot pies serves as both a culinary strategy and a personal redemption story, especially after a memorable kitchen mishap involving a guinea hen filling.

These stories of Philadelphia’s chefs are a testament to the innovative and resourceful spirit that defines the city’s dining scene. By turning potential waste into culinary treasures, these chefs not only provide a unique dining experience but also contribute to a more sustainable food culture. Their efforts highlight a crucial aspect of the culinary world that often remains behind the scenes but is integral to the ongoing dialogue about sustainability and creativity in modern gastronomy.

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